It was the lead up to Christmas and the country’s tragic fires hung over our trip, figuratively and literally.
"I'm sure that everything's going to be fine tomorrow, but can you put our minds at rest?" I asked.
"I was on the trip up and we had to divert to another track to avoid excessive smoke. We will get you to Adelaide safely."
And with that, the next day, we were bussed to a station south of Brisbane and shown to our well-appointed carriage. We had two narrow singles (a double would have been better) with an excellent en-suite.
Glass of Bollinger in hand, off we headed.
The food on board was a blur, there being so much of it. This was augmented by multiple stops (Coffs Harbour, Hunter Valley, Melbourne, Geelong) to eat and drink more. There were a number of minor hitches along the way, which were handled effortlessly by the operations manager; for example, the Coffs Harbour dinner had to be moved with a few hours' notice from the beach to Pacific Bay Resort.
And so to bed. Sleeping on trains is always problematic, especially on winding bumpy tracks. Fortunately in the morning we were usually at a standstill in a siding, which makes showering more comfortable. And there was always a large breakfast to look forward to.
There were choices each day of side-trips, depending on fitness and preference. We chose the Hunter Valley wine tour. Four vineyards - how soon one gets jaded with so much wine…
That night, around Canberra, we think we smelt smoke, despite the train being sealed.
More food on Christmas Day: large meals at lunch and dinner, then another overnight trip through to Adelaide, where it ended.
So - was it worth it? No - it was very expensive. But did we enjoy it? As a rare treat, very much so.
Dates of travel: 23-26 December 2019
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