The Tranzalpine railway departing Christchurch on NZ’s eastern side at 08:15, arriving Greymouth on the western side of the South Island at 13:05 promised to be a special treat after so much car travel. Gary was a trifle concerned about the directions for returning our hire car JDG 460, which amounted to ‘park it in the car park and give the keys to someone at the railway’. All went smoothly though.
The train had an open carriage at the front which allowed for photos without glass reflections and sensory overload: wind in your hair, bitter cold, proximity to nature’s theatre of chasms and snow-capped mountains, the braided Waimakariri River, et al.
Stopped at Arthur’s Pass to add engines for extra braking for the 8kms tunnel downhill run and we all hopped off for breathtaking air. At Otira the train stopped to remove them. Arthur’s Pass, 737m above sea level; Otira at 377m above sea level.
When we emerged from the tunnel the sun had gone and the valleys were damp and shrouded in mist. It was the West Coast.
Greymouth, and a new vehicle HUZ 322 after a long queuing procedure for all brands of rentals within the small station building; pharmacy, lunch, postcard posting, drive.
173kms to Franz Joseph Glacier. Drove past our accommodation into the township; drove back and unloaded into two very new, very contemporary furnished, very spacious rooms and then hunger (how could we be hungry with the sum total of our day’s exercise being sitting??) drove us to the Snakebite Brewery. Chinese. How odd – snakes and Chinese in NZ…