INDIAN PACIFIC RAILWAY
Sunday 26 February Perth to Kalgoorlie on the Indian Pacific Railway
Got up at 6.30am & got a taxi at 7.45am to East Perth station. The train left at 10am, so we had plenty of time to look at the Indian Pacific train memorabilia & have complimentary coffee/tea/orange juice & small cakes whilst a musician played. Allyson & I chatted to the train driver (one of two drivers for the trip) who was up at the front of the train. There was a wagon with a full car transporter which had to be hooked up to the engine so the driver had to stop talking to us & assist with that. Took lots of photos & felt excited to be going from Perth to Adelaide on the Indian Pacific which would take 3 days/ 2 nights and crossing the Nullabor Plain & deserts.
Chris & Allyson & us had adjacent cabins near the front of the massively long train (carriage O, cabins 7 & 8). The cabins were very compact with a pull-out bed & bunk bed above with ladder, plus a small shower room with sink, mirror & toilet. The staff were all very friendly & helpful. We went to the Queen Adelaide dining car for lunch – all food & drinks were included in the ticket. The train went very slowly through the Perth suburbs & past Northam & Merredin which we had visited in the motorhomes.
Some time after Merredin and past Southern Cross (an outback town) the train stopped for about an hour. We heard on the internal PA announcement by train staff that a stowaway person had been spotted by a passing freight train & the driver had informed our driver who had then seen the man on the video surveillance cameras. The stowaway was seen moving in one of the cars on the vehicle transporter. The Indian Pacific staff radioed the police at Southern Cross & they took a while to get to the stationary train. The man was arrested and stupidly had no water or food with him in the car for the 3 day trip & with outside temperatures of 36c + he may not have survived.
We went to dinner in the dining car – we were travelling gold class. Red class was lower & Platinum was the top class. When we returned to the cabin the staff had made up the bunk beds & left some gifts for us as we had mentioned that it was our 39th wedding anniversary yesterday. I got a blue pashmina scarf & Keef got a cap plus a nice note from the staff. There was a free coach trip at 9pm round Kalgoorlie & to see the gold mine (the Super Pit) which we had all signed up to do that evening. However because the stowaway had caused a delay to our journey we did not get off the train onto the coaches until 10.30pm.The temperature had been 30c at 9.15pm and it was very dark. The coaches went to the Super Pit but did not get any idea of the scale of the gold mine as it was pitch black with lorry headlights moving in the bottom of the giant pit. Luckily Keef & I had seen it before in the daytime on a previous trip to Australia. We drove round the town & there was nobody around. The coaches all dropped everybody off at the gold museum where we saw a short 15 minute play about Paddy Hannan. He was an Irish prospector who first found gold nuggets on the ground in 1893. A woman was also in the play – we did not think it was very good. Back in our coach we did not think the driver’s commentary was very good either – he kept pausing mid-sentence (his day job was prison officer). We were very tired and after the two hour excursion we re-boarded the train and went to bed.
Monday 27 February Indian Pacific Railway
I was still awake when the train finally left Kalgoorlie station at 1.20am & picked up speed. The delay in leaving was probably due to goods trains having priority on the line. The train lurched violently from side to side so much that I found it difficult to get to sleep on the top bunk. I climbed down the ladder, Keef woke up and kindly offered to swap bunks. Eventually got to sleep. We were woken up at 5.30am by train staff knocking on our door. We had all wanted to do the early breakfast outdoors at 6.15 at Rawlinna station. This was a scheduled stop on the Nullabor Plain halfway between Perth & Adelaide. Not all the passengers wanted to be woken so early for breakfast. The temperature was 20c at 6.15 bright sunshine with a bright blue sky. This place was a lonely outpost on the railway track, with tiny station, post office plus a sheep station which covered 2.5 million acres with 70,000 sheep.
