Toot Toot Chugga Chugga what am I doing here? And why is there a strange little Italian lady in my cabin? Curse those ads for the Ghan train tours back home that made me believe overnight train trips were all sunsets and high-tea. What I would give for a cup of tea right now – so far all I have been offered is tepid coffee from an old water bottle and a half-hatched duck egg.
And by the way, who decided it was a good idea to have land toilets on trains? Did it ever occur to the train-builder-ers that travellers may not like dodging toilet water in the dark? Although later, when I was drying my pants, I thought perhaps the overflowing toilet was a deliberate choice by management for intellectual stimulation – sort of like those balls filled with peanut butter they give to bears in captivity – except slightly more infuriating.
The bears fair better in sleeping arrangements as well. There are four beds to a cabin and are quite comfortable, unless you are normal size. If you are a fan of the starfish sleeping position, prepare for disappointment. You can practice appropriate positions for the trip by taking your afternoon naps on park benches or in one-person sea kayaks. For the ultimate train-simulation experience get a friend to rock your vessel back and forth and sing you propaganda music as you fall asleep.
I’m being a little harsh. An overnight train can be a real hoot if you are with the right people. Bring along a deck of cards, some oreos and a bottle of rice wine and you are guaranteed to have groovy time and a good nights sleep. But do try and travel in multiples of four – otherwise you may end up like the little Italian lady sitting in the corner giving everyone the creeps. And nobody wants that.