New Zealand….the South Island

After our eight days on the North Island, we took the Interislander Ferry across Cook Strait and arrived in Picton for the start of our ten days on New Zealand’s South Island.

Train rides through fabulous terrain, a jet boat ride over rapids, a ride into a canyon on the most dangerous road I have ever been on (one of the most dangerous roads in the world according to Reader’s Digest), a lunch cruise on Milford Sound in the rain, a 1912 steam ship ride and dinner and much more were awaiting us.

In Picton we boarded the Coastal Pacific for a spectacular train ride that showcased the Kaikoura mountain ranges, the rugged scenic coast line and traveled through and over numerous tunnels and bridges to Christchurch. The rail line was closed for two years following the 2011 earthquake in Christchurch.

Well, we finally found the sheep. To the extent that cattle outnumbered sheep on the North Island, we found sheep everywhere on the South Island.

Christchurch experienced two fairly recent earthquakes; a 7.1 magnitude in Darfield on September 4,2010 in 2010, about 35 km from Christchurch and a second of magnitude 6.3 in Christchurch on February 22, 2011. The second, being closer to Christchurch and not a deep, caused much more damage and loss of life. 185 people died and another 164 were seriously injured. As a indication of how wide spread the damage was, eight years later we still saw significant signs of the damage and the many structures that haven’t been repaired or replaced.

While in Christchurch we got to visit the Antarctic Centre where we experienced a snow tram ride over an Antarctic simulated track and time in a Antarctic weather simulated room. In the afternoon following a tour of the city we went off on our own using the city Tram system to explore further. Unfortunately, the main points of interest were mostly the remaining earthquake damage.

We left Christchurch aboard the TranzAlpine, one of the greatest train rides in the world. The ride took us over massive viaducts, river valleys and spectacular gorges on the way to Arthur’s Pass in the Southern Alps. From Arthur’s pass we traveled by bus to Franz Josef. If we did believe before, we know knew we were experiencing something very special; a country with the most spectacular terrain and countryside we have ever seen.

The next day it was back on the bus for our ride through the snow capped Southern Alps to Queenstown. Along the way, we stopped at Haast Pass where, if we chose, and we did, we could take the Haast River Safari, a jet boat ride up the Haast River. What a smart decision! The jet ride took us over rapids, through beautiful terrain with many stops along the way. The captain, after warning us, even had the boat do wheelies.

After leaving the Haast River Safari, the program director and bus driver took us off the beaten trail a little and stopped at a point that we had outstanding views of Fox Glacier and Mt. Cook. Mt. Cook is the highest mountain peak in New Zealand. From there it was on to Queenstown.

Queenstown is a year round resort situated on Lake Wakatipu. We had the day free to explore on our own which we used to take an optional tour to Skippers Canyon. Looking back, the tour was an outstanding experience, one that we have talked about continuously since, but one that if we had known what we were getting into we probably wouldn’t have taken.

The canyon was beautiful! However, the road was treacherous; according to Reader’s Digest, one of the ten most dangerous roads in the world.

To quote Wikipedia about Skippers Canyon,  “Skippers Canyon is a historic and scenic gorge, some 22 kilometres in length, several kilometres north of Queenstown, New Zealand.

Today accessed from Queenstown via the same road that leads to the Coronet Peak ski field, Skippers Canyon is carved out by the Shotover River. The Shotover, one of New Zealand’s richest gold-bearing rivers, was named by William Gilbert Rees who with his wife Frances and brother-in-law Nicholas von Tunzelmann were the first European settlers in and near where Queenstown is now.

Once a busy gold mining area, Skippers Canyon was accessed by Skippers Road, which is today one of New Zealand’s better known scenic roads.

The main New Zealand road where rental car insurance is not honoured, Skippers Road is mostly one-way, narrow and steep with sheer drops of several hundred metres. In 1886, Skippers Canyon was also the first site where hydroelectricity was generated to power gold mining.”

