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John Marks, an inveterate traveller, spoke to us this morning about his love of train travel. In his youth he often went to Dunedin on a steam train, and through the hill to Lyttelton on an electric train. He’s travelled on many trains, in Aotearoa and overseas, and has enjoyed the steam train at Weka Pass.

Weka Pass steam engine approaching Glenmark Station

John’s favourite steam train trip is the Mainline steam four day expedition from Christchurch to Westport and return.

Today he talked about the trips he’s taken on The Ghan, a trip Stephen and I did in early 2019. This is the longest north to south train journey in the world, and is named for the Afghan cameleers who helped the British access the interior of Australia in the 19th century. It was in 2004 that the train made its first trip from Adelaide to Darwin on a standard gauge line. As John said, it’s like taking a cruise, but on a train. His anecdotes were for me a nostalgic reminder of the luxury of this way of travel. His first trip was in 2015, and he started in Darwin, whereas we had gone the other way from Adelaide. John showed many photos of the Nitmiluk Gorge at Katherine, which was also a highlight of our trip. His second time on the Ghan was early this year, when he stopped at Alice Springs to take a week’s detour to see Uluru. My main memory of Alice Springs is the excitement of a camel ride.

Ruth riding a camel at Alice Springs

John told us he and his wife have booked to take the Indian Pacific from Perth to Sydney next year. I felt envious! Perhaps we’ll manage to ride the Coastal Pacific before long.

I dearly love to go by train
see local sights in new terrain

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I was surprised to see this broom stored beneath the window inside a Metro bus, along with a dustpan.

Broom on Bus (Small)

Do the drivers have to clean their buses between trips?  Or is it just in case of an accidental spillage?

“Drivers supplied with broom and pan
must keep their buses spick and span.”

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Riding on a steam train at the Weka Pass Railway is a real treat.  Yesterday afternoon a group of us took advantage of a clear day to enjoy an excursion across the Canterbury countryside.

Weka Pass Steam Train

Weka Pass Steam Train

The journey from Waipara to Waikari  (11km) takes about half an hour, with a stop part way for a photo opportunity.  The scenery is beautiful and includes spectacular limestone formations.

Canterbury countryside

Canterbury countryside

When you reach Waikari, the engine is manually turned ready for the return journey.

Turning the engine

Turning the engine

This railway is run entirely by volunteers, who are dedicated to preserving New Zealand’s railway heritage.  It’s like a colonial cousin of the Orient Express.

I did the same ride in 2012, and there are more photographs on my blog about this.

“It’s fun to take a ride by train
and I was pleased to go again.”

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Taking public transport makes me feel like I’m on holiday.  It’s forty years since I was a regular bus user, and then it was mainly for going into town with small children.  My paid work has almost always been within walking distance of home.

Buses and trains, in my experience, are for foreign places, or travel to the airport.  On Friday, for the second time, I caught a bus to my poetry group meeting.  It’s possible to catch a bus in Manchester Street, but I just missed one, so walked to the Bus Interchange in Lichfield Street.  The signs there are very clear.

Bus information screen

Bus information screen

There’s also a helpful announcement system, and plenty of seating after 9am when Super Gold Cards allow free travel.  I imagine it would be very different when crowded.  You just need to sit and wait at your designated platform – all covered and litter-free.  I boarded, waved my Gold Card at the driver, and settled in for my free ride.  I can see why so many ‘Seniors’ wear their card on a lanyard, but I haven’t quite got to that stage.

“No road cones and no parking fuss
it’s relaxed travel on a bus.”

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The 110th Oxford A & P Show which had the status of being a ‘Royal A & P Event’ was our Easter Saturday destination.  The road led to a rainbow

Rainbow Road

Rainbow Road

and then to a large car park.  It was just as well we’d decided to go early.  When we left at noon, the line of cars waiting to go in was long and slow.  This ‘Royal’ event obviously drew people from far and wide.

