To add to the World of Wearable Arts experience, we took the train to Wellington. Our party of 6 (The Man of the House, our Older Daughter, 2 grown up granddaughters, my baby sister and me) left Hamilton at 10.15 am on a sunny Saturday morning on the Northern Explorer and traveled through Waikato farmland before reaching the King Country where the hills get bigger and the dairy cows trade places with beef and sheep.
The train was comfortable and clean and full of mostly WOW patrons. In our carriage, between the cafe car and the open viewing car there was only 1 free seat. Most of the others were taken up by a senior’s travel club who kept the waiters busy bringing bubbles and snacks. The atmosphere was festive and friendly with most of the noise coming from the younger set in our group.
We travel to Wellington 4 or 5 times a year but on the train we got to see the countryside from a different angle and not having to drive means you don’t miss anything. The hills became mountains as we passed through the central plateau, skirting Mounts Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu. The open viewing car was full of photographers and as I aimed at the cone shaped Ngauruhoe, the battery went flat on my camera. Not quite the disaster it could be though. There are power points in the wall on every row, so I plugged in the battery charger. I missed the mountains but there was plenty more beautiful scenery to come.
We crossed the Manawatu and Wairarapa viaducts in the open viewing car. They look much higher from up there than from down on the road.
After a brief stop at Palmerston North we headed for the Kapiti Coast, showing it’s best colours in the sinking sun and cruised into Wellington to be met by Our Darling Girl at the station.
The train is a great way to travel; there is food – if you pre-order it will be served at your seat – at standard cafe quality and prices, a bar if you fancy a drink with lunch or for lunch and you arrive at your destination rested. I was surprised how hard it was to walk with any dignity even stone cold sober, especially with a cup of tea in each hand and almost ended up in a stranger’s lap more than once. Alcohol wasn’t going to make that any better. It is a very loooong trip though, 8 1/2 hours Hamilton to Wellington, a mere 520 km and not because of lengthy stops. We stopped 3 times, for about 10 minutes each to take on or let off passengers and whizzed through every other station without slowing down. It may have felt longer for us because of the 2 1/2 hour drive to catch the train but that’s as close as it comes to us. It’s also not cheap. For less than half the price we could have flown.
Its not something I would do again but I’m glad to have had the experience and it hasn’t put me off doing another train trip, perhaps the Tranz Alpine across the South Island .