Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Akaroa and the TranzAlpine

No blog post from Akoroa because I was too occupied to go looking for an internet connection, which probably didn't exist anyway.

The cruise ships now call at Akoroa instead of Lyttelton because the berthing facilities at Lyttelton were apparently damaged in Christchurch's earthquakes and haven't yet been restored. Akoroa is out on the Banks Peninsula and has a French heritage. Cute, it seems, but just a small town.

However, I didn't have time to look at it because I booked for the train excursion on the TranzAlpine. This is referred as one of the world's top scenic train trips, and so it proved to be: amazing views as the train ascended to Arthur's Pass alongside the river. The not-inexpensive excursion doesn't have time to do the whole TranzAlpine trip to Greymouth. It was advertised as bus to Arthur's Pass to pick up the train returning from Greymouth (presumably because there are spare seats on the return trip) but in fact it seems that a special train was operated to cater for the excursion from our ship as well as another ship in port. So, we had an uphill trip. I thought, this will be better, because the train will have to go more slowly up to the pass. Not so: this is mostly 100 kmph track (!!), and the 10 or so carriage train really rattled along! 

There are a couple of open observation cars, which were fun to stand in, but you certainly had to hold on to the rails (and to your camera).

To get to Rollestone, where we joined the train, it was necessary to travel by bus across the Banks Peninsula. Again, the scenery was great as the road wound up to the “Hilltop” and then down again. 
Banks Peninsula

However, my pre-conceived idea that this peninsula would be forested was totally wrong: most of the hills are quite denuded of trees, with only odd patches of trees. The bus driver stated that the original forests had been logged in the early days. I haven't checked whether this is the case, but if it is, they certainly did a good job with the clear felling.

This post is from Dunedin, where I did another rail excursion (details in later post).

We'll be at sea from this evening until we return to Melbourne, although a cruise through the fjords will occur tomorrow.

[Further images added]

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