I left McMurdo on Thursday night. The plane was scheduled to leave at 9:00 PM, and we were required to report for transportation to the airfield at 5:30 PM. I grabbed a quick dinner before getting dressed in ECW gear, turning in my room key, and going to the shuttle. We boarded "Ivan the Terra Bus", a huge vehicle that took us to Pegasus Runway in just under an hour. There we waited for two hours before boarding the plane. There's a small building for waiting passengers, but most people remained outside, as it was sunny and warm. We got on the plane about 8:30 PM, and left about 9:15 PM. I tried to grab a seat in the back row again, but some people had already grabbed those. At least I got an aisle seat. It was a comfortable ride, once we got airborne and steady, I took off the boots and windpants, and got to ride in regular street clothes. The only annoyance was that someone near me was farting, I'm guessing it was the woman next to me.
We landed about 2:15 AM in Christchurch, in pouring rain. As I mentioned earlier, it wasn't much warmer than when we left. I'm guessing it was maybe mid-30's when we left, and mid-40's in Christchurch. We boarded buses which took us to the immigration and customs in the main passenger terminal. After immigration, it was on to baggage claim, which was fast compared to a typical commercial flight. Customs was no big deal. The screening was not as strict as when we arrived from the U.S, as all items we purchase at McMurdo go through New Zealand. Then it's about a 10 minute walk from the airport to the CDC. I didn't load my bags onto a truck, and instead carted them with me on the walk. More on this later. Once I got to the CDC, I went to the changing room and emptied out my carry-on bag of personal items. I got all of the issued gear together, and an employee checked items off as I threw them into a big pile in the middle of the room. I was doing this before the truck with the bags arrived, so I was happy that I had carted my bags and got through the clothing return before the big rush. I claimed the bags I had left in New Zealand, got my travel arrangement documents, and went outside to get a shuttle. They were arranged by hotel, so I ended up waiting at least a half hour for other people on this shuttle. So my prior efficiency turned out to be useless, but not a big deal, I just dozed off in the shuttle for awhile. Some guy was freaking out, wondering why we couldn't leave. I can understand some of the frustration of people that were leaving the next day. I overheard conversations from people that would only have 1-2 hours at the hotel to shower and rearrange baggage before going right back to the airport again. I checked into the hotel at about 4:15 AM (The Heritage, the same hotel I was in on the way to Antarctica back in November). It's a really nice hotel, and I had a big corner room on the 10th floor. I unpacked my stuff and had a snack from the mini bar before going to bed as dawn broke.
I didn't do much on Friday, as I slept until 12:30 PM. I took care of some laundry, did some shopping, and had a nice dinner at the Viaduct along "the strip" on Oxford Tce. Most restaurants in this area have outdoor seating, but it was in the 50's and very windy, so I sat inside. I had a chicken, cream cheese, and cranberry pizza. It was really good, and must be a common variety there, as I saw an ad on TV for the same toppings from Pizza Hut. I also made arrangements for activities for the rest of my stay. These included a Lyttleton Harbor wildlife cruise and a gondola ride on Saturday, and a city bike tour on Sunday. On Saturday I went for a run at the hotel's health club, then checked on my planned activities for the day. It had been raining all morning, with low clouds. The wildlife cruise got cancelled, and I decided against the gondola ride, since there was no way I was going to be able to see anything. I decided to go out to the International Antarctic Centre. This is the same complex that the CDC is in, but there is a big science exhibit there that USAP participants get 50% off admission for. So I took the bus out there and spend a couple hours. They have a room filled with snow where they simulate a storm, a bunch of exhibits and videos, and other stuff. It was a good way to spend a rainy day. That night I went to McDonalds for dinner, it tasted fine, but I felt awful the rest of the night. Not sure if it was the food itself or that I hadn't had fast food in three weeks. I watched a cricket match for awhile that night on TV. I'm still not clear on all of the rules, but it looks awesome. I would definitely follow it if I lived there. I love baseball, and it seems similar in many ways.
On Sunday I had the city bike tour at 10:00 AM. It was a nice morning, and the bike tour was great. It started at Cathedral Square, and there was the tour guide, two gentlemen from Los Angeles on vacation, and myself. The tour was two and a half hours, and we rode through part of the city centre area, Hagley Park, and some nice neighborhoods. We got off the bikes for awhile and walked through Riccarton Bush (the only native forest left in the area). This was well worth the money and maybe the best part of the trip.
That afternoon I went to the gondola. As I was getting on the bus to go there, it started raining. When I got there it was still raining and the clouds lowered, restricting the view. It cleared a little bit and I could at least see Christchurch from the top.
I'm finally caught up on sleep now, but still getting caught up on Christmas cookies. As the title says in flight forecast code, this is the last report, with no further amendments (unless I screwed something up). Hope you enjoyed it!