It is now 100 years since the beginning of the Great War. The first infantry from Otago and Southland left from the Dunedin Railway station 100 years ago this week. The country with the highest proportions of deaths per head of population was New Zealand.
Yesterday I went to see the Procession to the Station and the ceremony that followed.
I returned to Europe in the (Australian) summer holidays of 1976-77.
After some time in London and visiting friends by train in Bradford and Oxford, I again caught the night train to Paris. However the Aussie dollar had fallen and I had a mortgage so I sat up and alighted from the train at Dover, onto the ferry and back onto the train in Calais.
During the week In Paris I made day trips by train to Chartres and Normandy. Then I travelled by day train to Toulouse and from there on day trips to Carcassonne and Perpignan then on to Avignon for Christmas Day and back to Paris.
After a day trip to the Loire Valley I travelled overnight in a couchette from Paris to Nice for New Year’s Eve. New Year’s Day saw trips to Monaco by bus and Cannes by train and then I again took a couchette for an overnight trip to Rome.
Basing myself in Rome I took 2 long day return trips to Naples. On one day I toured Pompeii and the other day I climbed Mt Vesuvius. Most of the way on foot as I kept missing buses.
Leaving Rome, I travelled by train to Florence, took a day trip to Pisa and then on to Venice.
I had a memorable trip to Innsbruck. I caught the train from Venice to Verona and had reserved a seat on the express to Innsbruck. On arrival in Verona I found the express had been cancelled so was refunded my booking fee. I used this to buy some Morning tea, I had got rid of all my Italian lira. I boarded a slower train and the conductor said “Quo vadis?’ It was some of the small Italian I knew. I answered “Innsbruck” and he said “Non”
He took me along the corridor to a map, pointed at the Brenner Pass and said “Chuiso, neve” ‘Closed, snow’
He directed me to catch a branch line train up the mountain. I am unable to discover this line today. Perhaps it is closed. It may have been a rack railway. I only remember waiting at the top for about 3 hours for a train down the other side. The snow was waist deep and I had no cash, only travellers cheques so was starving by the time I finally reached Innsbruck. How wonderful is the Euro for travel these days
I used day trains to travel to Vienna, back to Salzburg, on to Munich (yet again), Heidelberg and Frankfurt to connect with a flight home.
In 1979, late August/early September, I went to a conference in Melbourne and travelled both ways in a roomette on the Southern Aurora. So sad that it was discontinued a few years later. It was comfortable and the dining car provided a good dinner and breakfast.
In 1980 I again returned to Europe. After visiting a Greek Island, I travelled by train from Athens to Patras and boarded a ferry for 24 hours to Brindisi in Italy travelling on deck in a lounge chair. However I again took a couchette to travel by train to Milan.
This was followed by day trains to Lucerne then Geneva. However from Geneva I travelled in a couchette all the way through France to the Spanish border.
In those days an Australian needed a visa to enter Spain so it was necessary to alight and pass through customs at the border (possibly Perpignan) then I caught a local train to Tossa de Mar on the Costa Brava. Searching today I find that while there are no overnight trains from Switzerland to Spain, there are also no border formalities. There are no trains now to Tossa de Mar but I may have transferred to a bus but I usually avoided that.
After 3 nights in Tossa de Mar I travelled to Barcelona about 2 hours away and after a night there I again was in a couchette to Madrid. I remember sharing with a Swiss family. Three nights later another train in a couchette took me to Paris. That was memorable because I shared with a Japanese man, a Frenchman and possibly a Spanish man. Any conversation involved the Japanese man speaking to me in English, I translated into French and that was translated into Spanish?? then reversed.
The rest of my trips were in Day trains to Fribourg, across country to Munich then Oberammergau for my first attendance at the Passion Play then by bus on the Romantic Way as far as Rothenburg where I stayed the night then the next day caught local trains to Cologne. Then I went to Amsterdam and back through Brussels to Ostende for the ferry to Dover and train to London. I travelled north by train to stay with friends in Bradford. Back in London, I flew to New York. I caught a train to Boston but flew from there to San Francisco and home.
I did not leave Australia for the next 17 years. Summer holidays were also the bushfire period when I did not want to be too far from my house. I was also busy paying off my mortgage and establishing a garden.
