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Wednesday, November 12, 2014


A rainbow greeted the Crystal Symphony at berth in Auckland, New Zealand.  You can see the top of the Sky City tower on the left, which is where my hotel is located.  This is a city with a population about the size of the State of Hawaii, around 1.4 million.  Kia ora is hello in Maori.

The Maori discovered New Zealand around 1350 and the islands were first sighted by Dutch explorer Abel Tasman (right) in 1642, gaining a name of Niew Zeeland.  Zeeland is a province of the Netherlands.  The British named Tasmania in his honor because he was the first European explorer of the region.  Anyway, after bloody battles with the Maori, where a few of his men were eaten, he left New Zealand.  English navigator Captain James Cook came more than a century later, in 1769, and mapped the country.

New Zealand consists of a North island, where Auckland is located, and a colder South island.  Christchurch, with a population of a third of a million is the largest city in the south.  This is not a particularly religious country, as fewer than 10% regularly attend church and 40% profess to have no religious affiliation.  But the country is the third safest, next to Iceland and Denmark.  The USA is #99.  Furthermore, the Mercer Quality of Living Survey places Auckland as the third best city, where Vienna is #1 and Zurich #2.  The highest ranked U.S. city is....tada.... Honolulu at #28, with San Francisco at #29.

As recently as 1961 Auckland only had 5% Maori/Pacific Islanders and less than 1% Asians.  With encouraging immigration policies, the city today has more than 18% Asians, with 36% in the central city.  The total Asian population is expected to rise to 30% by 2021.  There are more Polynesians living here than any other city, 11% Maori and 13% Pacific Islanders.  There are more Samoans in Auckland than in Samoa.  Sadly, 48% of Maori adults are obese, and 68% of Pacific Islanders.  There is a big effort to be fair to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex communities.  The haka is a Maori war dance.

Auckland is known as the City of Sails because there are 135,000...let me repeat that...135,000 yachts and launches registered.  No surprise that they have won two America's Cup.  I was in Perth, Australia in 1983 at a solar conference when Australia II, from Freemantle, stunned Liberty, the first time since 1851 when the yacht races begun, that a foreigner won.  Freemantle is the port for Perth.  The celebrations were monumental.  Stars and Stripes won it back in 1987, but in 1995 Black Magic embarrassed Young America 5-0, bringing the Cup to Auckland, and they retained the Cup until 2003, when Switzerland won, and kept the title until 2010, when Larry Ellison's Oracle prevailed in Valencia.  Yes, Spain, because Switzerland does not have a sailing venue.  The next race will be in 2017, two Oracle-type crafts against the winner of the 2017 Louis Vitton Cup, although some have said that the challenger will come from Sicily.  However, New Zealand is looming.  While Ellison now owns Lanai, Hawaii was never in the running because we have no power money.  San Diego and Bermuda are listening to the ridiculous demands of the organizers.  Ellison should override this nonsense by just picking Honolulu.

Noting that the Kilauea lava flow is incessantly beginning to envelope Pahoa, I might mention that Auckland straddles the Auckland volcanic field, where there have been 90 eruptions from 50 volcanoes in the last 90,000 years.  THIS IS THE ONLY CITY IN THE WORLD BUILT ON A BASALTIC VOLCANIC FIELD THAT IS STILL ACTIVE.  It is estimated that this region will remain active for another million years.

I am staying in the Sky City Hotel, attached to a casino, next to the tallest man-made structure in the Southern Hemisphere, Sky Tower, 1076 feet high.  The tower is designed to withstand 120 MPH winds and an 8 magnitude earthquake.  However the last one was in 1891 at 6 moment magnitude.  For those with such inclinations, there is a sky jump where you will reach 53 MPH on your fall. It costs $225.  On the 53rd floor is the Sugar Club, where I had a sunset dinner.  (return for details)

I asked what were the best restaurants in this complex, and was sent to Masu for lunch.  Reminds me of Nobu's Silk Road.  I had their businessman's special with 180 ml of sake:

I had long chats with Tadashi Yoshida, who now lives in New Zealand, but is from Tokyo:

The second course was steak:

I would rate Masu's as equivalent to Silk Road.


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