When we climbed down the train steps it was some distance to the station where breakfast was being served. We all sat on benches by lots of long wooden tables & ate sausage, quiche, large mushroom, tomato plus tea & coffee. We saw a local ute & Aussie famers come to the station to pick up their post & parcels. When we re-boarded the train the staff said on the intercom that there was a ‘creature’ on the track at the front of the train – probably a snake. We weren’t allowed to walk anywhere at all apart from the cinder track by the train to the station platform.
Today we’re spending the whole day on the train crossing the Nullabor. We had lunch in the Queen Adelaide restaurant car with pre-dinner drinks & some nice wine with our meal. I had an hours sleep in our cabin as I was knackered. Then we spent the time gazing out the window and listening to music on the cabin radio. Keef thought he saw a snake at the side of the track.
At 3pm the train made a scheduled brief stop at Cook on the Nullabor. It was a god-forsaken place in the middle of nowhere. It was named after an Aussie Prime Minister not Captain Cook. It was 38c and after the air con on the train it was like walking into a hot oven. We had 30 mins stop here as the train had to re-fuel, take on more water (arterial bore) and change drivers. There were lots of flies so had to continually swat them away from our faces or they crawled into our mouth, ears & noses. We were told before disembarking that we were not to walk into the desert but to strictly keep to the paved paths towards a few abandoned buildings.
There was once a small community living there but now the population is 4. Their job is to help with re-fuelling the train. They live in a typical Aussie house – bungalow with corrugated iron roof & a small garden with picket fence. The soil was very red and dusty with a few trees around. We were told not to enter the abandoned buildings as it was too dangerous as snakes were very active at this time. Luckily saw no snakes or other animals/ reptiles thank goodness. I was very careful to watch where I was walking!! We all took photos & reboarded the train before the 30 mins were up as we felt we did not want to linger in this dangerous & desolate place.
Glad to get back to our air con cabin. Crossing the Nullabor we only saw a few cattle but no kangaroos or camels. A lot of the mammals are asleep during the day and only feed at dawn & dusk. Later in the afternoon the landscape suddenly changed from the flat desert where you could see for miles to rocky & sandy gorges with large bushes & trees and there was a dirt track alongside the railway line. This is probably so that maintenance men could drive along to check the condition of the track. We could see that once heavy rain had scored deep gullies in the red sandy soil but were dry as a bone now. We wondered if the lack of kangaroos was due to the fact that they were being killed for the pet food industry. Had dinner & had a game of cards in the bar area. Very tired.
Tuesday 28 February Adelaide
At 5.30am (pitch black outside) we were woken by a man on the intercom saying we were arriving in Adelaide at 7.25am & a snack breakfast of drinks & Danish pastries was being served in the restaurant. Had showers & then breakfast as dawn broke. After the train arrived in Adelaide we collected our luggage & thanked our train crew who had been excellent – they had been so friendly & had really looked after us. It was quite an experience on this famous rail journey.
We waited until 8.30am for a taxi & took all the bags to the Adelaide Shores Big 4 campsite. Chris & Allyson took their rucksacks with them as they wanted to see the city to look around. Keef & I had already spent 4 days in Adelaide on a previous trip so decided to go straight to the campsite. We arrived at 8.50am & luckily our deluxe chalet was ready for us to stay. It had 2 bedrooms, bathroom, open plan kitchen, dining & lounge plus an outside table & benches. The large fridge had milk provided together with tea & coffee. The campsite reception had kindly provided a golf buggy to help transport all the heavy bags to the chalet. K & I went for a paddle in the sea as it was a boiling hot day. Adelaide Shores has a beautiful white sandy beach & large sand dunes. Hardly anyone on the beach. We spent the rest of the time in & around the large camp swimming pool. K & I had lunch in the campsite café, then icecreams & iced coffees. Felt very tired after getting up at 5.30am so we had our showers & had a nap.
Chris & Allyson arrived at the chalet having done a lot of sightseeing in the city and had got a bus to Glenelg. They brought back a bag of fresh figs from a market in Adelaide which we decided to have at breakfast. C & A had showers & later we all went to the campsite café for dinner. Barramundi/ chicken burger/ fish & chips.