Let me preface this post by saying this was an odd travel experience.
Traveling solo is hard. I could say it hasn't bothered me all that much, but I'd be lying. I think the hardest part about traveling alone, is how much it bothers other people.
I'm a 35-year-old single female with no kids traveling alone. I'm not exactly the typical "traveler." Most of the folks I've met throughout the past few months fit into one of four categories: backpackers (typically recent university grads in their 20's), couples (on honeymoon, anniversary or holiday), corporate travelers or retirees (now that they don't have to work, they have the time and $ to travel.) The Indian Pacific was packed chock-full of the latter. And they just could not grasp why on earth I would want to travel by myself. During a dinner, where I was the only young (and single) person at a table of about 20 - no one would talk to me. I honestly think they were afraid of me. I had to start encroaching into people's conversations.
The conversation went something like this - Them: "I could just never imagine travel alone. Isn't it really hard to travel alone?" Me: "Only when people make it awkward like you are now."
So I had to explain it to them - and once we got that, and the inevitable (and constant) questions about Trump out of the way, we had some fun.
I booked this train trip based on the experience described in Bill Bryson's book, A Sunburned Country. Three nights and four days from Sydney to Perth via Broken Hill, Adelaide, Cook and Kalgoorlie, one way, 4,352km (2704 miles.) Australia is a big country, like a very, very big ass country (the distance from Sydney to Perth is roughly 180 miles short of New York to California.)
The ticket I booked was all-inclusive - all excursions, food, drink, my own sleeper car, etc. were included. Basically an all-inclusive cruise, but on a train. So, I really shouldn't have been surprised that it was ALL old people who had tacked the train trip on as a return to Perth from a three-week cruise around Australia and New Zealand. And I'm not agist - some of my best friends are in their 80's, but I don't think it quite prepared me for four days and 4,000 km of retirees from Perth.
Thank God there was one (yep you heard it, one) other young person on the trip. A nice young English graduate student on a six-month working holiday visa who, despite being gay and 13 years younger than me, everyone thought I was dating.
Truth be told, it was a fantastic trip. I think it might be similar to a small cruise ship? You become close with all of the other passengers because you literally have nowhere else to go other than your tiny little sleeper car or the bar/dining cars. Or, it could have been the free alcohol. But by the time we docked at Perth, we were all best friends.
Check out my spacious digs below:
The first morning we went on a short tour through Broken Hill - a frontier mining town in the outback that could easily host the set of The Hills Have Eyes.
That evening we would make a stop in Adelaide, switch staff and pick up a few more passengers. While the crew was getting situated, we had a choice of excursions, and of course I chose the wine tour. We were bussed to the McClaren Valley, area where we toured the d'Arenberg Cube - an extremely bizarre modern art gallery/winery where they uncomfortably rushed us through a wine tasting. They did have a cool video wall though. Dinner followed at a local seafood restaurant with some killer views of a coastal sunset.
That evening, back on the train, a feisty Bavarian named Cordy joined the trip. Wooo, another SOLO female traveler! Cordy, Will, all of the other experienced lushes and myself drank and shared stories until early in the AM.
The next day we travelled straight through the Nullabor - an area of flat, almost treeless nothingness. Which was good, because I was a little hungover.
Mid-day we stopped in the small abandoned town of Cook, population 4 - all with the sole purpose of fueling the Indian Pacific. It was hot and infested with flies. And a bit creepy, but we'd been on the train for 15 hours and it felt good to get off and walk around a bit. The town itself was effectively closed in 1997 when the railways were privatized and the new owners didn't need a support town there.
That evening we stopped in Rawlinna for BBQ and some live music - in which I do have video but my singing along might take the pain off your walls so I will save you and not post it :)
Days on the train went like this: breakfast, nap, lunch, happy hour, dinner, bed, repeat. I struggled writing this post because I think it might be one of those things where you had to be there. As weird of an experience as it was, I'd do it all over again. As a matter of fact, I WILL come back to do The Ghan - same train but going from Adelaide to Darwin. Hopefully it's filled with as many odd characters as the Indian Pacific was.