In May 1982, as mentioned earlier, I sampled the new XPT train with my mother to Orange and Dubbo.
In September 1984 I travelled to Coffs Harbour for a weekend conference and took a sleeper in the North Coast Mail and returned also in a sleeper in the North Coast Express. Neither train runs now. I again went to another weekend conference in Coffs Harbour in 1995 but went up in the Brisbane XPT sitting up and arriving about 1am. I returned in the Grafton XPT on the Monday having obtained a day off work.
In October 1996 I went to Melbourne for the week and travelled on the XPT both ways. I did return in the Overnight Sydney-Melbourne XPT which does not compare with the Southern Aurora. It is necessary to share a compartment with a stranger and meals are in take away boxes, best to have dinner before departure.
In 1997 I returned to overseas travel, to North America
My first overnight travel was while I was in Primary school in the mid 1950’s, I think 1954. My Aunt took me on a journey to the Central West of NSW. It was the first long rail trip of my life and I caught the bug. Prior to that I had been to Newcastle, the Central Coast and the Blue Mountains but no further. We travelled in the Central West Daylight Express from Sydney to Orange and, after 24 hours there, continued onto Wellington where we stayed in the Hotel Wellington. I always imagined it was above the station and was surprised to find on a visit in 2012 that it was across the road.
After one day wandering Wellington, the next morning we caught the Mail train to Dubbo where we changed to the diesel 600/700 railcar set. These were fairly new in those days.
We alighted at Nyngan for lunch and a walk around while the train continued on to Cobar. Catching it on the way back we returned to Dubbo and, I guess, the Mail to Wellington. The following morning saw us again on the morning train to Dubbo and, after a day there , we were back on the night Dubbo Mail but this time all the way back to Sydney. My Aunt’s boarder/friend, the relationship was not explained to a young boy like me :-), was a railway ticket inspector. I think at Orange, but it may have been at Bathurst, he placed us in a dogbox carriage and locked the door so we had the compartment to ourselves. Dog box carriages had no corridor. Each compartment had its own toilet and the seats went right across the train so plenty of room, especially for a 10-11 year old to stretch out.
This trip was so basic to my love of railways that I repeated it in part in 1982 with my Mother in the early days of the XPT. We stayed 24 hours in Orange then went on to Dubbo for a few nights and returned direct again by XPT to Sydney. Then, as mentioned above, I travelled through to Dubbo on the XPT in 2012 and after renting a car to visit the Zoo, Warrumbungles, Gunnedah and Wellington. I returned to Sydney, again with 24 hours in Orange. Sadly there are now no passenger trains to Nyngan and no overnight Mails anywhere. With just one passenger train (XPT) per day to Dubbo, I had to resort to car rental.
In later years my Aunt took me to Melbourne on the Daylight and then we did a grand trip to Adelaide. We travelled overnight with a sleeper in the Parkes Mail to Parkes. After breakfast we boarded the diesel Silver City Comet to Broken Hill.
At Broken Hill we were transferred by bus to the narrow gauge Sulphide Street station and what was then called the Silverton Tramway. It was called a tramway as the government did not allow private ownership of railways. I thought the engine was very impressive. My research has found this, now restored elsewhere in South Australia.
The sleeping car was also impressive for its time with a small lounge at one end. I remember staying up talking rather late which was not good as we had to change in Terowie at about 5.30 am to another diesel set (Bluebird?) on the broad gauge into Adelaide.
After several days in Adelaide we caught the Overland Express to Melbourne, again with a sleeper. I cannot remember if we returned to Sydney on the overnight or daylight train. My Aunt also took me to Brisbane in 1957 but that was a 2 day coach trip each way with overnights in Nambucca Heads and Urunga. However we extensively explored the Brisbane suburban trains which were still steam hauled. There was also a trip by train to Cooma to see the early development of the Snowy Mountain scheme but we returned by plane from Canberra. That was my first flight and had nowhere near the influence on me as the train journeys.
I guess I became too old to continue to travel with my maiden Aunt. I did make one trip with some school friends sitting up in the overnight express to Albury and then returning on the Daylight the next day.
