I was back on the train, this time heading west across the South Island, first from Christchurch to Greymouth. This train trip was about 5 hours, and, should you be spending lunch aboard any of the KiwiRail trains, the steak and cheese pies are very good (and not just good for train food, they’re actually good!). This train ride covered the Canterbury plains, then through the mountains, including Arthur’s Pass. It was freezing cold in the outside carriage, so a spent a lot more of this train trip inside compared with the trip on the Coastal Pacific. The scenery was beautiful, if somewhat bleak, not helped by the overcast day and low cloud, blocking a lot of the mountain tops. Still definetly worth the trip, though. From Greymouth it was onto the bus down to Franz Josef, where I was to be spending the night. More scenery, this time mostly hills, pastoral land, a couple of huge lakes, rivers, and the Tasman Sea. Arrived at the Franz Josef township around 5pm. Because Franz Josef it getting rather far south, the days are slightly longer, so I had just enough time to march (literally) up to the glacier and back, a 10km round trip that I had to do in an hour and a half, because of the failing daylight. Despite feeling very tired afterwards, it was well worth the march, and Franz Josef is on my list as a place to visit again, and spend a whole day there, rather than just the night. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect of the glacier, but it is stunning (used for the Lighting of the Beacons in “Return of the King”). And with the sun setting, and the last rays of sunlight before it disappeared behind the mountain shining on the glacier, plus the mystical clouds – wow.
I stayed at the Bella Vista Motel in Franz Josef, which was lovely, and the owners were particularly friendly. So another very busy day, but so worth it.