A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about train travel

The saga of Regina and Cory and the night train

Barbra Streisand

View Post-Grad on ctamler's travel map.

first, to set the scene:

characters - Regina and Cory
goal - 12:47am train from Rome (where we celebrated NYE with our friend Adam) to Milan
scene - all over the city of Rome, Italy (background: old stuff)

we left Adam at Hostel Lido (the site of our magical NYE celebrations) feeling like we were sitting pretty. it was only about 11pm and we had almost 2 hours to make it to Tiburtina. we walked fairly quickly to the Lido station, but naturally had to wait until 11:30 until our train left -- Hostel Lido's one downfall is that, being not really Rome but a major suburb of Rome, it's a bit of a trek from Rome proper. well, that's okay, we still had an hour and fifteen minutes. we get off at the EUR MaglaakldgaklfdgnuItalianItalian stop shortly before midnight and saunter up to the metra stop to wait for the subway. two train station security guards wave to us from the other side of the platform. we smile and wave back.

they wave back more aggressively. "chiuso. chiuso. la treno, chiuso." (or whatever's Italian for "the train is not running anymore.")

if you have ever seen two balloons deflating...

we run down from the platform. the security guards repeat "the train is closed!" to us. of course NOW we remember the signs we'd all been seeing for the past 3 days: about how the metra stops running at 11:30pm on weekdays...when we tell them we're trying to get to Tiburtina, the one who seems to speak no English makes a very pitying and exasperated face at us. i think he says something like "can't be done," in Italian.

the other guy is more positive. "night bus n2. take this train." he shoves us toward the train going in the opposite direction, which has just arrived on the platform. "you go. you take. last train. take one stop. get off. one stop. bus n2. Viale Beethoven. you go. take last train. go! go!" and he ushers us on. Regina makes it. the door closes on me and my backpack gets stuck, and the helpful guard pries the door open to pop me through. did i mention this was the last train?

shell-shocked, we get off one stop later. we aren't sure that he said "Beethoven," can't find it on the map, and it's now shortly after midnight...we have 45 minutes to make it to Tiburtina on the other side of the city. Regina runs to look at the nearest bus stop to see if the n2 stops there while i sprint into a still-open cafe. neither of the guys at the counter speak English but i manage to tell them we are looking for bus n2. after some rapid Italian exchanges the younger one tells me, with appropriate hand gestures, but all in Italian, to walk to the left, make the first right, go 4 streets, and make another right.

Regina and i sprint off, following his directions, which do happen to lead us to Viale Beethoven and an n2 bus stop. the bus comes at 12:11am. we have 36 minutes to get to Tiburtina. we do not talk to each other during the ride, other than to make pseudo-cheerful comments like "we'll make it," "we're morons," "maybe we'll sleep in the train station," and "hey, we can always hang out at the Trevi Fountain at 3am!"

12:39am: we pull up to Termini. the bus pulls into its stall and chills. it is not going anywhere. we wait two minutes before evacuating the waiting bus. with six minutes to make it to Tiburtina before our train's scheduled to leave, we run frantically around the construction-littered parking lot until we find the taxi stands. "how long from here to Tiburtina?" i ask one of the drivers.

"how much?"

"no, how long, how many minutes!"

he considers. "seven...ten minutes."

Regina and i exchange desperate glances. "that's too long," we say. but then Regina says, "should we risk it? maybe the train will be late?" we both remember how sketchy Tiburtina was and consider how terrible it would be to spend the night there. it's the dumbest possible choice, but we say, "yes, take us."

after ridiculing us lightly with his fellow taxiers in Italian, the driver books it to Tiburtina. it's 12:51am when we pull in, yank our luggage out of the back, and sprint -- without hope -- into the deserted station. up on the board we see our train number, 830, to Milan. still listed. with a 15 minute delay.

we arrive on the platform panting like idiots and laughing hysterically (/practically crying) from relief to be greeted by the stares of fifty pissed-off Italians who are less than happy about that 15 minute delay. "i could KISS this train for being late," Regina gasps. here we are, being thrilled:


9 hours later we pulled back into Milan, on a train we had no right to be on, after having walked, ridden a train, ridden the metra, ridden a night bus, hailed a taxi, sprinted, and faked a lot of Italian to get there. i will never complain about a late train again.

and now, to share the great musical discovery of our trip:

thank you, Italian Döner and Pizza shop...for saving us from our NYE famine and for bringing us Barbra Streisand.

