Railway journey to Wellington

The opening lines of that song were playing in my head, perhaps influenced by the few tracks from Paul Simon’s Graceland that were played on a loop at the motel restaurant last night.
For the first time since arriving in New Zealand two weeks ago, I was alone. Properly alone, not in a different room to Lyn and Malcolm, not a short distance away visiting the city.
After breakfast at Otorohanga in a lovely café we found yesterday we parted company, they to drive back to Auckland, I to wait for the train to Wellington and my friend Nadine.
They have been great hosts, and my head is spinning with the images of the places we have been. I get the chance to catch up with them again at the very end of my holiday before I fly out of Auckland and begin the long journey home. So a new chapter of my holiday began. It felt exciting. I was rather enjoying sitting on a bench on the empty platform, watching the occasional long freight train trundle by, alone with my thoughts.

Freight train

It didn’t last long. A man wearing a hat approached me. He had a box under his arm, and on his t shirt were the words Otorohanga ambassador. It turned out he was the volunteer good citizen who made sure I and my luggage boarded the train. He attached a luggage label to my bag and handed me the stub. Establishing I came from England, he launched into stories about Her Maj and her connections with the town. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I am not a royalist. He then quizzed me about where I had been and what I had seen. He produced a map of the town and told me a story about a man called Harry Harrod, kept an eye on my bag when I went off to the loo. A loo with very good tiling and a lot of info on the outside.

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Ruminating on the Railway

I'm about two hours away from Sydney, sitting on a train that started off from Melbourne nine and a half hours ago. I thought I'd spend the morning asleep, but I was enjoying watching the changing scenery, so despite the early start – the alarm went off at quarter to six and we went to bed around midnight – I stayed awake. My neighbour for the first couple of hours was a Finn who arrived in Melbourne yesterday. We exchanged a few sentences. Then lapsed into agreeable silence.

My next neighbour companion, who is still with me, had just finished a seven day coach tour. She and her companions are scattered about the train. We smiled and said hello, then to my relief she put on an eye mask, reclined her seat, and prepared for sleep. In contrast, the woman in the seat in front seemed keen to share her family history, the trials and tribulations involved when her dog, a Jack Russell, requires his vaccinations, the exact details of her itinerary.

I was plugged into my iPod when my neighbour awoke, disturbed by the arrival of a new influx of passengers. Despite moaning that she wanted to sleep, she began a conversation with me that continued for nearly two hours. I say conversation, but my rôle was to listen. It was this relentless gentle flow of words that eventually made me close my eyes and sleep. She is also going to Sydney, so we have had more conversation, but I have learned to open my book, and she has also dozed.

I have been amazed by the lush greenery. Currently we are riding through a wooded landscape, the light coming into the carriage filtered through spring leaves. There have been open prairies, railway stations in deserted landscapes, wind farms, cows, sheep, and lots of birds, and a golf course. As we near Sydney so the frequency of houses increases. Leaving Melbourne, riding through the outer suburbs, it was easy to see how older bungalows are being pulled down and replaced by two storey houses.

I've eaten most of the food I brought on board, just one apple left, and I've drunk a fair amount of water. The Tasmania book given to me by Vicki's dad is a quarter read and very good.

Vicki and I said our goodbyes at the station this morning where she nobly accompanied me. I'm not good at goodbyes. I said goodbye to Billie at the house and told her to keep off the sherry. I have become very fond of Billie in the last three weeks. She is a very sweet dog, and I don't think I'm flattering myself when I say she likes me too. Continue reading

The Romance of Travel

I know some people’s hearts beat faster in airport departure areas, but for me the sight of  a train, or more specifically a train  with sleeper compartments, releases an urge to jump aboard and head off to the ends of the country. Why smelly stations and old rolling stock should have this effect is a bit of a mystery. Perhaps it’s the anticipation of having breakfast as the journey reaches the West Coast line, all mists and spectacular scenery. I always see at least one stag, posing as though for auditioning for a shortbread advert. I think they take it in turns when they hear the train approach. Continue reading