Journey from East Coast to West Coast – The TranzAlpine!

Monday morning I woke up early and walked to the bus stop to catch my bus to Christchurch – the bus ride was fairly uneventful (really, really long), but there were these precious girls (about 10 students rode this bus to their school – almost an hour from Te Anau).

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They took turns reading to one another for the journey – it did make my heart smile.

The journey did, as all journeys in New Zealand do, have some lovely scenery – including a nice wintry wonderland.

Once I arrived in Christchurch, it was after dark, so I caught a cab to my hostel – one that I have been very excited to stay in – you see – I was staying in Jailhouse Accommodation – which is a hostel that is actually in the old Addington Prison, which has a fascinating history as a jail, women’s prison and a military camp. You can learn more about the prison here, as well as the artwork and artifacts that are all around the prison. 

The next day, I went to the train station, and lucked out, because another girl was also headed to the train station, so we shared an Uber, and chatted throughout the day. She was an American,  who is currently living in Hawaii (for work), but previously lived in the Atlanta area (where she still owns a home), and with close family ties to India. She is amazingly well traveled, and it was nice to chat with her – we shared travel trips, ideas and just genuinely enjoyed each other’s company. I thought I had a picture of the two of us, but apparently we were having too much fun when I took the picture – and I didn’t check it.

The weather for the journey was fairly awful, and viability was low, however, it was still pretty amazing to make this journey, and like so many historic railway journeys to think about the trials of the railway workers that forged the way through this unbelievable, beautiful, rugged and unforgiving landscape. Passing through the Southern Alps is an Experience I am not going to forget!

The TranzAlpine goes from Christchurch (eastern coast of South Island) to Greymouth (western coast of South Island) and back each day. This is at the narrowest part of the South Island. I was doing the return trip in one day, because of how my school visits panned out for the week (Which meant a very full day of enjoying the beautiful scenery – and being quite disconnected – not much cell phone service between villages). The journey started going between Christchurch and Arthur’s Pass. Passing mostly through the Canturbury flats.

The interesting thing about this crossing was definitly the changing, diverse landscape from one side to the other.

At Arthur’s Pass we were able to get off the train and stretch our legs and take a few quick pictures.

 

When we arrived in Greymouth Shreya and I stopped in the Speights Ale House to share a drink before we parted (me back on the train, her off to explore the West Coast). The west coast is aptly named the Wild West Coast, because it has some of the most unpredictable and wet weather in New Zealand, and for a nation where 4 seasons in a day is not uncommon, and mostly expected, this is saying something!

On the ride back, because I wasn’t talking so much, I was able to capture a video of a portion of the journey – but I really did just savor the experience.

The skies are always just so stunning! (and I know the pictures from the train do not do the colors justice!)

 

Before I knew it the train journey was over, and I was back in Christchurch. After a snag with locating my bag (just a miscommunication between the train staff), I was headed to the Airport to pick up my rental car so that I could head to Methven for the night for my school visit tomorrow. (again some backtracking, but I was maximizing my school visits as I could this trip). The drive to Methven was uneventful (thankfully), but it was a pretty journey even once the sun set.

As I said, this was a quick trip, so I went back to Christchurch and checked back into Jailhouse for another night. As I was back quite earlier than I expected – before heading to my next location – Lake Tekapo – where I have some pretty awesome adventures planned, as well as a school visit (work and pleasure – always a good mix!), I decided to check out the International Antarctic Center.

Christchurch is the Gateway to Antarctica, so almost all flights to many of the bases on Antarctica originate here.

It was informative and really “cool” quite literally, as they had a simulated summer snowstorm that I got to experience. Talk about being thankful for layers (and walking out the door into the warmth)!

I dropped off my car, shuttled back to the hotel, and had a relaxing evening, including delivery of some fantastic Pad Thai. I also scored the luck of a bunk room to myself for the night, always a great bonus when staying in dorms.

Old Ships, Old Buses and Old Churches

Today was my final day in Picton, and my bus was scheduled to leave at around 1:30, so I had plenty of time before I needed to be at the bus stop – and Picton is tiny, so it made sense just to leave my bag at the hostel and grab it before the bus instead of schlepping it around town with me and wherever my adventure today might lead me. I checked out, checked in my bag and set off. Sadly, the bakery is not open on Sundays, so I headed to the waterfront to a little café for breakfast and coffee. After I was finished I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do. Picton is small, and I had pretty much toured the town – I didn’t want to go for another hike and get all sweaty before boarding a bus (common courtesy, my friends), and the other wildlife tours and such would not allow me the time  to make it back for my bus.

I turned to Google to decide which museum, or other event on the waterfront had the most appeal, and the universal verdict was the Edwin Fox Maritime Museum. I walked across the harbor park and started my journey back in time with this ship, the 9th oldest surviving ship in the world, and the oldest surviving merchant ship in the world. It was also the last surviving convict ship that transported the convicts to Australia – The Edwin Fox was a renaissance ship – serving many roles in its majestic and historical lifetime.

