I'm about two hours away from Sydney, sitting on a train that started off from Melbourne nine and a half hours ago. I thought I'd spend the morning asleep, but I was enjoying watching the changing scenery, so despite the early start – the alarm went off at quarter to six and we went to bed around midnight – I stayed awake. My neighbour for the first couple of hours was a Finn who arrived in Melbourne yesterday. We exchanged a few sentences. Then lapsed into agreeable silence.
My next neighbour companion, who is still with me, had just finished a seven day coach tour. She and her companions are scattered about the train. We smiled and said hello, then to my relief she put on an eye mask, reclined her seat, and prepared for sleep. In contrast, the woman in the seat in front seemed keen to share her family history, the trials and tribulations involved when her dog, a Jack Russell, requires his vaccinations, the exact details of her itinerary.
I was plugged into my iPod when my neighbour awoke, disturbed by the arrival of a new influx of passengers. Despite moaning that she wanted to sleep, she began a conversation with me that continued for nearly two hours. I say conversation, but my rôle was to listen. It was this relentless gentle flow of words that eventually made me close my eyes and sleep. She is also going to Sydney, so we have had more conversation, but I have learned to open my book, and she has also dozed.
I have been amazed by the lush greenery. Currently we are riding through a wooded landscape, the light coming into the carriage filtered through spring leaves. There have been open prairies, railway stations in deserted landscapes, wind farms, cows, sheep, and lots of birds, and a golf course. As we near Sydney so the frequency of houses increases. Leaving Melbourne, riding through the outer suburbs, it was easy to see how older bungalows are being pulled down and replaced by two storey houses.
I've eaten most of the food I brought on board, just one apple left, and I've drunk a fair amount of water. The Tasmania book given to me by Vicki's dad is a quarter read and very good.
Vicki and I said our goodbyes at the station this morning where she nobly accompanied me. I'm not good at goodbyes. I said goodbye to Billie at the house and told her to keep off the sherry. I have become very fond of Billie in the last three weeks. She is a very sweet dog, and I don't think I'm flattering myself when I say she likes me too.
In 2018 I am hoping to visit New Zealand. Nadia with whom I used to do mosaics returned a couple of years ago, then Lyn and Malcolm who I met when walking with the Ramblers in Haldikiki moved there from Ramsgate a few months ago. Maybe Vicki and I could meet up for a holiday in NZ which I could top and tail seeing these friends. Ideally we'd find the NZ equivalents of our Hobart motel and do some more walking, this time both of us in walking boots.
The lady next to me has shown me the pictures of her pet duck Daisy who she rescued in September, told me about the cruise she is going on starting Sunday to celebrate her seventy-fifth birthday, told me about other cruises she has been on, the perils of sharing rooms on holiday with friends who use your toiletries, and the financial troubles of her partner. She is really very sweet, and although I think I might have wanted to strangle her had she talked all the way from Albury, she is well-intentioned and has a happy outlook, and a zest for life and meeting people that I can only admire.
I'm glad I am taking the train rather than flying to Sydney. It is a long journey, but it has passed remarkably quickly, I have been able to see landscapes and small towns as we have passed through. It has given me an idea of the immensity of space here, the feeling of open sky and land, something of the Australia away from metropolitan sophistication, exotic in its very prosaicness.