Carrying on the theme of epic overland journeys, I recently dusted off my old travel journal to reminisce on the longest train trip I have ever taken, a 46 hour transit across Australia from Perth to Adelaide. Amazingly this is only HALF of the voyage the Indian Pacific takes, as it continues all the way across to Sydney on the East coast of Australia, a journey that take over 90 hours! I took the cheapest seat possible, the Red Sleeper that was basically a large airline seat. Nowadays the operators are aiming at the more high end clientele so there are only Gold and Platinum cabins available whereas the Red Sleeper has been discontinued.
Wednesday 18th August 2004:
Today was the start of the longest train journey I have ever embarked upon. Checked out of Spinners hostel and walked to Wellington Street Station. Got 50c connection to East Perth where I collected my tickets and Great Southern Railway Pass. Had a few hours to kill so watched Olympics. Got on train at 1130am and was seated next to a Swiss girl but by the time we departed there were spare seats so I sprawled across those. It was 10 hours and a lot of kilometres before our first stop of the 46 hour journey. After some decent scenery of rocky rivers and hillsides it turned bland. Passed the time by reading and writing but by 4pm was bored. Had my pasta for tea then at 10pm we reached Kalgoorlie-Boulder, described by the LP as a thriving gold-town where ‘skimpies’, gambling, booze and brothels are the rule – this I had to see! Bounded to the first pub but no skimpies so necked my lager and on to The Kalgoorlie Hotel where there were some. As expected the bar was packed with lots of old, ugly miners! Had a couple more stubbies and was going to head back but ended up meeting some locals so tagged along with them and met a girl from Perth, called Alex. I wanted to stay but the train was set to leave, I was only in town for 4 hours but what a place! Just got on train in time with the guard berating me for cutting it fine! Had a can of Dutch Lager with some Irish lads in lounge area, Bed at 3am.
Thursday 19th August 2004:
Woke around 9am dozed for a while then showered in the tiny carriage cubicle and got changed. Chuckled about last nights events and my quip to Alex, “you’re worth missing the train for”. By now the train was in the middle of the desolate Nullarbor plain, basically a vast, barren, whole lot of nothing. We journeyed for hours and the scenery didn’t change, very typical Australian Outback. Shortly after crossing border into South Australia we stopped at a ‘town’ called Cook. This quasi ghost-town has all been run down and is not basically a service stop for the Indian Pacific. Had a brief look round then got chased by a Magpie that tried to attack me! I was actually a little worried so ran back to the train! For the rest of the journey played cards and charades with the Irish lads. Had a tea of beef and veggies. Went to bed tired at midnight but struggled to get comfy on the seats.
Friday 20th August 2004:
Up bleary eyed as train took its final leg through the industrial outskirts of Adelaide. Met up with the backpacker shuttle at station and checked into a hostel and got a lovely $6.50 brekky next door. Checked emails then caught up on some sleep in the quiet dormitory. Got up at 230pm, showered then out for a quick look around Adelaide. Don’t feel in any real rush to see everything before Alice Springs as I will return soon after, another long train journey on The Ghan!
Nowadays this famous train still runs regularly between Perth and Sydney and back twice a week. The town of Cook I visited had a population of 16 when I was there in 2004 but now is completely un-populated, This is a fabulous train ride right across Australia from Sydney or Adelaide to Perth, giving you a real sense of Australia’s vastness which flying simply cannot deliver. As the rail prices start at upwards of £500 ($600USD) per person for the Gold cabin it is only for real train enthusiasts but definitely worth it!