Today was our full day on The Ghan–overnight, a day on train and around Alice Springs, and another full night of travel. After 2 weeks of travel directed by Majella it was different to simply sit back, relax, and experience the day as it unfolded.
We slept reasonably well despite the sometimes erratic motion of the train. We were conscious that it had come to a halt around 4:00 am and that we had been advised there would be a 6:00 am wake-up call for sunrise at Marla. We did our best to sleep until then but I was up and dressing a little before the 6:00 am call.
The morning was cool, but not as cold as we had anticipated, and by the time we stepped outside there were bonfires and hot coffee to warm us as we waited for the sun to rise. Cabin staff circulated with savoury scrolls and bacon and egg sliders to accompany the coffee. Sunrise was bright and colourful but suffered a little from a lack of cloud to add interest to the wide blue sky that dominated the plain.
Once the sun was up we went back onto the train and it rolled northward across the plains. Brunch was set for 10:00 am until 1:00 pm so we had some time to fill. I managed a shower in the compact ensuite and solved some puzzles in a game on my iPad. Majella read her book.
We had opted for the most energetic of the included afternoon excursions with some walking in the Simpsons Gap area west of Alice Springs so we went for early brunch so as to allow time for it to settle before walking. The kangaroo followed by berry and yoghurt parfait was tasty but not too much.
We were less impressed by the border crossing from South Australia to Northern Territory and the Ironman sculpture. The rail track is lined with distance markers that should make it a simple matter to know where the train is and what is coming up. The notice for the border was insufficient and then we spent more than 10 minutes waiting for the next feature to appear. Somebody needs to take that in hand and ensure that if there really is something to see there is adequate, but not excessive, notice given.
Soon after 2:00 pm we were disembarking at Alice Springs and lining up for our excursions. Majella and I had opted for Simpsons Gap and the rest of our group went for the exploration of town.
Our excursion took us 17 km into the West MacDonnell Ranges and on 3 short walks. The first, the Ghost Gum loop, was a short stroll on level ground to look at trees growing in a dry river. Along the way we were lucky to see Sturt’s Desert Rose in bloom. We also saw a variety of trees and learned something about the local area. From there the bus took us further into the national park for the other walks.
The second walk was a bit less than 2 km up a hill for panoramic views of the area. It was more demanding than the first but not overly strenuous. From the top of the hill we had panoramic views across the valley to the red rock cliffs on the ridges.
The third was into Simpsons Gap where there was a chance of seeing rock wallabies. We missed seeing wallabies but enjoyed the walks and the red rock scenery. On the way back to Alice we visited the grave of Flynn of the Inland.
We were back on the train soon after 5:30 pm and not much later we were heading north again. Dinner was enjoyable as ever with crocodile sausage, barramundi for Majella and beef for me, and ginger and macadamia pudding for dessert.
By 8:00 pm we were heading back to our compartment for the night. Tomorrow morning we will be in Katherine.