Australia

Fremantle Markets and Kings Park, Australia

Good Morning Everyone! Today was my last day in Oz. I couldn’t wait to see Andrew! However, seeing as my flight wasn’t scheduled until the evening, I had to fill my day with other activities. I had a nice breakfast at the Terrace B&B [fruit, cereal, krumpets, coffee, tea, juice] and then finished up a few homework assignments and sent off a few emails for work. I then packed up my stuff and headed to my first stop: Fremantle Markets. The original foundation stone for the Fremantle Markets Hall/Building was laid back in 1897. For many years the site was used as a whole foods market and people would arrive with horse and buggy. Overtime, the building morphed into a packing and distribution center until the early 1970s. In 1975, the Fremantle Council gave the building an overhaul, added it to the National Heritage List and thus the present day Fremantle Markets were born. They provide produce, whole foods, indigenous and local products via a number of stalls. There is plenty of seating and an area deemed “the yard” as well with extra seating and a children’s petting zoo that occurs during mid-day. The stalls in the building ranged from jewelry to produce to large sacks of beans and nuts to clothing stalls to food stalls including sushi, cheese, pretzels, juices, and crepes. It doesn’t take too long to walk around and check out the views within the markets, but it is definitely worth the trip! An additional bonus at this time of year was the large flower display entitled, “under the wildflowers”. Wildflowers are very big in Western Australia, especially after a winter like this one with so much rain. The display runs throughout the market building and consists of a bunch after bunch of Australian “Everlasting”… a paper daisy in pinks, whites, yellows, dark pinks, etc. They are special and called “everlasting” because you can dry them out and they won’t lose their shape or color. The Fremantle Markets have the largest upside down wildflower display in Australia. I included some pictures of the “Everlasting” below, but unfortunately, my phone can’t hook up to wifi so I can’t share images from the markets themselves right now. I’ll post some later! By the way, here’s the website for Fremantle Markets: http://fremantlemarkets.com.au.

After the markets, I walked down to the Freo train station and bought my ticket for 2 zones to head back into Perth. Similar to a previous post, I had researched how to get from Freo to Kings Park on Transperth; a great site [yes, another shout out]. I hopped on my train towards Perth-All Stations and road for about 20 minutes or so until the train got to “City West”. This stop is one station before downtown Perth, so I was a little skeptical, but I went with it anyway. I disembarked and walked across the street to find the bus stop I was searching for [Transperth had also provided me with a stop ID number so I could double check]. This bus was a Green Cat. There are several Cats in the city and they run around the downtown areas. They are always free of charge- how cool! I jumped on the bus and road along, waiting for my stop Havelock Street. When we had driven for about 10-15 minutes, I heard the automated bus system say Kings Park Road. I panicked. Did Transperth let me down? I hopped out of my seat and walked up to the bus driver and asked if I needed to get off here to get to Kings Park. He assured me that no, the next stop, Havelock Street, was the best for Kings Park. Ahhh Transperth, thank you! The bus driver pointed out the walk to the Visitor’s Center [straight across the grass to the path] and I went on my merry way.

Kings Park is awesome. It is actually a park and botanical garden that is visited by more than 6 million people a year. The total area of the park is 400.6 hectares, adjacent to Swan River and overlooking Perth [the downtown area is a mere 1.5km away]. It showcases flowers and plants from around Australia, including a special exhibit on Western Australia. In addition, 2/3 of the park is natural bushland with over 300 species of native plants and more than 80 species of birds. Another great part of the park/botanical garden… they have the Lotteryway Federal Walkway. This is a walkway through the park, along the river that has a large glass suspended bridge. When you walk over it, it is as if you are walking in the canopy of the trees. Just amazing.

After a few hours of exploring, I headed through the carpark to the designated bus stop according to my trusty Transperth [of course I double checked with the Visitor’s Center… after all, I come from Washington, DC, and you can’t always trust WMATA, our online public transport system]. I waited about 5 minutes until a bus popped up. I asked the driver if he was headed to the airport. He said he was 37A so no, he stopped short, but the next bus, 37 was headed there [by the way, this is also what Transperth told me]. About 10 minutes later, I was seated on bus 37, having paid the driver $4.20 for a ticket, on my way to the Perth Domestic Airport. There is no real public transportation to the international terminals and in fact, the domestic and international terminals are not together. So, you take a bus to the domestic part of the airport and then hop on a free shuttle to the international terminals. A little while later, I was seated in a chair at the Perth International Airport, international terminals, filling out my proper paperwork.

