The Indian Pacific train is one of the few true transcontinental trains in the world. It runs from Sydney to Perth, covering around 4,000 km from east to west. It takes 3 days. I boarded in Adelaide so the journey would take only 2 days. 2 days on a train? Only in Australia.
Nothing much happened.The first night was uncomfortable as there was a cold draught which kept waking me up. I had booked a Red Kangaroo seat, which was all I could afford, and I was expecting someone to sit next to me. But once the train started moving, the guard came over and told me she had seated the passenger somewhere else, so I had two seats to stretch out on, but they weren’t quite long enough. Still, it was better than not lying down at all.
The first stop was Cook, located halfway between Sydney and Perth- population 2 people, 26 chooks and 50 million flies. It was a ghost town in the middle of the desert. Apparently, this is the first place the train can stop because, around Maralinga, there is radioactive contamination, from when the British used to do nuclear tests in the 1950s. We had a short time to wander around and buy a postcard or two from the small shop.
On its journey, the train crosses the Nullarbor Plain. In Latin the name literally means no trees (nullus-no; arbor-tree.) The scenery is relentless but very dramatic. It is the worlds largest area of limestone bedrock, around 200,000 square kilometres. Huge is not the word.
The next stop was Kalgoorlie, which is famous for it’s gold. We had three hours here so, to pass some time, I booked myself on a trip around the town.
We went to the Super Pit, which is Australia’s largest open cut gold mine. It is massive- 3.5 km long, 1.5 km wide and 570 metres deep. So huge it can be seen from space. The pit produces 28 tonnes of gold each year.
Arriving in Perth, the scenery changes from dramatic, relentless, open desert, to lush greenery with rivers running through the hills. I arrived in Perth early in the morning, where my hosts, Angie and Bec, were waiting for me.
Perth is the most isolated city in Australia-the next country to the west is South Africa.
After chilling out and relaxing after my mammoth train journey, we drove to the beach so I could see the Indian Ocean. In the distance a huge storm was approaching. The clouds were so black, blacker than I had ever seen. We watched it for ages and the thunder and lightning eventually passed right over us. It was spectacular, made even more so by a tornado hitting the water. Then the rain came, and I have never seen anything like it. On the drive home we couldn’t see a foot in front of us.
The next day we took a trip to Freemantle. A lovely town with the cosmopolitan feel of a big city but with a more relaxed pace. We wandered round the markets and had a look at the shops, stopping off for a drink in one of the many cafes.
Afterwards we visited a memorial on a hilltop that overlooks the whole of Perth. The memorial is located on Monument Hill and was erected during the 1920s to commemorate the losses of the First World War. Interestingly, the Fallen Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial is designed so that at dawn, 1914 is illuminated; and at sunset, 1919 is illuminated alluding to the lines in the “Ode of Remembrance”-
“At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them”.
25th April every year is ANZAC Day and on this day the shadows are perfectly aligned.
Bec and I took a trip to Rottnest Island. We caught the bus to Freemantle, and caught the ferry across to the island. We hired a bicycle each and made our way to the 9.2 inch battery site, which was used to defend Freemantle and Perth during the war. The guide told us how they used the guns, and then took us on a tour of the tunnels underground, which housed the engine room and artillery store. It was really interesting to imagine the men and women down there.
The beaches on Rottnest Island are stunning and the water is crystal clear. We cycled around enjoying amazing views from the lighthouse. There are also a few lakes on the island which, due to minerals present in the water, are a hundred times saltier than the sea.
We then made our way back to the harbour and had lunch, where we saw a friendly Quokka- a bit like a rat but it is the size of a cat. I am not joking. All in all a fabulous day out and, after a few beers, we took our tired selves home.
BOAT TRIP FROM HELL! I was invited to go on a ladies fishing trip by one of Angie’s friends, Cary, who is sadly no longer with us. He said it was on an awesome boat. He said it would be fun. The boat was far from awesome-it was a typical fishing boat, with none of the luxuries I had imagined. And it was far from fun, believe me.
Cary picked me up at 5.30am and we drove an hour or so north, to Hillarys Boat Harbour, to meet the boat. We left the harbour at 6.45am and it took about an hour and a half to get out to open sea- about 40km. Well, it was OK when the boat was moving, and I was quite enjoying myself, bit like being on a roller coaster. But when it stopped the ocean’s swell caused the boat to pitch at 90 degree angles. And the north easterly winds were making it even more rough and choppy. Trevor, the skipper, had assured us that it would get calmer. He said it would get calm!
I felt rather queasy but I managed to cast off a few times. By 10am I had to move across the other side of the boat, where I sat and tried to think of anything else but how sick I was feeling. That didn’t work. On board there was a reporter, Steve, from the Fishing WA Magazine, who was doing an article about the trip. He was also feeling a bit green. And a woman, Jackie, who was feeling the same.
Steve suddenly got up from where he was laying and puked over the side. I couldn’t help myself any longer and followed suite, closely followed by Jackie. For four hours this went on, the three of us taking it in turns to throw up. It was awful! I thought it was going to be the longest day in the world and it was!
I felt better at 1.30pm and thought I might try a bit more fishing, but after being flung about and feeling sick again, decided that I would just hang on to the boat instead. Steve didn’t even take any pictures, which he was planning on doing if someone caught a fish.
On the way back to the harbour the sea was like a millpond. Typical. And even though we had felt absolutely awful, and I didn’t catch one little fish, we managed to laugh about it on the way back. You live and learn, and to this day I have never been on a fishing trip again.
My time in Australia was over. I was quite sad to be leaving because I had an amazing time. I had travelled to a lot of different places, and I had seen loads of cool stuff. I had two fantastic months. It’s a trip I will never forget-stored in my memory bank forever. That trip was to set the scene for my life as I know it now.