14 hours on a train and loving it
Trip Start Apr 28, 2012
9Trip End May 11, 2012
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We wake up to a stunning morning in Brisbane. The taxi ride to the train station highlights the impression we had of Brisbane last night: it seems like a cool town that would justify a longer visit. There's something about having a river run through a city that really adds to its beauty and charm. To us it feels a little like a warmer version of Wellington, or maybe Dunedin. With better Vietnamese food of course!
Our train heads out of the city and we're soon surrounded by sparse bush. To Nathan's utmost embarrassment, about half an hour into the ride I gasp, point and shout "Kangaroo!" And there she is, a huge statuesque beast, staring calmly at the passing train. Nathan tries to explain how common Kangaroos are here (road hazards, he says) and why it's really not that exciting. I don't care. That's the first wild roo I've ever seen and she just made may day!
For fourteen hours the train cruises through a variety of landscapes. Beautiful Australian bush-clad hills, monotonous flatlands and stunning farms where all that's missing is a real life cowboy on horseback. In some parts I think I might be in Africa. Every now and then there's a flash of colour as a parrot, startled by the noise of the train, flies off into the bush. Ant hills dot the landscape.
The train is surprisingly well frequented. We notice that it seems to be used primarily between small towns. Let me introduce me to some of the characters on the train. Ms. Seat-Thief. A woman in her early fifties, with a hacking cough, she is constantly being kicked out of the seat she's chosen. I'm not sure what's wrong with her own one - we were all allocated seats when we purchased our tickets - but she certainly doesn't seem to want to sit in it. At one point she feigns sleep to try to avoid having to move. It doesn't work. Eventually a conductor takes her away.
The man behind us mutters expletives at his phone every time it notifies him of receiving a text message. His swearing becomes increasingly violent, until finally the texts stop altogether, and he's peaceful for the rest of the journey. In the meantime, Nathan is becoming increasingly agitated with the conversation between a man in his thirties and a Chinese woman in her sixties. He has been lecturing her for hours on the details of his depressing and rather boring personal life. It gets worse when he moves onto religion (I hear him mention the devil amongst other snippets) and political philosophy. "Julia Gillard is a Communist," he declares, "socialism aims to control us in our free time." Really? I thought that was religion? I must have been confused... "I voted Labour," the woman replies bravely. He goes on to tell her that lots of Asians voted for Labour because the party made false promises. "That's what they want you to think," he patronises her further. Her patience is admirable, but really I wish she'd just tell him to shut up (or worse).
All of a sudden I realise why the top that the woman across the aisle from me is wearing looks a bit strange. It's the top half of a set of flannel pajamas! Her and the woman beside her chatter away pleasantly about their pet dogs.
The rest of our travel companions are a quiet bunch. Like us, they read books and use their laptops. Couples engage in quiet conversation. Lunch time comes and goes. We're pleasantly surprised by the quality of the wraps we order. As the hours pass I make better progress on my knitting than I have in months. Nathan devours his book. Two hours out of Sydney I fall asleep to the gentle rhythm of the train. We arrive within the minute of the promised ETA - 9.06pm. It's been a long day, and we're tired, but we've had a good trip. The Brisbane to Sydney trip isn't the most amazing scenery wise, but it's perfectly nice. Overall we're impressed with the quality of the long distant train system. The XPT isn't flash, but it's roomy, comfortable, on time, the food's ok and the onboard entertainment (read fellow travelers), well, mildly entertaining. Are we over train travel? Not at all!