I wrote too soon when I noted that the forest of the Blue Mountains seemed green.
As I ate dinner, an impressive three course set of options in the dining car, after our quiz team having come third thanks to Andrew sabotaging my correct 1989 answer in response to the question of when the Berlin Wall came down, we all commented on the blackened trees and the smoke in the valleys.
While some burning is normal said our friend from Brisbane, the scale of the fires this year is not.
We ate in silence as we looked at the burned woodland the train was passing though as we climbed, we rapidly returned to green scenery.
The Blue Mountains appeared to be a mix of eucalyptus, giving the bush a blue-green tinge, and rolling pasture land.
After a superb dinner and a coffee in the lounge, to be sociable, I headed for my cabin. I took the train to see the scenery after all.
My bed was already made up and the cabin looked very cosy. There was even a chocolate on the pillow.
I lay down to watch the scenery go by until the sun set, listening to the radio – oh yes, you can select the music of your preference to enjoy the scenery on this journey.
The slightly discombobulating aspect of travel on the Indian Pacific is that the Western edge of New South Wales runs on South Australia time, half an hour earlier.
Which means, the 6am excursion was really taking place at 5.30am… or so I thought.
I set my alarm to compensate and somehow (and I wasn’t alone because everybody else’s understanding of time and maths was as impaired as mine after the free alcohol with dinner) I actually managed to set my alarm for 4.45am instead of 5.15am.
When I was more awake I would work out how I had managed this irritating blunder… not that it really mattered…
The gentle rumble of the train lulling me to sleep hadn’t really happened. I’m not sure if there was a storm because it sounded like the wind was howling and rain was lashing the roof.
I couldn’t see anything when I raised the blind to peer outside so maybe it was just a symptom of minor sleep deprivation.
The train definitely picked up some rapid, noisy spurts of speed throughout the night and I really didn’t sleep well, despite the comfort of my little room.
The shade, sandwiched between two panes of glass spent the night bouncing off each pain and at one point I thought there was another traveller with an old fashioned rucksack with their pans and kettles attached clumping along the corridor.
As long as I had another room for all of my clothes, I could be quite taken with this cabin. I wonder if I can get it shipped home.
So my proposed morning excursion at… whatever the hell time it actually was… intended to be Broken Hill – the Living Desert, a self guided walk around a sculpture park.
Broken Hill was a mining town, settled in the 1880s. Today around 20,000 people live in the outback town and it has become a centre for art.
It’s also regularly the background scenery for Australian films (though I don’t think it featured much in Neighbours or Home and Away).
I went to the lounge to wait for departure on the excursion and while everyone was chatting, watching the sunrise, the announcement came through that the desert walk was cancelled because we were arriving late into Broken Hill. Around an hour late.
Which I think may be how I ended up getting up so early… my phone hadn’t switched to the new time zone.
The sun rose and the red desert and blue-green scrubby trees appeared, along with a few kangaroos. It was a vast expanse.
We finally arrived into Broken Hill where the temperature was already 25°C, the sun had only been up for an hour.
All of the excursions had reduced time because if the late arrival and with the cancellation of the Desert trip, I went to the Miners Memorial and Trades Hall instead.
In the Trades Hall was a reenactment of an illegal union meeting that took place in 1919 to debate a continued strike over unsafe working conditions in the mines.
It was very well done.
As were the pasties laid on as a snack.
The Miners Memorial just outside town notes the names of every miner who lost their lives from the 1880s to the present day – around 800 names.
We were driven up to it but didn’t actually leave the bus to see it… because there wasn’t time. (“Here’s what you could have seen, kids”).
We were driven around mining equipment though.
Back to the train… via the rather green parks which, the driver told us are watered through treated sewage water. The town is supplied by Wentworth reservoir as in the last year, Broken Hill received only 38mm of rain. The usual reservoir “might as well be wiped off the face of the Earth, it is so dry.”
I went for a snooze and to lay down in my cabin looking out of the window.
By now the view was brown rather than red dust and I saw the occasional truck and van driving along the road beside the rail, though never when I had the camera ready.
As we crossed into South Australia, the landscape changed to yellow farmland and wind turbines alongside vast fields of solar panels.
This was a very relaxing way to travel across Australia. I also used the time to book some of the onward travel for the next stages of my trip… inspired by sitting on a train for 24 hours, I suppose.
With two hours before the train arrived into Adelaide, it was time for lunch in the buffet car. As I made my way through the carriages, the heat hit me – a stark contrast to the cool of the air conditioned corridors and cabins.
The temperature outside was 42°C and my friend from Brisbane and I watched the dust whirlwind whip across the fields.
What was my friend’s name? No idea. We chatted about life, the universe and everything and I never did get around to asking her name.
It’s the conversations that make the journey,even if you don’t find out a name.