Best Break Ever Part 1: I’m on a Train!
Posted: April 28, 2011 Filed under: Australia and Beyond | Tags: australia, Central Station, CountryLink trains, holiday, hostels, melbourne, Southern Cross Station, study abroad, Sydney, The Nunnery, vacation
My mid-semester break started way too early in the morning on April 9, when I caught a train to Central Station in Sydney to meet another train that would take me to Melbourne. I arrived at Central approximately ten minutes before my train to Melbourne was due to depart, and thus learned the first reason that trains are better than planes. Can you imagine arriving at an airport ten minutes before your plane is taking off? Yeah, not gonna work. You’ll need at least an hour to check in, go through security, etc. But at Central Station, there was none of that. I just found the correct platform, showed my ticket to the guard, and took my seat. So simple. So refreshingly simple.
As soon as I sat down on the train, I was instantly enamoured. I got a window seat (yay!) and miles of legroom: another thing you won’t find in your average economy class airline seat. I had the two seats to myself, so I got to stretch out and relax as we travelled through the suburbs and out of Sydney.
I had neglected to eat breakfast before getting on the train, so when the conductor announced the dining car was open, I got up so fast I forgot I was in a moving vehicle and ended up running into a gentleman sitting a few rows ahead of me. Sorry, dude.
I ordered a ham and cheese croissant and a cup of tea, both of which were very satisfying. By the time I finished, we were out of the Sydney area and travelling through gently rolling farmland. It struck me as the most gorgeous thing I’d ever seen, and I realised that’s what two months in a city has done to me. Besides the one day I spent in the Blue Mountains, I’ve been surrounded by lights and tall buildings since I arrived here in February. So it was lovely to see green again.
Trees! Grass! Water!
The scenery remained unchanged for the entire 11-hour trip to Melbourne: cattle farm, sheep farm, cattle farm, sheep farm. We passed by rolling hills and tiny ponds, and through leafy patches of trees. We also stopped at about a dozen small-town stations along the way. At each station, a few passengers disembarked and a few more joined the train. In fact, I’m pretty sure most people on the train didn’t go all the way from Sydney to Melbourne–most people who want to do that take a plane, because it’s faster and cheaper. This train primarily served people who lived in the small towns along the way and wanted to get to or from Sydney or Melbourne. We only stopped at each station for a few minutes, so I didn’t get to explore these towns like I would have liked to. Still, even the stations themselves were charming.
Excuse me, conductor, could I hop off here and travel back to 1949? I need to send a telegraph.
As we approached Melbourne, the sun was setting and rain was beginning to fall. By the time we got to Southern Cross Station, it was completely dark outside and definitely raining. Luckily, I’d done a little advance planning and knew which tram would get me to my hostel. I walked out of the train station and found the tram stop immediately: another advantage of trains over planes. When I flew out of Melbourne later that week, I had to pay $16 for a 30-minute shuttle ride to the airport. But when I arrived, all I had to do was walk out of the train station, and there was a $3 tram ready to take me on a 15-minute ride to my accommodation. Once again, the simplicity was refreshing.
I successfully located and checked into my first-ever hostel, The Nunnery. The building, a converted convent, is quite paradoxical. It still has lots of charming original features, like decorative moulding on the ceiling and stained glass windows above the doors. But it’s a hostel, so the bedrooms are furnished with bunk beds and littered with clothing, travel guides, miscellaneous possessions, and the occasional guitar. I slept there all four nights in Melbourne, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, even though it turned out to be probably the least fancy of all the hostels I stayed in. Some of my room-mates were pretty interesting people, which made the experience even better.
So stay tuned for more about them–and more about Melbourne–in the next post!