Review: The Indian Pacific Railway

 

I have traveled the world and been in awe at it’s many wonders. I’ve participated in hundreds of tours, wild adventures and every type of excursion imaginable, but there was one trip I will never forget. My staff and I flew into Perth, Australia on the 28th of June 2002. We had just finished a three month tour of the Hawaiian Islands and the inspiring mystical land of New Zealand and had no preconceived concept of what we were to discover in this huge land down under! We rented a compact car and commenced driving around the metropolitan city of several million. Perth is known as the most isolated city in the world, but even so, it is a beautiful city of diversity.

I am an adventurous man and never do anything the easy way, so it was this day. We had arranged lounging at a hotel sitting on the river in the heart of the city. It was almost dark, but I was in no hurry to retire the day. There was much to see and do and we wanted to do as much as possible this day and everyday as we only had three to spend in Perth. We had a fairly tight schedule and was to embark on a journey across Australia on a train, not just any train, but The Indian Pacific…a fantasy train. Our long journey on the train was to begin the first of July and would take us 4352 kilometers across the great continent to Sydney. The Indian Pacific just doesn’t take you to your destination, it transports you back in time. Back to when trains were luxurious, comfortable, catering and extremely romantic. The quality and decor of the train was reminiscent of the roaring twenties, the turn of the century…the area when people fell in love with trains. Our immediate feeling was that this was going to be the train ride of our lives. The three days spent exploring Perth and the beautiful coast went quickly.

We picked up our prearranged tickets and boarded the train early morning on the 1st of July. We unloaded our gear in our assigned private cars and were pleasantly surprised as to their size. Each of our cabins had two bunk beds, a small table, large viewing window, a storage area, a toilet and a separate shower. Gathering the crew, we ventured out to explore this silver giant and each going our separate ways, I strolled down the hall and ebbed my way into the adjoining cars. There was a smoking car, next to the lounge, where a man could sit in style and fire up a good cigar without a bother. The lounge and bar car were elegant, but comfortable. With their fully stocked lounge a man could spend hours savoring every drink imaginable. The interior of the train was polished, rich in velvet and brass. Being self contained it left nothing to desire.

It wasn’t long before lunch and our first meal was not surprisingly fit for royalty. Every detail was prepared exactly as we ordered it and nothing was overlooked. Our adventure was just underway and it was getting better with each passing hour!

Our host on the train was a small framed man with quite a large character. His name was Jos and noticeably he was a man born to ride the rails. Tall with flame red hair and with his long twisted mustache and solid glint in his eyes…he definitely was not easy to forget. A joyous and humorous man with a totally carefree style. He waited the tables at meal time, took care of his many other tasks and entertained the people with his wit and laughter. When he did take a break from his duties he was more than pleased to show us around the train. After a short tour, we stopped in between two front cars and had a little more quieter chat. As we listened, he described in great detail the land, it’s heritage and this train that he loved. He slid open the window in the door so we could have a less obstructed view for photo’s, as we watched for kangaroos. The photo opportunities were plentiful in this wild land as it unfolded itself… mile after mile. As Jos continued his chat, he explained how he had fallen in love with the rails as a young boy and retained his love of working the rails, making friends and instilling lasting memories…and for instilling memories, he did that quite well, I assure you!

We were served three glorious meals a day, each slightly better that the last. Their menu was flowing with wine, liquors, appetizers, breads, various entrees of meat, vegetarian dishes and climaxed with savory deserts. We tried it all…fresh fish, deer, lamb, that melted in your mouth, specially prepared kangaroo, bathed in a delicious sauce, calamari (squid) and cuts of beef that even a Texas man could savor.

After dinner, on our first day, we played some card games in the lounge and held on to the day for as long as we could, but eventually headed to our cabins. The gentle swaying of the train and a spacious bunk were all we needed for a night of rejuvenation. The next morning, after a great breakfast, we stopped in the desert town of Cook. It was a small abandoned ghost town that at one time housed rail workers and their families. The workers and their families were a long time gone and the wind and desert reclaimed their humble dwellings. As the gentle wind blew circles of sand and scattered brush into the air it took me back to my childhood in the Texas panhandle. That’s what life’s supposed to do, while going forward, it should take you back to those cherished and far away memories. We spent an hour wandering in and around the silent buildings and the vibrations from those that had walked and lived here many years ago were quite strong. Life takes many turns, but it remains good to those of us that aren’t afraid to live their dreams and we were surely living ours at this moment. After an hour the cry of the train whistle shattered our time travel as we gladly sought the shade and comfort of this silver snake in the desert…the Indian Pacific.

The trip lasted five days and we were disappointed when our journey across this fascinating land was over…but then again…Sydney lay just outside our window. The trip itself gave us lasting memories and we were fortunate enough to have enjoyed long, warm conversations with the staff and interesting travelers that we met along the way. Sharing of tales, & hearty laughter, with more than a few interesting card games played in the lounge during those five days of adventure…it was definitely a great adventure. I have seldom felt as comfortable with life as I did in those five days aboard the The Indian Pacific…in the land of…Down Under.

Riding The Indian Pacific Railway was unforgettable to say the least, and to say more, it refreshed my soul and strengthened my love for my adventurous life. I highly recommend taking the trip of a lifetime and enjoying the comradery of the gentle people that work the rails. They keep the epic memories alive by sharing them with their passengers. The train travels across Australia, leaving from many southern cities. From Sydney to Perth. Perth to Sydney or to the awe inspiring Ayers Rock…the giant glory red rock of the barren desert of the north. You can board one of their trains anywhere along their routes…and for the sake of your adventurous spirit…hop aboard!

Visit their website at www.greatsouthernrail.com.au

The Indian Pacific Railway cuts a path across the great Australian outback and connects Perth with Sydney.

The Indian Pacific Railway cuts a path across the great Australian outback and connects Perth with Sydney.

 

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Michael Smith was the touring editor for Traveler’s Digest. His journeys took him across the world and on a series of unforgettable adventures!