The Ghan: Train trip of a lifetime

Late today I completed a three-day, two-night journey on the The Ghan, a train that runs from Adelaide in the south of Australia all the way north to Darwin. This thing is massive: 38 carriages, with four lounge and dining cars, one set for every four or five passenger carriages. It stretches 902 meters (or 2,960 feet — just over a half-mile) long! It’s so big that it’s split into two sections for boarding in Adelaide then the two halves are joined just before beginning the journey of 2,979 kilometers (or 1,851 miles).

I had a single cabin with a comfy seat at day and an almost comfy bed at night. All food and beverages are included in the fare as are excursions at stops in Alice Springs and Katherine. I’ll share some photos on those in my next post.

This was indeed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Great scenery, amazing food, exceptional service, and the company of some warm and wonderful traveling companions all made this a unique experience.

St. Peter’s Cathedral, Adelaide

Today being Sunday I went to St. Peter’s Cathedral for the 8 am service. Like so many Anglican churches (including, of course, my own Saint Mary’s Episcopal Church), the early service is offered without music other than the glorious traditional language that of the oldest Books of Common Prayer.

In addition to the expected exterior shots, I’ve also included a picture of one wall of the nave which occasionally is used as an art gallery. Then there’s a picture taken looking straight up the tower that rises above the chancel. Finally, there’s a traditional rose window (above the front door of the church) and a more contemporary window, known as the Magdalene Window, installed in 2001. The brochure on this includes the following description:

The Magdalene Window acknowledges and celebrates the role of women in the Scriptures, in the history of the Church, and in the forefront of social change in South Australia. It was designed by David Wright, a glass artist from Melbourne, who used the inspiration of Mary Magdalene and the women at the empty tomb for this spectacular window.

A Quick Visit to Adelaide

On Friday I flew from Melbourne to Adelaide and today (Sunday) I board the train known as the Ghan from a three-day journey from the far south to the far northern town of Darwin. This left me with a day and a half in another new city to explore.

I didn’t explore much, to be honest. But on Friday I did walk to the local zoo and was able to see some of the Australian animals I hadn’t yet seen as well as a few that while not local are always fun to see (as in the last photo in this post).

Great Ocean Road: Signs

Here are two of my favorite signs I’ve seen in Australia. And then there’s the third — not one of my favorites.

On the Great Ocean Road at almost every exit from a parking area back to the highway I saw the first sign. Clearly, this is an area that sees lots of tourists.

I saw the second sign more than once, and I couldn’t help but wonder about what is it with guys named “Cliff” in Australia? And who’s warning anybody about any unstable “Garys”? Just wondering…

And then on my morning at the Twelve Apostles I saw a sign directing me to Gibson’s Steps which promised a beach-level view only 30-60 minutes return (or “round-trip” to translate that into American English). Right. So I hiked along a nice enough path for about 20 minutes to find I had arrived at a car park. A car park! I could have driven to the steps!! Oh, well, I’d come this far, so I continued a short way down the path before seeing this lovely sign. Among the words that came to mind was, “Really? Really!?” There were other words, but I’ll let you fill in the gaps with your imagination. Seems to me that the sign directing me to Gibson’s Steps might also have (1) told me I could drive to the top of the steps and (2) notified me, by the way, that the steps were closed. Oh well, I can always use a little extra exercise, I suppose! (According to my Watch and iPhone I only covered 10.8 miles that day and climbed the equivalent of 40 flights of stairs.)

Great Ocean Road: Trees & Flowers

One of the surprises of the Great Ocean Road is that you can easily find yourself in the Otways, a coastal rainforest, one that is green and lush and feels far away from the stunning coastal views. As you would expect, there are waterfalls to visit (though these tend to require a bit of hiking) and great views of trees, ferns, and more. Another surprise: a grove of California Redwoods. I also visited Otway Fly, an attraction that offers a zipline experience. I skipped that and opted instead for a treetop walk along catwalks 80 feet above the forest floor.

Great Ocean Road: Coastal Views

On Monday I picked up my rental car and headed off for a few days on the Great Ocean Road in southern Australia, rightly described as one of the great drives anywhere in the world. It’s been a couple of years since I last drove on the “wrong” side of the road, but the adjustment was actually pretty easy. Only once did I open the passenger’s door when I thought I was on the driver’s side. Oops!

Anyway, here are a few of my photos of the views from the coast.

One of the “must see” sites is known as the Twelve Apostles, a series of rock features rising majestically out of the sea. There aren’t twelve any more as the same water and waves that created them has already started pulling them down. I first went at sundown on Tuesday to catch the last golden rays of the day’s sunshine bathe the Apostles in glory. Nice idea, but the sun decided instead to hide behind a cloud at sunset. And then it rained. It rained often but never for long while I was on the Great Ocean Road.

So I went back the next morning and got some better photos of the area. While at Apollo Bay Monday night I went to Mariner’s Lookout. As would prove the following night, sunset was a bit of a bust. But while waiting three horses in the adjacent field came over to say hello.

Next: my visit to the rainforest.

Melbourne: Part 3

On Sunday I visited the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne where I saw plants, people, and loads of birds. A lovely, relaxing afternoon.

Later I took the tram to St. Kilda (a neighborhood south of Melbourne) where every evening hundreds of Little (or Fairy) Penguins return to their home on the St. Kilda breakwater after feeding on anchovies all day. As the little critters don’t really start showing up until after the sun has set, the photos are a bit grainy. Still, very cool to see some penguins on my last night in Melbourne.

Next: the aptly named Great Ocean Road.

Melbourne: Part 2

Melbourne is home to a quickly rising skyline — as well as alleyways filled with art. Why? Well, commissioning artists (or permitting them) went a long way to resolving a problem with graffiti. And the result is quite cool. I spent the better part of an afternoon wandering up one lane and down another. Other lanes are more known for cafes offering a wide variety of affordable, delicious meals and snacks.

On my way to the Royal Botanic Gardens I had to walk past the Shrine of Remembrance at which Aussies who served and lost their lives in military service are remembered. The building is quite large and well-designed. You can ascend a viewing platform which offers great views of the city. On the day I was there (Nov. 10) a memorial service was being held in the plaza below the memorial.

Next: my visit to the Botanic Gardens and an evening with Little Penguins.

Melbourne: Part 1

After two weeks in Kangaloola I must say I was delighted to find myself someplace where I could shower — and do so every morning if I wanted! Not to mention enjoying the privilege of sleeping quarters complete with electricity, heat, running water, and privacy. Ah!

I was in Melbourne from Thursday afternoon through Monday morning, barely enough time to get a taste of this wonderful city. On my first full day I joined a free walking tour (well, it’s not really free as you are expected to tip at the end). During the tour, our guide, Sunni, pointed out a possum living in a tree in a park along our route. We also visited many neighborhoods, including Chinatown. The tour included brief stops at many great sites, including the Flinders Street Station. Later I visited the Skydeck, an observation platform on the 88th floor of the Eureka Tower, rising 975 feet high. I’m so glad I brought some good hiking boots for all the walking I did in Melbourne!

On Saturday I started my day at the Queen Victoria Market. Early in the day it hosts acres of booths and stands with meat, vegetables, fruit, cheese, and more. Later, other vendors arrive to sell clothing, souvenirs, and pretty much anything else you could imagine. By noon I was at St. Paul’s Cathedral where I attended the mid-day Holy Eucharist.

In my next post I’ll share a little about the amazing street art to be found in Melbourne. And eventually I’ll catch up as I’m still a few days behind in my posts.