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Sunday, November 24, 2013

The View From Our Timaru Home

Kia Ora!

Large living space with dining area
"Wow! This is the nicest flat we have ever had in New Zealand," I exclaimed as Moira, KC's boss showed us our Timaru flat. What impressed me most was the amount of natural light that flooded the rooms in which we would spend most of our time. Large walk out window/doors led to a small patio and garden.
Master bedroom

The kitchen was large with ample storage in cabinets and a pantry. This is the second time I have encountered this brand of apartment stove. The oven totally baffled me. I had to have a little in-service on how to work it both times. Once set, I never changed the settings for fear I couldn't get it to work again. The stove top is essentially four slooooow hotplates.
Lovely kitchen, confounding stove

Most bathrooms in kiwi homes separate the toilet area from the bathing area, a smart arrangement. Another common amenity is heated towel bars. This nicety I don't find particularly useful as the only warm part of the towel is the strip where it rested on the rod.The shower was endowed with strong water flow. The other unseen amenity was an extra-long bathtub.
Perfect location by a great shower

 Until our guests arrived in September, the second bedroom was used as an auxiliary clothes dryer and for storage.

99 North Street, our home

Our home was situated on the corner of busy North Street and Lisava Avenue, a 1/2 block long cul-de-sac. At night the traffic ceased for relatively quiet sleeping.

Caroline Bay and Pacific Ocean

Foothills of Southern Alps on a hazy day

One of the things that made Timaru living so special is the location. I could walk out my front door to North Street.  Looking east I saw the ocean; looking west there were the Southern Alps. Could life get any richer?


Kiwi Traveler writing from Austin TX

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

No Jet Lag?

Kia Ora!

We all bought in: Barbara, Sarah, Sue, KC and I. Traveling from New Zealand to the Central Time Zone USA is quite a long haul. Before KC and I left Timaru, I asked the three tourists who preceded us how the product worked. Consider this a tiny piece of research with an n=5.

Sarah and Sue wisely did not reply (introduces bias into research); Barbara quit the tablets as they upset her stomach. Now the n=4; the sample gets smaller.

I had read about this product to counter the inevitable jet lag. Then while browsing through a merino shop on Stafford Street in Timaru, the clerk, another customer and I chatted about travel. The other shopper swore by these tablets called No-Jet-Lag, a homeopathic preparation. I inquired at the chemist (pharmacy) and purchased a package for myself and one for KC for the sum of NZD 12.00 (USD 9.87) per package. Our American guests did the same.

The package calls this preparation "The Perfect Travel Companion." They say that it is natural and effective, with no side effects or interactions, with enough chewable tablets for 50 hours of flying (that sounds like hell!) The compound includes these homeopathic substances: arnica montana, bellis perennis, chamomilla, ipecacuanha, and lycopodium. Flyers are to chew one tablet on every take-off, every two hours in flight, and on every landing. Intervals of up to four hours are permissible if sleeping. The taste is not flavored, but not unpleasant either.

Perhaps I was not careful about those intervals or take-offs and landings. Regardless, these things didn't work for me. I am experiencing the worst case of jet lag than I can remember any time before this. This is day 11 and I am still having trouble sleeping at night. The daytime sleepiness was controllable after three days.

Final report of this small study sample, n=5: jet lag 4; no or limited jet lag 0, dropped from study 1.

Would I try this product again? Probably, I would. I quit taking the tablets when we encountered the disaster in Los Angeles. The extra stress that event caused, plus two uncovered time zones yet to go before landing in Texas may have diluted or negated the effectiveness of the homeopathic medication. 

If you would like to try this product, you can. They are available for purchase at Magellan's (, a company specializing in travel products. Our catalog, which arrived in the mail yesterday, sells this product as well as Drink Ease (if you imbibe too much) and Trip Ease (for motion sickness.) The Magellan cost for No-Jet-Lag is USD 13.50, about 3.63 USD more than the NZD 12.00 I paid in New Zealand. For the cheaper price, you need to go to New Zealand, where these products are manufactured.

Kiwi Traveler

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Timaru to Texas: Part III, Shout Out to American Airlines

Kia Ora!

Does this story about our trip home seem long? It seemed so to us too!

It wasn't until we arrived in Dallas at 1:00 AM that I realized how rattled the agents may have been in Los Angeles. The ticket agent that changed our ticket to get us out of LAX ticketed us into San Antonio, and our luggage was ticketed to end up in Dallas. Luckily I noticed this and the relaxed, friendly American Airlines agent in Dallas quickly fixed it. Tagging the luggage to end in Dallas was apparently an intended strategy for all those refugees out of LAX. He reassured everyone that overnight their luggage would be redirected to their final destinations. Baggage agents were going to work all night matching all that luggage with the final destination and retag it? I was dubious.

We stayed at the Grand Hyatt outside Terminal D in Dallas and flew out at the next morning. I never thought the Formula 1 race track would be a welcome site, but there it was on our approach. We landed about 9:00 AM.
Formula 1 race track

There's Rob!

 We were so happy to be back in Austin, descend the escalator to Baggage Claim and see our wonderful son-in-law, Rob Ignatowski, waiting for us. Except for the missing carry-on that was left in LAX, all of our luggage arrived.

That's not the end of the story. Here is the rest:

9:00 PM Sunday--American Airlines called. They found the missing bag.
8:00 AM Monday--American Airlines called. The bag was on its way to Austin.
1:00 PM Monday--American Airlines called. Your bag is at Austin Bergstrom Airport.