Sitting up all night in a train has not been attractive since although it did feature in my next few overnight journeys as a teacher with the Travel Club at Kingsgrove High School. In 1967 we went to North Queensland and sat up from Sydney to Brisbane. Fortunately we had sleepers on the Sunshine Express from there for 2 nights to Townsville. In fact that was great fun for a group travel. I remember one teacher (Biology) running beside the train with a net after butterflies. There was no dining car and meals were taken in Railway Refreshment Rooms. We returned on the Sunlander with much better facilities but the Sunshine Express had been fun. We again sat up all night on the Brisbane Limited Express to Sydney.
I organised a similar school trip in 1971 and because of costs we again sat up each way between Sydney and Brisbane. However the Sunlander had cheaper sleeper accommodation and involved 2 nights each way between Brisbane and Townsville.
in 1971 we took a trip to Tasmania. The first 10 days were by coach across to Adelaide and then around the coast to Melbourne. From there we flew to Launceston. After 2 weeks around Tasmania by coach we flew back from Launceston to Melbourne then sat up on the overnight Spirit of Progress to Sydney. Despite my love of train travel I thought that was an anti-climax and so when I repeated the tour in 1974 we flew all the way from Launceston to Sydney.
Otherwise, during those years when I was in my 20’s, I had a car and little interest in train travel. I regret that now as many lines were closed in the following years.
In 1974 I took leave and headed on the big Overseas Tour. There was one overnight train journey in India from Jaipur to Delhi. I travelled to Jaipur by bus but the Monsoon set in and that was no longer a safe way to travel so I returned by train. I was taken to the station by a hotel employee who arranged the purchase of a ticket, then for a porter to get me a seat but not to hand over any money until I was sitting in the seat. I later discovered the porter had bargained and bribed the train official for my seat. The train was slow. I was told to keep my camera safe under my pillow. As in European couchettes, we were given a pillow and blanket and shared with at least 3 others.
On arrival in London, I purchased a Kombi van which I drove around England, Scotland and Wales then by ferry to Oostende and through Belgium to Amsterdam. I left it in Rotterdam while I took a 3 night Rhine cruise to Frankfurt and returned by train to Rotterdam. Copenhagen, Goteburg and Oslo followed where I again left the Kombi and took a train to Myrdal and down to Flam.
Then on a cruise along the Sognefjord and back to Oslo. I was getting tired of the loneliness of driving by oneself but took the Kombi overnight by ferry back to Copenhagen then down to Lübeck, Hanover and visited with friends in the English forces somewhere near Dortmund. On leaving them, I headed for Munich only to have the Kombi engine pack in. I was told it needed a new engine and took nearly all my money to buy it and I returned to my friends. That was before ATMs gave easy access to money and I had arranged for money to be sent to a bank in Munich. Therefore it was onto a train and my first experience of European couchettes to Munich. I remember saving half the breakfast in case the money was not there. However I need not have worried. The teller commented on my obvious relief when she told me. I splurged on a hotel in the main Square which has been a favourite ever since.
I spent a few days sightseeing then returned north to collect the Kombi with its new engine. I am not sure if I again travelled overnight, I collected the Kombi, returned to London and sold it, and all my journeys in Europe since have favoured train travel.
I began by returning to Europe, this time in the Night Ferry from Victoria Station to Gare du Nord. I took a sleeper and remember waking to realise the bed was rolling and not rocking as the carriages went onto the ferry and the sleeping passengers were not disturbed.
I took trains from Paris to Geneva, Zermatt, Interlaken, Bern and Zurich but all in daylight. Then it was back to Munich, in those days the doors were locked as the train passed through Austria without stopping to avoid customs formalities. A few more nights in Munich before a daylight train journey to Oostende and overnight sitting up on the ferry to Dover and again by train to London. A few days later I flew back to Sydney.
The next morning I drove and climbed up to a view of the Franz Josef
glacier. It has retreated a lot since I was last there in 1973.
I took a short walk to a small pond known as Peter's Pond which had great reflections.
drove south to Fox Glacier where we use to camp on the school trips I
led in the early 70's. I went out to Lake Matheson. I did not remember
it as being such a long walk from the road. However the views were well
worthwhile. New Zealand's highest mountain Aoraki (Mount Cook) is in
the 2nd view.
