Northern Explorer, New Zealand - A Train Not Only For Old Folks
I opened a packet of Tao Kae Noi. A dried seaweed snack - a habit I picked up in Thailand a couple of years back. My seat reclined, and the Northern Explorer departed the futuristic Britomart transport center in Auckland. "What is that? It looks like sandpaper". Cue the old man sitting opposite. Replete with hearing aid and the smug look only a septuagenarian can pull off. "It's seaweed", I replied. "It looks like Sandpaper!" Top marks for redundancy."I know, you already said that." "WHAT?" "YOU ALREADY SAID....nothing...". I turned back to Phillipa.
"Excuse me, I just have to ask, what is that you're eating?". Cue the smiling wife of the hearing aided gentleman. "It's seaweed". "Ohhhh seaweed...it's very healthy isn't it!". She could actually hear me. "Yes, and tasty too". "oh yes, it's very healthy. Very healthy. It's healthy isn't it?". It was obvious why these two married, united in redundancy, until death do they part. Which, lets be morbidly honest, could be before we reach the Raurimu Spiral. She turned back to hearing aid man, and I heard the words "seaweed", "very healthy", and "Asians", at least another dozen times, in the next couple of minutes.
NoPlanes is back. At this moment in time, we find ourselves in magnificent New Zealand. We have spending time doing things like looking into flights to Christchurch. Being the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand, Christchurch is the jump off point for visiting many of the sights in that part of the world.
We did visit Christchurch. It remains brutally devastated due to the destructive earthquake in 2010, and 2011.We explored the central area of Christchurch, and strangely, weren't the only people interested in "Earthquake Tourism". Many of Christchurch's historical buildings collapsed during the quakes and aftershocks. Even more were demolished afterwards. However, the city core of Christchurch remains of-limits, and is, frankly, a mess. It will take years to rebuild.
The land of the long white cloud - it really is an incredible country, and with the power of mother nature being on show in Christchurch, as well as the incredible number of mountains, rivers, glaciers, and volcano's, there is certainly a lot to see. Fortunately, Tourism New Zealand have accepted us as with open arms as visiting "travel writers/journalists", and have provided all sorts of free stuff.We took advantage of the kiwi hospitality, and caught the Northern Explorer from Auckland, down to Palmerston North, en-route to Napier - the art-deco capital of New Zealand, and Phillipa's birthplace.
Roof-top scenic windows, cabins full of reclining seats, and cues of mid-century luxury - the Northern Explorer isn't a "public transport" type of train. It's the grand tourer of trains. Full predominantly of old people, acting like it aint-no-thang. An older lady in front of me was checking through the death notices in the daily newspaper. To my right, another elderly lady was knitting. Or crocheting. Like I know the difference.
But, what a life it is. The Northern Explorer is a fabulous way to see New Zealand. Train journeys are steeped in history, and I would say romance, but, well, there's old people around me. Not an visual I want to have. However, the carriage with no windows is one of the little highlights - it's alfresco train travel, and a little too chilly for the oldies. Views of farms, towns, mountains, valleys, and glorious nothingness pass by.
In days gone by, men in these parts performed back breaking labor, to push rail through rugged and uncharted country-side. And now, more than a century later, old people, and a smattering of 30 and 40-somethin' youngsters can travel in style through the north island of New Zealand.It sure beats the bus. Or even a flight, for that matter.
Because, No Planes means no planes, where possible.
The next 12 months, will be quite an epic journey.
I can't promise a regular schedule, but I can promise at least one post for each country.
To the people who are receiving this post by email, I'd like to personally say - hi.
It's been a long time between drinks.