The Katherine Gorge is a place where the ladies on the train could see fashion accessories; handbags, belts, shoes, resting on it banks. (Don’t even think about catching one.) Both the deadly saltwater and timid freshwater species shared the freshwater in this idyllic setting.
With the sun settling in the west, guests returned to the train, venturing into the lounge car for drinks and refreshments. Without fanfare or drum-roll, the Ghan slipped quietly out of Katherine.
Some families waited the call to the dining car while other sipped drinks and discussed the events of the day. It was clear that broad representation of guests ranging from the very young to advanced years made up the gathering. Some had strores to tell, others had questions to ask.
It is not appropriate to reveal the confidences shared however one obviously immoral gentleman did have a story to tell. He wanted to know if PiandO were in Canberra in 1983. He explained by informing his audience that he was one of the perpetrators of a dastardly crime; removing barricades and clearing the way for a truck to enter the hallowed grounds of Parliament House where the driver, another accomplice dumped some ten-metres of wheat on Parliament House steps. This was certainly a highlight of his rather eventful life and he revelled in the notoriety of event as he recounted the incident to enthralled guests. On this second night on board, staff and passengers were on first name terms and a friendly basis. If a guest needed something it was simply a matter of asking and it was delivered to the table. A souvenir cabinet was stocked and purchases were one of the few times money was exchanged.
Late dinner in the Queen Adelaide Restaurant and it was time to retire.
Morning coffee and a wake up call had been made for 6.30a.m. On time, an attendant knocked on the door and brought the coffee into the suite.
Following breakfast, with the suite made up, it was time to watch the scenery flash by at a speed between 100 and 110 kilometres an hour. Sometimes cars or road-trains could bee seen on the nearby Stuart Highway.
Hilly country replaced the flat landscape and soon the MacDonnell ranges came into view. The Ghan pulled into the Alice Springs Terminal on time.
Once again the coaches waited. Tours of Alice Springs, the Rev John Flynn Memorial and the Royal Flying Doctor Service were just some on the itinerary.
At the end of another eventful day, guests re-boarded the Ghan. Shorty after, the sensation of movement alerted the passengers that the train was underway.
As guests waited on their dinner allocations the lounge car was busy again.. Stories were exchanged as guests participated in the pre-dinner conviviality's.
In a barren red featureless desert on the third day of travel, The Ghan slowed then came to a stop at a completely bare rail siding. This was Manguri; some forty kilometres west of the opal mining centre of Coober Pedy. Again a fleet of coaches waited and soon their was a mass exodus to the Opal Town, mainly dirt road until reaching the Stuart Highway and outskirts of Coober Pedy. This is a town that has previously been discussed in these pages.
This time darkness had stet in by the time guests returned to the Ghan. Alighting from the coaches guests were greeted by the boys and girls, the same train staff who had attended to their every want in Coober Pedy. Some carried trays with brimming glasses of champagne; other trays of hors-d’oeuvres.
Some 100 metres from the train, a roaring fire of old railway sleepers lit the night sky. On side tables dressed in white linen rested glasses and plates of food. Guests gathered around the roaring fire carefully avoiding the heat but warm despite the chill in the desert air.
One guest, a former Being 747 Captain was chosen to speak and thanked the train manager and Great Southern Rail, together with all the staff and train crew for their unfailing attention during the journey and the remarkable service in most unlikely places. The Train Manager responded on behalf of the crew and Great Southern Rail.
Late in the evening following a meal and refreshments, guests withdrew to their suites. No one seemed surprised by the movement of the train
Alice Springs: The John Flynn Memorial with an eight tone boulder from the Devils Marbles: