Much of the jurney to Alice Springs is overnight, but as the sun rises and we cross into NT a ripple of excitement spreads through the train.
This is THE Outback state (a s the car number plates remind us) and that's what we're all here for. The NT puts on a show right from the start, with rugged, bleached scenery and highlights like the Finke River, which is drier than peter Cook drinking a particularly dry Gin and Tonic.
The arrival in the dust bowl with no platform, that is described as Alice Springs Station is marred somewhat by the frantic scrummage of hostel (hostile?) touts reminding you that this is really just a tourist base for all things outback. I accept a lift to one of the hostels, but feel distinctly underwhelmed by the huge "Party Bar" sign outside the front. It's not much better inside, but I console myself with the thought that tomorrow I will be sleeping under the stars.
My only concern is that I won't get up in time for my 6 am pick-up. This proves to be an unfounded fear as everyone else seems to be getting up for the same purpose and by about 4.30 am the cacophany of alarm clocks coming through the walls is enough to wake the dead. I surprise myself by being excited enough to get oput of bed quite early and am ready and waiting for my pick-up in good time