Indian Pacific from Sydney - Perth

Trip Start Sep 28, 2003
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Trip End Sep 29, 2004


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Friday, August 13, 2004

Well as you probably gathered, I left the house in a bit of a hurry. I was even in the cab trying to relax after packing in about 30 seconds when the driver started asking me directions onto the main road. I just kind of pointed and luckily we made it to the station with plenty of time to run around, buy reading material and snacks before the three day train journey to Perth.

Well today I was to be a Red Kangaroo! No I was not heading to a fancy dress party with a zoo theme. It is actually the Indian Pacific way of saying Second Class, as opposed to first class which is of course "Gold Kangaroo". Gold Kangaroo's get their own private cabin and all their meals served in a nice restaurant. Red Kangaroo's, sleep in a seat that reclines slightly (never enough) and have access to the Red Kangaroo dinner. I wonder if I ought to suggest to the train operator that this service be renamed to Silver Kangaroo - it would suit their clientel rather well, in a Silver-Surfer kind of way.

Sitting next to me were three other English people, all over here on holiday/ working holiday. Sally and her boyfriend Martin, and their friend Alan. It turns out that Alan and Sally run a big Neighbours fansite (hence the trip to Oz). Alan had already travelled on the Indian Pacific from Perth, so that reassured me a bit, considering I had booked 10 days train travel on that and the Ghan (the train running up the middle of Oz, between Adelaide, Alice Springs and Darwin). See their website which is www.erinsborough.com

The food on the train is pretty average. Mainly stuff they can microwave or kind of stews and curries, with strange rice. So far it seems to be the same menu every night (am writing this after 5 days on the train in total!)

We were woken at some un-earthly hour on the first morning with some commentary about the route. They are all pre-recorded snippets that are started at the appropriate times. The worst thing about them is the "theme music/jingle " that accompanies each one..

"The Indian Pacific spans the land, the Indian Pacific spans the land" It is sung in a kind of country style and really not what you want to hear first thing of a morning, especially when they try and get you up before 6!

In case you didn't know, this train route (surprisingly) does go from the East to the West coast, therefore spanning the land!

So our first stop was at Broken Hill, I went to breakfast with Sally and Co. when we were amused to see a few stalls setup on the platform, at this early hour. One selling cushions - good idea considering the seats, but I have no space to carry anything else. Another selling a range of souvenirs / general tatt. Including toy wombats and kangaroos (no red or gold ones!) in three sizes.

Well the first part of the journey, upto Adelaide and a bit beyond, was not really all that remote. Generally there were rolling hills, greenery and even trees here and there. At Adelaide, we had four hours off the train, while it refuelled and did other train stuff. I took the opportunity to get some food and buy some more chocolate and drinks for the continuing journey.

After Adelaide, it was the enxt morning when we woke up to see endless stretches of snady bushland, bits of scrub everywhere but not really that appealling. It stretched to the horizon oin all directions, and there were not a lot of features that stood out. That was, until we reached Cook. Cook is a village that was until the railway was privatised, inhabited by workers from the railway. It had a school, a hospital, a swimming pool and a post office among other things. When the rail was privatised, it turned into a ghost town, and is now inhabited by two ladies who seem to have nothing better to do than try and sell more souvenirs to the passengers of the Indian Pacific (trains pass through 2 times a week in each direction). It is a refuelling point for the train, and allows a change of shift for the driver. Now in Cook, they have a hosiptal, which the imhabitants are trying to keep open (seriously) and they have a sign up encouraging people to come and be ill in Cook (As If!). "Feeling Crook - Come to Cook". Catchy! I wan't tempted to try out the medical services so, I managed to get back on the train, and was a bit relieved when we pulled away towards Perth again.

After Cook the route takes us on the longest perfectly straight piece of rail track in the world 478 KM. Believe me, this is the real Outback - there is nothing there. The redness of the soil with occassional bits of rubbish by the track and hardy shrubs, make it look a bit like a deserted building site, with sand on the ground. Much bigger though obviously...

The next stop on our journey was at Kalgoorlie, this is basically a gold mining town (no photos because it was dark - sorry!). Like many of these places I am coming across, the roads are so wide, and you usually only see a couple of cars using them. Rush-hour must be an absolute breeze! So there were plenty of interesting shops - some advertising that they bought and sold gold nuggets. Thank goodness, as Alan had been here before, he was able to recomend a 24hr diner. I was actually quite impressed, the food was certainly much better than that served up on the train, so it made a nice change. By the way, that reminds me, I had a milkshake and generally here they do make milkshakes rather well!

The next morning we started to approach Perth finally. In Australia, they tend to be fussy about moving diseases and bugs that affect fruit, vegetables and other various things like honey. So you have to dump any of these items before you get into Perth. A couple of guys from the appropriate government department actually boarded the train a few stations before Perth, so that they could go through, speaking to everyone on the train to check noone was trying to snuggle a lethal apple in. It is serious stuff!

Well, I soon found my way to the hostel I had decided upon, this was the YHA in Northbridge, Perth. It was quite large with reasonable facilities and I had soon checked in for a couple of nights.

My first day in Perth was spent running round, doing a few admin tasks. This includes trying to find out about tours going up the coast, trying to get my mobile phone repaired (phone + hard hospital floor = cracked screen = doh!), getting quotes for car hire - for goiung south down the coast and paying for my holiday at the end of my holiday! I am spending 6 nights in Malaysia on the way home, 2 in Kuala Lumpur and 4 in Penang. Malaysian Airways - who I am flying with have a great offer on, whereby if you pay for the accomodation (through them) they will give you a free transfer flight (KL - Penang and back). Too good an offer to turn down.

Other stuff I got upto in Perth included going to the Botanic Gardens, I thought that they were quite good, but not as good as Sydney as nothing was labelled and there were no maps to find your way around. I wanted to take a specific path out of the park but I could not find it! However the great views of the city helped to make up for it.

There is an interesting futuristic tower right on the waterfront. This contains the 12 bells from Saint Martin in the Fields church a bit closer to home! Hopefully I will get a photo of this put up soon!

I also visited Freemantle one afternoon. This is a port just south of Perth. It actually reminded me a bit of Poole. It has some old buildings (by Australian standards!) that were warehouses and similar when the the port was in full swing a few years back. It also has a nice waterfront area, where you can get fish and chips. I was actually very impressed with these fish and chips, they could be the best I have ever had and I do feel as though it is a meal I have had enough before to be able to comment upon the subject! The place I went to actually looked quite big and commercialised, but the food was reasonable priced and very good, as I may have mentioned. I also saw a huge Pelican just floating around outside the restaurant, which I managed to grab a couple of photos of.

One of my last tourist stops in Perth was the Perth Mint. The best bit was seeing them melt and pour a solid car bar. The coulour it was when it was setting was the bright gold you see used in cartoons and similar. It really was quite enjoyable to watch this.

Well after speaking to two different places about booking a trip up the coast, I managed to get my act together and booked a place on a bush camp style trip, in a 4 wheel drive, 16 seater coach. There are loads of trips up the coast and they all visit the same things. The good thing about the tour that I selected was that the 4wd coach gave access to a few more areas than normal, also staying in bush camps would be more exciting than staying in hostels as per most of the other trips.

Anyway the details of that will I shall leave until next time. Hope you are all well, I will try and make an effort to get some photos on soon!

Bye for now
Tim
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