That evening after recovering from our Skippers Canyon tour, we the TSS Earnslaw across Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak Station where we disembarked for a wonderful five course buffet meal followed by a short farm tour including a sheep dog and sheep shearing demonstration. The TSS Earnslaw is a 1912 Edwardian vintage twin screw steamship, the only remaining commercial passenger-carrying coal-fired steamship in the southern hemisphere.

A great day!

Our next stop was Te Anau, the stepping stone to Milford Sound where we were to board the Milford Mariner for an overnight cruise on Milford Sound. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate. The road from Te Anau to Milford Sound is landslide prone. When the weather conditions increase the risk of landslides, the government closes the road. Well, it was a rainy day and, unfortunately, the road was closed.  There was a ray of hope however. If conditions allowed, the road would be opened the next day for a few hours. It opened and we were able to get into Milford Sound, take a lunch cruise and get back out before the road closed again.

Apparently, there are two Milford Sounds; one when it’s raining and one in the sunshine. We got to experience the rainy Milford Sound; waterfalls all over the place. It was beautiful. On sunny days there are only two waterfalls in Milford Sound. Maybe the rain was a plus.

Busing toward Dunedin, our next stop, we boarded the Taieri Gorge Limited for a journey through spectacular scenery that is only accessible by train; again reinforcing New Zealand spectacular terrain.

On our day in Dunedin we traveled along the Otago Peninsula to Larnach Castle where we wandered the beautiful gardens and were treaded to a delicious Devonshire Tea. Once back in Dunedin, we used our free time to explore the city. That evening was a Scottish evening comprised of bagpipes, great food and a Haggis Ceremony in which a few of our fellow travelers participated.

From Dunedin it was back to Christchurch for our flights to Australia. New Zealand should be on every buddies bucket list!

What could we possibly expect of Australia after our outstanding eighteen days in New Zealand?

Australia was sure to be different. Although we had our boarding and a few activities arranged for us, we were not on a tour. We traveled in a rental car, on the wrong side of the road. We were on our own.

I maintain a personal website of all of our trip pictures. The Australia New Zealand photos, two slideshows, a few videos and the emails I sent home to family are all available for viewing on the website. You can access our Australia New Zealand trip by clicking on WyckoffPhotos.com

My next few blog posts I will address our Australian experience.

New Zealand….the North Island

New Zealand, a small plane ride, boogie boarding on a sand dune, driving a Luge down a mountain, a jet boat ride over rapids, a dangerous van ride into a canyon, train rides, boat rides, all while seeing one of the most fascinating countries in the world!

Although we planned our trip to New Zealand and Australia through a travel agent in Manhattan, NY, I found our New Zealand tour on the Internet and asked our travel agent to include it in our travel plans. The tour was a “19 Day New Zealand Rail, Cruise and Coach Holiday” by Grand Pacific Tours headquartered in Australia. There were 42 of us on the tour; 5, included three of us, from the USA, 2 from England and the rest from Australia. It was an absolutely great tour with sociable and fun traveling companions.! For more information about the tour, check out Grand Pacific Tours at Grand Pacific Tours.

Our experiences in New Zealand will be handled in two separate blog posts. This post will cover our experiences on the North Island and my next blog post will cover the South Island. They were both great experiences, but from my standpoint, the South Island wins out.

We stared our tour of New Zealand in Auckland and spent the first eight days on the North Island. Having known for years that most of the lamb sold in the United States came from New Zealand we expected to find sheep everywhere, but not so. Most of what we saw grazing on the North island were cattle. It turns out that dairy is New Zealand second largest industry next to tourism; we actually passed one farm that had 25,000 head of cattle. Most of the farms even had elaborate watering systems just to keep the fields green for grazing.

Our first few days were spent in Auckland and north in the Bay of Islands. One of our first experiences was taking our small plane ride over 90 mile beach to Cape Reinga to visit the light house; near the most northern point in New Zealand.

It was on the way back to the plane in the van that we stopped at a beautiful National Park beach for coffee, tea and crumpets. The driver/pilot then took us to the sand dunes where much to our surprise, out of the van came boogie boards. So we boogie boarded down the sand dune. That evening we took a really fun dinner cruise.