Cheers, Australia and thanks for a fantastic time! Now it’s off to Bali, Indonesia!
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Categories: Australia | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Monk Brewery and Kitchen

For those of you who don’t like beer, I apologize because that’s what this post is about… more specifically The Monk Brewery & Kitchen in Fremantle, Western Australia. For those of you who like beer, you’ve come to the right post. Prepare to be in awe!

The Monk opened in April 2010 in downtown Fremantle. It is a large tan-brown building that is partially constructed with recycled wood from an old railway line. Pretty cool right? It has a number of tables outdoors and the inside is open and welcoming. The tables surround the bar area which has fermentation tanks in the center that you can see through glass windows. Depending on your seat, you can also watch as the chefs work their magic.

I didn’t know a lot about The Monk when I showed up at its door. I just new that it was local and I love local. So, I picked out my seat and great server came over and welcomed me, offering me a menu that had a number of delicious sounding dishes as well as a number of beers. After a quick scan of the menu, I knew what I wanted: the sampler. A tray of all seven “everyday” beers plus a seasonal specialty. The beer in season now: The Bounty [an American Style Stout with Toasted Coconut]. Awesome.

The eight beers that came out to me were beautifully lined up in an antique-y looking wooden cutting board. That’s honestly, the best way to describe it– it was awesome and it made me want to ask if I could purchase one right then and there. I also wanted something to snack on, as I hadn’t had anything else except my coffee. I ordered a cheese plate. The description said “Our rauch beer is blended with Capel cheddar, celery salt, and mustard. Sides of bacon crisps, crusty bread, apple slices, and honey.” Served again on a beautiful wood tray, this dish was better than I had hoped for… a giant chunk of cheese. I was a bit skeptical of the honey, but it really brought out the flavors. I posted pictures of the beer sampler and the cheese plate below. YUM.

Now, onto the beers:
Mild: 3.5%ABV. European Low Alcohol Lager or Leichtbier. It is similar to a Pilsner but has a very low alcohol content, so many people who will need to drive drink it. It is made with Saaz hops, hops that hail from New Zealand and offer a light lemon citrus flavor to the beer. It has a very light hoppy taste.

Kolsch: 4.9%ABV. Lightly fruity, dry finish. It is in a way similar to a lager but is probably more related to a German Pale Ale. I would say it’s similar to Heineken but with more of a fruity undertone.

Wheat: 6.0%ABV. While most similar to a Belgian Witbier, this Wheat was unlike any I had tasted before. While most wheat beers use a mix of orange and coriander, the Monk Wheat uses mandarin, coriander, and a hint of cumin. It is very lightly cloudy and has a sharp hit at the end of the sip. I am usually a huge wheat beer drinker and I think this was maybe in the middle of the different beers I tried at The Monk. [All were delicious and I would honestly have any of them again!!]

Pale: 5%ABV. This was not at all like an American Style Pale. It falls under a more recent category of Australian Pale Ales [apparently newer over the last 5-10 years]. It was actually created by the brewer as a project for the University he was attending. It sold out in the University’s tavern and is The Monk’s best selling beer. A very light fruity hint without the harsh bitterness of American Pale Ale.

Rauch: 5.3%ABV. This beer has a dark red color and it tastes and smells like smoked bacon. Seriously. The smokiness is so strong through the flavor it is amazing. It is not, however, made with any bacon or other meat product. It is 100% vegan [as are all of the beers at the Monk]. Very unique and a must try.

The Chief: 6.3%ABV. This beer is a traditional American Style IPA. It is very bitter and hoppy on the end. The brewer in this case does utilize American hops. It is highly popular and has won many awards [then again every beer at The Monk seems to have one at least one award].

Porter: 4.9%ABV. This beer is known as a brown porter. It has strong coffee and chocolate flavors. When I drank it, I felt as though I were having my morning iced coffee with a bit of chocolate mixed in. YUM. I am not a huge Porter fan, but I will say that the Monk Porter is lighter than a Guinness and so if you are not a strong Porter fan, you should still try this one!

