Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Tranz Scenic Train Journey : Picton to Christchurch

Approaching Picton harbour....

Note the colour of the water... gorgeous!

Well, Picton appeared to be a nice spot and a good launching point for exploration on foot and by boat perhaps on the Queen Charlotte Track or Marlborough Sound. But that has to be kept for any time in the future, if I can ever get my husband to go back to New Zealand.

We noticed Picton even had a Subway restuarant. Sadly for our stomachs, we didn't have time to buy one, but others who must have skooted off the boat did... GRRR!

And so we started the Tranz Scenic journey. For the first hour, the train had 12 wheels ( or how ever many wheels buses have???) I guess we saw a little of the countryside but for the most part, the bus followed the train line. At Blenheim we were required to change back to the train. Blenheim itself was quite a rural village with small wooden farmhouses not dissimilar to many parts of rural Australia. I noted the presence of a large vineyard and could just recall seeing some New Zealand wines that had a connection to the town of Blenheim.
The engine that would take us to Christchurch....

View of the South Island through the Tranz Scenic's window..

The train was very comfortable and not at all crowded so we could spread out. I appreciated this as I could take the opportunity of looking out the opposite window and taking a photo without disturbing fellow passengers.

There was a small canteen on the train offering microwaved hot meals, snacks and pancakes! And refreshments, of course. I didn't take up the offer of a instant coffee.....

At the rear of the train was a viewing car, with open sides from the waist up ( bar to hold you in, of course) and quite a few passengers with very expensive cameras hung out here waiting to get a good shot. Unfortunately we were up the very top part of the train, so it was quite a walk to get to the other end, through the inevitable series of doors when moving between each carriage.
Looking out from the Viewing Car...

The Tranz Scenic line passes through 175 bridges and 21 tunnels on its way from Picton to Christchurch. It takes about 5- 5.5 hours and passes through some spectacular coastal scenery with the backdrop, the snowy peaks of the Southern alps, which are the spine running down the length of the South Island of New Zealand.

Seriously though, this is one of the great train journeys of the world and the road... well it rivals the Great Ocean Road from Geelong to Port Fairy in Victoria, Australia for sheer awesomeness....( if that is a word!)

There was even a small version of the Twelve apostles to be spotted along the way. And Barney's rock... a large rocky outcrop about 200 metres off shore. It was told that Barney's wife would be so frightened of her husband, (aka Barney) returning home drunk after a night at the pub, that she would row out to the rocky outcrop and sit it out there until he sobered up.... and yet the rock is so named after the abuser not the abused.... there is justice for you.

Just about to go through a tunnel...

Along the way, the New Zealand rail Conductor, provided us with some information over the public address system, on points of interest and trivia, as we passed by. For example, in Seddon, a very small town where we made an extremely short stop, he recounted the story of the pioneer to whom the town derives its name. Apparently, he was instrumental in the early days of the national government including, in the Conductor's words (and you have to say this with a kiwi accent for full effect), " giving Chicks the right to vote". This caused some mirth amongst the young girls sitting in front of us!

The Salt ponds are located just past the Tranz Scenic's Dashwood pass, are the source of the Nation's salt. Salt water is let in once or twice a year at Lake Grassmere, and slowly evaporates until they can harvest the salt and start again. However only 4% of the salt produced here makes it to the kitchen table. The remainder is used for industrial use, especially for cleaning metal? The red colour of the salt ponds is a naturally occurring algae form similar to that found in areas of high salt content, such as the Red Sea, which obviously is where the Red sea gets it name!! The conductor was a walking wikipedia.

Some of the tracks hugged the coastline so precipitously that the southerly gale blew waves over the track itself, splashing over the undercarriage of the train.
Nearly got us.....

Apparently we were told that the train line to Lower Hutt in Wellington also would often be closed if the waters from the harbour ( along which it ran) splashed over the line, resulting in a loss of traction on the rails. Some trains were even marooned midway between stations if the weather suddenly turned bad... good excuse for being late to work, I guess?!!

Huge trees were seen along the way, swept in on the shore as driftwood. I guess it is great if you want to have a campfire on the beach.....or has that been banned over here too. Those darn WH&S laws!!!

Imagine being in this little caravan or boat house shown below in the big swells. The little caravan to the right in the picture is a Fish and chips shop or Fush and chups...( said with a kiwi accent) and it was called Nin's Bin. Nin obviously has a liking for being on the beach, as this establishment only just stops short of being over the water itself....

Nin's Bin???!

Kaikoura station....Such a nice place for a photo stop.

Why? Because when you turn around you see this....

Formidable accomplishments in engineering no doubt featured strongly in the construction of this track, but I found the most inspiring sights to be of course, the mountains draped in snow.

And of Kaikoura, itself, well what can I say? They have the ocean on one side and this amazing veiw out their back window... nothing short of awe-inspiring.
the other view from Kaikoura station.

But, now we were getting very close to Christchurch when night closed in. No more photos... :'(

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