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Day 1 - GEELONG-ADELAIDE
North shore- Keswick
Keswick - Adelaide
Adelaide- Glenelg return
Kalgoorlie -Esperance return
Perth - Fremantle and return
City to Airport shuttle
Tullumarine Airport - Station
Station - Home
Journey 780 km 9.5hours
A very long goods train on its way to Adelaide that passed through the tiny North Shore platform that is the Geelong connection for the Overland had to clear the next section before The Overland could enter the standard gauge line section 80 kms back indicated to me that we were in for a very long wait beyond the 11.20 pm scheduled departure time.
Quote from the Great Southern Railways web site
"The Overland operates four weekly daylight services from Adelaide to Melbourne and return overnight journeys Melbourne to Adelaide. The Overland pioneered inter capital rail travel over 100 years ago. It is a comfortable and relaxing way to travel between these two cosmopolitan cities. Relax in comfortable two abreast reclining seats with generous leg room, foldaway tables, individual reading lights and foot rests. Video entertainment is provided and seats can swivel to face each other. Overhead luggage racks provide storage for hand luggage. Toilet facilities are located at the end of each carriage. Guests will need to bring their own rug and pillow."
The shelter at North Shore is only mesh so with the cold wind blowing straight through the 1.5 hour wait was not a promising start to our journey. However the buffet had been kept open due to the late running and the toasted sandwich and hot coffee we received with the companies' compliments were a very welcome.We were travelling in the Red Kangaroo seats, the train was nearly full and the car lights turned down, only an odd reading light was on, everybody else was asleep , or trying to be.
While the seat pitch may be greater than the best airline it is still very difficult to get comfortable enough in the seats to sleep properly so checking the clock for the 7 am buffet car opening was a regular occurrence. We had prepared ourselves with good books which we were well into by the time were arrived in Adelaide 1.5 hours late at 10 am.
We has such a bad night that I enquired about the cost of upgrading to a sleeper on our next leg to Kalgoorlie. Yes, there is a twin berth cabin available and that will be only $380 each. The sit ups suddenly become very comfortable.
Day 2 -Adelaide
There is an 8 hour wait between the arrival of The Overland and departure of the Indian Pacific from the Keswick terminal , about 5 kms outside the city of Adelaide. The weather was pleasantly cool and overcast. We felt reborn after a hot shower at the station
A shuttle bus service took us into the city, we walked up to Victoria Square where a food festival and vintage car show were in progress
From here we caught the Glenelg tram which is the oldest passenger tram service in Australia. It runs from the city to the beach suburb of Glenelg every 20 minutes. We enjoyed a low fat Subway roll and a high fat ice cream in this cosmopolitan suburb before returning to the city, I noticed that the tram is still used by the local population for commuting to and from tram stops along the way.
We had time to visit the original Adelaide City railway station which still serves suburban trains but the interstate terminal has been transformed into a casino. Much of the original architecture has been retained which gives it a very oldie-worldie atmosphere.
The shuttle bus to the station only operates on the hour every hour so we thought catching the 5 pm one would give us plenty of time for the 7.10 pm departure to Kalgoorlie. We had just finished a very nice bacon and cheese roll with coffee in the station cafe when we noticed the train crew making movements like preparing for departure. To cut a long story short, what I thought was to be a 7.10 pm departure was actually 6.20 pm.! I can only blame the onset of dementia!
Overnight Adelaide - Kalgoorlie
a previous trip on the Indian Pacific from Sydney to Perth we had a sleeper
compartment and had a look back to the cattle class seating section and
saw what seemed to be a chaotic mix of bodies, blankets, luggage and screaming
children so it we with some trepidation that we booked seats this time
but as we were only doing one night we thought the huge cost saving was
The sit ups in the Indian Pacific are a bit more comfortable than the
Overland and there is far more leg room. Soon after departure Fred (not
his real name) came to give us the lowdown on the rules.
Anyone that has to mention that they are the train manager 3 times in
one sentence is obviously conscious of their short stature and has a need
to demonstrate their authority. So it was with Fred.
The 2 abreast seats can swivel around so that 2 are facing each other,
there was some empty seats and Fred was busy finding out who was travelling
in pairs or groups and moving us around to provide as many facing sets
of seats as possible which were allocated to couples, any other spare
seats were allocated so
that we all had 2 seats to sleep on, This was a very welcome manoeuvre
that was carried out with military precision.
The limited range of meals and snacks available from the buffet car were
of good quality and reasonably priced, they could be consumed at the tables
in the modern buffet car, the very fifties lounge car or at your seat.
While we could use the lounge car all night, sleeping in it is verboten,
and Fred made regular visits to ensure compliance.
Those damn back packers will try to sleep anywhere.
Someone started a rumour that some .young sailors who were enjoying a
few beers ( at $5 a can! ) had smuggled a 6 pack of beer on board Fred
was right onto them, (No BYO alcohol was one of the laws Fred had laid
down in his introductory speech),
Day 3 -COOK 10 am
(population 2, .... Kms from Adelaide, .... kms from Perth)
Cook is the last of the towns that were built along the rail track when it was necessary to have coal and watering stops much closer together. The train stops for 30 minutes to refill the fuel and water tanks. The original school has been converted to a souvenir shop.