The Bounty: 5.5%. This beer is a coconut stout. After fermentation, the brewers add heaps of toasted coconut. The flavor is incredible; a hint of chocolate and lot of toasted coconut. I have never tasted a beer like it and has definitely blown me away. It doesn’t matter what type of beer drinker you are [and even if you’re not], try this beer!

All in all, every beer at The Monk was fantastic. The range of flavors and colors was impressive and I had a hard time deciding which type I liked the most. After much consideration, I choose The Bounty as the winner. As I mentioned above, a truly unique taste. I highly recommend The Monk to anyone in the Fremantle area hoping to try some great local brews. Great atmosphere, lovely people, and delicious food and beer!

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Freo: Where Everything Wrong is Made Right

So, after my awful experience at The New Esplanade, I packed up my belongings and went to check out. The woman at the front desk was really nice and offered me one night of rent back which I gladly took and headed off in search of the train station. My original plan was to check out Kings Park today, but I figured I’d save that for Friday before my flight, since I need to head back this way as it is…

I made my way the short distance to the train station, stopping off at “Pie Face” for a nice strong coffee. They let you decide how badly you need to be woken up– “kick in the arse” seemed about right to me. This little coffee shop also has a number of, you guessed it, pies. Most of them are savory pies, which I just can’t get into to… but i know they’re huge in England and also in Aussie. I just can’t do it. If you like them though, there are a wide range of options and as the commercials on TV have let me know– they’re now also served at KFC.

Anyway, I headed off to the Perth Underground Train Station. Remember how I talked about how awesome the Australia public transportation system is because it’s so intuitive and provides all of your options right in front of you? Apparently that’s not the case throughout Australia. Luckily, I had looked up my journey online before heading to the train station- something that I would highly recommend for anyone traveling around Perth. Transperth is a fantastic website with a journey planner that also says how much it will cost and how many zones you will be traveling in. Prices are assigned based on the number of zones you’ll be traveling and for a period of time you may travel on any public transportation within the paid for zones [ferry, bus, train]. Anyway, I knew that to travel from Perth City Center to Fremantle, it would cost me $4.20 and I would be traveling 2 zones.

I walked up to a self serve ticket machine and entered “adult” and “2 zones”. A little screen popped up reading “$4.20”. I went ahead and added the money and received a tiny little “ticket” which was more of a small piece of paper that said “2 zones” good until “1:30PM”. I headed towards the trains and bypassed the ticket stalls [only for folks using a smart rider card- similar to a Smart Trip card in DC or other sort of frequent rider card in other cities]. There was a guard who took a look at my ticket and pointed me in the right direction- Platform 7 for Fremantle. I made my way through an old building under construction and across the train tracks to my platform. About 5 minutes later, the train pulled up and everyone piled on– there was still enough room to sit which I was thankful for since the ride was supposed to be 35 minutes or so.

As we got closer to Fremantle, I looked out the window and was delighted to see water. I was already happier than I was in central Perth. I also saw a lack of high rise buildings which made me even happier. Cities are fine, but give me the coast and the country any day. When I disembarked in Fremantle and walked out onto the street, I knew I was in the right place. Fremantle, or Freo, as the majority call it is awesome. Seaside town, small shops, good microbrewery, parks, access to ferries and trains. Just awesome. Since I had some free time until I had to check into my new hotel, I decided to try out one of the breweries that I had read about the previous evening– The Monk Brewery and Kitchen.

The Monk Brewery and Kitchen was fantastic. Just such a cool place. I giant building on the main street of Freo. And that my friends, is a story for the next post!

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The New Esplanade: Stay Away!

Just a short post here. I had booked a hotel in Perth through bookingbuddy.com about two months ago. The hotel was called “The New Esplanade”. It had some decent reviews on some site I saw and it wasn’t as expensive as the other options in the Perth area. So, I booked it. Terrible awful choice. The lobby is nice and the location was supposed to be awesome– overlooking a park and the Swan River. What the website fails to tell you is that the park is completely ripped up and full of piles of dirt and bulldozers. Second, there is not a single picture/mirror/decoration/etc on ANY of the walls outside of the lobby. I don’t consider myself to be someone with high hotel standards and I’m merely pointing out the decorationless state of the hotel as the cherry on top of the problems. I mean, the room was about $140/night, so shouldn’t they have something on the walls? I know I could have booked a hostel, but I needed a strong internet connection because I have work work and school work to do and most hostels only have an internet cafe that has set hours.

