Sunday, May 10, 2009

Crossing Australia in style. Do it by train!

The great train journey across the vast wilderness of the Australian continent would be on the “bucket list” of most people. Travelling on the Indian-Pacific train is a journey to savour!

In mid 2008, we decided it was time to start crossing off some items on our “list” and booked a Gold Class cabin on the Indian-Pacific train for the journey all the way from Perth to Sydney – from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean – a journey of 4,352 kilometres.



In November, when the moment of departure finally arrived, we were welcomed by our carriage attendant followed by our first experience aboard; a 3 course lunch in the plush Gold Restaurant carriage. The style of decor evoked a feeling of days gone by when train travel was a sophisticated experience. Move over Monsieur Poirot!

It did not take long to settle into our new abode and ‘lifestyle’ for the next 3 nights of our journey. The Gold Lounge, with its bar and saloon style seating was a hub for meeting and swapping stories with fellow travellers, many of whom had travelled on the Indian-Pacific more than once!

Waking up on the first morning was filled with expectation as we neared the Nullabor Plain whilst tucking into a hearty breakfast. It is not too hard to know when you arrive at the great treeless plain – in the early light it was like a moonscape and so desolate, but somehow, from the comfort of our train, it was surreal! A couple of emus were seen running alongside as the train gently eased us across the plain.


At the tiny Transcontinental Railway siding at Forrest – 600kms east of Kalgoorlie and 88kms from the WA/SA border - we had the chance to disembark. Forrest is on the longest stretch of straight railway in the world, at 479 km from Rawlinna in Western Australia to Ooldea in South Australia. When our 750metre long train pulled into the siding to replenish water supplies, like ants, the visitors swarmed around the town taking photographs, buying an ice cream from the little shop or walking the length of the train. The few old, green peppercorn trees at the siding were full of bright red berries, which were such a contrast to the dry and dusty surrounding plains. Afterwards, the train continued its meanderings through the changing scrubby countryside that was occasionally littered with the wreckage of freight carriages that had been involved in railway incidents long ago and, due to the remoteness, had been discarded and left to the elements.

The next morning we stopped in Adelaide for a change of crew and the choice of a brief tour of the city or a lazy read of the city’s morning’s newspaper in the station cafe whilst the train was readied for the next leg of its journey. Once reboarded, the train gently made its way out of Adelaide and we were soon in open country again; country that was evidently suffering the long drought with the sun-bleached landscaped stretched out before us.

Broken Hill was our next destination and provided another opportunity to disembark and walk through the historic township or join a coach tour. Although the weather was dry and sunny, it was cooler than the first 2 days of our journey. That evening there was a distinct change of scenery as we travelled towards the Great Dividing Range and brought on a range of mixed emotion; that our journey was coming to an end.

We awoke as our train approached the Blue Mountains early next morning. The sky was dark, it was raining and there was lightning and thunder! Then the unbelievable happened ....it was snowing! This caused great excitement and chatter amongst the passengers and crew in the restaurant, but we felt snug and cosy and justified in the hearty breakfast being consumed. But, at the same time, gasping in delight, taking videos and trying to capture photos of the snow drifts alongside the railway track.

Sliding our way through the suburbs of Sydney onto our final destination at Central Station brought us back to reality and our private, relaxed world of the past 3 days quickly faded behind us.

The Indian-Pacific train trip is truly one of the great journeys of the world. It is an adventure in its own way, although you could not call the experience ‘doing it tough’ when you are faced with menu choices at each meal, a nightly bed turndown service and a cup of tea delivered when you awake in the morning!

Taking 3 days to traverse the continent puts into perspective the magnitude of the vastness of Australia and travelling by train offers an opportunity to meet and spend time with travellers from all over the world, something the crew also ensures by arranging guests to have different dining partners at each meal sitting.

Travelling Gold Class gave us a private ensuite in our cabin, large picture window to watch the scenery slide past and comfy beds to sleep in, but there are a range of travel classes on both the Indian-Pacific and The Ghan to suit your budget.

Our next train journey will now have to be the famous Ghan that travels right through the centre of Australia from Adelaide to Alice Spring and onto Darwin.

Best Of The Kimberley can arrange your Indian-Pacific or The Ghan train holiday package. For details, schedules and prices contact Best Of The Kimberley 1800 450 850 or bookings@kimberleytravel.com.au.

2 comments:

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