The smokers cage at the end of the train was the best meeting place, some of the fellow travellers we met were:
An Aboriginal lady who had travelled from Maree and was going to Kalgoorlie to attend Land Rights meetings with mining companies.
A guy who had lost all his money in Adelaide so was not going to have anything to eat before the train reached Perth 36 hours later, - I gave him $10 for a meal.
A very emotionally distraught young lady who had been drinking with the sailors until Fred told the crew not to serve her any more. Next morning she couldn't remember anything and went through the train apologizing to everyone in case she had offended them the previous night.
A mature American backpacker who came out to OZ every 2 years and knew more about our country than we did. Some of his stories about his wealth were a bit sus.
A more mature Turkish lady who bought all her bags with her, they contained her food and water, we did not see her leave her seat the whole journey. In very halting English she politely declined a cup of coffee Kaye had brought back for her. The German backpacker girl initially sitting beside her was particularly grateful for ending up with a seat to herself after Fred's rearrangement operation.
The train stops at Kalgoorlie for 3 hours, passengers can take a tour of the town and the open cut gold mine aptly known as the Super Pit, but as our son Tony and his girlfriend Tracey were to meet us here we bid farewell to our new friends, and Fred.
Tony and Tracey have been living and working in Boulder for 4 months, they are driving the big dump trucks in an open cut minerals mine. The work requires 13 hours work on a 11 on and 4 off roster, they were on night shift while we were so they able to meet us on our arrival at Kakgoorlie, on time, 7.10 pm.
Days 4 and 5 - Kalgoorlie/Boulder
The sights of Kalgoorlie and its twin city Boulder can be seen in a day but as we had 2 days here we took it very easy. The temperature was an un expectantly mild 24 -26 Deg C. and much cooler at night, Tony and Tracey went to work all rugged up as it got very cold in the bottom of the mine at 3 am.
The touristy things we did were:
The largest open cut mine in Australia is an awesome 4 km long, 1.5 km wide and half a kilometre deep.. The most remarkable thing was that all the way down to the bottom, you can see holes in the sides that are the original underground mine shafts,
When they detonate explosives to loosen up another layer, a team is sent in to gather up all the shoring timbers and rail lines so it does not contaminate the ore going to the crusher.
There is a stark contrast between the miners working in those tiny, dirty, dark and dangerous shafts filling half ton skips to be taken to the surface and the present miners driving the pressurised, air conditioned, computerised 200 ton monster trucks.
Pretty much your standard council war museum that concentrates on WW1 and 11 with only a very small Vietnam display. The outdoor vehicles include a fully restored Austin Champ.
A well preserved example of the Town Hall of a medium sized city dating back to 1850. (For any poms reading this. Yes, I know that's almost new, but to us it is historical !) We were lucky in that it was one of the few days that a stage curtain that has some significance was on display. There was also an art exhibition of works by local artists. A painting of a steam engine took my fancy but at $380 I decided to leave it there.
Loop Line Railway
The Boulder station contains a railway museum and is the head office of the Loop Line Railway, a volunteer group that has rejuvenated some of the original system that served the underground mines Unfortunately it was out of action due to track work when we were there. ( the Super Pit keeps eating into their track)
Days 6 Boulder-Esperance
As Tony and Tracey were either working or sleeping we borrowed Traceys car for a trip to the beach at Esperance. 410 kms away. Ones sense of distance changes in these remote areas, as Tony put it "That's only 4hours away", they do it regularly for their 3 day breaks.
I had not booked accommodation but had looked at the options and selected the a bay side motel that quoted $65 per night for a double room . On entering reception I was met by a woman that may have been Freds partner, there were few cars there but I was given a spiel about how they had one room left and we were lucky because the whole town was booked out. The room had a magnificent view over the ocean and was only $140.
We went a few doors along and found a very comfortable apartment for $85.
Bakeries in regional towns have become magnets for the Latte set. To be seen sipping alfresco style is the in' thing to do. The bakery in Esperance offers Instant Nescafe !
The wind had become quite cool by the time we were sitting on the veranda of the Tea Rooms Restaurant partaking of wine and Crown Lager. The restaurant overlooks a beautifully landscaped foreshore and the tranquil waters of the Great Australian Bight as the afternoon faded into twilight. I had gallantly given Kaye my windcheater to ward off the chill wind.
. When I put my romantic/poetic skills to the test by suggesting that this was our moment to "stop and smell the roses", Her response was that all she could smell was seaweed. Some people do not have a poetic bone in their body.
Day 7 -Esperance -Boulder
It is a shame that most of the towns that grew to service the mining and farming industries have been overtaken by the modern transport revolution. Norseman, the major centre along the way, is one of these. Empty shops and closed hotels present a depressing picture of what must have once been a thriving community.The Tourist Information Centre ensures that you visit them by requiring you to get a key from them for the public toilets.
