Sunday, October 12, 2014

TranzAlpine Train and Fox Glacier

Our first real "taste" of New Zealand outside the city came last week when we took the famous TranzAlpine train ride from the east side of New Zealand to the west coast. The train ride was around 4 1/2 hours there and had beautiful scenery, from idyllic pastureland (sheep, goats, cows, and even deer) to river gorges and then the snow-topped Southern Alps. There is an "open" train car where you get great views without the glass, although the wind was fairly extreme. It started raining when we got into Arthur's Pass -- a mountain-top town -- so the windows had rain spots on them for the rest of the trip. It was a bit scary going under the 5.3-mile Otira Tunnel, mainly because of the possibility of an earthquake causing havoc.

We then took a bus from Greymouth to Fox Glacier which was awesome! I booked a guided tour which turned out to be good because very recent slides in the area had meant they closed down some of the paths that led closer to the glacier unless you were with a group. They provided overpants, heavy-duty boots, socks, and rain coats so you didn't have to get any of your own stuff dirty. It sprinkled a little on the hike over, but then the sun came out and it was a beautiful day. Fresh air and sunshine -- good for the body and soul.

Later, we took a very long walk from the little town to see the Mirror Lake which was supposed to be a 1.5-hour walk return trip, but ended up being about that long each way. It was a lot of walking. And because of the heavy rain in the morning, the water was murky and the wind was making a lot of ripples. The short walk from the lake's parking lot to the lake was enjoyable as it was through rainforest and totally reminded us of Central America, minus the bugs.

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