09.11.2007 - 09.11.2007 0 °F
Today we took the world famous Tranzalpine Express from Christchurch to Greymouth. Why is it so famous you ask? Well, it provides one of the most scenic and spectacular views, and was had one of the longest tunnels in the world when it was built in 1908! Its a great scenic train journey that we just couldn't miss.
However, we started off the day with a rough start. A free shuttle was supposed to pick us up and take us to the train, but one came and was too full and we had to wait for another one. Waiting.... Waiting.... Waiting... clock ticking. Getting anxious. FINALLY one came with just 15 minutes before the train was supposed to leave. Lucky in a town of less than several thousand people, we got there in just 8 minutes and barely put away our luggage, sat down, when the train pulled away. But yea! We made it and could relax! We sat back and maybe a mere 10 minutes later, we stop. What the? We come to find out the train had a "mechanical problem" (what is it with mechnical problems?). So we waited about 45 minutes for it to be fixed. Then someone wasn't feeling well (heart attack was the rumor), and we had to wait for an ambulance to get him away. Alas, an hour or so later, we were off. Why am I telling you all this? Well, we are doing this hop-on, hop-off thing and basically, we were missing our bus to go to Barrytown because of this delay. So this changes our journey a little bit. But as I'm learning, these things somehow always work out for the best and it did!
The Tranzalpine goes through the Canterbury Plains, alpine foothills, Waimakariri Gorge, up through Arthur's Pass (which is about 737 meters high) where there are AMAZING snow capped peaks of the Southern Alps. Okay, I've seen lots o mountains (the Andes, the Rockies, the Swiss Alps, etc), but these were one of the best I've seen. I can't even say enough superlatives to describe how gorgeous it is and how amazing. I literally had my mouth hanging open while taking 23048230948230489 pictures, but here is one:
Its amazing how quickly the scenary changed during the 4 and a half hour journey. It started with some plainfields, sheep, crops, etc. Then next thing you know, you are looking at the snow caps of the Southern Alps amongst lush green landscape. Then you hit more beautiful landscape with more lakes, forest, and the Tasman Sea. The entire journey was 231km long with 19 tunnels, and many more viaducts.
Long story short, since we missed our bus, we followed some Irish lads that we met on the train and that were staying at our previous hostel, and followed them to a YHA (which we just joined). It worked out that we were just going to spend the night there and then have the bus pick us up tomorrow and take us to Franz Glacier. See? NO reason to stress, and I'm REALLY taking the Aussie/NZ attitude "no worries" more and more seriously. Life's too short to stress and get anxious! Too much fun and action! So we barely organized this when a tour guide came through to pick up people to go Punakaiki, a cool area by the Tasman Sea. Of course they were doing a special just that day, of course the reception lady said it was amazingly beautiful and a "must see." I got in my nazi travel mode (Sorry Lauren!) and was like "lets do it!" Mind you, all of these transactions took place in less than 5 minutes and the bus driver to go on this tour was waiting. We literally put down our bags, grabbed our cameras, and off we went. I barely had a chance to catch my breath from all that action and we harldly had a sec to think about all that just happened. Since we were now on the west coast, we took a nice scenic drive overlooking the Tasman Sea, which is amazingly beautiful. We did a short bush walk and learned more about plants and agriculture. Here's a fern, they are special to New Zealanders and depending on how it spirals, it can mean different things like "growth, harmony, new beginning" etc.
Its too much to go into details now, but I of course took 230482304923 pictures and when I send them to you (just a couple), I will label and describe them. We saw the Rimu, which can be this little itty bitty tree that after 400 years grows to be something like 25 meters tall, then after another couple of thousand years (seriously) it can get up to 30-35 meters tall. It was REALLY cool to see the different stages. Same goes for this cool palm that grows for 30 years without a trunk, then grows into this gi-normous palm. There are a lot of this yellow flower that we kept on seeing, and I thought they were pretty, but then I was forcibly told that they are a TOTAL pain in the arse and were initially imported to regulate the coastline, but now they are taking over the country and no one can put a stop to this. This is the case with a lot of things in NZ with everything from plants to animals. They bring in something to try to help the ecosystem, but it ends up doing more damage than good. Interesting.
So we then saw these AWESOME pancake rocks that were formed from 'natural weatherings:' 25 million years ago huge amounts of sand and mud eroded from the sand crushing tiny fragments of marine organisms with enough force to turn it into limestone, and 5 million years ago the limestone uplifted from the sea and kind of warped into these amazing rocks.
Big rock, huh? You can hardly see me!
Its hard to tell, but all the rocks have naturally formed stripes.
They were soooo sooo cool to see! Here is another pict... do you see any outlines of faces or figures?
Okay, here's a hint:
Seeing these rocks in the Tasman Sea is absolutely breathtaking. They can also form blowholes, which we unfortunately didn't see. As we were wrapping up, we had the VERY VERY good fortune of seeing an ahhhh-mazing sunset (which I loooove) AND having an AWESOME guide that was kind enough to stop and let us enjoy it and take pictures although our tour already finished. We treated him to a beer later.
And per request of the driver/guide, his photo opp:
It was a beautiful day and I'm just describing so little of it. Even all the 20348230948234903 pictures I took can't even give a glimpse of the real and true beauty or do it justice. Sooo wonderful and spectacular! So... well worth the craziness!
By the way, it was a beautiful sunny day with only a few long white clouds