Last week I shared the first half of my recent trip across the continent aboard the Indian Pacific train. Here are some pics from the second half of the journey...
1. Watson (08:00, 9 Dec 2011)
We pulled into this non-location, an arbitrary stopping place named after Australia's third prime minister, to find dozens of people waiting for us.
Although there's nothing at Watson other than a bit of scrub and a lone tree which is annually decked with tinsel for the train's arrival, the audience had driven in from hundreds of kilometres away, some camping overnight.
Among them were many Aboriginal people including young students, and as our resident singer Jessica Mauboy is part Aboriginal herself this was always going to be an interesting meeting.
As you can see from the photo, the pop star and her backers performed unplugged under the desert sky (spot the local person recording the scene with an iPad in the lower right - those devices get everywhere):
Here's a few of the audience and a dog, all making the best use of an old lounge chair (which Santa used later for distributing presents to the kids):
2. Cook (10:00, 9 Dec 2011)
Cook was once a town with a decent-sized population, which lived to serve the railway running through it. Nowadays the population has dwindled to just four people, one of whom runs the souvenir shop which opens when the Indian Pacific arrives to refill with water.
An American tourist kindly took this shot of me in front of the sign marking the completion of the transcontinental railway in 1917:
3. Rawlinna (16:45, 9 Dec 2011)
For the rest of the day we had views of the featureless Nullarbor Plain, an amazingly flat and treeless expanse. The train drivers might also have had a bout of white line fever (or steel rail fever) as they drove the train along the longest dead straight stretch of rail in the world - all 480km of it.
Finally we crossed the border into Western Australia and arrived at Rawlinna, another virtual ghost town which once serviced the railway. Although the station building was closed, its caretakers had remarkably managed to keep a patch of lawn growing between the building and the rails.
It was facing this lawn that Jess Mauboy performed to a small audience of stockmen in impressive hats, assisted by the Man in Red:
4. Kalgoorlie (20:30, 9 Dec 2011)
In the evening we reached the gold mining city to encounter the largest crowd yet for the singer's concerts, spread out in front of the station and across the footbridges leading over it.
One of my colleagues and I slipped away into the centre of town for a drink at one of the outback city's famous old pubs, and ended up at the Exchange Hotel.
It was a warm, humid night... in fact it was so warm, the barmaids kept taking off clothing. By the time we slipped away back to the station at 10pm, things were getting quite scanty.
5. Perth (09:00, 10 Dec 2011)
Finally, after a night's sleep, our three day journey came to an end as we pulled into East Perth Terminal. One more concert to catch, then it was a quick hop over the lines to the suburban train, and a finally short train journey into the city centre itself.
It had been a great journey, with fine singing, gift giving, cityscapes, fascinating desert and men in big hats. I'd recommend it to anyone.
Disclosure time... on this trip I travelled courtesy of Great Southern Rail.