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Not so happy journey on the Indian Pacific

The team that kept us sane - Bali, Francis and Allie. Right: James Ross our entertainer. Bottom right: working on he huge jigsaw puzzle with Trudy and Allie.

After my wife and I had such a great time on the Ghan train from Adelaide to Alice Springs a couple of years ago we thought we would go the whole hog and take the Indian Pacific from Perth to Sydney – in Platinum class – which meant a full sized room with double bed and Bollinger galore.

The four-day three night journey wasn’t cheap, more than $7,000 for the pair of us, but the trip, offered adventure, comfort and lots of sightseeing at places like Kalgoorlie, Broken Hill’s Pricilla Queen of the desert Pub and show, The Adelaide Oval plus lots of off-train meals and the Blue Mountains.

Trouble was it didn’t happen like that.

It was all good when we set off rom Perth, but 580 km down the track to Kalgoorlie we hit a bush fire. We had to wait until eventually we were told that we could not proceed had to return to Perth.

So we had to spend the night on board at the Southern Cross siding. There I found sleeping a problem as the noise of the air conditioning compressors produced a very loud intermittent roaring noise.

The next day we were told that passengers would collect an 88 percent refund if they cancelled and a 33 percent discount if they stayed on the train and travelled as far as Adelaide. I thought that was a very good offer, after all the bushfire was no fault of Great Southern Rail. Later we discovered that the people who had booked for Adelaide-Sydney received 100 percent refund AND 25 percent discount if they rebooked! Made our deal look a lot less attractive

We opted for the rescheduled trip from Perth to Adelaide and that was where the organisation really let us down, although we were taken care of initially. First we told we were to spend the night in Perth Station. The train was to be sent for a service and we would be able to board at 11pm.

We were taken to an excellent and extremely expensive dinner in the Crown Casino private dining room, but only to order two courses because of the time element. However after leaving the casino at 10.30 we were taken on a nightmare coach drive around a darkened Perth and eventually got onto the train at 1.30 am. That was bad enough but to be awakened at 7 am to be told it was breakfast time was as stupid an event as I can recall in my travel experiences. No thought was given to sleep deprived guests. This set the tone then for a journey meant to be fun into an exhausting experience that was close to nightmare.

To add to this the “excursion” in Kalgoorlie proved to be a disaster. It was a fifteen minute amateur show in an airless, theatrette where they could not be bothered to turn on the aircon in soaring temperatures. The water jugs too ran out quickly so there was nothing to drink unless you bought it from the shop.

A highlight of the tour was billed as a visit to see the Superpit, which unfortunately was closed because of the weather. That was fair enough, but there were people who joined the excursion purely to see this. The problem was that we weren’t told of the closure until we were on the bus!

After the presentation it was straight into the gift shop and back on to the bus for another pointless two-hour tour in the darkness. Sleep once again was difficult because of the speed the train was travelling and the next stop was an early morning arrival at Rawlinna, which also proved to be a disaster. The brochure promised a “dramatic sunrise” but the sun was well and truly up when the train arrived. The stop at Cook was pretty pointless too for passengers but we knew it was a stop to top up the water supply. It seemed that once again, that management was more interested in getting the train to Adelaide as quickly as possible than the discomfort of passengers when we set off for the final leg of the trip.

After realising we were going to miss booked flights we had been advised that the train would arrive in Adelaide between 10-11 am and to re-book for an afternoon flight, which we did. Then, with a speeding train that turned the “relaxed rocking” of the train into a shuddering ride that made sleep impossible - and we had to hold onto our drinking glasses several times to prevent them from falling off the table – we arrived at 7.45 am. This meant that unless we could change flights yet again meant a long, long wait at the airport. Why the hurry? I guess that management instruction came before the comfort of guests. We were taken to the airport by comfortable limousine and, with the help of a very understanding Virgin Australia staff we managed to get our flights changed a second time without penalty.

I was disappointed to miss the final leg where it seems, all the good things happen between Adelaide and Sydney.

On the train itself the magnificent cabin team helped us cope. Bali, Allie and Francis, plus James the musician were superb, entertaining and efficient at all times. It is a team well worth nurturing.

All in all, the trip, even with the refund, was poor value for money. It is not a trip I would recommend to anyone.

Deanne Scott in the ghost town and Eric Scott examines the big wheels at Kalgoorlie

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