As has already been established, I love trains. There’s something about the way you slowly move across the landscape that makes the transition from one place to another feel smooth. There’s none of the hustle and bustle of airports or the frustration of car travel. Plus, of course, I love all forms of public transit that help me limit my carbon footprint.
I like train travel enough that I looked into taking a train from the east to the west coast of Australia and from the Southern end to the Northern. Once I realized that a ticket across the Bush would cost the same as my plane ticket to Sydney, however, I quickly nixed that idea. Instead, I decided to take the train from Magnetic Island up the coast to Port Douglas. So, early Saturday morning, I said farewell to tropical Maggy and headed north to find the Great Barrier Reef.
I happened into a group of travelers who were also heading to catch the train. They were part of a flexible tour system and invited me to join them for a walk as we waited for the delayed train. The American in the group instantly could tell that I was from the US by my sandals. Yes, my Teva adventure sandals. He had noticed what I had also seen: no one here seems to wear hiking or walking sandals. Everyone is in flip flops or tennis shoes. This American was wearing Chacos, my other sandal love, and we got to chatting. The easygoing Aussie tour guide, not hearing this sandal bonding moment, asked me if I was from Canada or the States. This isn’t the first time it has happened on this trip and I’m always flattered. I don’t know if it’s because Aussie’s can’t tell the difference between Americans and Canadians, we really do sound the same, or, as a linguist once told me, my accent doesn’t make sense—something about growing up in a border state, with kids from all of the US and parents from western Europe caused me to develop a peculiar speech pattern. Whatever the reason, I’m always flattered. I’d much rather appear as a Canadian abroad than an American, for obvious reasons. However, this morning, I did enjoy a lovely and long conversation with an American and a few other travelers.
Sadly, they were getting off before me, so we weren’t seated in the same carriage. As I sat down on the Spirit of Queensland, however, I realized that I wasn’t quite prepared for long-distance Aussie train travel. First of all, you’re assigned a seat, not just a carriage. Then, there’s a TV on the seat in front of you. It’s like being on a plane, but with bigger seats and windows. I didn’t think I had any expectations about what I would see out the windows during this trip, but I was also surprised by the landscape. The train took us through fields and fields of some sort of corn-looking crop and through small, rundown farming towns. I felt like I was in a Midwest with mountains.
Six soothing hours of writing, reading, work, and window watching later, I made it to Cairns. From there, I took a shuttle bus to Port Douglas, arriving 12 hours after I left Magnetic Island, feeling sleeping but relaxed.