Sunday 1 June 2014
That there were no trains running on the Fremantle line caused a little bit of hassle today, as it turned out that I had to leave the hostel before check-out opened. (I thought it opened at 8 but apparently not until 9). Left my key with … ‘someone’ who seemed to vaguely work there, but does mean I didn’t get my deposit back for the locker key and stuff. Bah, only AUD10, they can give it to charity or something. I’ll just skip lunch one day.
Potentially that day could be tomorrow, given that I’ll be spending the entirety of it on a train and my plans to visit a supermarket this morning went by the wayside on the grounds that, er, there weren’t any.
Perth East terminal, despite looking on the map as though it is literally just to the East of the city centre, is very much in a residential area with pretty much no shops around it at all. I did manage to get a breakfast in the station building but it does mean I haven’t got anything ‘with’ me to nibble on as the countryside rolls by.
Fortunately the train has a ‘dining car’, which to be more precise Is a small kiosk at one end of a carriage of tables. It’s actually pretty functional, offering chocolate, nuts, pasties, and crisps, as well as doing proper lunches and evening meals; not much choice, but the food’s actually not that bad.
Taking into account Adelaide’s in a different time zone, the journey takes 41 hours. It didn’t take long to realise why – just like the Trans-Mongolian, the average speed of the train is pretty low (not far either side of 50 kph). A little looking either side also revealed that much of its length so far is single-track; we keep pulling into sidings at ‘stations’ to let freight trains through.
The only ‘major’ stop today was the town of Kalgoorlie, famous (not only for Kevin ‘Bloody’ Wilson but also) for the gold mines that are the only reason for the town’s existence (as no-one in their right mind would build a sizeable town on the edge of a desert like that). For $80 (AUD) we could take a tour of the largest of these gold mines, but I was content to save my money and have a walk around the town.
At this point I ought to mention we arrived there at around 11pm and we’d be stopped there for at least two hours. On a Sunday evening. Pretty much nothing was open and there was virtually nobody else around. But it was still nice to have a look around a place I’d heard a bit about; it’s a compact town predominantly built in a grid pattern, and the high street looked quite ‘wild west’ like, with the way the buildings looked.
The people on the train seem friendly enough; I’m sat next to an older chap called Ian, who’s nice but a bit too talkative (and tends to repeat himself a bit). Quite interesting though; talking about how Perth’s changed over time, and about how cheap train travel is for older people in Australia (he’d come a few days ago on the train the other way). He’s actually headed to Canberra, and he should get there sometime n Wednesday, after catching a coach to Melbourne overnight on Tuesday, then another train (and then bus) to Canberra.
Most other people would have flown, yes…