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Friday, September 6, 2019

All Aboard the Indian Pacific

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!


Jo said...

That sounds fantastic. Did you see the famous hotel in Broken Hill where "Priscilla Queen of the Desert" was filmed. Also, just north of there was where some of the "Mad Max" movies were filmed. Broken Hill is a few hours North of where I lived. If you were there before Wednesday we could have caught up... So glad you had a great trip across our country.

Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

so glad you got to enjoy your train excursion this time around - tiny rooms but so nice to have the bathroom included and to be able to stretch out on a bed even if it is narrow. Looks like you saw a lot of wonderful things

Jocelyn is Canadian Needle Nana said...

Oh dear Jenny, how I would love to do a train trip like that! My kind of holiday and so happy to read about it here on your blog. Sounds wonderful and I don't have to say enjoy every minute because I know you both are! Maybe I would give the steepest chair ride a miss though...like you afraid of heights.

Tired Teacher said...

How exciting! I'm glad you were able to finally make this trip.

Lyndsey said...

Wow that sounds a fabulous adventure. Great pictures Jenny. I am really enjoying your trip to Australia and it has the added advantage that I don't have to sit on a plan for a ridiculous number of hours.

Judith nb Serena said...

What a fabulous trip, so glad you made it this time. I see you visited Tom and Jan while in Perth. We met up with them a few times while they were on their narrowboat over here. Both good company. Enjoy the rest of your Australian adventure, will look forward to the next installment.
Judith nb Serena.

Maria said...

Pleased you finally got your train ride.. The cabins have changed since I rode on the Indian Pacific.
Great you got to visit some interesting places.

Michelle Ridgway said...

Wow! What a great trip....I loved Broken Hill and I have a handmade silver pendant made by Andos brother. You were very brave on that scenic railway....I didn't realise what it actually did until I nearly died of fright as we plummeted over the cliff lol! So happy you finally got to have your trip and you enjoyed it! Sounds like you will need a holiday to get over your holiday lol!

Jeanne said...

Thank you for sharing your adventure with us! We're considering a similar trip across the United States, and you have inspired me!

Karen S said...

I am so pleased everything went well this time. It is a wonderful trip and there is so much to enjoy.