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Like virtually everything travel, iconic Australian rail journeys have been on pause for months. But on August 30, The Ghan finally got back to work, pulling out of Adelaide with 97 passengers. The train steamed through the Red Centre – stopping in Marla, Alice Springs and Katherine – and arrived in Darwin on the evening of September 1, having covered 2979 kilometres in just over 54 hours.
Then it was back to Adelaide.
“This is the longest time The Ghan has been out of operation [since the route began operating in 1929], as it usually only pauses for a short summer shutdown,” said Journey Beyond chief executive Chris Tallent. Journey Beyond operates The Ghan, along with the Indian Pacific, Great Southern and The Overland. “The Ghan has survived the Great Depression, a global recession and even operated during World War II as a hospital on wheels, so it’s heartening to see her bounce back again.”
The Ghan’s capacity is 348 passengers. But even allowing for new social distancing measures, the train was under-booked at 97 passengers. With Victoria out of action and many NSW residents still struggling to cross most interstate borders, it was only South Australians, Queenslanders and Northern Territorians on board this first trip since The Ghan and its stablemates ceased operations in late April.
On the upside for the company, many travellers are electing to do the return journey as well, staying on board five nights in total. Those booking can expect sharp pricing: Adelaide-Darwin Gold Service (first class) is from $1919 a person, compared with upwards of $2099 normally. The Ghan is scheduled to once again operate twice a week.
TO BOOK see journeybeyondrail.com.au, where you can also tab to The Ghan's new health precautions. Tel: 1800 703 357
Bush telegraph from the Top End
A stay at Longitude 131 is the only way to enjoy 24-hour views of Uluru in luxury. Rhiannon Taylor
The Northern Territory’s safari-style tented camp, Longitude 131, has finally reopened and is heavily booked for September, easing off from October after recent cancellations from eastern state guests due to border controls (The border is open, but anyone arriving from a declared hotspot must quarantine for 14 days at their own expense).
For Australians who can get there, the resort’s 16 tents face Uluru. Given it’s the only way to enjoy 24-hour views of the rock while languishing in the lap of luxury, Longitude 131 has hosted a number of celebrities since it first opened in 2002, including actor Chris Hemsworth and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on their 2014 royal tour. The property was extensively refurbished in 2017.
Rates from $1700 a person per night (based on a two-night stay) include all dining and an open bar with French champagne. The dry season (May to September) is regarded as the best time to visit.
TO BOOK longitude131.com.au; tel: (02) 9918 4355
Arthur Streeton's "Land of the Golden Fleece 1926". Jenni Carter, AGNSW
In the words of Art Gallery of NSW director Michael Brand, Australian painter Arthur Streeton’s “poetic and technically brilliant impressionist paintings were made during vivid periods of joy and of duress: from abundance and economic boom to drought, bushfire and war”. How poignant in these times.
The gallery is putting on a landmark exhibition of his work, including more than 150 paintings, drawings and watercolours, some not exhibited publicly for more than a century, from November 7 to February 14. Born in 1867 near Geelong in Victoria, Streeton was part of the Heidelberg School, Australia's answer to French impressionism. The eponymously named retrospective, Streeton, includes the recently rediscovered The Grand Canal 1908, and Land of the Golden Fleece 1926.
This article first appeared on www.afr.com
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