Next, the room. The door was beat up, the lock was minimal and there were signs everywhere in the room saying that possessions should be locked in the safe at reception.The carpet was dirty, the walls were stained, the shower curtain was brown, the mattress must have been from 100 years ago, and the room was musty. But, with all of that, I could have still sucked it up…EXCEPT. The walls are super thin and the guy in the room next to me was smoking like a chimney. All of the smoke was seeping into my room through a door that joined our rooms… and the door didn’t lock. So, I put a chair against it and tried to keep the tears in my eyes from smoke stinging at bay. Sigh. I was very unhappy. I was paying entirely too much for the conditions of the room. So, I did a nice little google search and less than 10 minutes later I had found a room in Fremantle where I had planned on going tomorrow anyway and booked it. I spent a horrible night in The New Esplanade before running far and fast to get away!

So, if you ever come across The New Esplanade in Perth City Center, WA, DO NOT BOOK IT. No matter how nice the website and location seem to be… I should mention hear that there is apparently an Esplanade in Fremantle that is very nice. So don’t confuse the two 🙂

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Review: Indian Pacific Train from Sydney to Perth

Now that I’ve blogged my way from Sydney to Perth via the Indian Pacific Railway, I thought I’d provide a summary review of the trip.

How long is the train trip?
Three nights and three and some days. I departed on Saturday at 2:55PM from Sydney and arrived in Perth at 9:10AM on Tuesday.

How much did it cost?
The trip set me back about $1200. It was expensive. In retrospect, however, trying to drive across Australia would have taken longer and probably cost just as much when you factor in the car hire, the fuel, the food, and lodging.

Which service did you take?
I opted for the Gold Service. Platinum service was not offered and I really don’t think it would have been necessary. Red service provided chairs only or chairs that reclined, however they were in general cars. Red service is obviously cheaper, but does not include privacy, drinks, meals, or off train tours.

What is included in gold service?
I purchased a single gold cabin. I have a cabin with a chair and footrest, a large picture window, a trash can, a mini closet, a speaker system that plays music or the history of the areas we are passing [there are 6 channels], a small vanity, and a sink. In the evenings, my chair turned down a bed comes down from the wall. There are bathrooms and showers a few doors down from my room. Gold service also includes all drinks [non-alcoholic as well as about 20 wines, 8 beers, and hard liquor] as well as all meals. I also have access to a lounge car and a bar for Gold patrons. Finally, gold service includes off train excursions in the towns where the train stops; these include: Broken Hill, Adelaide, Cook, and Kalgoorlie.

How were the meals?
The meals were delicious. Breakfast was a two course meal and lunches and dinners were three course meals. Menus changed each day according to the area we were passing through in an effort for folks to try out more “local” dishes. Vegetarian options were always offered. Seafood and lamb seemed to be plentiful. You have set eating times that are scheduled via your car attendant. You show up to the lounge around your eating time and you can relax with a drink before the host will come get you [typically in groups of 4] and seat you.

How were the tours?
The tours were nice. It was great to just jump off the train and get whisked away by a professional tour guide who could talk about the history of the town and point out the various areas of interest. Most of the stopovers are very brief, so don’t expect a ton. However, as someone who was simply interested in a quick info session, it worked well.

What is the age group on the train?
The majority of the folks on the train range from probably early 50s and up. I was actually surprised that there were not younger people, but from what I gather, most backpackers travel in Red Service.

What is the dress code?
The dress on the train is “nice and neat”, I would say. I felt a bit underdressed some days and right at home other days. Because I was traveling to Indonesia after and going to be biking, I packed really lightly, so I didn’t have many options with me. I would suggest jeans, capris, or other pants with a nice top for girls and jeans or khakis with a button down or polo for guys. Like I said, not everyone was dressed this way, but it seemed to be the normal. Shoes- I haven’t really noticed. I brought a simple pair of sandals [not flip flops] and wore them for every meal.

Can you fly into Sydney and take the train on the same day?
It depends. I landed in Sydney at 6:30AM or so on Saturday morning. In the winter season, the Indian Pacific runs twice a week; departing once on Wednesday and once on Saturday [so I lucked out].  The train departed Central Station at 2:55PM. I had plenty of time between my flight and the train departure; I even had time to talk to the Sydney Opera House and grab lunch. I also made sure to check out the train station and figure out where I was going to have to be to board beforehand. That helped a lot.

