First stop: Christchurch

Note: I added links to Ed’s and Steve’s blogs in the sidebar, and will add more blogs as more people make their journey south. For much nicer pictures and different perspectives (and pictures that include me in them) check those out!

I am happy to report that my travel buddies Ed, Steve, and I (along with our luggage!) made it safely to Christchurch yesterday afternoon. That ended what for me was more than 33 hours of travel. On the trip, we got to see Sydney from the air, and it looks like an incredible place. Hoping to spend time there some day. Even more incredible, though, was flying over New Zealand. Wow. Some of the most incredible landscapes I have seen. I’ll take a bunch of pictures when we go backpacking after the Ice, but now I really can’t wait for that part of the trip!

After a good long sleep last night, we got up this morning to head to the CDC, the confusing acronym for the Clothing Distribution Center. There, we got to watch some wonderful orientation videos and- the most fun part- receive our Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) gear! This is a big pile of clothes that you get to borrow while you’re on the Ice. It looks like this:

Racks of clothes issued to everyone that goes to Antarctica

Racks of clothes issued to everyone that goes to Antarctica

Having finished our work for the day, we headed off to explore Christchurch. After a delicious lunch of lamb, we walked toward to the Botanic Gardens. We had an absolutely gorgeous day to enjoy the last greenery we will see for a long time. The gardens were beautiful and so I took a lot of pictures.

We then proceeded to walk around the City Center.

Ed and Steve in front of the Clock Tower in Christchurch

Ed and Steve in front of the Clock Tower in Christchurch

Christchurch is a unique city. When I first arrived, and in our walking around the outskirts of City Center, I noted that many of the buildings looked very new, and that there was a lot of construction going on. But I didn’t quite understand what the locals and others who have seen it before the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes were talking about when they spoke about all the damage that still remained and how the city was just not the same, even after all the rebuilding efforts. It really hit home once we got to the heart of City Center:

Christchurch Cathedral. This is where our walking tour took a very sad turn.

Christchurch Cathedral. This is where our walking tour took a very sad turn.

A lot of buildings looked like this or worse. It was very sad to see. Even almost four years after the earthquake, Christchurch still in many ways feels like a memorial to its old self and to those who died. I wish I could have seen it before.

I was impressed by the efforts to bring beauty to the ugliness of the devastation. Along the fences and boards that walled off the cathedral and nearby damaged buildings, there was art.

An innovative way to make a chain link fence beautiful

An innovative way to make a chain link fence beautiful

They also used sea containers to set up a really cool mall in the aftermath of the earthquake.

There is a mall called Re:Start in City Center made entirely of sea containers. It was built in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake. We all agreed that it was a really awesome place.

There is a mall called Re:Start in City Center made entirely of sea containers. It was built in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake. We all agreed that it was a really awesome place.

There were sculptures and installations and art throughout City Center, and it really helped brighten up what would otherwise have been an incredibly depressing place.

Steve and flag art

To end the day, we walked into a bar called the Institution. It was a small little place with locally brewed beer, delicious cheese, and some really nice bartenders.

Almost everywhere we’ve gone in Christchurch, we have run into other folks on their way to Antarctica. Everyone is doing something different down there and has an interesting story about how they ended up doing this sort of job. It has made Christchurch feel like a very small town, though I’m sure McMurdo will feel much smaller.

We are scheduled to fly out at 9 AM tomorrow, with a 5:30 shuttle from our hotel. Hopefully the weather conditions in McMurdo allow us to make the flight, but if not, I sure wouldn’t mind hanging out in Christchurch a little while longer!

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