When learning about the seven continents during social studies class, the fact that Australia was the only continent that was also an entire country was drilled into us.
But I forgot about that until I boarded the Indian Pacific and learned that the train was considered transcontinental.
I crossed an entire continent by rail. That was pretty cool.
The journey began on a Wednesday at Sydney’s Central Railway Station.
To my surprise, Platforms 2 and 3 held a welcome party for the guests of the Indian Pacific, complete with hor d’ouevres so small I finished them in one bite and nonalcoholic drinks (alcoholic drinks could only be served on the train and not in the railway station). A singer entertained the group. He also would travel with us and play in the lounge cars and the Outback.
As I waited to board the train, I walked to the end of the platform to see the rails and the cars. Each one was finely decorated with the emblem of the Indian Pacific.
There were cars with multi-person cabins and cars with single person cabins. Once inside, I made my way through the twists and turns of the singles car hallway to the end and Cabin 15.
During the day, the cabin contained two seats.
At night, a staff member pulled down a bed from the wall, and I was rocked to sleep by the rhythm of the train and clack of the wheels against the tracks.
I even had my own sink and received my own slippers.
The train was more than 20 cars long with around 160 passengers. For every three or four cars, there was one dining room and lounge car. Our lounge was called the Outback Explorer Lounge.
As we traveled, we stopped for a few off-train tours of Australian towns and historical sites. The first one was a stop around 6 a.m. Thursday in Broken Hill, known for its mining history. I could choose from two tours: the art gallery or the miner’s memorial.
I had seen several art galleries in New Zealand and wanted to do something different, so I chose the miner’s memorial tour.
We first visited the trades hall, a beautiful building from the early 1900s. To enter, we showed the mock union badges given to us by a mock union member. Then, we participated in a “union meeting” where the members needed to decide whether or not to continue striking in an attempt to achieve fair working conditions.
The leaders of the union were persuasive people, and we voted to continue the strike.
Then, we traveled to the miner’s memorial. On a clear day, one can watch the sun rise from the top of the hill and see for miles. Unfortunately, it was foggy on the morning we visited.
Then we returned to the train, where a woman was selling handmade chocolates.
We continued to Adelaide. There were several tours to choose from in this area, including a winery, a cheese factory and the Adelaide museum. I toured a farm shop and a chocolate shop in a German settlement outside of Adelaide.
That night, we ate at a German restaurant. I had my own tea pot.
The evening’s highlight was the entertainment from performers in traditional German dress who played the bells and danced.
Every meal on the train was unreal. This was my Friday morning breakfast as we crossed the Outback. The flowers were edible. And I ate them. (I included a lot of cream on my fork when I did.) They tasted very flowery.
One of our Outback stops was Cook, with a population of four. It wasn’t always that way: the town once had a working hospital and several schoolchildren.
While there, I walked the length of the train, which was sitting on a piece of the longest straight stretch of railroad track in the world, an engineering marvel that can be viewed from outer space.
Here’s a view of the scenery as seen from my cozy cabin while crossing the Nullarbor Plain. I would just sit and watch it go by, occasionally falling asleep, wrapped up in my blanket. I wrote a lot and took pictures and just watched the world go by.
Friday night, we had a party in Rawlinna.
The musician played. We hung out together around bonfires and sang.
The next morning, the final day of train travel, I was eating breakfast and chatting with a couple of fellow travelers when I glanced out the window, saw a paved road and said, “Whoa!” After so much time in the Outback, crisscrossed with red dirt roads, it was startling to see the black tar, a sign of civilization.
A few hours later, we rolled into Perth. It was the end of the line for us (literally, not figuratively). I stayed in Perth for a couple of days, then headed south.