tranz alpine train / christchurch

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January 19th 2009
Published: February 22nd 2009
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we had to get up around eight to make the drive to greymouth from franz josef. this stretch was pretty easy and straight. there's a town on the way called: hokitika (think that's the right spelling). definitely worth the stop for food and souvenirs. we basically bought everything in hokitika and it was way cheaper than in greymouth or aukland.

greymouth is a good size and very walkable. we milled about while waiting on the train to come in. it was about two hours late. now i was really excited about this part of the trip. i l-o-v-e trains. that part of my old soul is just calmed by them and it's just nice to watch the world go by like that. all the materials i had read promised me stunning scenery and that i would burst out of a tunnel from which i had traveled through lush rainforest into a valley of snow capped mountains. nope. that didn't happen. at all. i was crushed. i mean i had been really excited and there was no snow at all and 'cause of the clouds you couldn't even see the mountaintop. that said it was a beautiful site, but i was totally disinterested in the rest of the train journey.

susan, however, took to it like fleas on a dog! she was NOT looking forward to it at all and was just along for the ride. but there was a viewing car (seriously a death trap, nothing between you and sure death but a three inch rail that was like three feet high) that she was really amazed by and the trip through the sixteen tunnels and lets not forget all that nature :] It is true - I wasn't looking forward to the train ride at all but it turned out that I loved it. I stood outside almost all the time (seriously it is much sunnier when you aren't on the west coast or the south), and there were sheep farms and other farms and some trees and lakes and then the mountains. and there wasn't any snow - so they were all bald headed like the rockies, but there were some glaciers and I took lots of pictures so toisha could see that there was some snow there (since she gave up and went to sleep after the disappointing Pass). And then I was standing out on the viewing platform (there were only a couple of other people that were with me) and it felt like the whole train was coming outside. Why are you out here - what is going on, I asked some random woman. And she said we were going to go across a bunch of bridges and tunnels. Interesting, I thought, and reasserted my place at the rail. And I had the best place (the north side) - we started swishing through these tunnels. It would be superdark and you would see the side of the tunnel only inches from your face and then it would break open into a beautiful river gorge. And everyone on the train was trying to take pictures. I laughed hysterically - all of us trying to snap pictures in the few seconds that we were outside and getting lots of blurry and black tunnel shots. But I got a few great pictures in that mix - but it wasn't really the picture but the fun of taking it that made it a great train ride. And then once you are past the tunnels, there is nothing interesting to see. No offense - but it is like the flat lands of farmland until you hit Christchurch.

so we roll into christchurch and it was off the train to our hostel - a converted historic jailhouse! whoop! now i googled the directions (which BTW the google directions we had SUCKED. buy maps as back-up) and it looked like a five minute walk from the train station. it's not. pony up the fiver for the cab ride, unless you enjoy walking for twenty minutes with a bunch of crap on your back (i'm not really the best backpacker, but i look cute doing it). the jailhouse was definitely one of the highlights of the south island for me. i mean it WAS REALLY a jail! plus the toilets have barb wire in them. they weren't in your room (like real jails), but they were no less awesome. the place was really clean (for a jail! ha! ha?) and it was just super nice staff and other guests. we got in pretty late, around eight (since the train was delayed) so we decided to just get a bite around the hostel instead of trying to go into downtown christchurch, and we ended up at a delicious chinese sit-down restaurant that was down the street from the hostel. we came back that night with some brews and hopes to watch "shut up and sing" in honor of the end of the bush (UGH! IDIOT!!!!) "administration", but the dvd player was out of commission so instead we went up to our room and wrote a few postcards - like any good inmate would do :]

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