Sunday, May 16, 2010

Over the Pacific - Part 2

The airport at Honolulu was quite small, but it had this special cozy atmosphere that is very hard to describe. The buildings were quite old, but very spacious, allowing a constant flow of the maritime breeze that cooled the tropical heat. In some of the waiting rooms there were random miniature planes hanging from the ceiling, which I found exceedingly interesting.

The other thing that hit me was the amount of Japanese people at the terminal. There were endless gates for the exclusive use of Japan Airlines, and the queues were full of happy Japanese tourists, taking the last pictures, and buying the last few memorabilia left in the stores before they returned to Japan. Quite amusing!

Like a tourist in a foreign land, I got somewhat lost looking for the check-in counter for Hawaiian Airlines. The plan was to check in, and then wander around the area. However, I spent almost half an hour looking for the said counter, and the only signs or information I could get was from airlines other than Hawaiian. I eventually found it, and it turned out that I needed to get going if I wanted to catch the plane. After emptying my water bottle, I passed through security and US Dept of Agriculture checkpoints, and proceeded to my gate, which was a bit far away. Interestingly, the hallway that connects the counters with the gates was not indoors, like any other airport I´ve been too. Rather, it was more like a long terrace, and the tropical heat of Hawaii was not helping when you had to carry a big heavy bag and running against time. In the end I made it on time, half way through boarding. I was dissapointed I did not get to see much of Hawaii at all, but I hope I may return some other time.

As we were boarding, I again noticed the demographics around me. As the previous flight, most of them were young caucasian couples and small families, all of them wearing luau motifs, and lots of shopping bags. The way they spoke suggested that they were mostly Americans, an obvious statment given the route (HNL-LAX). I already started to miss the beautiful Australian accent!

As before, the plane was exactly the same: a bit old and small. The leg room was even worse, but that was because someone was sitting next to me. But in the end, it did not matter too much. As we departed Honolulu, I was glued to the window, admiring the beautiful and pristine beaches below me, as we continued our journey to the US mainland.

Over the Pacific - Part 1

Once I passed Australian Immigration at Sydney International, I knew my time had really arrived. It was barely 7pm, and my flight would leave at around 9pm. Two hours to spare! Since I was going to be sitting down for unending hours, I decided to go for a walk around the International terminal. Most importantly, I wanted to buy something for the trip (to get rid off my last Australian spare coins). As I walked up and down the terminal, I finally saw the plane I was catching: a relatively small plane but with the beautiful livery of Hawaiian Airlines.

At around 8:30pm, I was allowed to enter the waiting room just next to the gate. Just before I had to turn my phone off, I texted as many people as I could, to say the final goodbye. I also had to say goodbye to a good friend of mine, with which I had been texting the whole two hours.

The loudspeakers finally made the boarding call for Hawaiian flight HA452. Destination: Honolulu, Hawaii. As we boarded, I could not help but notice the demographics of my fellow travellers. Most of the passengers consisted of couples, some young, some not too young. Because of their accent, I gather that most of them were Australian. Of course, they were wearing T-shirts and board shorts with Hawaiian or tropical motifs. I was one of the few that were wearing jeans and a heavy piece of hand luggage.

The plane was a bit smaller that expected, rather old and the seats were a bit uncomfortable. But it was fine nonetheless! The seat next to me was empty, so that allowed me to stretch a little bit more. As the plane took off, I was glued to the window, admiring the ocean of lights just below me, the last glimpses of Australia. Even though it was dark, I could still recognise the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House at the distance.

And so, the journey began. 21:30 Australian Eastern Standard Time. I felt a bit tired, but did not want to sleep yet. After reading a couple of pages of "The Plague" by Albert Camus, I decided it was time to open the notebook that my friends signed for me. It was all Dave Walker´s idea: for all of my friends to write on this notebook a memory of them with me, and to say a few words of farewell. As I read it, I was more laughing and smiling at what my crazy friends wrote rather than feeling the incredible pain of leaving. I was sad, yes, but deep within me burnt a gratitude to God for allowing me to spend a precious time in Australia, something that I have already written in this blog weeks ago. In a way, I knew that I had to move on, and so the transition over the Pacific, as I read the notebook and remembered the good times, was not as painful as I thought it was going to be.

Between Sydney and Honolulu there are around 10 hours worth of flying. I managed to sleep just over an hour or two, but not too much. In the meantime, I killed time reading or listening to music. And thinking, of course. Due to the fact that we were flying towards the east (and against the sun), the sun rose way earlier than expected. According to my estimations, at around 10:30am Hawaiian time, after breakfast, the plane descended and approached the Hawaiian isles. As we approached the runway at Honolulu International, the captain was explaining to us the locations, beaches, buildings and roads we were looking through our windows. Even from the plane you could see the pristine beaches, the white sand, the different degrees of blue and green in the water, and so on. It was beautiful!

So we landed at Honolulu Airport, at 11:00 Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time on a Friday morning (it was Saturday morning in Australia). Most of the Australian passengers seemed very excited, and with loud voices were telling their fellow travellers what they were going to do in Honolulu and the rest of the islands. As we disembarked and entered US-American soil, we passed through customs quite quickly (compared to previous experiences in LAX) After picking my checked luggage up and putting it in another carrousel for connecting flights, I decided to explore the International Airport at Honolulu.