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The Indian Pacific is a legendary train journey that makes its way between Sydney (the Pacific Ocean), then to Adelaide and on to Perth (the Indian Ocean) and visa versa.
There are three classes. Red class is where you sit up and have a cafe car which you can visit to buy your eats. Much more room than travelling by plane but it is a lot of hours to be sitting up or at best reclining. Gold class means cabins with beds and fine dining. While an expensive way to travel there are a number of deals which bring it back to the reach of the everyday person. Platinum class is beyond most people's reach. (About an additional $1000 dollars on top of gold class although it does include a larger cabin with a double bed, alcohol, nibbles, fine napery and so on.)
However due to the high Australian dollar there is a demise in overseas visitors taking this great rail journey so look out for a number of special offers. Ours was buy one get one free in gold class while other deals offer free accommodation at the other end and free return airfares.
There are a few things to note. Firstly the cabins are tiny but incredibly innovative and compact. In the doubles there are two bunk beds which turn down during the day into a most comfortable little lounge. You get your own tiny ensuite bathroom. The hand held shower is right over the toilet and don't ask me how it works but it works beautifully and the water pressure is excellent.
Some people never make it out of their cabins even eating meals in seclusion.
Although there is a spacious lounge car with a bar and comfortable seating where you can arrange yourself and your newspapers, magazines and books during the day. One traveller set out a jigsaw and passing passengers would fill in a likely piece when they walked by.
The whole journey is based on personalised service. Polite little knocks on the doors and the person looking after your carriage shows you how everything works and talks about your dietary requirements. The handpicked staff are all incredibly friendly, some are knowledgeable train buffs as well as being able to tell you stories of early explorers and the characters that once lived along the line. It is these stories that help make this journey come alive.
The food is a feature of this trip. Rollicking along the countryside you are treated to wonderful meals many with an Australian accent as the market has usually been overseas tourists in the past. Items like melon with bush berries, barramundi, Australian lamb, tiny little delicate pavlovas, apple tartlets with bush honey and so on. But you do get to walk it if you wish as a journey down the passageways in the train in our instance was 1.2km and you never know who you might squeeze past along the way.
The lounge and dining cars are plush - very Murder on the Orient Express type lavish decor.
I took my teenager. Probably a mistake but something he may look back on in the future with some good memories.
He probably brought the average age of the other passengers down by about 60 years.
Because this is a gentle and luxurious way to travel it tends to suit older travellers. When he asked me why everyone was so old I said it was because they had the money and time to travel."
He said "No they have less time Mum."
I guess there is some logic in there somewhere.
This type of travel takes you back to the era prior to technology. Mobiles don't work in the middle of the desert and there is no Internet.
Not the best trip for teenagers unless they are heavily into trains
Meeting people on a train is quite easy. People mingle because they are sharing the same space and the same experience.
There is a get-together in the beginning to toast the trip. Shared booth seating at the extravagant dinners and a bar help tickle the tongue into action.
Plus passing anyone in the corridors is so close it almost counts as carnal knowledge.
There are also additional whistle stop tours. One in Kalgoolie takes you by bus to the open pit mine where you look down on huge tonka style trucks which because of the size of the mine look like toys. The tour also takes you past the brothels in infamous Hay Street and some of the buildings where crimes were committed. The lust for gold seems to have bred greed, murder and revenge and some great folklore.
The scenery across the Nullabor is endlessly flat but mesmerisingly beautiful. At dusk it is a soft lilac moss colour. No trees, no grass. You can go for hours without seeing anything of note and then suddenly see a willy willy twirls in the backdrop or a wedge tailed eagle swooping to attack a rabbit kitten.
I had a particular reason for doing this trip. My mother drove across the Nullabor in the 1950s when it was little more than a dirt track and I wanted to see what she went through. All I can say is she was one brave dame.
Initially it is hard to sleep on the moving train but the beds are incredibly comfortable and the lulling motion finally rocks you to sleep as if you were a baby in a womb.
The journey we took from Adelaide to Perth took two nights. There was no coverage for the Internet or mobile phones. We just had to relax.
This is one of the world's great journeys. It is worth taking the time to make this crossing whether you are short on time or have all the time in the world. It is a great chance to stop, take stock, unwind and set yourself aside from the grasp of technology at least for a short span in your life.
My mother was one brave dame tackling this in the 50s
Thank you for this article, Nadine. I did this trip with my parents (from Perth to Sydney) as a six year old - I'm now 39 - and I can tell you that to this day, it still remains a highlight of my life and an experience I am very keen to repeat. I clearly remember eating beautiful meals in the dining car and feeling like a little adult! The scenery crossing the Nullarbor was indeed fascinating (even for a six year old!) and I remember waking in the middle of the night as the train slowed down, peering out of the window with curiosity, as the train pulled in to some tiny, remote station for a brief stop. It really is an adventure and worth every cent.