Monday 22nd December
Our last day of the tour. The Overland (from Adelaide to Melbourne - 828km) departs at 7.40am, and according to our ticket, final check-in at Parklands Terminal is by 6.40am. So we are up at 5am, giving us time to eat breakfast and the final packing before catching the bus from just outside the hotel. We aren't the only passengers on the way to the train station - two other passengers have suitcases and alight at the same stop. Inside the terminal we join the small queue and get rid of our bags – both get a ”heavy” label attached. Ten minutes later the queue has doubled in length and is out of the door. We have a bit of a wait before we can get on the train, time for Claus to get some photos and to check out our fellow passengers: the majority are pensionists, the rest are of all ages and there are a few German and French speaking tourists. This is the last train to Melbourne before Christmas, and many are heading to Melbourne for Christmas with family, judging by the many bags of wrapped gifts. One passenger has her Santa hat on with flashing ”Merry Xmas” lights. The carriage attendant gives us an explanation of the train, in particular how the toilet locks. One must push a button to close the door and then push another button to lock it. During the journey there are many passengers who forget to lock the door whilst inside, so luckily there is an elderly couple in the first row who are good to warn the next toilet customer that it is occupied.
We depart on time and are soon heading up into the Adelaide Hills, with short glimpses of the coastline to our right before reaching the highest point on the journey: Mt. Lofty. Many of the houses are built of large sandstone coloured building blocks with wide verandahs to combat the heat. We stop at Murray Bridge and Bordertown before crossing the border to Victoria, and we have to set our watches forward by a half hour. The countryside is flat, this area is known as the "wheat belt" of Victoria.
At Horsham I catch up (very briefly) with my old friends Bev and Greg, and they get to meet Claus for the first time. Officially we aren't allowed off the train if we are travelling further, but I manage a short chat with them thru the open door before the train pulls out. Now it's time to check out the dining options and we choose to share a serve of fish and chips and a meatball baguette.
After Horsham we stop at Stawell and Ararat before the train heads more to the south and stops in Geelong North, then heads north to Melbourne. Just after leaving Geelong we are informed that we might arrive twenty minutes early, but no, there are a few delays and we arrive into Southern Cross station at the scheduled time of 6.50pm. There is a queue to get luggage: all the luggage is laid out on the platform and then a small number of passengers are allowed in to collect their bags; when these passengers have departed they let another group in and so on. A sensible way considering the number of elderly passengers with walking sticks or rollators. Once we get out our bags we head over to the main concourse of the station to the suburban metro trains. My brother has sent our myki travel cards to Darwin, so we scan on and wait for the next Berwick train. 7.40pm and we board our last train and head out through the suburbs of Melbourne. It takes just under an hour to reach Berwick, where my brother Keith and his wife Lyma are waiting with cameras to catch us getting off our last train. A fantastic tour has ended.