Using one whole morning of our time in New Zealand to ride the Tranz Alpine served two purposes- one, it would provide us with a very scenic way to get across the south island, and two, it allowed my husband to take a break from driving and sit back to enjoy the views. Apparently some tourists actually take the entire day to ride the train round trip from Christchurch, however we used it as a means of getting to the Greymouth rental car center where we would then continue onward to Fox Glacier. Aside from a very long line at the Greymouth train station Hertz counter, this was an excellent decision.
We had an early morning and a long walk with all of our luggage from our Christchurch hotel to the train station, but we made it in plenty of time. I got our luggage checked and sorted while my husband got us some tasty breakfast breads from the café car. The seats were comfortable and we really enjoyed listening to the audio commentary through the headsets and watching the train’s progress on the map shown on the overhead TVs.
The first hour or so we stayed at our seats and relaxed, napping and listening to the audio, but soon we bundled up and headed for the outdoor viewing car. Boy, was it windy out there! At first we nearly had the car to ourselves, but as the views got better and better more and more people joined us. The scenery was just amazing, even in the foggy, damp, and cloudy weather. We saw lots of grazing animals, some stunningly blue water, open fields, majestic mountains, and even a big group of people in the middle of a meadow, waving wildly at the train. We seemed to be so far into the middle of nowhere that I cannot fathom where they came from!
Even though the sun came out a little bit toward the end of the journey, most of it was gray and cold, so being outside on the viewing car chilled me to the bone. The train made one stop at Arthur’s Pass National Park, where we were able to get off and have a look around- though the stop was too short to see much. After the little stop I ordered some tomato soup from the café car. They brought it out to me at my seat once it was warmed up which was much appreciated, and it was very delicious.
Somehow, the train had ended up a bit behind schedule, though with no plans for the evening except a long drive to the town of Fox Glacier, it didn’t really bother or affect us. I even took another smallish nap! By the time we reached Greymouth, we knew we had made the right choice for this journey.