Broken Hill - it begins...

Trip Start Jun 29, 2005
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Trip End Nov 30, 2009


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Flag of Australia  , New South Wales,
Thursday, June 30, 2005

A drab and misty day is slowly dawning over the massive slag heaps adjacent to the rail siding at Broken Hill station, as the Indian Pacific I'm on awaits departure for the next leg of the journey to Adelaide. It's been a long trip so far, and we won't reach the city of churches for another 8 hours. At least we'll be able to admire some scenery between here and there in the new day's light.

After many months of planning, I finally left Sydney at 14.55 yesterday. Mum and dad saw me off in a sad farewell from Central Station (love you guys). As I passed the first sight of the trip, the disused Regent St station which is sometimes referred to as Mortuary station due to it's gothic composition, I began to hope that it might not be a omen of things to come. The immensity of the journey started to crash home. What on earth am I attempting?

But as the inner city terraces and industrial backlots began to give way to prefab units and red brick housing on our express ride though Sydney's boondocks, the G&Ts started to kick in and fortify my state of mind. However far I get, I'm going to have fun doing it. For those readers who don't know the plan, here's an indicative itinerary:

* Australia - train from Sydney to Adelaide (1 week), then Alice Springs (4 days) then Darwin (leave end June, Darwin by 13th July)

* 23/7 - Sail from Darwin to/through Indonesia in the Darwin-Bali rally with cap'n Des on the Panthalassa (until mid/late August)

* sail or scenic route train through Java from Surabaya to Jakarta

* ferry to Singapore or direct to Malaysia

* train to Kaula Lumpur to stay for a few days, then to northern Malaysia in search of the Perhentian Isles (for a diving course)

* into southern Thailand by mid September - Phi Phi and/or Samui/Haad Rin for a couple of weeks

* Bangkok to get visa and then Burma for 7-10 days

* back to Bangkok then Cambodia til early November for Angkor Wat and some river boating

* Vietnam - Ho Chi Mihn to Hanoi, exiting at end November for Laos or China

maybe Laos and definitely China in December, arriving Beijing mid month to freeze and hook up with the last Vodkatrain of the year

* across the Trans Mongolian railway to St Petersburg over New Year and Russian Orthodox Christmas (6 Jan 2006).

* pop out into Estonia and then ferry to Sweden to see my mate Olof.

From here there are a few options, but if I can retain my sanity I'm leaning towards flying to the warmth of Tunisia or Egypt and spending a few months seeing North Africa and the Middle East. There are a number of things in this region that are on my list of must see's, including Leptis Major (Libya), the whole of Egypt (obviously), Petra in Jordan.

Anyway, back to the present. After a while we hit the scrub that marks the end of the suburbs and the start of the ascent into the Blue Mountains. I had a very short call from Ainsley trying to wish me well before reception prevailed just after Katoomba, and a longer call from Simon further over the ranges as the rain and night closed in. Thanks for the kind thoughts guys. After that my fellow travelling companions and I settled in for the evening to the homely yet comfortable lounge car. The food and Jimmy Barnes playing over the PA was no great shakes but a few drinks and some interesting company made up for it.

Trying to sleep was not so easy. It was a surprisingly bumpy ride all night, especially in later stages beyond Orange where I think some of the labour who built the railway were so pissed at being stationed way out here that they deliberately built the rails less than perfectly parallel. From the rampant shaking it felt like it anyway. Even if the rails were straight, the Kangaroo class seats aren't made for posturepedic feeling, but I managed to catch a few Zs in spite of them.

Back on the rails after Broken Hill, the sun rose and the surrounding moonscape was revealed in all of its uninspiring glory. An eerie fog lay over the red land for many a kilometre at one stage, and mobs of kangaroos bounding alongside excited some of the foreign passengers.



The first road train of the trip did it for me, and also proved my reflexes on the camera were still up to scratch as it whizzed by a slow moving train. Check it out.





As we headed into Adelaide the landscape changed to pasture and from desert red to a strange silvery-grey. Maybe it was the overcast sky, maybe just a strange south Australian strain of grass, but the colour was quite lovely and something I haven't experienced in this wide (and usually very) brown land before.



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