We’re scheduled to depart on the Indian Pacific Sydney to Perth train on Wednesday. Our plan is to fly from Gold Coast Airport (Coolangatta) at 11:05am to Sydney Airport, catch the train from Sydney domestic to Central Station where the Indian Pacific train is scheduled to depart at 3:00pm that afternoon.
It’s Tuesday afternoon, we get a text message from Virgin Airlines – “Strong Winds in Melbourne may cause a change to your flight tomorrow. Please keep an eye on the status of your flight…..”
Quick check of the Bureau of Meteorology forecast for Melbourne; and yes, there is a severe wind warning in place for much of Victoria, including Melbourne for later in the day. We’re leaving towards lunchtime, shouldn’t be an issue? Hope not.
Later, at 2:25pm, another text message comes in from Virgin Airlines – “Strong winds in Sydney may cause a change to your flight tomorrow. Please keep an eye on the status of your flight….”
Time for a serious think. We’ve been planning our West Australian trip for months. The Indian Pacific Train from Sydney to Perth, Marise’s Jeep is already in Perth ready and waiting for us to continue our five week road trip covering Margaret River, right up through Exmouth, Broome, Kununurra all the way to Darwin. To miss that train would not be good!
Too much is at stake. Marise gets on the phone to Virgin Airlines to see what is happening. The call centre officer is very polite, but can’t really provide any more detail on the status.
The only thing to do is to move the 11:05am flight to an earlier departure as possible. Yes, there’s seats available on the 6:00am flight out of Coolangatta.
Airlines never miss an opportunity to make some money on passenger predicaments. It’s $90 for each of us to change the flight, and a gap of $30 per ticket. Damn, we just pay it. No time to argue or debate it.
Feeling a bit more relieved, we cancel the Con-X-ion bus, and book an Uber for a 4:00am pickup. Alarm set for 3:00am. Finish packing, tidy the house, and get some shuteye for a few hours.
We’re On Our Way!
The Uber driver arrives a bit before 4:00am. Bags in the back and off we go. Check our bags in, through security and have a rest for a few minutes. Look up at the Departures screen, and Virigin Airlines Flight VA500 is boarding on time and scheduled for take-off at 6:00am. Quiet sigh of relief.
On arrival in Sydney, we collect our bags, head over and down into the subterranean world of the Sydney train system. Arrive at Sydney Central Station, and get ourselves over to Platforms 2 and 3. This is where the Indian Pacific train will depart from.
We’ve got heaps of time, so a breakfast is in order from Eternity Café on the station. After that, we take a stroll from the station to Darling Harbour. It’s a magnificent day and nice to be out and about. Make a stop at The Kazbah for a cocktail. As you do.
At 2:00pm, we check some of our luggage in with the Indian Pacific train staff, and move along the platform to have a cold drink before boarding the train for a 3:00pm departure from Central Station.
It’s a good feeling to finally be on board and settled.
Indian Pacific Train – Some Interesting Facts
The Indian Pacific runs from Sydney to Perth and return each week. It is 4 days and 3 nights of travel in one direction covering a distance of 4352km.
30 onboard crew; typically 29 carriages, 2 diesel locomotives.
The train varies in length depending on demand, but averages 730 metres. It averages 85km/hr for the entire journey, but sits around 110km/hr along the Nullarbor Plain.
Indian Pacific Train Cabins
There are two classes of cabins on the Indian Pacific train. The majority of cabins are Gold Class. There are around 182 of them. They are a comfortable lounge suite in the day, but are converted to a double deck bunk by staff while you’re in the Dining Car enjoying dinner.
Each Gold Class Cabin has an ensuite consisting of toilet, shower and vanity basin. They’re compact, very compact; but enough to serve your every need for the few days on the train.
There’s a Platinum Class, which offers a much larger space seating space. Also, there are not a lot of them (20 per train). So if you’re after the extra room, book early. Be warned! They’re about twice the price of the Gold Class.
