The Road Ahead : December 2013
NEW ZEALAND AUTHOR Robert Logan, with a passion for South Island alpine regions, tells us some of the best views can be experienced for the price of a train ticket. This is so true these days, particularly aboard KiwiRail's TranzAlpine, making its daily 231km journey across the South Island mountainous backbone between Christchurch and Greymouth. Promoted, with some justification, as one of the world's top scenic rail journeys, TranzAlpine ticks all the boxes for the discerning traveller. This summer is an opportune time to take the train ride, especially as accommodation options expand in post-quake Christchurch. TranzAlpine highlights include a peek-a-boo-like experience as the train darts through tunnels following sharp contours of the Waimakariri, with intermittent views of the brilliant turquoise-hued river gorge. The train also tip-toes across high, dizzy viaducts suspended airily above deep ravines. Further inland, the traveller is treated to pristine tarns encircled by jagged alpine peaks, some named after Antarctic explorers. The 8.5km Otira Tunnel leads the TranzAlpine from Arthur's Pass, under the east-west dividing range, emerging into Westland, a region identified by lakes and rainforest. TranzAlpine eventually terminates at Greymouth, close to crashing waves of the Tasman Sea. Many of the stunning views cannot be seen from State Highway 73, running an alternative route from Canterbury to Westland. The rail journey is enhanced by new AK carriages, introduced late last year to bring the TranzAlpine in line with the best offerings in Europe. Designed and built in New Zealand, the carriages have generous panorama windows. They ride smoothly and are quieter than previously used rolling stock. An informative commentary, presenting a mix of history, travellers' tales and useful information, is heard via individual headsets. Journe followed on ceiling mounted high-definition screens. A stylish café car offers freshly-baked muffins and excellent coffee. All-day tasty snack meals are on offer and, later in the journey, a wine and cheese board goes down a treat. (An essential TranzAlpine experience.) A definite plus is the open-air viewing carriage, so popular with photographers who do not need to point cameras through windows. On board, staff offer a typical Kiwi friendliness to enhance the travel experience. The train can be taken as a day return excursion from Christchurch, or an ideal introduction to an on-going southern West Coast self-drive or coach tour through glacier country, Haast Pass and to Southern Lakes destinations, Wanaka and Queen An alternative on-going northe Greymouth leads to the famous P and blowholes, quaint Westport, N Tasman National Park or to the Le (SH 7) back to the South Island eas A recent TranzAlpine admirer w mayor Bob Parker, heading to the W 60th birthday bash. "There was not a metre of the jo P train s t 36 TRAVEL | DEPARTURE INTERNATIONAL get into 'training' NEW ZEALAND'S TRANZALPINE IS ONE OF THE WORLD'S MOST SCENIC RAIL JOURNEYS. STORY ROY SINCLAIR I PHOTOS ROY SINCLAIR, KIWIRAIL MAIN IMAGE: TRANZALPINE TRAVELLING WESTBOUND TOWARDS GREYMOUTH (KIWIRAIL SCENIC JOURNEYS). INSET: TRANZALPINE REFLECTION IN AN ICE PUDDLE AT SPRINGFIELD (ROY SINCLAIR). THE ROAD AHEAD DEC 2013/JAN 2014 OFFER RACQ TRAVEL RACQ members save $100 on a 19-day Rail, Cruise and Coach Holiday. Experience spectacular New Zealand on a fully escorted holiday. Prices start from $5319pp twin share. Conditions apply. For more information, contact RACQ's travel team on 1300 188 713.
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