This week we went on an iconic train journey – the Indian Pacific from Sydney to Adelaide. It lead to a new style of writing for me but I went with the flow and wrote what I felt. It’s not a style I feel comfortable with but hey I didn’t feel comfortable writing a blog at all when I started so perhaps I just need to be brave and give other styles a go!
Sydney to the Blue Mountains
The train draws ever upwards from the city, dragged as if by an irresistible urge towards the almost indigo haze of the Eucalyptus covered ranges of the Blue Mountains. As sunset falls, the mountains seem to shimmer with a blueness so familiar from the thousands of photos you see of Australia – iconic by their very existence.
Each mountain range getting fainter and fainter as the train twists away from them higher and higher until they fade into the distance: leaving but a faint trace on the distant horizon while others steadily appear to only disappear with the others.
The light turns from an almost daffodil yellow to a pale mustard, criss-crossed by moody dark clouds, blackening in the failing sunlight. The light merely strengths the blue shimmer that has staked its claim over the mountains.
As we enter the Eucalyptus forest, the trees march forward – the Birnam Wood of Macbeth’s nightmares. Encapsulating the train with their dark shadows and magical outlines, they will you to go further, deeper into their home. Gaps between the trees silently remind you that the vista below welcomes you, welcomes you in. It is a strange combination of darkening menace and sunset glory.
The sharp outlines of Sydney’s CBD seem long gone despite the ever smaller glimpses of its shiny towers that appear in the furthest of far distant views at increasingly rarer moments. A land of contrasts is opening its arms to your warm embrace.
Night falls and the land outside finally turns off its dimmer switch and lies silent and dark except for the bare shadows of trees from the train’s passing halo. Its world will remain hidden from me until morning. The day has turned its back on me as if to say, “that’s enough for now, you don’t need to see anymore, we will be fine without you. Sleep well.” The journey goes inward, melancholic perhaps as you gaze into blackness.
Throughout the long lazy morning, the land stretches onto a concept of horizon previously inconceivable: to the horizon of your imagination and then further. Hour after hour passes as the scenery slowly, imperceptibly changes until what you gazed out upon has been altered utterly from its incarnation of just 30 minutes ago.
The soil moves through every shade of red, from the lightest sandstone to the deepest and richest of rusts. Colours artists fear to use, colours so distinct from our everyday experience that our eye deems them unnatural / synthetic at first glance. Grass moves from bare existence to failure to survive back to a lush fertile verdancy and back again to a mix of scrub grass and rust.
The sky, reluctant to be left out of this ever changing scene too plays along. Morning broke in deepest, deepest fog – impenetrable for more than a few feet. Then suddenly, with little or no warning, it disappeared. An invisible fog proof fence perhaps stretched across the wilderness, a fence no fog dared to breach.
The absence of fog allows for a deep richness in the lapis sky at times pairing up with the verdant grasses to create a welcoming land of imagined fertility and prosperity. At times, this sky is in great contrast to the stony desert that stretches in front of me – the very antithesis of fertility and prosperity – a land where under the cold winter skies man scraps a living or leaves.
Mankind too has played a role in the shaping of this rich and varied land. It too has said, “I’m here, let me play a role in the
beauty around you too.” As the plains turn to hills, man has grasped the opportunity to build their own Birnam Wood army of sentries standing tall – seemingly protecting their plains below. Their white wings circle and swoosh and communicate with the wind, adding to the land’s beauty not taking it away.
The Indian-Pacific was once in its day a plush luxury rumbling through the wilderness, today it is a tired old beauty but the journey however remains as iconic as ever. It opens up its arms to you and welcomes you to see a part of Australia that not many if any get to see.