We spend our waking time in the Outback Explore Lounge, where there’s a well-stocked bar and very comfortable seating. All drinks, both non-alcoholic and alcoholic, are part of the fare. It’s a good place to meet, share a drink and talk with other travellers.
I enjoy looking out the window of the car, watching the scenery as it zips by. There’s timelessness about the land out here. Mesmerising, captivating.
Next to the Lounge Car, there’s the Queen Adelaide Restaurant. Silver service. They run a couple of sittings. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Excellent cuisine. There’s something old world about enjoying a chef prepared meal while travelling across the Australian Outback.
Indian Pacific Sydney to Perth – Life on the Train
The Indian Pacific route from Sydney to Perth is basically Sydney to Adelaide, then onto Perth. Passengers typically board the train in Sydney or Adelaide when travelling west. There are intermediate stops, or experiences, as Great Southern Rail call them, at Broken Hill, Cook and Rawlinna.
On departing Central Station, it’s an overnight sleeper experience. Didn’t get a lot of sleep on the first night, as the movement of the train on the tracks was rough in parts. Nothing too dramatic, just something we get used to.
It arrives in Broken Hill around 6:00am on the second day. Here the train stops for a few hours to allow passengers to join some short tours around Broken Hill.
We go to the Pro Hart Gallery and saw some of his work first hand. Pro Hart spent the major part of his life around Broken Hill, firstly working underground in the mines, then as an artist in his own right. He held a deep respect and affection for the people and landscape of the area.
Then it was on to a stop called Two Wells around 6:00pm, where we bus it to the Barossa Valley. Firstly to Seppeltsfield, where our host Dean and head chef Owen treated us to a wine tasting/food pairing session.
Owen is reviving the rich history of food production associated with the winery. During the latter part of the 19th Century through to the early part of the 20th Century the property employed around 150 workers, and provided meals and accommodation for them and their families.
We are then back on the bus to move onto the Yalumba Winery. Here we are treated to more wine tasting, and a magnificent evening meal.
After the evening meal, we are back on the bus to join the train at Adelaide Railway Station as it continues towards Perth.
Day 3 sees us well and truly on the Nullarbor Plain. The odd feral camel and mobs of kangaroos are all that is to be seen for the major part of this leg. It doesn’t detract from the sheer beauty of the landscape, but enhances it.
The train makes a short stop at Cook, this township these days is all but a ghost town. It gives everyone the opportunity to go for a walk and stretch our legs. It is also the place where the train changes drivers.
The next stop is Rawlinna, a siding where we are entertained under the stars by Matt Orchard, the resident singer/guitarist on the train. His high energy playing has quite a few people kicking up the dust as they dance to his repertoire.
Day 4 has us arriving at Perth Central. We retrieve our luggage and then people begin to move on. We are very fortunate to be met by Ross, who takes us back to his home for a meal and room for the night. We sit around the fire with Ross, Caroline and Maddy.
Ross gives us a lot of good hints, tips and guidance on how to structure our itinerary around Western Australia. Things that are a must-see. He also loans us two books that prove invaluable in working out how best to use our time over the coming five weeks.
Indian Pacific Train – Our Take On It
Without doubt the Indian Pacific Sydney to Perth deserves the reputation as one of the great train journeys. In a world where the prevailing thinking is faster is always better, there’s something intensely satisfying where the journey is vastly more important than the destination.
An echo from yesteryear. All that’s missing is the dapper gentleman with the Hercule Poirot moustache. I’m sure he’s there in spirit in the travellers who surround us, if not in person.
It’s sharpened our appetite to travel other classic train journeys around the world.
We have the good fortune to talk with a number of travellers on the train. The phrase most used by all in telling us why they are on the train, and it’s ‘bucket list’. We agree. It should be on everybody’s bucket list.
Because a Russian philosopher whose name escapes me once wrote some wonderful words along the lines of “The cradle swings above the abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness.” Seize the light. Then take the train!