About 1.5 months ago, I met an american traveller in Thames. He had a super thin, very old NZ travel guide. Two pages of this travel guide were filled with a huge picture of a train and a description telling you about NZ's scenic trains, particularly the scenic Trans Alpine train, crossing from Christchurch to Greymouth via Arthurs Pass. According to my mum, who is into scenic train rides, it's supposed to be one of the best ones in the world. From this moment on I knew I had to be on that train. And let me tell you - that were 100$ worth every cent of it!
I came into Christchurch rather late the night before my train was supposed to depart. That was totally alright, because the city just didn't catch me. Its rather sad, because most of the inner city is still destroyed and I can't even imagined how horrible that earthquake must have been. Apparently, they are still experiencing aftershocks from the original earthquake, which are so big, that those themselves have aftershocks as well. Obviously not a decent place to live. However - I got on the train at 8.15 am (actually, I only hopped on at 8.12 am, after an hour walk while the hostel lady had told me it's supposed to take about 15 minutes... I don't know how fast SHE can walk ...). Anyway. I got on the train and the magic began. The trains have awesome, new carriages with huge windows everywhere. Apparently they were just a few years ago designed for this scenic route. (By the way, NZ has 3 scenic routes, the trans alpine, which I did, the costal pacific from Picton to Christchurch, which is probably nice, but the bus ride is just as scenic as the train ride and half price and one train from Wellington to Auckland) It features lots of little details, as for example an audio commentary, your own, personal headphones, numbered seats, on which usually solo-travellers like me get their own double seat if it's not to crowded, magazines and what ever. But believe me you will not want to stick your head in a book for even a single minute! Too much to see. The train starts off at Christchurch and stops first time at Springfield, where you can quickly hop off to take some pics. Then the best part starts, while you're riding through the eastern part of the southern alps, along a river which gives you stunning canyon views. For all the photographers, there is even a view carriage without windows, where you can go outside and take pictures without disturbing glass. The second stop is after about two thirds of the way in Arthurs Pass.
Arthurs pass national park is the stopover point for trampers. Unfortunately, don't ask me why, I did not happen to book a stopover. I've just been passing by. Never mind though, there will be a ned time. From there on the train makes it's way through the western parts of the southern alps and some lake lands into the Grey valley, until eventually heading into Greymouth. The city itself is not really special but a decent point to explore the surroundings. Kind of gateway to the west coast if you come from Christchurch. Ok, no spoilers, but I have to admit, even though I loved the north island, and the east coast. My heart is lost to the though coastlines of the west... Pictures of course to come!