Justine Tyerman indulges in fantasy on her epic train voyage across Australia.
Somewhere in the Aussie Outback between Perth and Sydney, I began to fantasize about the romance of a wedding on a train … and the photo opportunities.
White dress, terracotta landscape, sunset on the Nullarbor Plain, the sleek silver Indian Pacific in the background with the wedge-tail eagle emblazoned on the carriages. The wedge-tail is Australia’s largest bird of prey, and its 2.3m-wide wing span symbolises the four-day, three-night 4352km train journey that spans the continent from Perth on the Indian Ocean to Sydney on the Pacific Ocean.
With our daughter’s wedding and a few milestone birthdays and anniversaries on the horizon, I decided it would be a splendid way to celebrate a significant event.
Gather together a group of friends and family, take over an entire train carriage or two and have a party on rails, with gourmet food and drinks, luxurious accommodation, superb service, and fine entertainment, all provided. Not to mention thrilling off-train excursions, and the dramatic, ever-changing Australian landscape from the windows of your cabin or lounge.
Fantasies aside, the Indian Pacific is the ultimate in old-fashioned romantic travel. The whole experience is leisurely, luxurious and indulgent from the check-in process at Perth train station where we were welcomed with a lavish morning tea and live entertainment, to the relaxed, congenial atmosphere in the lounge and bar, the magnificent meals in the elegant restaurant, and the comfort of one’s own private cabin.
The absence of pressure, decisions and deadlines took a while to adjust to but after a few hours, I slipped into daydream mode without a care in the world, beyond what to order from the mouth-watering menu and which of barman Brendan’s inspired cocktails to try next.
There was no WiFi on the train so I eventually switched off. The techno-detox was highly therapeutic, deeply relaxing and restorative. It also resulted in carriages full of people engaged in quaint, old-fashioned behaviour – conversing, reading novels, playing cards and board games. The convivial atmosphere was conducive to making new friends and stimulating discussions on all manner of topics.
In the evenings, guitarist Mattie strummed well-known tunes that transcended all age and national boundaries. We sang and danced in the aisles. There was a touch of magic in the air, especially just on sunset when the red landscape glowed, casting a warm radiance on faces young and old.
Even the pace was leisurely, a sedate 85km/h, reminiscent of an era when getting to one’s destination was part of the excitement, an experience to be savoured and enjoyed, rather than endured.
The 65-hour trip was broken by excellent excursions – a tour of the Super Pit gold mine in Kalgoorlie-Boulder on the western fringe of the Nullarbor; a sunrise breakfast at the Outback settlement of Rawlinna; a refuelling stop at the ghost town of Cook on the Nullarbor; breakfast at the Oval in Adelaide, Australia’s capital of festivals and the arts; art galleries and a live drag queen show at Broken Hill, Australia’s oldest mining city and film set of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert; and hiking in the magnificent Blue Mountains, a UNESCO World Heritage area.
A considerable amount of time was also spent eating … in grand style, with starched white tablecloths and fine silverware and china. The cuisine was sublime with three or four choices at each of the three or four courses.
Between times, I spent hours gazing out my cabin window, entranced by the colours and textures of Australia as we traversed the continent from west to east, crossing three states and time zones.
I never tired of the landscape – the green Avon Valley near Perth, the golden Western Australian wheat lands, the immense, flat, treeless Nullarbor, the strange rock formations of the South Australian desert, and the sandstone escarpments, cliffs and waterfalls of the Blue Mountains. And the sunrises and sunsets in the desert were mesmerising.
Justine Tyerman was a guest of Rail Europe and Great Southern Rail.
The Indian Pacific is a four-day, three-night 4,352km, 65-hour journey from Sydney on the Pacific Ocean to Perth on the Indian Ocean and vice versa operated twice a week by Great Southern Rail; it’s one of many great train journeys offered by Rail Europe.
Rail Europe is the leading international distributor of European rail products and the world’s great train journeys. Visit Great Train Journeys by Rail Europe for more information on the Indian Pacific and other epic train adventures around the world – Europe, the UK, Asia, North America, Australia and New Zealand, or call 09 377 5415.