So we board our final train for this trip. It’s an overnight sleeper, taking just over eight hours to transport us from Goulburn in New South Wales to Melbourne in Victoria. It’s a fitting way to end what we started, which was largely a rail journey half way around the world. Whereas before this trip I was a relative novice, now I’m a seasoned traveller aboard long-distance, sleeper trains, and so I’m looking forward to see how the Aussies do it. The train arrives, about five minutes late, and we find our car and cabin. Our Aussie provotnik is a chirpy chap with none of the surly-yet-efficient feel of his Russian counterparts. He barely checks our ticket (I guess if a person can be bothered to hang around in mid-Winter in Goulburn to board a train at 23.15, then they’ve probably bought a ticket) and then opens up our cabin for us. It’s clean inside, pretty plush, our beds are already made up, and we have free care packs (one with basic toiletries, including earplugs and a collapsible cup; the other has some popcorn, a cup of spring water, two crackers, two biscuits, and, oddly, a small punnet of burger relish).
It’s winter in Australia, which means it’s cold and damp. I admit that I found that idea pretty hard to swallow before I got here. My image of Oz contained hot, arid landscapes stretching into the horizons, kangaroos bounding through gum tree forests, and beaches full of surfers looking out into the ocean, checking for sharks. But hot. Well it is like the above, but its cold and damp. The roos still bound around, but they do so in their woolly coats. Despite the season, the landscape is verdant with eucalyptus and palms; I doubt the Aussies ever look out through bare, skeletal branches of denuded woods and hedgerows that reveal what you can’t see during the summer months. And though it’s the depth of winter, there are still days where you can lie on the beach and make sandcastles in the warm sunshine, which is what we did yesterday.
Japan. The larger the town, the less we like it. Sakaiminato was a gem, Matsue a delight, and Hiroshima was lovely. It’s so humid though; we have to carefully choose our itinerary because its overwhelmingly difficult to get about. As soon as we leave the hotel in Matsue it feels as if a damp blanket has been thrown over us. After taking just a few steps, we’re dripping with sweat. This is probably the reason why all Japanese hotels provide free laundry facilities and a free set of pyjamas/lounge-suit to change into whilst hanging out inside. It’s such a horrible feeling to wander around in sticky clothes, beads of perspiration cascading down our backs, knowing that there are umpteen places we would like to/should visit but just can’t face in these uncomfortable weather conditions.