Land of the Long White Cloud,
August, 2002

Rotorua to Christchurch

10th April, 2002
11th April, 2002
12th April, 2002

Wednesday 10th April, 2002

Drop Cap fter breakfast we headed off for Te Kuiti, where we had morning tea and then caught the Overlander to National Park. We went through large plantations of radiata pine, a lucrative and well managed cash crop. The way was spectacular, full of hills and green dales, little fushy rivers and volcanic tumps.

Volcanic Peaks Photograph

Volcanic Peaks, Tongariro National Park, NZ

Drop Cap ust before National Park, which is Tongariro National Park, second oldest to Yellowstone in the world, we ascended the Raurimu Spiral, a spectacular engineering feat of 150 years ago, which takes the main rail line up 250 metres, in 12.5 k of track, all of it up and around and inside the mountain. It would have been a 1:20 grade, which is totally impractical for rail and it is surprisingly visible from the train. We got a blow by blow commentary from one of the train staff and that helped as well.

Hotel Grand Chateau Photograph

Hotel Grand Chateau, Tongariro National Park, NZ

Drop Cap hen we disembarked at National Park we rejoined Warren and the Coach for the twenty minute ride to the Grand Chateau at the foot of Mt.Ruapehu. This hotel reminds me of the Hydro-Majestic or one of those places, built in the 1920's and very nicely decorated. The room is bigger than those at the Hydro - hell, the bathroom is almost as big as a Hydro bedroom!

Nature Trail Photograph

Rosemary on the Nature Trail, Tongariro National Park

Drop Cap e went for a short nature walk on a track suitable for wheelchairs (therefore for me on foot) after visiting the highly interesting Visitor Centre, which told us all about volcanoes. The Tongariro National Park is in the centre of an area ringed by three volcanoes, Ruapehu, Ngaurahoe, and Tongariro. Ruapehu and Tongariro have snow on them already! It is not all that cold however. We had cider and peanuts in front of a roaring open fire before a great buffet dinner in lovely Hydro like dining room.

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Thursday, 11th April, 2002

Art Deco Napier photograph

Art Deco Buildings, Napier, NZ

Drop Cap p early to find a dawn as clear as crystal. There was another dusting of snow on Mt. Ruapehu. It was so spectacular that Lyn, the guide, offered to call the airstrip if anyone wanted the flyover. Seven did and came back to us at Lake Taupo, bubbling over. Our bus trip to Lake Taupo, while not as exciting, was lovely. The lake is the largest in the country, a far from extinct caldera lake, formed from volcanic eruption. We had a comfort stop and morning tea here before driving through lovely scenery to our lunch stop in the Art Deco city of Napier.

Music Shell Napier photograph

Music Shell, Napier, NZ

Drop Cap here was an earthquake which flattened the city in the early 1930's and it was rebuilt in the then very fashionable Art Deco style. Of recent years they realised they had about the only complete Art Deco city in the world so they have restored and repainted all the lovely details and made it into a tourist attraction. It is a very attractive city centre, well worth seeing.

Drop Cap fter lunch we headed off for our next train at Palmerston North. The trip seemed fairly interminable, all farm areas, but the good thing about NZ plains is that they don't stretch interminably to the horizon because the horizon is formed by very lovely mountains all around.

Palmerston Station photograph

Aerobics, led by Nan, on Palmerston North Station

Drop Cap hen we arrived at Palmerston North we found it the pits! A station all but abandoned and the train running an hour late. Some of the ladies eased the kinks by doing aerobics on the platform. It was getting very cool by the time the train came and to our dismay the whole trip was in darkness, so rather pointless.

Drop Cap onight we are in a modern hotel in Wellington, capital city of New Zealand, with another varied buffet for dinner. We said farewell to Warren, as we will have another driver for the south. Tomorrow we go to the South Island by ferry. Ship Ahoy!

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Friday 12th April, 2002

Marlborough Sounds photograph

Marlborough Sounds, Crossing Cook Strait

Drop Cap ot up early to get the bags out, then after breakfast we were picked up to go to the boat. This is very big, with three passenger decks and several for cars and trucks and a train! The sea was very smooth and it was a lovely crossing. Marlborough Sound was perfectly spectacular and all in all we seemed to stand at the rail just looking for the whole of the three hour trip.

Marlborough Sounds photograph

Marlborough Sounds

Drop Cap hen we came ashore we had about three quarters of an hour to wait for the train down the Kaikoura coast to Christchurch. This was about five and a half hours, a long time in a train. The scenery was great, all along the sea, which had black iron ore sand and jagged rocks with lounging seals. The road and the train line shared a very narrow strip of flat land, often going through tunnels at the same time. Once we were passed by a large truck on the road, the load of which seemed no more than a foot away. There was a completely open observation car next to ours which allowed one to stretch one's legs in the freezing wind. It was very exhilarating and the view was great.

Drop Cap lthough the train was late starting, it made up the time so we got in on time. Our hotel is very nice, (they have all been very good). Unfortunately we won't get to see much of Christchurch because we leave early in the morning next week after getting in late again. We have had some very long days. Tomorrow is the Tranzalpine, the jewel in the crown of New Zealand railways. Hope the weather holds.

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