And it all started out so well – our long awaited train trip on the Indian Pacific, so named because the rail trip goes from across Australia from one ocean to the other. We joined the throngs at Perth Station and met up with our travelling companions Dot and Derek, checked our big bags into the baggage wagon, and took our smaller bags into our room. There's just time to get one of the staff to take our photo as we posed outside on the platform.
And this is our small room – the top bunk gets pulled down at night when the beds get made up. With a small bathroom too, this is just what we had when we rode on the Ghan train (Adelaide to Darwin) in 2016.
The Indian Pacific train pulled way from Perth Station bang on time at 10.00am, leaving Australia’s most remote capital city behind. We went slowly through the suburbs, soon reaching the outskirts of Perth, and the countryside.
Out in the country
Happy people all met in the Lounge car, everyone looking forward to 4 days of travelling and adventure. Coffee, beer, wine, or in my case, lemon, lime, and bitters, were sipped as we got to know the other passengers and waited for the call to lunch, our first meal onboard. The train had stopped at Avon, with huge wheat silos towering over us on one side, and rows of empty wagons on sidings on the other.
Wheat silos at Avon
While the train was stopped, the lunch service commenced, and we were ushered into the dining cart, sharing a table with Dot and Derek. The choices were Beetroot Tart, Caesar Salad or Monkfish, followed by dessert, all very tasty.
Queen Adelaide Restaurant
Back in the Lounge Car for a coffee, we were starting to wonder why the train was still stationary. Perhaps a freight train was coming through? Then it was finally announced that there had been a serious incident further up the line where a freight train of two locos and four carriages had derailed, badly damaging the track. As repairs to the track would take several days, or even longer, our journey was cancelled, and the train was returning to Perth. What a disappointment, we could hardly believe what we were being told.
The train manager and all the staff were full of apologies as we all discussed what on earth we would do now. During the afternoon further announcements were made – accommodation would be found for us all, plus the cost of an evening meal and breakfast. That was one weight off our minds. Matt, the entertainer kept or spirits up as he strummed his guitar and we all sung along. As he sang the first line of the Kenny Rodger’s hit song, The Gambler, he commented that the song was rather prophetic. The words go “On a warm summer's evening on a train bound for nowhere…..” So true.
Matt the train singer
Buses were waiting at Perth Station to take us to the hotel for the night, Pan Pacific. You can imagine the time it took to get everyone off the buses, luggage collected, and then we all had to queue up to register, 90 rooms we were told. By this stage the hotel had been advised of our names and the dealt with us all as quickly as they could. Likewise, the hotel restaurant manager did her best to get us seated for dinner as soon as tables became available. With a $50 voucher each for a meal, she decided to cut the price of the sumptuous buffet from $55 to $50 for all of us from the train. “You have been through so much”, she told us, as we went to pay the extra. How kind was that!
During the night the management and staff of Indian Pacific were working hard trying to find a solution to the next part of the problem, how to get us to our destinations of the train trip, Adelaide or Sydney. A letter was delivered to us all announcing that flights had been arranged and buses would be available to take us to the airport. The following morning we were all given our final flight details, and it was announced that we would all get a full refund for the cost of our aborted rail trip. I was too disappointed to take photos during our extra time in Perth, most of it was spent waiting for the buses.
Although badly disappointed, we were impressed with all the work that went on behind the scenes dealing with a train full of passengers. Our travel agent managed to book us two nights in our Sydney hotel prior to our expected arrival, (at our cost) so all that was taken care of. We will have 5 days in Sydney instead of 3 originally planned.
Our extra flight, Perth to Sydney
To top it all off, the collapsible pull handle broke off Robin’s suit case, so he had to lug it all through the airport. Then he forgot to pack his Swiss Army knife safely away in his checked luggage, so it was confiscated at security. We finally arrived at our hotel in Sydney close to midnight. Straight to bed, it must be a better day in the morning.