Wednesday, January 28, 2009



We wake to the PA system at 07:00 announcing breakfast for the first seating. Both of us slept better the second night as the track was smoother and, I guess, we were accustomed to the new accommodations. When we opened the blinds, we were passing through a country of low rolling hills, sandy, red soil and small trees and bushes. Very soon, however, we are told to watch out for the abrupt change to the Nullabor Plain where virtually no trees grow and what vegetation you see is a grey/green salt brush, eaten only by desperate sheep and camels. Speaking of wildlife, today we have seen, a dingo, camels, two broad-tailed eagles and various other bird life.
After breakfast, we reached the train service town of Cook. Cook used to have a population of 300 when the trains were steam powered. Now, with diesel/electric engines, the town as shrunk to a permanent population of: "1 cat, 1 dog, 20 Chooks, whatever they are, 5 people, 30 dingoes and three million flies." Our engine was refueled from underground storage tanks and, I think, we took on water for use in the sanitary system also. We wandered around for thirty minutes or so and took some photographs, looking for the perfect picture to give a sense of place in this desolate place that is, literally, a thousand kilometers in either direction from any real civilization.
Leaving Cook, we continued on our way, heading for Kalgoorlie. We stopped and/or slowed several times to allow other trains to pass, pickup a mail sack or a passenger. Yes, someone was waiting for the train at Forrest. Forrest has an airfield built for use as a refueling point for transcontinental flights before planes had today’s range. It is now maintained as an emergency airfield for both commercial and civil air traffic.
In our air-conditioned compartment, it is 70 degrees and you can feel some heat through the double pane window. If you step into the vestibule at the car’s end and put your hand on the single pane window there, you can really feel the outside heat. This is desolate, dangerous country where you could die if your vehicle broke down and you were not prepared for such an emergency.
Once again the landscape is beginning to change. We have left the plain and are in an area of trees and brush again. It is still a lonely place, but not as forbidding. Actually has a unique beauty to it.

We arrive in Kalgoorlie as the sun is setting. It is so hot and dry outside, it literally takes your breath away. We don’t see how people can work outside here. The train provides a bus tour of the town. It has a surprisingly pretty main street with all the Victorian store fronts. Gold mining built this town in the late 1800's and has kept it going ever since. The high light of the tour is a stop at the Super Pit. At some point in the past all the individual holdings were bought up and now the old mines are being worked as a pit to get the last of the veins of gold. It is an incredible sight! It is a huge deep pit and one can see the old mine tunnels at various points down the sides of the pit. They are using huge trucks and scoop-like tractors to haul the rock containing gold to the surface. The mine operates 24/7 year round and the workers work 12 hour shifts 4 days on and 4 days off.

After the mine we drive past a local pub and get mooned by the "ladies and gents" enjoying a brew! Then, onto the infamous Hay Street where ladies of the night are selling their wares. There are still three working houses that, believe it or not give tours, during the day!
We get back to the train about 9:30 and call it a night.

Tomorrow we reach Perth and head to the South West coast.

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