There are a few things that you must do/see/experience in Australia to get the rythmn of the place – and one of them is taking a train trip across the vast areas of this amazing continent.
It’s the 90th anniversary of the Ghan this year and there are some special trips ready to be snapped up and booked. Have you done the glorious Aussie train trip? Read on:
Take a cue from Hollywood movie star Margot Robbie and pair your ‘Rock’ with your ‘Rail’ for the ultimate Australian adventure. Margot enjoyed the best of two Outback realities this month, choosing a 24-hour luxury journey aboard The Ghan before heading to Uluru for a spectacular Red Centre experience.
Here’s how to do your own Rock & Rail:
1. Follow in Margot’s footsteps and board The Ghan in Adelaide, leaving the train in Alice Springs to explore the spectacular Red Centre at leisure.
The Ghan departs Adelaide on Sundays year-round, with an additional Wednesday departure between June and August.
The Ghan (Adelaide to Alice Springs) starts from $1319pp for all-inclusive Gold Service travel.
2. Kick off your adventure at Uluru, then board The Ghan in Alice Springs to make your way up to the Top End in unparalleled style.
The Ghan departs Alice Springs on Mondays year-round with an additional Thursday departure between June and August.
The Ghan (Alice Springs to Darwin) starts from $1319pp for all-inclusive Gold Service travel.
3. Book The Ghan Expedition – the quintessential way to explore Australia from top to bottom. An optional upgrade includes a flight to Uluru and a full day’s tour, getting you back in time to the train to continue your amazing transcontinental journey across four magical days.
The Ghan Expedition (Darwin to Adelaide) departs every Wednesday between April and October, with an additional Saturday departure between June and August.
The Ghan Expedition starts from $3489pp for all-inclusive Gold Service travel. The optional Uluru flight and day trip is $1249pp.
Something happened to me in my mid 30s (a few years ago now) I stopped doing any regular exercise. I had dabbled in yoga and even had personal trainer for a short while. And as a teenager, had played competitive squash and tennis. But time and work and the party life offered little useful movement and the promise of sedentary comfort.
But over the past couple of years with decades of sitting on my bum in front of a computer, travelling and sampling the best food in the world . . . my weight ballooned and my fitness added up to being breathless while walking up slight inclines.
So, with a changed work routine, less time at the computer, I now walk as much as I can and spend time at the local pool doing aqua aerobics.
I’m feeling damn good these days, better energy and actually motivated to move more.
Recently I went to a yoga retreat for a couple of days with a group of amazing women. Yoga, schmoga! I liked the idea of it but draw the line when I see pictures of people yoga- ing in various locations from around the world.
Anyway, I did the weekend, attended half the yoga classes (bit old and stiff to fully immerse) and enjoyed the weekend immensely.
Aside from brilliant vegan food – yes – brilliant – created by the ‘laughing chef’ which I went back for seconds, there’s the drumming circle.
Now, in the past I had, I admit, put crap over the ‘wimmins’ drumming circles. But full of peace and love by way of Happy Buddha Retreat I surrendered to the drumming experience.
What a wonderful experience, bashing, tapping, humming and smiling as wide as the Megalong Valley I am a convert. There’s absolutely nothing that can’t be shaken off, damped down or moved out of your mind while the drum rhythm is vibrating through your hands, body and mind.
The beds here are comfy, you can share or have your own room, there’s an ensuite bathroom, a swimming pool and peaceful grounds for relaxing and breathing in the pure mountain air.
Jeevi, originally from Nepal is known as the Laughing Chef and prepares the Happy Buddha Retreats’ brilliant dishes.
Below is some information on a weekend away to immerse yourself in the drumming circle.
This is not a sponsored post, I don’t get paid to talk up these types of experiences – it’s just that I loved it and want to share the happy vibes of the Happy Buddha Retreat. I caught the train from Sydney to Wentworth Falls, about 90 minutes or so from Sydney. The drive is quick and easy and there’s parking.
I may even head back there again myself. Drumming yes, but not the downward dog, who has time when there’s vegan curries to eat . . .
Dating back to the Old West era, Denver is definitely oh, so 21st century.
Denver, the capital of Colorado, features landmark 19th-century buildings, museums that include the Denver Art Museum, an ultramodern complex known for its collection of indigenous works, and the mansion of famed Titanic survivor Molly Brown.
