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Discover Outback Australia On "The Indian Pacific" Train

Mar 24, 2008
Imagine sipping a red, enjoying a sumptuous meal and the company of fellow travelers from all over the world, as the spectacular Australian outback glides past. This is the unique Indian Pacific experience.

The Indian Pacific is one of the world's great train journeys. It crosses the vast Australian continent between Sydney on the Pacific Ocean and Perth, on the Indian Ocean in a shade over three days. You will experience the real Australia from majestic mountains to rolling pastures to the harshness of the outback.

Pat and Gordon Catherwood from British Columbia described the journey as the highlight of their visit to Australia. "We thought it would be boring", said Pat, "In fact, it was just the opposite. We were amazed at the variety of scenery and wildlife and the meals were just sensational".


The Indian Pacific is not a high speed dash across Australia. It is a tourist train designed to help you explore this country at your leisure and in comfort. My journey was from Perth to Adelaide and our first stop, Kalgoorlie, provided a fascinating insight into Australia's early gold rushes.

The discovery of gold in Kalgoorlie in the late 1800s played a major role in the early development of Western Australia and to this day, it is still a major gold producer.

Nullabor Plain.

The following morning, we were on the Nullarbor Plain, in the heart of the outback. Cabin attendant Nikki, welcomed me with a cup of tea and advised of the day's events, including traveling on the longest straight stretch of railway track in the world (478km) and stopping at Cook, one of the most isolated railway stations in Australia.

The 1 hour stop at Cook highlighted the extreme summer heat of the outback. Before she opened the carriage door, Nikki warned us with a glorious piece of understatement, "It's pretty hot out there". She wasn't joking! We stepped from the comfort of an air conditioned train to searing 47 degree (120F) desert heat!

When the oven like blast hit me, it took me back to my childhood days when I was invited on to the footplate of a steam locomotive. I watched in awe and cringed as the fireman opened the grate door and shoveled coal into the furnace.

My first thought was how people managed to live in these conditions. For some guests, the heat was too much. They retreated to the cosseted environment of the train while the hardy (or should I say foolhardy!) souls took the opportunity to explore this tiny settlement, once a major railway maintenance centre with even a school, but now largely a ghost town with a total population of 4.

Sharing Experiences.

Our dinner conversation in the restaurant car that evening focused on the harsh beauty of the Australian Outback. Most of the guests I met at mealtimes were from North America or Europe. They spoke enthusiastically about the journey, the quality of the meals and the unique feeling of experiencing the true outback.

The remaining guests were fellow Australians, including 4 who had been on the journey more than 6 times. "We never tire of it" said Brad and Margo from Brisbane. "We lead busy lives and it gives us the chance to take time out, enjoy the experience of complete relaxation and meet interesting people".

Early the following morning, on the final stages of the journey, I had time to reflect on the adventure. I remembered the brilliant outback sunsets, the soaring Wedge-tail eagles (the train's symbol), the friendships formed with fellow guests and the friendly, attentive staff, who made us all feel so special.

But most of all, I remembered the indelible impression the train and the country it traversed, made on overseas visitors. Many regarded it as the highlight of their trip to Australia. Some planned to return and continue their outback adventures on "The Ghan".

Other Rail Travel Options.

The Indian Pacific is owned by Great Southern Rail, and it offers many options for travel within Australia, with Adelaide as the major centre. Traveling from Sydney or Perth, you can spend a few days here before continuing on your journey.

Alternatively, you can travel on the "The Ghan" for its spectacular outback journey to Australia's northern capital, Darwin. As with the Indian Pacific, The Ghan stops at places of interest including Alice Springs and Katherine. Alice Springs is the base for tours to Ayers Rock (Uluru) and King's Canyon. Katherine is the base for tours to the spectacular Katherine Gorge.
About the Author
Discover more on Australian rail travel adventures in Australian travel fares expert's latest Ebook. Visit: http://www.traveltipsaustralia.com FREE newsletter and INSTANT download. Special Introductory offer: Just $9.97.
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