The Blue Mountains as seen from the Indian Pacific.
NEAR KATOOMBA, NSW (Saturday, Nov. 1, 2008) – The Indian Pacific is, as I write this at 5:32 p.m. Sydney time (11:32 p.m. Friday in San Francisco), wiggling its way through the scenic Blue Mountains, having just passed the hamlet of Katoomba.
Luckily most of the little towns along the route have small train stations with their names, making it easy for me to chart our progress on a map. We’re actually making decent time on a far less-than capacity train – one more benefit of travelling in the off-season.
The scenery so far has been rolling hills covered with gum trees broken up by sheer rock cliffs. We’re at nearly 1,000 meters above sea level right now, so a lot of the views have been blocked by a heavy fog.
With both the seat next to me and the ones in front of me, I’m optimistic that I can get some sleep tonight, despite the cramped conditions. The train will likely take on more passengers in both Broken Hill and (especially) Adelaide, so I’ll enjoy it while I can.
Let me be one more of a million voices decrying the degradation of the American trans-continental railroad system. I’ve heard some horror stories from people who’ve travelled across the United States on rails, although the trip from Los Angeles (or Glendale) to San Diego is the previous longest railway trip I’ve ever taken.
(We just got passed by a Prius on the frontage road – obviously we’re going uphill.)
We just passed the town of Blackheath, which looks like a pleasant country town: a busy main street, social hall, fire station, cemetery and small train station with the built-up area ending just a couple blocks off the main drag. I get the feeling that a lot of these towns are filled with summer homes and retirees. Just out of Blackheath, there was a great view of a farming valley underneath a giant rock cliff. Of course I was too slow on the camera.
I’m sitting in the lounge car because it’s the only place on the whole train (outside of private cabins) with power. I’m not keen to pay for overpriced train food, so I bought a sandwich at a Subway in downtown Sydney to eat tonight (I’ll ease out of the lounge when the dinner rush begins). The décor and the sandwich itself was much the same as one would find in the States, save for the “u” in “favourite.”
But most interesting was that this particular Subway – and I don’t yet have enough of a sample to determine if this is Australia-wide or just this particular franchise) does not serve chips (or crisps). With your sandwich, you can get either sliced fruit or “yoghurt.” Healthy to the max.
Overnight, we’ll head to the old Outback mining town of Broken Hill, where I’ll try to post this from. (But the chances of finding working wi-fi at 7 a.m. on a Sunday morning in rural Australia are remote, so I may not get this up until I’m in Adelaide).