Wednesday, April 14, 2010

TranzAlpine Train from Westport to Christchurch

The first of many river crossings on the TranzAlpine.

After leaving our hostel, Celeen and I were headed for Greymouth. We dropped our rental car in Westport and then were able to hitch all the way down to Greymouth with one ride. A Dutch couple picked us up in the sunshine, took a rainy rest stop at the Pancake Rocks, and then dropped us off right at the train station. They were doing a whirlwind tour of New Zealand. Despite the photo above, Greymouth was named for a politician, not for the states of the sky.

Farmland and beech forests.

From Greymouth, we were hoping to catch the TranzAlpine train to Christchurch. The 223.8km journey takes just a little over four hours and would get me home just in time for ultimate practice. The journey starts on the west coasts, crosses the Southern Alps, and then descends to the east coast. It is supposed to be pretty spectacular and we thought it would be a fun way to travel instead of the bus that whips around every corner.

The Southern Alps.

A mostly empty river valley in the Southern Alps.

We started out our journey by taking advantage of traveling by train instead of bus. We used our table to comfortably make a lunch of mozzarella tomato basil baguette sandwiches at our seats. We were so hungry. They were so good. After we got moving, we found a set of seats that were empty so we spread out. The start of the journey was rainy so we didn't go out to the open air car. I might have even napped.

Fun cloud formations.

Whipping by the scenery.

As the journey progressed, the scenery and weather improved. Typically, the west coast is rainy and the Southern Alps create a rain shadow for the drier east coast. On our journey, the sun came out and was shining. When it did, Celeen and I moved to the tiny open air car for the rest of the journey. On the TranzCoastal trip, they had a full sized open air car. For this one, they had three times as many people but only two small open air cars. It was great to be out smelling everything whip past and not looking through a window.

Arthur's Pass looking west.

Celeen at Arthur's Pass looking southeast.

We took a quick stop at Arthur's Pass to let more people on the train. It was beautiful. The sun was blazing and it might have even been hot. Celeen and I had both hiked up there before, but it was neat to travel through by train instead of car. It took us into new areas. On the way out of Arthur's Pass, we saw all these trees with bright white blossoms and a new river gorge.


Our ride.

After the gorge, we slowly descended out of the mountains to the farms on the Canterbury plains. They are so green and remind me a lot of Pennsylvania. The train was great. I guess you could see a lot of the same scenery by car, but then the driver doesn't get to enjoy it as much. After bicycle, I think the train is my favorite way to travel. Ride the rails to trails!

The Canterbury plains.

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