Friday, December 11, 2009

Home at last

I finally got home about 30 hours after we left the hotel. While I hadn't slept soundly on any of the flights and was quite sleep deprived, I was really wound up with the excitement of the trip. I kept my roommate Miriam up until almost midnight showing her the results of the shopping trips and gabbing about the trip. It was truly wonderful and we were all very pleased to have taken the trip. I know that I'd like to go to Australia again!

Cleveland, at last.

Dec. 1 – Luggage

The last leg of the trip went without any problems until we arrived in Cleveland, but Phyllis and Bill's luggage did not. It turned out that the people in New Zealand had mistyped the final airline code as YA instead of UA. It finally caught up with them a couple of days later, but it was left on a neighbor's porch and not their own home. At least Bill found it when he was outside!

Arrival in LA

Dec. 1 – Customs

While we supposedly had plenty of time (3 hours) to clear Customs and catch our flight to Chicago, Judy, Richard and I almost didn't make it. We waited in line, and waited in line, and waited some more. Our turn was next and all the agents disappeared. Coffee break time? Who knows what was up. Judy and Richard finally were called up and had to pay some fees, but there was no clerk in the office to take the money. I was held up while they decided if kangaroo leather and crocodile teeth were going to be allowed in the country. It was decided that neither kangaroos nor crocodiles were endangered species and I could bring in the stuff I had purchased. At last we were out of customs. After an extremely fast walk (not quite a run) from terminal 4 to terminal 7, we checked in just under the wire and caught up with everyone else who was on the flight to Chicago.

Goodbye to NZ

Dec. 1 - Goodbyes

We left the hotel at 8:00 a.m., went to the Christchurch airport and flew to Auckland. There were problems with ticketing luggage all the way to the end of our trips (Cleveland for us) but the staff finally figured it out. Then, the l – o – n – g trip back to LA. At least it was a shorter flight than flying from LA to Australia because we started farther east. The flight was only 11 ½ hours instead of 15 ½. Trust me, it still seemed like it took a week.

Final Event

Nov. 30 – The end of the day

We ended our visit to the Antarctic with a wonderful dinner and time spent with Gilly, our Antarctic tour guide. As part of her training to be a guide at the Centre, she had been sent to Ross Base for an Antarctic experience. It was fascinating to hear what the experience was like.

Nov. 30 – Science

There were many very interesting displays on the science of Antarctica. Scientists go there to study the plant life (lichens, algae and the like), animals, geology, archaeology and the marine life among other things. Some injured penguins have been taken to the Centre to live. These poor birds have been severely injured (for instance one has lost a wing, and another one only has one foot) and can't survive in the wild. We saw this little guy up close, although we weren't allowed to touch him. He has on blue booties because his feet are being treated for some wear and tear that occurs because of the rocks in the enclosure.

Here is another one swimming in their pool.

It IS cold in Antarctica

Nov. 30 – Cold Room

The Centre has a snow-filled cold room that is used to demonstrate wind-chills.

We put on rubber boots over our street shoes to keep the snow clean and bundled up in heavy parkas to see what it is like. We didn't have to experience the worst the Antarctic can offer, that would require more clothing and warm boots, but with added wind, the temperature of 17.6 F quickly dropped into the negative numbers. Those of us wearing skirts were glad that it didn't go on any longer than it did, but even those people wearing slacks thought it too cold! The highest wind speed ever recorded in Antarctica was 198.8 mph. The coldest temperature anywhere on earth was recorded in Antarctica at a bone-freezing -192.5 F. When I was in junior high and high school I wanted to go to Antarctica. I've changed my mind.

Nov. 30 – Antarctic Center

Our last stop on the tour was the International Antarctic Centre. Christchurch is a major gateway to Antarctica. Many Antarctic expeditions originated from here including Scott's doomed 1911 attempt to be the first to reach the south pole. There is a mock-up of Scott Base which includes this door. Yes, it looks like a big, walk-in refrigerator. The base is built like a fridge to keep the cold OUT instead of in.

There is also a mock-up of Scott's base camp where there is an audio-visual presentation of readings from Scott's diary.

There are also samples of equipment currently used by personnel in the Antarctic including this Swedish Grizzly Aktiv snowmobile and the two-person tent behind it.


Nov. 30 - Botanic Gardens

Christchurch's Botanic Gardens are beautiful, even in the rain. These gardens have native and exotic species from all over the world. , lovely fountains and interesting green houses There were lovely displays of all kinds, but I liked the rose garden the best. I surely do appreciate a rose garden when someone else takes care of it!


Nov. 30 – Blue pearls

And it was time to go shopping, again! We learned about blue pearls, which are cultured in a type of abalone that only lives in the cold waters around New Zealand. The Maoris call it Paua. While the pearls are very beautiful, they are also very expensive because there are only 10,000 abalone harvested each year. Then each one has to be handled individually to seed the pearl. They are then bundled into big drums, fed seaweed for several years and then the pearls are harvested. Out of the original 10,000, perhaps 1,000 are of gem quality. And harvesting kills the abalone, so more must be harvested from the wild. The least expensive pearls are $250.00 and more for a one pearl pendant. The highest grade pearls are called Eyris pearls and are set in gold or platinum. Guess how much those are? Most are $2,000-$3,000 range. Needless to say, I didn't buy any blue pearls, but did buy some lovely jewelry made from abalone shell.

Common species

This picture is of the fairly prevalent touristi americanus. This species can be found in many places around the world. In this case, they are seen in a wooden nest, looking in all directions for interesting flora, fauna and beautiful landscapes.