Ready to go
Grabs pen and paper... "How does this work again?". I'll just start typing and then the words will follow....right? #breakingthewritersblock. Here we go!
I was excited about this one. And as you may know, I am a hard-to-excite human being! It was fucking expensive, but I just had to book this train trip cutting straight through Australia. If I wasn't going to drive through the outback all by myself (and I assumed that was a wise thing) this train would be a perfect alternative. No need to drive, just sit back and relax and look out the window...
The Indian Pacific train was waiting for me at the train station in Perth. I put all the things I needed for the trip in my hand luggage and gave the suitcase to be checked in. I was headed for Sydney and on a bit of a high. I couldn't wait to get to my AirBnB in Sydney! On the other end, spending 4 days on a train was the best thing ever too! So I didn't want it to end, but I couldn't wait to get to Sydney! And there we have a bit of confusion...
The Indian Pacific is a bit of an experience that already starts at the train station. We were welcomed with some live music and welcome drinks. I was impatient and couldn't care less. But the rest of the people seemed to really enjoy it. And then I saw it... the average age must have been at least 60!
To explain why, imagine that this train is sort of a cruise on land. You have your own cabin and all-inclusive food and drinks. You can look out the window for some entertainment or have a chat with fellow passengers while the train brings you to your next stop. There you can join an excursion that will show you this town in record speed, and then you go back to the train that has been waiting for you all the time. To continue to the next stop...
It is an experience that many Australians look forward to their whole life. It is something they have on their bucket list for after they retire. They make sure to save some money for it, since it is far from cheap and then you may understand why they dress up and enjoy the band and snacks and every tiny bit of the experience!
I just wanted to find my cabin as soon as possible to drop my way too heavy bag with all the gadgets in it. I needed to stick that GoPro to the window before the train would leave! Because as you can see in the below map... I had a long way through the outback to record on that camera!
You can take the Indian Pacific in 2 directions: Perth to Sydney or vice versa. And if you wish, you could also leave halfway, in Adelaide. But none of that for me! I'd go for the full experience!
- The name reflects the train's journey from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean
- A one-way journey (Perth - Adelaide - Sydney) is 4352 km and takes 65 hours
- Average train speed is 85 km/h
- Average train length is 731 metres
- First (unbroken) journey: 1970
Day 1: Perth to Kalgoorlie
We left just after 10 am. I was settled in my room. When I arrived in my room, I found a lot of reading material, a bottle of water and a lanyard attached to the excursion card. There were toiletries and towels that looked pretty posh. And there were 2 seats in my cabin, one comfortable one and a less comfortable one. If I wanted to travel forward, I had to sit on the less comfortable chair. This made me a little annoyed at first. Why would you do that to someone on a 4-day trip? Luckily I could get an extra pillow from the night setup to make things more comfortable. And it hit me within a few hours. The train would turn around in Adelaide so the second half of the journey I would have the comfortable chair to use...
Before I knew it, it was time for lunch. You would walk to the bar area of the train (and since the singles are all the way in the back of the section, it was a 4 car walk. That would make me very happy at nights when people would walk around the train drunk from their all-inclusive wine :). There, you wait to be seated at a random table with random strangers from the train. The menu wasn't of 4-star restaurant quality, but what do you expect on a train? The food was still delicious and I had some great company. You bet that you were full after lunch. I'd grab a drink at the bar and walk back to my cabin, needing some me time after socialising over lunch. Instead of using that me time for something useful, I would often just fall asleep.
It turned into a bit of a eat sleep repeat thing at some point where I would always find the same people in the bar. The below photo is therefor a bit of a miracle. An empty bar and just me, my drink and some snacks. I was way too early for dinner and the rest (of the earlier group) all just went in. Time to entertain (or annoy) the bar crew :D
It was around 9 PM when it was time for our first proper stop with an excursion. We arrived at Kalgoorlie, my first ever gold miners town! It was pitch black outside and I grabbed my tripod hoping I would be able to quickly make a Milky Way shot.
