Transport to Pegasus airfield was set for 2:30, and we left a little after that since some schlub was late. Didn't really matter, since we just sat at the airfield for awhile. The plane was there (having arrived from Christchurch shortly before we got there), and they had to unload and then load cargo. he primary cargo was a helicopter. It was fun watching them load this into the plane. It was cold (15 F or so) and windy, and for some reason I stayed outside for the 90 minutes or so we waited. They have a small passenger terminal, and the transport vehicle (Ivan the Terra Bus) was also there, but I am a little picky about my seat on the plane, so I stayed outside. Here are some pictures from that:
It paid off, because I jumped the gun on loading the plane, as I saw a crew member in front of the plane radio the woman that was in charge of the passenger transport to the airfield, and her start to motion for people to board. I was the fourth one on the plane, and got the exact seat I wanted, last row of center seats on the aisle. On the C-17, there are seats along the side of the plane, similar to the C-130 (but more comfortable), and a bank of airline seats in the middle. Many people like the side seats for having a little more space and power outlets for laptops. I like the middle airline seats, they are comfortable, there's storage space underneath seats, and I like facing forward. Plus, with the back row, there is storage space underneath the seat in front of you and underneath you. The flight was just over 5 hours. As soon as the seat belt light was off, I lost the big white bunny boots and wind pants, and rode comfortably in street clothes. Really the only issue was that I was stuck next to a "polie" for the flight back. A polie is someone stationed at South Pole. Normally this is not an issue, but this year (I think) they started sending these people straight thru - a morning flight from South Pole to Pegasus, then out to Christchurch that afternoon. There are water restrictions at South Pole - two showers a week, and I'm not sure about laundry, but I'm guessing they have rules on that as well. The guy next to me stank like a sack of rotting garbage. You'd think they'd at least truck these people to McMurdo for a shower. Somehow I managed to not get sick from that.
Upon arriving at Christchurch, they trucked us to the international terminal to go through immigration and customs. We got in the same time as another flight...the polies must have been a ghastly sight and smell for the people off of that flight. After that, it was a short walk through the misty air to the CDC. The humidity felt great. In two ways, the CDC experience was much easier than last time. First, they don't inventory clothing anymore, you just dump everything in the center of the room. I had everything already separated, so this was really quick. I picked up my stored bag, and went to the shuttle. Last time, they had shuttles assigned, so I had to wait an hour for the other people to show up. This time, they just loaded up the shuttles and left. I got back to the hotel (Holiday Inn City Centre, same as inbound) just before 1 AM. The only place I could find open to eat was KFC, so I had that, then went back to the room to unpack and go to sleep.
This day was a washout - 60 F, and rain all day. I saw this coming from looking at the forecasts the week before leaving McMurdo. I wasn't surprised - just like last time, bad weather followed me north. I slept until about 10:30 AM, went for a run at the hotel gym, showered, and took off. I made arrangements for a bike ride and advice on getting to the cricket and rugby matches at the info center at Cathedral Square. After that, I had lunch at Subway, went to buy the rugby ticket, then took the bus to a mall, Westfield Riccarton. Westfield must be a huge mall conglomerate - they have malls in the U.S. as well. It was okay - maybe 100 stores on one level. I got food from Wendy's - not the Wendy's chain I adore here in the U.S., but the same ice cream / hot dog chain that I had at a mall in Hobart a few years back. This one didn't have donuts, but the shake and hot dog were good. Similar to Dubai, the mall had a grocery store in it, so I got some fruit and soda there. I took the bus back around 4:30 PM, and after watching some TV, went to bed early since I was really tired for some reason.
Another crappy weather day - at least it didn't rain much (just some light rain early AM), but it was low 50's F, cloudy, and very windy. I had a late breakfast, then walked around some shops before my city bike tour. I did this last time, and decided to do it again on this trip. A tour guide takes the participants around to the city sights on bikes, along bike lanes, bike paths, and trails. It was pretty much the same route as last time with slight deviations. It was a different tour guide (the one last time runs the whole deal and just had a baby), this time being a young gentleman who was a college student. His parents were American - having emigrated to New Zealand during the Navy's Operation Deep Freeze. There were two other participants, a middle aged woman and an older man, both from England. The former kept putting her helmet on backwards, and the latter kept falling off of his bike. Here are some pictures from that:
After the bike tour, I stopped by the room briefly before taking the bus out to QEII park, where the cricket match was being held. I got their a little late, but still early in the match. This was really fun. I've been acquiring some knowledge of cricket over the past two years or so, just enough to have an idea what is going on. This was a match between two of the state league teams, Canterbury (the region Christchurch is located in) versus Wellington. There weren't a lot of people there, probably because of the crap weather. The seating area, save for a small corporate area, was all on a grass ridge surrounding the oval. What surprised me was the access the fans have to the players. Between bowls, fans would get signatures (autographs) from the fielders along the boundaries. At half time, they allowed people onto the field (just not the area around the wickets), where bowlers and fielders were warming up. I had a late lunch / early dinner of chips and beer (440 ml for NZ $2!). Here are some pictures from the game and half time:
I had to wait for the bus forever to get back to the city, and by the time I got back, most restaurants had quit serving dinner. I had a quick dinner at Burger King (having the mini donuts I liked from my last visit), then went to a bar for a few drinks before retiring for the night.
