BEFORE FEBRUARY 5…..
After his health problems of recent times, John decided it was time to get serious about some of his “bucket list” items. A couple of these could be bundled together: to travel on the Ghan train, and to spend time in Darwin in the storm season – because he wanted to see the spectacular lightning displays there at that time.
To my later chagrin, I have to admit that I was not really keen on the idea of travel on the Ghan. Back in Uni days, had done a couple of trips between Adelaide and Melbourne on the Overland train, sitting up in seats all night, and had not enjoyed that. But The Ghan was something John really wanted to do, so I went along with the idea.
I’d worked out a trip that would see us, in February, fly to Darwin, spend some time there, then travel on the Ghan to Adelaide, from which we would fly back to Melbourne. An initial idea, of driving one way and putting the vehicle on the train one way, did not work out. Truck was over the height limit for the train. John said my Barina car was too small and uncomfortable for distance travel – and it was not air conditioned.
I had attempted to make a booking for the Ghan online, but kept getting stuck in one of those endless loops of no progress and much frustration. Eventually phoned Great Southern Rail direct. It turned out that the online glitch was a very fortunate one, because GSR offered me a package deal that worked out much cheaper: our rail travel, five nights accommodation in Darwin at a venue of our choice, and a day pass on the Darwin Explorer bus. All for less than I would have paid for our rail fares alone, had I managed to book them online!
I built the rest of the plan around the Ghan trip dates, and booked our flights; arranged car hire in Darwin and parking of my car near Melbourne Airport; accommodation in Adelaide, Kakadu National Park, and a second stay in Darwin, for after we returned from a jaunt to Kakadu.
Birdy dog was booked into kennels, which we had visited and inspected first. They also offered some behavioural training – an attractive proposition!
As our February 6 departure date was approaching, we watched with awe and trepidation as Category 5 Cyclone Yasi approached the north Qld coast. Apart from its impact on places there that we had visited and loved, there was the possibility that it might behave as previous cyclones in those parts had – continue west, re-form over the Gulf, then hammer the Top End. That could impact our travel plans. In the event, it made landfall further south than originally predicted and dissipated across SW Qld.
The tail end of Yasi did, however, feed into a low pressure trough that brought a deluge to Melbourne on 4-5 Feb.