We were welcomed with drinks and watched a play telling the tale of one of the biggest gold rushes in Australian history. In 1893 Paddy Hannan found gold and him and his friends gathered as much as possible before reporting their find. A few days later, they reported it and within a week, 1400 people showed up to try and become rich. This turned into the town of Kalgoorlie where nowadays, around 30.000 people are living. And mining is still the main activity. The area surrounding the original find holds many large gold mines and is often referred to as the Golden Mile, and was sometimes referred to as "The world's richest square mile of earth".
The play was interesting but I couldn't wait to go outside for a photo. While the rest was walking around admiring the huge dump trucks, I found a somewhat dark spot for a photo. Not what I had hoped for, but good enough. Now let's hope the bus didn't leave without me!
The bus would drive us to the Super Pit, a gold mine that is approximately 3.6 kilometres long, 1.6 kilometres wide and 512 metres deep. It is a horrendous thing you can almost see from space. But clearly, all the massive high-cost digging still is worth it looking at the amount of gold that they find. Even after old mines in that area got abandoned.
The Super Pit
After seeing this hole in the ground (I am just angry I didn't find any gold there), we went back to the train. We finished the first stretch of the train tracks. Kalgoorlie got connected by rails with Perth in 1896. It took 20 years to connect this town by rail through the desert to Port Augusta, 2000 km eastern. However... they used conflicting rail gauges (Perth to Kalgoorlie was more narrow) so it was not possible for 1 train to ride the whole stretch. Lucky for us, they solved this issue in 1969 so that the first unbroken journey could take place in 1970. Before that time, passengers travelling from Sydney to Perth had to switch between at least 5 different trains to complete their journey.
I was happy to be able to just have one room for the full 4 days. The crew used the time that we were gone to make our beds for the night! They even put a chocolate treat on our beds! Time for a restless sleep on a moving train...
Day 2: Cook and The Nullarbor
Yup, I skipped breakfast. Day 2 was going to be a slow day anyway. Short after lunch, we'd stop in Cook, but most of the day we would spend on board. I thought it was the perfect time to wake up slowly and use my morning for me-time.
The train was now driving through the Nullarbor Plain, a very boring flat area without trees or anything interesting to look at. There was no cell reception out here, so I did what I do best, taking naps until lunch.
After lunch, the train stopped in Cook. This was the time that I learned that Australia has a weird way of dealing with time. According to the schedule, I assumed we would have 1,5 hours in Cook to explore. In reality, all the 1,5 hours were just to make a jump in time because we moved to a different time zone. 1,5 Hour difference Australia? Really?... Only to find out it gets much crazier in summer, when it's possible to travel west, change the clock half an hour forward in time...to later change it 2,5 hours back in time. I'm not even talking about anomalies yet!
Fortunately, despite the time change, we still had a bit of time to explore Cook, while the train would refuel. We were in the middle of a ghost town with only 4 residents that are basically living there to take care of the train. Before the railway privatised in 1997, it was a town with about 200 residents and their own school, hospital and even golf course. Now it was all closed. So I grabbed my drone to see if I could make some nice shots from the air. But I couldn't really get it to connect properly and everything failed (Drones suck sometimes). When it finally worked it was time to get back on the train...
Back in my room, I kept dozing off until a voice on the intercom pointed out that we were approaching a very important point on the railway. When they connected the rails between Kalgoorlie and Port Augusta in 1917 near Ooldea, it marked the end of a long period of hard work in even harder conditions. But it wasn't celebrated much despite the importance of the construction. This was the spot that connected the East of Australia with the West and made transport of goods much easier. But it was during WWI that they finished it so they probably had other things to worry about. If you want to read more about this amazing project and the lives of the workers, read this article.
The monument to the linking of the rails
As you can see in that photo's background... I didn't lie when I said that the area was a bit dull. So I used my time to take some photos of the interior instead. So I could share that on Steem later.
