Making tracks through the North
THERE is something simply magical about travelling by train.
Perhaps it is because books and movies portrayed a kind of romance and thrill onboard trains - think Murder On The Orient Express and North By Northwest.
Yet, these days, one simply doesn't think about rail travel.
In an age where it's possible to zip in and out of a country by air, who has the time for a train ride?
But time is the essence of travelling by rail. And a train ride is more than just a means to a destination. It is the journey that matters.
The following are more reasons a trip on Australia's The Ghan (www.greatsouthernrail.com.au) commuter train is so tempting to pencil in.
The route of The Ghan pays tribute to Afghan cameleers who once traversed the same path on their animals.
The train takes passengers on a Darwin-Adelaide route, or vice versa. This literally takes you across the entire Australian continent.
The three-day, two-night affair makes two stopovers - at Alice Springs and Katherine.
These stops last a few hours, and give travellers an opportunity to go sightseeing at places like Nitmiluk National Park (Katherine Gorge).
Alternatively, travellers can opt for a longer tour - known as Off Train Excursions - and join the next train when it comes by.
Trains depart from Darwin on Wednesdays and from Adelaide on Saturdays, so the set schedule gives a fair few days to those who wish to make the most out of their stopovers.
TAKE IT ALL IN
Planning your itinerary around The Ghan and its schedule is an interesting way to take in different parts of the Outback and Central Australia.
It goes without saying that the views to be enjoyed from the train ride are awesome, and passengers can enjoy sights that would otherwise be missed on quick and cheap domestic flights.
On The Ghan, one is treated to ever-changing skies and landscapes - from the Adelaide Plains to Flinders Ranges.
Another reward is the slowing down of time that you get to experience with a drawn-out itinerary.
Travelling by train is about taking time out and indulging in languor, in contrast to the hectic, schedule-centric way of modern travel.
Another reason that The Ghan is a big hit is the creature comforts it affords passengers.
There are different classes of travel, ranging from the modest Red Service - which has reclining "daynighter" seats to take you from breakfast to sleepy-time - all the way to the top-notch Chairman's Carriage that boasts a private kitchen, a dining room, bathrooms and two double bedrooms for a party of eight.
Those looking for something in between can enjoy the Gold and Platinum Services, which include private rooms that convert to sleeping berths, and ensuite bathrooms.
Rumbling tummies can seek relief at The Ghan's two restaurant cars: Diner-style Matilda Cafe and Queen Adelaide Restaurant with its gourmet offerings.
Unfortunately, the latter admits only Gold and Platinum Service ticket holders.
The writer is a full-time copywriter who blogs about travel and family at www.travellinginthrees.com