We enjoyed a spectacular coast-to-coast train journey from Christchurch across the Canterbury Plains through Arthur’s Pass and the mountains to Greymouth. A stop in Arthur’s Pass provides access to trailheads for those hiking in the national park. This is the highest of the passes through the Southern Alps. A half-hour stop is scheduled in Greymouth, then the train returns to Christchurch the same day.
Apart from the geography, there is a difference from west to east due to the difference in rainfall. Some locations in the mountains measure rainfall in metres per year while the plains receives less than a metre. Dry conditions in the east provide pastures for sheep. Winter temperatures frequently drop below freezing. In the west, lush rainforests cover the lower slopes of the coastal mountains and temperatures are moderate year-round. In the mountains, heavy rains and snow-capped peaks are the norm.
River beds are composed of rock carried down from the mountains. Waitamata River cuts through a gorge on its way to the Tasman Sea. There are 16 tunnels and 4 viaducts along this rail line; Otira Tunnel is the longest at 8.5 km and was considered an engineering feat when constructed in 1923. Staircase Viaduct is the highest at 75 metres.
Arthur’s Pass has the highest elevation of the passes that cross the mountains.
Moana is the village at the centre of cottage country on Lake Brunner near Greymouth.
The clouds lifted for the return journey.