The Grass Converters Social Club was formed nearly two years ago but for various reasons (drought, feeding out, shearing, calving, stock movements, irrigation…) has just had its inaugural outing.
We chose the Taieri Gorge Railway for the event, met at the Dunedin Railway Station and by virtue of numbers (21) claimed a carriage for ourselves. Indifferent weather meant some of the views weren’t as spectacular as they would be when framed by the large blue skies for which Central Otago is famed; but the scenery was still stunning.
The intercom commentary, though occasionally drowned out by competing noise, gave an interesting mix of history and geography. It was supplemented by Joe (who said he wasn’t a conductor, but didn’t say what he was) who popped through the carriage at irregular intervals with jokes and updates on points of interest outside.
As we stopped on the vertiginous Wingatui Viaduct, 197m long and 47m above Mullocky Stream, we could only marvel at the engineering and physical prowess of the men who laboured 12 years on the track which linked Dunedin with the Central Otago hinterland.
The train left Dunedin station at 12.30; took us to Pukerangi, where a carriage of Japanese tourists disembarked to continue their journey to Queenstown by bus. Had it been summer we’d have been able to go the extra 19 kilometres to Middlemarch, since it wasn’t we changed direction and chugged back to Dunedin reaching the station as promised at exactly 4.30.
I have no reservations about commending the journey – but advise you to eat before you leave or take your own picnic. The food for sale (with the exception of the scones) was at best ordinary. The menu featured white bread sandwiches heavy on fat and protein, light on fibre and vitamins ($4.50) and the oxymoronic microwavable pies (3.50). We were told the advertised quiche – ham and tomato or vegetable (wrapped) ($2.50) or fresh ($4.50) were off – which I think was referring to availability not condition.