We woke early and watched the sunrise from our bed. The train had stopped a couple of times during the night. We were to learn later that freight takes precedence over people here. It is a single line track line and every so often the Ghan moves to a siding to let the freight train through ……
We were leaving the train at Alice so needed to get off at 9.00 am. We had been up really early to watch the sunrise (Martin, CA, had brought Keith a coffee at 6.00!) however, we were a bit slow to get to breakfast and, regrettably, were even slower to get served. In the event the train was pulling into Alice Springs as I finished my Eggs Benedict. It did not matter as there were various procedures that had to take place before the doors were opened.
When they did – there was our good chum Helen Kilgariff! It was just great to see her. She has done so much to arrange the Alice Springs section of the trip and sadly is to miss it all as her daughter is having her first baby at 41 and, understandably, wants her Mum around for the birth, so H was off to leave for Melbourne later in the morning.
However, for the moment she was with us and off we trekked to her ‘place’. We thought she lived in Alice but in fact it is 20k outside. We are beginning to get a handle on this distance issue! Her home is a large single story establishment set in 24 acres of ground. It is vast! However the size and beauty was somewhat overshadowed by being reunited with Wendy and Sarah, two more of our Silk Road party, who had travelled across from Sydney to accompany us for the week in Helen’s absence. We were to find that their offer to join us was not totally altruistic as they had not been to the centre of Australia before either, so we made a very excited party!
All too soon Helen was leaving for the airport and after a quick lunch and downsize of bags into two smaller ones that Helen had thoughtfully provided, we bundled into Helen’s car for the 3.5 hour ride to the cattle station owned by Helen’s sister and her husband.
The journey to De Rose gave us our first taste of the long miles of Tarmac that constitute the Australian road system. We flew along eating up the kilometres and stopping at every petrol station (you can see why you never pass one without topping up as you never know when the next one will be!) and then at another road house where we had been instructed by Helen to inspect the emu…….!
We had been told that Ann and John were unlikely to be there when we arrived at they had been selling some stock that day. This proved to be the case but we drove into a vast yard of buildings and farming apparatus. On leaving the car we were met by two old Kelpie’s, who we were to discover were retired working dogs. Guard dogs they weren’t as they came towards us wagging their tails and wanting to be stroked. Nearer the house we met Rosie a very young and shiny Staffordshire terrier who was chained up but equally pleased to see us.
We settled down to await our hosts to the increasingly wonderful smell of bread from the bread maker sitting on a shelf behind us and a casserole in a large slow cooker. We sat in a sort of large Dutch barn affair where a big table and chairs were set out. We broke open the beers and chatted happily until the clanking of a large three trailered road train appeared on the horizon and our hosts were home.
About 10 minutes later Ann, John their son Ben and his girlfriend Lily appeared. They were amazingly friendly to four people they had never met who we could not but feel Helen had foisted upon them! Within no time it seemed, rooms had been allocated and we were sitting down at the big kitchen table tucking into the vat of food and bread and quaffing vast quantities of wine. Our two nights on the cattle station had begun!