SXSW 2007

This is my travel blog. It started as a way for people to keep up with my trip to Australia to watch the 2006/7 Ashes series, and continued with my trip to SXSW 2007 in Austin, Texas, and Las Vegas in March '07.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Although these pictures were only taken a few days ago - the one of Ayers Rock on Sunday and the one of Moz with "The Ashes" on the Ghan on Saturday, they feel like a world away now.

I'm not sure if anyone reading this will have heard but the Ghan train suffered a derailment between Alice Springs and Darwin yesterday. Unfortunately Moz and I were on it. We are unhurt, as was all of the passengers and crew of the train, although one woman was airlifted to hospital having collapsed after the event, due to an existing medical complaint brought on by the stress of the accident.

The accident occurred at just before 2pm local time. We were fortunately all seated in the dining car and had just finished lunch, when we experienced 3 sharp jolts one after the other in quick succession. This sent most of the crockery into my lap, as I was seated with my back to the engines. We then continued forward, but it was very quickly obvious that we were no longer on the tracks, and had started to veer off to the side. Even now I can't work out how long we were actually moving off the rails for before coming to a halt. Everything seemed to happen in sort of dream state. It could have been a very short time that felt longer or the opposite. As Winnie the Pooh once sagely observed, funny thing accidents - you're never having them until you're having them. I was having this one but it felt like it was happening completely outside of myself. By the grace of God the carriage stayed upright and came to a halt. Everyone looked at each other, not quite able to believe what had just happened.

What had actually happened was that we had hit a road train lorry on a level crossing. A lorry towing 3 separate articulated ore waggons had driven straight in front of our train. The train driver had just enough time to apply the emergency brakes before hitting the truck. The truck driver was also very lucky, as we hit the line of trucks just behind the tractor unit, sending it, with the driver inside, spinning away to the right, and mangling the trucks to the left. The engines stayed mainly on the track, but the following carriages pulled up the track and veered off to the side. Fortunately they stayed mostly in line, with just one ending up almost a right angles to the track. As I said somehow no-one was seriously injured. It could so easily have been much worse. If we had not been all seated at lunch, there would have been more people in their cabins towards the front of the train. People would have been standing, and thrown around more, with broken limbs or worse possible. Also had we been on an embankment or near a rocky cutting, the carriages could have tumbled over or been pushed up in the air. As it was the ground was pretty level either side of the track and not much lower either.

The train crew were superb. They made sure everyone was safely accounted for, and backup from a mine that was close by arrived within 10-15 minutes. We were moved off the train to the mine bar and social club building within an hour an a half. Here drinks were made available, and air conditioned rooms also. We were about 120 miles south of Darwin. Eventually coaches were sent from the town of Katherine (which must have been closer than Darwin) and after much taking of names and checking of paperwork, we were driven to our respective hotels. Unfortunately we were not all able to collect our hand luggage in out cabins so as I write I have no passport, laptop, documents, wash bag etc. My clothes are in the checked in luggage van. The police have declared the crash site a crime scene, so no-one is sure when we will get our hand luggage back, though our clothes should get here tomorrow. We were supposed to fly to Perth tomorrow, but without passport and papers that will be impossible, plus I don't want to leave here until I've got my stuff back. It's hoping a bit much to expect it to follow me round Australia. So we're staying in the Skycity casino hotel in Darwin for at least the next few days until things sort themselves out.

I have taken quite a few photos of the scene after we got off the train but am unable to get the pictures off my camera as my laptop is still on the train. If it doesn't come back someone will have to pay for a new one. It was of course a top of the range one with all bells & whistles.........................

Maybe I should have made that will before I left home. You never know what's around the corner.


At 5:05 PM, December 12, 2006, Blogger faz said...

We're very glad you are both unharmed. Maybe in a few days you'll see this as an adventure; right now though I'm sure you must both be a bit shaken. James, you have reportage skills not confined to cricket. All the best, f and w.

At 6:15 PM, December 12, 2006, Blogger marksmyth said...

Ditto from 62! I've just sent you an email Moz, finding out if you are both okay, as we heard the news from Vicky this afternoon. But now I've seen the reassuring news that as Faz said, this was just an "adventure." Hope you recover everything okay, and hear from you both soon, in email and blog. Love M,J,I and W. X


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