November 15th, 2009
New Zealand, McMurdo and South Pole - Current Time
We departed the Raytheon Office about 11:45, and were at Denver International Airport by 12:30. Note to self – Travel through DIA on Saturdays. No line for security, and they said it was that way until late in the day.
Now, the waiting begins. The first leg of the Journey didn’t start until 4:30. The weather was unbelievably good leaving Denver. We had clear skies all the way to Los Angeles. Got to see all the Colorado Mountains, met an interesting fellow from Ridgeway who was on his way with his wife to Australia for a Cruise. I was able to make out the land marks through southern Colorado, southern Utah, Arizona, and the Grand Canyon.
At LAX we managed to avoid having to leave the terminal and go through security again, but we had a 4 and ½ hour layover before our flight departed. There were about 40 of us that were in orientation, and at each stop we seemed to pick up few more that were headed to the Pole or McMurdo.
I had a pleasant surprise as I passed through the gate. I had requested an upgrade, but when I got the seat assignment in Denver had presumed that I didn’t get it. As they scanned my ticket they had me step aside, and told me I got an upgrade seat for the L.A. to Sydney leg. It was well worth the 15,000 miles it cost me. (And I probably got just about half that in the trip, I’ll get the other half getting home).
14 Hours later we arrived in Sydney. I took off on Halloween, and landed on the 2nd. We lose a day since we cross the International Date Line going west. (I’ll end up having the same day twice on the way home). A couple of shuffles through terminals, another 2 hours and we were off to Christchurch.
3 and ½ hours going back east and we were in Christchurch. The shuttle picked us up, we made a quick stop at the Clothing Distribution Center to drop off some bags, and it was off to the hotel. By the time I got checked in it was about time for dinner, and I hit the Souvlaki place just off the square. Lamb Souvlaki. Hmmmm… An early evening to bed since it had been a long day.
In case you didn't do the math, it was about 32 hours of shuttles, airports, and planes.
The next morning the sticker shock happened. It had been 7 ½ years since I’d been in New Zealand. Between rising prices, and the decline of the US dollar nothing was the bargain I remembered it was. I did some walking around, picked up a few things that I wanted to take along, including a nice pair of Sheepskin boots. I tried to make my ritual visit to the rose garden in the Christchurch Botanical Gardens, and was greeted with this:
We had to report out to the Clothing Distribution Center at 1 PM, so I grabbed another Lamb Souvlaki for lunch, and met the crowd at the hotel for the trip to the Clothing Distribution Center.
The good news for most of us when we arrived was that they were behind on flights and we could look forward to at least one ‘bonus’ day (Thursday) in Christchurch.
The clothing issue was pretty much the same as when I first experienced it in 1998.
I didn’t have anything I felt I really needed to see or do the rest of the afternoon, or Thursday, but I still managed to walk enough to end up with a nasty blister by early morning Thursday. I did luck out and was able to get into the rose garden on Thursday. Word was out late Thursday afternoon, our flight was a go for Friday Morning.
Here’s some random photos from Christchurch. Still a fantasic city.