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  • Keef Hellinger

Blog 175 - The World's Great Train Journeys, OK I accept it's not a Motorhome 😉

By keef and annie hellinger, March 12th 2022 14.30 p.m.

We have been lucky enough to travel on a few of the world's great train journeys whist we've been on our travels so I thought I would showcase them here on my Blog, to be fair on those holidays we were in a motorhome for a goodly percentage of our travels.


I've included a slideshow with audio diary commentary for each plus my new Soundcloud playlist

some of the worlds great train journeys
some of the worlds great train journeys

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  1. The Ghan, Darwin to Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia 2008

  2. The TranzAlpine, Christchurch to Greymouth, South Island, New Zealand, 2008

  3. The Indian Pacific Railway, Perth Western Australia to Adelaide, South Australia 2017

  4. Soundcloud Playlist, Audiobooks

  5. Diary Words

The Ghan

Our Journey back in 2008 with audio diary, Red class sleeper couchettes, not sure we slept much though

Coming through the Gap at Alice Springs, NT


The TranzApline

This was a special treat for our 30th Wedding Anniversary


TranzAlpine across the gravel flats, good weather
TranzAlpine across the gravel flats, good weather

TranzAlpine, Arthurs Pass National Park
TranzAlpine, Arthurs Pass National Park

Our Journey in Rain and Sunshine on our Wedding Anniversary #greatfun #railways



The Indian Pacific

From Perth to Adelaide, Gold Class, such Luxury

Our Journey back in 2017 with audio diary


Please note we only did Perth to Adelaide, but despite travelling in the opposite direction and from Sydney this is to give a flavour of it in action, hope it helps



The Audiobooks of those Great Rail Journeys



WORDS

2008 Diary of Great Train Journeys, The Ghan, Darwin to Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia


This first part of the diary was written in reverse chronological order as we travelled hence it is a bit sparse on detail however for prosperity it is important to include , by 2022 it was now 14 years old and technology back then ain’t what it is now, some ridiculous Telstra roaming modem that only worked about 10% of the time and cost a fortune, ha-ha. So, UPDATE 29/5/2008 We have now left the Outback State Loved NT. Nice, remote and relaxed. Flew out over the various deserts, gr8 views. Bought a Didge from Andrew made by aboriginal who lives between Katherine & Darwin, Top end. Also visited Old Ghan Museum, train spotters that we are! Plus had a Didge lesson and went to the marvelous Andrew Langford's Sounds in Starlight Theatre for a contemporary Didge show and joined in. Plus, 19hr round trip from Alice to see Uluru & The Olgas, immense! Wildlife count to Uluru and back was 3 camels, 20+roos, 4 dingo’s, numerous birds, and bats. Spent the day in and around Alice by Explorer bus. Arrived on the Ghan (Gr8 fun) in Alice Springs (cooler at 27c) from Darwin via Katherine (4hrs), Tennant Creek (5hrs but night) after 27hr journey, not for the faint hearted! Average 33c in Darwin. Went to Art & History Museum Darwin (we liked Darwin) Plus Gr8 day in Darwin, visited the town, did the tourist bus (tour tub), chilled by the infinity pool and went to the sunset market at Mindil beach, spectacular Arrived and met the v helpful Lorraine at our apartment in Darwin

HISTORY Arrive in Darwin via air from Broome 21/5/2008 and then catching Ghan on Sat 24/5 @ 9am thru to Alice Springs stopping off at Katherine for 4 hours. (We will see the gorge + town) In Darwin we will be staying in a Central Motel (Unit 1 @ 4 Barossa Street, Larrakeyah) and taking trips out and about in NT for a few days. In Alice we are staying at the Aurora Alice Springs for 4 nights and taking a 17hr trip to Uluru & the Olgas in Red Rock country on the 27th, looking fwd to it!

Darwin is a fabulous place and was my top city after Sydney. The Ghan journey we will remember for the rest of our lives and the school of the air in Katherine as well as visiting the magical Uluru (and not being allowed to take pictures, its a sacred place) and staying in Alice, seeing the Starlight theatre performance and having Andrew Langford try out our Didge before we bought it. See our 1995 trip here and we just had to go back for our 4th , but hopefully not final time in 2013. We visited Alice again in 2017. We travelled in 2 motorhomes in our 10½ months away, the one on the eastern side being our home for 105 days. If you want to learn more about motorhomes, click here. No question Annie & I love Oz both as children & adults FACT!