Is it easy to get from the Sydney International Airport to the Train Station?
Yes. Definitely. See my earlier post on the Sydney Public Transportation Train. It costs about $16AUD to go from the airport to the train station. Indian Pacific is stationed at Central Station; a great location because every train line in the city goes through Central, so no matter where you are, you can easily get to Central Station. Central Station is about a 10-minute train ride from the Sydney International Airport. If you have questions, ask an Aussie- they’re really helpful and friendly!

How about outlets, Internet, and cell service?
There are outlets in your cabin. Make sure you have an international plug to use with the outlet [110 volts]. There is no Internet service on the train; sorry! Cell service was decent for most of the trip, except when we hit the desert on the third day. My advice: don’t stress it. Relax, put your feet up, and enjoy the ride.

 Would you do it again?
Absolutely. To me, it was an absolutely fantastic way to see Australia. It also gave me an opportunity to see places that I want to come back and visit [Adelaide] and sparked my interest in taking one of the other trains run by the same company [Adelaide to Darwin, for example].  I hope I can convince Andrew to take a trip here with me J

Have other questions? Feel free to ask and I’m happy to answer. It was a great time and I would honestly rank it about 4.75 stars out of 5. I think it would be nice to have lunch in my cabin sometimes [you can do this with Platinum service], but it was nice to meet new people and have a nice chat. Also, please note that there are cabins that sleep more than one person, I was just traveling by myself, so I took advantage of the single cabin. The larger cabins look very nice as well and everyone I talked to enjoyed them quite a bit!

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Destination: Perth, Australia

This morning came far too quickly for my liking :). Add on top of that my phone ringing at 2:00AM because folks back in the states didn’t add up the time change and you get  a long night. Either way, my bed was still super comfy and I was sad to be saying so long to it. I woke up in time to watch the sunrise over the pretty countryside. I blindly worked to wash my face, put in my contacts, and brush my teeth so that I could make my way to breakfast. I apparently did this so blindly that I ended up brushing my teeth with Athlete’s Foot Cream… [I had packed it just in case]. YUCK. I couldn’t understand why my toothpaste was so nasty… well because I was brushing my teeth with a cream made for your toes…for fungus. Awesome. After some heavy duty cleaning, coughing, and spitting, I walked my way down to the lounge car, which was already bustling with people ready for their last meal aboard the Indian Pacific.

I met up with the botanist couple from the evening before and we sat down to breakfast. My last two course breakfast on the train! So sad! This morning I dined on coffee, apple juice, water, scrambled eggs, a button mushroom, and a grilled tomato. Whereas yesterday I had the fresh fruit [melons and currants], this morning I opted for the other “breakfast starter”: Wild Peach Parfait. YUM. Wild peaches, vanilla yogurt, granola, and passion fruit. Just delicious and perfect. Our conversation this morning strayed to wildflowers and Eucalypts. Apparently there are over 80 species of Eucalypts! Who knew? Wildflowers are huge these days because Australia has had such a wet winter. I learned that quite a few folks on the train were traveling to the west coast just for that purpose- wildflower tours. I wish I had more time, I would have gone! As it is, there is a good exhibit at Kings Park that I hope to see while I’m i the area.

I headed back to my room and packed everything up. I was really sad to say goodbye to the Indian Pacific. What a fantastic trip. About 30 minutes before we pulled into Perth Station, we stopped and a quarantine inspector boarded to check out any fruits, vegetables, and/or nuts that people were transporting. They did this earlier on the train ride as well, when we crossed state borders. Pretty interesting that they watch it so closely. While I’m no the subject of agricultural products– I also had a chat with a couple about water rights and crops in Australia vs. the US as well as stormwater. They noted that it is pretty standard practice in many places to have giant “rain barrels” [they are larger than our standard rain barrels]. They were very interested in hearing about the NPS pollution world that I work in and we chatted for a long while about the pros and cons of having federal control only vs state control only vs a combination of the two. Like I said, great conversations on the train!

