December 2005 Trip to New Zealand

From December 2-12, 2005, I traveled to New Zealand for ICAT 2005. I was in Christchurch most of the time, but made a two-day trip to Mount Cook.

Here are some quick links to my photos.

The same links are included in the brief commentary below.

December 4, 2005

At 11:00 AM on Friday, December 2, Linda and the boys took me to the Raleigh-Durham airport to catch a 1:00 PM flight to Dallas, then I flew to Los Angeles, Auckland (New Zealand) and finally Christchurch. I arrived around 9:00 AM on Sunday, December 4. (It was over 30 hours of travel, and I lost a day.)

After arriving I picked up my rental car (AAA Car Rentals), drove to my hotel (Academy Motor Lodge), and unpacked. I then did some exploring, driving on the left side of the road (with steering on the right in the car) for the first time in my life. I drove about 12 km south and east of the city, around the coast and through the mountains (hills) to Lyttelton. Then I took the Lyttelton tunnel back to Christchurch, and walked around the downtown a little, seeing the Christchurch Cathedral, etc.

I later found a grocery store nearby my hotel, and purchased a little food, etc. for the week. I was pretty tired and the conference (ICAT 2005) began the next day so I didn't stay up late.

Here are some pictures from that first day.

December 5-7, 2005

Monday-Wednesday were consumed by conference activity. It was a good conference both technically and from a personal standpoint. I met new people, and caught up with several that I know. The conference took place at the University of Canterbury.

Monday night we had a barbequeue at the HIT Lab NZ, Tuesday we ate at the Tandoori Palace, and Wednesday was the conference dinner at the Antarctic Center. The visit to the Antarctic Center was great! Good dinner, great people, paper awards, etc. The museum is very nice, and includes a neat "Snow and Ice Experience" room where you don warm clothes and experience a simulated base camp with temperatures artifically reduced to below -5 degrees Celsius (20 degrees Fahrenheit). It wasn't all that cold, but fun to be in a make-believe Antarctic base camp. I am currently reading Sea of Glory and now have a special interest in the Wilkes and other explorations of the coast of Antarctica.

Here are some pictures from the conference dinner at/and the Antarctic Center,

December 8, 2005

I spent most of the day at the International Workshop on Advanced Information Processing for Ubiquitous Networks, at which I gave an invited presentation on "Improving, Expanding and Extending 3D Telepresence." In the afternoon I drove over to the Christchurch Botanic Gardens and walked for a few hours into the evening. The gardens are really beautiful, and I was particularly relaxed as the conference and workshop were over.

Here are some pictures including a few of the campus, and many of the gardens. Here is a web page with a panorama I made in the center of a circular rose garden in the garden.

December 9, 2005

Early on Friday I took my car and headed south and west to Aoraki/Mount Cook. ("Aoraki" means "Cloud Piercer" in the Kai Tahu dialect of the Maori language.) It was about a 4.5 hour drive. I took highway 1 to Rangitata, then 79 through Geraldine and on to Fairlie, then 8 past the south end of Lake Tekapo to highway 8, and 8 north to Aoraki/Mount Cook.

In the village I stayed at The Hermitage Hotel in a Motel Studio Unit. I had planned to take a Glacier Explorers boat ride that afternoon, but they gave me the wrong departure time so I missed that. Instead I went for a three-hour hike to Kea Point to view Mount Cook. It was quite warm, even hot—it was the start of their summer. In fact one thing I had not prepared for was the hot sun. I got some sunburn on my face, hands, and even my scalp. Unfortunately the sun is particularly dangerous these days as the ozone layer apparently starts to break up over New Zealand in Novemeber-December.

That evening I had some beer and supper at the Chamois Bar, then back to the lodge to purchase some things for Linda and the boys, and to write postcards. (I wrote several postcards, then addressed them, and accidentally sent Linda's to some friends in California. I didn't realize it until her's arrived at home a week after my return, and I read it, realizing it was meant for someone else. Doh!)

Here are some pictures from the day, showing my motel room and sights along the Kea Point trail. Here is a web page with a panorama I made standing at Kea Point. Mount Cook is toward the left, shrouded in clouds (not unusual).

December 10, 2005

Early on Saturday (7:00 AM) I got up and did a three-hour hike up the Red Tarns trail. It was a pretty good workout, as it is steps all the way up, with very view plateaus until you reach the Red Tarns sign/marker.

After hiking I showered very quickly, checked out of the hotel, and rushed down to the Aoraki Mount Cook Airport for my 10:30 AM reservation on a ski plane (a Cessna 185) to sightsee around and on the nearby glaciers. The day was perfect for flying, and this had to be the highlight of my trip. Pictures simply cannot capture (although I tried) the stunning grandeur of the mountains and glaciers from above—the scale, the colors (deep blue in other cracks and exposed places), and the immense solitude standing on the Franz Joesph glacier (after landing). There were four passengers on our plane (five people total, including the pilot, Mortimer), and I was fortunate enough to be chosen (by the pilot) to sit up front for most of the flight. (A married couple sat together in the middle, and a Hermitate Hotel employee sat in the back.)

Here are some pictures from the day, including the Red Tarns hike, the Aoraki Mount Cook Airport, our plane, the flight and glacier landing (many pictures), and finally a few from my drive back to Christchurch.

December 11, 2005

I spent Sunday exploring Christchurch some more. I started the day at the including Orana Wildlife Park where I was able to get pretty close to some giraffes. Afterward (in the afternoon) I visited both the Canterbury Museum and the Christchurch Arts Centre. Both are comprised of the beautiful 1870s structures that made up the original site of the University of Canterbury.

I finished the day with a very nice visit to the Christchurch Gondola. At the top there are gift shops, a small museum for the Banks Peninsula region, a cafe and a full restaurant, and several walking trails. After exploring the museum, etc. I took a hike one one of the trails that ends at an overlook of Lyttelton (which I had visited in person on December 4). It was chilly, but quite peaceful. At one point I heard a man yelling, and when I looked closely down the side of the hill I saw a sheep hearder with dogs chasing some sheep back to their primary grazing area. It was neat to watch them work. I left when the clouds (a fog) rolled in quite quickly. It was neat.

Here are some pictures from the day, showing the wildlife park, the museums and cafes, the gondola, and my gondola trail hike. Here is a web page with a panorama I made overlooling Lyttelton.

December 12, 2005

On Monday I checked out of my hotel in Christchurch, left my luggage with the front desk, and head to the New Zealand Air Force Museum. It is really a nice museum, with a hanger full of completed and in-progress restorations. I had a chance to talk with some retired NZAF people (volunteers at the museum) which was neat too.

Stayed at the museum until about 1:30 PM, then picked up my luggage from the hotel, returned my rental car, and head to the airport. I was there early enough to meet with Mark Billinghurst, the Director of the HIT Lab NZ, who was on his way to Australia for some meetings with collaborators. By the way, don't pay your NZ Exit Fee in Christchurch if you are not leaving the country from that airport! Not knowing any better, I did, and when I got to Auckland I had to find a bank and get a waiver because it had not been paid at the airport of departure (Auckland). I was a little pressed for time, but the flight left late so I was OK. From Auckland I began the long joureny home, to Los Angeles, then Chicago, then Raleigh-Durham.

Here are some pictures from the day, primarily (all) of the New Zealand Air Force Museum.