Summary: NORTHERN TERRITORY 9 days , Day 209-217, 21/5/2008 - 29/5/2008

See Western Australia fo Day 209 and Southern Australia for Day 218, thanks

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Day 210 - Thursday 22nd May 2008,Darwin

Walked into town, about 12ish then Hop on hop off bus, with drivers mum present $60AD saw most sights Stopped at Sky city casino had some drinks by the infinity pool then walked over to the Mindil Beach Sunset market (ace) Darwin is a nice city better than we expected.Loved the Mindil Beach Sunset market,Loads of folk at market which we went to in the eve and watched the sunset across the beach,Mindil Beach Sunset market, spray can artist, eMDee band, sunset and many many revelers (5k+),

Day 211 - Friday 23rd May 2008,Darwin

Went by taxi to the Museum & Arts center, spent about 2.5hrs there V interesting especially the Cyclone Tracy stuff then walked back in 33+c heat to bus stop where drunk and his even drunk aboriginal partner told us about buses Caught no4 into City center Did shopping My BNT Mosquitos shirt, Annies Tshirt and perfume plus food shopping 4 Ghan trip Then back to Unit 1, 4 Barossa st, Larrakeyah to chill ring Chris & Mum Thai meal Massaman chicken and 2 bed not too late after packing. Loved My NT rugby shirt, sweetheart the croc.photo of of ‘Tracy you bitch’ car a treat from cyclone experience in museum

Day 212 - Saturday 24th May 2008,The Ghan, Darwin to Tennant Creek via Katherine

White Cockatoos,Brummy bus driver in Katherine, 2 ozzie ladies in seats behind us on Ghan , Loved the Red North, long journey with very little sleep after a very early start.

Day 213 - Sunday 25th May 2008,The Ghan, Tennant Creek to Alice Springs

Moored up at Tenant Creek (John Flynn – 1st RFDS) from 1.30am to 6am Noone allowed out weird station no platform Neither of us slept that well in our Day/Nighter seats but gr8 trip Lots of red soil as we moved thru to Alice Springs by 11.15am 26c Caught shuttle to hotel had to wait 35mins to check in (not best pleased) but Uluru trip receipt had been faxed by Vaitor. Saw 5 red roos, 2 to keef, 3 to annie. Met 2 ladies behind us on red kangaroo (steerage class) cabin R seats r13-14 daughter in Esperance son in Darwin oh and Sid the Sloth He and his girlfriend slept (supposedly) all 27 hrs. Remember the Ghan, Annie slept for 2.5 hrs when we arrived at Aurora A-S hotel (v good with pool) deluxe room. Henley on Todd (boat race with a difference, no water so they have to carry them with their legs thru as though the river Todd had water in it which it does for very few occasions a decade, let alone a year. Loved the soil getting redder and redder as the Ghan travelled south.

Day 214 - Monday 26th May 2008,Alice Springs

Now been away 7 months,1st day on round Alice bus ticket. Telegraph station. Hot , Lovely views over Alice and trip round.

Day 215 - Tuesday 27th May 2008,Uluru/ Olgas trip from Alice Springs

Very long day 19hrs Got up 4.50am (having stayed up previous eve to see England thrash the Kiwis at cricket 2nd test) 1000k (625m) round trip. Just a very special day back in bed by 12.30am having washed our feet and red dust. Saw Mt Connor, Uluru & The Olgas, plus we did 3 walks. Met Brian the guide, pint sized Aussie who was very friendly, but it was his first day guiding. Loved Uluru but really the whole day We had sparkling wine and a picnic as the sun went down over Uluru Really strange colours on the rocks.

Day 216 - Wednesday 28th May 2008,Alice Springs

Up late after long trip yesterday. Had brekkie (full English) at the Red Ochre Grill attached to our hotel, the Aurora, then showered, caught 2nd day on the Alice explorer out to the Old Ghan Museum (gr8 fun) then back into Alice and the Todd mall. Did Didgeridoo lesson booked tickets for the evening show. Nice 3 course meal in restaurant Barramundi & Ginger, Steak, Fish & Chips, Pear & Apricot strudel & homemade ice-cream all for $38AD reach. The food at the hotel was very good value. Met Andrew Langford – Didge show, which we both saw and practised didge playing, fun but hard especially circular breathing. See the Sounds of the Starlight theatre images on our full website, just go to any browser and type in HOLIDAY2007-8 dot co dot uk, thanks for looking. Sadly, the Sounds of Starlight website is not secure, so I have removed it and Andrew stopped running this in about 2012 and folk in Alice told us he sadly now runs the town bus. Plus no one apart from drunk Aboriginal lady who wobbled into restaurant (sad) and security called the police.

