A derailed train!

Trip Start Feb 17, 2005
Trip End Feb 27, 2006

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

I only had 4 nights to spare if I wanted to return to The Mount for New Years Eve, which meant that this trip to the Coromandel would be a bit of a rush job. In fact, I'd booked into a different hostel for each separate night I was there, which is unheard of for me - I usually like to take my time and see things properly. Unfortunately, I have to work in January, meaning that my actual travelling time in New Zealand is down to a mere 2-3 weeks, so I had no option but to squeeze the Coromandel in now...

I've mentioned snoring a few times already in this journal, but I've never experienced anything as bad as on Boxing Day night. Two new guys were in my dorm, and both of them could snore for New Zealand! One of the guys was in the bed above me, and a few prods from below temporarily put him out of action. The other guy was more persistent though, and even shaking his bed didn't have much effect. In the end, I played my minidisc at full blast and I managed to get some sleep. I woke at 7.30am to find Sohei asleep in the games room, behind the pool table...he'd taken more drastic measures to avoid the animal noises filtering out of our room!

I took a taxi to Tauranga to catch the early bus to Coromandel Town so that I'd have plenty of time to explore. It probably took about 3 hours in total because the roads were very windy, but the weather was great and consequently, so were the views. The bus even stopped at one point so that we could all get a photograph.

We arrived at Tui Lodge at 11.30am, and it looked like a homely, laid back kind of place, complete with hammocks that I hoped to take advantage of later in the day. For now though, I wanted to have a mooch around, so I walked into town and browsed through the shops. I ate a mince pie before tackling a short walk up to an old Maori pa site, which offered 360 degree views of Coromandel Town and the surrounding area.

The main thing I wanted to do in this part of the peninsula was to take a ride on the Driving Creek Railway, a tourist attraction that took 27 years to build. This unique train runs up steep grades and into the hills, and by all accounts it is a scenic hour long journey that shouldn't be missed. So, I walked for 3km until I reached it, paid my $17 admission fee, and waited for 3pm to come around.

It gradually busied up over the course of the 45 minutes I had to wait, and I killed time by watching a video about the guy who built the railway. It was interesting stuff, and I was looking forward to hopping on the little train...

I somehow got a double seat to myself, surprising as the rest of the train was choc-a-bloc (maybe I need to buy stronger deodorant!). I was pleased as it meant I could slide from side to side, depending on which one offered the best view. A couple of times we stopped so that we could see the other train pass beneath us, and occasionally there'd be a break in the trees and we'd be treated to a fine view. The driver's commentary was amusing as well, as he came out with a barrage of Aussie bashing jokes...always a good thing!

Everything was going swimmingly, and I was looking forward to reaching the Eye-full Tower at the top, when all of a sudden, there was a 'thud.' This didn't sound good, but everyone was laughing, one guy saying that the train was like the All Blacks...always coming off the rails! And sure enough, the train had derailed, and the driver looked flummaxed as he walked past us to have a look. There was an air of disappointment when he said that we had to walk back along the track until the other train picked us up - we just thought he'd somehow lift us back on and away we'd go!

I wasn't too disheartened though as we'd been travelling for a good 15 minutes, and actually walking on the track, as bizarre as it felt, provided more time to stop and have a look out at the scenery. I was even more chuffed when the other train met us to take us back, and the driver said that we'd get a refund! OK, I didn't reach the lookout at the top, but I'd been on the Driving Creek Railway for about 45 minutes by the time we returned, and it hadn't cost me a penny.

I celebrated by buying myself chicken nuggets and chips from the chippy, and taking them back to the hostel. I spent an hour or so relaxing in one of the hammocks, listening to Weezer with the sun beating down on me. When it started getting dark, I went inside and got chatting to a couple of English girls who were staying in my dorm. They'd only just arrived in New Zealand, so I gave them a few tips, primarily the fact that BBH hostels are the best...I even gave them my BBH book. It's nice helping others who are just starting their journey, but it also makes me wistful that mine is coming to an end. Still, I had lots to look forward to, beginning with a trip to Whitianga the next day...
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