Tuesday, February 8, 2011

the trip, part 1

Back home after a long trip away with my buddy Coop. Finally made it to the South Island going by train, boat, plane and foot. Coop and I decided to head for Fiordland National Park, on the southwest part of the country. New Zealand has three train rides that take you over long distances: the Overlander that crosses the North Island and connects Auckland and Wellington, the Transcoastal the connects Picton and Christchurch along an east coast route, and the Transalpine which negotiates the mountains between Christchurch and Greymouth.

We started on the Overlander. Twelve hours of scenery including mountains around the center of the island and deep valleys towards the south. It's important to stock up on snacks like delicious Pineapple Lumps for such long rides even though the dining car offers nice lunch options. The train had an observation deck that was open to the outside. It's amazing how fast trains whip over the tracks. It also made for a great spot to take pictures of crossing over high up railway bridges.

The train got into Wellington with enough time for us to check into a hostel and hit the streets. Hunger and hot blood from a day on a train drove us to the city center where we found, as if by magic, the perfect place to eat: Abra-kebab-ra! A kebab is like a gyro, but since little lammykins are raised all over NZ, the ingredients are delicious.

Early next morning, we boarded the Interislander ferry to Picton.
Stunning scenery, and no pirates even though they were marked on the map. Good news for us.

Straight from the ferry onto the Transcoastal train. This train had a whole car for observation, rather than just a small porch. I'll never forget the pleasure of speeding on tracks a stone's throw from the ocean, through tunnels and short grassy fields, in between small enclaves of pine trees and waving to the seals lounging on the rocks. This was my favorite part of the traveling to our destination.

Christchurch is a much smaller and flatter city than Auckland, and it happens to be where our buddy JT lives. He showed us around and explained that the line out the door and around the corner at Wendy's is due to the fact that it is the first of its kind there. Can't get over the square patties, maybe. JT was an excellent host and took us to the best bar in town, which had live music and an open attic, complete with comfy furniture. Falling asleep in bars is nothing new to me but I wished they hadn't made it quite to easy. Coop and I needed our energy though, because the next day we started our five day hike along the Kepler Track in Fiordland National Park. Stay tuned for the next installment of the trip!

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