Trip good. Photos bad. Internet terrible

25 July – I’m looking forward to this trip than I was going to England!

I couldn’t upload this until we got to the Bay Plaza Hotel. It’s 10.30 am, so I’ll add the rest of the photos this evening.
We’re sitting on a train!!! 🙂

It wasn’t a great night’s sleep. It wasn’t that it was noisy – especially once I’d got up and turned the fridge off. Every so often its compressor, if that’s what it was, would burst into life. When D.C. got up at 11:11 pm (remember we put the lights out at 8.30), I checked it was empty, and turned it off.

There were a group of young people outside. They weren’t loud nor playing music, but we could hear their voices in the quiet of the night. They went to bed at 11:30 and we didn’t have much to worry us after that. Not a lot of traffic noise – just an occasionally train going over the Newmarket rail bridge.

I don’t know how many stars the Station Hotel has. Definitely not five. It’s good for a single night, but wouldn’t want to stay for longer. We only had two towels between us. Big towels, but that was all. They were displayed simply, but attractively on the double bed when we arrived. (D.C. had the double, I had the single.) We supplied with soap, shampoo and conditioner. And we did have the (noisy – small) fridge for you to store your milk and other things that you want to keep cool. That’s something that I’ve seen missing out of more expensive establishments.

There was an ironing board, iron (luckily), kettle, two cups, two glasses, two teaspoons and a selection of hot chocolate, tea, and coffee. The kettle you had to fill in the hand basin, which I always think is less than ideal.

The paintwork looked like it was done by the friend of a friend on the weekend, but in the main the place was tidy.

Although there were a couple of spots that were probably okay, but did have you wondering if you really wanted to know what it was.

And you know how most holiday accommodation have copies of the Gideon bible available for your spiritual being? The Station Hotel had a copy of Georges Arnaud’s El salario del miedo – which had the words Gran Premia Festival Cinematagrafico de Cannes 1953 written across the bottom.

I delved into that tome as much as I would have the bible.

For breakfast this morning we had a “One Square Meal” bar and a hot chocolate each. It meant that we had something in our stomach before we set off on our walk to the station. The Northern Explorer does provide food, but it would have been about 8.15 before we could have anything – and this was cheaper.

We walked to the “Auckland Strand” station. It’s been purpose built for the Northern Explorer, because, D.C. found out from Uncle John last night, they didn’t want diesel fumes dirtying the Britomart Railway Station (despite it having been built in the diesel era.)

The walk was only about ten minutes long, but we wouldn’t have liked to have done it if it had been raining. As the attendant explained, it’s all council, not railway land.

After standing in the check in queue for about ten minutes as a man with a bicycle paid cash for his ticket – the attendant tried to explain that next time it might be wise to buy a ticket in advance – we were given our seats – 9D and 10D. What was really brilliant was that they were either side of a table, and seats 9C and 10C are both vacant – so we’re able to stretch out in luxury.

And Kally’s got her own seat looking out the window.


The commentary is still very good. So far we’ve learnt things like: Between the Manukau an Waitemata Harbours, there is 1600 km of coastline within Auckland City. And the narrowest part of the isthmis is 1.2 km from Manukau Harbour and Tamaki River on the east coast.

We’re now stopped at Frankton (Hamilton) Station to take on new passengers. D.C.’s just reminded me that when we arrived at the Station Hotel last night, the duty manager asked us for our passports as ID.

“We’re New Zealanders!”

It’s the one time that I’ve carried my driver’s license with me. It normally lives in my bikie jacket, but I’ve bought it with me in case I get to try out an electric scooter.

I went onto the observation deck when the scenery started getting interesting. I’m trying to use the more manual features on my camera, but I don’t know that it’s working that well. On the camera’s screen they look a little underexposed. I’ll wait till I can see it on a proper screen.

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We’ve just had lunch. Morning tea we had apricot and almond sandwiches. And a bottle of water each. $23. Lunch was Potato Gratin – $8.00 each. They heated it up for us and brought it to our table. It’s quite handy having a bear as a landmark.

I asked Christine, one of our attendants, who proofed the menu. Apparently we Kiwis are “well know for their sweat tooth”. She came and found me later and asked me to point it out. Kiwirail’s marketing manager’s on board and wanted to make sure they knew where the mistake was.