I took a quick look at Fox Glacier, also much smaller than in 1973.
Then I drove further south to Knight's Point.
was a monument to the opening of the road and I discovered I first
drove along it (in a bus) just a year after it opened in 1965.
lunch in a hotel at Haast, I headed over the Haast Pass. It is lower
than Arthurs Pass. Here is a view of the Haast River valley.
Pass is only open from 8am to 4pm since the terrible landslide that
killed 2 tourists last year. I was held up for about 15 minutes at one
spot where the repair is continuing.
As I reached Lake Hawea, the shadows were lengthening.
stayed the night in Wanaka. I had pre-booked the motel as it was
Saturday night and Wanaka is in a ski area. Otherwise I would have
stayed longer on the coast after being delayed on Arthurs Pass. I will
have to return.
Sunday morning, I took some photos of Lake Wanaka from the town. All my previous visits have been in summer.
I drove home across Central Otago. This view was taken from the road as
I approached Ranfurly about 125 km from home but much closer as the
could still see snow on the Rock and Pillar Range not far west of me
when I looked yesterday but we had another snowfall just a week ago
after I arrived home
I left Darfield the next morning and it was not long before I was
climbing into the Southern Alps and over Porters Pass. It was fine
although there were dark clouds to the south and a haze ahead.
There were patches of snow on the ground.
I stopped to take a photo of the Waimakariri River.
long after, as I approached the township of Arthurs Pass, it began to
snow. Road signs said snow chains essential and there were some cars
stopped in the carpark while the drivers fitted them. Along the road was
a line of trucks waiting for the road to clear.
stopping half an hour for morning coffee, I went to the motel where I
stayed several years ago and booked a room. Even though it was just
after 11am, I was given a room and I settled in to read my novel.
About 1pm I walked half a kilometre to the shop for some lunch and,
while there, the snow began to bucket down. These photos were taken as a
I walked back.
and my car outside the motel.
trucks began to move soon after as I think the wind had moved from the
south west to the south east so the western side of the pass cleared
while snow was falling heavily in the township on the east. I did not
leave until the next morning 22 hours after my arrival.
I stopped at the lookout
had 2 reasons for my hiking stick. 1 to make sure I did not slip on the
snow and 2 to fight off the attack by Keas who thought my car aerial
and windscreen wipers would make great fun.
is a similar photo someone else took at the same spot which gives a
clearer picture of these intelligent but annoying birds
The rest of the day and the next three were in brilliant sunshine. This is not often the case on the west coast.
I headed for Hokitika where I had originally planned to stay overnight.
The town is famous for its greenstone or pounamu and the town clock is a feature.
I headed inland to the gorge which is also a brilliant green.
I took a half hour walk including a swing bridge over the gorge.
I took this photo on the road to the gorge.
Returning to the town, I walked along the river and looked back at the very long bridge and alps
wish I could have had longer, especially in such wonderful weather.
Hokitika has 2,901 mm (114 inches) of rain a year falling on an average
of 172 days.
I drove south to Franz Josef stopping at Lake Mapourika and a view of the winter sun.
I have just spent 5 days driving in the South Island. Although not that
far from home, I did drive over 1300 km. Many months ago I booked a
night in Christchurch to hear the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra play
Mahler's 9th Symphony. The NZSO regularly comes to Dunedin but they were
not playing the Mahler here and I love Mahler. I also wanted to
visit the lower West Coast where I had not been since the 1970’s and see
the Mountains in winter. I sure managed that.
We had snow in
Dunedin down to sea level the Friday before so I hoped it would be
relatively fine. I was wrong. I left Dunedin early on Tuesday as snow
was forecast but had fine weather all the way to Christchurch. During
the performance there was hail on the roof of the Basketball stadium (no
concert halls have been rebuilt since the earthquake). It was raining
when I came out but my motel was only about 8 minutes walk away although
the ground was covered in ice. The next morning I went into the city
and it is very depressing, some rebuilding but lots of empty spaces now
carparks and road and footpath construction everywhere. I had coffee in
a coffee shop I use to visit to but there were only constructions
workers there. There were very few people in the city partly I guess due
to it being winter.