Another visit was to Matakohe where we visited the Kauri Museum and the site of  the 800 years old Kauri Tree; a tree most of us never heard of and only exceeded in size by the Sequoia Redwoods. Interestingly, Redwood trees grow twice a fast in New Zealand as they do in California; must be their great soil.

We also visited Whangarie and the Waitangi Treaty Grounds; considered the home of New Zealand. It was here the signing of the treaty between the Maori tribes and the British occurred. Before leaving the Auckland area, we took a luxury catamaran to Cape Brett and the famous Hole in the Rock; a three hour ride with beautiful scenery.

Next, it was on to Rotorua. Along the way we visited the Glenbrook Vintage Railway, a restored vintage steam train, passed through very beautiful countryside and stopped at Paradise Valley Springs, a fun wildlife park.

It was in Rotorua that we took the gondola ride at the Skyline Rotorua from which we rode the Luges down. For we mature people, it was a fun experience. In my opinion, Rotorua is little Yellowstone National Park. It sits on a Rotorua caldera where volcanic activity is prevalent. As a matter of fact, after we left the area, a volcano erupted 30 miles off the coast on Whakaari/White Island. Unfortunately, 19 people were killed and 28 others suffered injuries; including many with severe burns. While in the area, we visited the Agrodome, farming education and entertainment.

After visiting the Te Puia geyser, one of only three in the world,  and attending a Maori Hangi concert, we were on our way from Rotorua to Wellington; traveling along the Thermal Explorer Highway.  We stopped at Huka Falls; a short walk from our bus.  We then visited the Tramway Museum where we enjoyed a ride on one of the original trams that served Wellington.  Wellington, being the capital of New Zealand, is situated between New Zealand’s two major cities Auckland and Christchurch.

After a free day to explore Wellington we were on our way to the South Island by way of the Interislander Ferry; a three hour ride across Cook Strait. Interestingly, half of the three hours trip to Picton was through the Marlborough Sound on the South Island; a beautiful ride.

At this point, we had only seen the North Island. We, however, already realizing that we were visiting a unique and beautiful country.

I maintain a personal website of all of our trip pictures. The Australia New Zealand photos, two slideshows, a few videos and the emails I sent home to family are all available for viewing on the website. You can access our Australia New Zealand trip by clicking on WyckoffPhotos.com

My next blog post will discuss our experiences on the South Island.

Australia and New Zealand….Are the Long Flights Worth It?

Let me start by saying….New Zealand is one fantastic country to visit!

In October we traveled to New Zealand and Australia. Our biggest concern about making the trip was the long flights over the Pacific Ocean. My wife was also concerned about leaving our two cats for 42 days.

I order to make the flights less painful, we decided to upgrade our flight over to Auckland, New Zealand and back from Sydney, Australia to premium economy. Having a daughter that lived in California, we also decided to spend two days with her and her husband going over and coming back; shortening both of the flights. Even so, the flight to Auckland was about 13 hours and the flight from Sydney about 15 hours. Upgrading those flights and shortening them by five hours with our California stay was the smartest thing we did. It made both flights not only bearable, but actually not bad at all.

In New Zealand, where we spent 18 days, we had arranged a land tour with Grand Pacific tours. Again, smart move; the tour was outstanding! For more information about the tour we took, check out the Grand Pacific Tours website at https://www.grandpacifictours.com/index.php?com=com_tours&itemid=133&category=5414

In Australia our travel agent planned our 16 days which included renting a car twice and staying in three cities; Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney. Not quite New Zealand, but certainly well worth the visit. Kangaroo Island was fascinating, one of our best days of our trip, and the coast lines between Adelaide and Melbourne and again between Melbourne and Sydney were absolutely beautiful! Australia is a big country; border to border, the same size as the USA. We did not travel into the outback, Ayres Rock or Alice Springs, or to Cairns to see the Great Barrier Reef. The furthest inland we got was into the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. We were fortunate, other than some smoke in Sydney on a couple of occasions, we were not affected by the forest fires.

