Sunday, February 15, 2009

the train

i took the train yesterday. the transalpine (so named for the apparent similarity between the terrain it traverses on it's journey from greymouth to christchurch and the alps) took a bit under five hours, which is longer than it's supposed to be but there is construction on the way and the train was forced to slow to a near crawl on several occasions. i don't know what it is about trains but i think they are my favorite way to travel. it's certainly nice to be able to take photographs with out a glass reflection in the way. i am always distressed when travelling by coach, that the driver doesn't pull over repeatedly to allow me to photograph the amazing landscape which is being passed by so swiftly.
so as not to miss any chance of a good shot i spent almost the entire time on the open air observation car. at times it would crowd, like when we passed through the mountain over a series of soaringly high bridges suspended precariously over gorges boasting pitufully brief rivers which will grow in winter, and through a pattern of sixteen tunnels in quick sucsession, there were people squeezed into every corner of the car, peering over other's heads in hopes of getting a photograph if possible. it was like the scene in the last pirates of the carribean when they are running from one side to the other of the boat, because there was really only a photographable view on on side at a time, so everyone would crowd to one side, and leave the other empty and abandoned, only to swarm over to it a minute later when the tracks curved and a stunning vista was now visable from that side. stocky middleaged men wore their enormouse cameras (with zoom lenses) around their necks like metals and the little kids could barely see over the railing. the mountains created by retreating glaciers looked like someone had carved them out of the clay with thier fingers, patches of forest looking like velvet in the density of the trees, with planted timber forests standing out precariously from their fellows in their uniform rows. the clouds were high and almost shiny in their whiteness and the sky was ridiculously blue.
after almost four hours spent in the open air there was a line of grime showing where my sunglasses had been, my hair was tangled beyond recognition ( it took forty minutes to comb out and i washed it twice to get all the soot out). i think i swallowed a bug while smiling into the oncoming wind but it was one of my best bouts with land travel thus far in this country. everything looked so wild and rich. saturated in color it was impossible to look away.

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