We were pleased to see chooks, including our favourite Chinese Silkies, but they were in the process of being judged, so I couldn’t get close enough for a photo.  Other animals were more accessible, and I wished they’d cut the wool in front of the angora goat’s eyes.  How could the poor thing see at all?

This goat had the wool pulled over its eyes

This goat had the wool pulled over its eyes

The alpacas were gorgeous as usual.

Elegant Alpaca

Elegant Alpaca

They have knee joints on their back legs to help them sit down.

Rear end of kneeling alpaca

Rear end of kneeling alpaca

There was a Music Fairy to entertain the children and get them singing and dancing.

The Music Fairy

The Music Fairy

We sat on a hay bale to watch ponies being ridden around the arena.  Volunteers were everywhere, directing traffic and staffing stalls.  I bought raffle tickets, and chocolate chip cookies that had been baked by the pupils in Room 13 of Oxford Area School.

Cookies

Cookies

No sign of any sand saucers this time – maybe they’re no longer fashionable?

“At Oxford the A & P Show
was definitely the place to go.”

 

 

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Stephen has been fond of Clydesdales ever since he spent three weeks driving a team around Auckland in the 1970’s to publicise a Widdicombe Fair at the Epsom Showgrounds.  When we saw this team in Devonport we had to have a ride.

Clydesdales in Devonport

Clydesdales in Devonport

In the Wynyard Quarter there was another opportunity to take a tour on an open cart, and we couldn’t resist.

Clydesdales at the Wynyard Quarter

Clydesdales at the Wynyard Quarter

The horses all wear nappy bags to catch any by-products.

Nappy bags for Clydesdales

Nappy bags for Clydesdales

“We like these gentle horses who
all wear smart bags to catch their poo.”

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Our week in Auckland was a success in so many ways.  We had beautiful warm sunny days.  There was perhaps a tad too much humidity, but that just reminded us of why we don’t want to live there any more.

Our accommodation at the Quest Apartments was most suitable and reasonably priced.  Beforehand we wondered why there was an extra loading for New Year’s Eve, then realised it was because we had a perfect view of the fireworks at the Sky Tower from our balcony.  I disapprove of casinos and wouldn’t frequent one, but I loved being able to watch fireworks (and have an hour’s sleep beforehand).

Even though we were in the heart of Queen Street the sound we heard most was birds, not traffic.

View from Quest apartment

View from Quest apartment

A few shops were closed for holidays, but that didn’t affect us, and the consequent decrease in traffic was a bonus.

Some shops were closed (sic)

Some shops were closed (sic)

While we were sorry no trains were available we took advantage of the excellent bus system.

“A week was long enough away
to relax, sit, and read, and play.:

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I woke to a blinding sunrise, which surprised me as our windows face west.  As my awareness surfaced I realised the sun was being reflected in a glass-walled building opposite.

Being Sunday we planned to visit the Liberal Catholic Church of St Francis where we were married and our daughters baptised.  Past the hospital and Domain we stopped in Outhwaite park, site of a ‘pocket’ volcano.  This is one of Auckland’s smallest volcanic cones, which erupted 50,000 years ago, slightly later than the Domain volcano.  The park is the legacy of the Outhwaite family and has a small hall which would make it an ideal wedding venue.

The Church service was Prime, because they now have Eucharist only every second week, and I was intrigued to find the lay celebrant was a woman.  There were only seven in the congregation, including us, and I gather that’s not unusual.  The celebrant told me that on a really good day they might get fifteen.  Numbers are dwindling as for many traditional churches.  I wonder whether there will be any service at all next time I’m in Auckland.  The Christchurch branch has folded since the earthquakes, and I miss the opportunity to go occasionally in honour of my mother who was a lifelong member.

Later we visited Newmarket and Parnell, then I met with two old schools friends and thoroughly enjoyed catching up with them.

“I seized this opportunity
as church is now quite rare for me.”

