Local Heart, Global Soul

November 25, 2018

The TranzAlpine Rolls Through Downtown..

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Whilst we are on the subject of quirky, Greymouth also has another interesting feature to it’s name.

This is that, the train line runs very close to the town centre, so you are literally just off the main street and on quite a large intersection, suddenly the barrier arms come down and a train goes though.

On the occasion that we waited for the train to go past, it was not just “any” train either, but the world famous “TranzAlpine Express”  that takes the scenic tour though the Arthurs Pass from Christchurch to Greymouth.

On the way it passes through the Otira tunnel, (prounounced” Oh Tear rah”) …a very special piece of engineering, built by hand with pick axes, and I could hardly better the Wikipedia Otira Tunnel text so I’ll just quote just a small section of the article here;

“…tunnel runs under the Southern Alps from Arthur’s Pass to Otira – a length of over 8.5 kilometres (5.3 mi). The gradient is mainly 1 in 33, and the Otira end of the tunnel is over 250 m (820 ft) lower than the Arthur’s Pass end. Construction commenced in 1907 and a “breakthrough” celebration was held on 21 August 1918 by the Minister of Public Works Sir William Fraser. When the tunnel opened on 4 August 1923, it was the seventh longest tunnel in the world and the longest in the British Empire.”

I remember from school trips that despite the large height difference at each end of the tunnel, the engineers were so through with their calculations that they were only 1 meter (3 feet) “off” from the exact center of the tunnel when tunnellers from both ends met.

In addition to the large non-reflective glass windows in the carriages, there are also special glass panels along the roof edges of the train so that passengers seated indoors can make the most of the panoramic views and an observation car, part of which is open-air (except when inside the Otira tunnel section) for the most breath-taking views of all. We see some tourists waving to us as the train passes over the crossing, they are going on one of the world’s most spectacular journeys.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

October 4, 2013

An Unnamed Road That Transports Us To France…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

In continuation of yesterday’s post, we are in Folkestone and on our way to the channel tunnel just seven kilometres down the road.

The temperatures are not too bad but the weather is  grey and damp as we leave the United Kingdom behind.

We laugh when we see that our kids first think is a playground area… it turns out that it’s not a kids playground, it’s a dog walking and dog toilet area for pooches to use who are making the crossing with their owners.

We stop at the shopping area so that everyone can take a toilet break before we go back to the car, and spy a delightfully decorated Smart car in the car park.

We then drive aboard the train and giggle as Our Lady Of The Tom Tom gets very confused, can’t finish the instruction she was giving us, pauses, asks us to “turn around when possible”, (sorry lady, this really isn’t possible when you are sitting in the channel tunnel train) and then gives up, labelling our current position as “unnamed road”.  Thirty-five minutes later we drive off the train on the French side where it’s just as drizzly and grey as back in the United Kingdom.   The motorway isn’t too busy as it’s late afternoon,  Velvetine and the kids make themselves comfortable and take a nap in the back as we exit Calais and turn the van northwards…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

July 31, 2013

Tunneling North Through the Dartford Crossing…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Last summer we took our visiting Singaporean friend on a big adventure, we have been visiting friends of the Kiwidutch family in Folkestone and are now heading a little north of London.

We are a little worried about the traffic around London and around the Dartford Crossing because we had heard many horror stories of traffic delays there.

I expected to find two bridges there but was surprised to see that there is a tunnel going under the river if you are heading northwards and a gigantic bridge to cross instead if you are travelling southwards.

It’s a toll road and although there is wall to wall of traffic on both directions our northward flow keeps moving at a steady flow so it didn’t take too long before we were out the other side and moving at proper motorway pace once again.

The motor way traffic is kind too despite more predictions of bad traffic problems due to the 2012 Olympics running at the same time in nearby London and we managed to reach our next destination in almost a “normal” amount of time. Our destination is just a short distance from Stansted Airport: the village of Great Dunmow.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

July 23, 2013

Tunnelling Under the English Channel… in a Train!

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

You are leafing through the pages of my  journal and now find yourself virtually stuffed into my suitcase and following our adventures of last Summer.

Our Singaporean friend hardly knows what hit her… her feet had barely touched down on European soil when we bundled her jet-lagged self into our hired van and started whisking her through multiple countries.

Now we are in France, Calais to be precise and waiting  with curious apprehension to board the Channel Tunnel Train for the first time.

The procedure turns out to be remarkably simple and quick…  my first assumption was that our car would be loaded onto a regular railway carriage and that then all the carriages would be linked together for the journey, but  how wrong I was.

