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Full Circle

Day 135: On the Ghan to Adelaide

Adelaide, South Australia 
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Adelaide, South Australia.
Michael Palin - Full CircleSeven o'clock in the morning at Port Augusta Station. The train has stopped and the car attendants are collecting their Sunday copies of The Advertiser. An Aboriginal family is disembarking from the train, clutching mighty mounds of bedding, like so many Mrs Tiggy-Winkles. The air smells of scorched grass. As we pull out, the train winds round a tight curve and the coaches look for a moment like burnished gold as they catch the full power of the freshly-risen sun. It's going to be a wonderful day.

The seared desert is at last yielding to more familiar, less exhausted scenery as we head south running along the shore of the Spencer Gulf. After a week of barren dryness the sudden profligate presence of wide blue water is scarcely believable, like a mirage. Then everything begins to change quite quickly. Industry looms into sight. Port Augusta, Whyalla and Port Pirie - Australia's Iron Triangle - mean smelters and smokestacks and the biggest lead refinery in the world. Then hedgerows and wheat farms, freshly-harvested fields and herds of sheep, then barbies and bungalows and Holden cars and cricket pitches. After a flurry of station names familiar to any Londoner - Kilburn, Islington and Mile End - the trim red roofs of the 1930s suburban city give way to the 1990s corporate skyline, the mammon mushroom, a confident and uncompromising reminder that this is how things are going to be. We are in Adelaide.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 135
  • Country/sea: Australia
  • Place: Port Augusta
  • Book page no: 193

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