Saturday, 25 October 2014

The Indian Pacific Train and Beyond

Within a day I was fully recovered, mentally speaking, from the tooth ordeal. A gaping hole in my left jaw that I couldn't help but continually stick my tongue in to explore the cavity plus a sharp pain whenever anything solid went too close to it and still not being able to fully open my jaw,  served as the only reminders of my trip to the dentist.

Never one to sit still for too long I became impatient to leave the sleepy town of 600 inhabitants. Various lifts offered to me by the locals who had befriended me over the course of my week and a few days in the little harbour town fell through one by one. I decided to make my own luck. I upped sticks and started trudging along the only road in and out of Denham waving a thumb and flashing a dazzling (or so I hoped!) smile at all the cars and caravans that sped past. The sun grew hotter, the cars sped by faster and I began to loose heart. Doubt, that ever creeping, niggling little bastard, snuck into my skull and whispered that I should have stayed were I was, that I should have waited till the next day for a lift that might not have materialized, that I shouldn't have been such a tightfisted miser and ordered a taxi to take me and booked a coach and all manner of other unhelpful nonsense. With a forced cheerfulness I waved all these aside and told the doubting voice that fate was waiting to send me the right car, the one that would be most useful. And, sure enough, as a long train of cars swept by one by one and I flashed a beautiful smile imploringly to each and every driver the last one in the caravan suddenly broke off, after having swept by with the rest, curved dramatically across the road and came back. Without saying a word a tall,  tan woman with enormous blonde wavy hair jumped out of the drivers seat, opened her boot and started thrusting my bags into the space therein. Then she said "Hi, I'm Sally, this is my daughter Kate, she's six. Where are you headed?"

During the six hour drive Sally introduced me to Help Exchange and we decided that I would stay with her and her family in Geraldton and help paint the new ceilings that she'd just had installed. Once that was done another passing acquaintance of Sally and husband Stick's passed through overnight on her way to Perth. I got a lift in with her and upon arriving quickly made plans to jump on the train to Adelaide across one of the most desolate and remote areas of not just Australia but also the world.

The train ride was a long and tiring forty three hours. Forty three hours of bush, vast horizons on either side, desert, and the gentle slow trundling clackity clack of the train as it meandered at a leisurely 85 kilometers per hour to its destination. We stopped for half an hour at Cook Town, once a bustling hive of train related activity it is now classified as one of the most remote spots in the world: on a par with an orbiting space station as one of the train hands joked. One family now lives in Cook Town. All the old school and community buildings and homes still stand. All are condemned and all have signs around them restricting access and warning of imminent danger should you cross a threshold. What a place to live. You could easily picture a 'silent hill' type scenario taking place amongst the deserted streets and shacks.

A whirlwind three day tour of Adelaide ensued when I finally stepped off the train, dizzy with tiredness and travel fatigue. I met up with friends of friends of friends, with cousins and soon to be cousins, and hung out with fellow backpackers from the YHA before taking the Overland Train to Melbourne. Another 10 hours of train travel and I was happy to know that I wouldn't be getting on another for quite some time! Or so I thought.

Things in Melbourne didn't quite go according to plan. Within a matter of days I had caught a cold and a chest infection from the friend of a friend who I was staying with and had fallen out with the friend who had arranged for me to stay there... I had however made friends with my host in my own right by this point so although I was keen to leave to get to warmer climes I was, happily, not in any rush. As soon as I could stand up without getting lightheaded I said goodbye to Sophia and Lorissa and jumped on yet another train. This time to Sydney for what turned into a nine hour lay over before finally arriving in Brisbane, Queensland. Getting into Queensland proved tricker than one might originally have suspected. According to the train operators a deep seated dislike between the NSW and QLD agencies leads to NSW passengers being routinely asked to disembark and jump on coaches to cross the border as the QLD operators refuse to let the NSW trains through. This is not so un-understandable as it might at first seem. You see, the NSW trains have a nasty habit of being ridiculously late! My train left Sydney over two hours past its scheduled time. We were all kicked off at Casino at four in the morning where two coaches picked up the passengers who had connecting flights to catch. The rest of us hung around for over an hour while another coach was found to take us the rest of the way to Brisbane.

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