I had not really been into the city since
the quake. I have passed through the airport several times and driven on
the western bypass. In March 2012 I drove my sister up to the airport
and drove her around the city but was too busy trying to get through the
traffic to see much myself. This time I left my car at the motel and
caught the bus into the city. I went to the old cathedral
and visited the new cardboard transitional cathedral.
There is some great artwork on the city walls amongst the reconstruction.
Look closely at this photo to see what is art work
in the afternoon I drove about an hour west to the town of Darfield at
the foot of the mountains. It was near the epicentre of the first quake
in September 2010.
As I mentioned in my last report I was very lucky to gain a lift from some people who lived near the ferry wharf at Anacortes so managed to overcome the problems with Amtrak and reach Friday Harbor on the San Juan islands late in the evening.
I stayed in a B&B and after a hearty breakfast was able to buy a day bus pass for the main island and went to a spot called The English Camp. San Juan Island was the site of the last war between the USA and the British Empire in 1859 although no shots were fired in anger. For 12 years both sides maintained a garrison on the island today known as English Camp and American Camp. Finally in 1872 Germany arbitrated in favour of the USA.
Near the English Camp is Mount Young, 650 feet (200 metres) high and I climbed up and took photos.
I think Vancouver Island (Canada) is across the strait. At that time it was sunny and warm but in the afternoon clouds rolled in and it was grey and light drizzle for much of the rest of my time there. After climbing the hill I had a look at the many preserved buildings of the camp. Apparently the English forces had a very pleasant stay. I was told a huge flag mast flies a Union Jack and it is the only place in the USA where it can be flown without the Stars and Stripes alongside. However the flag flying that day was the Star and Stripes, I guess understandable as it was July 4( Independence Day). When I left the town the street was lined with chairs in preparation for a parade later that day.
I walked around the point(about 1 mile) then instead of waiting for the hourly bus I followed the driver’s earlier suggestion to walk to the resort centre of Roche Harbor. It was about 3 miles and rather hot and uninteresting. I took a detour to “wetlands” but they were quite dry. When I reached Roche Harbor with what seemed like thousands of boats on a public holiday, it was almost time for the return bus to Friday Harbor. There I had an icecream and caught the bus in the opposite direction to Lime Kiln Bay and Whale Watcher’s point. There are several pods of orcas in the area and the ranger said one pod had been there at 9.30am. It was then after 4pm and they did not return. At my B&B other guests with bicycles told me they had much more success but they were more flexible in their travel.
The following day I caught the ferry to another Island, Orcas island, which is larger but less populated. Again a bus trip across the island took me to Moran State Park and Cascade Lake. I was going to take the level walk of about 3 miles around the lake but met some others who were going to climb Mt Constitution 2,400 feet (730 metres) and 7 miles (11 km) return. We had about 5 hours before the last return bus but my companions soon went ahead and after dealing with blisters and over 2 hours climbing I estimated I had walked just over 4 km and climbed over 600 metres to a point where there was a nice picnic area. I decided to have lunch and return down to the lake. I never saw the views but when I met my companions on the ferry back they told me it had been very misty. I returned down hill more quickly and sat for an hour with another icecream for the bus back to the ferry,
On Sunday I packed up again for the rather complicated trip to Seattle. It was back on the ferry to Anacortes. The 4 ferry trips over 3 days only cost me $6.50 as a senior. You just pay one way leaving the mainland and all trips between islands are free. I guess they make money on the cars. Being a holiday weekend, the car queues were long but plenty of room for foot passengers. At Anacortes I waited about an hour for a shuttle bus to Seattle airport, actually 2 buses, we had to change at one point. This took 3 hours then it was on the light rail for half an hour into Seattle and I found a very steep hill to my apartment.
I stayed 3 nights, again providing my own meals and taking it easy. The first day I wandered in Seattle, the main city, then the waterfront and the old town area of Pioneer Square where I spent a good hour in a museum about the Yukon Gold Rush when most prospectors started from Seattle. The second day I was more organised and took the monorail out to where the World Trade Fair was in 1962. I did not go up the Space Needle tower but visited the amazing Chihuly Glass Museum. I have included just one photo but there were many examples of glass blowing by Dale Chihuly, many were set in the gardens.