Instead imagine the train as a  very long tube with a hole at each end. Vehicles enter the tube  at one end and since the tube is completely open inside, they drive the length of the tube and then stop at the end.

Channel Tunnel Marshalls stop the vehicles at regular intervals to leave some important gaps between them and these gaps look like the joins in the tube at first but they actually turn out to be very sophisticated sets of bi-fold doors that fold out and make instant compartments once the train has been filled with vehicles.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

It may not be immediately apparent from the photos but the train is a double-decker one (What’s the bet that that part was an English idea?) and for our journey we have entered the train and gone up a ramp to the upper level of the train.

Passengers remain in their cars inside their “compartment” for the thirty five minute journey through the tunnel, there are lights in the carriage and if you like you may stand to the side of the car but not behind it, but that said I think they prefer you to sit in your car for the crossing.

They do advise that you wind your windows down half-way and since the day we crossed was close to 30 C  (86F) the marshalls in the train were going around handing out free bottles of water.

Since Kiwi Daughter and I both get sea-sick as well as car sick,  it was very nice to have avoided a three and a half hour boat crossing of the English Channel and whilst Himself said when I booked the trip that he’d rather have taken the boat, once we’d experienced the crossing he was a convert to the train.

It many have been more expensive than the boat but the time we saved was worth the extra and getting on and off was a breeze. The only one who had problems with the crossing was Our Lady of the Tom Tom who experienced some serious confusion  in her little display face trying to figure out where we were!

As we exit the  train at the other end and see cars queuing on the other side for their trip to France, Velvetinenut is still marvelling at the fact that she’s managed to have been in four different European countries in a car today. Whistle-stop tour indeed… but there are still many  more adventures to experience yet!

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

July 22, 2013

Preparing to Go Underground…

Filed under: Channel Tunnel,FRANCE,PHOTOGRAPHY — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

In this page of my 2012 summer journal, we have left Belgium behind and have now crossed into northern France. We are headed for Calais … but not  this time for the ferry terminal.

Instead today we are intending to take our first ever trip through the channel tunnel.

The entrance road is a lot longer than I thought it would be, but after a while we pass through the French customs checkpoint, there are plenty of signs in both French and English to direct you and following the request to have your passports ready for viewing would speed up any queues.

Even on this hot August afternoon there is surprisingly little traffic and Himself and I have time to wish a cheery hello to the French customs officials.

A short distance down the road we stop again for the British Boarder control and after a quick switch from French to English we request  a stamp in the children’s passports (not usually allowed since they are travelling here on their Dutch passports and usually there are no stamps issued for EU passport holders).

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

After explaining that they just wanted it for decorative reasons so that they may have a souvenir of the journey they gave the children’s passports a stamp, but added “by request” next to them  to absolve themselves of blame should the powers-that-be who might audit two small Dutch children’s passports take them to task for doing so.

I like the statue / Monument that is made up of pieces of the giant boring machine at made the actual tunnel… nice touch.

After successfully clearing customs and managing to not cause any international incidents by our request we then take a road that winds all over the place but ends up in a massive car park with some very large duty free shopping establishments along side.

It was hot so we had all the doors open in the parked up van and Little Mr., who since we were parked had removed his seatbelt provided some drama in the car park after wiggling on his booster seat whilst trying to retrieve some coloured pencils off the floor.

I was in the front passenger set of the van reaching back also searching the floor when to my horror Little Mr. disappeared suddenly from view… he’d managed to completely tumble out of the other side of the van, booster seat and all.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

I got to him as fast as I could to assess the damage:  luckily he was shaken rather than broken and a cuddle was all that was needed to stem the tears but it was a good warning that his booster seat slides on, rather than grips the car sear so we’ve had a lesson that he needs to be very careful if the van door is open from now on.

I’m not feeling like tacking the crowds inside the shopping area but Himself and Velvetine escort Little Mr. and Kiwi Daughter inside for toilet stops and try and track down a nice “Euro tunnel” fridge magnet for my collection.

No luck… either they missed them or the Tunnel is missing a souvenir idea opportunity. Never mind.

There are huge billboard signs detailing the status of the next train departures, they flash on  and off alternately in English and French (logical) but what made us laugh were the rows and rows of “Grande-Bretagne” signs that I’m sure would look less comical when the car park was completely filled.

I laugh that surely the French don’t need signposts to England… after all haven’t they managed to find it perfectly well in centuries past whenever the mood for invasion prevailed?   Once we are all refreshed and recovered we little band of Dutch and one Singaporean invader climb back into the van and use a “few” signs to point us in the direction of Grande-Bretagne.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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