In the sprinkling, predawn hours of this morning, I escaped from my snore-filled hostel room to the railway station shuttle I booked the previous night.
I boarded the world famous TransAlpine train feeling a tiny bit like Harry Potter, (as I often do when boarding trains) after dropping my backpack off at the luggage car. While I didn't find myself at Hogwarts (yet), the journey has indeed been magical.
There's no wifi on board (and no cell signal through the pass) so it's an isolated and beautiful ride. Why would you want any connections to the outside, though? My eyes were glued to the window the entire time. Audio commentary with history and facts is available via headphone jack, and it runs most of the ride so it's anything but boring while on the train.
(These are all through the window, best I could manage.)
The first half of the 4 1/2 hour ride is high alpine snowy peaks, rising quickly in elevation, though it doesn't feel like it.
Through the pass to the other side of the mountains, on the west coast, elevation drops back near sea level and it is marshy rainforest. Reminds me of the Allagash in upstate New York that I've kayaked around.
Think: epic Lord of the Rings trekking in the Misty Mountains...to...Jurassic Park. Actually now that I think about it, those mountains could have actually BEEN the Misty Mountains...something to look up for sure later.
(I looked it up, yep. Some of them were used in filming.)
While on the train, I enjoyed the most delicious ice cream in the entire world. It's a NZ brand I think, grown, processed, produced here and everything. Kapiti ice cream. I highly recommend eating this ice cream while staring at the snowy mountains.
There are a few small towns...okay maybe settlements is a more correct term? Small small. ...towns within the mountains. We stopped at Arthur's Pass to let some people off.
Otika - 45 avg pop. Yes. Forty five people. It's not a place for the faint hearted. Only a few hours of sun daily in the winder time, and over, was it, 500 meters of rainfall annually? Something unbelievable like that.
Moana - 70 avg pop. But mostly there are vacation houses for people.
My car was the last passenger one before the luggage car. As I carefully walked down to the front of the train I noticed the four other passenger cars were absolutely packed with people. Mine on the end only had about five after a huge group of Asian tourists disembarked after the first hour and a half.
For the first couple hours of the ride though I did make a friend, an old man from Sydney, who was very talkative.
Visited the open observation car which was amazing! Wish my car was closer to the front so I could visit it more often without traversing four other cars. Perhaps on the way back.
Because I can't help but notice...Books I saw people reading on the train: All the Light We Cannot See, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and The Martian. (All very popular worldwide.)
As I write this, I near the end of my train portion of the trip south. It ends on the west coast in Greymouth where I will transfer to a bus for the remaining 4 1/2 hours of my journey. That won't be as fun, at least I could walk around this first 4 1/2 hours! And toilets.
On the bus departing Greymouth toward Fox Glacier now. Hey surprise, wifi. It's a bit alarming how quickly I grabbed my phone, I'll admit. (Not the only one!)
Greymouth is the biggest city on the west coast, at about 14,000 people. Bus driver is cool, telling cool city facts. It's still shining sunny at about 48F, so I'm wearing sunglasses and taking some layers off.
Scenic but uneventful bus ride.
Okay now I'm finishing this post in my sleep out room (courtesy of my friend and old coworker, Sarah P.) which is very freezing. It is hard to type because the touch screen on my phone doesn't always register my prints...because no heat in them. ;)
My sleeping bag is across the room from the outlet so I think that's my queue to sleep now.
Fun fact, when I travel back to Christchurch in this exact way in a few days, just read my post backwards and I don't have to write another one. :)