Melbourne again, via nowhere.

The Indian-Pacific There are a few truly great train journeys in the world, and I think the Indian-Pacific should counted highly amongst of them. The full journey crosses Australia from Perth to Sydney, linking the Indian Ocean on the west to the Pacific in the east, taking three days to cross the continent, and travelling nearly 4500km. I took the train for a relatively short jaunt - the two day trip from Perth to Adelaide. Bidding farewell to my Perth hosts at the station, I boarded the 25 carriage train and found my 'Red Service' seat. My first impressions of the train were that it was a bit faded - the seats squeaked, some of the window blinds didn't work, one of the toilets was declared out-of-service before we even left the platform - but I held any further judgement in check, as this journey was to be more about where the train went than the train itself. The first leg of the journey was from Perth to Kalgoorlie, one of the biggest mining towns in Australia. The scenery was relatively varied as the day wore on, passing wooded valleys, small towns, and vast farm pastures. As night fell, it became clear that we were running late and by the time the train pulled into Kalgoorlie, we were far too late for a tour that I had hoped to join around the town and local supermine. No matter, the journey continued into the night. Dawn brought the first view of the Nullarbor Plain - a vast expanse of wilderness spanning several hundred miles of the south of Australia. The view was impressively desolate - sparse stunted shrubs streching as far as the eye could see. And this view continued for hours. And hours. This was the longest straight section of railway track in the world at 300 miles long, and with such little variation in the scenery it seemed even longer. A brief stop at the abandoned town of Cook (population 2) was a welcome break, though it managed somehow to further emphasise the desolation of the area. As the train continued on across the country, I withdrew from watching the unchanging view, and slept. The final morning on the train brought a welcome respite from the wilderness, with small farms appearing, kangaroos hopping away from the train, towns, and finally Adelaide.
Lunar landscape from the window of the Indian Pacific

Lunar landscape from the window of the Indian Pacific

The ghost town of Cook

The ghost town of Cook

Adelaide What can I say about Adelaide? Well, it's a nice enough town… but that's about it, it's nice. I'm struggling to think of anything else to say about it. The botanic gardens were quite pleasant, the lake/river stank, the main shopping street had… shops… To be honest, Adelaide was the least inspiring city that I'd visited in a long time, so much so that I spent an unnecessarily large amount of money on a wine tour of the Barossa Valley. This was a decision I didn't regret in the slightest, however - the tour guide was very entertaining, the wine was fantastic and plentiful, and as a special bonus I wasn't in Adelaide.  I was even tempted to buy a bottle of wine - though the A$100 price tag persuaded me to leave it alone, perhaps the fact that I even considered it gives you an idea of how good it was. I stayed in Adelaide for a total of three nights. In hindsight, I suspect one would have been enough.
Adelaide

Adelaide

One of many pieces of street art in Adelaide

One of many pieces of street art in Adelaide

Wine tasting in the Barossa Valley

Wine tasting in the Barossa Valley

Melbourne and tennis As part of my failure to plan my trip properly, I still needed to get my final travel jabs done before heading off to Asia, and thus I had to return to Melbourne. Coincidentally, I was going to be in Melbourne while the Australian Open tennis tournament was on - while it made hostel booking a bit of a pain, I did decide to buy a ticket and spend a day at the tennis. I watched four matches, including Andy Murray steamrollering Gilles Simon. The whole time that I spent in Melbourne over this period was great - the atmosphere was always buzzing, the hostel TV rooms were crowded every night watching the big matches, and visiting various bars with friends was always fun (if expensive).
Andy Murray at the Australian Open

Andy Murray at the Australian Open

Doubles tennis at the Australian Open

Doubles tennis at the Australian Open

Great Ocean Road My final excursion in Australia was along the Great Ocean Road, about 150 miles along the coast to the west of Melbourne. I rented a car, and really enjoyed a long days drive along the winding coastal route, stopping frequently to check out lighthouses, beaches (including Bell's Beach where I spotted an echidna), and some of the amazing limestone formations. The Twelve Apostles were particularly pretty, although the huge crowds of tourists were very off-putting. I managed to find a small colony of koalas on one of the side roads, and spent some time watching their sluggish antics in the tretops. After a night in a hostel at the far end of the route, and a sedate journey back to Melbourne, and I felt ready to pack up and head back to Sydney where I'd catch my flight to Singapore...
Stoned Koala on the Great Ocean Road

Stoned Koala on the Great Ocean Road

An Echidna at Bell's beach

An Echidna at Bell's beach

The coastline of the Great Ocean Road

The coastline of the Great Ocean Road

The coastline of the Great Ocean Road

The coastline of the Great Ocean Road

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