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It's the start of an epic trans-continental journey - Sydney to Perth by train - and I am fighting the desire to fall asleep.

I can't imagine the intrepid explorers of old being so feeble before setting out into the inhospitable, uncharted wilds of the Nullabor. Trepidation, fear and excitement maybe, but not the overwhelming need to have a snooze.

But those early adventurers didn't have to get up at 4.15am on a chilly Christchurch morning to catch a flight to Sydney.

We arrived at the station several hours before our train so wandered down to Darling Harbour for brunch and - most importantly - an infusion of caffeine.

I felt sufficiently fortified to venture into Paddy's Market on the way back to the station. What would be useful on a three-day train trip? A risqué nurse's uniform maybe, a wig of long wavy chestnut tresses, a t-shirt emblazoned with "I'm not a gynaecologist but I'll take a look?" or a range of plastic signs telling me that I'd be spotting wombats for the next 75km.

The Indian Pacific train pulled into the station a little behind time - there'd been an airbrake link in one of the coaches apparently and just to slow things down further, trains were being diverted south of the Blue Mountains where some serious track maintenance was underway.

But when the trip is going to take three nights, a few hours' delay is of no account.

We were travelling in Gold Kangaroo class which gave us two bunks, a tiny bathroom with toilet, shower and basin and - most importantly of all - three meals a day in the restaurant car.

If the bathroom seemed compact now I could only imagine how it will seem after a series of multi-course meals and cooked breakfasts.

One throaty diesel engine pulled all 22 carriages out of the station and into the suburbs of Sydney. I can't tell you what Sydney backyards looked like because I did fall asleep, lulled by the swaying train, defeated finally by the early start.

I woke to a surprisingly green rural Australia - I'd expected the whole continent to be parched but here the fields were green, the eucalypt trunk streaked cream and caramel, untouched by summer fires.

As the sun slipped below a wooded ridge we sipped champagne in the bar car.

Outside, two kangaroos bounded away through the trees. There were no wombats.

The first sitting from dinner stumbled past us - either they hadn't found their sea legs yet of they'd washed their dinner down with a lot of Aussie red.

Then it was our turn - pumpkin soup with lemon myrtle oil, chicken with sweet potato mash, buttermilk mouse with rhubarb coulis. The daylight seeped away while we ate - there might be wombats out there now but I'd never know.

The bed fairies had visited our cabin while we'd been out. Our couch had been converted to two bunks. I was in mine within five minutes. I tried to read but within a few minutes more I'd lost my grip on my book, which hit me on my nose.

I stopped fighting the train and succumbed to sleep.

- Jill Worrall
Pictured above: The Indian Pacific train travels between Sydney and Perth. Photo / Supplied