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Published: March 16th 2018
Truth be told, I had put a deposit down on the Indian Pacific before I purchased my flights to and from Australia. Friends had taken the trip years ago, mentioned it to me, and after looking into it online I was sold. As it happens so often, a specific event determines the trip and everything else is built around it. Once again, this was the right way to do it. I loved this trip. The idea of a 4-day, 3-night train that crosses an entire continent was appealing. Doing it alone and meeting people on the train can be dicey with personality and chattiness, but each person I have met has been interesting. True, I found a group that I really enjoyed, and will write more about them later, but for now suffice it to say that this is a case of where my mental picture and expectations were the same as reality.
Nothing about this journey is small. The distance is vast, covering 4,352 kilometers over the 4 days. The track includes the world's longest stretch of straight track. Although I didn’t personally count how many cars were on the train, it reportedly has 28, a passenger load of
240 and 30 crew members. At the Sydney Central Train Station, the train has to be broken into two separate trains because it is too long to fit on the platform. No such problems in Perth. Western Australia has plenty of room to spare.
Driving up and seeing the distinctive blue locomotive and silver carriages with their Indian Pacific emblem of a wedge tail eagle was more thrilling than I had hoped. On the platform, there was coffee and pastries as well as a guitarist playing during check-in. It was still too early to really start meeting anyone, so I stood in the back, taking it all in. I have a feeling my typical aloof, traveling face was replaced today with the goofy grin of a boy on Christmas morning. Soon, the crew, looking sharp in their striped shirts and akubra hats, positioned themselves by the doors and it was time to board. My room was Carriage A Compartment 8, a Gold Class single sleeper. The only overnight train I have taken was in Egypt My Day in Da’Nile
and let me tell you, this trip took that train’s lunch money and made it run crying home to Mommy. This was elegant,
cool, quiet, inviting. Sitting at the platform while the boarding continued, I nosed my way around the compartment. I opened the cupboards, turned all the switches to see what they did, although even I wasn’t going to push the staff call button. I had a pretty good idea what that would do and wasn’t going to be that person.
The day was filled with reading, and a trip to the Outback Explorer Lounge to see what was going on four cars back. I am not going to say much about the other passengers but will say that I felt very young. It is a friendly group, so I was able to find some people to chat with. Yeah, we all know how shy I am, so I wasn’t too worried, nor do I think you were either to be honest. I am writing this after the fact, so will save you lots of reading with this blanket statement that the food was amazing. I was impressed with not only how it was presented, but how delicious everything tasted. If you are interested, check out the pictures, I will post several of them so I don’t have to
type up everything I ate. At dinner the first night I was seated with a Swiss man who has lived in New Zealand for years, and two friends traveling together from Newcastle, England. We clicked as a group, quickly becoming that table. Plied with wine, sparking wine and after dinner drinks we laughed, talked and enjoyed an amazing dinner. Throughout the rest of the trip we gravitated together on our excursions and ate our meals together. I do think that we were that table in the in minds of the other passengers and crew, but not in a bad way. On the last day I found out that I had become the center of conversation among the others because I ate my meals, camera at hand, snapping pictures frequently and at random. I told my group that I wanted pictures of some of the dishes we were not eating, so asked if they thought I could get away with pretending to be the train photographer to snap pictures of the food on other tables. Luckily, we were not too many glasses of wine into the meal, so this idea received a no vote.
not come easily for me on the train. The bed was long enough, and quite comfortable, but it was oh so narrow. If I was on my back things were fine but rolling over. Nah. My wing-span is quite large, in fact probably twice as large as the person for whom this bed was designed. I couldn’t get comfortable. My arms were crooked in at an unnatural angle. The train started and stopped and bounced. If we weren’t securely tethered to Earth by a multi ton train, I would have thought that we had hit turbulence. “Flight attendants take your seats.” And suddenly, it was morning.
