Work commitments saw me in New Zealand this week; Auckland on Friday and then down to Wellington on the following Monday. Given I had the weekend free, rather than fly the 650 kms south, I decided to take the more scenic option on the Saturday morning, and booked myself onto the Kiwi Rail Scenic Journeys Northern Explorer. My husband, liking the sound of the trip, jumped on a flight to Auckland Friday evening to join me.
Eight am Saturday morning we were at Britomart Station and promptly checked in by the friendly Kiwirail staff. Seats were allocated and we were able to check suitcases into the luggage carriage. No need to lug large bags on and off the train ourselves, also meant a passenger carriage free of suitcases – very civilised.
The train itself is very comfortable and impressive, built in New Zealand they have wide panoramic side and roof windows for fabulous views of the passing scenery, and plenty of storage and leg room. Even a power point for charging phones and camera batteries.
At various points along the journey a commentary on the landscape or history of the current location can be heard via in-seat headsets.
The scenery is New Zealand typical spectacular; from the beautiful green rolling hills of the dairy country, the Tongariro National Park with it’s three volcanoes (still capped with snow in December when we passed), through rural towns and the rugged Kapiti Coast. At the beginning of the trip I was enjoying sitting in the sun looking out the window at the beautiful view so much, I forgot to take a single photo for the first few hours!
The food on board was surprising good quality for a train, with fresh healthy options (think roast vegetable and fetta salad), plenty of variety (from sandwiches to hot food to ice cream), good coffee, a licensed bar and all very reasonably priced.
There is an open air viewing carriage at the front of the train, where a number of passengers armed with their DSLR cameras were making the most of the scenery. With the jostling for position to get the best shots, and the rapid clatter of shutters, I felt like I was part of the paparazzi vying for the best shots of a celebrity, although in this instance the celebrity was the amazing New Zealand scenery.
The service provided by the Kiwirail staff on board (thanks Bruce, Mark and David) was a delight; friendly and helpful with regular updates over the PA letting us know when interesting scenery was coming up; all made the 11 hour trip a pleasure. We’re looking forward to the Coastal Pacific and TranzAlpine journeys sometime in the future.
As my husband says, sometimes it is all about the journey rather than the destination and we’re both glad we decided to slow down, take the scenic option and just enjoy the journey.
*All photos taken from a moving train.