"" Writer's Wanderings: New Zealand Diary - TranzAlpine, From Christchurch to Greymouth

Friday, November 22, 2013

New Zealand Diary - TranzAlpine, From Christchurch to Greymouth

Sunday, October 20, 2013

It’s Sunday and if we were home we’d be having waffles. Waffles, it is, says our host at the Lilac Rose and we enjoy some great tasting treats with wonderful maple syrup. Maddie lays at our feet under the table hoping something will drop. Unfortunately for her nothing does. We savor every bite.

While our host assures us we have plenty of time, we still leave early to arrive at the train station to get our seats and board the train. The train has very comfy seats and lots of window space with even a little above us as well. And the windows look pretty clean except for a spot here or there. We are in the car just behind the open car where there are no windows and you can get clear shots of the glorious scenery provided there are no heads in the way.

Our ears begin to pop as we ascend into the mountain range. The South Island has mountains that extend through the middle of it called the Southern Alps even though it is made up of several ranges of mountains. Mount Cook or Aoraki, the Maori name, is the tallest.  Our train trip is called TranzAlpine.  There is a running commentary you can listen to with headphones. I listen for a while but don’t care to be distracted by the voice in my ears. I’d rather sit back and enjoy.

I take a few pictures but for the most part, I just want to soak in the green hillsides and the yellow ones, which the commentary tells Bob are noxious weeds. We saw them as we drove to Christchurch yesterday—vast areas of yellow flowers.

There are a couple of stops where one or two people board but there are no large towns. Our stop in Arthurs Pass is the end of the line for many travelers. Some will hike the trails that are there and then return with us to Christchurch. Others have arranged to be picked up by tour guides for the trip back. We are going all the way across to Greymouth, spending an hour and then boarding the train again for the return trip. I hope that the sun will be in a better position as we get high into the mountains on the way back. The morning sun shone directly into the camera for some of the best shots.

At Arthurs Pass we are asked to board buses that will take us to the next stop Otira. For some reason they are concerned with the long tunnel that the train goes through in this area. Apparently there was a buildup of carbon monoxide fumes in the tunnel and they are concerned for the passengers. Not the crew, I wonder? While we don’t get to go through the tunnel, we do get to see the gorge that we would miss while in the tunnel. There are several huge waterfalls and the bus driver narrates a bit about the area.

In about twenty minutes, we are at the Otira station and board the train again. The landscape begins to change dramatically as the rugged mountains become rolling hills green with pasture land. We roll into Greymouth, a town that is a bit sleepy on a Sunday. Bob and I walk down to the first intersection looking for a place that is open for lunch. We find one called Freddy’s. It’s in an old building on the second floor but worth the walk up. Bob has some great soup and my Panini comes with a tasty salad.

The train leaves an hour after we arrived and this time it is full. There are no empty seats to spread out in. At Otira we again get on buses for a ride to Arthurs Pass only this time instead of two buses there are four.

I spend a little extra time out in the open car taking pictures. This time I have a good idea of what’s ahead. It’s been a relaxing day. Bob is full of all sorts of facts from listening to the commentary both ways. As he says, the nice thing about being old is that if you wait a bit, it’s all new again. 

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