Those of you with decent memories may remember me taking the Indian Pacific train from Sydney to Perth two years (and about 100 blog posts) ago.
As you may recall, each year the train's operator Great Southern Rail lays on a special Outback Christmas train carrying a pop singer and Santa Claus.
Concerts are staged along the way, raising money for the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
The 2011 call came and I was invited aboard, this time in the company of the talented singer Jessica Mauboy (though I admit I had to look up who she was - my fault, not hers).
As I wrote a lot about the journey last time, this time I thought I'd share images from stops along the way, adding some comments.
1. Sydney (15:00, 7 Dec 2011)
The Indian Pacific is so long that it can't fit a single platform at Sydney's Central Station; it's split over two, then shunted together once everyone's aboard.
A few fast facts about our edition of the train:
- From Sydney to Perth, it would cover 4,352 kilometres;
- It contained 27 carriages;
- The entire train was a vast 639 metres long.
As we were having dinner, the sun obligingly set in memorable fashion on my side of the restaurant carriage. It's not easy to take photos through glass, but this came out quite well:
3. Bathurst (20:40, 7 Dec 2011)
We were an hour late into Bathurst, so these kids had been putting in extra time entertaining the crowd gathered at the station for the free concert. A few speeches quickly delivered, then Jessica Mauboy hit the stage with her backing vocalist and two guitarists.
The pattern was the same for each concert - Ms Mauboy would sing a few of her own songs, then the kids would join her in Mariah Carey's All I Want for Christmas is You. In this case, with choreographed hand movements.
4. Near Broken Hill (08:30, 8 Dec 2011)
I snapped this shot of the empty Queen Adelaide restaurant carriage just before breakfast. Elegant, isn't it?
Meals were a highlight of the journey; with an interesting gang of media from across the world aboard the train, it was good to mix up the seating regularly to meet someone new.
We were supposed to stop at Broken Hill before breakfast, for another concert and a coach tour around town. Unfortunately, track works on this section of the journey had so slowed the train that we were now running very late and Silver City had to be skipped to catch up time.
However, I later heard that Jess Mauboy had made a point of getting out briefly at the station to say hello to a few fans who'd hung on in the hope of meeting her. Whatta gal.
5. Adelaide (17:30, 8 Dec 2011)
We pulled into Adelaide over two hours late, so there was little chance of travelling into the nearby city centre. The train was due to pull out again in an hour, hoping to get its schedule back on (ahem) track.
So I hung around the GSR facility at Adelaide Parklands Station to see the next concert. Despite the delay, there was a crowd of 100 or so to see the singer, and to listen to a moving story about how the Royal Flying Doctor Service flew a young man to Melbourne for an organ transplant.
6. Nearing the Great Victoria Desert, South Australia (06:30, 9 Dec 2011)
So far on the journey we'd passed through a variety of landscapes, both urban and bush. Now, back on schedule, we were entering the most fascinating landscape of the journey - desert, including the stark Nullarbor Plain.
This early morning snap from the train (note the Xmas decoration) is still mostly green, but the low scrub and red earth are a hint of what's soon to come...
Join me next week for song and tears on a treeless plain, lively downtown Cook (population 4), studiously cool stockmen, seriously underdressed barmaids, and a shining new ocean.
Disclosure time... on this trip I travelled courtesy of Great Southern Rail.