Welcome to my humble abode!
This little tin box, or the Indian Pacific train, has been home for, ooh, a-a-a-ges now.
The train is hugely long, I estimate at least fourteen miles of carriage. Rumour has it that whenever the driver needs a wee wee, he has to catch a bus to where the toilet is. The carriages are cute, very reminiscent of a tin diner from fifties America. There’s one carriage of seats for me and my fellow Red skinflint passengers, joined to which is a dining car, also lovely, with eight little spotlessly clean booths, all adding to the rock-n-roll period feel. It’s like Rizzo from Grease will appear to collect your ticket and pop a bubble in your face at any moment.
In the miles and miles of carriage on the great Indian Pacific train, this is the only one we poor Red passengers have access to. The remaining 14,000 carriages are the preserve of the Gold and Platinum customers, to roam around in, free as a herd of kangaroos. Consequently, for us reddies, going to the dining car is a bit of a treat, a break from the old sitting in your seat routine, something to eke out and look forward to. It’s the annual leave of this long journey on a long train. The mood in the dining cart is therefore pleasantly convivial, with a kind of common room atmosphere, where total strangers settle down to animated chat.
It’s an odd kind of journey to make. I find time is doing strange things. The first eight hours zipped by even tho all I did was sit on my backside and look out the window. Similarly, my watch told me I slept for 6 hours last night but it felt like 5 minutes. Day two in the big brother train and time has slowed down quite a bit, and the excitement of the dining car has worn off somewhat, so its shaping up to be a long day. The time warp feeling is added to by the fact that on this preposterously long journey, we’ve crossed actual time zones, and every so often we get a bing bong message to say adjust your clocks by an hour or, sometimes, half an hour. In effect, I now have absolutely no idea what time it is, although I’m sure it’s still February, and hopefully teatime, because I’m starving.
The principal reason for making this journey, other than getting to Adelaide, is for the scenery, and it is worth it. Here’s a wee pic of yesterday’s sunset.
Purty, huh? Today we’re training across the famous Nullarbor desert. Nullarbor is Latin for no trees. I didn’t know the Latins made it as far as Australia, so there you go – every day is a school day (which is ironic when you’re a teacher on a career break). They might also have called it Flattus Apancake, because it is, and it has been since I woke up at dawn, which I think was about two days ago now. Apparently this is the longest stretch of straight railway in the world, at 400 and something km. I know this because the conductor has announced it several times over the past 400km. I think he may have had a hand in building it, clever man.
Another thing I’ve learned is that funny things happen over time when you share a confined space with a group of strangers. Inhibitions melt away. I now know what the apparently respectable man in front of me looks like in his undies, as he got changed quite nonchalantly in front of me. There’s also a woman making a menagerie of origami creatures and handing them out. She just flicked a frog at me. So I flicked a crisp at her. But she didn’t like that. Apparently it wasn’t a reciprocal game. And if the snogging Dutch backpackers don’t calm their jets, I will shortly be learning the Flemish for get a room.
One more sleep till Adelaide, and I’ll almost be sorry to leave this weird little world behind. But only almost. What’s the Latin for that?