One month in Oz – 4. Boarding the Indian Pacific

Post 4 of a series detailing our Australian adventure. Access the full series here.

I had never seen a train so massive. Stood on the platform of East Perth Terminal with our hand luggage (cabin luggage already checked in) the Indian Pacific train stretched out half a kilometre ahead of us.

To get to our seats we had to walk past the Platinum Class carriage and many Gold Class carriages until we reached the Red Class carriage – otherwise known as ‘scum class’! The main difference is that while the higher classes have cabins with beds, we would be living and sleeping in our seats for the entire three-night journey. Instead of their swanky separate lounge, bar and restaurant, we had a single cafeteria called ‘Matilda Cafe’ that had pea-green, 1970s-style decor. But considering that the next step up would have cost us at least an extra $1,000, we were more than happy with our lot.

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Our seats were large and comfortable, and we spent a good few minutes excitedly testing out our new living space: reclining the seats, winding the blinds open and best of all, discovering the fold-out tables hidden in our arm rests. There were loads of free seats in the carriage, so we felt free to do as we pleased. When the train started moving, we discovered Indian Pacific Radio: information and old stories about the areas we were passing through; country and western songs from at least 50 years ago; interviews with experts on Australian flora and fauna: even readings from Australia-related literature. I thought it was brilliant.

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At lunchtime we visited the cafe for the first time, ordering some nachos. For dinner we went back and had hot chicken pie and beef casserole, both really nice. Between those events we did very little, except take photos of the passing scenery through the window: from sunlit forests, to a dramatic sunset, to salt mounds at dusk.

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Kalgoorlie

Our final bit of excitement was when the train stopped at Kalgoorlie, at around 10pm. We were anticipating finding at least a pub to have a nightcap in, but emerged from the station to nothing but darkness and silence. Except our few fellow passengers, there wasn’t a soul to be seen. It was really quite eerie – especially when we walked past a house with its porch wound with police tape! We began walking tentatively down the street away from the station, passing old-fashioned buildings, hoping to find something open – but found everything shut. Eventually we gave up and headed back to the station, stopping on the way to look at the brightly lit war memorial.

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Back on the train, now completely dark, we fumbled around to find our seats and then our toothbrushes. After cleaning my teeth in the continuously wobbling bathroom, I was back in my seat trying to arrange my pillow (taken from the flight into Perth, thank you Etihad), blankets and even my bag into the most comfortable configuration: I found that I needed my bag to prop up my feet. With my eyemask on, my earplugs in and my head reasonably balanced, I eventually drifted off to sleep.

All text and photos (c) Juliet Langton, 2014. All rights reserved.

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