We could not have complained about Queenstown’s weather. Although bitingly cold at times (6 degrees the morning we left), it had been sunny. But on paper, the east coast promised even better. Leaving in rain, we were hoping it would clear up en-route but we ended up driving through a number of snow flurries, with sizeable tracts actually settling higher on the mountains. We even happened to spot a snowbow (a rainbow made from reflected and refracted ice crystals rather than rain) – a phenomenon I didn’t even know existed. And this is the height of summer?!
On our arrival in a soggy, blustery and bitterly cold Dunedin, we discovered that we had made the news. Not actually us – my driving’s not that bad! – but the weather we had driven through. Turns out snow in summer in these parts is actually newsworthy and was the second most notable news story in the country at the time.
Our afternoon’s activity was taking the Taeiri Gorge railway. We embarked at Dunedin railway station which is touted as the most photographed building in the whole of New Zealand. It’s easy to see why. The Victorian architecture is stunning, and certainly not something we see much of in Brisbane.
The journey itself took us to Pukerangi via expansive agricultural plains, tight tunnels, iron bridges and viaducts, and of course, gorgeous gorges. Our train was hauling heritage carriages, which meant open air platforms between the cars. This was the best place for photos as the train wound its way through the mountains – if you could handle the sleet and rain showers!
The boys loved the dangerous thrill of being so exposed, especially chugging through the tunnels and over the bridges. You just don’t get train journeys like that much any more. Certainly not in my part of the world.
The four hour return trip gave us a wonderful appreciation for the landscape as well as the challenges of the pioneers who engineered the railway in 1877.