As I was walking, trailing my suitcase, from the Desert Rose Inn to the Alice Springs train station on the 30th of October, 2014, a young woman approached me and asked if I was looking for the Ghan, which I was. I had seen its distinctive, red locomotives from the top of Anzac Hill, so I knew in which direction I needed to head. I had a map that the Korean girl at the Red Ochre Grill Restaurant had given me but if not for Haley, I might have missed the path that leads directly to the platform as it was not indicated on the map.
The Ghan was #13 on The Telegraph’s list of the 25 greatest train journeys in the world. Michael Williams wrote that it is “one of the greatest train marathons of the world…” and “there’s no train window view like this anywhere else…”. I had paid a little extra to secure a window seat in the Red day/nighter car. I could have spent a lot more and had a compartment all to myself with a Gold Service Single Cabin but I do not regret being frugal. My seat partner, Francoise, asked if we could see the single cabin in the Gold car. We both agreed that we were happy we had chosen to sit in the Red car because we found each other’s company to be enjoyable.
I had packed my journal in my checked luggage so I bought a lovely red souvenir journal with matching pen in the gift shop of the Alice Springs station. I had intended to use the hours after sunset and before I fell asleep to write but I ended up sitting in the Matilda Cafe car with Haley (Australia) and Francoise (France), drinking red wine and talking.
I awoke on the morning of the 31st of October to the view of a flat-topped mountain not too far off in the distance. Both days, I saw a few kangaroos and lots of sheep and cattle but the surprise for me was the dead cows near the tracks. It wasn’t clear if they had died from being hit by trains or if they were just there because that happened to be where they were when they died.
Of note, the 24 to 25 hours from Alice Springs to Adelaide is non-stop and smoking is not allowed anywhere on the train so I could not have taken this trip 18 years ago.