The plan for this day was to take the bus out to Lyttelton harbour, then go to the rugby match early evening. Before and during the bus ride, it was raining. This bus went by the gondola, which I did last visit, when it rained the entire time and I couldn't see squat from up there. In a way it felt fitting that all of the tourists going there had the same experience. Lyttelton is small town that makes up Christchurch's sea port. I walked around a few blocks, then had a lunch of (meat) pie and ginger beer overlooking the harbor. After that I went the Timeball station. This was really interesting. It is in a small building that looks like a castle, perched on a hill overlooking the harbor:
The timeball was used in the late 1800's and early 1900's, dropped each day at 1 PM to allow captains to accurately set their chronometers. They still drop the ball most days at 1 PM, but GPS has long replaced chronometers and astronomical measuring techniques. Luckily, I happened to stumble up there just before 1 PM, so I got to see them drop the ball. Besides being a great view from up there, they offered a lot of history and knowledge about seafaring and time-keeping methods of the past.
After this, I took the bus back to the city, and then went to the room for a little while before going to the rugby match.
The stadium was about a 20 minute walk from my hotel. It cleared up on the way back to the city from Lyttelton, so it was a nice, cool walk. I got to the stadium plenty early, to get my free souvenir and to check out the stadium. This was a matchup between the Canterbury Crusaders and the Waikato Chiefs, part of the Super 14 competition. This league has teams in New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa. Canterbury is a powerhouse in this league, having won seven titles in thirteen years, including last season. It was the opening weekend of the season for the teams. The stadium is undergoing a renovation. One entire side of the stadium was closed and under construction. The other three sections looked brand new or extensively renovated. I got there early enough to get my free foam sword, and to watch part of the match between the two development teams. After that, there were performances by the dance team and the NZ Army band, and the mascots, which were horsemen.
The game was alright, the Crusaders won, sending the fans home happy. I didn't understand the rules very well, but could follow what was generally going on.
I don't like rugby as much as American football or Australian rules football. It is slow save for a few exciting moments during the game. It doesn't have the constant motion and high-scoring of Aussie rules, nor the action of American football. And don't give me any of that no-pads crap...similar to Aussie rules, there are nowhere near the head-on and lined-up collisions like there are in American football. But these guys are tough, and great athletes. The Chiefs stayed at my hotel Friday and Saturday nights, and these guys are fit and strong.
The fans did not seem all that enthused. There is tremendous support for the team in the community, but it really didn't show at the game. There were many open seats upstairs and in the side sections, which seems strange for the defending champions' first game the next season (there was no ceremony, or even mention of that, during the match). Overall the fans were not that loud, which is not necessarily a knock, and doesn't mean that they don't care (e.g. some Canadian hockey fans). Another negative was that there were no team songs. But at least they had cheerleaders.
After the game I went back to the hotel, then to the Holy Grail, a sports bar, for dinner. This place is enormous, with a giant projection screen television airing rugby matches. A section was set aside for the Crusaders to have their post-match dinner later. After dinner I went back to the hotel to pack.
I had a big breakfast buffet at the hotel, thenI did some last minute shopping, checked my email, and met Melissa at the Dux de Lux for lunch. She had toured most of the south island over the 8 days since leaving McMurdo. We exchanged New Zealand travel experiences before returning to our respective accommodations to check out and catch airport shuttles. I left for the airport at 1:30 PM local time (7:30 PM Saturday U.S. EST). I checked in at the Qantas desk, walked up to the observation deck to watch planes and enjoy the warm sunshine, before going to the departure gate. There I met up with Melissa again, and also Natalie, an Ohio State graduate student who works in the same building as me with another group. I've known her since arriving at OSU, and was part of the small group that I would swim with last year. She was at WAIS Divide camp since November, then spent two weeks in New Zealand. It was nice being on the same flights as her. The flight to Auckland left at 4:00 PM, just over an hour. In Auckland we walked to the international terminal (even warmer there, probably mid-70's F) and had dinner at the food court. The flight to Los Angeles was packed on the 747-400, mainly due to a returning cruise ship. I was lucky to get an aisle exit row seat on that. It had the advantages of unlimited leg room and not having to get up for anyone else. The disadvantages were the lack of a seat pocket and the hordes of geriatric cruise ship goers that waited in front of and next to me for the lavatory after each meal. Overall, the advantages outweighed the disadvantages for me, considering that I am tall and don't sleep on planes much anyways (maybe an hour on this one). Upon arrival in Los Angeles, I got through immigration X-tremely quickly, then changed clothes while waiting for my bags. Both bags then arrived quickly, I said goodbye to Melissa, then went through customs (again very fast) after switching out some clothes between bags. I just had to walk upstairs and through another security gauntlet before getting to the American Airlines terminal. I had lunch at BK with Natalie before our next flights (she had one to Dallas about 45 minutes before mine). Mine was late and they had to switch planes, but we both made the connecting flight to Columbus, getting in around midnight. I got to my apartment around 1 AM, getting takeout at Wendy's on the way back.
Life is getting back to normal for me. That is it for this blog, hope you enjoyed it.