Auckland Nov 5th 13-18°C, Mostly cloudy.
Wellington 11-18°C, Mostly sunny.
Early start, 6:30 taxi(NZ$10) to Auckland Strand station. 7:00 check-in for the 'Northern Explorer' to Wellington. Comfortable seats with plenty of legroom, panoramic windows, smooth ride on airbag suspension.
Cafe car opened at 7:00, nice coffee, wraps, sandwiches and drinks available.
Green rolling hills and rural countryside to Hamilton, the train moves along at about 80-100kph, bit rocky but not bad.
Beyond Hamilton the scenery puts on a really good show as the train climbs towards the Raurimu Spiral and National Park. Mt Ngauruhoe and Mt Tongariro were visible except for the top one third which was buried in a dark cloud.
Passing Waiouru, the snow-capped volcanic cone of Mt Ruapehu was clearly visible.
Overall from Hamilton to Palmerston the scenery was amazing, convoluted green hills, forests, snow capped volcanos, tall viaducts over precipitous gorges and fast flowing rivers. A little further on from Paekakariki Stn the line follows closely along a very scenic part of the coastline for a couple of kilometres. This time of year (November), the late afternoon sun lights the Paekakariki escarpment and wildflower display to the left side, and reflects off the waves and sand to the right.
You end up just putting the camera away and watching the show, from the open-air viewing car if you have a warm windproof jacket.
Checked in to Trinity Hotel, quite nice single room on the 6th floor. Really impressive for the low price.