Breakfast at Rawlinna was something I had been excited to experience. As the train pulled through the station, since I am in the first passenger carriage and there are only a staff carriage and one more car before the locomotive and we tend to go well through any station, I could see fire pits burning, stacks of coffee cups and rows of tables arranged. We disembarked and walked along the train to the festivities. People were milling about, holding cups of coffee and talking. Sonia, our incredible restaurant manager was escorting groups to
tables, so off I went for brekkie. Large wooden slabs were loaded with roast sausages, spinach quiche, grilled Portobello mushrooms and a spread for them. It was family style which required a whole heck of a lot of patience from me not to grab the slab and go to town on it. You will be happy to know that I was a true gentleman and no one at the table went hungry or was stabbed by a wayward fork. You can see from the pictures that this was a full-scale production to feed 240 people at the same time. The execution of this brekkie was flawless and impressive. Thoroughly full and happy, I hopped back on board and watched the endless flat, seemingly unchanging scenery as we chugged across the Nullarbor.
Soon, it was time to meet my friends for lunch. Looking at my watch, I realized it was wine o’clock, so yeah, that happened while we were sitting in the lounge waiting to be seated. I was torn on the lunch choice. The Camel Tagine with coconut rice and coriander sounded very intriguing; however, I wasn’t willing to risk not liking camel. As much as I enjoyed trying
Our carriage had been recently refurbished and was beautiful and comfortable
guinea pig in Peru, I wouldn’t have wanted to make a whole meal of it. Luckily, one of the others ordered the tagine, so I could try it, and liked it a lot, whereas I ordered the Ploughman’s lunch with assorted cheese, olives and charcuterie. Dessert was an amazing trifle and the self-imposed obligatory glass of sparkling wine. Yeah, life is definitely good.
The rest of the day was relatively quiet. Lots of reading, some chatting, a stop to refill the train’s water at Cook where we were able to get up close to the locomotive. We have one right now, but before heading over the Blue Mountains we will pick up another one. Back inside while most people were napping, I invited myself into the kitchen. Only two cooks prepare the food for this section of the train in a tiny kitchen. From what I can tell, we have 24 double compartments, 16 singles and then some Platinum compartments in our section of the train. All in all, it is a lot of food for two cooks to prepare. We chatted about food, menus, and how they make their kitchen work. It was great to meet them and
see how they do this. I had barely settled back in my room, when a waiter/porter stopped and said that the Chef asked if I could please come back for an appetizer. How awesome was that? She gave me a smoked fish appetizer from the Platinum dining menu. As I enjoyed this, I talked about some of the menus that I have recently done. Being a chef is a great club. Food is love and this is how we take care of each other. Standing in the galley eating, trading food stories, I realized how much I love what I do.
Our group met for cocktails and dinner. We have become the SIP table (Self Important People) so received extra attention from the crew. To be honest, the crew has been so amazing that I think we are all SIP’s. I jokingly asked the porter for an extra downturn chocolate because my neighbor couldn’t eat his and offered it to me. When I returned to my compartment, there must have been 20 of them on my bed. Yup, the crew definitely liked us. Sleep was much better this night. I don’t think I would ever get used to sleeping
on a train, but at least I felt human in the morning when we pulled into Adelaide for our off-train excursion. I chose the Central Market Hall tour and enjoyed samples of quiche, almonds, Korean savory pancake and a most welcome cup of hot coffee. While we were off on our excursion, they changed the crew and added 2 locomotives to the other end of the train. Now we are the last passenger compartment. I was sad to see the crew change. There are not that many crew members, so I was able to get to know several of them.
Our excursion today was in Broken Hill where we had our choice of several options. As it turns out, all in my little group had chosen the Main Drag, a show in the Palace Hotel where they had filmed some of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. It was a nice little outing. Soon, it was back on the train and a hike through 15 cars of the train to get to our carriage. Dinner, ah dinner. So that we could linger and enjoy ourselves we opted for the last seating. Gloriously tender lamb shoulder was served with julienne vegetables.
Hunter Valley filet was perfectly cooked to medium rare and for the first time I chose the ice cream for dessert. All in all it was another special day.
Sadly, the final morning came and it was time to think about packing and moving on to the next part of this epic adventure. I met the group for breakfast but wasn’t really feeling it. The thought of giving up my cozy compartment and heading into the real-life pace of Sydney was a harsh reality looming closer with each kilometer. As we passed through the Blue Mountains, mist hung in the air. It was a mirror of my mood. The last few hours dragged on as we passed through suburban sprawl and commuter stations. As I sat waiting for the back half of the train to be positioned onto our platform, I tried to rally and get into City Mode. Let’s hope it worked. Check back and see what happened next.
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D MJ Binkley
Dave and Merry Jo Binkley
Good looking group
Glad you made some new friends while riding the rails.
