New Zealand’s Glory From a Train Window
Thirty years after the TranzAlpine was launched, Observer journalist Susan Grossman boards one of the world’s most scenic trains in Christchurch, before completing her trip on the North Island’s Northern Explorer.
“Completed in 1908, after 23 years of construction, [the Northern Explorer] is New Zealand’s longest-running passenger service. My journey starts at 8.55am, rumbling through the heart of the North Island and an ever-changing landscape of baize-green hills with folds like origami and gorges plunging into turquoise lakes,” Grossman reports. “As we cross the Wellington fault line, Kapiti Island, a predator-free bird sanctuary, sits slumped in the Tasman Sea like a giant jelly baby. Photographers pile into the open-sided observation carriage, greedy to capture every vista.
“By lunchtime we reach a stop named National Park, where some passengers get off to trek the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, New Zealand’s oldest national park and a World Heritage area. The rest of us stay put and enjoy lamb shanks and mashed potato with a glass of Brancott Estate Sauvignon Blanc.
“We reach Hamilton at 4.30pm, a small land-locked town on New Zealand’s longest river, the Waikato. I disembark to catch a bus to Rotorua, well known for its geothermal activity and Maori culture. The bad-egg smell of sulphur that greets me is no deterrent. My final destination, the Polynesian Spa, offers mud wraps and a Priori Coffeeberry Yoga Facial, but I decline. Instead, I steam in mineral pools overlooking the lake, and admire the sunset. What better way to unwind after New Zealand’s two most scenic railway trips?”
Original article by Susan Grossman, The Observer, January 14, 2018.
Photo by KiwiRail.