Sunday, 19 February 2012
New Zealand Day Twenty Four – Hokitika, Greymouth and Trans Alpine Train from Arthurs Pass to Christchurch
Last day of the tour and a relatively late start much to the relief of most of the group as we weren’t leaving till 9am. Fox Glacier is a tiny place of about three streets; mostly pubs and hotels with one little supermarket and a petrol station. There were however a few nice walks so as I had plenty of time and it was sunny but cool I decided to do 20 minute one. It was lovely, taking you through rainforest but their twenty minutes turned out to be more like ten..
Our first stop on the way to Greymouth was in Hokitika, to look at the Jade factory. It was also an opportunity to go down to the beach, which being on the West Coast of New Zealand is the Tasman Sea. Unlike most of the beaches I’ve been to, this one was very stony, interspersed with black sand. There were also some very intriguing sculptures made out of dead branches.
From Hokitika we went to Greymouth where the Trans Alpine train departs. I’d decided not to get on there but join the train at the next stop Arthurs Pass. I’m very glad I did because the coach actually went over the pass whereas the train goes through the tunnel. Also when we stopped at a look-out point to see the viaduct we’d just travelled on, there was a group of Kea (alpine parrots) who weren’t in the least bit camera shy and took rather a fancy to a bright pink car. When that moved away they started to peck at our coach. They are very colourful – green with red bright red on the underside of their wings. We spent ages taking photographs and even Marty, the tour director, had his camera out. In the excitement, I almost forgot to take photos of the view and had to get off the coach again to capture the imposing mountains and deep ravines.
It was quite chilly at Arthurs Pass which is about 735 feet above sea level.and the train was late. It was well worth the wait as it wound its way through high mountains that looked down on deep river valleys and dense rainforest. The rivers were cloudy blue, carrying glacial minerals and most of the rivers were braided, which means there was a wide expanse of grey scree riverbed and narrow channels of water.
The train driver gave commentary throughout and had a very dry deadpan sense of humour, mostly at his teenage daughter’s expense but it was entertaining.
We went through a series of tunnels and then suddenly the mountains disappeared, the land became the flat expanse of the golden Canterbury Plains and the weather turned grey and colder. It felt very drab fter the drama of the mountain landscape.
There was just enough time to grab suitcases and buy a drink in the bar of the hotel before dinner was ready. Our last meal as a group. It was a shame the hotel put us on small tables instead of one big one as it would have been nice to all sit together.
After eating we headed back to the bar, including the driver and tour director for one last evening together. I was glad that my flight was at a sensible time. Some of the Aussies had to leave at 4am the following day.