Perth to Sydney: An epic train journey connecting two oceans
During the four days of travel, the train roves through three Aussie states Western Australia, South Australia and New South Wales and touches their respective capital cities – Perth, Adelaide and Sydney.
“Today our dream comes to reality”, tells Sue and Colin from Queensland as the legendary train ‘Indian Pacific’ begins its long journey from Perth to Sydney. I meet this friendly couple at the train’s social hub – the Outback Explorer Lounge – while introducing myself to other fellow passengers with whom I will travel 4352 km for the next four days from the western end of Australia to the east. (Also read: Fremantle to Pinnacles Desert; five popular day trips from Perth)
Sue and Colin are married for almost forty years. They wanted to be on this train as a part of their honeymoon but couldn’t do it for family reasons. Since then this trans-continental voyage remained at the top of their bucket list, but couldn’t tick it off earlier while raising six children. Now with the kids all settled, they grabbed the opportunity to be on board as soon as Indian Pacific recommenced operations after a long period of closure due to Covid 19 restrictions in Australia.
While toasting them a good vacation on wheels, I discover they are not alone but joined by many other Aussies who are also ticking off a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience perched at the top of their ‘must-do’ list as well for a long time.
This rail sojourn is highly desired by train enthusiasts worldwide because it not only provides passengers with the ultimate luxury on the train, like India’s ‘Palace on Wheels’, but also grants the rare opportunity to see through the window the moving scenery of the vast east-west spread of the large island continent, blessed with different geographical terrains from scorched red-coloured desert lands, dry treeless plains and goldfields to rocky valleys, flushing meadows and lush mountains.
One thing which most passengers like about this trip is the all-inclusive fare that comprises everything from on-train accommodation in beautifully decorated individual cabins with private bathrooms, premium lounge facilities with a well-stocked bar and all meals and beverages both alcoholic and non-alcoholic to off-train excursions at exotic locations along the route.
The visual feast begins the moment the window curtain is removed. Amazing landscapes greet eyes as the train roves from one region to the other. During sunrise and sunset, watching the changing colours of the horizon remain an unforgettable episode. Unlike in India, humans are not seen at all unless the train halts at a destination. It’s this remoteness that makes the journey so special. Instead of humans, sometimes wildlife can be spotted outside, from running kangaroos, resting emus and ferocious dingoes to Arabian camels. These camels were imported from Afghanistan in the early 19th century for carrying goods, but now off duty, they have blended into the blur of the desert sky.
During the four days of travel, the train roves through three Aussie states Western Australia, South Australia and New South Wales and touches their respective capital cities – Perth, Adelaide and Sydney. While Perth edges on the Indian Ocean, Sydney dots on the Pacific and the train connects the two oceans. This notion gave the train its name – Indian Pacific.
The off-train excursions not only provide passengers with the opportunity to stretch their legs but also engages them physically with the history and novelty of the place. When traversing from Perth to Sydney the train on day one halts at the gold town Kalgoorlie where guests discover the fascinating legacies of the 19th century gold rush that dotted the town on the world map. Next day the train crosses the 478km long Nullarbor Plain, the world’s longest length of straight railway track.
The train stops for a short while in the middle of nowhere at Rawlinna and Cook, once a thriving railway settlement, now one of the world’s most isolated outposts with only a handful of residents. Third day is always exciting as the journey breaks at two key destinations - Adelaide where cricketing hero Don Bradman lived and then at the mining settlement Broken Hill often tagged as the Silver City being a major producer of silver, lead and zinc.
There is a choice of tours available to seize various features of the two places from history, architecture to art and culture, the one on Adelaide Oval surely draws the attention of sports lovers and Bradman fans. The last stop on the fourth day before terminating at Sydney is engagement with pristine nature in the Blue Mountains region. All stops are tailored to suit the train timetable and the excursions are seasonally updated.
As regards accommodation there are two categories - Platinum and Gold. The difference between the two is in the cabin size and sleeping arrangement. While Gold Class provides a comfortable sleeper cabin with upper and lower berths, Platinum Service passengers have the luxury of a double or twin beds. All meals in both classes are served in fine-dining style at the richly decorated restaurant carriages.
Irrespective of the class of travel, every passenger gets off at their destination with an unforgettable experience of immersing in elegance in the timeless natural beauty of the great southern land
Getting There – Air India (www.airindia.com) and Qantas (www.qantas.com) fly from Delhi to Sydney and Melbourne from where there are flights to Perth if Perth to Sydney route is opted.
Train Information – Indian Pacific is operated by Journey Beyond. They also run three other similar luxury trains – The Ghan between Adelaide and Darwin, the Great Southern between Adelaide and Brisbane and The Overland between Adelaide and Melbourne. For fares and timetable please check their website (www.journeybeyondrail.com.au).
Sandip Hor is an Australia based international travel writer and photographer