Getting Home

Day 20 – 2004-02-06

Finally the journey home is starting. We had an “out-brief” in the library at 09:00. Ruth gave us each a certificate to say we'd visited the South Pole – ooh err.

The plane came in shortly after 11. Ben and Clem were off finishing some last-minute work on the accelerometer, but they turned up in time.

Sun dog PAX Terminal
Sun dog South Pole International Passenger Terminal
Herc' landing Last good-byes
Hercules Landing Last chance for good-byes
Boarding the Herc' Last view of SP
Boarding the Hercules Last view of South Pole Station
Trans-Antarctic Mountains Trans-Antarctic Mountains
Trans-Antarctic Mountains Trans-Antarctic Mountains
Onboard the Herc' Trans-Antarctic Mountains
Onboard the Herc' Trans-Antarctic Mountains
Unloading About to disembark
Unloading About to disembark
Off the Herc' Tractors
Just off the Hercules Tractors to take us to Pegasus

We took off at about 12:00. This leg of the journey was not unpleasant. We arrived at Willey Field at about 15:00, and took the transport to Pegasus. There they have provided toilet facilities; even the Americans didn't dare call their “Head Unit” a “rest room” – it was as far from that as one could imagine!

Eventually we were loaded onto the C141. Once all packed in, we took off at 17:10. This was no fun at all. It was even more of a squeeze than the flight out. And I had some rowdy young American men next to me, who were a bit of a nuisance even with the ear plugs.

C141 loading up C141 loaded
C141 loading up C141 loaded
C141 in flight C141 in flight
C141 in flight C141 in flight

Finally we landed at 23:10. They processed us through the normal in-bound international facilities at the airport, so we must have looked a site to the tourists, with all our ECW clobber.

Once through there we pushed our trolleys to the CDC, where I sorted out mine from theirs, and got everything checked off. After a quick call to Helen, I joined a van load going to the Heritage, checked in, and soaked in the bath for a while.

Day 21 – 2004-02-07

Saturday – Isn't it great to be back in civilisation!

Breakfast at the “Old Government Buildings” – continental, with Kiwi fruit juice,

Christchurch Tram
Christchurch A tram

Time to get everything packed away and check out.

I walked across town to the Crown Plaza – Ben still in bed at 12:15! But we arrange to have lunch at the OGB restaurant.

Finally I head off to the airport at 13:30. The Qantas desk (BA rep') can't help with changing the date on my BA ticket – wrong system. But at Auckland they sort it out.

I'm lucky with the seats, for my flight to LAX – a spare space next to me. Once again the food is pretty good for an airline.

South Island
Part of South Island

Day 22 – 2004-02-07 (take two)

Since we crossed back over the international date line I get another go at Saturday.

The flight was uneventful, except for somebody stepping on my toes in the middle of the night. The only other annoyance was that the map display didn't work.

For once US immigration were quite quick, and I was soon through into the airport (all the usual hassle with security though, back through the typical routine of boots off and laptop out). I had quite a wait for my next flight, up to San Francisco.

Once at SFO it was straight to the BA counters and off to the gate – plane waiting.

This time the BA food and wine was a lot better. And the map display worked, so I was able to follow our track up into Canada. I saw Saskatoon from the air – nice and quiet.

I had a whole row to myself, but bulkhead seats, which means the arms don't swivel up (they hold the tray tables). Still, I made myself fairly comfortable for the night.

LAX San Francisco flight
LAX Airport San Francisco flight
A mountain – Mount Shasta?

Day 23 – 2004-02-08

I slept quite well, and breakfast found us a few hundred miles out from Scotland. There were enough breaks in the cloud for a good view of snow-covered mountains as we crossed the coast, but by the Lake District it had closed over.

We went straight in to Heathrow, but then spent about 20 minutes waiting for our stand.

I was very lucky with the trains – Heathrow Express and Paddington trains about to leave. I caught the 12:00 for Swansea, which was packed. It was a bit of a fight to squeeze through the carriages with all my bags, to find a seat. But it was running to schedule, and soon enough I was back in Cardiff, with Helen and Jamie waiting, with big smiles to greet me.

In eight months I'll have to do it all again!

Scotland Cardiff
Scotland A sunny day coming in to Cardiff

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