Experience one of the world's greatest train journeys aboard The Legendary Ghan. The legend has soared to new heights with the extension of The Ghan journey to Darwin. When The Ghan first departed Adelaide for Alice Springs, it was always intended that it would one day travel through to Darwin. More than 70 years on, that dream has become reality.
The Ghan now travels 2,979 kilometres from Adelaide to Darwin on this transcontinental journey through the Red Centre of Australia. The Ghan offers a twice weekly return journey between Adelaide and Darwin, and in either direction provides two nights aboard this legendary train. Marvel at the spectacular Australian landscapes; from the rusty reds of the MacDonnell Ranges surrounding Alice Springs, gateway to Ayers Rock and the Red Centre, then north to Tennant Creek, Katherine and the tropical splendour of Darwin. Off-train touring is a feature of the new journey, providing the chance to learn more about the unique desert flora and fauna.
Though the era of the Orient Express is a century late for the noble Grand Tours, and no longer available for a modern adventure, a trip in such grand fashion had elements of cosmopolitan adventure. It also suggests to me how important the method of travel was to undertaking a Grand Tour. In Elizabethan times one was forced to be leisurely – if one desired luxury. Pace was limited by distance between Inns, and getting there early had little advantage. Of, course, when one was in a great city for several days, there were social events as well as sight seeing to fill the time – and always periods of reflection, writing and conversation. On a modern tour, one needs a guide, not to explain the historic significance of what you are seeing, or what adventure lies ahead, but to describe what just flashed by at blurring speed – but its in the Tour Book anyway.
A Tour on the Orient Express was a compromise, of sorts; full trek from Calais to Istanbul if desired, or many points of departure. Layovers were possible; but as the trains had sleeping compartments, dining salons, cocktail lounges and libraries, it was never necessary to leave the train at all! And perhaps, more was lost than gained.
Consider the limitations:
1) you had to accept that getting to either
Paris or Constantinople was a worthwhile goal. These final destinations were decided on by others, their task then becoming one of convincing you of its value.
2) the route was set and side excursions were impossible – you had to see the panorama of scenery and ‘slice of life’ directed by mountain passes and rivers, while pretending that what you were seeing was representational of either life or nature.
3) you traveled with peers, i.e., people with similar economic, political and educational– certainly safe, and even comforting, but questionable as source of inspiration or of ‘broadening oneself ‘in Grand Tour tradition.
4) elitism was a predictable and infusive element of such a trip, well documented in the use of the Orient Express in novels, plays, mysteries and movies. Please notice that only scan mention is ever made of what is going on outside of the train – it became a world unto itself.
5) food and beverage was fine and grand, to be sure, but offered nothing of local taste or flavor or the culture being passed through – sad, as history abounds with the important mixture of food and conversation in order to learn of people and dreams.
Which brings us to consideration of the metaphysical and allegorical trappings of a Grand Tour. Certainly, one cannot blame the Orient Express on the problems of today. Yet, the willingness of the better educated and powerful classes to accept this ersatz substitute for a Grand Tour contributed to the end of something – exactly what I am not sure. Consider that today many people feel no need to travel for the Internet can tell you all you need to know of people, places and history (and are sometimes even accurate). You need not read a book as Hollywood will show you the world as it really is, a substitution of a bright screen for a window on the Orient Express. Even better, you can enclose yourself in a tiny room in a house (often not a home), surround yourself with cultural dishes in little white boxes, chat with know friends of ideas already tested and abused – and pretend that you will somehow benefit from it all. At least the Orient Express went somewhere. We laugh at a phrase like, “if you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got.” A local expression oft heard resembles, “I like to try new things, but not for the first time.” Methinks it all started on the Orient Express.
One humorous observation of those ‘grand old days’ was that those on the train, after a chance glance outside, would comment on the “unfortunate” peasants and workmen and children – even extending into pity and remorse that everyone could not make a trip in a gilded box on wheels and rigid tracks. I would ask that you ponder on what those ‘simple folks’ thought – about their pity for those on board whose lives and views were so limited, their hearts cold, their spirits jaded or lost – strangers flashing past, who would ever be strangers.
by faucon of Sakin'el
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After Heather's interview with the Stheino and Eurayle (The Gorgons) they pronounced Heather Gorgophone, or Gorgon Slayer. The Gorgons are new women, with a spring in their step. After the interview Steino took carefully gathered droplets of blood from their coral throne and carefully dropped them in the House of the Serpents stables. Horses rise from these droplets, snorting, offering to take travellers for 'night rides'.