We had a lot of fun. I was glad I met them.
D MJ Binkley
Dave and Merry Jo Binkley
Oh so lucky
D MJ Binkley
Dave and Merry Jo Binkley
Brekkie on Grand Scale
We didn't have this on our trip. Looks like they've changed things a bit.
Brekkie or Dinner
I was bummed that we weren't doing dinner in this place, but that is for the Sydney to Perth journey. It is all about timing. Breakfast was more than enough to keep me happy.
D MJ Binkley
Dave and Merry Jo Binkley
Riding the Rails
Nothing better than a long straight track. Hope you saw a kangaroo or two. It sounds like the trip has upgraded sine we took it. We didn’t get a stop in Rawlinna for breakfast. The only choice in Adelaide was a 3 hour bus tour around town. Glad you got a haul of chocolate. MJ
Roos in the wild
They definitely have upgraded it sounds like. Everything was spot on. There were roos in the wild and some emus, but I missed them.
D MJ Binkley
Dave and Merry Jo Binkley
Train travel is incredible!
Dave here......always knew you would absolutely love this journey. Train travel is the best (well, maybe not great in Egypt) and presents a marvelously friendly way to traverse the great expanses of OZ.
Have always loved trains
Train travel, done well, is awesome. I will keep it in mind moving forward. It gave me a great view of how big this country is, as well as how desolate it is. We went hours without seeing anything but landscape.
City limits ....
Hi Brendan, Guess you have hit the Big Smoke, by this. :) Enjoyed reading your blog, which brought back a lot of memories. Isn't the trip in the Indian Pacific just the most amazing experience? The Ghan - Darwin to Adelaide or vice versa - is equally as impressive - maybe next time. :) Looking forward to meeting up on Sunday. Jan
See you Sun
You are so right, the trip was the most amazing experience. I have been looking at the Ghan. Who knows where I will end up next....
Ren & Andrew
I love that you've adopted your Aussie nickname - it really does suit you :) It sounds like an amazing journey and your post has totally sold me on the idea of doing this. The food sounds amazing and I'm really impressed with that mammoth brekkie too!
Loving the Aussie nickname
I am glad you are thinking about doing this. I would highly recommend it if you have the free time. Yes, the food was spot on. Add some nice wines or spirits and call me happy!
My train experience in India was a hell of a lot different than yours, lol. Still, I haven't been ruined quite yet, and after viewing the pictures and reading your blog, I guess I could be talked into this one.
It is great to see your blogs
I am enjoying following your blogs, but need to catch up. Yes, I have a feeling this train may have been a bit more luxurious than what you were on in India. If there was something I could say to nudge you toward this one, I would absolutely do it. I think you would enjoy this a lot.
Lori & Susan
It sounds like an amazing and fun train trip. When we eventually make it to Australia it will be definitely be on our list. I've been on sleeper trains in Egypt and Vietnam, and the Egypt train was definitely nicer ... but that train is in a whole other league! I'm loving wine o'clock.
Definitely a league of its own
Thank you for your nice comment. Yes, this train is something special. I love that you are out traveling and have done train trips. If you have a chance I hope you will take this one. And remember, wine o'clock is often proceeded by beer-thirty. Just a thought.
Freeking Linda is doing a Brendan ...photographing her food...me I'm doing more interesting photos....loved the blog the best 1/2 if THE SIPS
SIPs definitely rule
Paul, thank you so much for the comment. I am glad you enjoyed the blog and even more pleased that Linda is photographing her food. It is a nice memory. Take your pics and have a wonderful time.
To my mind, train travel just has to be one of the best forms of transport. And what an amazing experience it must have been to cross a whole continent on one! An inspirational read indeed.
Love Train Travel
You are so right Alex. Train travel, when done well, is amazing. It is something I will seek out in the future. But this trip will always be remembered as a true experience.
On the tracks
What an amazing journey , mmmmm? I wonder if I could hop on that train from Adelaide to Sydney ...that’s a thought.
Do the Train if You Can
Thank you so much. If you are able, I would strongly recommend looking into the train from Adelaide to Sydney. That has some of the best scenery and is still an overnight trip.
My favourite way to travel
I thought about doing this train journey many years ago, now I know what I missed out on not doing it...yet! Yet another reason to head over to WA :-)
I would recommend it
I think you would enjoy it a lot Jo. Hope you can do it one day.