Enjoying The Other Down Under

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - May 30, 2007

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - This is the most beautiful place on Earth. OK, maybe I am just caught up in the glory of the North Island, but this is truly a magnificent place. If you have not had the chance to venture DownUnder (yes, it’s the same here), you should really put a visit on your list of “Top 100 Things To Do Before I Die.”

As a matter of fact, I’d place it on the “Top 10 Things ...”

A few things capture your attention upon arriving in New Zealand. First, the arrival is wonderful. The Auckland airport is clean, modern and comfortable. Passing through customs is pleasant. The transportation access is simple and efficient.

Yep, it’s just about everything the Honolulu airport is not. Hold on, I’m not bashing our airport, but with almost 7 million visitors having the worn, antiquated and difficult HNL experience, it seems we would have kept the place up. I know there is a multigazillion-dollar plan to renovate, rehabilitate and regurgitate our fair air hub, but when is that going to become a reality? I mean, if it takes 10 years to get it done, that’s more than 70 million people who will have their first impression being the Wiki-Wiki.

The route from the Auckland Airport to town is extremely pleasant. What stood out for me and some of our group was the great condition of the roads. No bumps, no potholes, no lane closures, no bumper to bumper. In a word - normal. The signs are bright and informative. The scenery delightful.

Before the accusations of belittling home start to kick in, I mention this as a way to show our challenges do not have to be this way. If we were honest with one another, where do you find a major airport servicing a primary tourist destination in the condition as Honolulu International? Which other entry point has more issues than Honolulu International? The shame of it really lies in the multi-generational lip service we have been getting from politicos who have assured us of improvement and innovation. Blah blah blah ... ah ...enough politics.

New Zealand has a population of about 4.5 million; Auckland, the largest city, has a tally of about 1.5 million. The host culture is Maori, and the parallels between Hawaii and New Zealand are expansive. Without a National Geographic dissertation, I will cut to the proverbial chase. The Maori traditions and people are beautiful. The welcome we have received has been unparalleled in all our travels. I cannot adequately express the selflessness and lack of pretense of the Maori we have befriended. Each and every family and individual has been genuinely affectionate and so intensely proud of their home and their ancestry. What we are experiencing in New Zealand is not a vacation, rather a visit of enlightenment. It is so good for the soul to be in New Zealand, and I hope one day you will have the chance to do the same. Ki ora!

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