Monday, 28 March 2011

Perth to Adelaide on the Indian Pacific

Wednesday 9 March: One of the world's greatest railway trips, this three-day trans-continental journey across the vast Nullarbor Plain bisects this great expanse of Australian landscape. Taking my seat in India Pacific's (81st mode of transport) Red economy-class we depart promptly at 11:30am, the arable farmland turning quickly into sheep country which in turn gives way to a glorious landscape of strange twisted trees and shrubs - we are now in the outback. As dusk falls I realise I've been in Australia for eight day and still haven't seen a kangaroo - where are they all hiding? At 9:30 we arrive in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia's main gold-mining centre and, as we are stopping here for a couple of hours, I opt for Indian Pacific's 'whistlestop' tour of the area. I've been told it is also known as 'Kalgoorlie Brothel Tour', something the brochure fails to mention, we'll see. The gold rush started here in 1893, but today the picks and shovels of old have been replaced by giant Caterpillar haul-trucks and a 'Super-pit' open cast gold mine, a massive hole in the ground that cuts through many of the old pick and shovel workings and tunnels. Incredibly, all the town's drinking water is piped here from Perth but for those who prefer something stronger there are thirty hotels, three-hundred bars, most with 'skimpy barmaids', and three brightly-lit licenced bordellos where you can take a one-hour brothel tour for AU$30 (about 20 GBP). More intimate time in the company of a little lady of the night starts at ten times this figure, plus 'extras' (the mind boggles).
Thursday 10: Low scrub as far as the eye can see all morning is replaced by low trees and bushes all afternoon. At midday we stop for a two-hour break at the deserted township if Cook which now has only three inhabitants solely there to service the needs of, the mostly freight, locomotives. Unusually, in Australia, freight traffic takes priority over passenger trains which explains the extended, but timetabled, halts.
Photos, Perth to Adelaide on the Indian Pacific.

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