Rails to Otorohanga

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22/03/08
Good morning all. I’m blogging to you from the rails between Wellington and Otorohanga. That will be my destination on the day, as tomorrow, I’m gong caving all day in that region, and luckily, the train line stops pretty close to where I need to be. It’s the second last day of my trip, and the skies are overcast, with rain looking likely at some point. Too bad I’m camping tonight, isn’t it? Luckily, tomorrow night, I’ll be back in Auckland, so I’ll be able to dry the tent out and anything else if need be. Most of the scenery I’m passing through today is a repeat for me, so it’s unlikely that I’ll take too many pictures, although I do have to find a suitable one to go with this post, so I’ll see what I can do over the next 9 hours. Yup, that’s how long I’ll be on the silver tracks today. It’s a pretty significant chunk of the trip back to Auckland. Tomorrow I’ll be left with a mere 3 hour journey to the heart of Auckland. Read on for a few more thoughts on this ‘training’ day. Hee hee, ‘training’. Get it? Clever, don’t you think?

Hey, I’m back. I wrote that first paragraph early in the day, and now I’m at my final resting place, a holiday park right beside the world-famous Kiwi House, an Aviary and Rare Native Fauna and Flora center. Of course, I won’t really have time to check any of that out with my tight caving schedule, but I’m certainly hearing a lot of those fauna making noises, seeing as the campsite is directly beside some of the habitats. Hope they don’t keep me up all night,. Anywho, back to earlier in the day. I was wrong on a few counts. Firstly, most of the scenery was actually new to me, as we weren’t following the same roads I used a couple months ago to get through the North Island. Secondly, once we were almost in National Park, the weather completely cleared up, and we had blue skies above, and a hot sun beating down on us.

Most of the trip today I just listened to some good tunes on the iPod, which up to now I hadn’t really used a whole lot, and watched the scenery roll by. There were some great views of rolling farmland, gorges, and cliffs. There are literally hundreds of bridges crossed by the Overlander, and some notable viaducts and tunnels as well. Once again, I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity of the landscape we were passing through. Getting this rail pass was a keen idea I’ve decided. Buses would have been cramped, and rolled by too fast. Also, I figured out that trains often have a far better vantage point due to the fact that their gradients can only be slight, so they start high up where there are great views, and slowly wind their way down to the lower spots. Renting a car would have sucked because I would have to do all the work, and be on the odd side of the road! So, train rocks. Plus, as a bonus today, they didn’t charge me to load my bike, which is another 10 saved. Add to the fact that the campsite for the night was a mere 9NZD, and you’ve got yourself one heck of a cheapie day!

Our only stop of any duration throughout the day was a lunch break in National Park village where we spent about 45 minutes before getting on. Actually, it was a lot longer, as they had to refill a water tank, and did some other ‘operational things’ which put us 30+ minutes behind schedule. Of course, that wasn’t such a big deal to me, as I wasn’t really in a hurry, and didn’t particularly have any big plans for my Saturday night in Otorohanga. Of course, at the time, I didn’t know there were things to do. I’ve since then learned there are things to do, but I’ll have to miss them on this trip. However, Bill, the park manager, did take me in his taxi to show me a ‘top secret spot’. He took me to a remote corner by the fence of the Kiwi House, and showed me where the man-made burrow is, and told me there are Kiwi in there, so if I return in the dark, and have some patience, I should get to see one free of charge! I’m excited for that, as that would be a real feather in my NZ cap to see a Kiwi rummaging around the woods, don’t you agree?

On the train, I had a nice little lunch of an egg, cheese, and ham sandwich, along with an Afghan Cookie for desert. Yummers. Ha ha. As you can see, there weren’t many options on the big steel box, but at least there was plenty of room to stretch out and walk around, which I did on occasion while listening to an eclectic mix of tunes. As usual, there was some insightful commentary along the way about the history of some of the places, as well as the railway itself. The thing they were most excited about was this ?? Spiral. I forget the first name, but it’s a crazy scheme of tunnels, cut-outs and curves to get you down from altitude on the volcanic plateau back to farmland level. It was neat, but very confusing, as with every curve and stretch, they would announce things about the left and the right, and what bits of rail you were seeing, where you were going, and where you’d been. The only thing that helped me was that fact that at the front of our car was a 1950’s aerial photograph of the whole thing. It’s a technological marvel I’m told.

Once I got to Otorohanga, it was already well past 5:00pm, and I was concerned finding food would be an issue. However, I headed straight to the campsite to set up the cave (er, tent I mean), then headed to town to seek sustenance. Thank goodness for the Thirsty Weta. This is a bar / cafe, and they served me an awesome bacon, cheese and egg hamburger. Yup, egg. It was delightful. A side of chips and a beer to wash it down made a nice complete meal for ActiveSteve. Hopefully it’ll be enough to keep me going on my full-day cave expedition tomorrow. I’m really excited about that, and am happy to report that I’ll be followed by someone taking pictures of me all day, and they give me a free CD with all the images at the end of the day! How awesome is that. As long as I catch my return train, I’m good as gold. After supper, a little trip to a dairy for an ice cream and some morning snacks, and I was all set. Now, I’m just wrapping up my blog post as darkness descends. Soon, it will be kiwi-spotting time. Yippee! Wish me luck.

Well, that’s all I care to write about for today, I’m too excited about tomorrow to carry on :-). Hopefully I’ll be able to post about it shortly once I get in Auckland, and maybe even get the pictures up, but no guarantees on the pictures, since I’ll need a reliable Internet connection for that, and I’m not sure Kevin has one yet. Toodles all, hope you’re doing well. Only 5 days to go before I fly out, gotta make the most of it, right?

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