The Engineer and I like trains, we’re known for it. ‘Another train journey?’ friends ask. And the answer is usually yes. This year’s epic marathon found us travelling from north to south in Australia, or as the locals say, from the Top End downwards. It’s about 2,000 miles and it took three nights and very nearly four days from departing from Darwin and arriving in Adelaide.
The Ghan Train was named after the cameleers who blazed the trail into the Red Centre of Australia in the 19th century. Many of them came from Pakistan although they were believed to be from Afghanistan and thus became known as (Af)Ghans.
The Ghan Expedition is really a cruise on wheels, with stops for excursions by coach, delicious meals, a well-stocked bar, and helpful, friendly staff. You do need to be ok about sleeping in bunks though, and I have no head for heights; luckily the Engineer has no nerves about anything and is fine about mountaineering to bed. (Pic – bedtime story)
First stop was at Katherine, south of Darwin, where the temperature was 37C and rising so we were glad of a boat trip through the Nitmiluk Gorge, first walking through a grove of trees which had a sign saying: Don’t look up – can you guess why?
After that we stopped in Alice Springs which hadn’t seen a drop of rain since January – until the September evening when we went to an outdoor BBQ at the Telegraph Station there! Luckily it was just a shower. The final outing was to the underground city of Coober Pedy, famous for opal mines. A lot of the houses were a bit Hobbit-like, with chimneys sticking out of the rock and we went underground to check out an opal mine. Had lunch there too! For someone who is mildly claustrophobic I seem to have been down an awful lot of mines: a lead mine in Derbyshire, coal mine in France, silver mine in Austria, copper mine in Sweden and now an opal mine in Australia.
It was a fabulous journey and I do it again only I’d have to mortgage the Engineer, and it wouldn’t be any fun without him! (Pic: Englishwoman abroad, complete with (M&S) pearls!)
The House at Ladywell is out now and I survived an online book launch on Facebook. There are some 5* reviews already! – , available in ebook and paperback http://amzn.to/2i7o2Z9
‘The perfect novel to curl up and read with a glass of mulled wine and a cat on your lap during those dark winter months…’
‘Brilliant – the past and present are entwined and Freya uncovers her own mystery whilst delving into the history of the house.’
‘A very, very readable story.’
‘A real feel-good romantic story about a house and its history, Nicola Slade writes characters you instantly warm to. I liked the use of elements in local history to provide background to the story of the house – it feels as though one could go and look for an actual house.’