When I’m not thinking about, cooking and eating food or writing about it here on this blog, I occasionally get paid to write about things. Granted, it is often food that I write about, but I also get paid to write about travel and sometimes I actually get to do some – for research purposes, of course. 🙂 I’ve recently just finished a feature piece about an extraordinary Australian outback location – Coober Pedy – for Tiger Tales, the inflight magazine for Tiger Airlines, and if you happen to be flying Tiger during the holidays it will be in the January/February issue. This was my first ever visit to a truly unique part of our wide, brown land and I was very excited to be there, but I was just as excited about how I got there – on one of the great train journey’s of the world, the legendary Ghan!
Named after the pioneering Afghan cameleers who blazed trails through the burning heart of Australia, the Ghan travels from Adelaide in the south to Darwin in the north over three days – and it does so in great style. I’ve always felt a little romantic about train travel and as a result I made my two daughters ride a train with me from Seattle to San Fransisco earlier this year. This was a 24 hour trip with Amtrak and one I’d be very reluctant to repeat. While the staff were utterly delightful and helpful in every way, the same can’t be said about the cabins, facilities or the food which were – in order – tired, shabby and inedible. Well, Amtrak – you should really take a leaf out of Great Southern Rail‘s book because they are doing just about everything right!
From the moment I boarded the train and made my way to my Gold Class cabin I knew this trip was going to be something very special. The cabins are clean, pleasant and come with a fold out washbasin and panoramic window from which to enjoy the stunning views, the bathrooms were also clean and well appointed (take note Amtrak) and the staff were warm and very friendly. The Ghan tickets come in three price ranges – Platinum Service, Gold Service and Red Service. The Platinum & Gold classes share the Outback Explorer Lounge facilities and the gloriously detailed surrounds of the Queen Adelaide Restaurant. The Red Service passengers enjoy the Matilda Cafe and the Red Gum Lounge.
I was only on the train as far as Manguri Siding, where I disembarked for Coober Pedy, but that still gave me plenty of time to enjoy the passing views of the Flinders Ranges, the warm hospitality of every staff member who crossed my path and the absolutely amazing food. As I mentioned earlier, my unfortunate train trip earlier this year in the US left me with two whinging daughters and a huge appetite as the food was so very bad – but Great Southern Rail have clearly paid quite a lot of attention to this vital aspect of long train travel. The menu showcased some of South Australia’s best food products including Woodside Cheese Wrights cheese, Coorong Angus Beef, Spear Creek Dorper Lamb, Careme Pastry – and clearly knew how to treat great ingredients well. The wine list was no less impressive and I enjoyed exploring it just a little.
I can’t imagine a more deliciously indulgent way to travel from Adelaide to Darwin than The Ghan. You can enjoy the passing parade of Australia from the huge windows and the train has whistle stops at Alice Springs and Katherine where you can take various tours – you can even take a short camel trek if you are so inclined.
As for me – well, I was dropped off in the middle of the desert, beneath a carpet of stars, in the middle of the night. But if you want to find out how that went for me, you’ll have to check out my story in January’s edition of Tiger Tales.
Lambs’ Ears and Honey was a grateful guest of Great Southern Rail.
She would love the opportunity to get used to this style of travel, so if you would like to pay her to write for you don’t hesitate to contact her here.