Indian Pacific to Adelaide

While not quite as famous as the Orient Express, the Indian Pacific is one of the most famous trains in the world. Once a week, on a wednesday, it leaves Sydney on the Pacific coast, to make it’s way on the 3 day journey to Perth on the Indian ocean coast along the second longest single piece of track in the world.

Sarah’s chicken caesar salad didn’t turn up for ages, and as a result we arrived at Sydney central station panting and sweating only to find out we were an hour early! We checked our bags and waited to board the train for our part of the journey, the 26 hour trip to Adelaide. The train was a mighty beast to look at, pulling 15 glistening carriages of seats, beds, luggage and even cars, but this turned out to be short for this train. At peak times the train can be up to 26 carriages long and has to be split in the middle to allow boarding over two tracks at Sydney.

We boarded our Gold Kangaroo sleeper compartment. It was small, but larger than our berth on the overnight train to venice, plus our luggage was out of our way. We had the most ingenious and compact en-suite toilet and shower room which required you to fold things out of the wall before attempting to use them, to really make the most of the confined space. The cabin could not be described as luxurious, but comfortable, a rather faded shadow of it’s former wood paneled self. In Australia as in most other countries, rail travel has become unloved and underused in a time of planes and cars, and as we would learn later the infrastructure is in need of some funding. As we pulled slowly out of the station, the service manager introduced herself and with all the joviality of a holiday camp entertainer, filled us in with the program of events. It would consist of eating, sleeping, eating, a bus trip, eating, eating, arriving.

We settled in and headed to the lounge car which shall henceforth be referred to as “God’s waiting room”. We discovered that our presence on the train, along with that of a canadian girl reduced the average age to 86. Still, over drinks and shared meals we chatted about our adventures, and got travel tips on the much visited great ocean road (our next destination). The meals were sublime, rich, fattening and hellishly tasty – I thought about staying on to Perth, they were served to us as we trundled slowly through the great nothingness that is Australia.

We went to bed after a reception in the lounge, and discovered the worst kept secret in Australia. The track is in a terrible state causing a constant jolting from side to side. People we met later would say “Oh, the Indian Pacific, it’s really bumpy”, even the driver on the following morning’s tour of Broken hill commented on it, along with the square wheels. The Indian Pacific is not intended for great speed, in fact it is slow, and it travels huge stretches of single line track with two directional traffic, forcing trains to wait in sidings for a clear track. During the night we got stuck waiting for a freight train to pass causing a two hour delay. The two stationary hours was the only sleep we got!

In the morning we watched kangaroos and emu’s hiding unsuccessfully in the vast empty space around us, before stopping at the mining town of Broken Hill. We got off the train and onto a bus for an hour long tour of the town, including a quick visit to the “flying doctors” a free air ambulance service which takes doctors out to the outback as needed (as well as distributing special cases of medical supplies and drugs, to allow people to emergency treat themselves over the radio – it makes sense if you think about it long enough).

Back on the train to eat our way into Adelaide.

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