It was 1958 and we joined Melbourne Teachers' College on a 16 day trip, costing £63 all inclusive. We'd been paying it off all year so there was great excitement when we finally boarded the Overland for Adelaide. We had a day to look around, then early the next day we headed to board The Ghan, which was quite luxurious for its time. We were four to a compartment, a bunk bed pulled down at night. There was a dining carriage, a kitchen and a lounge with a piano, besides an observation area at the rear of the carriage. It travelled very slowly, taking two days and nights to get to Alice Springs. The meals, served by waiters in bow-ties, were very good.
Compared with Victoria, the country was so different. I was amazed by the flatness and vast horizons, the red soil, stunted scrub and trees and the clear blue cloudless sky.
Boarding buses in Alice, we headed off on a circular tour west of Alice, camping in the open in sleeping bags around a camp fire. The days were hot and the nights very cold. The bus drivers were the cooks and provided plain, nourishing meals.
We travelled over cattle stations, crossing dry river beds, sometimes bogging in the sand. We then turned back to Palm Valley with its oasis like pools and cycads. From here we visited Hermansburg Mission and Stanley Chasm. We were lucky to arrive at midday when the sun turns the chasm wall a vivid red. Namatjira was painting at this timeand his paintings sold for only £50 In the local gallery I was lucky enough to buy an unframed water color of Adolf Inkamals for a few pounds which has since increased considerably in value.
I felt so lucky to have seen the outback in a relatively pristine state and to see the beauty of the country through the eyes of the aboriginal painters. Friendships were made on that trip which have lasted a lifetime.