The Edwin Fox was built in Calcutta India in 1853, and was beached in Picton in 1897. The museum takes you through the process of the ship’s amazing construction out of Teak, the voyages and changes to the ship, and the abandonment and subsequent damage to the ship after being left on the shores of Picton. The historical society eventually purchased the ship hull from The New Zealand Refrigerating Company LTD for the whopping price of 1 Schilling, and began to work of relocated, refloating and eventually dry docking this piece of maritime history.

You start your journey by going through the museum and watching movie about the history of the boat – I could have gotten lost for hours here, looking at the pieces recovered from the hull, the construction specifics and the stories shared.

Once you step outside you start to see the ship, and get a feel for the scale and size of her, as she is still a bit shielded from view by the covering over the dry dock bay.

There are lots of “bits and bobs” (anchors, and other remnants) splayed across the yard.

At the anchor you get your first view of the ship, as well as the pumping system that keeps the ship dry docked in it’s new home.

As you enter the ship area you have two choices, board the ship, or go underneath it into the ship bay. I decided to start by checking out the outside of the ship – the layers of wood under the deteriorating copper was something like an artwork, showing the effects of time, salt, wind and water on the majestic hull of this ship.

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Once I had walked around underneath and around the hull, I went back up to the ships entrance, and got to explore the inside of this ship.

The ship had 2 decks, the hold and the top deck. The top deck had been arranged to show you what the ship would have been like for its various uses, and what living on the ship would be like. The thing that stuck with me was the steerage class bunks – that were tiny as is, but were where an entire family – most often a Man, Woman and 4 children or so lived. Talk about cramped and gross conditions – it was very easy to see how disease could spread. There were also models of the convict areas as well.

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You also get to venture down into the hold, and this was where you could see much of the hidden damage that occurred due to the ship being left on the shore, and even more insight into the layered construction of these ships.

I had a lovely time exploring the ship and museum, and finished before my alarm, so that was good. I wandered back to the hostel to repack my bag for the bus journey, and then wandered to the bus stop. While there, I went to take a picture of Mini-fig Merry with the luggage, and was reminded of another picture I took with the same set up, in Amsterdam at the train station as I got ready to board my overnight train to Switzerland in 2015 on my grand European adventure. This got me to thinking about the places this luggage has traveled, and I did some quick math, and discovered that this luggage has traveled almost 40,000 miles, and will definitely cross that threshold this trip!

The bus arrived right on schedule, sadly, it was not the lovely Intercity bus with wifi, but a sub bus, so a bit old and less comfy, but workable for the short trip to Nelson.

The trip was uneventful – and the scenery driving through New Zealand was stunning, as usual.

I arrived in Nelson, walked a few blocks and checked into my hostel. Once I was situated, I decided to go out and explore Nelson, on a very sleepy Sunday when most everything was closed. In my wanderings I discovered it was Nelson Beer Week, so I took note of a few events, then wandered around the city, ending up at the Christ Church Cathedral – and attending their Sunday Night worship service before heading back to the hostel and an early bed time before my fun school visits this week.

 

 

My first Journey outside of Wellington – Traveling to Rotorua and a night at the Spa

I had a school visit that was cancelled for this week, so I decided to take advantage of the unexpected opening and head up to Rotorua, on the border of the Bay of Plenty and the Waikato region.

Routorua is a hub of geothermal activity in New Zealand, so a home to geysers, hot thermal spas and sulfur lakes.

This map from http://ontheworldmap.com is helpful in seeing the regions of NZ. 

Because of the last minute nature of this trip, I went with the Intercity Bus service, as flights were just super pricey.My bus left early Monday morning, so Julian sweetly volunteered to take me to the train station so I didn’t have to walk in the dark or catch a crazy early bus. The bus departed on time, and the drive was a great way to see the NZ countryside. We stopped at a cafe for a brief stretch, drink and toilet break, and there were even opportunities to see some farm animals there, as you will see below. We did have a bit of a delay – road construction at Mount Doom – (insert cheesy joke here – I have thought of several – they are all really bad). But I still arrived in Rotorua at around 3:45, so I had plenty of time to get settled into the hostel and have some fun.

Honestly, I was super thankful that I did the bus, because it was the perfect way to see NZ, and I would have missed the scenery if I flew.  The bus seats were comfy (relatively speaking) and armed with my Bluetooth headphones, my handy-dandy travel pillow (one of my best purchases ever, by the way), and a Pandora offline playlist, I was good to go.

When the bus arrived in Rotorua, I noticed a particular smell – the Eau de Sulphur, if you will – it took some getting used to, but once I was “adjusted” it was just like background noise.

I got settled into Rotorua Central Backpackers – which was one of the best hostels I have stayed in. The beds were not bunks, the hostel “spa” (hot tub) was very nice and Neil and Catherine were wonderful hosts.It was right around the corner from the bus station and walking distance to everything.

After I was settled in, I decided to head to the Polynesian Spa to relax in the thermal baths as day turned to night.

I was worried it would be overrun with tourists, as their were several tour buses in the parking lot, but it was easy to find pools and places to relax all on my own, and there were several instances where I had nice conversations with locals, backpackers and other tourists as we hopped from different temperature pools. Watching the stars come out sitting in a geothermal spa? – not a bad way to spend an evening.

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At about 10:30, I walked the 7 minutes or so back to the hostel, so that I could get ready for bed, as I had big plans for Tuesday – Matamata and the Hobbiton tour!