Had a great trip on the Trans Alpine train - I had no idea that the South Island was so scenic - building the tracks and roads over this side is quite an epic story as well. We've since done coach journeys with commentary down the west coast, ending up at Queenstown. Yesterday we went over the mountains to Milford Sound for a nature cruise. We saw a penguin (just the one) but it was a very rare one apparently, and fur seals. The shear cliffs and long waterfalls are impressive.
It feels like we are in Switzerland, only it is all much more isolated. The really sad thing is that the native bird population has been decimated by possums which were brought over from Australia for the fur trade. They have spread all over and climb trees to get at the birds' nests. The Dept of conservation is doing a trapping and poisoning programme to try to reduce the numbers of them, but there is so much land which is just native bush that it seems an insurmountable task. Meanwhile English introduced species are doing well - sparrows, blackbirds and chaffinches are everywhere.