Were the long flights worth the experience? Without any hesitation…the answer is a resounding YES! Stay tuned for my future blog posts in which I will discuss our experiences in each country.

We have done a fair amount of traveling over the years, but this was our first trip across the International Date Line and to the southern hemisphere. It was a new experience, losing a day going over and arrive back in the USA before we left Sydney. It was also nice to leave the USA in the fall and wind up spending our vacation in the spring.

By the way, our cats survived just fine!

Stay tuned!

Considering a second career? I have a recommendation!

Whether you are retired or planning to retire and are thinking about or looking for a second career, I have a recommendation for you.

I retired from my IBM corporate job at the age of 51. For both financial reasons and to keep myself occupied during my retirement years I decided I wanted to own and run my own business. To find an appropriate business, I looked into franchises. I wanted a business that would match my skills and one that I knew I would enjoy. Well, after much research, I found two; a business consulting service and payroll service. I ran both them for ten years, enjoyed what I was doing and even made good money to supplement my pension. Actually, with the payroll service I made very good money.

What does that mean for you?

Franchises are a really good way for you get into a business. Fortunately, there is a company, The Franchise Consulting Company (The FCC) that will find the perfect franchise business for you. They have connections with over 300 franchisors in all types of industries, some that may already be on-going businesses. They will work with you on a one-on-one basis to find your perfect fit. If they had been in business 30 years ago when I was looking for my business, I certainly would have worked with one of their consultants.

I have a close relationship with one of The Franchise Consulting Company’s consultants; Joe Fox. Voter Fraud Does ExistJoe is a proven executive with expertise in leading quality improvement and growth in acquired companies, start-ups, and turnaround situations in multi-site businesses. He is adept at identifying business opportunities for investors and business owners. His diverse experience set includes Executive Leadership, driving Operational Efficiencies, Acquiring, Building, and Optimizing companies. Has delivered successful results in urban, suburban and rural settings, and has overseen as many as 46 business locations concurrently. Joe uses this extensive experience to help guide clients to the right business opportunity. His education includes Bachelor of Business and Master of Business Administration (MBA) degrees. Learn more about Joe from his website https://www.joefoxfranchise.com.

Voter Fraud Does ExistJoe’s franchise consultation services are 100% free. To quote Joe, “ I thoroughly enjoy guiding others through the process and will ensure that you are fully knowledgeable before starting your dream business!”

Nick Neonakis (Ne O Nak Is), MBA, founder of The Franchise Cousulting Company, has written a book, The Franchise MBA: Mastering the 4 Essential Steps to Owning a Franchise, that sells for $16.95 on Amazon. Schedule a FREE, NO OBLIGATION appointment with Joe to discuss opportunities that might work for you and receive a FREE copy. You won’t go wrong!

CONTACT JOE

E-mail: JoeFox@TheFranchiseConsultingCompany.com
Website: https://www.joefoxfranchise.com
Phone: (949) 439-7267
Mailing Address: Joe Fox, 31441 Santa Margarita Parkway,  Suite A-386, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688
Serving Clients Nationwide

Airlines Asinine Baggage Policies

My wife and I, along with our sister-in-law, recently returned from an absolutely wonderful trip to Australia and New Zealand. It was my intentions to immediately share our experiences in this blog, in my YouTube videos and in my podcasts. However, the chaotic boarding of our flights dictates that I discuss our airline travel first.

We traveled to the Australia and New Zealand from North Carolina and our sister-in-law from New Jersey. Together we had fourteen take-offs and landings. Four of the flights, the long ones, we upgraded to premium economy; the others we flew economy.

It was on the economy flights that the whole boarding process was a hassle; which I attribute largely to the airline baggage policies. I don’t fly frequently anymore; maybe once or twice a year, but let me relay my most recent fiasco and explain why the airline baggage policy, along with their crammed seating, is the culprit.

