The first leg of my travel to Antarctica is complete. A hotel in Christchurch, New Zealand is the current domicile of your faithful correspondent.
Let me start by saying that, all things considered, my flights from Madison to Christchurch (CHC) were actually quite smooth. On all of the flights I had more room than regulations require as I was able to either snag empty rows, or drew some sort of lucky cosmic straw that put me in an empty row on an otherwise full plane. My luggage even made the journey seemingly unmolested (except by the seemingly obligatory TSA ransacking at some point in the journey) and was available for pick-up (or uplift, as they say here) each time I needed it.
Having said that, the journey is a major test of one's patience. The flight over the Pacific is seemingly interminable, even though it is only twelve and one-half hours. Fortunately, I did the over-the-counter equivalent of dropping an anvil on my head by taking a Benedryl (an antihistimine) shortly after take off. It took the better part of an hour to kick in, but once it was flowing through my veins I was out for six hours of restless sleep. There's no way I could have slept that long without the drug in my system. Even so, I still woke up at 01:30 local time and never went back to sleep, so I'm looking at an early night tonight. Door to door, the journey from Madison to CHC took about thirty hours. That's a long time to spend in the same set of clothes.
Here in CHC I'm staying at the Copthorne Central. It's a relatively nice place, but it suffers from street noise like most hotels in larger cities. There's a nice park across the street through which the Avon River flows and I spent some time there this afternoon.
I've got tomorrow off so I'll have to keep myself busy sightseeing and the like. On Wednesday (New Zealand time), I'm scheduled to report to the United States Antarctic Program (USAP) Clothing Distribution Center (CDC) where I'll be issued my Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) gear. That's around 13:30 local time; my day before and after that is pretty much open. However, I depart early the next morning for McMurdo, so I'll spend part of the day, I'm sure, getting ready to depart.
What else might you want to know? There are some really big trees here in Christchurch. And when I say big, I mean big. These trees aren't big like we think of big trees in America. That is to say that the trees aren't real tall. Instead they're really, really wide with huge spreading canopies.
I tried the beer at one of the local brew pubs with my lunch. I was disappointed, but not because the beer was bad, but rather because of the style of beer. It was a Raspberry Summer Wheat and I was expecting something more like a Bavarian-style wheat, instead I got an American-style wheat. Next time, I'll probably try the ginger beer as that's more a local specialty.
There some a handful of photos from my journey so far in the Photo Gallery.