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    Wednesday, November 18, 2009

    The Overlander - Auckland to Wellington Scenic Ride -Take the train and See The Country

    At 7.30 sharp we departed from Britomart Station. Now en route to Wellington
    Check was easy the guards stood on the platform checked in your baggage...into the baggage carriage, allocated seats and All Aboard!
    Quite a surreal experience at the Station, all lit up like a Christmas tree.
    One happy passenger.
    As we travel our commentary is from an Indian Man quite quaint...sometimes a little difficult to understand. But never mind. He is very helpful and charming.
    Apparently we only allowed 20 minutes each in the viewing car, at the rear. Might just take a wine down later. As we were in the buffet car, (which was handy) he even came around and offered to bring us coffee and an afghan.
    It wasn't free but saved walking up to the counter
    I love the sound of the train goes over different tracks. Starting off with the "I think I can" just like the Sparky and The Talking Train, a favourite story from my childhood, to basic smooth. Then different clatters, as we go over different bridges. Sometimes there is roar over some of the tracks. Lovely.
    After coffee, I did walk to the counter, bought bottle of water...special labels for the train. Nice.
    Had to take a shot of the food of course. Excellent takeaways.
    All supplied by Wishbone.
    Little packets of yogurt berries and muesli, Cookies, Muffins,
    Gourmet sandwiches. actual meals which could be heated up.
    Of course the Iconic Kiwi Mince Pie. Which comes from Eve's pantry apparently.
    We are passing through towns, that I didn't even know existed e.g. Paerata?
    First major stop Hamilton a chance to stretch the legs. Such a beautiful day we are very lucky.
    Pity the windows of the train were grubby, not great for photos. but looking pretty good out of doors.
    The famous viewing carriage, as it turns out we never made it down there either way. Just too busy I guess.

    The entrance to the Hamilton Station
    Another happy passenger.
    So as it was close to 10.30am I decided that a bubbly and some nuts would go down well.
    As I tried to open it, in the time honoured way - you know take the paper off and let the cork go. Didn't work, then I was given instruction by another passenger
    Just screw it off.
    Blow me down, it is a screw top imitation cork.
    So albeit a little harsh on the stomach, at that hour. It passed away a half hour or so.
    The chillier than normal spring we have been experiencing has benefited the land - It is so green gorgeous in fact. We went through wetlands, I didn't know existed. You just don't see all of this from the Highway.
    At the front of our carriage is an aerial shot of the Raurimu spiral and amazing engineering feat.
    Click here for more information.
    We reached Taumarunui once the halfway stop...famous many years for hot pies and chunky white railway cups full of hot tea. It has been superseded by National Park, going down and Ohakune coming up. Meanwhile we had a couple of wines and ate our sandwiches.
    very tasty.
    So we are in the King Country. Home of such famous New Zealanders as Jim Bolger, Colin Meads and my favourites, The Rogers and The Wallaces.
    Unlike Europe, the main trunk line is a single track most of the way, every so often it branches into more tracks. Trains await their turn to proceed. Could be a bit dodgy if the communications break down. Wonder what they did in the 1800s?
    Here is the big diesel engine, that pulled us all the way.
    Of course from National Park, is the gateway to Whakapaka Ski fields.
    There standing in full view for us Mount Ruapehu. Stunning.
    Turn slightly to the left and you get Ngarahoe
    Nice Station at National Park, laid on good food for the travelers. We bought muffins to have as dessert, with our wine.

