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Day 3: TranzAlpine and Lake Matheson

I'm embarrassed to admit I fell asleep on what is reputed to be one of the world's great scenic train journeys. That feat probably ranks right up there with eating a full dinner before visiting a restaurant with three Michelin stars, or taking an Antarctic cruise and spending the entire duration confined to your cabin with the measles. That’s what I get for staying up too late the night before!

I woke up in time to catch these spectacular mountain views. The TranzAlpine runs from Christchurch to Greymouth and vice-versa, over New Zealand’s Southern Alps. Passenger cars are outfitted with large scenic viewing windows, and there’s an open-air viewing car in the middle of the train for those who’d like to take pictures or get some fresh air.

Well, sometimes it’s fresh air. We were blanketed in train smoke during each of the tunnels – the route has 16 in all. There’s not a trace of pollution anywhere else in New Zealand, as far as we can tell, but they’ve got the equivalent of Sumatra’s multi-country haze concentrated in these tunnels.

And sometimes there’s too much fresh air. When we took our trip in late October, chilly spring winds and grey skies meant we were numb with cold a few seconds after stepping out on the platform. Still, it was a great view. And besides, by our third day in New Zealand we were used to being bone cold!

At Greymouth we paused to watch the Greymouth Motorcycle Street Race and nearly got left behind by the Intercity bus to Fox Glacier. Breathless after running with all our luggage, we discovered we weren’t allowed to eat lunch on the bus. Luckily, the bus stopped at nearby Hokitika for an hour’s break.

Arriving at Fox Glacier, we checked into cozy Ropatini’s B&B and had afternoon tea with our hosts, Trish and Collin. Trish drove us over to Lake Matheson to see the famous lake reflections of Mt. Cook and Mt. Tasman. She generously offered to come back for us in an hour, which we thought was plenty of time – until we saw the signboard saying the lake circuit takes one and a half hours. Time to sprint again... this was turning out to be a distinct trend in our New Zealand vacation.

TranzAlpine Information
  • Web site:, providing online booking, fares, and schedule information
  • Daily trips from Christchurch to Greymouth and vice-versa, 4.5 hours each way
  • Timetables
What other people are blogging about the TranzAlpine...
  • Nice photos - Chrispie33
  • "Never to be forgotten" – Tales from Tawa
What other people are blogging about Lake Matheson...
  • An early morning view - Helen and Phil
  • "The solitude is inviting and the silence magical" - Smart Traveler

Read the previous entry or check out the rest of this New Zealand trip series.

This post first appeared on Sleepless In Singapore, please read the originial post: here

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Day 3: TranzAlpine and Lake Matheson


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