The Steam Dreams Rail Co is running a 3 week tour of New Zealand in Autumn 2021. See http://www.steamdreams.co.uk for more info.
This blog reveals how the research trip scoping out the tour panned out.
Day 4 – Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, is like most of my favourite places in the world; on the coast. Although I’m no sailor (my sea legs fail me after about 30 minutes at sea – when my stomach decides it really would rather be safely on land), I do love a view of the sea.
Tourism New Zealand’s Industry Relations Manager had kindly agreed to meet us at their Wellington Head Office – based on level 23 of one of the office blocks in the centre of the city.
Not only was the Tourism NZ contact incredibly helpful and friendly (notice the theme?), the view from their offices was jaw-dropping. I suppose if you work there every day, you stop noticing how fantastic it is, but as a visitor, I couldn’t take my eyes of the stunning vista. We were lucky that it was a beautiful day, with hardly a cloud in the sky and the sun glistening on the sea.
We then took a stroll around the harbour, enjoying the sculptures and carvings that appear around every corner. Despite having one of the best meals I’ve ever had the night before at the Boulcott Street Bistro, we managed to find room for a morning snack at a waterfront cafe.
We were pleased to find out that even disposable coffee cups are made of material that can be recycled (not always the case back home). We had noticed that protecting the environment is high on the agenda in New Zealand. Perhaps when you’re surrounded by nature you feel even more of a sense of responsibility to protect it – and rightly so.
Marcus and I then tried out the famous (but not that easy to find) cable car which takes you up the steep slopes of Wellington, through numerous short tunnels, under buildings and roads, until it emerges to give you a view of the city even more marvelous than the one from Level 23 in the city.
I went to scope out the hotels that Judy had already booked, whilst Marcus and Marianne went to the airport to collect their younger son, Ben, from the airport. Ben has spent the last year or so in Australia and was coming to New Zealand for a holiday (and for the love and good food only parents can provide).
Fascinated by the local transport option of a “hop-on, hop-off” electric scooter, I tried to get the courage to climb aboard one of the brightly coloured machines left on many a street corner. The scooters operate much like “Boris Bikes” in London, but I’ve always been too self-conscious and worried about the city traffic to try one out.
I swallowed my nerves and was soon zooming around the city, looking a complete fool, I’m sure, but loving every minute. I managed to cover the entire city and see all three hotels in an hour or so. I had a look around the luxurious Sofitel tucked away in a quiet side street, the Grand Mercure sitting majestically overlooking the city high in the hills, and the Ibis, centrally located for all the amenities.
Mid-afternoon, Marcus and I went to see one of the Kiwi Rail contacts we’d “met” over a conference call facility when we’d been in Auckland – he is head of their mechanical division (I got the idea that he’s the one who makes sure everything runs safely). The offices of Kiwi Rail in Wellington are within the grand and imposing city railway station. A fine place to hold a meeting with someone who is likely to play a major part in the smooth and safe running of our tour of New Zealand.
The meeting went well, and we left, yet again, with a spring in our step, knowing we have the support and guidance of yet another key professional from New Zealand’s railway infrastructure.
That evening, we went to a small Japanese restaurant, had a light supper and retired our serviced apartments, for the next day we had an early start!
Day 5 – South Island here we come!