I’m behind a few days, being that today is Friday, August 26, 2011 but oh well.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 our departure to McMurdo was again postponed. After having to transfer rooms on Tuesday morning after the announcement of the postponement, I woke up to another chilly morning. I dressed quickly and headed to the dining room for breakfast, only to discover that breakfast wasn’t served for another hour. I decided to walk about for a bit and headed south to enjoy the cold air. After about 30 minutes, when the night started giving way to dawn, I turned back around and headed for the hotel. I met up with David, who works at the power plant, outside of the hotel and asked him how he felt about all of the delays. He told me that he was ready to get on the Ice. He had messaged several of his friends who were/are currently down there working at the power plant and they told him that the weather was condition 2 in town but condition 1 on the runway. Since the weather on the runway was so poor, we would have to wait for the weather to clear and for the runway to be cleared off before we could depart. Lovely.
After a quick bite to eat, Pam (another one of the dispatchers and my current roommate) and I waited for Matt, Keith and Pat to join us. The trip for the day was to the Sign of the Takahe. From Wikipedia – The Sign of the Takahe is today a restaurant and function centre built in the style of an English Manor House. Designed by J. G. Collins, construction was carried out between 1918 and 1948. The Takahe also provides one of the better panoramic views of the city of Christchurch, New Zealand, the Canterbury Plains and the Southern Alps. ***Actually, today the Sign of the Takahe has a chain link fence around it due to renovations. The need for renovations, of course, was caused by the February 2011 earthquake that occurred in Christchurch.
Anyhow, Keith bailed on us and told us he might meet up with us later, so Matt, Pat, Pam and I headed for the bus stop. Now, we weren’t going to the closest bus stop because it costs 7.50 to leave from the airport area, so we trekked down just over 2 miles, crossing busy roadways to the bus stop, which is right next to a cemetery. Then we waited…and waited…and waited… Then an elderly gentleman came to the bus stop and told Matt that the bus was only five minutes away. He also told us about living here during the earthquake. His story of what he was doing and his memories of the quake are his to tell. I won’t go into detail because it was a very traumatic experience and to see him relive it through telling us was hard enough. I will say though that he and his family are all ok.
When the bus arrived, who do we find on it but Keith. He caught it at the regular stop paying the full $7.50 while we walked to Timbuktu and only paid $3.20. We also discovered that this bus would only take us to the park where we would have to switch busses. We waited an additional hour for the second bus to arrive after being dropped off at the park and were glad to be on our way again. Our driver told us that there was really nothing to see at the Sign of the Takahe, but we chose to ignore him and rode until the last stop on the bus route. At first, it didn’t look like much, and the most interesting thing was the signs for Victoria Park. Pat and Matt took off the steep pathway to the park, while Keith and I decided to hang around the lower area. Keith had knee surgery in April and can’t place that much exertion on it and I, well, I’m way out of shape and decided to take a look at the actual building. About the time I got to the fence, Pam came to us and told us she found a path to an overlook behind the sign. So the three of us took off up the path, searching for hobbits, elves, and who knows what else. After all, we are in Middle Earth.
At the end of the path was a large observation area. What we saw took our breath away. From where we stood, we had a great few of Sumner’s coastline, the city of Christchurch and the Southern Alps. Using my higher power lens, I was able to see much of the area that was affected by the earthquake. I know I mention it a lot but once you see something like this, it is hard to get over. the devastation is positively mind-blowing, as is the strength of the people of New Zealand to rebuild and move on. The southern Alps are incredible. Had I known that we would have this much time in NZ before going to the Ice, I would have taken a trip to see them closer. Perhaps I will have a chance to do this when I redeploy from McMurdo. Our timing to the observation area was perfect because a tour guide was there and explaining different sites to his patron. I’d also like to take one of his wine tours when I get off of the Ice too.
After we left the observation area, we met up with Matt and Pat and headed down the hill to have lunch at a little coffee shop overlooking the city. The lunch was excellent and afterwards we waited another hour (we did a lot of waiting this day) for the bus to come and take us back to the city centre.
It was another fantastic day in New Zealand.