Nelson – Greymouth – Christchurch. (Friday 29 January)

I was woken up by the sound of running water a couple of hours before I had to get up … yes, it was raining again! However, by the time I had to undertake the 5 minute walk from my accommodation in Nelson to the bus stop, the rain had basically stopped, although it did come down again shortly after I got there. There was a moment of near panic when I looked at the ticket, and realised that it stated the departure point was in a different street, but some friendly locals said, yes, that’s true but after departing from the other bus station, it does a pick up at the information centre (consistently with the notice posted in the closed centre’s door), as indeed was the case.

I thought I’d only booked a regional bus trip from Nelson to Greymouth, but I got far more than this: a comfortable bus, a conductor who pointed out some of the points of interest, over the Hope Sassle followed (after a short stop at Murchison) by a spectacular trip down the Buller River gorges. I didn’t even know that these existed, but the journey involved traversing the “upper” and “lower” gorges – both great.

The route then took us from Westport to Greymouth along the West Coast Highway. The views are right up there with the Great Ocean Road and Big Sur. Included was a 20 minute “comfort stop” at Punakaiki, just enough time for a very quick walk along the cliff top walk.

Arrival at Greymouth was spot on time, and the transfer to the TranzAlpine train was almost seamless. Yes, you do have to check-in, but it was hassle-free: the Intercity bus gets the parking spot closest to the railway check-in (it does a big pick-up of people going further south, to the Fox Glacier), and so the effort involved with baggage is minimal.

I’ve previously done the Springfield to Arthur’s Pass section of the TranzApine, which it is true to say includes a couple of the most impressive sections, following the Waimakariri River down the valley to the Canterbury Plains. However, I’d forgotten how good that part was.   On top of that, the part I hadn’t already traversed, namely the ascent out of Greymouth up the river valleys and past Lake Brunner, through a couple of old mining/railway towns (including Otira)  then through the 8 ½ km tunnel just before Arthur’s Pass was also really good.

At Christchurch I opted for the shuttle and was soon checked in at the Ibis. New Zealand, like the US, seems to do shuttles quite well. The location of the hotel was very central, but I found out on my pre-dinner walk that that’s not all it seems in still-recovering-from the earthquake (5 years on!) Christchurch.

(Updated to include images)

IMG_0677a Buller river gorge
Buller River gorge


IMG_0678a narrow road
Narrow road alongside Buller River
IMG_0696a Buller river
Buller River


IMG_0704a Buller river nr Westport
Buller River near coast, at Westport


IMG_0722a West Coast
West coast scenery
IMG_0732a Blowhole, Punakaiki
Blowhole, Panakaiki
IMG_0742a River crossing, West Cst Hwy
River crossing, West Coast Hwy
IMG_0761a on TranzAlpine
Comfortable seating on TranzAlpine
IMG_0766a TranzAlpine
Train from observation car at rear
IMG_0777a Grey river 2
Grey River
IMG_0803a Lake Brunner
Lake Brunner
IMG_0824a slippage down the mountainside
Gravel slippages high up the mountains


IMG_0828a river near Otira
river near Otira
IMG_0847a tunnel portal Athur's Pass
Tunnel portal seen from Arthur’s Pass station
IMG_0859a Waimakariri River near Arthur's Pass
Waimakariri River, near Arthur’s Pass
IMG_0879a Mountain and Waimakirir River
Mountain and Waimakiriri River
IMG_0882a river gravels
River gravels, Waimakariri River
IMG_0894a river gravels and braiding of streams
River gravels and braiding of water flow



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