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Published: February 10th 2009
View of the mountains in the South Island by plane.
Nov 3, 2008, I arrived with the rest of the crew in Auckland, NZ. The customs line was rather long and filled with a number of people from various countries that weren’t quite entitled to enter. After getting to the customs officer, I provided my letter of intent to pass through New Zealand on to Antarctica. They issued me a 9 month visa.
After rushing through the terminal, converting the rest of my cash into NZD and snagging a kiwi phone card, we all managed to make our next flight from Auckland to Christchurch. A very scenic and gorgeous hop, I managed to have planned ahead and had a window seat waiting for me on the west side of the plane. I was impressed by just HOW many grand peaks New Zealand has, and they seem to stretch on for farther than New Zealand appears to exist on the map!
After arriving in Christchurch and bumbling our way around the terminal looking for the correct rally point, we were ferried over to our hotel in the downtown area. We were early and our rooms were not ready, so I spent the interim hours hacking at
South Island 2
More view of the South Island Alps.
the plug on extension cord with my Leatherman so that it’d work with my New Zealand power converter and my laptop. That being done, I sent a few emails homeward, and finally got issued my room.
Only it wasn’t a room. It was a POD. It was undoubtedly designed by some rogue IKEA engineer who’d since been kicked out of his home country and taken up asylum in New Zealand. The entire room was perhaps 10′x10′ in diameter, and consisted of a bed, a desk, a night stand, a TV, and a quarter circle shaped shower/bathroom stall that included a sink, toilet and shower all in one.
Upon entering, I was greeted by darkness and a purple glow emanating from under the bed. After groping for 5 minutes trying to find a light switch, I finally shoved my door key card into a slot with a blinking red LED and all the lights came on! It took me 3 days to finally determine what the rest of the buttons did and how they worked. The alarm clock, for instance, turns on the TV to a channel showing waves and trees and fish and stuff. Oh, and the really
The famous Cathedral in Christchurch.
bad thing about the toilet? The toilet seat and the toilet rim, were indistinguishable when sat upon. >.>
Enough about the room. It did manage to give me a nice afternoon nap, and following that I set off to explore what bit of Christchurch was in walking distance. The hotel was located quite centrally, so it was only a 2 block jaunt to “Cathedral Square” which is basically the cultural hub of the town. Filled with carts selling everything from Greek Souvlaki to Austrian Bratwurst, wares vendors and musicians mingled in the shadow of a giant lichen covered - and no doubt ancient - stone church. Uniformed school children and Asian tourists passed each other, the former laughing and heckling each other and the latter standing in awe and taking pictures of everything. I dodged the San Francisco style trollys and made my way to the river Avon and adjoining Botanical Gardens. A sprawling complex that stretched farther than I was able to visit, the gardens were full of blooming plants, flower gardens, wilderness areas and gigantic trees - all of types I’m unfamiliar with. Ducks, swans, scaups and other wildlife flitted about quite happily, never having been in
Beautiful spring gardens in Christchurch.
want for their entire lives, if either for the conservation effort or the scraps of tourist food I’ll never know. It truly was a gorgeous and calming site, and seemed to the location for college students to study and walking (hobbling) tours from the nearby hospital to come and heal up.
The next day, we were all summoned to the Antarctic Programme’s headquarters at the airport to go through our Extreme Cold Weather clothing issue. I found my ECW kit included 3 large orange duffle bags and a fourth for my carry-on goods. Included were a number of double and triple redundant items I didn’t feel were necessary for me to have to lug down to the ice, so after consulting with the experts on site, I turned them in. I realize that I’d been booked as an alternate to spend the whole YEAR at the pole (which I have NO intention of doing and I’ve expressed that). But it gave me an extra baggage allowance to pull from, a total of 140 pounds of baggage. Even WITH all the extra gear, I came in at a total 102 pounds. I worked hard to pack light.
The river Avon curves through Christchurch on a beautiful spring day.
After repacking my kit, I returned to my POD in the city and made a dinner of slovaki and “Black Beer”, which seems to be Kiwi speak for a good strong stout. Rally time was at 06:00.
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