From Sydney to Byron Bay: trains and turkey juice

Train from Sydney to Casino

My carriage awaits!

As you’ll no doubt have gathered by now, I don’t like flying (although as I said previously, self-hypnosis is working wonders), so when I was planning my journey from Sydney to Gold Coast I decided to use the train, stopping off at Byron Bay along the way.  This was not just related to my fear of flying – I really do love trains!  My first mistake was thinking I could get a train for the entire journey, but that was just the beginning…

I had a very early start in Sydney, catching the 07:11 to Casino.  Yes, that’s right: only as far as Casino (an 11 hour train ride), and then it would be a bus for a further 90 minutes.  I was sad to leave Sydney, and my lovely friend Pete, but I guess a big part of this adventure is seeing new things and travelling to different places.  I was in such a rush to get the train, I didn’t stop for a cappuccino or breakfast – a decision I was to regret later.

So, the train: quite old-fashioned, really, and a bit quaint.  All the seating was airline-style, so the first bit of my plan was scuppered – I thought I’d be able to work at a table, getting some writing done while I admired the scenery, and feeling generally inspired.  Never mind, I thought, I’ll do some writing at my tiny little airline table.  But no, the train ride was definitely not conducive to handwriting – this was not a smooth rail track.  Well, my next idea was to do some work online via my trusty iPad – emails, reading some documents I’d been meaning to catch up with, maybe write a blog post – but flipping heck, no wifi connection!!  I was beginning to think I’d travelled back in time a few years!

At least the train itself was comfortable: the seats were reclining (these journeys are long…), and there were cute little fold down footrests.  Happily, I had some papers with me, so I settled down to at least have a peaceful read of those.  But at the very first station (and there were an awful lot of those along the 800km – no super fast railway system here), an elderly lady came and sat next to me (the seats are all pre-booked).  I made the fatal error of mentioning the lovely weather, in true English fashion.  That was it, she (Diane) was off: she was travelling all the way to Grafton (one stop before Casino), and she was intent on chatting all the way.  That’s 10 HOURS. I thought I could talk, but honestly, she made me seem reticent.  And the funniest thing was, she had that way of telling you about people (her large and complex family) and places (I developed a mental map of her life travels) as if you should somehow know them all.  Yes, I sound mean.  Yes, I’m probably going straight to Hell.  But really, I had been sooooo looking forward to this peaceful day!

Meanwhile, I was hugely enjoying the witty chat over the tannoy from the chief steward, in which he generally slated the food he was selling!  There was a choice of hot meals, and when mine arrived I understood his feelings entirely.  It was not good.  But on the plus side, it only cost the equivalent of £4.50, so at least I didn’t feel like I’d paid for more than I received.

These first world problems aside, the scenery really was stunning, and it was fascinating to watch the landscape change.  And actually, to watch the passengers evolve – somewhere around Taree, we began to pick up lots of hippies and surfer dudes: dirty hair, guitars and tiny amps, backpacks, tie dye, hair braids, tattoos, killer tans, interesting aromas… You get the picture.  Oh, and I saw kangaroos hopping around in the fields near the tracks, and nearly went into tourist meltdown!

At Casino (the end of the train line), everyone spilled out and onto 3 buses destined for various points north.  I ended up sitting right at the front of my bus to Byron Bay, which meant I had a good view of the speedometer.  Sadly, the driver didn’t – or at least, he was inclined to ignore it.  Which meant that when a MASSIVE BIRD (a bush turkey, apparently) hit the windscreen, it really did hit it hard.  Amazingly, the screen remained intact – but I spent the rest of the journey watching big bird juices dripping down the windscreen…

I arrived in Byron Bay in the pitch dark, lugged my suitcase for 2km to the house I was staying at, and on arrival wondered why on earth I’d thought doing that journey by train/bus was a good idea.  Still, at least I know all about lovely Diane’s epic family troubles…

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