Our Members - Their Stories

MDANZ members share their personal stories of living with a Muscular Dystrophy condition. 

Exploring the North Island on board the Northern Explorer

17 June 2021

Tegan Morris says the train journey from Hamilton to Wellington provides a unique perspective of our countryside and towns.

Tegan says the Northern Explorer was a great opportunity to see more of New Zealand - the views are spectacular during the 10.5 hour journey. She also took the opportunity to visit some sights in Wellington.

The Northern Explorer rail trip starts in Auckland and runs down through the central North Island, with its end point in Wellington.

My friends and I boarded the train in Hamilton, which is the second stop on its journey south.

Due to using a power chair and generally having other equipment to travel with, I have previously taken my van or, for shorter trips, I have flown from the Hamilton Domestic Airport.

But for this trip I wanted the opportunity to experience more of my country’s beautiful landscape, which is not able to be fully appreciated when we are zipping by in a vehicle or overhead in a plane.

When we were given our tickets and escorted on board the train, we were directed to the dining carriage, which is where the wheelchair spaces and accessible bathroom are located.

In order to board the train, I was loaded onto the wheelchair hoist, which is in the same area of the train. The lift is the same type of mechanism you would find in some mobility vehicles.

The dining area allows enough space for a person in a wheelchair to park in front of a table with a chair or chairs on the opposite side, with a similar arrangement on both sides of the carriage.

This means that passengers can decide which side they position themselves to enjoy the view and can face the opposite direction for the return journey if they choose.

On our trip, I was the only person in a wheelchair and with the Covid restrictions, there were less people on board, so we had more space available than perhaps there might have been during busier travel seasons.

The windows alongside the train carriages are large and offer amazing viewing opportunities, so you can take in the diverse landscape as the journey continues down the country.

Starting with the green farmland in the Waikato we then travel into the more forested and then tussock/tundra landscape of the Central Plateau.

After this it once again opens out into a variety of farmland and then coastal views as you near Wellington.

Some of the scenery is familiar if you have driven down the main highway but you get more of a spectacular view as the train brings you closer to rugged hillsides and expanses of bush.

Where it passes through the more remote hilly landscapes, river valleys and coastline there are unique views which you have more time to appreciate and photograph from the windows or the outdoor viewing carriage.

Unfortunately, the outdoor carriage and other parts of the train were not accessible in my chair, but if people are more mobile or perhaps with smaller chairs, they may be able to get to the outdoor area.

Even though I wasn’t able to go outside on the viewing carriage I don’t feel like I missed out at all as the highlight views like the Raurimu Spiral, Turangarere Horseshoe and Makatote Viaduct were just as stunning from inside the train.

These sites would also likely interest, not only those with an interest in trains, but also in engineering, due to the complexity and scale of the structures needed to achieve the functional track.

In our location in the dining cart, we were able to enjoy food available in the onboard café, as well as our own snacks.

The bathroom was very conveniently located in the entrance to the same carriage.

The route has several stops along the way. Most are brief, for the train to change drivers, but there are several stops where passengers can join or depart from the train.

The journey provided a unique view of the small communities and towns we passed through and the added height advantage and the placement of the rail tracks meant we saw parts of the townships that most visitors wouldn’t see.

As a history nerd, a highlight for me was being able to appreciate the older buildings and homes in the more remote places and the historic aspects of the train stations.

We found the staff were all helpful and pleasant and we were able to enjoy the views and the relaxing experience of the journey without having to worry about traffic or rest stops along the way.

The Northern Explorer leaves Auckland at 7.45am and arrives in Wellington at 6.25pm.

Known for her courageous and adventurous spirit Tegan Morris made the most of travelling overseas - before Covid-19 hit that is.
Instead, she turned her sights to travelling around NZ, and wrote this article about travelling on the Northern Explorer rail trip for the Winter edition of In Touch.
Sadly, Tegan passed away in May just weeks before the magazine was published.
Tegan, who had congenital myopathy, was always quick to make friends wherever she went, loved travelling and was always willing to share her knowledge and experience – often attending speaking engagements with Muscular Dystrophy Northern.
This was Tegan’s final adventure.


This article was originally published in the Winter 2021 edition of In Touch magazine. 

For more information please contact: 
Melanie Louden 
Communications and Marketing Advisor 
Muscular Dystrophy Association of New Zealand 
027 509 8774 
[email protected]