All about the journey
YOU CAN hardly turn on the TV nowadays without stumbling across yet another celebrity-hosted travel series. There seems, in particular, to be a plethora of personalities criss-crossing the globe by train, gushing about the romance of steam or the role of railways in forging the economies of modern nations.
I confess to being a fan of former British MP Michael Portillo’s railway series on SBS. His passion for the subject is infectious (and his wardrobe choices entertaining) as he explores the UK by train, clutching his faded Victorian-era travel guide Bradshaw’s Handbook.
Long before this proliferation of rail travel documentaries there was a milestone BBC series that set the bar for the genre – Great Railway Journeys of the World. Among the five episodes that were broadcast back in 1980 was writer Michael Frayn’s journey on Australia’s Indian Pacific.
I knew little then about the country I would come to call home and was captivated by Frayn’s quirky commentary on unchanging arid landscapes flashing past, which conveyed the sheer scale of the Australian continent.
The camaraderie of passengers drinking beer and enjoying hearty singalongs in the bar as the train rattled on was like no train journey I had ever seen before.
Back then, the Indian Pacific was rightly regarded as one of the world’s iconic rail journeys, and, almost 40 years on, we packed Phil Jarratt off to see if this continues to hold true and to see, while life only seems to gather momentum, who now chooses to travel at a leisurely pace across the nation.
Trains have been a hot potato in Newcastle in recent times with the controversial removal of the train line that delivered passengers right into the heart of the CBD.
Former resident Karen McGhee went back to see how the former steel city’s affordable lifestyle is attracting world-class talent, which is helping drive renewal based on innovation in health and education. She was excited to see how the city is now embracing and celebrating its unique industrial waterfront.
Finally, don’t forget to turn off your lights during Earth Hour on Saturday 24 March at 8:30pm (and preferably more often and for much longer). Before that, on Sunday 4 March, if you are able, help clean up your neighbourhood with the indefatigable volunteers of Clean Up Australia, one of our nation’s best ideas. See page 20.
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On assignment in South Georgia, Antarctica, last year, shooting one of the world’s largest penguin rookeries.