Tuesday, July 24, 2007

21 July 2007 Auckland to Wellington

21 July 2007

I’m sitting on the Overlander train typing this and the time currently is 9.07am.

Didn’t get much leep last night. Mainly because, being on the top bunk, I was worried that every time I’d turn over I’d wake up D.C. But, because the train was due to leave at 7.30am, we were going to get up at 5.00am and get breakfast. The only problem with that plan is that we discovered last night that the X-base’s self-catering kitchen opens at 7.00am and there’s nothing nearby open at 5.30am.

It wasn’t too noisy during the night, a constant drone once the nightclubs had shut down. I woke up at one point and the room seemed lighter so I checked my ‘Mobile Control’ PDA for the time. The first number I saw was a ‘7’. Oh, oh! Then I managed to focus on the number before, which was a 5. Then I realised that these two numbers followed on from a decimal point and a ‘3’. *whew* Still had about an hour to ‘sleep’. When Mobile Control’s alarm went off at 5.00am we turned it off for another ¼ hour.

Got up and got washed and dressed. ‘Breakfast’ was a date and cream cheese sandwich that we’d got from Operatunity yesterday (so we had a half each) and a slice of Vogels sunflower and barley toast loaf, untoasted.

D.C. had a ‘shower’. She reckons that the only thing she washed was her foot because the water wasn’t getting warm enough.

We finished packing, stripped our beds (D.C. found blood on her duvet – by the edge) and went down to reception. I got my $20.00 bond back on the key, reported the blood stains, and we walked Fort Street (red light area) and Queen Street (Auckland’s main street and at this time of the morning not much better) in the dark. As we were leaving the X-base some youths walking down Fort Street called out: “Hey, you in the pink. Don’t fall over,” and laughed. I ignored them.

Walked to the Britomart, which was shut at 6.25am. Went over the ‘road’ to a ‘Starmart’ and bought some water. The fruit flavoured water was $3.30, but when we took it up to the counter found out that it was on special. $2.50 each, so we got two bottles (one lime, one mandarin) each.

After about five minutes the Britomart opened (we hung around on the other side, some of those on the Britomart side of Queen Street seemed a little unsavoury, passing a bottle between them, and there was a security guard on our side of the street.) We went into the Britomart complex and took the lift down the three levels to the underground station. We sat there for the next ¾ hour (with a pit stop for me ;-) ) until the train arrived.

We seem to be the only people given seats in the observation/buffet car, which suits us, we have a table and we’re not too far from the food. We are in carriage O – seats 3E & 3H. D.C. got 3H, the window seat. Being in the buffet car we’ve got a table and no one in the seats opposite. Put on my MP3 player and listened to Andrew Sachs narrate “Murder on the Orient Express”.

The time is now 9.39 and we’ve just passed through Ngarawahia (and I’ve probably spelt that wrong. It’s not on the literature that we’ve been given.) The Waikato is quite foggy today, which isn’t that unusual.

We were about ½ late into Hamilton.

The planned timetable is:
Auckland 7.25am
Papakura 8.15am
Hamilton 9.50am
National Park 12.50pm arrives
National Park 1.35pm departs
Marton 4.10pm
Palmerston North 5.00pm
Wellington 7.25pm

It’ll be interesting to see how close it will be.

Café Counter Menu
Cereal and hot toast with a delicious choice of jams and spreads, tea or selected coffee $6.00
Devonshire tea: Freshly baked scones with raspberry jam and cream, and your choice of tea or coffee $6.00
Cooked breakfast: Bacon, fried parsley mash, grilled beef sausage, scrambled eggs and roast savoury tomato $8.00
Buttermilk pancakes (yum!) with grilled bacon, baked banana and maple syrup. $8.00
Homemade kumara, zucchini and ricotta fritters with bacon and sour cream. $8.00
Bangers and mash with grilled beef sausages on creamy mustard mash with caramelised onions and red wine gravy. $8.00
Home made lasagne baked in a fresh red pepper and pesto sauce. $8.00
Sweet and sour meatballs served on sautéed new potatoes. $8.00
Balsamic roasted vegetables on a sundried tomato risotto with a mild harissa sauce. $8.00

Not bad for mass produced meals that have been nuked in a microwave.
I had the pancakes, which were nice and thick. The banana was quite dark, but was tasty. The bacon had too much fat and a bit of gristle.
D.C. had kumara fritters. Couldn’t taste kumara very much but otherwise was very nice. They absorbed all the juices in your stomach.
We also had hot water and put our peppermint green tea into it.
It’s funny eating a meal like this on the train. I’d make a stab at a bit of pancake and the train would move under me and I’d end up with a bit of banana on my fork.

1887 – 1889 the Waitete Viaduct was built. We crossed it at 11.28am.

D.C.’s presently (11.35am) trying to get photos of the locomotive as it goes around the corner. We’re in the back carriage.

