|Another early morning this morning - Nick had set the alarm for 5.30 again. We dressed, packed and loaded up the bikes as loudly as we could to get back at the noisy buggers who kept us awake and woke us up throughout the night. Nothing wrong with Backpackers accommodation except for the fact that backpackers are generally young and ignorant! Talking, banging doors, making phone calls (at 4am on the public phone outside our room!). We were on the road just after 6.30, just as it started to rain, fortunately only drizzle. The ride to the station was about 20 minutes and we checked in for the train pretty much dead on time at 7.00.
We had to remove our panniers and check them in as luggage, and then check our bikes in too. We hauled them into the baggage car ourselves, and left them – with some trepidation – with a rather grumpy and heavy handed baggage car attendant.
Luck was on our side with seat allocation – two out of three of the carriages being full, we were fortunately in a very sparsely populated one. No screaming children or nattering adults. The train pulled out at 7.28 – about 3 minutes behind schedule.
I committed to stay awake for the full 6 hour journey, and managed to keep the pledge for about 2 hours. The scenic Overlander comes complete with a live commentator, in the form of Alan, who sits in the baggage car looking out of the window, keeping you informed of the things of interest that you are passing. Initially the comments came every 10 to 15 minutes or so, keeping me interested and alert on what was passing the windows. At some point though, the land flattened out, Alan informed us we were crossing farming country and then didn't say very much for quite a while and I somehow managed to recline my seat and drift in and out of quite a long sleep – much to Nick's disgust. Mind you, he had his nose in a book for most of the time (Andreas gave him a copy of The Kite Runner).
We also had our first taste of a New Zealand pie. Although on a train is perhaps not the best place to judge such a thing (I keep thinking of British Rail food). New Zealand pies are apparently world renowned. Nick found a book in a book shop about a young kiwi who was working in London and on a particularly cold and wet winter day he suddenly got a yearning for a home baked pie. He jumped on his bicycle and cycled home – yes to New Zealand – across 22 countries). Well he probably would have been disappointed with the train version, but it was ok.
Anyway, overall the train journey was a great success and a great way to see the countryside.
We were a little bit late getting into Ohakune, which was our destination, and about half way between Wellington and Auckland on the Overlander. The weather had improved with each mile further north that we traveled and we alighted to warm and sunny conditions. Perhaps by now we should have expected it, but the strength of the wind really took us by surprise. We'd hoped of course, to have left the strong wind behind, and even found evidence that we had on the journey, closely watching the trees for movement.
We loaded up our bikes, bent down behind our handle bars and battled the short journey into town and to the camp site.
We were only planning an overnight stop, before heading off towards National Park (yes, they have a town called that) in the morning. Our plans may have hit an obstacle in that wind though. We popped into the tourist office to ask about the best way to 'do' the Tongariro Crossing (purportedly one of the best one-day walks in New Zealand) only to be advised against it, in the next few days at least, because of severe weather moving in. Gale force winds and rain for the next 2 to 3 days! Hmmm, time for a rethink.
Anyway, got the tent up, despite the increasing wind, popped into town and just settled on going to the supermarket (silly to use good weather to investigate a town we are likely to be getting to know very well in the next few wet days).
Spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in the sun and reading. Enjoyed lovely showers and just starting cajun chicken for dinner.