Think about it…what are the worst experiences about flying….economy seating, being packed in like sardines, and the absolute hassle from the time you enter the airport until you are safely in your seat on the plane. The airline’s baggage policy has nothing to do with the seating, but recent economy seating changes have certainly added to the baggage problem.

As you may or may not know the airlines board the plane by group number. Economy passengers are the last groups to board. On all four legs of our domestic flights, my wife and I made, by standing in line while the earlier groups boarded, a point of being one of the first in our group, group 6, to board. Even so, we found most of the overheads already packed with little or no room for carry-ons. Those boarding behind us were mostly unsuccessful! Our sister-in–law, for her flight, was first in line in her group, group 4, but was informed before boarding that the overheads were already full. Why is that?

Our flights were on American Airlines and our sister-in-laws flight was on United. I’ m not pointing fingers only at them because most airlines have similar baggage policies. Here’s the problem! The airlines charge for checked bags. They don’t charge for carry on items. If you carry on a bag and there is no overhead room they check it for free. Although their policy only allows for one carry-on and one personal item, they don’t really enforce it. Personal items are required to be stored under the seat in front of you. Also, not enforced! Adding to the problem over the last few years airlines have crammed more and more seats into the economy sections thereby causing less overhead space per passenger.

So here’s what happens. Passengers carry on more than one bag and it’s great for them if their bags fit in the overhead when they get on. If not, they can have their bag(s) checked for free. Why pay for a checked bag it you can have it checked for free? This policy causes the overheads to get filled before the later groups even get to board the flight.

What’s the answer? There may be a number of solutions, but allowing carry-ons and checking them for free, is certainly not the solution. As with anything, money talks!

One solution might be to charge for carry-ons at a slightly higher amount than for checked bags. That will incentify passengers to check bags or more of their bags thereby reducing the number of carry-ons. In order to not make it more expensive for passengers, the airlines should lower the cost of checked bags to compensate for charging for carry-ons. It would be easy for airlines to come up with a pricing algorithm that accomplishes the above without charging passengers more and without losing revenue. This suggestion is not intended as a mechanism for airlines to increase their revenue.

There would be many side benefits to reducing the number of carry-ons. With the current policy, everyone tries to board first just to get overhead space for their carry-ons. For economy passengers boarding a flight today is like standing at the Wal-mart door on Black Friday waiting for the doors to open.

A policy such as this would result in:

  • The TSA lines moving quicker since there would be fewer bags to go through the scanner.
  • Reduce congestion at the gate since there would be adequate overhead space and passengers wouldn’t have to rush to get onboard.
  • Boarding would occur faster; less delays waiting for passengers to find empty overheads and putting their bags in the overhead.
  • Fewer injuries from bags hitting passengers when loading and unloading the overheads.
  • And, most importantly, the airlines would have happier economy customers; assuming they care.

What do all you airline travelers think?

I’ll talk more about our wonderful trip to New Zealand and Australia in future blogs.

Optimizing exercise for heart and brain health

I recently learned about a new advanced technology for heart health; the Counterpace Guidance System.  The article to follow in this blog post was written by a representative from CounterPace for posting on this website.

Prior to posting the blog, I did some online research about Counterpace and their Guidance System and app. The only thing I found was an encouraging article on the Aging In Place Technology website.

Counterpace has offered to have me try the device which I plan to do sometime before the end of the year. I wilI share my experiences in a future blog.

Enjoy the article that follows by Matt Anderson of Counterpace {September 20, 2019} “Optimizing exercise for heart and brain health”.
Continue reading “Optimizing exercise for heart and brain health”

Election Fraud….How Real Is It?

As seniors and retirees, I’m sure we are all concerned about what is happening to our country; if not for our selves, for our children and our grand children.  In my “My Country “the USA”….What’s Happening?” blog post, I questioned what was happening to our country. Of all the concerns expressed, probably the most concerning of all is the potential for fraud in our elections; especially our presidential election in 2020. I this blog post, I will address my reasons to be very concerned about election fraud.

