The trip home was decent considering how long and complicated it was. I spent about 30 hours in the air, 3 from pole, 8 from McMurdo, 15 from Christchurch (including a change of planes in Auckland) and 4 from Los Angeles. Sleeping on planes is not my forte and it required numerous doses of Johnny Walker to finally soothe myself to sleep. Ill be honest with you, I stopped when the stewardess kindly informed me “You’ll have to wait 20 min for another drink sir, airline policy. We can’t just keep pouring non stop.” I didn’t even notice really, I just wanted to sleep and was finishing the final quarter of my book, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” Incidentally a good book if read for the human story and the motorcycle wisdom, although a little crazy otherwise. I suppose you can’t hold it against the author, he really was nuts. I sure can’t, I really was too.
We left McMurdo on a cloudy snowy morning. In fact it was one of the only snows I saw while down there, weird huh. Clem was actually on the flight that left just minutes before mine. His flights had been delayed by almost a week. Serves him right for making me feel so hopeless about getting home
That’s me in the plane on the way back to New Zealand, someone (ahem, Zarah) thinks I look like a lumberjack … awesome.
Perhaps the most cathartic moment of my life came when I finally dumped the ECW gear that was handed to me on the way down. It was the actual dumping that made it so great. As if designed with the fore knowledge of exactly how I would feel doing it, the procedure for returning ECW gear was to dump each piece one at a time into a giant pile in the middle of the warehouse while the dudes in charge checked off each item from their list. God it was fantastic, I felt like liberated 60s women burning their bras! Or a Nazi burning books … eh, maybe not. Here’s a picture of me rolling in it, literally …
As soon as that was done, it was time for a dinner and celebratory beers. I had a HUGE plateful of mussels and a beer. The following morning I did some quick souvenir shopping before shipping out. I ran across two things I thought I’d share. First was this plaque in the center of Cathedral Square in Christchurch. It was meant to honor the first people to reach NZ, exploring Pacific Islanders. See if you can read the words, its hardly honorable.
“During the first six centuries of Moa hunter occupation, the tribal succession … exterminated the Moa and burnt out the primeval forests … The later migration tribes … introduce kumara cultivation, warfare and intensified working of pounamu …” then the great and wise British settlers came and brought peace, conservation and environmental harmony to the land. Man oh man, that’s an odd way of honoring native past.
The other thing was this silly life size chess game. The two guys playing were crazy intense, they looked like they might break out into a fight. Yet, even I could tell their game was amateur piece grabbing, well cause that’s how I play it.
I came home to more snow and cold, not that I wasn’t warned (thanks Jon). It was somewhere between 0 and 10 degrees out, about the same temperature as it was at pole my last week there. I had a really nice cab ride home with this African immigrant who couldn’t get enough out of me about the South Pole and was as impressed by their flushable toilets as I was grateful for them. It was one question after another in total amazement about the 6 months of sun and 8000 feet of ice. I guess it kinda made me feel good, in an obviously smug and selfish way. It made me realize once more how crazy what I had just done was after all. Well I assured him if he practiced hard, he could ski over there himself, so it wasn’t really a big deal anyway.
My apartment was cold, colder than my room at pole and empty. Still it was home and I got to see the paint job I had just left freshly on the walls when I took off in November. Man we did a good job painting, you guys (all of you) have to come and see it! Jacolipe (my turtle) was healthy and happy, although a little algae ridden. My room looked like it was in good shape and had survived my subletter hell (another post on its own). Ahhh.
Well, I’m settling back into things I guess, South Pole is in the past. One last funny thing though, it seems that with all that constant sunlight, I have developed a little fear of the night. I guess I wouldn’t call it fear, more like distrust.
Peace and love my friends and family.