Phil Brown -  journalist . writer . poet

Phil Brown

journalist . writer . poet

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Phil Brown - Travel Stories

Slowly does it

A journey from Sydney to Adelaide on the Indian Pacific is a wonderful leisurely journey with the food a particular feature as the train makes its way through the Outback

Qweekend, The Courier-Mail, July 23-24, 2022


Story Phil Brown

It has been my guilty secret for years and one I have been loath to mention in public. I had never been to Adelaide.

There, I said it ... but the confession is now redundant. Because I have been, the best way, the slow and steady way ... on the Indian Pacific.

As a fan of rail travel I have always wanted to go on this iconic train journey. We heard all about it from our son a few years ago after he did this famous transcontinental trip from Sydney to Perth with his grandmother. They loved it. They told us all about their dinner under the stars in the desert and other great excursions en route.

I didn't have time to go all the way to Perth, more's the pity. But you can break it up and just do segments, like Sydney to Adelaide. Perfect for me and I couldn't imagine a nicer way to transition to the South Australian capital, a city I am now just a little bit in love with. After 24 hours there I found myself standing on a street corner taking in the heritage architecture and saying to myself, possibly too loudly, "How long has this been going on?" Quite a while apparently. I met a friend for coffee in the Adelaide Central Market, which is reason enough to move to Adelaide. I ate at a great little Chinese cafe in the little Chinatown that abuts the market.

I also had a cuppa at the rather lovely Art Gallery of South Australia with an old acquaintance, Rhana Devenport, a Brissie girl who now runs the gallery there on majestic North Terrace, a heritage architecture buff's idea of heaven I'm sure.

And I stayed at the brand new Sofitel Adelaide which was comfy and luxurious. So thanks Journey Beyond and Indian Pacific and Sofitel Adelaide for finally getting me there. Better late than never.

My journey between two oceans (the Pacific and the Indian, hence the name of the train) began at historic Central Station in Sydney which is a magnet for train tragics. After a preboarding soiree at a hotel nearby we departed, an hour late due to an unforeseen delay but we weren't in a hurry were we? That's why we were taking the train, right?

This meant it was dark by the time we got to the Blue Mountains. Normally you would be coming into them at sunset.

But it didn't really matter because I was in my happy place in a Gold Service Cabin. The trip to Perth is three nights and four days and a 4352 km journey through some amazing landscapes including the Nullarbor Plain and one day I will do the whole thing. I also have a yen to do some of the other rail experiences on offer, namely The Ghan and The Great Southern which runs between Brisbane to Adelaide during the summer months.

From Sydney to Adelaide on the Indian Pacific is a good place to start. Firstly the train is emblazoned with a striking wedgetailed eagle motif that symbolises the scope, range and significance of each epic journey.

For nerds, I can tell you that the train is about 731m long, has 30 crew on board, 20 platinum service beds and 182 gold service beds and has 29 carriages, including guest carriages, crew quarters, the Platinum Club, dining carriages, and Outback Explorer lounges. With the restaurants and lounges it's a pretty convivial journey and you get to meet new people regardless of how anti-social you might be.

I shared my dinner booth with Ron and Rita from Wollongong and we got on great guns. I hope they forgave my table manners because I was peckish and inhaled my meal of swordfish and my dessert of apple tatin, an old favourite. My son had mentioned the food was terrific and I can vouch for that.

And on the longer journey you will get to know people better as you share a variety of off-train experiences in Broken Hill, the first stop, and Adelaide (the Barossa Valley is a popular one) and Cook and Rawlinna, the stops along the Nullarbor.

I loved the experience of gazing out at the wide open spaces from the window of my sleeper cabin and loved seeing Broken Hill, which is a legendary outback town. After Broken Hill you experience the arid landscape in the early morning transitioning to almost desert landscape later and it really makes you feel like you are seeing the real Australia.

The staff are friendly and welcoming and while they are pretty damn efficient, the beauty is that no one is in too much of a rush.

Rail travel is slow and therein lies the attraction for many of us. I feel it's the most literary form of travel, too, and I know the train buffs I watch on television - Michael Portillo, Michael Palin and Tony Robinson, among others - would agree.

You can't travel on an iconic train such as the Indian Pacific, one of the world's great railway journeys, without half hoping something dramatic might ensue and a certain fastidious Belgian sleuth might be on hand to sort out the matter.

But this was not the Orient Express and Hercule Poirot was nowhere to be seen, however I'm sure he would enjoy the Indian Pacific too.

the Indian Pacific

The writer was a guest of Journey Beyond

Phil Brown

Arts Editor - The Courier-Mail


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