The breathtaking Katherine Gorge
15 July 2015
Today we leave Darwin by coach for the railway station, and it is “All Aboard the Ghan” and heading for Alice Springs. We are looking forward to the train trip as we loved our journey on the Indian Pacific last year, and as the same carriages are interchanged between the trains, we will feel right at home. It is an overnight journey to Alice, and this afternoon we will have a cruise through the very special Katherine Gorge.
Photographs can’t really do justice to the Gorge with its towering walls of layered sandstone that have been there for millions of years. There is a fair amount of boat traffic as well as canoes and when we get to the end of the first gorge (as far as we are going) we can get off the boat to admire some rock art and the sheer beauty of the Gorge itself.
The image above left shows the colours on the rock walls, and the beautiful shapes and patterns of the rock formations, the image above right is rock art of the Rainbow Serpent which plays a big part in Aboriginal legend and culture. Below is the end of the first gorge where we could walk around to admire the rock art.
By the time we returned to the train it was time to get organised for dinner. As expected it was of high quality and we had the opportunity to meet and talk to some fellow travellers in the lounge bar and the dining room. As we again discovered, people seem to come from everywhere to experience one of the great train journeys in the world.
16 July 2015
Sleeping on the train is usually a bit of a challenge for me, however the gentle swaying and rocking soon set me off to dreamland, and before I knew it we were close to Alice Springs and ready for breakfast. Our coach then delivered us safely to our hotel, Doubletree Hilton, which is on the edge of the city with a backdrop of the splendid MacDonnell Ranges. We had time for lunch and then decided to catch a taxi out to the Alice Springs Desert Park.
The Alice Springs Desert Park presents and interprets the Australian desert environment and its inhabitants, and contributes to the conservation of Australia’s desert flora and fauna. The accuracy, authenticity and appropriateness of its presentation and interpretation and the quality of its scientific work are essential.
The Park site is of significant cultural importance to the local Arrernte people and includes parts of the Akngwelye Artnwere and Yeperenye Altyerre (Wild Dog and Caterpillar dreaming stories). Hence the Desert Park provides a sensitive and realistic insight into Aboriginal culture by display and interpretation of the traditional use of plants and animals and with regular liaison with local indigenous groups. This ongoing process has resulted in the Traditional Custodians of the Park site experiencing a strong sense of pride and ownership in the attraction.
We arrived just in time to watch a short video about the desert park. At the end of the video the screen rolled down to reveal a stunning view of the MacDonnell Ranges (below left), a great way to start of our visit. The emblem in a path leading to the park entrance symbolises the six seasons of the year as recognised by the Arrernte people (below right).
It is very peaceful in the desert park, and one feels a closeness to the earth and the plants and animals in the park. We visited the Nocturnal exhibit, it is huge and very informative. The image below right are the Thorny Devil and Military Dragon, and the image to the left is a Central Netted Dragon, all very tiny (again if you have a touch screen you can enlarge the images).
There are several large aviaries, we were interested in the Australian Bustard, who put on a great show for us (below left), Black faced Cuckoo Shrikes, Australian Grebe and a Hooded Robin. There was also a Perentie, one of our largest goannas (below right).
And of course the beautiful wildflowers….
and some plovers and ducks enjoy a waterhole.
A fabulous afternoon exploring the desert park, then back to our hotel for dinner and planning for our 3-day tour to Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon commencing tomorrow, looking forward to it.
Some interesting facts about the Ghan Railway –
- The Ghan was named after the pioneering cameleers – many of whom were Afghans, who blazed a permanent trail through the Red Centre of Australia in the 1800s;
- The Ghan travels from Adelaide to Alice Springs then to Darwin, and vice versa;
- It takes 54 hours (two nights and three days) for a one-way journey spanning 2979 kilometres;
- The average speed of the train is 85kph with a maximum speed of 115kph;
- The average train length is 774 metres and it weighs 1400 tonnes;
- The locomotive power is diesel electric;
- The inaugural journey from Adelaide to Alice Springs was on 4 August 1929;
- The inaugural journey from Adelaide to Darwin was 1 February 2004.
Arriving at Alice Springs Station