How far it was to the other side of the earth, was made very clear to me the night before I left. I was attempting to explain to my 5 year old niece where things where on a globe, and how I was getting to the white spot on the botom of the world.
They journey starts with everyone traveling to Denver for an orientation, and paperwork. I left Aspen Wednesday afternoon, and met the first people from the US Antarctic program on the shuttle bus to the hotel. Both were named 'Liz' one was going to be working as a housekeeper, the other in recreation. There were about 40 people in my orientation.
We spent the night, and had to be at the orientation at 7 a.m. They did briefings on our travel schedule, all the paperwork, (W4's, insurance, etc.), a session on workplace respect, waste management, medical issues, and lots of other topics.
About 2:30 in the afternoon, we all boarded the buses back to DIA for the start of what turned out to be a very long trip. They schedule quite a bit of time between connections to make sure we don't miss them. We were scheduled to leave Denver about 5:30, and as could be expected, plane problems made us late. We had a three hour lay over in Los Angles, and of course getting off the plane, discovered our gate for the trip to Auckland was directly behind the display monitor we were looking at.
We were also missed our scheduled departure time of 10:30 in LA. An hour late leaving didn't make much difference on a 12 hour flight. Longest I've ever been on. Served us another dinner, a snack, and Breakfest. Three movies, and lots of those half-hour short TV show things. Needless to say I didn't get much sleep.
Arriving at Auckland, it took quite a while to get our luggage (the baggage thing broke down), and to clear customs. We had to change terminals for the domestic flight to Christchurch.
A small cheer went up when the last member of our group boarded the flight just as they were closing the door. He had petted the drug dog, and got barked at. Earned him a trip to the back room to have everything throughly searched. He just made the plane. (Of course that was the only flight that was on time!)
Hour and Half later we arrived in Christchurch. Known as the 'Garden City' it was easy to see why on the way in. It was early spring, and everything was a fantasic green.
We were scheduled to spend Saturday and Sunday in Christchurch, and depart on Monday for the ice, by military transport. Everyone needs Saturday to recover from the trip, and sunday we report to the 'CDC' (Clothing Distribution Center), to get outfitted with our Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) Gear.