Just like that, our five weeks driving came to an end.
We had seen so much of this beautiful, vast country, crossing 4 state lines and 4 time zones, stopping at near private beaches and lakes, pausing to climb ancient trees, and playing wildlife spotters in the desert.
I often think that the best part of a trip or a journey is coming home, and certainly no trip is complete until you’re home, back to your point of origin. For us, driving home was not an option (no more driving! please!), and flying home whilst very practical seemed like an anti-climax after all our adventures.
The solution: rail!
Mez and I have always loved train travel, and together we’ve ‘trained’ through Japan, France, Italy…in fact, the first time we met was as a result of my travelling from Melbourne to Sydney on the interstate express. There is something so romantic about train travel; time slows down somehow, you can walk about, share a meal, watch the world go by.
The journey from Perth East takes 3 and a bit days, and 3 nights, though magically once on board, time has an elastic quality. I was content to stare at the ever changing scenery for hours on end, never losing interest. There was so much to see, I didn’t want to miss out on any of it; kangaroos, wedge tail eagles & their gigantic nests, camels, emus, grass tree forests, a million rabbits, an airstrip, abandoned towns…endless ochre earth.
Phone reception is limited, and with no internet or tv, it’s a media black out, instead I read a book. The gentle rocking of the train is very soothing, and with nothing to concern myself with, I feel the most relaxed I have felt in a long time!
We have two cabins, side by side, and it’s decided that we will time share the kids. They can come and go between cabins as they please, and it seems that all the younger families have been allocated cabins in this car, so there is a fun vibe, and little chance of disturbing our neighbours.
The cabins are beautiful. They are vintage, without being old…they have a sense of old fashioned glamour about them. It’s easy to imagine early travellers on this same journey, though theirs taking 75 plus hours and requiring more than 4 changes of train! I can’t enough of all the details, all the wood finishes! For a moment, I am living in my own Wes Anderson ‘Darjeeling Limited’ fantasy! I have anticipated this old fashioned travel vibe, and have packed nice clothes to wear at meals times…I miss those days of dressing up to travel!
At dinner time, the banquette is flipped and transformed into a perfectly turned down bunk, with another popping out above, and in the morning when we return from breakfast, the transformation is reversed, and bunks disappear, and the banquette returns.
Meals and beverages are included in the fare, as well as a complement of Australian wines, and basic spirits. The food is excellent. 3 courses at lunch and dinner, showcasing the best local produce, and every effort made to impress junior diners too. We have a dessert at each sitting, as well as cheese, because it would be rude not to! The highlight at meal times (aside from the actual meal) is dining in the Queen Adelaide Restaurant cart, with all its curlicues and ornate details, all of us piling into a booth and enjoying a changed perspective of the passing landscape.
There are four included whistle stop tours; Kalgoorlie open cut super pit gold mine (sadly cancelled due to delayed departure in Perth), a self walk tour of Cook (a near abandoned desert township), Adelaide (We went straight to the Central Markets!) and Broken Hill. The Broken Hill stop is particularly special for our family; we excuse ourselves from the scheduled tours (Desert Art or Mining History) and head to Mez’s mums childhood home… There are no longer any family members living there, but it’s a poignant moment nonetheless.
This experience really is bucket list worthy, and now that I’ve done west to east, I’m thinking of getting onboard The Ghan, starting in Adelaide and heading north to Darwin, or the other way round.
Uniquely Australian, no doubt about it.
We travelled courtesy of Great Southern Rail