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On Saturday we took the ferry to Devonport.  This service is now run by Fullers and we remembered fondly the old Baroona – now long gone.  It was lovely to be out on the Waitemata for the brief trip, with yachts dotted about and Auckland’s highrise skyline at the stern.

Stephen sipped a beer at The Esplanade while I explored shops and galleries, and dipped my toes in the sea.  We couldn’t resist the chance for a tour on an open wagon drawn by three beautiful Clydesdales, before we took the ferry back to the city centre.

A bus took us along Tamaki Drive, past the Tamaki Yacht Club where we danced as teenagers, to Mission Bay.  All along the Drive are pohutukawa in full magnificent flower.  Mission Bay is still a most attractive spot and many families were enjoying themselves on the grass and sand and in the water.   I was determined to swim in the harbour and luckily there was a shady seat for Stephen to sit with my things.  The water was warm and wavy, and up to my shoulders just a few metres out.  I thoroughly enjoyed my dip with Rangitoto so close, although I did wonder about pollution.  There was no sign of flags or lifeguards – presumably not needed?  We sat for some time watching the passing parade before catching a bus back to Britomart and thence to Quest.

“My tidal water’s Manukau
not far from Waitemata’s flow.”

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Breakfast at Quest was scrumptious creamy mushrooms on toast, with only one other guest in the dining room at 8am.  The Chef/Receptionist told us many of the apartments at Quest, Amora, and other hotels are privately owned or rented by permanent residents.  The ‘Herald’ was delivered to our room, a tabloid version full of advertisements, but they do have a cryptic crossword and the familiar Code-Cracker.

It seems so strange to see tall buildings everywhere, and although our apartment is on the 7th floor I had no qualms about being up so high.  Our friendly breakfast chef  told us that if Rangitoto erupted the ensuing tsunami would not reach Quest because it’s too far up the Queent Street hill.

We walked west along Karanaghape Road, mostly deserted with almost no shops open on Boxing Day morning.  Several signs said “We are close (sic) 25 & 26 December.”  It was a pleasure to see so many vintage buildings – and many still with chimneys!  Ponsonby Road was our home in the early 1970s and we enjoyed walking down familiar paths.  There’s a cafe now next door to where we used to live and we stopped there for morning tea, sitting in what used to be our back garden – a truly surreal experience.  The rest of “our” garden is now a garage.  Further down the road we spotted Bill Ralston slowly walking his dog, and I took a celebrity photo from a distance.  With several stops to sit and contemplate it had taken us three hours to reach Three Lamps.

We turned down College Hill and stopped at what used to be the Suffolk Tavern, now The Cav Gastro Pub, where we had cold drinks on the verandah, with a view of the ubiquitous Sky Tower.  From this perspective a nearby phoenix palm looked higher.  The pub TV was showing the NZ/Sri Lanka cricket test at the new (unwelcomed by me) Hagley Oval, and I unkindly hoped the 8,000 cricket fans had experienced traffic problems to demonstrate the undesirability of having increased crowds in the hospital area.

Stepehn took the City Link bus from Downtown back to Quest while I walked up Queen Street enjoying the sight of the Boxing Day sales, but not tempted to join in.  Some stores (Swarovski, Prada) had queues outside with just a few people being allowed in as others exited.  There were a few buskers, and beggars rattling coffee cups with coins.  I was glad to get back to our apartment, put my feet up, and have a cup of tea.

Later we dined across the road at Joong Wha Ru – one of the best Chinese meals I’ve had, and cheap.  We enjoyed trying Korean radish (presumably preserved), which looked like lemon slices and had a sweetish taste.

Afterwards we climbed the hill to Karangahape Road and took the Inner Link bus.  This 45 minute ride included Grafton, Newmarket, Parnell, Customs Street, and Ponsonby, then back to K Road where we disembarked and walked downhill back to Quest.  My calves are definitely aware of unaccustomed hill climbing!

“Old Ponsonby was once our home
and we enjoyed the chance to roam.”

 

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