Denver is also a jumping-off point for ski resorts in the nearby Rocky Mountains. It’s a university town and there’s a lot of sporty stuff going on here. And in Denver you will find the highest concentration of recreational marijuana stores in Colorado, with a large number of select stores selling recreational and medical marijuana. Marijuana stores in Denver are required to close by 10pm. See https://www.coloradopotguide.com/where-to-buy-marijuana/colorado/denver/ just sayin’ (it is legal).
It’s called the Mile High City because it is exactly 5,280 feet above sea level (1.6km).
I believe that as the cowboys galloped into town all those years ago and helped grow this city, it was today’s hipsters who moseyed into town in their electric cars, swishing their pony tails that have put the edge on Denver.
It’s always been known as a friendly, easygoing place but the hospitality bar has been raised up and up.
The local Beer Trail boasts an extraordinary craft beer culture – home to Colorado’s oldest and largest beer pubs, and if the beery brew isn’t to your taste there’s a slew of cafes serving coffee that even Aussie coffee snobs approve of.
If you are a Super Bowl fan this is the home of the Denver Broncos and their home is the Mile High Stadium which is open for a walking tour through the hallowed halls.
The main drag is the 16th Street Mall, a pedestrian and transit mall is 1.25 miles long, runs along 16th Street in downtown Denver. Stroll it and shop, stop and eat or drink or catch the free tram from one end to the other.
And at the end, cross the road to visit the Union Station, a splendid example of 19th century architecture. Once a bustling transit institution and as roads and flight took goods across the nation, the station’s use declined. But it’s now back in business as a bus and rail terminal and a lovely hotel is inside the original building as Crawford Hotel. The main hall is now a café, bar, lounge area full of gentle buzzing conversation and good vibes. Everyone welcome as long as you ‘be nice’. Union Station is located in LoDo (Lower Downtown), Denver’s vibrant oldest neighbourhood – check out the city’s best known restaurants, galleries, shops, and boutiques.
Just outside of town is the amazing natural amphitheatre Red Rocks where everyone from Bruce Springsteen to U2 have performed. To see a concert here is an out of body experience. The sun goes down, the rocks surrounding you are in sharp contrast to the blackening sky, the lights go up and the music begins!
Culture rules in Denver from high to low – rock to symphony, traditional art to an outdoor gallery of topical wall art, fast food to high table cuisine.
Denver has been the subject of many songs by famous artists especially native son the late John Denver, but my fave is by Jimmy Buffet:
I’m about a mile high in Denver Where the rock meets timberline I’ve walked this ground from town to town Just to finally call it mine
Writer, Bev Malzard squealed when she found out she was going to a concert at Red Rocks to see local boys made good – One Republic (Shooting Stars) . . . oh what a night. And would recommend anyone who enjoys music of any sort to do some research before you travel anywhere and book seats for a concert so you can immerse yourself totally in the music, the scene and with the locals.
AVERAGE FLIGHT TIME LAX-DEN 2hrs 20 mins
BEST TIME TO VISIT April through May and September through October. The city’s shoulder seasons are characterized by comfortable temperatures,
Plenty of street art around town, this bold pour of milk splash is coming from the Dairy Market building.
Outdoor art is the art of the 21st century. Graffiti has graduated!
The Silo Art Trail that snakes through the wheat belt of Victoria is an inspired outdoor gallery. A couple of hours outside Ballarat and you are on your way.
The concept of having the towering (up to 27m), cylindrical concrete towers as the canvas for murals started with Guido van Helten’s stupendous ‘Farmer Quartet’ in the tiny town of Brim. Wheat silos define the landscape here and honouring the farmers and the history of the silos engaged the entire community – and it was lift off.
Shaun Hossach of Juddy Roller Studios proclaims himself as a ‘one-man unionist’ and does the leg work, negotiating and planning for the casual collective of Australian artists. He originally worked with GrainCorp (major sponsor), Taubmans Paints (the paint supplier), Creative Victoria and got the Government Drought Communities involved in the silo project.
GrainCorp’s Luke O’Donnell says that the company is proud to sponsor the Silo Art Trail and more. “GrainCorp supply the decommissioned silos as the canvas, and regard the whole process as a perfect way to hold on to the important legacy that the structures represent and reinvigorate these towns”, he says.
