All too quickly the day had come for the start of our adventure to Broken Hill. On Sunday we made time for an early walk with a friend, late breakfast, then home to shower, change and last-minute packing until Steve arrived to drive us to Broadmeadow station for the train ride to Sydney. It was a very pleasant day, and the trip was relaxing – with Spring well on the way, the train ride to Sydney is always picturesque and the banks of wattles along the track did not disappoint. My favourite part of the ride is along Brisbane Waters and the Hawkesbury River, when one feels as if the train is skimming along the peaceful water.
Once we arrived at Central Station it was only a short walk to our motel, but a sun shower greeted us as soon as we started the walk down the ramp to Pitt Street. However it was only water, and we didn’t get very wet, as we made our way through the busy Sunday afternoon crowds. Plans had been made to meet up with Pete’s sister Marion, and her husband, Michael who collected us from the motel and drove us to a great café overlooking Coogee Beach. Both the meal and company was first class, as we caught up with their latest travels, and explained where we will be off to this trip.
As we had to get up at 4.30am, we didn’t stay up very late. Always difficult to get up so early, but a nice hot shower woke me up, and before long we were on our way to catch a taxi up the ramp to the country trains at Central. Our train was leaving from Platform 1, and after checking in our luggage we had plenty of time to find a coffee and muffin before boarding the Outback Explorer Service train for a 6.18am departure. Our arrival time in Broken Hill is 7.10pm Central Standard Time (half an hour behind Eastern Standard Time) so it was to be a long day. There was a buffet car with lots of goodies, and hot meals at lunch and dinner for those who ordered from the crew. I still had the word puzzles from the previous day’s newspaper, plus a book, and with catnaps from time to time, the hours soon passed.
It didn’t seem long before we began the ascent into the Blue Mountains, looking spectacular in its Spring attire. As we travelled along the ridges we saw the glorious magnolias in full bloom, the rhododendrums, camellias, white, scarlet and pink blossoms everywhere, and of course the golden wattle. There were many glimpses through the trees of the majestic mountains, and the valleys in the distance under their blue haze.
When we started the descent after Katoomba we travelled through about ten tunnels of differing lengths, leaving behind the mountains and valleys, and entering the spectacular Central Tablelands looking lush and green after the recent rains. Around the rolling hills were lots of cows with their new calves, and sheep with the new Spring lambs all enjoying the rich grass that the rain had delivered. There were babbling brooks lined with graceful willows, and the lichen covered rocks from bygone ages that mysteriously appear in multitudes in the paddocks.
As we approached the city of Orange (station above left) and the vast Central West, the country flattened out and became orchards and vineyards – and the crew started to take lunch orders. By this time we were hungry and ordered vegetable lasagne with a glass of Shiraz (above right). Despite being reheated in a microwave in a plastic container, and eating it with plastic knife and fork, it really was quite edible (maybe it was the Shiraz that improved the taste!).
After leaving Orange we then proceeded south west to Parkes, where there was a change of crew. The scenery has been a delight, especially the vast fields of yellow canola (above right). We had heard that the Central West had experienced flooding, but nothing had been announced that this would have any effect on the train. There was a lot of water lying around as we left Parkes, becoming more noticeable as we approached Condobolin, and soon we could see part of the Lachlan River with quite widespread flooding (below right).
As the train hurtled toward Menindee (we were running a little late apparently) the light began to fade and we watched a beautiful sunset, and could see emus and wallabies feeding on the green grasses. It was dark as we pulled in to Broken Hill, where most passengers were heading – school holidays meant there were quite a few children on the train, however they were all well behaved on such a long trip. There were taxis waiting at the station, so we were soon driving off to our townhouse that will be our home for the next 5 nights.
Lots of plans for tomorrow when we will explore around the main CBD and the Information Centre to collect brochures of things to see around Broken Hill.