In my early career as a travel writer, I soon discovered that the world of literary adventures was lacking in truth about the indigenous areas of the globe, and also, there were hungry minds out there that wanted to know about the Native peoples of our world. I decided to make it my goal to venture into areas that would be more appealing to Lonely Planet books as my publisher, instead of the comfortable Conde’ Nast cocktails’-by-the-pool writing life. So I bought a tent, backpack, and Bluet eight ounce gas burner, and entered the world of hosteling, walking or riding my bicycle throughout areas in the Southern Hemisphere.
Although I traveled alone, I was never without a welcoming face or friendly smile to keep me company. This held even more true when I rode the Indian Pacific Rail across Australia’s Nullabor Plain, between Sydney and Perth. It was published in Women’s World and interestingly enough, when my home burned down, this article, and the magazine, survived the blaze.
The journey in this article was the beginning of many weeks traveling on foot, and living with the Aboriginal peoples of Australia, a memory that stays as perennial as Australia’s never-ending red horizon; but that’s another story.
©WESTBOUND ON THE INDIAN PACIFIC
by, Juanita Priest
There is no better way to absorb Australia’s vast frontier than to travel by rail. For seventy-five hours, the Indian Pacific’s bright green and yellow engine pulls a medley of shiny silver coaches racing across more than a thousand kilometers of outback wilderness.
Reserve bookings before leaving your country of origin or from the train station in Sydney; an old stone building built beneath a lofty clock tower where international flags hang from a braided wood ceiling and contrasting bright orange benches accommodate travelers from all over the world.
Different styles of travel on the Indian Pacific start with First Class private en-suite sleeping accommodations. All meals and use of the dining car and lounge/bar car is included in the fare.
Next is Holiday Class which offers smaller twin sleeping berths. Meals are not included but use of the dining and lounge cars is available.
My budget called for Coach Class that provides the comfort of blue and silver brocaded seats reclining to a comfortable angle. Wide picturesque windows frame the colorful views of early dawn and fiery sunsets.
Toilets and showers are located at the end of each coach and clean towels are kept abundant by friendly train conductors.
The Australian rail service takes the initiative to reserve all single coach class booking two seats, if availability allows. In other words, unless otherwise requested, it is customary for a lone passenger to have an empty seat next to him or her.
The lounge cars and dining cars are not available to people who travel Coach Class. Instead, a small snack bar provides hot meals, sandwiches, alcohol and fruit to take back to our assigned seats.
Coach Class does offer the opportunity to meet and make friends with the citizens of Australia. There is nothing more relaxing than the eternal song of the rail, while sharing travel stories with new friends who will stay in your memory for a lifetime.
During this adventure, which spans from the Pacific to the Indian Oceans, across the vast and empty Nullabor Plain, an array of Australian wildlife comes into view. In the four days of travel, I counted seventy-two kangaroos, forty-two emus, and two yellow dingos that raced with the train, while the Indian Pacific’s symbolic Wedgetailed eagle sat atop red cliffs, in awe of the silver serpent that sped across his homeland.
The first day we crossed the blue mountains and journeyed through the outback of New South Wales. At dusk we were greeted by the nocturnal kangaroo, bounding across the horizon.
The second day we stopped in the historic mining town of Broken Hill to pick up passengers who were spending their holiday at Broken Hill’s small casino.
The coastline came into view north of Adelaide, the capital of South Australia. We said goodbye to the ocean blue waters upon arriving at out next stop, Port Augusta, the gateway to the famous “Long Straight,” 478 Kilometers of undeviating desert-track.
Rich gold fields of Western Australia and the mining community of Kalgoorlie greeted the Indian Pacific on the night of the third day. For a few dollars, a tour bus will take you on a memorable journey through the town. It is a chance to learn about Western Australia’s mining business and the colorful population that has survived this near waterless desert.
The journey ended in Perth, the capital of Western Australia, which sits along the Swan River.
As I left the train, I watched my new friends go their separate ways. Some were greeted by loved ones, while other hurriedly claimed waiting taxis.
I looked back at the Indian Pacific and thought of a line from a poem by Edwin Markham;
“Gone is the city, gone the day, yet still the story and the meaning stay.”
Myself, and a wee passenger named Amy. Amy was traveling with her dad, Ian, a single parent. A lot of us girls took turns bathing, feeding and keeping this little Angel happy. She had a beautiful smile and hardly complained at all. Later I found out that the giant diaper bag Ian carried was stuffed with marijuana. This photo was taken when we stopped at Kalgoorlie. The little white building you see behind me is one of the prostitution huts. Prostitution is legal in Kalgoorlie, and holds true for a lot of mining towns, overseas, and in America.