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DESTINATIONS AUSTRASIA | THE GHAN


on board EATING


E Around half the meals are served on board, in the Queen Adelaide Restaurant or Platinum Club.


E Breakfasts include a juice of the day, cereals and cooked options, while dinners make the most of local produce, with dishes such as Spencer Gulf prawn, pork dumpling and Kangaroo Island lamb.


E All drinks are complimen- tary, including a decent list of Australian wines, most of them from South Australia.


E During the Expedition, all lunches are served off the train as part of the excursions. These are often buffet or sharing style and feature fresh salads, cold meats and – at the Outback BBQ in Alice Springs – a fillet of beef cooked al fresco.


top tip


Learn about Journey Beyond’s iconic rail services, Whitsundays tours and Rottnest Express with the online training course at


journeybeyondspecialist.com Australia’s indigenous population are the keepers of


the world’s oldest surviving culture and it is mind-blowing to imagine how long their stories have been shared, without being written down or lost.


BOOK IT


The Ghan Expedition runs once a week from Darwin to Adelaide between March and October. Fares start at AU$2,779 (£1,553) for a Gold single cabin, AU$2,949 per person in a Gold twin and AU$5,799 per person in Platinum. journeybeyondrail.com.au


58 11 JULY 2019


COOBER PEDY On our final full day, we pull into Manguri, once home to 26 people who lived here in the 1970s while building the track for today’s Ghan. There is nothing much left here now, just a few foundations and a whole heap of red dust, and we are stopping here for one reason only: this is the jumping off point for Coober Pedy. I had always wanted to visit this crazy town, a place so hot (temperatures can reach the 50s) that people live underground, tunnelling into the landscape to create cave-like homes. The reason that they live here is simple – they are hoping to make their fortune in opal mining. Australia supplies around 95% of the world’s opals and Coober Pedy is the place where the largest volume is pulled from the ground. When building those cave homes, people often find opals during digging, and on our drive into town we pass endless mounds of chalky white and russet earth, carved from the ground in search of precious gems. Our guide at the Umoona Opal Mine & Museum, Dimitri, has spent 55 years mining here but


tells us he has “not been lucky”, before explaining how the opals are formed and showing us an example of a cave home, created here at the museum to give us an idea of what it is like to live in Coober Pedy. It is fascinating but the heat was hard to bear. After a brief shopping spree in the museum’s shop, where opals are cheaper than I have ever seen elsewhere, I am delighted to return to the train.


BACK ON TRACK


Our final night is spent on board and we take the opportunity to kick back and play a few games of Scrabble in the lounge car as we work through the all-Aussie wine list and chat to fellow passengers. Over dinner, we spot kangaroos and a lone emu, bounding away from the train. After a nightcap and one more game, we are rocked to sleep by the soporific clack of the rails and the gentle motion of the carriages. Before arriving into Adelaide in the late morning, we take it easy, feasting on a brunch of frittata made with Barossa Valley ham and reflecting on our journey. We have seen so much and yet we haven’t had to step onto a plane or get behind the wheel of a car. I cannot imagine a more civilised – or simpler – way to get to the heart of the outback.


TW travelweekly.co.uk


FROM LEFT: Underground lunch at Coober Pedy; The Ghan at Manguri; cruise on Katherine River through Nitmiluk Gorge PICTURES: Great Southern Rail/Andrew Gregory


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