Tranz Alpine Express
Today was the last driving day of the holiday for me. It was a planned 2 ½ hours to Greymouth. The first part was wiggly road that double backed on itself many times up and over the mountains. It was fun but quite hard work. Eventually we hit the coast and then the road straightened but included many of the typical NZ single lane bridges.
As ever some of the views were spectacular, but we were again, quite oblivious to many of them. This is a shame as we will miss them when we are home.
There was no radio reception for most of the journey so we put on Billy Joel from my iPhone and had a jolly sing along to pass the time.
Every day, we have a really good laugh about something. I can never remember what it was about later but most days Karen is reduced to tears of mirth for something or other. I think it says something about our relationship that everyday we do find something new to really laugh about together.
After 2 hours of driving, we arrived at Hokitika which was our planned stop. By now the sun was out and it was getting really hot. We had a coffee and then walked to the New World supermarket to buy some provisions for our lunch. It was a lovely small beach town and another one where I could have happily spent the day. We wandered to the beach and admired some of the entrants to the 'Sculpture from whatever you find from on the beach' competition. Then it was all to soon to leave to complete the journey to Greymouth.
We got to the train station and knew that the car rental drop off was supposed to be next to it but couldn't find it. It turned out to be a chilled and relaxed non manned type of car return. We just had to leave the car on some waste ground and pop the keys in a box.
The check in for our luggage for the Train Alpine Express back to Christchurch was very straightforward. Although as we hadn't used any of our contingency time for the journey up we were quite early. This was then compounded as the train we were catching was 25 minutes late.
We had great seats, apparently on the best side of the carriage. The carriage was designed with large rounded windows including the ceiling to give a great view. We were also all given headsets to listen to the commentary as we went along.
As the train climbed up and over the Southern Alps the views got more and more special. It was a remarkable feat of engineering for the line to have been built in the first place. This line is ranked as one of the best in the world to do. I can confirm it is breath taking. We spent some of the trip in the open air carriage at the back of the train. Although it was slightly cooler when we went through the clouds, the rest of the journey was beautiful weather. The train was being delayed due to speed restrictions as in some places the rail temperature was exceeding 40c.
Some of the viaducts that we went over were stupidly high and impressive. It was a great trip, was a great way to get back to Christchurch, and something I would thoroughly recommend. After collecting our luggage from a small conveyor belt we got in a taxi and went back to the Apollo Motel where we had stayed the previous week.
We dumped our bags and walked to 'Joes Garage Diner' where we had a really nice meal before retiring for the day (after nipping in a Liquor Store to get Karen a beer to take back to the room).