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The Ghan

Wednesday 5th August 2015

sunny 30 °C

The morning started with us getting our bags ready for our trip on the Ghan. We had already been advised that our main bags would be stored for the duration of the journey and that we would only be able to take small ones with us in our cabin. Once we had got ourselves ready and sorted, we went down to reception to confirm our transfer. The guy on reception was unsure as to whether we should have booked this, but he very helpfully tried to ring them to clarify. He wasn't able to get hold of anyone, but at the scheduled time the bus arrived. We were able to check our bags in there and then and were handed receipts to hang onto. Although this part the process seemed well organised, it seemed a little less so in terms of who they were picking up where and the poor driver seemed to be getting loads of hassle on his two way radio. After what seemed like two or three circuits of the town (one of which was to collect a wallet left under a pillow by an elderly guy who was worried about it being being stolen out of his room safe) we all arrived safely at the station. By this time we were due to board. We were staggered at the length of the train and told later that it was a kilometre long.

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Fortunately they have several lounges and restaurant cars so no one has to walk far once on board. We had been told which cabin we were in and asked to sit there until our attendant came and introduced herself and gave us a briefing about the train and where everything was. I was itching to explore, but did as I was told and not so patiently waited.

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Once we were fully briefed we were free to go to our lounge for a drink. One of the advantages of being in gold class is that all meals and drinks are free. Given the time of the morning we started off with coffee, although some of our fellow travellers were already on the slightly stronger stuff. The lounge was pretty full, and there weren't many places to sit at that point. We had chosen to have a later lunch so when a lot of people left for the first sitting we were able to spread out a bit and sit somewhere were we could get a better view out of the passing scenery which was very much as we had seen in the Litchfield park the previous day.

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At that point a slightly older Australian couple, Elaine and Daryl, came and sat next to us. We got chatting to them and then ended up sitting next to them during lunch. It was lovely talking to them, and they and so many other people on the train were incredibly friendly. Lunch was a two course affair, with a choice of one of two first courses and a dessert or cheese. We both went for the barramundi which was delicious, followed by banana cake. The stewards encourage people to sit together and socialise and it was lovely sitting and chatting over lunch.

It wasn't long after we had finished lunch that we pulled into Katherine station. There were a number of excursions to pick from, a couple of complimentary river cruises, a canoeing opinion or the alternative of a helicopter flight for an additional fee. We had decided to do the two gorge boat trip, which involved a bit of walking in the middle but had been told that we would easily manage this, and given the demographic on the train I was reassured. We were taken on coaches from the station to the gorge, and were soon on the first boat. The scenery was lovely in the first gorge

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but no where near as spectacular as the second so we were very pleased that we had gone for this option. In the end the walk was pretty easy between the two gorges, up and down a few steps and over some rocks, but they had been made into quite a regular pathway to make the walking safe.

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All the time we were on the boats a guide was explaining about the geology of the area, about the steps taken to protect the nesting crocodiles of which we saw one, and the massive changes in water levels that take place between the wet and the dry season. This can leave the gorge two thirds full after heavy rain and nearly empty when there has been little or no rain for months.

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Once we had finished the cruise it was time to return to the train for our 6pm departure. We went to the lounge for a gin and tonic and got talking to an Australian/ Canadian couple. They were on the train to celebrate his 70th birthday that day. He proudly showed us the pocket watch his wife had bought him, and talked about the helicopter ride they had been on in Katherine. Many people had opted for an earlier dinner, but we had gone for the 8pm sitting and thus time we had a table in the Queen Adelaide restaurant car to ourselves. Not everyone did this, but we got changed for dinner. The three course meal was again delicious and we went for the meat option this time with a pavlova for dessert. Once we were finished we were going to retire to our cabin but on passing through the lounge we were 'persuaded' to stop a have a nightcap by another lovely Australian couple. We chatted for a while, drinking a cognac before eventually going to bed. Whilst we had been at dinner our seats had been converted into bunks and made up with bedding, and Nigel very nobly took the top bunk. We were soon in bed hopeful if a good nights sleep.

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Posted by Gill's Travels 16:15 Archived in Australia Tagged train katherine ghan

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