If you want to join in the fun go to the stables, meet the stablewomen and find your horse. You will know her. She will take you anywhere you command.
Night Ride by Lori Gloyd
“Wanna buy a saddle?” Marty asked,openin’ the tack room door.
There she was, draped on’na sawhorse, big, rich, brown-tooled leather, inset with lot’sa silver.
“Naw, I don’t ride western.”
He shook his head, “Ya gotta’ try… She’d be perfect for your big ole Clydesdale.”
“$300, and you saddle up”
“Lem’me give it a go, and then decide.”
It was long dark by the time I rode out the barn, but there was plenty o’ moonlight. The saddle felt right comfortable, just needed to adjust my style a tad…this horse and me have gone a lotta of rounds together an’ it don’t take much to know each other’s mind. By the time we was half-way down the road I had her doin’ a nice rollin’ canter-I kid you not, you could balance a mug o’suds on her croup and never spill a drop. We was one harmonious body flying through the night. And, fly we did I swear on my Daddy’s grave.
There ain’t much ground in these parts I haven’t covered , but the scene slippin’ by was plain unfamiliar. The range seemed regular ‘nough, but those grazing beasts were straight out’ta a drinkin man’s delirium .Fer one thing they all seemed of the female persuasion, judgin’ from those dangles on their fronts. First I’m thinkin’ lamas judgin’ by their general shape, ’till one turned around and showed herself to be a kind’a female centaur.
Now I’m right known by most as a fair judge of women and horse flesh, and I can tell you these err… ‘gals’ had some of the finest lines of both.
So I is flyin’ along at a pretty fair clip, when four of them all of a sudden broke loose from the pack and come ridin head-on towards us. I reined in a little figuring I’d give them a polite acknowledgement, but they just came a-thunderin, seeming hell-bent on riding us right off the trail. Right at the last second they skidded their hindquarters to a grinding stop, raising such a cloud o’dust I dang near hacked my fool head off. When I come to my senses, there I was staring eyeball to eyeball with all four of them lined up facing me no more’en a foot away.
“Cowboy, we dunno where you come from”, announced the one appearin’ to be the leader, “but this here is woman’s space, and seems to us you got yourself two choices. One being to turn your sorry self around and ride back where you come from. The other being to take our neighborly semi-transformational tour, dependin’ if your up to it, and then skedaddle outta here.” Well this set me to thinkin… there’s one thing for sure I would have one hell of a story to tell back home if I took’em up on their invitation…
Seems they right read my mind as the tall one on the end spoke up again, “Sees as we might be spendin a little time together some introductions otta’ be made.” I started to open my mouth, but they all put up their hooves indicatin’ me to stay quiet. ‘Parently, talking ain’t appart of male privileges here abouts.
“This here”, pointing to the black horse-gal to her immediate left, “is ‘Plenty’, back there ya might have heard o’ her evil twin ‘Famine’.
and right next to her, this fine red horse-gal, we call ‘Peace’, she being the entire opposite of the sucker your people call ‘War’.”
“There on the end is ‘Life’, our pale-horse counterpart of your villain ‘Death’. That leaves me”, she gestured towards her white-horse self, ” ‘The Conquerer from Within’.”
Right about then the hairs on the back of my neck stood right up at attention…realizing I am about to be ambushed by the Four Horsewomen of the Hypocryphal. Now, for the most parts, I’m as brave as the next cowpoke, but my momma, she taught me well….
“You’ll always be out drawn son, when wimmin hold all a the cards.”
So I turned tail and rode faster than I could, not sparin the whip or lookin’ behind.
“Wanna buy the saddle?” Marty asked, still standing inside the tack room door.
“Naw, forgit it man…I doan ride western.”
by Aletta Mes
Night rides harrow,
screech and howl,
long fingers catching the
edges of cloaks with long
nails, the black
sheer as shrieking.
Yet the mare takes a
rider to the stars this time,
the cloak rippling in the
lunar wind, shaking out
crags of old
illogical thinking, or
The stars are bright,
not twinkling, glowing in the
Close up they blaze like
fires, and friendly lights.
The mare has no trouble questing
winged and well shod by
the sturdy stablewomen,
who know their
The 2005 Night Rides were preserved in the 2005 Advent Calendar and the travellers who took rides as a part of the Heroine's Journey can be read in the archive there.