Day 17 of the “Ultimate Australian Rail Holiday” Friday 3rd June 2016
When I am at home I join a weekly line dancing class. It’s not all boot-scooting yee-haw. Far from it. One of the songs we dance to is “One Way Ticket to the Moon” by Eruption (with Bony M*). I hear the lyrics in my head, as the wheels on the train go round and round:
“Choo, choo train chuggin’ down the track
Gotta travel on, never comin’ back
Oh, oh got a one way ticket to the moon“
(* I now realise their version is a corruption of Neil Sedaka‘s One Way Ticket to the Blues !!!!)
My second night’s sleep on the Ghan has been perfectly comfortable. Not silent – you cannot expect that on a train – but comforting, something akin to being in a ship’s bedcot on a gently rolling sea, with the thrumming of the engines as a backdrop to your dreams. I spare a thought for how hard the engine driver/s have worked through the night. Can you imagine how difficult it must be to stop a one kilometre train?
There has been one stop through the night, at Tarcoola, where the track intersects with the Indian Pacific heading east-west and vice-versa. Then also a stop at Port Augusta around dawn. Situated at the head of the Spencer Gulf, this is where the major road highways from north, south, east and west intersect – and it is also the gateway to the Flinders Ranges. You could say that we are crossing the threshold from the outback to civilisation, and we are on terrain we have seen before, as the track continues down the eastern coast of the gulf, across country until it reaches the top of the St Vincent Gulf, then continues south into Adelaide.
The rich red ochre of the outback gives way to wide expanses of sandy coloured farming land, which turns greener the further south we head. I see wheat and grain mostly, but I know this also as dairying country, and it must be good for sheep and cattle as well. By breakfast time we are passing through Snowtown. It is notable now for its wind farm, but there won’t be an Aussie on board who doesn’t remember it for an entirely different reason. Let’s just say that if you have seen the 2011 biopic, The Snowtown Murders, you will know exactly where we are.
Snowtown Wind Farm (Photo Source: edge.alluremedia.com.au)
Before long we are nearing the lush hills of the wine growing regions, first the Clare Valley and then the Barossa Valley. We passed this way two weeks ago on the Indian Pacific from Sydney to Perth, and enjoyed a wonderful off-train excursion to Seppeltsfield Winery.
All too soon we will be in Adelaide – eta is 11.30am – and then our journey on this train will come to an end. I will be sorry to leave. Two nights has seemed all too brief. This is the journey that took the explorer John McDouall Stuart nine months to complete. His discoveries paved the way for The Overland Telegraph Line, which was laid between 1870 and 1872. It was the Afghan Camel Trains which kept up supplies to the over-stretched construction team (read more here). The “Afghan” community in Australia included those from areas featured in Rudyard Kipling novels – such as what we would think of today as North Pakistan – camel handlers whose skills and animals were essential in opening settlement in the arid interior of the continent. And it is in honour of those determined cameleers that the train which follows in their tracks is called, The Ghan.
Our remarkable long distance journey has also brought us into a different climactic zone, and it is time to dig through our on-board kit for warmer clothes. Adelaide weather has turned stormy, too. But it is not raining as we hop off the train for the last time, and I grab a cheeky photo with one of the lovely staff who looked after us all the way. A1 refers to our carriage number, not our condition 🙂
I lived in Adelaide from 1974 – 1978, and remain in contact with many of the friends I made in that time. We are to meet one couple mid-afternoon, as soon as we are settled in our hotel, so I am light on for photographs of this day.
In the meantime, I leave you with some fast facts on Adelaide:
- It is the capital of South Australia.
- South Australia is unique in that it shares a border with every state and territory on mainland Australia. The South Australian border is 3,185 km long (appx 2000 mi).
- The population of South Australia was 1,688,700 as at September 2014. Adelaide is home to about 1.3 million of them. (It was about 500,000 when I lived there).
- European settlement of South Australia began in 1836 at a place called Glenelg (and also Kingscote on Kangaroo Island).
- South Australia was purposely established as a colony for free settlers, and Adelaide is the only capital to be inhabited by free settlers from its inception.
- It was nick-named the City of Churches. In fact, when I lived there, we had an in-joke that the only serious drinking we could manage on a Sunday was if we went communion hopping from one church to another.
- In fact, it did have, and still has many pubs (but they were closed on Sundays when I lived there). I think the City of Churches tag may have grown out of its reputation for religious tolerance. German Lutherans, for example, found a haven here. . . . and you could get a drink at the airport bar on a Sunday . . . trust me, I know.
- It is located on the River Torrens, and one of the few cities in Australia to have a planned layout. Thanks to the foresight of one of its founding fathers, Colonel William Light, Adelaide is comprised of a grid system, demarcated with wide boulevards and public squares, all enclosed within four large thoroughfares called North, South, East and West Terrace, and beyond each of those is a belt of parkland.
- The street names change as these boulevards intersect. Rundle Street was turned into a Mall and is the main shopping centre. When it crosses King William Street, it becomes Hindley Street, which is the main “entertainment centre” . . . and there is our hotel.
- It is elegant and hushed, with an Italianate foyer decor slightly reminiscent of those huge official buildings in the art deco Mussolini era.
- The premises next door has a big red neon “X” sign of the kind that indicates they sell adult erotica.
- Who was here first? I wonder 🙂
Map giving an idea of the layout of Adelaide city centre (disregard the green arrow).
Of course we are delighted to see our friends again after a break of many years. We have lots to talk about, and take an early dinner at a beach-side cafe near to their new home. I can’t remember exactly where we were, but for those who need to know, my best guess is it was Grange or Henley Beach. Adelaide beaches are west of the city, and on St Vincent Gulf, so they don’t get surf until further south where the gulf reaches the ocean. That took me a bit to get used to when I first lived there, having been used to Sydney surf beaches.
And here, especially for fellow blogger Agnes Ashe, is a photo of a ghost gum taken the day before on our walk in Alice Springs. A bit of contrast in scenery!
Total to Date = 11,880 klm or 7380 miles
For Reference: We booked our tour through the Australian Holiday Centre.