Going up three flights of escalators to reach the ground floor of the Sydney central station was just as easy as finding the platform from where my Intercity for Katoomba would be leaving. There were large television screens giving me all the information I needed. As I turned into the right platform, I just happened to ask the railwayman there, ‘Which of these will be going to Katoomba?’
‘The first four carriages this side.’
That was when I noticed some activity at the far end of the platform side that this man had just pointed out. I thought for one insane moment that I was late and that the train was actually leaving and that the next was after an hour and by then it would be too late to plan a visit to the Blue Mountains… and so enmeshed I was in these thoughts that I simply started running. As I reached the area around the first four carriages, I heard this woman shout at me, ‘Why are you running?’
I was probably too busy trying to see where I could rush and climb on board and so she shouted again, ‘Why are you running? There are still ten minutes before the train leaves for Katoomba.’
‘Oh!’ I said sheepishly, ‘I thought the train was leaving.’
I slowed down to a stop, took a few deep breathes and did a few toe-ups to relax my calf muscles and then looked around. Not many people to go to Katoomba, I thought but then immediately added that there was still time and people will come rushing in at the last minute. Well, actually enough did trickle in from then and so I just went in and climbed to go to the top deck of the compartment so I could get a better view.
The city rail here in Sydney has all double-deckers and so does the Intercity, I noted with relief. The top deck is presumably a lovely place to sit and so I just went and sat on a seat that would keep me facing the direction in which the train was moving. And just then this rather old granny entered, went to a seat and stopped to look at it with a bit of grumpiness, ‘I can’t always be facing the other side. It makes me dizzy!’ And then she just placed her hands on the hand rest on the seat and pulled it to the other side… and bingo! The seat back-rest slid to the other side with a short metallic screech! I was… well, I was actually staring at her and she was quick to understand that I was surprised at this seat flexibility and so she addressed me, ‘Well, I love this part of the Sydney trains!’
And that was when I decided to take a short video of these flexi-seats in Sydney trains…
The train started at the precise time it was to start and the driver in his own quaint accent told us that we were on time before rattling off the names of all the stations we’d be stopping at. I do remember a few of the names and, in particular, Emu Plains from where the landscape began to change. All the names did sound so romantic and included Leura, Bulaburra, Valley Heights, Warrimoo, Glenbrook, Emu Plains, and Homebush… but what I remember was staring at the way the tree types changed as we hurried towards the mountains.
And from inside the train, the road outside seemed quite unrushed and calm. Even the odd large truck there appeared to be in no hurry and was happily cruising at his desired speed. ‘This is the best part of Australia,’ I thought, ‘these people are never in a hurry and yet nothing remains undone or incomplete or shabbily crafted.’
I remembered the hostess at the hotel telling me that ‘Australians are a laid back people,’ and then with a smile had added, ‘We love our Saturdays and Sundays.’
I did notice that though there was no hurry even in the bustle of Sydney, people did seem to be knowing what they had to do and were just doing it… with a smile and with all the time to answer your queries. ‘A rather friendly nation,’ I said to myself and found the old granny opposite looking at me.
‘You’re going to Katoomba, right?’
‘Yes, though I’m not sure where I’ll be going to once I’m there.’
‘Oh! That’s quite simple. Just one straight road there and you keep walking on it to reach the three sisters. You get a lovely view from there.’
‘And what about the buses…’ I began and she immediately said, ‘You can sit in a bus and go, if you want to. But if the weather is good… and it is today… you can walk as well.’
That sounded like a comforting piece of advice and I thought I’ll review the distances there before spending money on the bus tours of Katoomba.
That was when I noticed the mountains that had suddenly come much closer than they were before… and was lost in the blue haze that seemed to surround them. Soundlessly we went on… and I was in my own world that imagined a nice walk up and down the mountain sides. I love trekking and thought it was so exciting to be trekking in Australia!
Well, I did get to walk by the sides of the mountains… and there weren’t many who opted to go this way. I also went hurtling down the mountain to the dense tropical forest far below… to walk on the specially created pathway that took me right into the heart of this forest that was dark and cool and wet and was so full of strange sounds of strange birds! But all that in some other post…
This blog post has been contributed by Arvind Passey on his travel to Australia. Read more about Arvind at http://passey.info/