Friday, June 20, 2014

New Zealand - Travel and first few days

It's been a while since I've put up any blog posts, but I figured that I'd put this together about my trip to New Zealand.  That way not only am I sharing some of what I am doing down here, but also it's a way for me to journal the trip.

For some background, I work for the National Center for Atmospheric Research.  Right now we are conducting a project in New Zealand called Deepwave. I'm down here for about 3 1/2 weeks for work, and then about 9 days for vacation with my wife.  I usually have about one of these trips a year where I go off supporting scientists.  Sometimes I go to Kansas, other times to places like the Maldives.  It all depends on what projects get approved.

Due to some bad luck, I just happened to go into the dentist a week before my trip for a routine cleanup and found out that I needed to get an emergency root canal.  So ya..that happened 2 days before flying.  More on this later...

Saturday - 6/14/2014 through 6/16/2014
Then, by total choice, I had a bunch of friends heading down to the ren faire the same day I was leaving.  Knowing I'd be without friends close by for a few weeks, I was excited to spend the day with my wife and my friends.  It was a perfect day at the ren faire, not too hot, and a slight breeze.

Chilling at the Ren Faire with Rivervale and Friends

Since I'm being flown down by work, we are restricted on our travel by what is called the Fly America Act.  For that reason I left on 6/14/2014.  I left at 6:15 PM and flew to San Francisco.  I had a few hours layover there and then got on the long haul flight to Australia.  It was 14 hours overnight to Sydney.  Because of the direction that we flew, and leaving at 10:00 PM, the entire flight stayed in darkness until just before we landed.   I was pretty lucky overall for a few reasons on this flight.  First, my work was nice enough to provide Economy Plus seating for us, meaning we had a few inches of extra legroom.  Also with how it worked out, I had a window seat and I had a seat between myself and the person on the aisle free.  The person on the aisle was a fairly nice chap and I quickly learned that he was from Orlando and worked for Disney.  Not only did he work for Disney, he was an Adventures by Disney Travel guide and was heading to Australia to lead a 12 day tour.  Being the Disney geek that I am, I of course quizzed him about his job and the experience of working for the Disney company.   We had a grand old time chatting throughout the long flight over.  
My travelmate hooked me up with an ABD pin you only get if you go on one of their tours.

Because of my dental work (root canal through the jawbone) I was in a bit of pain on the flight over there.  A quick dose of hydrocodone made things quite better and I got to sleep a total of maybe 8 hours of the 14 hour flight.  Made it very bearable.  I did get to try out united's vegetarian options for meals on the way over.  I opted for their Asian vegetarian.  We got fed a dinner an hour into the flight or so, which was a curry.  Then we had a snack somewhere in the middle, and then a breakfast right before we landed, also curry.  It looked sort of disgusting, but actually had a decent flavor to it.

After landing in Sydney the next morning, because we had crossed the international date line, it went from being the 14th when we left, to the 16th.  We had a 3 hour layover in the airport in which I was able to get some coffee and relax a bit with a few co-workers that were on the same flight.  Then we were off from Sydney to Christchurch.

This flight wasn't United but instead Air New Zealand.  We happened to get something called "The Works" which meant a second breakfast (fitting that we were heading to the land of the hobbits) and some in-flight entertainment.  It was only a 3 hour flight, but eventually landed in Christchurch, made it through customs and to the hotel.

Waiting in line at customs in Christchurch

Arriving at the hotel I was pretty wiped out, even though I got some decent sleep on the plane.  I think my entire transit time including layovers was something like 28 hours.  Luckily we were staying at the Peppers Clearwater Resort.  Normally a golf resort, since we were there in their winter, it wasn't entirely full.  Our PMs did a pretty good job of negotiating a great rate for us.   The rooms were fairly large, and very nice.  Heated floors in the bathroom, heated towel racks, comfy beds and most of all they opened up to the lake on the golf course.  Below is the view I get to wake up to every morning.  I had dinner with a co-workers and drifted off to sleep.

My view at the Peppers Clearwater Resort.
Tuesday - June 17th
Not surprising with how early I went to sleep, I was up at 4 am the next morning.  I knew it would take my body a few days to adjust, so I just stayed in bed relaxing until the sun came up.  Once I saw the skies getting a bit lighter I threw on my running clothes and headed out.  My coach Katie had an hour run on the books for me.  Looking at google maps I saw that north of the hotel was a river with what looked like a bunch of trails around it.  I just took off in that direction knowing eventually I'd find it.

I have a bunch of my photos of that first run on my facebook here.

Finishing up the run I found a nice little cafe, maybe 10 minutes from the hotel where I got a long black coffee (you order coffee very differently here than in the states).  I find that it's really nice to have a place like a local cafe on these long field campaigns.  It gives you a chance to have some feeling of roots, something comfortable that you can come back to over.

After a quick cup of joe, a stop at the supermarket and a trip to the dentist (to get my root canal looked at and the stitches removed) I was running low on energy.  I stopped in at the ops center for a few hours of training from the other sys admin that was down here and then headed home to sleep.

Cosy Cafe in Christchurch

More to follow....

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