Lush landscape in memorable journey

An iconic windmill in barren landscape near Tailem Bend

Mad March heralds Autumn and farewells the most extraordinary summer in my memory.  It seemed at one stage the whole of New South Wales was burning in an ominous scattering of more than 100 bushfires. They followed Tasmania’s devastating bushfires and later in summer, some of  Victoria’s national parks also burned.

Here in South Australia we were spared, but we sweltered, recording the hottest day of all the capital cities at 46 degrees one day in January.   It puts into context the news story “Blistering summers will go on’’ in The Advertiser this week whereby the Federal Government-funded Commission released “The Angry Summer’’ report warning we must brace ourselves for more, harsher hot spells and of increasing flood risks.

Which brings me to my holiday in so-called sunny Queensland in January to be housebound with the grand-children for almost a week of torrential rain and to witness daily the tragedy of the devastating flooding of that  State.

Yet, summer, for me, started in an idyllic sunny mood –  a peaceful train journey on The Overland from Adelaide to Melbourne, which revealed an amazingly diverse landscape if one only opens one’s eyes to the contrasts of our countryside.

Take the Adelaide Hills, where rich, black, fertile soil lies fallow, but furrowed ready for seeding.  Further along the railway track, the farm land is filled with ripe vegetables with workers wearing Chinese-style hats busily picking the crop for market.  A luscious sight for local foodies.  On the other side of the track, it’s a delight to regard hectares of vineyards climbing way over the hills and sweeping down to the fence line, lush and green and sprawling in their fertility.

Ploughed earth in Adelaide Hills

However, South Australia is the driest state in the driest continent in the world, but even this barrenness has its beauty when seen through the train window where I am relaxed and soaking up each changing scene. The other side of Monarto is low, rounded, bare hills, a brave tree or two,  a windmill planted in this stark landscape and cows gathered around water.

History is also hidden from the road which links our hills towns and from the train I spy a unique pioneering scene.  An olive grove thrives close to the ruins of a settler’s cottage with a second roofless dwelling well on its way to destruction by time.

Soon, I am admiring the River Murray as we cross over on the old railway bridge and from my bird’s eye view I spy a huge paddle steamer and plenty of houseboats with Murray Bridge behind. My maternal grandmothers lived a little way up river at Caloote and stories of the Murray life are imbued in my memory.

One of the easy ways of discovering foreign lands is to take the train, and the fast TGV is a favourite in France.  However, how often do we take the train purely to soak up the scenes of our own unique broadacre wheat fields, where hectare after hectare of the stubbled land bears witness to a golden crop of grain. Do we snap madly at the meandering tracks of the huge reaping machines in our own South East country?.  Yet this farm land was once poor quality, but here is evidence of how it has become beautifully fertile by the addition of valuable trace elements to grow crops.  Aha! And there is the evidence:  A long  truck laden with harvested grain stands next to a wheat stack near Bordertown while its cargo of wealth from the fertile land pours into silos.

Into Victoria and the journey takes us past Mallee scrubland and through its regional towns of Horsham, Nhill and Ballarat where the railway station is a grand public building.

Onward to the stunning Grampians, which present themselves as a hazy purple hue on the horizon before taking dramatic shape for many kilometres of the journey on the right hand side of my comfortable carriage.

Surprisingly,  the recently refurbished Overland runs into the port of Geelong, where large ships give us a snippet of wharfies’ working lives.

Lush vineyards in Adelaide Hills

As we roll slowly into Spencer Street Station, it occurs to me that my leasurely ride in a Red Carriage of the Overland has traversed 828 kilometres covering a beautiful slice of Southern Australia – and I am thankful that at the end of summer, wildfires did not ruin South Australia’s unique terrain.

See Great Southern Rail Duration: Daylight Service in both directionsv Distance: 828 kilometres (513 miles)
Frequency: Three times per week in both directionsFor more information see



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