Greymouth, New Zealand
Today we drop off our car and board the world famous Trans Alpine Railway. This trip is often regarded to be one of the world’s great train journeys for the scenery through which it passes. The journey is 223 kilometers one-way, taking about four and a half hours. There are 19 tunnels and four viaducts.
We ask for a late checkout as the West Coast weather has not improved and it is bucketing down. With 4 hours to kill before we board the train we catch a cab to the Monteith Brewery, a new establishment that has an open door policy, good food, good beer and a big open fire. On arriving they have canceled the tour due to a lack of patrons so we order a beer tasting plate and some yummy tapas to match the beers. The place has a very friendly atmosphere and we can easily see ourselves settling in for the next 3 hours or so.
As boarding time approaches it is still raining so we catch another cab to ferry us to the station, one block away. There are only two cabs in town and we hail down the same driver. When the train pulls into the station we notice that there are not to many passengers boarding so we should be able to move about freely and swap seats if we want. As we depart, rain streams down the windows and we hope that it clears as we travel east. The train follows many parts of the Arthur’s Pass road as it heads through Lake Brummer, a popular tourist destination and starts climbing into the mountains. The rain has now eased and the scenery is very picturesque as we weave through farmland and past many large and fast flowing rivers.
The staff open the bar so we purchase some wine and a cheese platter and relax as we listen to the commentary that is piped to our headsets. First stop is a small station (Otira) on the west side of Arthur’s Pass and we have to disembark and catch a bus over the pass as this section of the track is considered to dangerous. The actual pass is spectacular with many overhangs built across the road to divert falling rocks and water. Debi is glad that we are not driving and ranks it as very scary. On reaching the Arthur’s Pass township and station we re-board and prepare for the most picturesque part of the journey that takes us through the many tunnels and viaducts mentioned in the brochure. I take heaps of photos but most catch my reflection in the window and now I know why they have an open trolley at the end of the train. I decide not to make my way there as it is packed to the gunnel’s with keen photographers.
We finally wind our way down to the Canterbury Plains and the many fields of sheep that proliferate the area and within half an hour we pull into Addington our final destination about 10 minutes from the airport, from here we jumped a shuttle. This was a big mistake as the driver told us he was going straight to the Airport so we could pick up our car but instead dropped of all of the other passengers in the opposite direction before taking us there some 45 minutes later. Debi gave him a mouthfull, and be both promised ourselves never to catch a shuttle no matter what city we are in. Note to anybody doing this trip………catch a cab it is cheaper and faster.
With an easy drive into the city in our bright green/gold Suzuki Swift, we checked into the Chateau on the Park Hotel, had a nice dinner and discussed our plans for the next two days in Christchurch before retiring. It had been a big day and I would definately recommend the train trip to anyone.