Saturday, 6 October 2007

The Ghan

This morning we arrived at the Darwin train station at 6:30 to load the JCI vehicle and trailer onto the freight area of the Ghan. Our vehicle, nicknamed “Bene”, and “Flawless” the trailer were packed at the very end of the train. As the sun came up we took the opportunity to get some photos next to the train. It was very exciting waiting to board and it became even more exciting when the rest of the pilgrim group began to arrive. Alice was invited to make an announcement over the station PA about the Cross and Icon because other passengers were asking "what's going on?"

We bid a sad goodbye to lovely Darwin and we were on our way. One of the first things that struck me as I sat on the Ghan was how friendly all the pilgrims were. In the first hour of our journey there were groups singing songs on guitar, playing cards and learning the words to Aboriginal songs together. After a couple of hours we arrived in Katherine. As we got off the train the heat hit us like a wave. Our pilgrim group was ferried by local parishioners to a park were the Cross and Icon were to be welcomed.

I was impressed by the efficiency and generosity of the locals. They smoothly transported 50 pilgrims, the Cross and Icon to the park as if they do it every week. We shared a prayer and a BBQ lunch. The area that we gathered in was stunning - a river gushed below the picnic area and lots of birds flew overhead the entire time we were there. The locals said they were birds of prey, but as I watched them gliding effortlessly on the wind I thought of the power and grandeur of Gods love. Love that He gives so effortlessly, with amazing results. The prayers of the faithful were read by a large group of young parishioners who placed flowers at the foot of the Cross as they read their prayer. It was like they were bringing the very essence of the local area to the Cross and under Jesus’ protection. While we were there some of the parishioners committed to being WYD 08 pilgrims.

Back on the Ghan we settled in for the next stint of the journey. Our next scheduled stop was to be Tennant Creek at 1:30am for 90 minutes. The group continued to bond exceptionally well. Long crazy games were played; beautiful music was shared between cultures and much dinner was consumed! We got word from the train master that the stop in Tennant Creek had been moved forward two hours because our train was being top and tailed by others. We were surprised and disappointed. How would we be able to get word to the necessary people to tell them to come early? Contact was made with the parish priest as we continued moving – two hours ahead of schedule.

When we pulled into the station at Tennant Creek we were delighted to see that many people had gathered to welcome the Cross and Icon. I’m sure most of us were thinking “Thank God, they got word that we’d be early.” We shared a simple yet incredibly moving Stations of the Cross. Lots of families had brought their small children out. We were blessed by the presence of both the children and the Missionary of Charity Sisters. Many people prayed with fervent faith for their families and for children. As we packed the Cross and Icon back onto the Ghan we were grateful to have been present at Tennant Creek’s moment with them. Cheers, Jess

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