Riding the Ghan

Enroute Alice Springs, NT, AU

They have trains that traverse Australia.  One of them, called “The Ghan” bisects the country running from Adelaide to Alice Springs to Darwin and when we bought the tickets online they charged us half of what the website said they would…

…kinda wish we knew that BEFORE our car broke down in the middle of the outback but hey, it’s a better story this way…

Oh and the name of the train?  Comes from the fact that the route through the center of the country was originally serviced by camels.  Camels that were not native to Australia and therefore imported for the purpose of traversing the punishing landscape and relentless climate of what is known as the “Red Centre”.

(oh, that one’s easy, it’s because the soil is red and it’s in the center of the country and Australia uses British spelling.  The term is not interchangeable with “outback.”  The red centre is part of the outback, but not all of it.)

So we were talking about camels, non-native camels, imported for the purpose of reaching, settling then supporting colonies in the red centre.  Camels that were eventually replaced by trains.  Non-native imported camels whose decedents make Australia the present-day proud owners of the most feral camels in the world.  That last part was not so much an intended outcome.

Oh right the name!

The name is not for the camels.

It’s for the handlers of the camels that were imported alongside their beasts.  These people were commonly called “Afghans” or, in that classic Aussie way of shortening every word “Ghans”

(It should be noted that the cameleers were from more ethnicities than just  Afghan.  But hey it works.)

The “Ghans” and the camels they drove pretty much opened up central Australia (read – any part not directly connected with the ocean) to settlement.

Speaking of handlers, our 36 hour overnight train ride to Alice Springs would have benefited from one.

Separate sleeping quarters that come standard.  One of the many reasons we prefer transport via sailing yachts.

If you’d like to learn more about the many cross country trains rides across Australia, check them out here.


About the authors

Greg and Tiffany are traveling around the world on sailing yachts and keep a video blog of their (mis)adventures.  If sailing to Tahiti on a 44 ft sailboat, 3-day delays for wine tastings, getting pooped on by seagulls, opening coconuts with dull machetes, sailing past tornadoes and ukulele Christmas carols are for you, then check them out at www.CoastGuardCouple.com!


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