Today felt like the first day that I started making progress towards the Pole again.

Last night, I explored the Botanic Gardens in Christchurch before dinner. The sun sets quite late here (well after 21:00) and since the Gardens don’t close until an hour before sunset, I had plenty of time to explore. Sections of the Gardens smelled fantastic as there are numerous flowers and trees in bloom. It was odd to see a giant California Redwood here in New Zealand, but they have a nice specimen, in addition to numerous other California plants. They also have one of the most spectacular eucalyptus trees that you’re ever likely to see. It’s absolutely massive. In addition to looking at all the greenery (quite a change from Wisconsin this time of year), I found several species of birds that are unique to New Zealand. Earlier in the day, I had purchased a book on New Zealand birds, so I put it right to work helping me to identify the birds I was seeing. Disappointingly enough, European settlers introduced many common species of birds here, including house sparrows, starlings, blackbirds, and mallards. So, while there are some unique species, they are often individuals in a crowd of the mundane.

For dinner, I biked over to a restaurant named Two Fat Indians. It wasn’t until I was eating the food (lamb vindaloo) that I realized that this wasn’t the ordinary Indian food that I’m accustomed to getting. This was actually good Indian food. I can’t say what tipped me off to that fact, but I can best describe it as the difference between a Hershey’s chocolate bar and a bar of good, dark European chocolate. On the downside, their wines were awful, especially the Riesling I had. They were also touting a one-year old Gewurtztraminer as a fine wine. So, if you’re at Two Fat Indians, stick to the beer list.

This morning it rained, and I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to stick to my original plan of biking out to the CDC for my ECW issuance session. However, the day cleared up just enough that I was able to bike out there and back without any real problems.

At the CDC I was issued two bags full of ECW. Some of it I have to take. Other bits I could take or leave at my whim. In the end, I returned the vast majority of the optional gear and even some of the required gear since I brought much of my own that is either nicer or better fitting.

The big shock of the ECW session was learning that we need to report to the CDC at 04:00 local time tomorrow. That’s right, 04:00. We’re flying a military transport to McMurdo and I’ve been wondering if they folks making up the flight schedule haven’t confused this with a Navy Seal drop in the heart of night over enemy territory. Regardless, I’ve arranged for my 03:30(!) shuttle to the CDC, and my 03:00(!!) wake-up call. Both the front-desk and the shuttle dispatcher seemed incredulous when I told them what time I needed their services, but I don’t have much choice in the matter.

Tonight, I met up with a couple of other IceCube folks and we went out for drinks and dinner at the Brewers Arms. That particular restaurant’s schtick is that they heat a slab of stone up to 400 or so degrees. Then they plop a raw slab of meat of your choice on the stone and bring the whole mess to the table. Then, the meat cooks right in front of you and you can remove it from the stone whenever it is done to your satisfaction. It was unique, but not particularly compelling.

Anyway, it’s off to bed for me. Maybe I can get five hours before my crack-of-dawn wake-up call. I’ve added a handful of photos to the Photo Gallery. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be writing in this space tomorrow from McMurdo base on Antarctica. If the plane is force to return to New Zealand, I’ll be writing once again from Christchurch, so keep your fingers crossed for gentle winds and clear skies over the Antarctic coast.