At last, the day had arrived, it was finally time to board the Indian Pacific train for our trip from Perth to Sydney. Our 4352km journey would take 4 days and 3 nights, and would be pulled by a diesel loco, immediately behind was a carriage carrying several vehicles. The train consisted of guest carriages, Platinum Club Car for the well-to-do, restaurant and lounge cars, crew quarters and power vans.
The adventure begins
Would you like a peep in our dinky little cabin? It looks like this. Comfy lounge seating during the day, which is turned into two bunks at night. And each cabin has it’s own little bathroom.
Day and night
Of course, we diddn’t have to stay in the cabin all day, there is a nice roomy lounge car to use, with tea and coffee available, as well as juice and quite a range of alcoholic drinks, all there, just for the asking. Plus plenty of fellow passengers to chat to. Mostly Aussies, several Kiwi couples, we also met a very pleasant couple from Scotland and a gent from Las Vegas. I also met a lady one afternoon who does quilting, so we had plenty to chat about!
Outback Explorer Lounge
Our meals were taken in the Queen Adelaide Restaurant Car. Seated at tables of four, our dining companions usually changed each meal. As for the onboard meals, just delicious. Every meal, even breakfast, came with several choices on the menu. And we got to try foods we had not previously encountered, Jew fish, beef cheeks, camel curry and kangaroo!
Queen Adelaide Restaurant
I know that some people think spending four days travelling in a train would be boring, but we didn’t find it so. The sights out the window were constantly changing and there was always something to see. There were paddocks of bright lime green canola, and wheat, we saw stock, both cattle and sheep. As the land got drier once more, we finally spotted some kangaroos and emus – that sent up an excited roar throughout the lounge car. Then we saw some feral goats, several nannies with twin kids trailing along behind. What often happens is that the train whizzes by, and the photo opportunities are lost if your camera is not primed and ready to go. The landscape was mostly flat and barren, especially while traveling though the Nullarbor Plains. Not at all like the green paddocks, tree covered hills and snow capped mountains of New Zealand.
The everchanging landscape
Many off train experiences and excursions were included in the trip, often involving an early morning wake up call. At Kalgoorlie, a city founded on gold, we had an evening trip to view the Super Pit, mining gold 24 hours a day. At 3.5km long, 1.5km wide, and 600m deep, the Super Pit is large enough to be seen from space. An awful lot of rock has to be extracted to find a small amount of gold. Then we went to see an outdoor play “Paddy Hannan’s Ounce of Luck”. Local actors tell the story of Paddy practically tripping over gold nuggets, which he quickly collected and then rushed off to stake his claim in 1893. The 100 ounces of gold Paddy found in the area sparked the greatest gold rush in Australian history.
Paddy Hannan and his gold discovery story
After a late night, it was an early morning wake-up call the next day, ready to depart the train at 6.15am. The train stopped in Rawlinna in the Nullarbor Plains for breakfast. Singer Matt entertained us, the camp fires were burning, and we had a lovely time eating breakfast outdoors.
Bacon and egg sliders, and vegemite scrolls
The train crossed the State Line from Western Australia to South Australia, and our next stop was at the ghost town of Cook, home to just a few inhabitants. Established in 1917, Cook was originally built as a support town for the railway, with more than 50 people helping to maintain the tracks. We stopped here to take on diesel and water. Literally in the middle of nowhere – that’s what the sign declared! You can see how dry and barren the ground is.
At Cook, the Middle of Nowhere
Then we had an early morning city bus tour around the very pretty city of Adelaide, concluding with a rather fancy breakfast at the Adelaide Oval, home of cricket. Then it was back on the train again to continue our journey. The Indian Pacific pulled into Broken Hill (also known as Silver City) at about 5.00pm and it was time for another off train excursion. We didn’t realise that all the mining was so close to the town. In fact we were told that the mine tunnels run under the town. There was a choice of things to see, and we decided on the Big Picture, the world’s largest acrylic painting by a single artist. This giant 12m by 100m work of art was created by local self taught artist Ando over two years, and is housed in the Silver City Mint and Art Centre, run by Ando’s brother, silversmith Peter. As Ando worked on the painting, Peter constructed the accompanying foreground, using soil, and models of animals and reptiles, bushes and bones. With a welcoming glass of wine, and canapes to nibble, we gazed at this huge work of art showcasing the local area.
The Big Picture
Our final excursion was to the magnificent Blue Mountains, now declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Our bus load of passengers were visiting Scenic World and the guides were ready and waiting for us. Scenic World run their operation in the National Park and offer three exciting rides for visitors. We stepped onto the glass bottomed Scenic Skyway which glided 270m above the Jamison Valley – you don’t look down through the glass floor if you have a nervous disposition!
Glass bottomed Scenic Skyway
Next we waited our turn to climb aboard the Scenic Railway, (actually a cable car). At a 52 degree incline, the Scenic Railway is the steepest passenger train in the world. Each seat had it’s own entrance, so we filed down the steps and settled down for the ride. It was up and over the edge, and whoosh - straight down, hanging on for dear life! It may not look so scary, but tipped forward at such an angle while going down so quickly rather took my breath away.
Steepest in the world when it goes over the edge!
Down on the forest floor we walked along the boardwalk, hoping to get a glimpse of the elusive Lyre bird, but no luck with that. What we did discover was that coal mining was done in this beautiful area in earlier years, thank goodness that is now stopped. Our last ride of the morning was the Scenic Cableway, Australia’s biggest cable car which can carry up to 84 people (standing, no seats). This took us 545m from the valley floor to the top of the escarpment.
The Scenic Cableway
We got a great view of the iconic Three Sisters from here. According to the Aboriginal legend the three beautiful sisters lived in the Jamison Valley as members of the Katoomba tribe, and had fallen in love with three brothers from the Nepean tribe, yet tribal law forbade them to marry. The brothers were not happy to accept this law and so decided to use force to capture the three sisters causing a major tribal battle. As the lives of the three sisters were seriously in danger, a witchdoctor from the Katoomba tribe took it upon himself to turn the three sisters into stone to protect them from any harm. While he had intended to reverse the spell when the battle was over, the witchdoctor himself was killed. As only he could reverse the spell to return the ladies to their former beauty, leaving the sisters in stone forever.
The Three Sisters
With our Scenic World adventures over, it was off to Echo Point for a tasty lunch. The bus then dropped us off at Katoomba Station where we sat in the sunshine as we waited for the arrival of our charter train to take us into Sydney. Two hours later we arrived in the Big Smoke to find our bags on the platform, well guarded and arranged in carriage numbers, ready to uplift for the Sydney part of our adventure. Whew – what a busy four days. Perhaps we need a holiday to get over our train trip!