We arrived back at Boulder in time to see Tony and Tracey before they went off to work.
While Tony was in Geelong we had an agreement that when he borrowed my Lada Niva he washed it before returning it. He remembered this and sent me off the wash the car we had borrowed. Some things do come back and bite you.
Day 8 -Kalgoorlie-Perth
The Prospector is a new Westrail standard gauge train that speeds over the 594 kms in 6 hours. (The Indian Pacific takes 10 and is much more expensive ) Tony and Tracey had finished work in time to take us to the station for our 7 am departure
This is the best train I have ever travelled on, taking cleanliness, comfort, noise and facilities into account. The canteen has a wide range of food and drink and the 2 plus 2 across seating provides an atmosphere of spaciousness. The toilets must be the biggest on flanged wheels in captivity. They are quadrant shaped with a space age curved door that slides around the 90 degree opening.
In my opinion Perth has the best railway station of all Australian state capital cities, spoilt only by lack of a standard gauge platform for the Prospector and the Indian Pacific. Arriving at the suburban East Perth station then finding your way into the city is not a fitting end to a journey across the driest continent in the world.
Days 9,10 -Perth.
The needitnow.com.au accomodation web site had a listing for The Criterion Hotel, located right in the middle of Perth quoting $85 instead of the usual $140 per night for the 4 nights we would be there. So I pre booked. The only thing it lacks is a swimming pool but you get what you pay for and this was a bargain.
We are very fond of our caravan but we appreciated the luxury of not having parking hassles, wandering 2 doors down to Mc Cafe for a seniors discount mugachino and returning to air-conditioning for a snooze in the heat of the afternoon.
The free CAT city buses and the efficient suburban train system provide an easy way of getting around so we made extensive use of them.
Things we did in Perth:
Took the $15 all day get on and off City Exlorer tram tour - Recommended while you get your bearings on the first day.
A return cruise to Fremantle. I reckon you could have a free lunch by buying just the return ticket then returning on the 12.30 pm ship which is part of a more expensive "luncheon cruise" and waiting till they call for seconds of the delicious buffet. Did we do it ? No, Kaye wasn't game enough.
Discovered the delights of the free CAT bus buses, they go past all the touristy places as well serving as a commuter facility for city workers.
Visited the Perth Mint and saw a 12 kgm bar of gold being poured. Recommended.
Got cheesed off by a surly, skinny Sheila at the Hay St Mc Café who muttered under her breath when Kaye asked for a reasonable amount of cream for our scones. Very off putting.
Went to see The Bourne Connection at the original Piccadilly Theatre. All sessions $6. Look it up.
The movie is worth it just for car chase scene involving Ladas in snow around Moscow.!
Dined at the Asian food court in Northbridge Don't miss it.
Enjoyed the music of an appropriate band at the Blues To The Bone bar in Northbridge.
Seems to be the hangout for the local cowboys and friends.
Day 11 - Fremantle
I caught the train to Fremantle (concession price $1.30) while Kaye had a city shopping and movie day. I went back to visit :
o The Motor Museum
which is fascinating , while concentrating on sports and racing cars there is a good collection of historic vehicles of all sorts. I was particularly fascinated by the first Subaru imported to Australia. It is a 300cc 4 seat sports tiny sports car.
o The Maritime Museum
It appears that the building has been specially built to house the Americas Cup winning yacht Australia 11, as the top of its mast just fits into the peak of the soaring roof. The museum is very modern with separate displays for different types of maritime activities.
The highlight for me was a guided tour through the submarine Oxley which is mounted on a slipway beside the museum building. My first impression was that it is enormous compared to the ideas I had formed from the movies.
Several air conditioners have been installed to feed cool air into it for visitors comfort.
While it has been there 4 years, inside it looks as though it could go to war tomorrow. All the fittings and instruments are still in place and the smell of oil permeates through from the engine room. All the 1960s equipment reminded me of RAAF equipment I maintained during my days in the service. The Oxley had a crew of 72 and men who spent up to 30 days at sea operating in the cramped, crowded conditions can only be admired.
Day 12 -Perh-Melbourne-Home
Travel time 3hrs 20 mins to Melbourne 2.5 hours to home.
I caused a minor family crisis. After Kaye had booked a wake up call and shuttle bus at 5.30 am to catch a 7.05 am flight I discovered the flight we were booked on actually left at 12.15 pm. Another sign of dementia.
After all the horror stories I have heard about Virgin Blue I was pleasantly surprised by the leg room on the aircraft. So you have to buy drinks and snacks but with a good book the time passes quickly.
We had a 2 hour wait at Tullamarine before the next shuttle bus to Geelong so we caught the city shuttle which goes to a construction site laughingly called Spencer Street Station.
We only had a short wait for the next train to Geelong from where we caught a taxi home, arriving at 10 pm, somewhat exhausted but exhilarated by our experiences.
Watch out Canada, here we come in September 2005
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