Posted by ctamler 06:23 Archived in Italy Tagged night backpacking train_travel Comments (0)

trip-dub trip

wellington/wanganui/waitomo (note: all photos taken by sam)

View Studying in Auckland on ctamler's travel map.

i don't know why i woke up at 6:30 this morning, unable to go back to sleep. (sleep again. resleep.) a long three days on the road -- gave me energy? made me restless? it's three weeks nearly to the hour until i set foot on home soil again for a while.

we (kirstin, zack, sam, cody, me) jumped on the overlander at the britomart travel center on sunday morning. train travel in europe is so fast-paced, so automated, so commonplace; here, we had to ask three employees before someone could tell us that we didn't need to pick up a ticket, we just had to check in with train staff. sam ended up having to spend most of the 12-hour journey sitting alone, towards the front of the train with her more expensive ticket (the cheap ones had been nearly sold out when we booked). however, there was a sweet "lounge area" at the rear of the train that we made use of for a good hour or possibly more, completely ignoring the "please don't spend more than 20 minutes here so that everyone can have a turn" rule. every train should have a lounge area, a semicircle of benches by a big bay window looking out over what you've just passed.


the ride was beautiful. it takes an hour or two to get out of industrial backyards and grubby suburbs, but once you're in it, new zealand scenery never fails to take breath. everything is green, and rivers and waterfalls spring on you out of nowhere. we spiraled up to the national park and rolled across five viaducts, one of which is "considered to be the largest on the north island." i don't know what it means for a viaduct to be "considered the largest," but it is, in any case.

i sat with zack. zack is a good travel buddy -- the time passes quickly but not in a way that makes you feel you're missing things. a large chunk of train time was devoted to a game he invented which i call "strangers on a train" and which basically involves taking pictures of people you don't know on the train. he has some gems.

i would just like to note before i forget that the exchange rate is going through the roof...you keep thinking it can't get better, but oh, it can, friends, it can. i guess i have my own country to thank for fucking up the global economy.

in wellington, we checked into our hostel and wandered around the city looking for dinner. it was around 9pm on a sunday by this point, the sunday of a holiday weekend no less, and so nearly everything was closed. we wandered past the most eclectic collection of statues and public art i've seen in one small city: scattered throughout wellington are a pirate ship bridge, a giant umbrella,


huge metal slabs with braille of matching size, a writhing fountain that possibly is meant to evoke the silver fern...more, more i can't remember. on the waterfront we finally found a place to sate our hunger with seafood ramen and after stuffing ourselves, stumbled across a fireworks show about to start. i think it was part of diwali. well, usually i am unimpressed by fireworks displays, they seem so random, so lacking in artistry; but this one was beautifully orchestrated -- it was actually a show, not just a random collection of colors and bangs.

monday was a lazy and indecisive day. the beautiful weather just fed into our collective want to wander instead of picking up the car or making a plan of action.


we ate a leisurely breakfast at the abovepictured location, attended by a bitter and lame seagull; happened across a free museum and spent a few hours learning about earthquakes and gondwanaland and nz bush; had a picnic and a nap. it ended up working out for the best in terms of picking up the car, which turned out to be something of a hassle that i don't really feel like going into. the moral of the story is, of course, that nothing is ever actually free.

we finally got on the road, headed to wanganui with no ideas as to where to stay or what to do there. on the way we stopped to get blown about by a stunning and windy view of the tasman sea and to buy fifty-cent ice cream at mcdonald's. in wanganui well after dark, we asked a taxi driver for the cheapest motel around and by some miracle managed to follow his directions to the sports lodge, which ended up (split between the five of us) being cheaper than our hostel and had free hot chocolate to boot. at first we hid zack in the car, thinking they might only have a room for four and we'd need to sneak him in. then we had an awkward encounter with the man at reception who thought we were some other group of people and kept telling us "they'll be right out, i'm sure, although -- well i don't see any movements in there -- but i'm sure they'll be out soon, sorry about that, as soon as you see them come out you can..."

eventually he figured out that our blank stares were actually of complete confusion, not anger.

tuesday morning i woke up early and drove alone up durie hill on the other side of town, listening to old, old songs on the radio, window down to catch the chilly post-sunrise air. at the top of durie hill is a tower, a memorial, with 176 steps that you can climb and look down over wanganui. it was like a castle turret, a beautifully solitary thing, and i felt very alone and able to see everything and peaceful, that feeling where everything inside of you is still and watchful.

later i found a playground: the best i have ever seen. it had:

- a castle with a moat and a train.
- a serpent with swings hanging from loops in its body.
- an octopus with swings hanging from its arms.
- a wide-mouthed whale you could climb inside.
- a water maze.
- humpty-dumpty, the old woman who lived in a shoe's shoe-cum-slide, little miss muffet baby swings, the three little bears.
- a giant pumpkin picnic area.
- an elaborate tree house section with a zipline.

the zipline was clearly made to be worked by at least two people -- one to drag the rope so that the zipliner, standing on the leaping platform, could grab it and pull it close enough to jump onto. i ingeniously beat the system by trapping the rope in some bolts under the leaping platform. but when i leapt, i banged my elbow on the metal crossbar and couldn't feel my hand for ten minutes.

the final leg of the adventure began with my return to the motel. but maybe i'd better have a separate entry for waitomo, because this is getting long, so i'd better stop, folks, right here.

Posted by ctamler 10:27 Archived in New Zealand Tagged train_travel Comments (0)

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