Saturday, 11 April 2009

Travels and Tribulations

Courtesy of Qantas, I am sitting at approximately 40,000 feet in row 1E about an hour out of Darwin heading for Brisbane and reflecting on the last 4 days. Firstly, it doesn’t feel like only 4 days; it feels like a lot, lot longer but not in a bad way. Time has not dragged and it has not been boring, quite the opposite actually.

My first observation therefore is that perhaps distance travelled and the means of transport contribute to the whole “getting away” experience. I am feeling far more refreshed and invigorated from this 4 day journey covering half the breath and the entire length of the country than I normally do from a drive for a stay of twice the length at either of the holiday coasts that lie to the North and South of Brisbane.

Also, if not driving a few hours to a holiday destination, I generally insist on flying there, flying back and doing whatever it is you do in between depending on the destination you have travelled to. Eg Sydney equals Blue Mountains + harbour bridge walk (not climb) + Ferry to Manly + lunch at Watson’s Bay, +++ and always a beer at the Fortunes of War Hotel in the Rocks (Australia’s oldest continually licenced hotel and my favourite pub).

This was an altogether different and an outcome leaving me totally refreshed and relaxed.

Departure for Adelaide from Brisbane was on the Virgin Blue 5.55 am flight. On arriving in Adelaide it was the shuttle bus to the interstate rail terminal about 10 or so minutes away. It was about two and half hours until the scheduled departure of the famous Ghan Train for what is billed as one of the World’s Great Rail Journey’s through to Darwin.

Given it was early, there were not many people at the Train station. However, the gentlemen checking tickets and arranging bags was charming, informative, happy and genuinely helpful. A long chat with him about the station, The Ghan itself and some of the tours that were available in Alice Springs and Katherine followed. And this guy was just the ticket and baggage man. He then provided an introduction to the lady who looks after the tours. A cup of tea later, an email or 2 with the office, a twitter entry or 3 and then another chat to the Tours lady allowed fully informed decisions to be made about what to do in Alice Springs and Katherine

A walk of the length of the train and a stop to admire what were two very different looking carriages followed. Making an enquiry of a rail employer about 20 meters away, led to the discovery they are the Prince of Wales cars built in the 1920’s for the Prince of Wales tour of Australia. He offered a look inside and before you knew it, the world of luxury train travel, circa 1928 opened up, but with the modern bits now added such as air conditioning. The wood work was exquisite as was the dinning table in the private dining car.

The rail employee advised the cars hold up to 10 people. He also said that it is not that expensive on the basis of 10 people – “only a bit more than the normal price. It was later revealed that booking the Prince of Wales cars from Adelaide through to Darwin (or the other way) came at a cost of $40,000. So for 10 people that is $4000 a head and only around $1000 a head more than our Platinum Class fare for the same trip.

In no time, nearly 3 hours in an out of the way rail station with only a small souvenir shop and café for entertainment had passed and it was all aboard and into Platinum Carriage P2, room 7/8.

All was feeling and looking good when the delightful Penny, the carriage steward for the trip appeared and explained the working of the cabin, the safety procedures and itinerary details before producing a glass each of South Australia’s finest vintage sparkling white wine (read champagne).

It was time to roll and roll we did.


Groover said...

You promised tribulations, too, in your header? :-) Train travel is something special and in this case even more so because the actual journey is the destination. I would love to see photos of your trip, especially the Prince of Wales carriage.

Colin said...

Thanks Groover. My basic problem re photos is I cannot work out how to upload them, here, on face book or on Twitter and tribulations to come. Prince of wales shots were taken on film not digital so I have to get them developed but will make sure you see them.