The Queen Adelaide restaurant.
As The Ghan rumbled past outer Adelaide’s pastoral plains and entered the rusty-red terrain of northern SA, we came to a grinding halt at Pimba for a desert concert featuring artists from every 80s Aussie rock playlist, including Goanna and Joe Camilleri, plus Christine Anu. The two-hour gig was only bettered by the fireworks finale, which lit up the outback sky.
The next morning, we lumbered into Alice Springs and embarked on our first expedition: a three-hour, four-kilometre walk through Simpsons Gap. (For a fee, you can instead soak up the sights on a camel or via helicopter.) At the Gap, a gorge in the West MacDonnell Ranges, you’ll spy goannas, rock wallabies and towering Insta-worthy red cliffs.
Day three presented another off-board delight: a cruise down Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge. Here, freshwater crocs lounged on nearby rocks and, to my daughter’s despair, swam up to our boat. The prehistoric, pristine wilderness of Katherine is powerful beyond words. Swimming is mostly forbidden, but there are a couple of “safe” waterholes to escape the heat.
Cruising Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge.
Back on board, nights were spent chatting to fellow travellers over bottles of Bollie as guitarists beckoned guests to their feet. Even my teens danced to John Denver with a couple of spritely octogenarians. See what magic happens when there’s no wi-fi? As The Ghan’s brochure correctly states, it’s about the journey, not the destination. But the real thumbs up came from my usually monosyllabic son. As we alighted at Darwin he whispered to me, “Mum, that was actually pretty good.”
Prices range from $1919 (Gold Single cabin) to $4079 (Platinum Class cabin pp). Visit journeybeyond.com.
This issue originally appeared in the January 2020 issue of marie claire.