This is a rather impressive title for a blog post and I am left wondering how on earth I can manage to write anything that lives up to the promise of such a title. Never one to back away from a challenge, I shall try to tap something out that is halfway readable and mostly true.
The train left Southern Cross station at eight am sharp and I thoroughly enjoyed the first part of the trip from Melbourne to Geelong. I was fascinated by the detritus that littered the ground alongside the tracks, the weeds were thriving and the industrial wasteland was especially interesting. At one point there was a great pile of mattresses lying in amongst the weeds and I wondered if a nearby squat had been cleaned out, or if a local bed barn had recently had a sale. I assumed that it was easier to dump the mattresses by the tracks rather than go to the tip and I pondered the mystery of the mattresses for a few miles. Cat graffiti seemed to be especially popular along a section of the rail lines and each power box thingy was decorated with a cat’s face similar to Hello Kitty but darker in intent.
I had decided not to take my Nikon with me as I didn’t want to lug the great heavy thing about the place. The only time I regretted this decision was on the train, as the battery on my phone was running out very quickly and I would have liked to have documented my journey with better photos. I did a lot of filming with my handicam though and I should have a three minute film done in a few weeks time.
Hindsight is a wonderful gift and my hindsight is always especially sharp.
There were a number of things about a train trip that I didn’t even take into consideration when I was planning my journey to Adelaide. The main thing I didn’t think about was the fact that I don’t like sitting down for long. I am hard pressed to sit down and watch a movie and here I was willingly paying to sit down for ten hours in a row. The Spouse had gleefully regaled me with horror tales of his own nightmare train journeys from Cairns to Brisbane in the eighties. I steadfastly refused to listen to his tales of woe, as I was embarking upon an adventure, not a run of the mill trip on a train full to the brim with boxes of bananas and grumpy Queenslanders.
Being a gregarious and social person I assumed that once the novelty of staring out the window and daydreaming had worn off a bit, that I would have interesting conversations about stuff with my fellow travellers. Ha, not a chance, my fellow travellers were as animated as Norman Bate’s Mother and spent all their time on the train frowning at each other and avoiding eye contact with me.
I did sit across the aisle from a lovely Indian couple but nodding and smiling enthusiastically at the canola can only sustain a person for so long, and we soon gave up trying to communicate much past the easy sign language of photo requests. Sadly most of their photos of themselves on their train journey will consist of dark silhouettes against the yellow canola, as their little camera wasn’t up to the task of capturing both them and the view.
Once we had left the industrial landscape behind, the never ending flatness of the country began to feel a little bit creepy. As I was passing by giant paddocks full of wheat or canola it was easy to fall into a depressing state of mind and I wondered if the bees ever became bored with the taste of canola pollen. Do bees crave variety in their diet? I know that one of the theories about the decline of bees in the 21st century agricultural landscape is because the restricted diet in a monocultural landscape weakens the bees immune systems.
I was fascinated by the symmetry of the wheat fields and the optical illusions the rows of wheat produced. At the very edge of the paddocks I could see something jumping from row to row and I briefly wondered if it was a hare or maybe a kangaroo, until it dawned on me that the dark shape was keeping time with the trains passage and it had to be an optical illusion.I was especially pleased we weren’t travelling through fields of corn as then my imagination would have seriously run amok.
Five hours into the train journey I had had enough, I was over the confinement completely and the thought of a further five hours trapped on a train was quite depressing. All the small towns had started to look the same, I was heartily sick of endless blocks of yellow and I was beginning to suspect that I had broken my bum.To add insult to injury the train was running behind schedule so my ten hour trip ended up stretching out to eleven and a half hours.
Now I am home and my bum has recovered, I am pleased I caught the train. The country was interesting despite its spooky flatness and I amused myself by instagramming my journey. This image above, of the station at Dimboola and the memory of the vast yellow flatness are simmering below the surface of my consciousness and I can feel the inspiration for a series of work titled “Goodbye Dimboola” swirling about inside my mind.
I don’t think I will be in a hurry to catch a train for a long journey again as I think that three hours is about my limit. I am planning on travelling back to Geelong via train specifically to document the industrial landscape and the rubbish that we leave everywhere. I would like to photograph the weeds by the tracks and have another, closer look at Hello Kitty’s darker twins.