Then to Pike St Markets where I did not make a good choice for lunch. I now realise why there were no queues at that takeaway fish and chip counter. After a rest back at my apartment I went to the sky viewing area at the Columbia centre. This was just 2 blocks from my apartment and much higher than the Space Needle. We took the lift to the 72nd floor. Then back down to the waterfront for a bus to the lakes and a ferry ride through the locks which allow large ships to enter the freshwater lakes. There was a spectacular view of Mount Rainier after we had gone out into Puget Sound.
Then one of the Seattle skyline.
The Columbia Tower where I had been earlier is the grey building on the right. The small building on the far right was built in the 1910’s and at the time was the highest building in the world outside of Manhattan.
I was lucky with very clear weather in Seattle which is known for cool cloudy weather. It was over 80’F every day. Apparently the west coast has had severe drought. I had very little rain on my trip.
The next morning I was on my last long train ride as I took the Coast Starlight again, this time to San Francisco. It was only an hour late. As the car attendant, who was far superior to my previous experiences, said. It was not late for Amtrak as it arrived on the same day.
However I had to leave my bags at the hotel for 5 hours and wander around the shops until I could get into my room and change. There are summer clothes sales on and I have splurged as much as I can fit into my bag without being overweight.
On Friday I took a tour to Muir Woods where I remember going on my first visit to San Francisco in 1980. This is now my 5th time in the city. I would have liked to use public transport but the shuttle from Sausalito to Muir Woods only runs on Saturday and I did not want to risk being on the wrong side of the bay when I had to catch a flight home. The tour took us across the Golden Gate Bridge to the Woods where the Sequoia or Coast Redwoods grow. These are the tallest trees in the world, the tallest is 112 metres but not in Muir Woods.
I think these grew to 75 metres. There are lots of walks but I only had time to do a 2 mile round trip before the bus took us into Sausalito.
I left the bus here and after a good lunch I went by ferry back across the bay to San Francisco.
Last night I attended the San Francisco Opera production of La Traviata. I believed I would see Pene Pati from Sol e Mio singing one of the minor roles and was disappointed to see he was not in the cast. I have now learnt he withdrew from a scholarship with the San Francisco Opera in April and I bought my ticket in March. However it was an excellent performance and La Traviata provides a feast of great music.
I tried to finish and send this before leaving the hotel but was not successful. I am now at the airport waiting for my flight to Auckland. Security gets worse and worse. I even had to take my handkerchief out of my pocket and, as I refuse to part with my passport, they flicked through it after I was body scanned. After leaving the hotel I spent over an hour waiting to board the cable car. I have travelled on it several times but still enjoy it. I think the crowds are evidence that it would be great if they restored them in High Street, Dunedin. It would then only be the 2nd city with a cable car in the world. After the cable car ride I took a trolley bus and then a normal bus to the Golden Gate Bridge. I had wanted to do this in previous visits but this was the first time I managed it. I walked to the midpoint and back which was a real test of my fear of heights. As it is 2 km across, that meant my return walk was 2km.
After getting back to the city I wanted a coffee and found a shop called Nespresso. It is attempting to bring proper coffee to the USA. It was real upmarket, at a price, sitting in swivel armchairs with lots of waiters providing constant service. There were 3 types/strengths of coffee as well as decaffeinated, I chose a mid range strength. With a chocolate cake it came to $16 plus tip. Not your everyday choice and I did not take up the offer to join the Nespresso Club. Finally I collected my luggage and caught the train to the airport. Thankfully my luggage was not overweight but my hiking boots are in my carry on.
All being well I depart at 9.15pm arrive Auckland at 5.25am after more than 12 hours in the air then my flight to Dunedin arrives at 10.20am.
I have actually now returned home. We landed in Auckland on time but there was a thick fog and so my flight to Dunedin was over half an hour late. However many regional flights were cancelled. Dunedin was sunny but cold, there had been a heavy frost in the morning.
A retired teacher librarian who loves travelling especially by train and wastes a lot of time on the Internet.
An Anglican who knows God loves me as a gay man.
Moved at the beginning of 2010 from the Blue Mountains near Sydney, Australia to Dunedin, NZ.
One of the best things I ever did.