Free from responsibility for another week I decided to take a trip down to visit some friends near Wellington. Simply because I’d never done it before I decided to take the train. Big mistake! When you book your tickets you are assured that it is up-to-date electronic ticketing. However you are commanded to print the receipt. This is a sneaky way of getting you to print your own ticket thus saving the railways billions of dollars in paper. When you turn up for check in all you are presented with is a woman with a clipboard. As with all clipboard wielding individuals she holds all the power, so be nice to her because she decides on the spot where you will sit. Once on the train you are given business-class legroom but a chair that doesn’t recline. Although the old railways mugs made from a whole toilet-worth of clay are no more you do have a tray-table made from a solid piece of cast aluminum. This is a bit of an intelligence test because it lives in the seat-pocket and needs to be folded in to the arm rest when required. Most people just ended up leaving it on their lap – all 20000kg of it.
The trip itself is about 11 hours long – mine was 40 min longer due to badgers eating signal boxes and the porter’s sideburns interfering with the radio. It has a constant soundtrack of the gentle click of the carriages going along the track, and the squawk of the commentary. I had memorised this by Hamilton because you get the same ten minute welcome brief after every stop to collect passengers.
To put it lightly, the scenery is chair-knawingly boring. If you’ve ever driven down country before you’ve already seen everything you need to, and without having to be reminded that pies are available from the dining car for the next half-hour. If you were a grass specialist or fence appraiser there might be something in it for you, otherwise get set for 11 hours of fields and backsides of towns. The so-called highlight (Raurimu Spiral) is better viewed from the road anyway – all you see on the train is a hill and some tunnels.
My highlight was seeing Kevin just after Waiouru. Apparently this chap waves at the train every time it comes past – and I was lucky enough to see him waving a towel at us.
I escaped from the train at Paraparaumu where some friends had been nice enough to put me up (put up with me?) for a few days. Their place became my patrol base for incursions in to Wellington. However I found I had been beaten to Wellington by the French.
From there I went to the place that I have to visit when in Wellington.
The next day Wellington put on a lovely storm for me so I decided to have some indoor entertainment.
I think I should point out some of the symbolism here. In this statue the document in Seddon’s right hand represents a bribe from the brewing industry. The other hand is raised up in a traditional Anglo-Saxon gesture towards the Prime Minster’s office.
Wellington is home to many great buildings, including this one where the builder built the plans as they were folded.
The rest of the city is in running with Auckland for its harmonious melding of old and new.
I decided to take a trip in the cable car but being school holidays I was joined by the whole under-7 national squealing development squad. At the top I managed to throw them off by proceeding in the direction of the Carter Observatory. However this time, as always, Wellington reminded me of SimCity.
It’s something about the way the houses are perched in the most ridiculous places like someone went mad with the terrain tool.