    Railway yards never the prettiest of places. Lovely long freight train though.
    Great shot from does look superb.
    So it was All Aboard again. I managed to get a shot of our hostess Elaine.
    Little observation: The toilets are very clean, unlike the Orient Express, which had a very unpleasant odour. Of course they had carpet in the toilet. Not a good look or smell in fact.
    Didn't visit the toilet on the TGV this year. Didn't have time really. Unlike this trip which took 12 hours, our longest journey on the TGV was 4 hours, probably for twice the distance. and 3 times the speed.
    Unlike a plane, you become quite friendly with passengers and the Hostess becomes your new best friend. Very cosy. A good journey.
    We finally arrived in Wellington. Terry came to meet us. Whisked us home to their new apartment. Situated right on the centre of the City, it is in a great position.
    Take the lift down and you are on Willis Street. Just across the road is The New World Metro.
    A wonderful inner city supermarket.
    Looks to me like they modeled it on Balducci's the famous store in New York.
    Not as pricey though. But similar layout if I remember correctly.
    After a wonderful dinner cooked by Barbara we sat up talking until well after 2am.
    Just like the old days...except we are now getting a bit past, that late hour.
    So on the morning after a late start, Barb, Dale and I wandered around met Donna for coffee.
    We then took our cameras and headed for the waterfront.
    On a good day nothing beats Wellington really. It was wonderful.

    We found Mac's Brewery, had a tasty lunch and retired for a rest.

    I had coffee and a cake with my friend Anne ,at one of the little coffee shops just below the apartment. By then the blue sky had gone and the temperature had dropped by 8C.
    Fairly chilly pity.
    We ate that night at Ortega's Fish Shack.
    Sarah and Anthony joined Barb, Terry, Dale and I.
    Good company. good food and only cost $9 in the cab. The joys of inner city living.
    Next day we shopped at the superb Moore Wilson Store click here for 'moore' info.
    Back drop by Dick Frizzell.
    Sunday was busy. After a triumphant night when New Zealand Football team qualified for the World Cup, first we went to the market, met up with Debbie for coffee, long time no see.
    So nice to catch up.
    Back to the apartment but before lunch we managed to fit in the "Dotty" Exhibition.
    Love Wellington... they decorated the Art Gallery with hundred of dots. All in honour of Yayoi Kusma the mad artist. read about her here
    It was a fantastic exhibition glad we went.
    Below: more outstanding sculpture from the Wellington Waterfront
    After lunch the Santa Parade. It was freezing, the southerly has kicked in.
    Could only stand out on the balcony for a few minutes at a time.
    Thomas the Tank Engine weaving down the road.
    Shame about this shot, but I promise it is Santa.
    We continued on, with a gathering of more old friends. Terry by now, very confident with his brand new BBQ. We ate excellent sausages and a beautiful piece of sirloin from Moore Wilson Diana and Dave brought fresh lettuce from their garden.
    Plus their first batch of Olive Oil picked, pressed and bottled by their fair hands.
    Grassy green, with a real good pepper hit, at the back of the throat. Superb.
    All washed down with some nice crisp wine.
    We have learnt our lesson and finished at a reasonable hour.
    Dawned yet another beautiful day. Still a bit chilly though.
    Obviously, the calm before the storm. 7am at the station.
    Waiting for rush of commuters.
    Our baggage boys on the right.
    First stop Paraparaumu. A new driver
    Christine our attendant that day checking in the passengers and about to load their baggage into the car.
    Ohakune. Lunch anyone?
    The old signal masters little house.
    Looking good this year.

    One punter a little weary for the long weekend!
    Some of more spectacular views were from the viaducts. Situated over these magnificent gorges

    Love the way the river has carved its way through the landscape.

    Not only do we farm sheep and cows in New Zealand...we also have car farms!
    Below the little station, where we have a crew change.
    Out with the old and welcome to the new lot.
    So here endeth the story. Unfortunately, the weather going home was not as 'clement'
    as our first trip. It was a little grey and to be honest after after this stop,
    the ride became a little tedious.
    As we got closer to Auckland, we got stuck behind a suburban train,
    which of course stopped at every station. I think we slowed down to about 40 kms.
    The scenery was no longer lush and fabulous...they had closed the bar.
    Couldn't wait to get off by then.
    So the lesson is... Go down to Wellington on the train and fly home. Then it will be perfect.

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