We were lunching at Dawson Falls Mountain Lodge and cafe, a unique Swiss style lodge situated 900m on Mt Egmont. 50 hungry travellers filed inside the cafe, found seats at the roomy tables, and a light lunch was served. Very tasty, and the waitress with the coffee pots kept circulating amongst the tables for those wanting top-ups. All the rooms were decorated with Swiss style wooden carvings, and a huge cow bell hung above the bar. Skis were hung from walls, even in the ladies loos I noticed, and there were two cosy lounge areas for guest to relax in. Not that we could sit about relaxing in the lounge, you know what it’s like on a bus trip, soon time to climb aboard after our lunch.
We had a quick visit to the nearby Department of Conservation Centre, and found out some very useful information. As we have a self contained caravan, we were assured that we were quite welcome to freedom camp in the roomy car-park. In fact, we could stay several nights, we were told. What a good idea – especially as we never did get the chance to walk to Dawson falls, being on a strict timetable to get back on the bus. And down the mountain we drove, nearly giving the drivers of two cars travelling uphill a nervous breakdown when they rounded a corner to see the huge bus taking up most of the road.
Finding our seats on the train, we settled down for the return journey, travelling back along the Patea River which flowed into the sea. The Patea Freezing Works building flashed by too quickly for a photo – it has been closed for some time now, and is crumbling into disrepair.
Our train had it’s very own groupie, or maybe he was a stalker. We saw this blue car parked up several times during the day at strategic positions, ready to snap photos as we rumbled past.
The train stewards were kept busy, delivering chocolates, a questionnaire for us to complete, and a list of upcoming trips. They had time to stop and chat, and some of them have been involved with the Steam Rail Society for quite some time. The sights kept flashing by, and we watched as a group of dairy cows walked themselves towards the milking shed.
After the stops at Wanganui and Marton to let passengers off, we settled down to the last segment of the trip, arriving back in Feilding just after 7.00pm. It had been a long day, 11 hours in total, but very enjoyable. And it was a nice touch to see the flags on the rear of the train, because, as the whole world should know, the All Blacks had won the Rugby World Cup in the early hours of the morning, our time.
What a great day, we love train trips. And just for a change, we dined out at that well known chain of Scottish restaurants before heading back to Kiwitea and our caravan. Can’t remember when we last dined at one of those, but “someone” had a hankering for one of their apple pies – and it was delicious, just as I remembered them.