Crossing the Nullarbor on The Indian Pacific

Indian Pacific Railway Track

It’s #TravelTuesday and this week I’m looking back at one of my bucket list ticks – crossing the Nullarbor Plain in Australia.

While backpacking Australia crossing the Nullarbor was near the top of my bucket list. Unfortuntely due to a broken down van (long story) I never quite made it so when I returned a few years later I was determined not to miss out. However, this time I decided to let the train take the strain.

Indian Pacific Train
The Indian Pacific, Perth

One of Australia’s (and probably the world’s) great train journeys, The Indian Pacific travels between Sydney and Perth. The route, a mere 4352 km (or 2704 miles), includes the world’s longest straight stretch of railway track. It takes four days and three nights, that’s not quite as bad as it sounds as there are a few chances to get off, explore and stretch your legs.

I guess I better add a disclaimer here now as I did this trip way back when in 2006 so things may have changed slightly (digital cameras and my photography skills have certainly got better) however the experience probably hasn’t and it’s definitely one to add to your Australian bucket list.

All aboard…

I was in Australia to watch The Ashes and after we lost the series in Perth it was time to head to Melbourne for Christmas and the famous (although sadly meaningless in this case) Boxing Day test.

Leaving Perth on Wednesday lunchtime the train headed through the Avon Valley on the way to the first stop Kalgoorlie, one of Australia’s famous mining towns. I wish I could share more about Kalgoorlie but it was dark by the time we got there and although I did the optional tour you couldn’t really see much. The most exciting thing I remember is some fellow passengers returning from the pub saying they had seen a proper wild west fight with chairs and tables being thrown (!)

Sydney to Perth sign

Leaving Kalgoorlie it was time to bunk down for the night. Not literally though. As I was on a backpackers budget I had booked (a now defunct) Red Service Daynighter seat. I know… but hey after spending 24 hours in economy to get to Australia what’s a few days in a reclining seat on a train? And it was super cheap. I also had the most awesome seat neighbour, an elderly lady travelling to Adelaide to visit her son, so if she could cope with the journey a few times a year I had nothing to complain about.

Queen of the Nullarbor

The next morning we arrived in Cook, the ghost city of the Nullarbor. The station and now desolate town, in the middle of the Nullarbor Plain, was created in 1917 to support the railway. Once the railway was privatised in 1997, the new owners no longer needed a support town and it pretty much shut down. Now with a population of four, it’s hard to believe Cook was once thriving and nicknamed the Queen City of the Nullarbor.

Cook, ghost city of The Nullarbor

Middle of Nowhere

Middle of Nowhere sign in Cook

The stop in Cook was short, around half an hour, but allowed enough time to wander round and stretch the legs. It was quite eerie wandering around the abandoned town. You really got a sense of being in the middle of nowhere with the flat land extending as far as the eye could see.

Indian Pacific Railway Track

Front of the Indian Pacific train

The Nullarbor National Park

After one more night on the train I arrived in Adelaide early Friday morning. With hindsight I should probably have stayed on the train and completed the journey to Sydney but I had to get to Melbourne for Christmas. That said it was still a great experience. There is something special about long train journeys and taking the train really brought home how vast Australia is.

One day I think I’ll go back and complete the journey, although this time I’ll get a cabin!

Have you done any great rail journeys?  If so I’d love to hear about them…

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