A Very Long Journey on a Very Long TrainOur very first sighting of the Indian Pacific train, with its iconic silver bullet-like carriages and famous eagle emblem, was at Perth train station. It was so long that we couldn’t see its beginning or end.
The train is an unbelievable 774 metres in length, just less than two full laps of an Olympic running track. It is made up of 28 passenger carriages, along with engine rooms and separate carriages for restaurants, bars, lounges and the charismatic crew.
The trip we were about to em- bark on goes from Perth to Sydney and takes four days and three nights. Leaving on a Sunday, it was five-star service all the way, and offered a range of excursions and stopovers while travelling through some of the country’s harshest and most barren landscapes.
Excursions took place in Kalgoorlie, Adelaide, Broken Hill and the Blue Mountains, with short stopovers to check out Rawlinna and Cook.
Once the formalities were completed, we made our way to the most essential carriage on the train, the Outback Explorer Bar and Lounge, where we met our fellow travelling companions. This was the place where a lot of time would be spent and tales shared on our journey.
From the lounge area we looked out at the impressive views while sipping some of Australia’s finest wines. I personally introduced myself to the barista who immediately fired up the espresso machine and kept it on constant rotation for the fours days that would follow.
After lunch (each meal was delicious), we split our time between our super comfortable ensuite cabin (which magically turned into a sleeping boudoir each night thanks to the attendants) and the lounge area, from where we were able to observe Western Australia’s Avon Valley wheat belt, the accompanying countryside and the occasional tiny township as we quietly rattled on by.
It wasn’t long before we were operating on ‘train time’ and slowing to a standstill to embark on a night excursion through the famous gold mining town of Kalgoorlie, where we learnt about the early gold rush history through tales of ‘gold and brothels’. We also got to see the world’s largest open cut gold mine, ‘the super pit’, which has been operating non- stop (literally 24/7) since 1989, and still has an estimated lifespan of 20 years.
The next morning our train stopped at Rawlinna, which is home to Australia’s largest sheep station – where 70,000 sheep are spread out over 2.5 million acres. The air was crisp and fresh and we indulged in a breakfast of egg and bacon sliders served under open flame heaters right next to the train.
We then travelled across the Nullarbor Plain, which was hot, long, flat, arid and treeless, until we reached our next stopover, the township of Cook, which was quite literally in the middle of nowhere.
The population of Cook after the last census was four people and 23.5 million flies, and on the day we arrived to see this virtual ghost town every fly was there to greet us.
Cook used to have a population of 200, with a hospital that had a famous slogan: ‘If you’re crook, come to Cook’. There was also a school and a golf course, but due to the privatisation of the railways in 1997 it’s now just a refuelling stopover for our train. My highlight of our Cook stopover was the two singular jail cells, which looked like giant wooden port-a-loos!
Thankfully we were soon back on board our fly-free train and continuing our trans-continental adventure.
The train travels at a very comfortable pace with varying speeds ranging from 85 to 115 kilometres per hour, which allowed us to catch occasional glimpses of emus, kangaroos and a plethora of native birds, as well as the obligatory sheep and cattle.
Our next stopover and excursion was in Adelaide, where we had the option of taking in the city sights walking tour, the central markets tour, the city and river precinct tour, or seeing the Adelaide Oval in all its glory before boarding the train and heading to our next stop, Broken Hill.
Known as the ‘silver city’ thanks to its early mining days, Broken Hill has a colourful history and the excursion we chose was a no-brainer for us – a drag show at the town’s famous Palace Hotel, which was featured in the much-loved Australian classic, ‘Priscilla Queen of the Desert’. The two rather large entertainers with their big hands, big smiles, big personalities and two ‘real’ female assistants put on a bawdy hour of glitz, glamour and fun.
We woke the next morning chugging towards the glorious and world-renowned Blue Mountains, where we got to ride on the Scenic Skyway cable car and the world’s steepest passenger railway (with its 52-degree incline), as well as heading to the Echo Point lookout to admire the views that people from all over the world come to see.
After lunch at a restaurant with glorious mountain views we sadly came to the end of what the brochures describe as one of Australia’s greatest train journeys. We couldn’t have agreed more.
Where to stay
(08) 9215 2000
How to travel
Great Southern Rail
How to get there
Vicky Gilden at Rose Bay Travel (02) 9371 8166