The Ghan Railway

A few days ago, I decided that instead of flying from Sydney to Perth, I would take the Ghan Railway, I would ride on the Indian Pacific three days across the outback with a few stops along the way. It was more expensive than flying and certainly longer, but I wanted an experience that was unique.

The train was indeed an experience unique unto itself. It was a lot slower than I expected and the seats didn’t accommodate sleeping very well. By day two I decided to bite the cost and upgraded to the sleeper cabin. It was amazing how different I was treated by the train staff when I asked to upgrade, you would have thought I had upgraded from Steerage to First Class on an Ocean Liner.

After moving my things into the quiet small room with area to stretch out for a sleep and a big private window to watch the outback go by, I was told my card had been declined. I gave them another card and it was declined as well. I gave them another, and then another, and finally my last card went through. There was some error in the validation system they used so my first three cards were fine but for a moment I saw just how tied my value was as a customer to my credit card as I was close to being punted back into economy had the last card not taken.

Three days of outback going by you, you would think would become tiresome and wearing, but it was always beautiful. I think I will always remember watching the sun set over the vast orange and red plains of dry outback, the wildlife that would run along or near the train, the camels, the dingos, and other animals I wasn’t entirely familiar with. The stops were interesting as well.

Cook, Australia was a tiny little town that had maybe 40-50 abandoned houses in it. In fact, most of the houses were abandoned except for one. A couple that remained in the town, employed by the railway to provide a stop for rail passengers. That was it, only the two people left in the town. It must be surreal for them every time the train leaves, they are left to only the two of them, and a ghost town to keep them company. And the giant flies that bite.

Kalgoorlie, a miner town in Western Australia was the last stop before Perth. it was the night before we were supposed to get to Perth and the stop was for three hours. I met up with an Irish girl named Elaine on the train and we walked to a nearby saloon together to have a beer. We had a really good conversation and the time ran away from us. By the time we looked at our watch, we had 10 min to get back across town and be on the train. We both ran, at full speed. Probably 5 miles at at full sprint and when we came up to the train station, you could hear the train starting to move out. We ran harder.

Like a scene out of a movie, we ran up to the train as it was gaining a pretty good speed and made a leap onto one of the open doors. Another ten seconds or so and the speed of the train would have been too fast to make the jump. We both laughed while coughing and dying for breath. It was funny only because we made it. A near inconvenient problem became an dramatic adventure. That’s the thin line between success and failure. I didn’t see Elaine much after that. I wonder if she will remember the night she almost missed her train from chatting up an American guy in a small outback town in Western Australia.

I’m glad I took the train. It was an experience and I had fun for the most part. The sleeper cabin would be an essential in recommending it to anyone though. Three days in an upright seat with a car full of noisy people is a bit much to ask from anyone other than a twenty two year old backpacker from Europe.

When I arrived at Perth, I was greeted by Tracy whom I had been communicating with for some time but was now meeting face to face. I gathered my luggage and headed out after a short tour of the city. I am finally in Perth, about as far away from home as you can possibly get and still be in western society. Hopefully all here will go well. I hope so because I like it here already. The weather is great and the people are friendly. Tomorrow I get to see what I am in for during my stay.

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