When we at last arrived in Perth, we disembarked and folks were hugging the staff. It still amazes me how close the group seemed to have become over the space of three nights on a train. Such wonderful personalities and friendly demeanors. I made my way down the platform to the tour bus that would squire a group of us around Perth before dropping us off at our hotels. The tour was great. We were driven all over the city and had a break along the way to gaze out at the Indian Ocean and to buy some delicious local ice cream. I myself chose a cone of oreo cookie dream. And oh what a dream it was! The tour also made a stop at Kings Park [a huge park in downtown Perth that is the largest inner city park in the world]. Unfortunately, rain kept us from doing much exploring in the park. We also drove by millionaire’s row, a group of homes along the Swan River that were just absolutely gorgeous [as you’d imagine with a name like that]. After a delightful afternoon of seeing the sights, the tour driver dropped each of us off at our hotels. I was ready for a snooze!

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Kalgoorlie, Australia [Home of Super Pit]

After boarding the train from Cook, we headed off for a full day of train riding. We passed our time riding past Nullabor; the desert part of Australia. This part of the journey also took us down the world’s longest straight track of train [in other words, there are no turns or curves in this section]. Lunch was served around Noon. Today I dined on free range chicken breast cooked with lemon and thyme served over pistachio and lemon couscous, arugula, and apricot jam. The entrée [U.S. version of an appetizer] was saltbrush dukkah rolls served with macadamia nut oil. Basically, they are rolls that have a saltbrush spice baked in [Australian bush]. They served alongside a little container of macadamia nut oil as well as a small container of dukkah, which I learned is a mixture of seeds, nuts, and spices. It was delicious. Dessert with lunch was a lavender and ricotta panna cotta served with two small pistachio biscuits and some fairy floss. Based on the flavor and texture of the fairy floss, I am confident in saying that it is basically cotton candy. It is sugar that is mixed with powdered color. A slice of strawberry completed the plate.

After lunch, I retired to my room to gaze out the window at the landscape flying by. I also had some time to practice my Indonesian and get a little work done. Around 5:00PM, I headed back down to the lounge, grabbed a beer [local to South Australia] and grabbed an open seat. It was quite busy, but I struck up a conversation with a few folks, one of which had worked as a driver for Olympians a few years back. Amazing people on this train ride. For dinner, I joined yet another new couple along with one of the women I dined with the previous evening. They were again extremely friendly and chatted with me about botany [we were trying to identify plants growing outside] as well as the process of cooking and canning figs. Dinner consisted of an entrée; a large grilled mushroom that had been layered with sundried tomatoes, fresh cheese, and a tomato salsa. It had been finished with a balsamic glaze. The main course was beef cheek served au jus with button mushrooms, mixed vegetables, and garlic potatoes. For a drink, I had the Killerby Cab Sav [Australian]. Dessert was a Belgium chocolate pudding that was like a brownie stuffed with an Australian berry compote. It was served with fresh cream.

Before heading back to my cabin to prep for this evening’s tour in Kalgoorlie, I signed up for the Perth Tour. This optional extra tour [$50] is 3 hours long and departs from the train station in Perth. It gives you a tour of the city including a drive by the river and a trip to King’s Park. At the end of the tour, they drop you at your hotel. Seeing as I won’t be able to check into my hotel when we arrive at 9:00AM anyway, I figured I would take advantage of a great tour with some wonderful history and education. After signing up for the tour, I made sure to deposit some money into the charity tin on the counter.  A few of the younger crew members are going to be biking a large portion of the Australian outback to raise money for the Australian Flying Doctors Service. I almost wanted to invite them along to join Andrew and I in our California Coast Classic at the end of the month! Perhaps next time?

Kalgoorlie was a rough excursion for me. We didn’t arrive into town until about 7:30PM and the tour was going to run to 10:40PM. I was already beyond exhausted. Add on top of that the fact that it was super dark out and you get a not as enjoyable as it could have been tour! Regardless, the bus driver was funny and personable and we had a nice tour around town, learning the history of the brothels and how the madames really owned the town back in the day- they were above the law so to speak. Apparently one of the brothels was very into “themed” rooms. These rooms including things like a farm complete with hay and fake animals, etc. We were also taken to the Super Pit– this is Australia’s gold country. There is a gigantic and I mean gigantic pit mine right next to town. Miners work 24/7 in the pit– supposedly it costs $87,000/hour if they are not mining/using the machines. I guess the machines cost a lot to start up/shut down. Since it was dark, we could only see the outlines of the mine and the tiny headlights of the trucks, but wow it was insane!! Then we were taken to another location- a miners’ museum where the staff opened up for us and offered tea, coffee, and biscuits.

