We could have driven and been knackered or we could have flown and seen nothing, but we both quite liked the idea of a steady ride on a basic but comfortable train from Sydney to Melbourne.
We left the hotel in Sydney about 6.30am and lugged our bags and instruments to Central station. You have to check in the big bags as you would for a flight and they then get put into the luggage carriage. Thankfully, we were allowed to keep the guitar and accordion with us (no emotional farewells this time), along with a back pack containing essentials for the journey (scrabbble, kindles and iPad for bloggage).
Kip got us breakfast from a coffee stand, two long blacks and a something else that we can’t now remember. We both remember suffering severe muffin envy about an hour into the trip when two girls who were sat near us demolished a pack of chocolate muffins by themselves.
We left on time at 7.32am (the 2 is important) and spent the first couple of hours of the journey scouring the fields for kangaroos. Nothing.
It’s not a high speed train (or track for that matter) but it trundled along nicely, making regular stops along the way. Kip began keeping a list of the stations. They have some of the best names imaginable (to a pair of easily excitable Brits that is) – we think there were nineteen. Among them were Wagga Wagga, Cootamundra, Culairn and Wangaratta (aren’t we easily pleased?) Many of the stations reminded us of those you used to see in Britain back in the sixties and seventies before Beaching’s axe. Wooden waiting rooms, faded paint and friendly.
After six games of scrabble, fourteen games of eye spy and zero kangaroos, we arrived at Melbourne’s Southern Cross Station, thinking Michael Palin’s got nothing on us.
To hell with the expense, we caught a cab to the hotel (and then found out from the girl on reception that there was a free tram that would have dropped us off fifty yards away).
Melbourne has a well-deserved reputation for the best food and coffee in Australia. It has a large Greek and Italian community as well as incomers from many other parts of the globe, all of which have added bits of their own culture into a rich and varied pot. It was about 8pm when we got to the hotel, we dumped our bags and went out to get some food. We were all smiles as we left the hotel, but this changed rapidly after walking about a hundred yards when we saw a mass of floral tributes that had been laid at the place where several people had been killed a few days earlier by a man with mental health problems who’d gone on the rampage in a car. It was a sobering sight and one that makes you realise how fragile life can be.
For us the next day was Christmas. Our Christmas present to each other was tickets for the Australian open tennis. We had seats in the Rod Laver arena for quarter finals day, it was a great day out. We saw Serena Williams play Johanna Konta, David Goffin play Grigor Dimitrov and Karolina Pliskova play Mirjama Lucic-Baroni.
After the afternoon session at the Rod Laver arena ended we went onto the outside courts and saw two young ladies playing wheelchair tennis and then some of the junior ladies’ doubles. It was a great day out, finished off with a meal in an Italian restaurant on the way back to the hotel.
There was an exhibition of Banksy’s work on at the time, it may we’ll have been the inspiration behind this.
Good to see a church doing it’s bit for refugees.
The next morning we caught the free tram to the Southern Cross station, then the skybus out to the airport where we picked up a hire car and drove north for Newstead Live folk festival.