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Published: November 16th 2018
The actual train was very comfortable
(Cj writes) The weather in Auckland, grey and very cool when we arrived on Sunday, has since been gloriously sunny and warm: fears about the inadequacy of my wardrobe proved unfounded. And it was the same today as we set out for our trip south on the Northern Explorer, one of New Zealand’s scenic railways.
The train was comfortable - we were fortunate to have a set of four seats plus table to ourselves for much of the journey - although the nonstop chatter of the people behind me got rather wearing! The windows were large and clean, allowing us to enjoy some spectacular scenery as we ran the length of North Island. The ‘open’ car was really rather special - we were in there whilst the train passed through the highlands, which reminded me in parts of the high moors in Lancashire and Yorkshire. However, disaster struck when we were in a remote area on a plateau: the freight train running ahead of us parted company with its load (and no passing opportunity!) and it must have taken well over an hour and a half before we got going again. We ended up arriving over 2 hours late in
Great fun but you can't stand there for 12 hours!
Wellington - a journey of over 12 hours instead of 10, and roughly the same as the flight from LA to Auckland. But with more freedom to move about. NZ is still associated with sheep farming, but we saw predominantly cattle, especially in the large, lowlying wetlands area we passed through in the north: sheep were more common as we headed into the rugged country in the southern half of North Island. (Odd to see very small calves and lambs so close to Christmas!). Very lush at this time of year, but south of Auckland it snows in winter. There were some pretty spectacular gorges with fast-flowing rivers in the bottom in the south too.
SC adds: The last leg off train journey was along the coast. Spectaculer, especially from the open sided observation car. Overall a great day but not without its challenges. Glad to finally arrive after over 12 hours.
(Cj writes) Fab hotel here in Wellington, New Zealand; lots of modern art and mirrors around. There’s even a Nespresso machine in the bedroom! But no George Clooney ...
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