Monthly Archives: December 2019

Go west young man!

Next morning we awaken to red sand and outback scrub. This is the same vegetation as through Northern Territory and the Ghan trip. It is not until late morning that the terrain changes dramatically to the Nullarbor Plain. This is my first time here and it is as the name says. The 360 degrees of horizons are uniformly flat and seem to stretch on ad infinitum. Flat earth theorists would certainly have pointed to this landscape to support their view of the world. The soil is yellow brown and the vegetation consists of grey green squat bushes covering the land rising only a few inches out of the ground. Agriculturally this is a barren useless land and I wonder how the few small kangaroos I see out of the window exist here. These days all that happens here is the highway and the railway and the few people that live along this 1000 km stretch are all employed to service either of these.

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We stop at the railway town of Cook. It is the spot where, in 1917, the train line from the east was finally joined to the line from the west. At its peak it had 200 people and even supported a small hospital. Now it has 4 permanent residents.

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The final night sees us dining under the stars at Rawlinna in the heart of the Nullarbor with music and dancing in the Australian bush. Awakening early on the last day we are already through the Nullarbor and stands of eucalypts dot the farming landscape. The temperature outside is 44C and the pastures are again straw yellow as the drought has not spared the west either.

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Our all too short trip terminates with a flight back tomorrow on the occasion of our wedding anniversary which is the reason for our luxury escape. How long have we been married I hear you ask? My cryptic answer is based on what a number of my patients have said when the topic has come up. “That’s the equivalent of 2 jail sentences for murder doc!” If that doesn’t answer the question perhaps it is worth noting the new ruby ring on my life partner. Happy anniversary darling!

Adelaide

Arriving in Adelaide mid afternoon we are at the headquarters for Great Southern Rail the company that operates the India Pacific and the Ghan which we enjoyed a few years ago. There is a custom built terminal and a platform long enough to accommodate this oversized train. Again there are a number of excursion options and we opt for Mclarenvale south of Adelaide. We enjoy a wine and food tasting at the picturesque Coriole winery before enjoying dinner at the Star of Greece restaurant at Port Willunga on a cliff top overlooking a gorgeous white sand beach.

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Silver City

It is a 6am arrival in Broken Hill and we are off on a variety of morning tours. We eschew the desert sculptures and the Pro Hart Art Gallery for a tour of the city’s industrial past which also allows me to peel off and get some nice pictures in and around town. Broken Hill is a city of a couple of thousand which geographically is actually closer to Adelaide than its capitol, Sydney. It’s claim to fame was the discovery of silver in the 1880s and subsequently lead and tin mining have brought prosperity for over a century.

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It’s nickname is “Silver City”. It is, of course, where “the big Australian” BHP originated but I discover today that it no longer has any holdings in Broken Hill. Opera singer June Bronhill and actor Chips Rafferty hail from here and, of course, Pro Hart has a presence here. The iconic films Mad Max 2 and Priscilla Queen of the desert were shot here. As the minerals are forecast to run out in 12 years the city is recasting itself as a tourist attraction and it certainly has enough here to warrant a visit.

 

Trades Hall

Trades Hall

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Palace Hotel where Priscilla was filmed

Palace Hotel where Priscilla was filmed

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Leaving Broken Hill down to Adelaide the drought ravaged countryside is depressingly sere. Straw coloured stubbles of dead grass dot the once fertile fields. Clusters of livestock looking pathetically thin congregate around concrete troughs of feed and water. Many choosing to lie on the ground in an area where they should be grazing freely. Heat, drought and fire, our country is really distressed at the moment. For once living in the south eastern corner of the country where we have not yet been touched by all of this is a blessing.

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I was a nerdy kid. As a teenager already into classics and my dad loved Jules Verne. I remember reading Around the World in 80 Days and with my then untravelled mind’s eye imagining the journey. Trains, have always been an “obsession” and travelling in the 19th century by rail stopping at the beautiful, ornate railway stations of England and Europe must have been a grand experience.┬áIn my adult travelling life I have undertaken many of the world’s great rail journeys ranging from rough in places like India and parts of Africa through to luxurious. For me the journey is all the more auspicious if it leaves from one of the more beautiful, historic stations and Sydney’s Central station dating back over a hundred years certainly fits the bill.

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The mid afternoon departure sees the 31 carriage long luxury train wend its way through the western suburbs of Sydney and up through the Blue Mountains.

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Sadly there is nothing Blue about the skies today as they are choked with thick grey smoke from the massive bushfires north of here. It is not until we have crossed over the range and down to the western plains beyond Lithgow that the air clears and we are treated to a beautiful sunset sipping wine and enjoying our four course gourmet meal as the countryside slips silently past our window. The clackety clack of the train on tracks the only sound to break the silence.

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