A Day Aboard the Tranz-Alpine Train, New Zealand

It's morning and the sun is low in the sky. We've spent a day touring around Christchurch on the South Island of New Zealand. Frankly, I've had enough of civilization, and am ready to experience one of the world-class parts of our trip to date. I'm referring to the Tranz-Alpine train, one of the most scenic train trips anywhere in the world.

We board KiwiRail, and in a short time, we depart the station in Christchurch, heading towards Arthur's Pass on the west coast. This excursion will take 4 1/2 hours, but in reality, the time passes in a snap, given the raw beauty of the Southern Alps along the way.

Everyone is seated as the train pulls out of the station. It doesn't take long, however, before multiple train riders, including myself, get up and move to a train car without seats and windows. This is a large open-air viewing platform, perfect for taking in and photographing the majestic scenery along the way.

After departing the station, the first things to come into view are the Addington cement works and freight yards. Within no time we pass small wooden suburban bungalows on our way through flat open farmland. As the train picks up speed across the Canterbury plain, I see the snow-capped Southern Alps on the horizon.

This area is incredibly rural! Fields with sheep, cattle, and red deer are evident as we pass the small commuter town of Darfield.

The Waimakariri River Gorge appears on the right as the train chugs along. This gives way to a series of steel girder bridges over deep gorges. In view now is a viaduct called the "Stair Case,"quite spectacular, measuring 73 meters above the river.

We are now encountering grassy plateaus with multiple little hills dotting the landscape. In the distance are more mountains, partially hidden by a shrouded mist. The scenery has been spectacular!

Well, we've finally reached Arthur's Pass. This is the end of the show for us, as we depart the train, and head for a van that is ready to take us to the Franz Joseph Glacier. I'll have to say, if you like the great outdoors, unspoiled by humans, the Trans-Alpine train ride is well worth experiencing! Bring your cameras.