New Zealand – Traveling from Christchurch to Franz Josef

In order to get to the village near the Franz Josef glacier on the west coast of NZ, I had to take a train across the mountains in the center of island (which are called unofficially the southern Alps, hence the train is called the Tranz Alpine train).

This train cuts through the plains of Canterbury where Christchurch is on the eastern side of the southern island and then climbs up to Arthur’s Pass before beginning the descent towards Greymouth, a small town on the western coast where I connected to a bus that would then drive me south to Franz Josef village.

Canterbury mountain landscape in New Zealand's Southern Alps

View of the Canterbury terrain

The views were spectacular along the route.  The train had a viewing platform from which one could take pictures without the glare of the train window – but only if one was willing to freeze in the cold wind that hit the platform.

Western side of the island from the train (after crossing the southern Alps of New Zealand)

Western side of the island from the train (after crossing the Southern Alps)

The train ride was very comfortable and made a stop or two where we were allowed to get out and stretch our legs.  The train ride took about 4.5 hours.

The bus ride was also very interesting.  Bus rides here include the driver providing commentary that is quite good for a tourist.  The bus also makes several stops along the way not just to pick passengers but at some scenic spots for pictures or to take in the view.  It also makes one or two stops depending on the route and duration for people to eat something or go to the local supermarket.  This made the trip quite comfortable as one always had access to food and restrooms!  These, I learned on my next trip in the southern island, were typical of bus rides not just the one from Greymouth to Franz Josef.

View of road in New Zealand's southern island

I may become redundant at some point but the beauty of the land is incredible.  I have been to many places I have liked and it continues to amaze me how many types of natural beauty there are around the world.  What strikes me about New Zealand’s west coast is how close the different types of terrain are.  The alpine mountains and glaciers almost touch the ocean where rainforests dominate.  It is like Switzerland by the ocean, sort of (the statement probably doesn’t do justice to NZ or Switzerland but it is the best I have come up with so far!).

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