View into a room
Curving hallway of the single's cabins car
The bathroom was kinda amazing for something on a train
Before I knew it, it was dinner time again. The time when I get to know a bit more about Australia and get offered amazing travel suggestions for the rest of my Australia trip. Unfortunately, I didn't bring my phone to make notes (because no reception anyway) and forgot all the names. Please don't tell the other passengers that I didn't visit that amazing old abandoned castle in the middle of the jungle! Google couldn't help me find it...
By the time I got to my room again, the bed was made and it was dark outside. The next morning I had to get out of bed way too early, so of course, sleeping was going to be hard that night....
Day 3: Adelaide and Broken Hill
I wasn't ready for Adelaide that next morning. I don't want to do excursions at 7:30 AM... So I dragged my grumpy ass onto the tour bus that drove around the city a little to only drop us off at the Adelaide Oval to have breakfast. I missed almost everything and probably fell asleep, since I can't remember seeing anything after the first 10 minutes and I don't really have any photos.
To my knowledge, all I did in Adelaide (this time) was snap a quick photo for @mattclarke to proof to him that I was nearby... And eat breakfast inside a stadium with pitch view.
Leaving Adelaide, the train went in the opposite direction so that I could finally take a seat on the comfy chair in my room. The second half of my trip was going to be fun. I was getting closer to Sydney and I was going to meet @bearone on the train station near the Blue Mountains so she could hand over @rustle to me. The timing of this all was stressing me out. And what if she couldn't get to the train? And what if we couldn't find each other in the short amount of time I was going to be there! "Fuck this... I'll just drive to her in my motorhome so we have plenty of time...". And so, without knowing it, this was going to be the best decision ever!
At the end of the afternoon, we arrived in Broken Hill for another excursion. Some people went to the art gallery and others would visit a drag show. I decided to go check out the big picture: "The world’s largest acrylic painting by a single artist". I was curious how they would house a 12 x 100 meter painting inside a building.
We arrived at the Silver City Mint & Art Centre and were led through their silver shop before we would reach the painting. In the middle of a sort of cave, there would be a bar for snacks and drinks while being surrounded by the painting. The perfect spot to try to create a full 360 and so I spend all my time trying to achieve that. It didn't really work...
I was getting a bit annoyed by now by the way these excursions were set up. It almost felt like all they wanted us to do was go on a shopping spree and support the local businesses. I was wishing we would spend more time learning about the towns itself than spending it inside shops watching overhyped art.
On the bus, they shared a bit of information about the city of Broken Hill: a silver mining city that got its name from the pointer that the discoverer put in his diary to remember where to find it. Funny (or sad) thing is that the original hill with the crack in it doesn't exist anymore since it was completely mined away...
Time for dinner and bed...I was almost there!
Day 4: Blue Mountains and Sydney
The next morning was exciting! I was (sadly) going to leave the train so I packed my bag. But at the same time, I was going to see the amazing Blue Mountains and arrive in Sydney. When I opened the blinds the excitement dropped a little. It was raining.... hard!
"Normally the Blue Mountains have a bit of a blue haze to them because of the sky... now we could call them grey mountains", the guide explained. He was thrilled about the weather and didn't hide it. It was the first day of rain after a way too long dry time and this was exactly what the Blue Mountains needed. It wasn't really what I needed though...
The rainforest clearly liked the rain. We did a small hike to a lower part of the forest to see a waterfall with a face (don't tell me you can't see the face in there). It was FOGGY, but the waterfall was happy with it.
After the hike, we tried to see the Three Sisters but we were unsuccessful. No way was that fog going to let us see anything. It was good that I had that motorhome planned with my visit to @bearone. I would try again later....
After the Blue Mountains, we were dropped off at another train station for the last bit with a different train. But the Indian Pacific had their own section for us, passengers. We were almost there and I couldn't wait. I was finally going to see the Opera House!
Also in this series:
- Walkabout Straya #0: What did I get myself into?
- Walkabout Straya #1: A stormy first week at the west coast!
- Walkabout Straya #2: After the storm...
- Walkabout Straya #3: Things I didn't do in Perth