Here we learned about mining for gold, using pans and other contraptions to look for gold and we were able to climb on top of giant mining dump trucks. We had some nice chats [while falling sleep, to no fault of the tour guides!] and after a bit more driving around, we arrived back at the train station in time to load up, grab a beer from the bar, head back to my cabin, and crawl into bed for some more needed and deserved rest. Another fantastic trip. It’s hard to believe it’s almost over!

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Cook, Australia [The Way Way Outback]

Last night for dinner I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had Kangaroo filet on the menu. When I studied abroad in Brisbane a few years back the Aussies had made it clear that they do not typically eat Kangaroo. I suppose it is similar to deer in the United States. I ate with two women who had met earlier in the day; one from the Blue Mountains [outside of Sydney; we passed over them during our journey] and one from outside of Perth [Freemantle]. We chatted a bit about Kangaroos and they filled me on the fact that Aussies can apply and receive licenses to hunt them. There are also certified processing stations to clean the meat and skins. We also chatted a bit about the Blue Mountains; apparently there had been a hiker who got lost in the evening about 2 months ago and they just recently found the body. Moral of the story from my Aussie friends- don’t wonder out into the bush without a map, an idea where you’re going, and at least a few people knowing where you are.

So, for dinner I dined on a “Four Wives” Pale Ale [another Aussie original]. My starter dish was Minestrone Soup, my Kangaroo filet came with spinach and smashed potatoes as well as a side of broccolini. Dessert was a delicious sliced apple pastry with butterscotch and vanilla ice cream. One thing is for sure- I am eating well on this journey. After some light reading and typing up yesterday’s visit to Adelaide, I headed off to bed and did I sleep well! I woke up around 6:15AM to the sun just peaking over the horizon. I looked out my window and noticed a change in scenery. We are now traveling through the outback desert of Australia: red dirt and stocky short shrubs. An occasional tree also makes its presence known.

For breakfast, I dined on scrambled eggs, toast, and grilled tomato and mushroom. This morning there were also entrée choices on the menu so I partook in some honeydew, cantaloupe, and currants mixed with a light lime vinaigrette. I also enjoyed coffee, apple juice, and water. This morning I realized how little Australians drink [non-alcoholic beverages]. I would typically have an endless amount of water, but they instead serve a platter with about a measuring cup of water in a glass. I felt strange having water, apple juice, and coffee, but what can I say? I’m a thirsty person and I needed it.

Around 10AM or so, we pulled into Cook, Australia. Situated about 2500km from Sydney and about 1500km from Perth, Cook has a population of four- a married couple, their daughter, and one grandparent. The purpose of this town is to provide fuel and water to trains passing through… at one point it had a few families. At that time, there was a school, a hospital, and a swimming pool. Today the pool has evaporated and been replaced with dirt and a few trees, the school has deteriorated, the hospital is no longer functional, and the majority of the houses are abandoned. The little girl attends school over the internet. The family in Cook receives goods and supplies from the Indian Pacific Train as it passes by each week. A memorial in the middle of the “town” talks about an effort to plant trees at the station a few years back. Almost all of the trees died. The five or so remaining provide very little shade to this desert town. The last bit of knowledge to know about Cook is that the closest highway is about 100km away and the local doctor is now 12 hours away.

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Adelaide

The trip to Adelaide was nothing short of amazing. The landscape morphed and shifted from the stereotypical red dirt and scrubby shrubbery to Plane and Paper trees to fields of green covered in yellow flowers making the landscape appear lime green. What’s more, on top of the beautiful landscape, I saw kangaroos and emus!!!! Oh it was so awesome. It was hard to get pictures of, but so incredibly cool to see both animals in the wild. I imagine I felt how people do when they visit the east coast of the U.S. and discover deer running wild… maybe. Personally, I think Roos and Emus are WAY cooler.

After a few hours of staring in shock and awe, it was time for lunch. I headed back to the lounge car and was pulled along with another couple that I hadn’t seen before. Turns out that this couple was from Adelaide and had been visiting Broken Hill. The man used to be in the business of buying and racing racecars. He and his wife have traveled all over the world, including quite a bit in the U.S., so we chatted easily over lunch. He mentioned his love for Alaska and I mentioned my love of Australia. We then both mentioned our mutual love for Africa. They have been a few times and I begged them to tell me stories of everywhere they went and what they saw and did. It was a great lunch. I again chose the vegetarian route; I dined on a Mediterranean Vegetable Polenta Ragu. It had eggplant, squash, tomato, and pepper served over polenta with a nice tomato salsa. I passed on the appetizers [oysters], but did take part in dessert [a chocolate and mint tart served with fresh cream]. I also dined on Hahn Super Dry; a beer from Sydney. My lunch partners dined on chorizo over mashed potatoes and a bottle of Adelaide Cab Sav.

