Poetry Month, April 2018: Indian Pacific Railway, Sydney to Perth, Personal Experience; The Ghan, Adelaide to Darwin
Indian Pacific & its EmblemClick thumbnail to view full-size
Indian Pacific Railway
This journey was on my bucket list. A long silver-snake of a train trundles across the Nullarbor Plain (Nullarbor is from the Latin, meaning 'no trees') from Sydney in the East, New South Wales, to Perth in Western Australia, via Adelaide in South Australia. The landscape is varied, the accommodation is basic but comfortable and the food is tasty, supplemented by good wine or alternatives of choice.
The train does not travel at speed except, I think, travelling through several sections at night. Therefore we had plenty of time to enjoy the scenery, watch for wildlife and make a few friends as we rolled along.
It lived up to my expectations so without further ado I’ll break into verse.
Indian Pacific - Poem
Train across the Nullarbor, Sydney to Perth, over four days,
thirty-eight carriages, sleek silver, slithering over well-oiled rails.
Cabins fill, we settle in, excited at forthcoming journey,
cases unpacked, bunk-beds pre-arranged, ready to sleep ‘fore morning early.
What’s in store, will all this live up to exaggerated expectations?
Lumbering rhythm in the night lulled us as we passed bush stations,
all being used to the weekly sight
of silver train cutting through the night.
Sydney past, Blue Mountains seen, sortie to Broken Hill,
isolated, hot semi-desert, silver ore mined there still.
Silver City with park and gardens, Solar Plant from long daylight,
Living Desert Sculptures and fine buildings visitors’ delight.
This ‘Oasis of the West’ is left behind in all its splendour,
as thirty-eight silver carriages follow powerful engine’s fender.
Good food, evening drinks abound,
then dream-inspired slumber found.
Adelaide with Barossa Valley, wines a-flowing, lush rolled hills,
pretty city, Victorian style, university buildings fill
minds with culture, art and knowledge, impressing all who enter there.
Trams and pelicans, beach, memorials of those who fought to keep it fair.
Back to station near the park, ready for our supper tasty,
drinks and desserts all part of the score, no need to be hasty.
Off to bed once more to dream
as rhythm’s lullaby sets the scene.
Adelaide Arcade & PelicansClick thumbnail to view full-size
Poem - Part 2
Midnight wakes us, lights on horizon mystify as houses lack,
lines of white and coloured flares meet our gaze and signal back.
What could this strange alien area be? It’s flat, big sky and clear,
deep darkness that could fill mere humans’ minds with mortal fear.
Woomera Range, way out in the Bush, wrapped in secret darkness,
military and civil aerospace, RAAF’s large complex;
fall to sleep, with dreams of space
full of faces from another race.
Past terrain flat, some scrub, kangaroos, gentle pace, no rush, Bush time,
orange dust as artist’s backdrop, dark green trees, some small inclines,
cameras click to capture scenes of vast blue sky, o’er dusty unexpected tracks
or bumpy air-strips next to rail for receiving supplies or loading packs
to send each one to is destination, far-flung stations where visits are few,
where work is hard, the day is long, water is scarce and none pass through.
We stop half-way, for fuel, to look
at this old outpost, name of Cook.
That night we stopped at the largest sheep-station, benches out for supper fare,
constellations as our canopy, clearest sky, pollution spared,
talked of how the stars were different to us of northern hemisphere,
trying to be clever, seeking out the shapes, over wine and juice and beer.
Tomorrow we’d be nearing Perth, once more entering a world we knew,
leaving wondrous lands and scenery, back to civilisation, we few.
How many of us wanted to stay
in this trance of magical days?
We passed Kalgoorlie in the night, a place where return journey stopped,
to see the mines in broad daylight, but for us, was time to drop
into the final wheel-driven sleep before our lives once more were thrown
back into towns with cars and buses, people jostling, back to our own
problems, working out our itinerary, how to get to the next safe haven
see more loved ones, those long-missed, presents taken, kisses given,
then to think of home once more,
arriving safely at our door.
Nullarbor Terrain & AirstripClick thumbnail to view full-size
Cook - Half Way Halt for FuellingClick thumbnail to view full-size
More about the Indian Pacific
The Indian Pacific is a transcontinental passenger rail which started operation in 1970, currently operated by Great Southern Rail.
Its route is from Sydney Central to East Perth Terminal, travelling 4.352 km and taking an average of 70.5-75 hours.
The carriages are stainless steel and its operating speed is 115 km/h.
It has a plush lounge with bar and a compact dining carriage.
Route of Indian Pacific (& Lounge)Click thumbnail to view full-size
A sister to the Indian Pacific is the Ghan, also a transcontinental passenger rail operated by Great Southern Rail. It takes you deep into the heart of Australia, from Adelaide Parklands Terminal to Darwin Railway Station, or vice versa, over three nights and four days via Katherine and Alice Springs, a journey of 2,979 km. There are excursions to Katherine, Alice Springs and Coober Pedy. Its first passenger journey was in 1929.
The Ghan’s symbol is a camel and its handler. This is in recognition of the pioneering Afghan ‘cameleers’. Camels were let loose in the desert when no longer needed for transport and heavy work in the outback and are now feral.
Maybe one day I'll manage a trip on this one but for now it's another dream.
Map of Route & The Ghan at Alice SpringsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Have you ridden the Indian Pacific or another train?
© 2018 Ann Carr