Posted by: debrakolkka | January 25, 2010

The Ghan to Alice Springs and Darwin

We have travelled all around the world and quite extensively in Australia but until September 2009 we had never visited Uluru.  We are regularly asked about Uluru, especially in Italy.  It seems everyone has heard something about the huge rock  in the middle of Australia.  It was obviously time to see it for ourselves.

We flew to Adelaide where we began our journey on The Ghan, the train that travels across Australia from north to south and vice versa.  The train trip to Alice Springs and later on to Darwin was to be part of the experience.  We were ushered into our tiny but comfortable cabin by very pleasant and well trained attendants and we were off to see the centre of Australia for the first time.

The scenery was much more interesting and diverse than  I had expected.  I guess I thought it would be mile after mile of endless red desert.  In fact, there are all kinds of plants ranging from grasses to shrubs in all shapes and sizes.  I found gazing out of the window fascinating.  My book went largely unread.  There had been recent rain which would have made a difference to the landscape. 

We had arranged to leave the train in Alice Springs, stay overnight and then journey on to Uluru.  Alice Springs was my next surprise.  I don’t know what I expected but it wasn’t the modern, well presented town I found.  The central mall was lined with shady trees and we were served by young people with accents from a dozen different countries in the shops and cafes.  I thought it was a vibrant, fun place to be.

Alice Springs mall

While in Alice Springs we took a trip out to the Desert Park.  This is a great way to experience the different types of desert flora and fauna.  There is a wondeful exhibit showing the birds of the area.  On call from the very clever attendants the birds fly in and land in front of the audience while their special qualities are explained.  These are wild birds, clearly free to fly where they want and on the day we were there it seems they wanted to be with us.

Bird on show at Desert Park

Desert Park flora

The next day we went by bus to Uluru.  We arrived at Sails in the Desert with enough time to settle in and  explore a little  before heading out into the desert for sunset drinks in front of Uluru. The first sight of Uluru is amazing.  Here I can use one of my favourite Italian words – mozzafiato.  I love the sound of it and it means breathtaking!  Seeing Uluru for the first time is much like the first sight of the Eiffel Tower or the Pantheon – it really does take your breath away. It is much bigger than you imagine it to be and it is as red as the pictures show.  It is easy to see why people come so far to look at a big rock.

We were up early the next day to see sunrise at the rock and watch it change colour before our eyes.  We didn’t climb the rock.  It is possible to do so, but the local Aborigines ask visitors not to.  This is largely because it is reasonably dangerous  and they logically think that falling and breaking your neck is not the kind of holiday memory most people are looking for.  Instead we joined a local guide and walked around the rock .  Our guide,  named Alice , explained how her people have lived on this harsh landscape for thousands of years.    I’m sure it was much more interesting than struggling up the rock.  It think it is better to look at it than from the top of it.

Kings Canyon was next – another spectacular sight.  Jim did the more difficult walk around the top of the canyon while I was content with the bush walk at the bottom.  The highlight was the helicopter ride over the canyon, which gave the best view of all.

From here it was back to Alice Springs to board The Ghan for the overnight trip to Darwin.  We stopped on the way for a quick trip to Katherine Gorge.  We took a boat to the Gorge and had a brief walk around the rocks before heading back to the train.  Once again, the scenery is spectacular.

Katherine Gorge

Darwin is also a lively modern town.  Most of it is fairly new as it was rebuilt after it was flattened by Cyclone Tracy in 1974.  Apart from the heat, I really liked Darwin.  We had some great food.  We liked Hanuman so much we went twice and Char was also excellent.

We stayed 3 days in Darwin then headed to the next part of our adventure – the trip to Broome across the Kimberley on the Oceanic Discoverer.  If you have the time, The Ghan, named after the Afghans who helped open up the centre of Australia, is a great way to see Central Australia.

Giant anthill near DarwinLichfield Falls

Billabong near Darwin

Our Ghan and Uluru photos are missing.  If we find them, we will upload them.

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