Voter Fraud Does ExistThere are many reasons to be worried, but I am most concerned about social media censorship, news media bias, liberal education indoctrination and Illegal immigrant driver’s licenses. Let me tackle these one at a time.

I hope you find this post equally concerning!
Continue reading “Election Fraud….How Real Is It?”

My Country “the USA”….What’s Happening?

Writing my “Retired What Now” blog posts over the last year and a half I have been determined to not get into politics or religion. However, looking at our country today, one has to ask….What’s Happening?

I am not a politician nor am I involved in politics in any way. I’m just an ordinary senior citizen that has been around for a long time and has respected this country for what it is or, at least, what it use to be.

I grew up during the Second World War and my latter elementary school years and high school years were in the 1950’s. As a kid, the 50’s were very peaceful, patriotic, religious and innocent years. There were parades, there were Christmas pageants, we even sang Christmas carols around a Christmas tree  in public school, everyone saluted the flag, everyone practiced their own religion, or did not practice if they choose not to, and no one questioned our government’s use of “In God We Trust” on our currency, in our government buildings and in our Pledge of Allegiance. Yeah, the Korean War took place in the early 50’s and discrimination was still a problem, but the Korean War ended in 1953 and from my prospective discrimination was mostly in the Southern States. I lived near an African American section in our town, referred to as “the colored section” in my day. We never though the kids from that section of town were any different than ourselves and many of them were good friends.

Now, look at what’s happening to our country today….

We have one political party that wants to significantly change our country; a country that has been more successful since its formation and any other country in the world. They want open borders, they don’t want to know how many citizens there are in our country, they want to cater to illegal immigrants before their own citizens, they want to spend their time trying to impeach our president instead of governing, they want to divide our people instead of bring them together, they want to call everyone a racist for any position they take and they are pushing us away from capitalism toward socialism in spite of the fact that socialism has never been successful in any country that has tried it; Venezuela bring a recent example. Why is this?

There must be more to this than just one political party. Where’s the money coming from? Are there other countries behind it? How do they stay so organized and together? I wish I knew!

What’s really scary is the apparent support this movement has. We have a younger generation in our country that has been schooled in liberalist for years and thinks socialism is the way we should go. We have a press that with few exceptions supports this party and these socialistic ideas and reports only one side of the story. We have a society that thinks that anything, including lying, is justified if it leads to their desired results. Even big companies, the likes of Apple, Google, Facebook, etc., support these liberal socialistic ideas.  Even more scary, it looks like the social media companies are censoring non-liberal content.

All of this is occurring at a time when our country is doing better economically than any other country in the world, when the unemployment rate is at an all-time low, record lows for Blacks and Hispanics and the lowest in decades for women, when we are stronger internationally than we have been in years and when consumer confidence is running at an all time high.

So why does so much of the country support these liberal, socialist ideas? I wish I knew and I wish there was an obvious way to reverse this trend.

I would love to get your comments on this blog post!

My Hearing Aids…The Latest

Until recently, I have never been overly happy with my hearing aids. I started with a pair of MicroTech hearing aids and as expensive as they were, I never felt they did much for me. Next I purchased a pair of Audibel hearing aids and they were much better. Neither the MicroTech nor Audibel hearing aids helped much in a restaurant environment or any environment with significant background noise; they did help some in one-on-one conversations. As I mentioned in my “Hearing: Have a Problem?” blog post back in January 2018, the Audibel hearing aids did connect to my cell phone and to my TV using a Surflink device and that did make a significant improvement in those areas.
Continue reading “My Hearing Aids…The Latest”

Business Opportunity for Retirees with Arbonne

Retirees, you can start a part time business and enjoy the benefits of Botanically Based Beauty, Health & Wellness products by joining the Arbonne family.

Arbonne transforms lives through pure, botanically based ingredients in scientifically tested products; a pure, healthy lifestyle; and the pure joy of helping others.
Continue reading “Business Opportunity for Retirees with Arbonne”