Travelling the Indian Pacific
Online editor Carolyn Barry reports back as she travels across the nation on the Indian Pacific.
IT’S NOT SO MUCH a gentle rocking, but more of a shaky rumble aboard the Indian Pacific, one of Australia’s iconic train trips. The whirring, squeaking and occasional horn blowing are constant reminders that you’re on a train, but the comfy cabins and spacious lounge make travelling quite pleasant, even if it is a challenge at times to walk in a straight line. There is still a romantic notion to crossing the continent on a train.
Part of Great Southern Rail – which also manages the Ghan and Spirit of Australia train routes – the Indian Pacific this year celebrates its 40th anniversary. It boasts the longest stretch of straight rail tracks in the world – 478 km across the desolate Nullarbor – on its 4352-km journey from Sydney (the Pacific Ocean) to Perth (the Indian Ocean).
The trip takes three days and three nights, with whistlestop tours in Broken Hill, Adelaide, Cook, and Kalgoorlie. Each year about 70,000 people make the journey.
Indian Pacific host gives passengers the run-down about the train in the lounge
The train departs from Sydney’s Central Station. I must admit, I was expecting a much grander platform for such a grand journey – it seems worthy of a gilded gateway or something similar. This trip is a ‘double’, which means the train is too long to fit on a single Sydney platform, so the train was split in two at the station. A short distance out, we stopped for the carriages to be joined, making the final length about 800 m. The train then wound its way through the beautiful Blue Mountains and across the Great Dividing Range to the first brief stop in Broken Hill. From here on out, it’s mostly desert, albeit quite green with all the rain this season.
There are three levels of travel aboard the Indian Pacific: economy, gold and platinum (though the platinum cars are not always connected, as is the case this trip). Economy has open seating, and gold cabins are split into twins and singles. The twin room, which I’m inhabiting, is cosy for two people, but plenty of room for one. There’s a lower bed and a bunk bed, and a closet-sized toilet/shower/basin. The bathroom is quite ingeniously designed, with the toilet bowl folding down for use (you are advised to lift the bowl back up slowly afterwards!) and a fold-down sink. There’s a vanity with power points and some small cupboards too. It’s really all quite compact.
Inside a gold twin cabin. The seat turns into a bed.
You also certainly make new friends quite quickly. With such close quarters and narrow passageways, you’re always stopping to chat to people and waiting for people to pass, or holding them up until you pass.
Every so often, announcements are made over the loud speaker to let passengers know when a meal is being served or when significant points of interest are coming up – such as the next town or salt lakes, etc.
It’s a great way to see these parts of Australia. To sit back with your feet up and gaze out at the countryside – not to mention spotting wildlife such as mobs of kangaroos, emus and galahs – is certainly an experience worth having.
Sunrise just on the way to Broken Hill