Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Perhaps the coolest thing I've ever done...

Just got off the Indian-Pacific train from Perth to Adelaide, and it was sensational. I splashed the cash and booked a Gold Service sleeper, which made for two incredibly comfortable days. (See http://www.gsr.com.au/our-trains/indian-pacific/gold-service.php for the pictures.) There was a diner that looked like something out of Agatha Christie - all it needed was Hercule Poirot telling us whodunit - and a lounge for when the comfort of your own cabin all got too much. And the food! Oh, the food! And all while the scenery of the Nullabor Desert flashed by the windows - surreal and very beautiful.

There was even some touristy stuff along the way - on Sunday night we went on a coach tour of Kalgoorlie, site of the biggest gold find in the world and still very much operational as a mining concern. The driver gave waggish commentary throughout (particularly on the "skimpies" phenomenon: some years back an enterprising businessman sought to boost trade by having his barmaids serve topless, until the health and safety put a stop to it; he then got them to wrap up in Clingfilm, and then someone stopped that too; nowadays they get their jugs out (to receive the tips for getting their jugs out) for only a few hours each week, so the tradition is watered down a bit, but they're all very proud of it, and of their brothels, which do daytime tours apparently!). We also visited the Superpit itself, with the giant trucks looking like Tinker toys in this vast, vast hole in the ground - like some James Bond villain's plan to take over the Earth's core.

There was also a stop at Cook, a ghost town in the Nullabor that used to have a hospital, school and the works, till the railway closed it as a stopping post and now only five people live there, amid gradually rusting, deserted trucks and buildings, to keep the place open as a watering hole for long-distance trains. Most poigant, for some reason, was the basketball court - such an odd thing to have in the desert, with no one to play on it anymore.

And now I'm in Adelaide: Kangaroo Island, wine valleys, koalas, beaches and botanical gardens to come...

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