Well there you go, I've been here 3 months. All is going well and I feel settled and getting on. However, did have a strong need to get out of Auckland and see some of the stunning country I've moved to. So in a spell of 5 days off I booked a last minute trip to the South Island. As well as being very excited, I was very impressed by how easy everything was. It helps being on the bus route to the airport (2o minutes away) but still thought the whole outing was stress free and easy to do.
So what did i do. Well, a morning flight to Christ Church (with bubbly you'll be glad to know - it was a celebration after all) which takes just over an hour. I had a slightly depressing grey wet and cold afternoon in the city. I did however see my first kiwi which was very exciting, I now hooked. The weather then got worse and the snow came.....however this was good news. I spent the night in a fab backpackers (but very full of young people who made me fell old) and got the early morning free shuttle to the train station to catch the Tranzalpine Railway.
Using the Lonely Planet guidebook I'll bore you with details of this trip. Billed as one of the great rail journeys of the the world is travels from Christ Church across the southern alps to Greymouth on the west coast. It starts by speeding across the Canterbury plains - we did not speed however as the snow of the day and night before meant the points were frozen, so we plodded through the stunning snow scenes.
It then climbs a labyrinth of gorges and hills known as the Staircase, made possible by a system of viaducts and tunnels. In emerges in to the Waimakariri and Bealey Valleys (stunning says the Loney Planet - they are right). It then reaches the snow covered peaks of Arthurs Pass National Park.
I spent the night at Arthurs Pass township (very Northern Exposure like - but smaller and with less people). Again stayed in a fantastic backpackers (Emma your book you gave me is being put to good use). Did some walking in a snow filled wonderland, it was cold but thanks to clothes lent to me by Rachel and my flat mate Katrina I was warm and cosy as I climbed up to waterfalls, over bridges and through the trees.
The next day after another short walk (I stopped climbing Avalanche Peak as it was icy and I didn't think it was a sensible thing to do alone!) I re boarded the train to continue the journey to Greymouth and the west coast.
After leaving Arthurs Pass station you enter the longest of the tunnels, the 'Otira' as 8.5km it was built between 1908 and 1923 and has a 1:30 gradient. There is a dramatic change in the scenery as you emerge on the other side. Now on the the west coast (traditionally will have the opposite kind of weather to the east coast), there are forests and lakes (it was misty and rainy but still dramatic).
We stop for a hour in Greymouth and then return to Christ Church, this time with the sun setting over the mountains. The train has an outside viewing carriage so you can really feel part of the passing scenery. This is very cold, windy and shaky but a must and a very entertaining of mixing with your fellow passengers.
I then had another night in Christ Church, the following morning was clear and bright so I enjoyed a walk round the city centre. Strolling along the river Avon, climbing the 134 step to reach the top of the Cathedral and had a look round the rather lovely art gallery (and spent to much at the gift shop). A flight back to Auckland with a stunning view of Mount Taranaki peaking through the clouds, completed the little and first of many jaunts around the county.
Lots of photos on flickr site.