After lunch, I retreated to my cabin to relax and watch the countryside pass me by. On the way I picked up another beer; a Crown Lager, from Victoria. My plan is to work my way through the Australian Beers while I travel cross Australia. Our next stop was Adelaide. We pulled in around 3:00PM and disembarked. I again made my way to the front of the station, where I met a tour guide who directed me onto another air conditioned tour bus. He squired us around town for about 2 hours; talking of the history of the city and pointing out different structures and historical markers. Adelaide seems to be an amazingly wonderful city. I will definitely be coming back to visit again. It also boasts the largest open market in the Southern Hemisphere [closed on Sundays unfortunately]. Plus, it is special to Australia in that it was not founded by convicts or for the purpose of holding convicts. Additionally, Adelaide was built with the understanding of religious freedom. People should be allowed to worship whatever god pleases them. Because of this, pretty much every religion has found a home in the city. Our tour finished off with some free time to walk around by the beach. What a great and relaxing tour!

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Broken Hill, New South Wales

G’day everyone… or evening or whatever time it may be when you read this entry. It’s currently 7:00PM as I write from my cabin and the Indian Pacific rolls out of Adelaide, beginning the second half of its journey. We’re in the state of Southern Australia now and will be for the next 24 hours or so. This morning, I had set my alarm for 5:30AM. We were supposed to arrive in Broken Hill around 6:30AM and breakfast was starting at 6:00AM, so I figured I’d get an early start. I woke up around 5:15AM and felt pretty good. No alarm needed; if only my body worked like that at home when I was going to be late for my job. Oh well.

I headed down to the lounge car and found only one other couple. The sun was just beginning to rise and it was absolutely gorgeous. A little while later I was seated in the diner car ordering breakfast. This morning’s menu included the “Australian Full Breakfast”… scrambled eggs, toast, a sausage link, a piece of “middle bacon” [honestly, it was sort of a cold piece of ham], a grilled button mushroom, a grilled half tomato, coffee, and apple juice. I ended up not eating the meat and sticking with the rest, it was pretty good and tasted great after a wonderful night’s rest.

After breakfast, I ran back to my cabin and grabbed my camera and wallet because we had arrived a bit early to the Broken Hill station. I disembarked and headed to the front of the station; our designated meeting location. Handing over my ticket, a tour guide welcomed me and instructed me to hop on the tour bus [large, comfortable, air conditioning]. The bus took a brief tour of the town; the guide was knowledgeable and friendly. He introduced us to the background of Broken Hill including how it got its name and pointed out several of the major buildings including town hall and the Pro Hart Art Gallery; well known around Australia.

After the brief drive, we headed up to Broken Earth; a memorial for miners who have died in mine-related accidents. The memorial looks sort of like a cross between a protractor and the Sydney Opera House… come on, you know you see it in the picture below! The base of the memorial is in the shape of a cross, interestingly enough. Inside the open-air memorial is a large glass wall containing all of the late miners’ names including the date they died and how they died. I thought it was interesting that the memorial wall includes the how they died… something that I think interests people and makes it more real…and something that you don’t typically find in memorials. Each name has a rose next to it. If the name has a white rose next to it, it signifies that this is the month that the miner passed. The miner memorial also provided a great view of the town of Broken Hill. The town itself wasn’t much to see but it was cute and quaint and exactly what you’d imagine in a mining town.

I will admit that it was pretty sad to see the hills destroyed by mining. Much of the land has been torn up and destroyed, never to be the same again. It took me back to undergraduate times when my class explored the world of mountain top removal in Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Tennessee.  After a bit more of a drive around town, we headed back to the station and re-boarded the train…. But not before paying a visit to a woman’s “handmade chocolates” stand. With a salted caramel and a champagne chocolate in hand, I hopped back on the train and settled in my cabin to watch the landscape flow past as we continued on to Adelaide.

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