Friday 12 October 2018

Stuff Readers Rail Tour - IMHO

Today I parted company from the Stuff Readers' Rail Tour, which still has five days to run. It's nothing personal: the route from here visits places most of which I've been to fairly recently, and the six days I've been with it have given me enough experience to be able to write my story about it. It was all arranged beforehand.

Am I a fan of the tour? Well, yes, I can definitely see the appeal for people, especially if they haven't been to the places on the route for a while - or even at all. There were some who were in Dunedin for their first time ever! Considering the group was pretty much all Kiwi Baby Boomers and above, I think that was a bit shameful. And others, who had already been, still enjoyed seeing them again - and not having to do the driving themselves this time.

Dale and Philip, plus the hostess (who changed halfway through) all did their best to make sure everyone had a good time. The guys were an especially good double act, friends since school and very laid-back and practical, as well as enthusiastic about the route they had chosen for us.

The hotels were all (apart from Greymouth) high quality, and the food, though buffets can get a bit samey, was ruinously good. The arrangements were seamless, the coaches comfortable, the drivers (especially Steve) excellent, and the trains were fun.

In Dunedin, after I left, some people chose to ride the Taieri Gorge Railway, then the coaches headed off to Te Anau, stopping in Mandeville to visit the air museum there (but sadly the weather would be too windy for anyone to do the biplane flight). The next day, from Te Anau they did a trip to Lake Manapouri, crossing on a boat to take another coach to Doubtful Sound for a cruise. Then it was off to Queenstown, for lunch at the Skyline, then via Arrowtown to overnight at Wanaka. Next day, they drove to Omarama to visit a salmon farm and then on to Mt Cook to stay at the Hermitage (where, I hope, the Greymouth dipper-outerers got the best rooms). There was a day of varied activities, like helicopter and ski plane adventures, hiking and so on, and then the next and final day there was a long drive via Tekapo and the Church of the Good Shepherd back through Geraldine to Christchurch.

My only reservation about the tour was the number of OWMs on board, and that's really a personal prejudice (born of oh! so many grim encounters) - and of course, that is a variable element. But on this particular tour there were a lot of very boring old men who droned on and on, and talked over everyone else (ie the women) and were just so insufferably self-important that the only answer, bar leaping off the train, was earplugs and Bohemian Rhapsody at high volume. Think I'm being super-sensitive? Then here's your proof:
Of course, if you're an OWM yourself, you'll be in your element!

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