Day 217 - Thursday 29th May 2008,Alice Springs to Adelaide

Up 8-ish Had gr8 cooked brekkie, then over to see Andrew and bought a Didge. Very pleased with it, made by aboriginal between Katherine & Darwin. Had it mailed home with free booklet. Then sent Craig note to say it was on its way Checked out of Hotel about 10.15 took longer cos I thought we had paid, we had not. Then shuttle bus ($34AD) to airport V nice airport Then flew to Adelaide Shuttle bus to Rockford. Not bad room although had to ask for 3 bits of maintenance Supposedly an upgrade and view of river Torrens, maybe! Annie took loads of gr8 piccies out of the plane of the Simpson & Mackay deserts and Lake Eyre. Met Andrew Didge man , plus yanks on shuttle bus to hotel in Adelaide who were very loud & opinionated

MORE INFORMATION

From our travels, gap year, Northern Territory Australia,9 days in total, during the period 21-29 May 2008, Ghan, Alice & Uluru, in 3 parts reconstructed Nov2020, including 159 images being a summary of the much larger collection, covering plus a whole lot more the following, Darwin, stations, tenants creek, sunset, mindil sunset market, museums, poems, artist, infinity pools, Katherine, Devonshire teas, didge, Andrew Lansford, aurora hotel, Unit 1, 4 Barossa st, Larrakeyah, Darwin, nice land lady , food, drive to ghan station, cyclone Tracy 1974,museums, salt lakes, tropical flowers, Gibson and simpson deserts, aborigines, mount connor, albert Namatjira, artist, graveyard alice, telegraph & signals stations and museums, the old Ghan, camels, the tub tour, stolen generation, river Katherine, sounds of starlight theatre, spray can art, the olgas, early morning coach trip, sunset picnic at uluru, cave art, school of the air, walking around the base of ayres rock (old name), red class travel, world hepatitis day, sleeping rough, red ochre café, camel steaks, roo steaks, telegraph camel men, history, traversing a very hostile terrain , baobab trees, frank gorton poetry, tea towels, ballooons, jim's place road house, singing dingoes, rock paintings and images of the past, lasseter highway, past kings canyon - coach swapping point


We bought our willow bark didge from Andrew Lansford, it was made in the top of the Northern Territory by an indigenous man, Andrew gave us lessons on how to play, to this day (2022) I have not yet really mastered circular breathing which is essential to playing but can make the authentic didge sound. There was a fab Didge band playing at the Mendil Sunlight market in Darwin

2008 Diary of Great Train Journeys, The TranzAlpine, South Island, New Zealand

Day 123 - Monday 25th February 2008,Christchurch

For our 30th Wedding Anniversary the main treat was to travel on one of the worlds great train journeys on board the TranzAlpine railway from Christchurch to Greymouth on South Island New Zealand and back, we had great fun, sadly it rained most of the way across to Greymouth on the West coast, I guess not surprising for South Island and indeed New Zealand, it was also very cloudy but oh so hot and sunny on the way back and great scenery Hard to take pictures thru the slightly steamed up windows but such superb scenery, we will (and do) go back via road at some stage 2017 but train takes you in places where no roads go so it will be our special memories. We met a Brummie couple (who were amazingly well travelled) who now live in Weston Super Mare Chatted to them all the way to Greymouth because of the rain. Loving Annie so much. We also had a meal at an Italian restaurant in Christchurch in the evening after we got back from the train journey but sadly keef ill next day, probably the butter chicken, the rail journey gave us a very different view of Arthurs pass which we love having driven through it in 2008 when it rained the whole time and then again in 2017 when we were blessed with sunshine but it is very different and way more remote when on the train, which we love! See the slideshow and see what you think.

2017 Diary on a Great Train Journey, The Indian Pacific Railway, Australia

Sunday 26 February Perth to Kalgoorlie on the Indian Pacific Railway

Got up at 6.30am & got a taxi at 7.45am to East Perth station. The train left at 10am, so we had plenty of time to look at the Indian Pacific train memorabilia & have complimentary coffee/tea/orange juice & small cakes whilst a musician played. Allyson & I chatted to the train driver (one of two drivers for the trip) who was up at the front of the train. There was a wagon with a full car transporter which had to be hooked up to the engine, so the driver had to stop talking to us & assist with that. Took lots of photos & felt excited to be going from Perth to Adelaide on the Indian Pacific which would take 3 days/ 2 nights and crossing the Nullarbor Plain & deserts.

Chris & Allyson & us had adjacent cabins near the front of the massively long train (carriage O, cabins 7 & 8). The cabins were very compact with a pull-out bed & bunk bed above with ladder, plus a small shower room with sink, mirror & toilet. The staff were all very friendly & helpful. We went to the Queen Adelaide dining car for lunch – all food & drinks were included in the ticket. The train went very slowly through the Perth suburbs & past Northam & Merredin which we had visited in the motorhomes.

Sometime after Merredin and past Southern Cross (an outback town) the train stopped for about an hour. We heard on the internal PA announcement by train staff that a stowaway person had been spotted by a passing freight train & the driver had informed our driver who had then seen the man on the video surveillance cameras. The stowaway was seen moving in one of the cars on the vehicle transporter. The Indian Pacific staff radioed the police at Southern Cross & they took a while to get to the stationary train. The man was arrested and stupidly had no water or food with him in the car for the 3-day trip & with outside temperatures of 36c + he may not have survived.

