Riding one of the world’s great train trips

web dunedin stn IMG_0633The historic Taieri Gorge Railway is considered one of the world’s great train trips. On an overcast day, during a 10 day trip to the southern New Zealand city of Dunedin, I checked it out.

Leaving the well-photographed 1906 Dunedin Railway Station, Graeme Smart and John Chapman drive us through tunnels and over viaducts … what I didn’t know was that I would get an invitation to ride in the cab for a while!  It’s tough being a travel writer at times. Not!

Judy, the guard, tells me she started as a volunteer about ten years ago and about 5 years ago qualified as a guard – which includes helping with shunting I believe.

“It’s an amazing job! I have fantastic moving scenery from my office and it changes daily, and with the seasons.”

However, she has also been up to her knees in snow while digging down to find the switch controls.  Fearfully, she was only 3 months into her job when the train and car collided:  a tough, and scary memory that’s still vivid.

“It seems my training just kicked in and I went into another mode and did what I had to do.” What a woman!

The scenery includes; pine forests, sheep, cattle, llama, horses. Add hills and rivers and bush to the tunnels, viaducts, bridges and tannin coloured streams and this trip is fantastic. There’s also a dog statue to commemorate all working dogs and I’m not surprised my fellow passengers were enthralled.

Those around me were from the UK and the USA, from Taranaki and Singapore.

But enough talk:  sit back and enjoy just some (40) of the many photos I took in this, the biggest slide show I have put into a blog.

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My ten days in Dunedin – was spent traveling in a NZ RentaCar  and if you too are in a car, parking is available at the north end of the station.

I have a copy of the booklet Taieri Gorge Railway. A photo guide by Antony Hamel … its last page is named ‘Train Enthusiasts’ Page.

It talks about trainspotting ‘can become obsessive;  he also warns ‘Foaming at the mouth when in the presence of a train requires medical attention.’

So, you have been warned!

Otago Peninsula: ‘finest example of eco-tourism’

Dunedin, New Zealand: setting the scene for a series of blogs about attractions in the area including ‘the peninsula’, the ‘ finest example of eco-tourism.’

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Otago Peninsula was a volcano some 10 or 13 million years ago – give or take a week or two.

65 thousand years ago it became an island when sea levels rose and, more recently, now a  peninsula, Captain Cook and the hardy self-sufficient pioneers fought battles along  the notorious 2000 kilometres coastline which is now scattered with shipwrecks.

With an annual rainfall of 700/800 millimetres and mists that roll in from the sea it now has 5% of the area covered in bush: mainly broadleaf trees and kanaka.

  • Neville Peat a local nature writer based in Broad Bay says the area is a ‘kind of supermarket for marine life, souped up by currents and adjacent deep-water canyons. The accolades continue.
  • Botanist and environmentalist David Bellamy said the peninsula is ‘the finest example of ecotourism in the world’   while Mark Carwardine,  zoologist and outspoken conservationist, writer, TV and radio presenter, wildlife photographer, columnist,  best-selling author, a wildlife tour operator calls New Zealand a “wildlife hotspot”.

He says it’s one of the best places in the world to see great wildlife and recently he was on a whirlwind tour, searching for our equivalent to Africa’s ‘big five’, the New Zealand ‘small five’ endangered species: hector’s dolphinkeakiwituatarayellow-eyed penguin .. all found on or around this amazing outcrop of land.

This area is not just a day trip from Dunedin but a place to base yourself – a destination in its own right.

So watch this space (make it easy by signing up for email updates on the top right-hand corner of this page) for stories about albatross, penguins, castle,  boat trips, fur seals, settlers museum, bus stops, birds, gardens, fabulous cottage accommodation, heritage city walks, the Taieri Gorge train, Chinese gardens, butterfly house and the Orokonui ecosanctuary and more!

The New Zealand rental car company I used in Dunedin  was the  New Zealand Rent A Car  (branches all over NZ)

NZ Rent A Car outside my accommodation at the sables
NZ Rent A Car outside my accommodation at the Stables, Larnach Castle

 

Great train routes I’ve taken–have you?

I’m reading the 2006 book ‘Strangers in my Sleeper’ by fellow kiwi and travel writer, Peter Riordan, and it’s made me think of some of the many rail journeys I have taken, some return or multiple trips and, many in sleepers with strangers!

Off the top of my head they include:

Egypt:

  • Cairo to Aswan

Zimbabwe:

  • Harare to Victoria Falls

New Zealand:

  • Christchurch to Arthurs Pass
  • Christchurch to Picton
  • Christchurch to Invercargill
  • Wellington to Auckland (and return)

USA:

  • Miami to New York
  • LA to San Diego
  • Anchorage to Fairbanks

Thailand:

  • Bangkok to Suratani
  • Bangkok to Changmai
  • Suratani to Georgetown (Malaysia)
  • Kota Bharu to Kuala Lumpur

Europe:

  • London to Paris
  • Miami to Parma
  • Budapest to Prague

India:

  • Delhi to Haridwar
  • Haridwar to Agra
  • Jaipur to Mumbai
  • Kerala to Indore
  • Mumbai to Kerala (Ernakulum)

What are your favourite rail journeys? And, have you done any on my list – what did you think of them?

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Wellington to Christchurch via the Interislander & KiwiRail

Sailing across the Cook Strait on the Kaitaki, then a rail journey from Picton to Christchurch on the CoastalPacific  is fabulous. Now it’s going to be even better!

KiwiRail’s new scenic carriages are now on the Coastal Pacific train between Christchurch and Picton: the carriages have 52 square metres of panoramic side and roof windows. They also have ceiling mounted HD screens, GPS triggered commentary in a choice of five languages, and new café cars. They’re also the first carriages to be entirely designed and built in New Zealand since the 1940s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A ferry and rail trip to Christchurch coming up!

I’m off to Christchurch in 10-days: on the Interislander ferry (Kaitaki) and train (Coastal Pacific). This will be a great trip as the day I travel is the day the train service from Picton to Christchurch resumes which is fabulous for the region.

With talk of shifting the Picton terminal from the Marlborough Sounds (top of the South Island, New Zealand) to Clifford Bay I will make sure I enjoy it as  the Sounds may not be the preferred route forever! While this change would apparently save 50 minutes off the road trip from Christchurch (or 80 mins from the train journey) and 30 minutes from the sea trip that links the North and South Islands, it would also mean that travellers would miss some of the most beautiful cruising scenery in New Zealand – and the world. The 92km has breathtaking views and I’m hoping for another beautiful day so I can add more photos to my collection of pictures from the Interislander’s decks. Although, if it’s not wonderful I will be cosy in the Kaitaki Plus lounge!

These photos are from an earlier trip – come back to this site and hear about the trip and what’s happening with travel and tourism activities in Christchurch.

Kaitaki Plus Lounge

PS: I have just had another a train trip – on the Overlander, a 12-hour journey from Wellington to Auckland. What fabulous scenery is hiding from those who usually drive up there!  Paul Theroux says ‘trains are the only way to travel’ – it certainly was relaxing and no doubt the trip to Christchurch will be great too.

Off to Auckland from Wellington last week!