When traveling from Auckland to Palmy you are given two choices, hop a one hour flight to Wellington and then drive two hours north or hop on the Overlander for an 9-hour train ride through the heart of the north island.  The train seemed the thing for hip, young adventurers so we decided to take the train and steal a little of their youthful wanderlust.

Our plan was to wake up at 5:30am and head out for the station either by foot or by bus.  But facing sore muscles from the previous day’s volcano hike, to hell with penniless adventuring, we whipped out the money and called a taxi.

The train station was huge and I know they must have had a system, but at that time neither Steve nor I could figure it out.  We wandered a bit but were told to just hang out by the platform until the train pulled in.  Skeptical, yet exhausted, we found our way to the platform and waited for the Hogwarts Express.  To our amazement, the train arrived, a plucky woman hopped off and a line suddenly formed.  No security pat downs, no metal detectors not even a fruit sniffing beagle in a cheeky little vest.  Nope, she just checked your name off on a list and on you go.

Exhausted Cece is exhausted

Now remember all those hip young backpackers?  They must have taken the flight to Wellington because they certainly weren’t on the train.  But that’s fine since we had all the room we could hope for.  Or at least until we hit our first stop at Hamilton where the doors slid open and a potpourri of the world’s retirement population filled the seats.

We don't have open fields in Los Angeles. We covered them with gated communities.

9 hours is a long time.  In fact, it is a very, very long time.  We passed gorgeous scenery – rolling hills, pastures, cows, sheep and horses.  We passed under the shadows of volcanoes, over rushing waters, beside waterfalls and through leafy forests.  But 9 hours is a long time.

Look, a sheep! And a sheep! And a sheep! And a sheep! And a sheep! And a sheep! And a sheep! And a sheep! And a sheep! And a sheep! And a sheep! And a sheep! And a sheep! And a sheep! And a sheep! And a sheep! And a sheep!

We finally reached our destination and were greeted by our new friend Nic who offered to pick us up in exchange for a tub of Crisco and a bottle of corn syrup.  When I first heard this agreement between Nic and my husband, I was sure our “kind new friend” was going to pick us up from the train station, take the Crisco and make funnel cakes with our skin.  Thankfully, he did not.  Instead, he gave us a tour of the town as well as the Massey campus.

And then we got our first glimpse of our new home…