In the past the service that travels the Main Trunk Line has been fortunate to have a platform for people to stand on and enjoy the view. The Northern Explorer has a full carriage. It’s exhilarating to stand out there and feel the rhythm of the train, and hear its clackity-clack, and feel the rush of wind and (spray of rain) on your face – and messing up your hair.


Where the crew swapped over

I stated out by only putting my Thunderbirds jumper on, the weather’s so mild. By the time we were through National Park I was wearing my woolly hat and gloves. By the Rangiteiki viaducts I had my jacket on.

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And it’s still not really, the middle of winter, lower half of the North Island cold.

There was no snow at National Park. There was no snow at Ohakune nor Waiouru. There weren’t any mountains either.

I don’t know how good my photos are going to be. I’ve been doing an on line photography course to try to learn more about what all the numbers are and how to use them. I still don’t understand them. For instance, the depth of focus f-stop system runs in a series like 2.4, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16, 22. The smaller the number the bigger the aperture – the bigger the hole in the lens that lets the light through. The bigger the aperture the smaller the depth of field – how much of the foreground and background behind your subject is in focus. So small number equals big hole equals small area of focus.

And then you’ve got to factor in the ISO and shutter speed.

I don’t think I’ve got the time and you’ve got the inclination to learn all about that.

Tie these three things together correctly and you’ve got a well-focused, well-exposed photograph.

Then you layer on composition. Rule of thirds; triangles; converging lines; keeping rules; breaking rules…

By the time I got to Rangiteiki I was back in my semi-auto P mode just to make sure that I was going to get something halfway decent.

And we had a Kapiti ice cream each. (Me – passionfruit and yoghurt. D.C. – boysenberry and chocolate.) I said it’s not cold – the weather, not the ice cream, that is.

By 4.30 we were getting peckish (I honestly don’t know why.) So I checked out our neighbour’s menu, since Christine took our one… And apparently Kiwis are well knowN for their sweEt tooth. I told Christine and she said they’d been checking and decided that we must have had an old one. I’m sure this will be its last journey.

We both decided on roast chicken for tea, so I went down to the café car. They were out of roast chicken. So I wound up getting D.C. a seafood chowder – she’d been considering having a soup anyway – and I had Indonesian rice with sweet current, peanuts and cashews. It was $15.50 for both dishes and would have been $15.50 for a single roast chicken, so I guess we’ve made on that deal.

If I have one complaint about where we’re sitting, it’s that the seat’s too close to the table to type on EOS easily, and the table’s too high to also type on EOS easily.

We’re in outer Wellington and it’s dusk. We had to stop to allow a commuter train through and we stopped on the coast with Kapiti Island silhouetted against one horizon and the South Island against another.

Yes. The SOUTH ISLAND! More precisely the Marlborough Sounds. That’s how clear it is today. (May that state of affairs last a week plus.)

Having already packed my camera away I got it out again to get some sunset shots. I don’t know how good they’ll be (I used my tried and true method), but I was lucky that the train had stopped and I, rather than being on the observation car proper, went into the alcove next to it and leant on the right angle shaped rail. So (fingers crossed), I may have a nice sharp photo.

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What I do have is a kink in my neck. D.C. hates travelling backwards (I’m surprised she doesn’t ask if she can ride next to the driver) so I’ve been relegated to the backwards seat, which means that I’ve been looking out of the window to my left with my neck at a more acute angle than if I were travelling forwards.

I think I’ll pack EOS away now so I can enjoy the lights for the last half hour. And twist in my seat, so I don’t have to twist my neck.


That’s a train going past. It just looks artistic.

We arrived at the Wellington Railway station about ten minutes early, so we were able to get our bags and head straight over the road to the Waterloo Hotel and Backpackers. It took a little time to book in, mainly because someone was ahead of us, but we’ve paid for the room and breakfast.

We also had a message that Duncan had rung, so I sent him a text, but didn’t get a reply (must have the wrong number), so I texted his wife Ann. They were hoping to have dinner with us tonight, since tonight and Thursday are the only nights she has free this week. We’d already eaten on the train and were tired after travelling all day and a sleepless night, so we’ve opted (reluctantly as we want to see them) for Thursday.

It’s 8.40pm and D.C.’s put the light out about forty minutes ago.


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