Wednesday morning five weeks ago, finally, more than three months after I arrived the first time in Darwin, I was able to continue my journey. As the railway station in Darwin is nowadays pretty remote, it’s about 20 km from the city centre and even the nearest bus stop is about 7 km away – which makes it definitely convenient for commuting 😏, Berny offered me to drop me off at the railway station, and even he admitted that he was not yet in this part of the city. There were also shuttle buses directly from various hotels from the city centre to the railway station, but as Berny lived in Palmerston, this was not really convenient. In order to get into the train it was necessary that I check-in, but I refused to give my large backpack away. In essence I just received a boarding pass, that’s everything you get, you even don’t get a ticket, and this at this price 😯. I asked the conductor, when we will arrive in Alice Springs, and the answer was tomorrow…yes, I know, so when will we arrive…after breakfast 🤨. Are you operating on a schedule or on hope? Nevertheless, we departed on time at 10 o’clock, after a few minutes we crossed the east arm, from where I had again the last glimpse to Darwin. Then we rode through Savanna land, which was pretty green, just from the bit of rain the days before. While I had lunch, yes everything is included, also all beverages, coffee and so on, we passed Adelaide river followed by the bypass of Pine Creek. As the meal portions are designed for an age, which is probably twice than mine, Sam the train manager offered me, that I always can order a second dish, if I want. I’m yeah for sure, I don’t wanna starve. After about four hours we arrived in Katherine railway station, and got pushed into several buses for our first “off train excursion” to the Nitmiluk national park, as I had never been there before. There are no buses readily available in Katherine. That means, the shuttle buses from the morning, which already picked up the passengers in the city centre of Darwin, drove all the more than 300 km down the Stuart highway empty, just for this 30 min bus drive to the national park. How sick is that?…how I like all this organised tours. You don’t need to draw any decisions, you don’t have any options, your just obliqued to do what your told to do. It feels like in prison, and now you do what they told ya. So after all seven buses or so arrived, we queued up in the sun, yeah it was pretty hot and for some older woman a bit too much, until we got pushed into the boats. Then we had a guided boat trip, luckily I haven’t spent money on that before, in the first and second gorge. In between it was a 400m walk…on a boardwalk, seriously nothing dangerous! Except that one boulder, which definitely teased me to do some moves…but no time…get into the next boat. After we finished all the boats, we drove back to the railway station. We departed Katherine during sunset. In essence, we spent most of the time during the day outside, and riding during the night, so that I couldn’t see anything from the landscape south of Katherine.
Thursday early morning five weeks ago I woke up for sunrise. It was already far south of Tennant Creek on the way to Alice. About half an hour before we arrived there, I could see the MacDonell ranges. In Alice we had our next off train excursion. Oohh, how excited I am…to get squeezed into another bus. That’s exactly the reason, why I travel by train. We were expected to walk at least 4 km, well it’s already 10 o’clock, getting warm now, but I thought still manageable…but no, today we skip that walking part, due to the fitness of the other people 🤨. We only walk 15min near the Simpsons Gap, and as we’ve time we stay there for another 40 min, just to be in a rush at Emily gap. That’s definitely a nice spot with some kind of zebra drawings from three siblings from the Aborigines. As it’s a sacred site for them, they ask not to make any photos of it. After crossing Heavitree gap directly at the exit of the town, some people looked to the West to Pine gap…you know that US facility which consists of 99% of gardeners and facility managers 😉. In the afternoon we rode through the southern part of the NT, crossed the Finke River and eventually the border to South Australia. In the evening we stopped in Marla. For touristic purposes a campfire was burnt and everyone could have a drink of some kind of sweet alcohol, no thanks, I just take another beer, once I’m back in the train.
Friday morning five weeks ago, we were already deep in South Australia, and rode already since Tarcoola on the track from Perth. There were large bushes around, and I could even immediately spot a herd of sheep. I got a short glimpse to the Flinders ranges, just before a thunderstorm passed by. In Port Augusta we arrived back into the civilisation, everybody had again mobile reception, and for me Port Augusta was the next easternmost point that I reached on my journey with the train after I left Komsomolsk-on-Amur more than 15 months ago. Shortly south of Port Augusta we passed a concentrated solar power plant with a large receiver tower, and suddely there were cornfields, a lot of cornfields. It was so surreal, to get out of the desert and to see this yellow fields just in the middle of the harvesting season. We passed Port Pirie during the next thunderstorm and Crystal Brook, with the turnoff to New South Wales. But it seemed that all railway stations along this track were closed forever, so no passenger train will stop there in the future. On the way to Adelaide there were heaps of wind turbines installed on all the hills, and the wind seemed to blow steadily as all were in a good rotational speed (yes, I know the power is proportional to RPM and torque).
After more than 50 hours, including the three unnecessary stops in between, I finished my longest leg in time and distance, if the organised off train excursions are not considered as getting off the train, in Adelaide. Coming from the humid weather from the north, Adelaide feels a bit chilly, but I definitely appreciated that. Originally I wanted to take the train from Darwin to Alice Springs, getting out there and driving on my own to Uluru, and then taking another train and finishing the trip from Alice to Adelaide. But, surprise, surprise, that’s impossible from August to October. Only from October onwards its possible again 🤨…nobody can explain this. But as Uluru got finally closed in October of this year, and I wanted to be on top before they do that, that was definitely not an option. So in essence, I made out of this restrictions a 13,000 km Roadtrip ☺️.