We went to dinner in the dining car – we were travelling gold class. Red class was lower & Platinum was the top class. When we returned to the cabin the staff had made up the bunk beds & left some gifts for us as we had mentioned that it was our 39th wedding anniversary yesterday. I got a blue pashmina scarf & Keef got a cap plus a nice note from the staff. There was a free coach trip at 9pm round Kalgoorlie & to see the gold mine (the Super Pit) which we had all signed up to do that evening. However, because the stowaway had caused a delay to our journey we did not get off the train onto the coaches until 10.30pm.The temperature had been 30c at 9.15pm and it was very dark. The coaches went to the Super Pit but did not get any idea of the scale of the gold mine as it was pitch black with lorry headlights moving in the bottom of the giant pit. Luckily Keef & I had seen it before in the daytime on a previous trip to Australia. We drove round the town & there was nobody around. The coaches all dropped everybody off at the gold museum where we saw a short 15-minute play about Paddy Hannan. He was an Irish prospector who first found gold nuggets on the ground in 1893. A woman was also in the play – we did not think it was very good. Back in our coach we did not think the driver’s commentary was very good either – he kept pausing mid-sentence (his day job was prison officer). We were very tired and after the two-hour excursion we re-boarded the train and went to bed.

Monday 27 February Indian Pacific Railway

I was still awake when the train finally left Kalgoorlie station at 1.20am & picked up speed. The delay in leaving was probably due to goods trains having priority on the line. The train lurched violently from side to side so much that I found it difficult to get to sleep on the top bunk. I climbed down the ladder, Keef woke up and kindly offered to swap bunks. Eventually got to sleep. We were woken up at 5.30am by train staff knocking on our door. We had all wanted to do the early breakfast outdoors at 6.15 at Rawlinna station. This was a scheduled stop on the Nullarbor Plain halfway between Perth & Adelaide. Not all the passengers wanted to be woken so early for breakfast. The temperature was 20c at 6.15 bright sunshine with a bright blue sky. This place was a lonely outpost on the railway track, with tiny station, post office plus a sheep station which covered 2.5 million acres with 70,000 sheep.

When we climbed down the train steps it was some distance to the station where breakfast was being served. We all sat on benches by lots of long wooden tables & ate sausage, quiche, large mushroom, tomato plus tea & coffee. We saw local Ute & Aussie famers come to the station to pick up their post & parcels. When we re-boarded the train, the staff said on the intercom that there was a ‘creature’ on the track at the front of the train – probably a snake. We weren’t allowed to walk anywhere at all apart from the cinder track by the train to the station platform.

Today we’re spending the whole day on the train crossing the Nullarbor. We had lunch in the Queen Adelaide restaurant car with pre-dinner drinks & some nice wine with our meal. I had an hours sleep in our cabin as I was knackered. Then we spent the time gazing out the window and listening to music on the cabin radio. Keef thought he saw a snake at the side of the track.

At 3pm the train made a scheduled brief stop at Cook on the Nullarbor. It was a god-forsaken place in the middle of nowhere. It was named after an Aussie Prime Minister not Captain Cook. It was 38c and after the air con on the train it was like walking into a hot oven. We had 30 mins stop here as the train had to re-fuel, take on more water (arterial bore) and change drivers. There were lots of flies so had to continually swat them away from our faces or they crawled into our mouth, ears & noses. We were told before disembarking that we were not to walk into the desert but to strictly keep to the paved paths towards a few abandoned buildings.

There was once a small community living there but now the population is 4. Their job is to help with re-fuelling the train. They live in a typical Aussie house – bungalow with corrugated iron roof & a small garden with picket fence. The soil was very red and dusty with a few trees around. We were told not to enter the abandoned buildings as it was too dangerous as snakes were very active at this time. Luckily saw no snakes or other animals/ reptiles thank goodness. I was very careful to watch where I was walking!! We all took photos & reboarded the train before the 30 mins were up as we felt we did not want to linger in this dangerous & desolate place.

Glad to get back to our air con cabin. Crossing the Nullarbor we only saw a few cattle but no kangaroos or camels. A lot of the mammals are asleep during the day and only feed at dawn & dusk. Later in the afternoon the landscape suddenly changed from the flat desert where you could see for miles to rocky & sandy gorges with large bushes & trees and there was a dirt track alongside the railway line. This is probably so that maintenance men could drive along to check the condition of the track. We could see that once heavy rain had scored deep gullies in the red sandy soil but were dry as a bone now. We wondered if the lack of kangaroos was since they were being killed for the pet food industry. Had dinner & had a game of cards in the bar area. Very tired.


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