I have returned to New Zealand! We left McMurdo in a snow storm (winter is approaching) and less than five hours later, we were in sweet smelling New Zealand. The flight was good, I spent almost the entirety standing in the rear of the plane by the cargo looking out of the window, watching night come for the first time in over four months. Earlier in the flight, I caught the tail end of the Antarctic mountains passing beneath us, and they were wonderful. I would like to go back there someday.
Christchurch is lovely and the botanical gardens are wonderful. Just the feel of my hand on tree bark is very soothing. The smells take me back to many different places and they are all enjoyable. I'm headnig to the south in a few days to travel the southern coastline. It is strange now to have to pay for meals, lodging and transportation. But it is absolutely wondeful to have night and day as well as warm breezes without volcanic dust in the air.
I'll keep writing as I go and today I got an email that said the N. Pole marathon winner will be posted by Monday at the latest! Thanks again to commenters. I'll be sure and post the results as soon as I know them.