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Ultimate Opal Hack Day 4: Mind over Parramatta



Frankly, it's about time someone actually checked my Opal card.

Throughout this week, editor-in-chief Angus Kidman is undertaking the Ultimate Opal Hack to celebrate the imminent end to free Travel Reward journeys for Opal customers. Learn about why he's doing it and what's involved.

My butt hurts. Not to the point where someone will need to be arrested, but it's a reminder that sitting on long-distance trains for some 22 hours and 1600 kilometres is not natural behaviour.


Also not natural: starting the day without a hot drink. Fortunately, I don't have to, since an enterprising Bathurst entrepreneur is selling coffee to everyone who wants to board the Sydney service, which leaves at 5:49am. The Bathurst train was reintroduced in 2012 as an election promise, so it's good to see people actually want to use it. The train is packed with schoolkids, workers and sundry travellers.

From my perspective, the biggest irritation with this Bathurst jaunt is that there are long stretches of line which don't have any mobile signal, an issue I haven't really experienced elsewhere this week. Not surprising when we're travelling through fog-ridden areas with no evident population, but annoying when I'm trying to get work done.


Another nuisance: a woman gets on at Katoomba, sits next to me, and then asks if I can move over. I'm not a small man, and my leg is already pressed against the wall, so sorry madam, no dice. But everyone survives. (Reminder to self: you said two paragraphs that it's good to see people using the train. Don't be bitter.)

Fame is some compensation. During this journey, I become a momentary celebrity after the Daily Telegraph published an interview with me about the experience. It's quite the day for Opal news, between that and my colleague Ken unearthing an obscure Opal rule which makes some journeys more expensive . Of course, when you're in the Travel Reward zone and everything is free, you're less worried about those tiny details.

The journey from Bathurst to Central passes through Parramatta, and that's also my destination in the afternoon. Having covered off the northern ferry extremities by venturing to Manly yesterday , today I'm doing the western branch. This is definitely the slow route: the trip from the city to Parramatta takes some 90 minutes, compared to around 30 minutes on the train. But it's scenic and peaceful on the river, and I remind myself I've saved $7.18. A woman sitting in front of me videos the entire journey on her iPad. Who needs Netflix?


Remarkably, this trip is also the first time I've encountered ticket inspectors, checking everyone's cards to see if we've actually tapped on. I don't know if the scanning device shows my recent travel history. It would be cool if it did.

Having done all the train and ferry extremities (and with my aversion to buses already documented), the Ultimate Opal Hack is almost at an end. But I do have one last cheapskate trip up my sleeve for Friday. Tune in then to discover what it is.

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