I left the Coromandel on September 29th and took a bus to Auckland where I overnighted before rising early in the morning of the 30th to catch the Northern Explorer Kiwi Scenic Rail to Wellington.
This would be my first time riding Kiwi Rail and being a person who grew up on trains, I was really looking forward to this leisurely 7-hour journey to my new 'home' in Wellington for the next 3 1/2 months.
Kiwi Scenic Rail describes what you will see on the trip this way -
Experience the North Island’s extraordinary range of scenery in one journey as the Northern Explorer takes you through rolling green farmland and virgin bush, past quaint country towns and along rocky coasts. Along the way, you will see the Raurimu Spiral and many other iconic engineering solutions required to complete the trunk line that stretches the length of New Zealand's rugged North Island terrain.
The journey through Tongariro National Park, with its three spectacular volcanic mountains - Tongariro, Ngāuruhoe and Ruapehu - is a highlight - a place of extremes and surprises, where snow-blanketed fields, ancient lava flows and dense beech forests can be seen side-by-side.
The train was lovely. The cars were colorful and clean. The windows huge and plentiful. There was an audio program giving highlights and the history of the area you were traveling through. There are 2 dining cars which offer a wide and tasty selection of breakfast and luncheon choices. The onboard staff was always available to collect trash, answer questions or even serve your pre-ordered meals at your seat.
One of the really great things about these Scenic Rail trains (there are 3 - 1 that runs through the middle the North Island and 2 that traverse the South Island (The South Island now has only the TransAlpine running as the Coastal Explorer, which ran along the sea coast from Christchurch to Picton, had its rails destroyed in the recent earthquake.) is the the open-air coach designed for photographers.
If you were willing to brave the wind and the rain, it was the perfect place to enjoy the ride and see the scenery without the glare from the windows to distort your photos. (OSHA would hate this coach and I'm sure it wouldn't be allowed in the States. They also wouldn't allow seaside and mountain roads with steepdrop-offss and no guard rails! Folks everywhere I have traveled outside the US think you have something called 'common sense' and will natually keep yourself safe. If you don't - then it's your fault!)
I managed to take enough photos to give you an idea of how just beautiful this trip is - when it's not raining and foggy!
We crossed over deep gorges with rushing rivers below and stopped at funky little villages to pick up passengers.
You could even see, if you looked closely, snow-covered mountain peaks. (click on the photo to enlarge and see mountain!)
And though the sun did not shine, it was still a perfectly lovely way to travel!
When I arrived at the Wellington Rail Station my housemates were there to greet me! Paul Rosoman and I had met on a flight from Copenhagen to London over a year ago and struck up a conversation that lead to the exchange of emails and phone numbers along with an invitation to call him if I were ever in New Zealand! People should learn to never do that because I almost always will take them up on their invites and land on their doorsteps in the not-too-distant future!
I had called Paul from the Coromandel and said "Surprise! - guess where I am?" and he said that he and Nigel, his partner of 20 years and now newly-wedded husband, would love to have me stay with them in their beautiful home overlooking the spectacular Wellington Harbour. When I explained that I was hoping to find someplace to stay for 3-months, using it as a base so I could go off and travel for 3-5 days at a time or take a short-term housesit, they said 'Fine!'
|Nigel & Paul|
We worked out a weekly rental arrangement and I moved into my 'room with a view.' And as you can see, I'm not kidding!
The house, which is perched on one of Wellington's many hills, overlooks the harbour and is just above the Inter-Islander Ferry dock.
|Their house is the one on the bottom|
|Bottom going up|
|Top going down|
You access the house via a set of stairs or using its own, personal cable car.
As you can see, it's a steep grade but it's a fun ride.
|The dining/living room has floor-to-celling windows|
|The extra bedroom is available for rent on AirBnB|
The walk to and from the bus that I catch into town offers panoramic views of the entire city. I am a very lucky and a very happy person!!!
I'm now going to unpack and settle in. I'll be back and catch you up on what I've been seeing and doing since I arrived.......real soon!
Until the next time....