First stop heading north on the 200km trail is at Rupanyup with a double modern silo decorated by Russian artist Julia Volchkova. Seeing the scope of breadth of the art works it’s obvious that this type of work is not for sissies. Cherry pickers have to be ‘driven’. The artists work in all weather, alone, and at a great height at the top of the canvas.
Next stop at Sheep Hills is a four-silo effort by Adnate of children of the local indigenous clan. To be dwarfed by the four lifelike faces is a privilege.
And next at Brim is the extraordinary Farmers Quartet. The vision is almost overwhelming with the subtle hues of the landscape blossoming into four characters of the region humbly portrayed. Real people modelled for this and are the modest celebrities of the shire.
Further into The Mallee, in Lascelles is the two-silo artwork by Rone. Here is a man and a woman, fourth generation farmers curving around the soaring towers and as part of the landscape as the mallee root tree.
Top of the trail is at Patchewollock – a town to dwindling prominence that is the most isolated on the trail. Fintan Magee chose a subject from the only pub in town on his first night in Patchewollock: farmer Nick Hulland who is a reluctant pinup. But he says if it helps the town – he’s happy.
Other work is in preparation for the Silo Art Trail and silos in other states have put their hand up for attention.
We wonder what Norman Mailer (see reference below) would say if he had the good fortune to witness this original and exciting art.
Now, here’s a silo that could do with a good lashing of paint!
Guerilla art is now great art. Walls become artworks and silos the grand canvasses of rural towns. Once was graffiti, is now urban engagement and licence to paint the town red.
It probably began 45,000 years ago in Australia; community minded fellas worked their magic art on to the walls of caves to let passing nomads see what food was available, attractions in the region and objects to be found or maybe just to show off their talent. Rock art galleries started it all.
For thousands of years, human beings have made their mark upon plain surfaces, from stick men to tag-style graffiti.
And when someone criticized the wall vandals of the 80s with the sentence “Punks can’t spell Cappuccino”, that phrase became official graffiti and the wall expression medium had arrived, evolved and gained acceptance by the less-than-art- critical-public.
Pre ‘acceptable’ wall art in New York City, of the 70s gave birth to excessive public graffiti – think subway trains. In one of his essays back in the day, Norman Mailer said New York subway graffiti is “the great art of the 70s”. And it burned brightly until Mayor Ed Koch. elected on a clean-up-the-city every which way platform, scrubbed clean the city. By the mid-80s NYC graffiti had faded quietly and what was left or came later became the acceptable norm.
Across the Atlantic, enigmatic artist Banksy launched his wall art career in his home town, Bristol. Stencils became his medium as his art gained notoriety on a big scale in the late 1990s.
Banksy’s work (below) sneaks up on you. Characteristic of the works are the obvious digs at hypocrisy, violence, greed and authoritarianism but pathos and whimsy are in the creative makeup too.
There have been plaintiff cries of outrage that some of Banksy’s work has been painted over by other artists. No worries. His works and the art of most wall art specialists are not forever, just a fleeting expression from the artists and the topic de jeur.
And at home wall art has changed the urban ‘artscape’ and rural regions. Australia is engaged with a stunning variety of wall/outdoor art that crept in stealthily during the late 90s too. Melbourne had the wall art advantage first up because of the surviving laneways in the inner city. And some of the most creative artists have emerged from the southern capital.
Sydney was a slow starter but every week another piece of excellent art appears on the walls in and around the inner west and on the edge of the CBD. Without a lot of laneways remaining due to concentrated development, the older suburbs snatched the prize.
The big winners for wall art are the small cities and rural towns of Australia with their untouched walls. Professional wall artists including Matt Adnate, Guido van Helten, Kaff-eine, Resio, Rone, Cam Scale and Makatron are working on walls way out of the city and enriching the life of country towns.
The south east Queensland ‘garden city’ of Toowoomba has held the First Coat festival for four consecutive years and through the laneways and backstreets, artists from near and far and embellished blank spaces. Toowoomba has created a home for beautiful works and the weekend festival is now on the party calendar.
Victoria’s Benalla (Rural Street Art Capital) has had monumental success with its Wall to Wall festival since inception in 2015. See blog post from July 3 on the report on the Benalla Wall to Wall festival.
Writer, Bev Malzard hanging about in Melbourne, the Chrissie Amphlett Lane.
Copyright Bev Malzard (Sections of this article have been published previously in the Financial Review Weekend and Travellers Choice Discover magazine.)