I left Christchurch to travel across the mountains on the TranzAlpine train to Greymouth on the west coast. The TranzAlpine scenic train journey climbs up over the mountains rising to nearly 800 meters before dropping down again to meet the coast at Greymouth. Known by some as one of the worlds great train journeys it passes through 19 tunnels, over 4 viaducts and takes around 4 and a half hours to complete.
The carriages are spacious with extra large windows and there is also an open carriage where you can stand and enjoy being blown about.
Unfortunately on the day I was booked to go the weather wasn’t the best as it was very overcast. As we got higher up into the mountains the mist became thicker and showery weather followed. There were still some interesting views but what made it all the more appealing was that there was an elderly guy sitting next to me who clearly knew the landscape like the back of his hand. He was there with his wife and son, they hadn’t done the trip for some years but his son was treating them to a few days away. When I asked how he knew the place so well he told me how he use to be employed by the government to cull the deer. There use to be a few of them who would go off and live in the mountains for a few days at a time, fend for themselves, hunt the deer, shoot them and then get them picked up by helicopter and taken out. He told me how they had to be careful of flash floods, landslides, bad weather and all sorts. He knew every bit of the place and was often pointing out buildings and quoting names of people who lived there or had worked there. It was like I had my own personal travel guide with me !! Much better than sunny weather and nice views.
We got as far up as Arthurs Pass but the clouds had come in and it was drizzling with rain but a photo stopped beckoned –
The misty mountains in Arthurs Pass –
Well it wasn’t quite the scenic rail trip I had been hoping for but listening to the old guy tell his stories of river crossings in flash floods, running down the loose shingle mountains 20 feet at a time in a single bound and learning a little bit about the history of the place and how it had changed made it all worth while.