Now that we are in South Australia, and the track is much smoother, it was easier to sleep and much more comfortable last night.
We were wakened this morning by the train crew with a cup of tea in bed and then it was up for a quick shower and off to breakfast. By then, we were near the area of Woomera and traveling through a series of sand dunes with stunted mallee type scrub. The soil was bright red / orange and seemed very vivid as it was lit by the morning sun.
Not long after, we began travelling across the true Nullabor Plain at a steady speed of 100 km/h. The landscape is dead flat and without any sign of life other than the low salt bush that extends to the horizon. This is the longest straight stretch of railway line in the world; 477 kms without a bend. The only interruption to this featureless vista is an occasional Telstra phone tower. These are powered by an array of solar cells and have been built to enable communications for train operations. They are also handy for learning that Australia was over-run in its World Cup match with Germany 4 – 0.
At mid-morning, we stopped at the ghost town of Cook. Before the days of concrete sleepers, this town was a major service centre for the railways. It had its own school and hospital. Now it has a permanent population of five people. We stopped long enough to refuel the locomotive and re-water the carriages. This gave us half an hour to walk around the old town. It is certainly remote. It must have been interesting life in the past with people living so closely together and such a long way from anywhere else.
We had a nice lunch as we continued west. This landscape is devoid of anything at all, so it seems. The only signs of life were the eagles nests that had been constructed in the cross members of the old telegraph towers and occasional phone towers. It is a flat area with miles and miles of desolation. At a place called Forrest (no trees here), we stopped to drop off some food for the people that run a Bed and Breakfast establishment. Their house is adjacent to an airfield with two sealed runways that are still maintained by the government as an emergency airfield.
There is a road that follows the railway line near here, and it is called the Trans Link Road. By the time we reached the location of Haig, we found our first gentle bend. This is the western end of the very long straight stretch. At the tiny five-house town of Rawlinna, we saw a small herd of very dark cattle. Across the plain we could see a large mullock heap from a lime mine. By now, there are also one or two scrubby trees appearing on the flat plain. Along the way, we had stopped at a very long siding to let a freight train pass and we made another stop to drop off some mail.
It’s now after dinner and we are just pulling into Kalgoorlie. That’s the end of our third day.