We left Taumarunui at 12.50pm, which was the time we supposed to leave arrive at National Park. I swapped seat so that I’m in the window seat opposite D.C. Much better view; even if, yet again, I’m going backwards. I think I can probably lay claim to having travelled the length of the rail network in New Zealand backwards.

Travelled up the Raurimu Spiral and I tried videoing out of the right side of the train, (our seats are on the left), so got some lovely video of cuttings. I don’t know how good the ‘good’ video is.

We got into National Park and D.C. was annoyed because you could only see the bottom of Mount Ruapehu because of clouds. We went down the front of the train to get photos and the cloud lifted revealing both Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe. They’re a bit washed out because the sky behind was white, but we got some photos showing most of the mountain.

We went through National Park and then had to back up so that we were on the same line as the northbound train, which meant that both trains were on the platform and those who were only doing the half trip (ie Auckland to National Park and return or Wellington to National Park and return) were able to get off and swap trains. One of the ‘hostesses’ was telling the driver, via radio, that “driver 2014, you’ve got two car lengths to go.” Everyone was allowed to get out and ‘stretch’ their legs (euphemism for use a toilet that wasn’t jumping about the place), smoke if they were idiots, and have something at the tea rooms if they wanted.

We’re still in National Park and the time is 2.26pm. I’d packed my hat, scarf and gloves in my other bag, which is in the baggage car. Bu I put my jacket on. The train assistant was explaining to everyone that we had 45 minutes in National Park. We would be arriving at 1.45pm, so please be back on board at 1.25pm. Everyone was laughing and trying to correct her. The temperature outside would be described as fresh, rather than cold.

Leaving National Park at 2.32pm. We are running 45 minutes behind schedule according to the new hostess. But we should make up time. (It’s all downhill ;-) )

Went to the observation part of our car and videoed through the back window. The video camera didn’t like it much (especially when it fell over – not very far) the hard drive kept on shutting down with recording errors.

Going through Tangiwai at 3.14pm. You could still see some of the damage from the last lahar a few months ago. I think we hit National Park at just the right time. The cloud’s closing in. I just got a glimpse of some snow, but the cloud’s too low to see if it’s part of Ruapehu or somewhere else.

Tried to film the viaducts, but the video camera was either focused on the glass, at the wrong angle or still on pause as we went over. I got some still photos from the last viaduct, through the observation car. I could see the snow capped Ureweras(?) in the distance so I hope they come out on the film.

Put the video camera away. It’s starting to get dark, still fairly light, but if I put it away now, that’s one less thing to worry about.

4.48pm and we’ve just finished an ‘operational’ stop where the train waited for its warrant to proceed. D.C. took the opportunity to use the toilet, and I was going to too, but it was engaged.

Marton: 500 km from Auckland, 180 km from Wellington. The time is 4.52pm, but we’re not stopping here, we’re going on to Fielding.

I must say that I do like having my laptop so handy to be able to pick up and enter diary entries whenever I think of anything to write.

We are arriving in Palmerston North (having not stopped at Fielding) at 5.28pm. Only 28 minutes late. It is definitely getting dusky.

There’s a couple in our car who are taking a Furby around the country on their travels, (they used to live in Coromandel) and they are getting photos with Furby in for each place they stay at. I should do that with a Kiwi or something when I go to England.

D.C. just picked up my camera to put it away, and then realised that she had the wrong camera. I’m leaving mine out in case the lights of Wellington are pretty.

We got into Wellington at 7.30pm – the only rain on the whole trip and it was only a drizzle that didn’t really get us wet. Got our bags from the luggage car and went through the Railway Station. How come they’re stopping using impressive buildings like these for stations? Fortunately Wellington seems to be doing up theirs.

Walked out the front and looked for the Downtown Backpackers. Couldn’t see a sign so asked a Pie Kart and they pointed it out over the road, on the corner. (#1 Bunny Street) We signed in (one of these electronic key card things again – but at least this crowd give you instructions.)

I rang up Ann Shelton and she was on her way. She’d rung up and been told that the train was running 25 minutes late and had planned her trip down town accordingly.

We met her out front and then we did a bit of a Tiki Tour as we tried to find somewhere to eat. We ended up at a vegetarian restaurant. I had “Chow Mee” a noodle, mock chicken dish - $11.50. D.C.’s dish (#M31) was $12.00, Ann had dumplings. We all had green tea and I poured… all over the table. The teapot was too full. Total cost $36.30. D.C. paid $20, and I paid the rest.

Our room is number 203 and it’s big enough for bunks, a desk, our bags and that’s it. It has a toilet/bathroom ensuite. The Queen may have stayed here once, but I don’t think she’ll be doing it again. Still, it’s a place to rest your head… once you’ve made your bed and washed your hand after putting it on the chewing gum stuck to the ‘bedpost’. It’s a lot noisier than Auckland, but at least we don’t have to get up so early tomorrow.

Lights out at 10.pm.
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