No Sleep Tell Alice… A Train Ride through the Australian Outback

25 01 2011

Items I have learned today:

ute = utility vehicle aka a pick-up truck.

Bogan = Australian version of white trash, although they don’t necessarily need to be white

It’s amazing the looks I get when I have to ask what things mean. You would think that the accent would give away that I won’t necessarily pick up on all the slang. It’s not like I grew up with terms like “gasbag.” For me, that sounds more like someone with severe gas problems… here it means to gossip.

Wrapped up the job at transport and logistics. On my last day the CEO had a good bye lunch for me (which of course I found the catering company for). His farewell speech consisted something along the lines of “Well… we don’t usually have lunches for people like you……” as well as a few shots at the fact that I will be moving to Sydney. It was very heartfelt and touching. Bah 🙂 No, the thought was nice, even if the wording was um.. interesting.

With TLISC behind me, it was off on my own little adventure. I had always planned to do little trips here and there, but somehow had not got around to doing them. Going to Sydney for New Years just re-established my need to get out and explore.

So a few days later I took a train to Adelaide (my trip would end at Alice Springs and Uluru – aka Ayers Rock). Now, hopefully you are all aware that there has been some flooding here. Something like 70% of Queensland was affected. That’s about the size of all of UK being under water or all of WA, OR and ID for the folks back home. It is estimated to cause between $5-$15 billion dollars in damage. I only mention this because on the 9 hour train to Adelaide, the flood had made its way down to Victoria. Now I tried to capture some of the horses/cattle that were knee deep and water.. but again.. we come across the constant battle between Maria and her camera.
Here is what I was able to capture. This isn’t even an inkling of what’s going on in Queensland, but it shows you how spread out the impact is. Apparently the train I caught just barely made it out of Victoria, and they shut it down a few days after I left.

farm land under water - pic one

farm land under water - pic one

farm land under water - part two

farm land under water - part two

I left Melbourne at 8am Saturday morning, and arrived in Adelaide at 5:00pm that evening. Instead of a full day at work, it was a full day on a train.

Adelaide is the capital and most populated city in Southern Australia (the name of the state), but it really doesn’t feel like a big city. It was amazing to me how it goes from city to basically country so quickly.
I headed to my shuttle. The bus driver proceeded to forget that I was on the bus (ok, I admit I’m short.. but I’m not that short damn it!) and announced that he would give me my “own private tour of Adelaide.” The private tour consisted of him zooming past all of the other hotels/hostels he had previously dropped people off at with out saying a single word. It was very informative… i learned LOADS. sigh.
Anyway, once he finally got to Backpackers OZ he shuttled away letting me know that one day was just not long enough to see Adelaide. Well, if he had bothered making any suggestions on what I could/should see that might have helped! I digress.. again.

So I check in, get myself sorted and head back downstairs. Now, traveling by yourself is kind of thrilling and empowering, don’t get me wrong, but the dynamics of some hostels are not. I literally felt like I was back in high school with some aspects of this place. The “cool kids” talking and laughing in the corner, and everyone else just sort of sitting around. So, I decided to make the best of the situation and grab a map and do some exploring, after all I really did only have one night in Adelaide. As I am making my way over to ask the person behind the front desk where I should go, I notice two girls holding a map about to leave. Being the ever so polite, considerate, wonderful person that I am… I completely invite myself to join them. I believe the exact words I used were “Where are you guys going? Oh! Can I come with you?” What are they going to say? No?

So I end up crashing their party basically. In retrospect, I feel kind of bad because one was visiting the other and they only had that day and the next before they separated and here was this American inviting herself along, but I found out about that after the fact. As one was German, we ended up going to Ellis Park to Schutzenfest (shooting fest) a German festival in Adelaide, listed as “the largest folk festival in the southern hemisphere.” It is a little ironic that my one day in Adelaide, or Southern Australia for that matter… I end up at a German festival! But I actually had a really good time eating sausages, having a few german beers, and enjoying the German/American/Australian music. I am grateful that those two girls let me tag along.. although I really wish that I could actually remember their names! I’m a horrible person… I know.

Schutzenfest - program courtesy of http://www.schutzenfest.com.au

Schutzenfest - program courtesy of http://www.schutzenfest.com.au

We head back after the music ends (around 11pm) and it’s off to bed. The next morning it’s up nice and early for my 24 hour train ride from Adelaide to Alice Springs on the Ghan, originally called “The Afghan Express”

The Ghan

The Ghan


The original Ghan started construction in 1878, and was not completed until 1929. The first train to Alice Springs arrived on AUGUST 6th (such a FABULOUS DAY… ahem, my bday). The train is named after the Afghan camel drivers who helped reach the countries unexplored interior. Unfortunately after they were finished using the camels they released them to the wild, where they managed to reproduce like CRAZY. To this day they provide one of the biggest problems to nature/wildlife in the outback, drinking water/using resources that other animals and species need to survive. I believe there is something like 1 million feral camels out there… crazy.

I had always heard that riding in the Ghan was an amazing way to see the outback. A perfect way for someone like me who freaks out from moths.. let alone spiders, snakes and scorpions. Considering the fact that I can not sleep on trains ( or anything that keeps me in an upright position, I need to be able to actually lie down to sleep comfortably) and this was a 24 hour train ride.. I actually had a surprisingly good time. I ended up sitting next to a girl named Eki from Holland.

We traveled through red galore, compared backpacking stories, played a complicated card game called 500, saw actual dried up salt lakes (where all that remains is the salt and it literally provides the illusion of water), saw the millionth track “Iron Man” statue (to honor the workers who constructed the railway), the finke river, part of the beautiful Australian outback and arrived in Alice Springs at 2:00pm the next day, surprisingly awake and ready for the sun.

iron man - 1 millionth track - photo courtesy of http://www.on-walkabout.com

iron man - 1 millionth track - photo courtesy of http://www.on-walkabout.com

And the adventure continues………… Shortly……..


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2 responses

26 01 2011
juliyya

While you were looking out train windows, did you see any of those man-eating crocodiles in the flooded areas? How about those cunning, gigantic monitor lizards that sneak up on the unaware at 35 mph? Scares me just thinking about it.

26 01 2011
mariavandenburg

Negative Mummy. I survived. Just wait until I get to the Uluru stories, and what I heard about my experience AFTER the fact.

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