Those were the first words I said to the lady sitting next to me as I sat down for the Los Angeles to Auckland, New Zealand leg of my flight to the South Pole.
Friday, I left Madison to start the five day journey to the Pole. The journey begins with a series of commercial flights to Christchurch, New Zealand. In my case, the first flight (2.5 hours in duration) took me from Madison to Dallas. Once there, I boarded a 3.5 hour flight to LAX.
At LAX I had nearly three hours to kill and a wicked hunger so I decided to seek out dinner rather than simply eating a snack and hoping for the best with dinner on the plane. The last two times I went through LAX I ate at one of the restaurants in the international terminal. The food there isn’t going to kill you, but it isn’t memorable either so I decided to seek calories a bit further afield.
It’s worth noting here that LAX is something of a dump. The vast majority of the buildings are gently described as architectural mistakes while the others make parking garage architecture look progressive. After walking past seemingly innumerable gates and ticket counters I finally reached the LAX Theme Building. It’s a building that you’ve likely all seen in movies. Inside that building is Encounter Restaurant. Seeing as how I had some time to kill, a belly to fill, and no other interesting prospects in sight, I made my way up to the restaurant for a meal.
Normally, I’m not a salad guy, but I decided to go out on a limb and try a garden salad with my meal because it sounded good to me as I read the menu. The Toy Box tomatoes that were in the salad were possibly the best tomatoes I’ve ever eaten. They were so sweet that it was more like eating grapes than tomatoes. The rest of the meal was certainly edible, but not in the same league as those tomatoes.
After filling my belly, I wandered back to my flight and settled in for the nearly thirteen hour flight to Auckland. It is worth noting that a flight of that duration is a strong disincentive for people to visit New Zealand. It’s really a wonderful country filled with fantastic scenery and friendly people but it is so damn far away! Of course, it if was closer the country would likely be overrun with yahoos and that would likely destroy much of its charm so perhaps I shouldn’t complain too much.
The lady sitting next to me was initially skeptical when I told her that the flight we were embarking upon was seemingly interminable. After ten hours of flight time, however, she was singing a different tune and pledging never to attempt such a long flight again without going first class.
We did eventually arive in Auckland, and after waiting almost one and one-half hours, I made it through passport control, customs, and biosecurity. That left me just enough time to hustle over to the domestic terminal to make my flight to Christchurch (1.5 hours in duration).
Finally, after thirty hours of travel, I arrived at my hotel, where I was able to shower, change clothes, and start the process of unwinding both physically and mentally from that much air travel.
The first priority was to get some lunch, so I bought a (very good) spicy brautwurst from a street vendor near an art fair and an English-style bitter from a local brewer. I ate both of those while listening to Christmas carols sung by a local group.
Once I had taken the edge off my initial hunger, it was time to seek out additional calories. Gelato was the next to find its way into my stomach. I bought a couple of local brews from a bottle shop, a pesto/tomato/brie bagel from a cafe, and made my way into the Botanical Gardens.
If there is one thing I like about New Zealand in general, and Christchurch in particular, it is their ability to grow some incredibly impressive trees. There are several trees that I remembered quite vividly from my last trip here and I made it a point of visiting them again today. Taking pictures of the trees hardly does them justice. It’s rather like trying to photograph a very tall skyscraper or a very wide river. You have to get so far away to get the object in the frame that it loose much of its impressive size.
Eventually, I found my way to a pair of absolutely gigantic eucalyptus trees and sat down to continue my repast. As I sat under the canopy of that massive tree, drinking a couple of beers, eating a hot sandwich, and reading a good book, my muscles finally started to unknot. All that flying simply isn’t good for the human body. It was a delight to enjoy the simple pleasures of food, drink, a book, and a gorgeous day before continuing my trip to the Pole.