Living in a Marsupial World
 
Dec 28 - Wow, we’re really far behind! Apologies to our loyal reader – we’re currently in Tasmania with Mar’s mom and her fiancé Charlie, and obviously having too much fun to keep up to date! We’ll get to all that soon enough. Hope you enjoy the post.  -Ben

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After bidding farewell to Ita and Rivka, we headed to the East Perth train station to catch the famous Indian Pacific Railway over to Adelaide. We were particularly excited to experience this classic and classy mode of Australian transportation, which allows you to kick back with a drink and watch the landscapes flow by. We were equally excited after calculating that the cost of our two train tickets PLUS the motorail fee (putting the car on the train as cargo) amounted to the same price as gas would cost for us to drive the distance. As the Nullarbor Plain lies between Perth and Adelaide - a seemingly endless expanse of flat emptiness and dry nothing- we were more than happy not to drive.


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Writing the Roleystone post while traveling sideways through a thunderstorm in the outback
Being the lowly economy travelers that we are, we travelled in “red service” where you sleep in your seats and share shower/bathrooms at each end of the train car. Not exactly as luxurious as private cabin travel but it was still very cool and more importantly, comfortable and stress free. There was certainly more space around you than in an airplane and the seats reclined to nearly flat, which made sleeping a bit easier. To make the trip a bit more enjoyable, the Indian Pacific also provided a lounge car service that offered unlimited tea and coffee as well as outlets for laptops. We opted in for this little extra for the purposes of caffeination and blogging during our two-night, three-day journey. 


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Mar updates the blog in the lounge car - note crazy man seated at bottom right, ready to pounce
Unfortunately, we hadn’t been in the lounge car thirty minutes when we attracted the attention of a strange looking man in a wide-brimmed outback hat. We’re not going to go into too much detail about the encounter because honestly, we could ramble on for hours, so we’ll just give you a general overview. As Mar put it, the conversation was like being held at intellectual gunpoint. This crazy American man (who shall remain nameless since I guarantee he Googles himself regularly) talked at us for a good 2 ½ to 3 hours about everything from secret entrepreneurial opportunities to far-flung conspiracy theories, to astronomy and physics, to his apparently “perfect” children and their doctorates, ad infinitum. During his entire lecture I think we were able to get in about 10 words.


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Every once in a while during his dizzying rhetoric he would provide surprisingly rational insights about life and society, but just when you thought he was onto something, he’d plunge back down into the rabbit hole to crazytown. This made the whole experience very unnerving - we could never tell whether he was really crazy or just screwing with us. At a few points in the conversation, he got so worked up and intense that I was more than slightly worried about getting stabbed. We both smiled and nodded as I thought to myself if he goes for the throat, elbow him in the face, kick him in the chest and get out of there. Mar nearly peed her pants waiting to use the bathroom because she didn’t want to leave me alone with him. 


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An aspect of his personality that I found especially curious was the extent of his vanity. Not only did he repeatedly need to stress his overwhelming financial success (money was no object he kept saying, yet he was riding in steerage?) but also acted as if every word he spoke was a gift bestowed upon us. He was from Utah (bingo), and told us repeatedly that he had come from absolute poverty, one of 12-17 children (the family got bigger each retelling). Just so you can have a visual, this man looked as if he had just come back from a thrift store wedding, complete with tired-looking grey suit, ruffled shirt, silver cummerbund, and pearl necklace (which he claimed was Michelle Obama’s). He loved to name drop, frequently alluding to his ongoing friendship with Steve Wozniak (co-founder of Apple Computers). You get the idea. Anyway, the whole encounter thoroughly creeped us out and made the rest of our train trip slightly tense as we made every effort to avoid him from then on.


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Aside from that guy, the trip was altogether quite pleasant. The Nullarbor Plain is quite a thing to behold. Apparently the local Aboriginal word for the area is 'Oondiri' meaning 'the waterless,' and judging by the absolutely vast nothingness that we saw, it is a fitting description. While we occasionally passed through brief, hilly forests of eucalyptus, the majority of our view featured endless plains of sand and scrub brush. The Nullarbor has a kind of profound emptiness and mercilessness that demands your respect. Needless to say, Marielle and I were thankful to be spending our journey east in an air-conditioned train sipping tea and watching movies on her laptop.


We realized while on the train that we could use my video capture settings on Mar's computer to give our blog a few extra awesome points, so below is a clip we took to allow you to experience the Nullarbor Plain yourself, and to ride the Indian Pacific for an exhilarating 17 seconds. Enjoy!


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Desperate times call for desperate hand turkeys
The second day of our ride was Thanksgiving Day, or it would have been had we been in the states. Due to the limited menu options in the dining car our Turkey Day was pretty pathetic, consisting of a pre-packaged meat pie, a grilled cheese sandwich, and a bit of cheap wine we smuggled on board. One thing we were thankful for was the lack of bloated whale feeling after our sumptuous “feast.” We arrived in Adelaide the next morning excited to be in a new city, but sad to have left the southwest.

 

By the way, showering on a moving train is super weird.


Dad (Dan)
12/31/2010

This is your loyal reader. First, kudos on the fantastic gadget-- the video of the train ride is terrific and raises the bar for our own blog. We burn incense at your technological shrine. Second, we love the little animal up top-- what is it? Some sort of porcupine but with such a cute long nose?

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