Two days after landing in New Zealand I took the TranzAlpine train from Christchurch to Greymouth. The TranzAlpine is considered one of the most beautiful railway journeys in the world, and it was a good introduction to the New Zealand South island: breathtaking scenery, mountains and rivers, incredibly green grass and deep blue water, sheep and cows, and a fast-changing, unpredictable weather.
The weather did not start well. While I was going to the station, still at night, the sky was cloudy. By the time the train left the station, at 8:15, it was foggy, very foggy. I could not see much.
Sad. Disappointed. Why so unlucky? I had been looking forward to this train journey, decided to do it even though it was very expensive for my budget. And it was foggy. I hold my hope that the fog would only be in Christchurch and would disappear as we moved far from the coast.
Holding on my optimism, half an hour later I noticed that the landscape was becoming more clear, my sight reached farther, I could distinguish more colors… yes, the fog was dissipating! I could see where the sun was hiding behind the clouds, turning the sky to different shades of yellow and orange. It was getting better.
One hour and a half after leaving the station the viewing deck opened. After a few seconds of hesitation, I decided to go. It would be very cold but the views would be nicer. I was in the farthest coach so when I got there it was already full of people. Which side would have better views? Right? Left? No time to chose, I saw a free spot on the right side so I took it without thinking.
And I saw this:
The landscapes were amazing as we rode between mountains and tunnels, over bridges and rivers. The colors were astonishing, the grass so green and the water so blue (during the five weeks I spent in New Zealand, I always felt amazed at its colors, sometimes they did not seem real!).
It was indeed very cold (about 5 degrees, maybe?). After an hour or so on the deck, I came back to my seat. We were about half way, and the announcement said that we were entering Arthur’s Pass National Park. It was going so fast.
At 10:45 we stopped at Arthur’s Pass, the highest train station in the South island. There we were allowed to go out of the train for 5 min. After that, we entered a long tunnel of several kilometers and started going down towards the west side of the Southern Alps. On the other side it was cloudy as well.
By 11:15 I went to the viewing deck again. I had to cross the whole train and I saw that most of it was empty then, and so was the viewing deck. Yes! I could move right and left freely. From the deck I saw how we were leaving the mountains behind, crossing large green planes. I could feel it was getting warmer.
Seeing the Southern Alps getting smaller far, far away, I felt a slight melancholy. It had been short! I went back to my seat, next to the window. The sun was still hiding behind the clouds but I could feel its heat through the window glass. Half an hour later, we arrived to Greymouth.
In the afternoon, in Greymouth, it was sunny. Welcome to the unpredictable weather.
Hello New Zealand, nice meeting you!
** USEFUL INFORMATION **
- It is possible to buy the tickets for the TranzAlpine from the KiwiRail website (sometimes there are deals).
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