The Ghan- living the dream.

Having successfully mastered the narrow walkways and links between carriages we joined our fellow travellers in the bar. Large sofa type seating provided sectioned off areas with little walnut side tables. We joined the group and ordered a round of drinks, little nibbles and canapés were provided to tide you over till dinner time. We had an 8.30 sitting and so would have time to have a few preprandial’s before we needed to shower and change into dinner attire. The sparking wine flowing too well during this first stint, meant the return to the cabin for the shower and dinner change was a hoot.

The birthday luggage looks fabulous but storage in the carriage was at a premium so we couldn’t find a place to keep from falling over it. The Lion was becoming frustrated as we tried to unpack in what felt like a phone box that constantly swayed, clicked and rattled as the train chugged along. I had carefully rolled up my outfits, knowing that there was no iron on the train, but both looked slightly worse for wear when I pulled them out. Hanging them up did little to masque the crease marks. The toiletries were minimised to enable us to maximise shoes on the carry ons as of course there were multiple functions for shoes on the trip. Sitting, walking and looking nice.

We managed to locate everything we needed and drew straws for the first shower. I won, knowing full well that was a fix, given the time needed for me to get ready. I got inside the neat little toilet, thankful I was not much taller than I was and less round than I easily might be. The colourful ribbon released the shower curtain and I skilfully pulled it all the way around to protect the loo and skink from getting wet, leaving less than 2 feet in diameter in which to shower. The first mistake was not testing the water, so pulling it on I was immediately scalded and found no where to jump clear of the gushing flames masquerading as water. I pushed it off, meanwhile the Lion, recognising a drama when he hears one, sat without uttering a word and ignoring my shouts for assistance. I wiggled the tap a bit to the left and tentatively turned it back on, the flames subsided – the water much more bearable now. However the soap and shampoo were behind the curtain and this was my second mistake, it meant a further fight as I became entangled in the wet shower curtain now clinging to my skin like a leech. Fighting back the area it was designed to keep dry now swimming in water. As it continued to cascade I managed to return it to its position and exhausted, eventually was able to commence my ablutions.

Finally it was time to return to the spacious cabin and try to get dried and dressed. Humidity filled the room from the steamy bathroom as I stepped onto the little mat and tried to get dried. Now I knew why I had won as I explained all of the things not to do when the Lion first encountered the shower. All our toileting complete I was glad to have set maximum time aside for this, given that we had not done it before. Still feeling jolly from the wine I had earlier, we made out way back to the bar carriage where we felt obliged to enjoy even more wine before dinner.

The dining experience is fantastic, food is served to you on white table cloths, with sparkling wine glasses and sliver cutlery. A little tight, but nevertheless promising the romance I desired. We were fortunate to dine with the Tigress but our other diner was unknown to us, not to worry we knew everything there was to know and more by the time she had finished and so did the rest of the dining carriage. That said we drowned our her musings as we tucked into our fabulous beef cheeks, prawn starter and cheese and biscuits with port and Cabernet Shiraz providing the refreshments. Not quite squiffed yet I returned to the bar high on life before realising there are no public toilets on the train which meant another lengthy walk back to the cabin. A little unsteady on my feet from the wine and port, I found to my alarm it had been raining. Each of the links between carriages had long since served passengers well enough to stop the rain from leaking through, makeshift tarpaulin was now all that stood between me and the onslaught. I thought I might try to fix it since it seemed to be letting in quite a bit of water but this only resulted in my second shower of the evening and I was drookit once more.

Given the wine was making me sleepy and carefree, the Lion thought it best to curtail my enjoyment by packing me off to bed before I crashed and burned, with clear instruction to sleep in the bottom bunk. I was delighted to see the Parrot had made the beds ready and a set of stainless steel ladders lay invitingly against the window. Having been advised against it, I lunged upwards to the top bunk, managed to put in my ear plugs and drift off to sleep without a care in the world. You can imagine my horror when the disco lights started flashing at 6 am, the Lion wanting to make sure I was up and ready for the day. Breakfast is served between 630 and 830 so he felt we needed to be there early since we had a trip to Nitmiluk at 9 am. Turns out he had not put in his ear plugs and the jolts and clicking of the gauge and rail did not lull him into a sound sleep, he was not alone. He had been awake all night (apart from his time in the bar of course) and had now morphed into the Gruffalo in the process. Grumpiness does not make for a conducive arrangement for the morning ablutions in a confined space and so we bumped and huffed silently as each of us tried to take turns at getting ready. Half an hour later we made it to the dining carriage with our happy faces on.

This was the first breakfast that had been served to us the entire trip, most hotels now favouring the serve yourself arrangements. It was an indulgent pleasure we welcomed. Coffee and tea poured, the three courses began leaving you satisfied and ready for the day, but at the same time wondering how you might manage to find a space in there for Lunch. Following our trip out to Nitmiluk National Park ( more later on that) we returned to the train 20 minutes ahead of our Lunch slot. Dismissing the experience with the shower out of mind I opted to have another more informed and less messy affair this time. Emerging fresh as a daisy we made our way along to the dining car where it was immediately apparent wine would again be the order of the day. Consciously trying to avoid over doing it a second day, the Lion, through lack of sleep seemed to have the alternative view. He struck up a friendly banter with the Cheetah who was the manager on the train. The friendly banter turning into a bit of a competition and soon they were playing tricks on each other. The cheetah at one point walking by pretending to drop a hot coffee all over him. The fellow travellers were in fits of laughter at the normally quiet Lion who seemed to have emerged from his cage for the last part of the journey. With minutes to spare before we disembarked the final jokes and hilarity waning we wandered back to our cabin, nicely prepared for our leaving by the Parrot. Gathering our luggage together we took in the Northern Territories as we disembarked from this marvellous train. Had we been here on our own, a couple of lone travellers, I seriously doubt it would have been half the fun and games that it was. The Ghan did not disappoint in its majesty and comfort and a massive thanks to everyone on the trip for making it all about friendship and fun.

The Lion and the Cheetah

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