Cantebury Plains, TransAlpine Trains, and Apex Automobiles!

February 4, 2014

I don’t have anything exciting to say about February 3, only that I had to leave my little cottage to head back to Christchurch.  The drive was just the same as when I left for my little cottage.  The only difference this time around, I stopped at Knitworks.  Who could I not?  There were lots of knitted products, machine knits and hand knits as well.  And there were things made from just Merino wool, Merino and Possum wool and even Alpaca wool.  There were two baskets of yarn but it was 8 ply and I really didn’t have any uses for 8 ply.  As well as the fact that the colours were all natural i.e. creamy white, brown or browner.  So after my obvious choice for a stop, I headed into Christchurch, first to dump off my bags at the hostel, book my shuttles for the Christchurch train station as well as the Christchurch airport before dropping off my car at the rental company.  No blips there, except I forgot to fill up the tank so I had to go find a gas station.  Not so easy when you hand in your GPS and you don’t know your way around town.  Even when given instructions, I still got it wrong.  I did manage to find a gas station but now I had to figure out how to get back to the rental drop off.  After my wandering, I found the drop off and made it back to the hostel all by 4pm.  Next up, find accessible wi-fi.  Supposedly there is wi-fi at the hostel, but it wasn’t working.  So luckily during my previous wanderings, I discovered a Telecomm booth with free wi-fi.  So I sat there for probably two hours, getting a tan and meeting the locals, while I tried to get my blog up to date.IMG_2287I managed to get my Glacier post up, but trying to upload photos was more than painful.  Eventually I gave up and returned to the hostel.  I had an early start the next day.  The shuttle was going to pick me up at 7:05 am so that I could be on time for my 8:15 departure.

It took us 15 minutes to get to the train station.  The driver, Gary was taking us on a “scenic” tour around showing us all the damaged buildings en-route and telling us about all the buildings that had been destroyed after the February 22, 2011 earthquake.  Even though it was a 6.3 earthquake, smaller than the one that hit in September 2010, the 2011 quake was centred 5 km just below the city and the vertical forces was the strongest ever in the world.  One building, I think he said it was the TV station, literally crumpled in on itself and over 100 people were killed.  He told us how he was driving that day and was stopped at a light when the quake hit and a building in front of him had one of the walls crumble onto the street in front of him.  Way to make a girl cry before her first train trip.

So as we pulled out of the Christchurch train station, we were stopped almost immediately.  Apparently there was maintenance being done along the track.  We stopped a few times.  But otherwise, it was a smooth ride all the way to Moana.   From Christchurch to Arthur’s Pass, we would enter 15 tunnels and then right after dropping off more than half the load of people at Arthur’s Pass, I entered my final tunnel before stopping at Moana.  The Otira tunnel is 8.5 km long and takes 20+ minutes to pass through.  The tunnel took 15 years to complete.  Started initially in 1908.  And it wasn’t so much that was a difficult job, which it was, but it was due mostly to the initial company that started the tunnel going out of business.  Just before entering the tunnel we were all provided a safety announcement prior.  They closed off the viewing deck and shut down the on-board cafes.  This was the smoothest train trip I have ever been on, however this is also the only train trip I have been on so I don’t actually have anything to compare it to.  But I can see why so many people come to Canada to go on the Rocky Mountain train.  It is a very relaxing way to travel.  Very civilized.  There is so much leg room, nothing at all like the sardine cans that are called airplanes.  And there are electrical outlets at each row for people who like to carry fully charged electrical goods i.e. laptops.  Now as we were going along, we had certain stops to pick up more people, Darfield and Springfield and What’s this?  That cowboy hat looks very familiar!  It was Paul from London, my kayaking partner from Doubtful Sound.  What are the odds?  And apparently my fancy ‘red’ camera made an impression as well since he spotted that in the observation car.  Apparently Paul had made it up to Greymouth and left all his stuff there only to ride his bike to Springfield to catch the train back to Greymouth.  What a pleasant surprise!  The last time I saw him, he was headed to Queenstown and I had suggested he ride his bike up to Paradise, which he did and the weather was good to him.  I’m glad for him.  So after our little visit in the observation car, we all dispersed back to our allocated cars.  We were now headed to Arthur’s Pass and it was getting really cold outside.  My stop was coming up in about an hour so I figured I should get back to my seat and pack up my stuff.

Let me tell you about Moana.  It’s a little township locate right on Lake Brunner.  There are 78 permanent residents but over 400 houses here.  The majority of these houses are owned by people from Christchurch.  Basically these are holiday homes.  There is nothing to do here except visit the Station House Cafe for lunch and go for walks around the area.  However luck was not on my side.  Though the weather was beautiful, and windy in Christchurch and the weather had stayed nice until Arthur’s Pass, but it was a different story when we exited the Otira tunnel.  Cloudy with a  chance of rain.  Yay.  I guess I would be spending the next 2 hours at the cafe.  Which I actually didn’t mind.  It gave me a chance to work on my posts, no photos yet, but the articles are ready for posting.  Anyway, the Station House Cafe was very quiet when I got there.  There was a family of three just sitting down when I arrived.  By the time I left, there were probably about a dozen people who had visited this cafe.  But business varies by day.  The cafe was very quite and quaint.  Kind of retro.  I was listening to Roy Orbison’s song “It’s Over” and thinking about how it described my final full day on the South Island.  And then the song was over and other retro songs came on.  As I write this, I am back on the train and we are entering the Otira tunnel again.  There definitely are not as many people on the train on the return.  But I don’t know how many people we will pick up in Arthur’s Pass.  It will be another early night tonight.  I have to catch the shuttle at 5am to get to the airport tomorrow.  I’ll have to do some finagling with my luggage tonight, but first I have to find a pharmacy.  I’m allergic to the South Island dust, or it might be from the sheep, or it might be a head cold.

As always, I will try to get photos up as soon as I can!  Until then, You’ll have to use your imagination!

Luv, Aunty!

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