Thursday, 28 June 2012

Getting to the Ghan

The 24th of June turned out to be an interesting day. The first half of it, however, I wish never to repeat. But, as I wrote in my journal with delicious relief in the aftermath, it did make everything a bit more of an adventure.

In short, I woke up at 6.45am, exactly as my plane was taking off. Without me.

In my defence, I had a fairly heart-breaking day on the 23rd of June which might go some way to explaining how I could have slept in. The exam I had that afternoon was a mess (due to a typo that said do 4 instead of 2 questions, now thankfully resolved so that it doesn't matter whether we did 2 or 4), I left my favourite scarf in the exam room, got lost coming out of the racecourse and then spent the best part of my evening literally running around Kensington to say goodbye. Needless to say, there were a lot of tears. Goodbyes don't seem to get any less painful, no matter how many I've had over the years.

Anyway, I was staying at my friend Phil's house as he had generously offered me a lift to the airport. When we woke, stupefied from about an hour's sleep, instant panic hit. Fortunately, while I inexplicably thought getting dressed was the most pressing thing to do, he was more useful and started looking up flights. And I was unbelievably lucky to find that there was another flight to Adelaide that morning, arriving before noon so that I would have time to get my train. And so, although $250 poorer and with a further tear stained face, I made it to Adelaide. Even despite a further delay from the broken toilet on the plane.

After displaying the contents of my bag (colourful undies and all, I am embarrassed to say) to the entire train station trying to dig out my sleeping bag, I was finally ready to board the last carriage of the train - where they keep the cabinless riff raff. With time running low and me having only successfully described my first morning on the road, I think I will borrow the words from my journal itself:

      "The west side of the train reveals some blue sky and more light whereas the east side view, my side, is bleak. Grey. If I am being kind, somewhat atmospheric as the light struggles through in places. Eucalypts, not forests but small thickets, break up the plains."

That was Adelaide and its outskirts, industrial and agricultural. An interaction of nature and man that was not beautiful but for me, still held some appeal. Maybe just as a part of Australia I hadn't seen before - and I could see it right up to the edges of the horizon. But to be fair, the weather did seem to be reflecting my divided mood in thoughts of leaving one home for another, bridging the gap with this travel in limbo.

Of the landscape the following day, in a letter I am writing to a friend:

      "A huge blue sky stretches in a dome over me, decorated only with the sparsest of fluffy white clouds. And travelling through the night, of course I have woken up to a new landscape to ponder on. The land here is similarly flat but there is far less evidence of man aside from the very train I am on. The ground, that has been growing ever more orange ever since I boarded the train, is now the distinctive burnt ochre I had expected... there's a fair amount of coarse vegetation. But most of that grass looks to have been bleached by the sun."

If it weren't for the occasional eucalypt and slightly lighter shade of soil and the wild emus and galahs, it almost could have been the African savannah.

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