Missing bag returned
 KC retrieved it. The contents were intact. We were home safely and all our luggage got here despite the incredible events that transpired November 1, 2013 at LAX.

Kudos to American airlines personnel for their good service in trying circumstances and especially to the baggage agents!

 Our hearts go out to those killed and injured and their families. A special prayer also for the shooter, who must be a seriously disturbed individual. Along with that prayer, a deeply felt concern over the idolization of guns in this country and the paranoia about guns, spawned by the National Rifle Association, that prevents a sane policy of gun ownership and use.

Kiwi Traveler

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Timaru to Texas: Part II, Death Stalks LAX

Kia Ora!

Our journey continues...

Lights went up and passengers roused, anticipating breakfast. Then over the PA system, airline staff called for a doctor on board. KC answered that call but stood down as six other physicians volunteered also. One passenger did not awaken that morning. An elderly woman passed away quietly in her sleep overnight. This meant when we landed our plane would park out on the tarmac and await an Emergency Medical Service (EMS) team to remove the deceased before the rest of us could deplane.

Breakfast was served about 8 AM and a short while later, we landed. Then more news. There was a shooting in Terminal 2, where we were to deplane. Two were dead and others injured. (We learned later that it was Terminal 3 and one death.)  Los Angeles Airport (LAX) was shut down. No planes in, some diverted to other airports, and none out of LAX for now. And no one could deplane. We waited out away from the terminal. One hour. Two hours. Three hours. The flight staff passed out biscuits (cookies) and candy until there was no food left. Information was shared as it became available. Our plane was no where near the terminal because we had been stopped off site for the earlier emergency. It was long after lunch time. Everyone was calm and patient.

KC waits, willing the carousel to begin moving
Finally, about 3 PM, the deceased was off-loaded and city buses arrived to transport us into the terminal. We processed through Immigration and waited at Baggage Claim for the next one and one-half hours. Our luggage was still far out in the plane and had to be unloaded and bused in.

Finally it arrived and we headed for Customs with our luggage and declaration. I handed over our form. "Wait!" said the agent, and he glanced again at the total claimed, looked at me, and waved his hand to dismiss me out the door. This was not going to be the day Customs was going to quibble about a woman who overspent the prescribed limit by a relatively small amount.

Usually we fly domestically with United Airlines as they have an alliance with Air NZ and our luggage is transferred seamlessly. But that meant changing planes in Denver with an hour lost at that airport and a late arrival into Austin. So I gambled on American that had a direct LAX to Austin flight arriving at the decent hour of 10 PM. But they would not transfer our luggage.

That decision meant we transferred our two luggage carts loaded with six bags (allowed on First Class) and four carry-on items ourselves. Outside was a mob scene. A huge number were waiting for the inter-terminal bus. We decided we could get from Terminal 2 to 4 faster by pushing our way through spaces in the crowd. At Terminal 4 we encountered a line to check in that was the length of the entire building. It took a quarter of an hour to figure out there was an unpopulated First Class check-in site beyond what we could see upon entry. Our flight was still on site, but our First Class seats had already been given away. In fact, there were no more available seats on that flight, but the gate agent could get us on a Dallas flight in the morning. Or we could go to Dallas later tonight and stay there and fly out in the morning to Austin. At that point, another customer leaned in and said, "Go to Dallas. The Grand Hyatt is right at the terminal and there will be more hotel availability there than here with all this delay." Made sense to us; that is what we chose to do.

Bags rechecked, we shouldered our carry-ons and processed through Security to the prescribed gate. There KC and I separated, I to the loo and he to find food. Later, I got myself some fruit, thinking I would eat on the plane, but where was KC. I sat down, ate the fruit and began to worry about KC. I stood up and walked back toward the other gates when I heard KC shout. He was looking for me and I had been sitting at the wrong gate. The fatigue of the day and lack of food caught up with KC. He had lost track of the rolling carry-on with most of our electronics in it. No, it wasn't where we had been sitting. The personnel at the kiosk where he purchased fruit found it, but turned over to Security. Though KC went to Security and the airport police, no one claimed to know where it was. In desperation as they were loading our flight, he scribbled down his name, phone number, and address and gave it to the agent at the American Airlines Service Desk explaining the dilemma and we left.

to be continued...

Kiwi Traveler

Friday, November 8, 2013

Timaru to Texas: Part I, An Uneventful Beginning

Kia Ora!

KC seems amazed at the number of bags
The commercial commuter van picked us up at our front door in Timaru to transport us to Christchurch Airport. We splurged on First Class tickets for over the water that not only gave us access to the First Class lounge all the way with food, make-your-own cocktails, beer, wine, and soft drinks, but allowed us each to check three bags of 50 pounds or less. We each had two carry-on items also.

Shades of Blue
The flight to Auckland was seamless. I always enjoy a window seat and particularly admired the many shades of blue from the water below to the stratosphere.

Follow the broad green stripe
One can take a bus in Auckland from the domestic terminal where we landed to the international terminal. But I have always been fortunate enough to have decent weather and chose to walk. Today was no different. The walkway is clearly marked by a green stripe. After the confines of an aircraft, walking feels great. We pushed our two loaded luggage carts on this 10-15 minute walk, about 1/2 mile.

On to Auckland and Air New Zealand Flight 6 to Los Angeles Airport (LAX.) All seemed as usual. If so, why had I felt compelled to document the contents of my three bags? And place a note in each bag of my address at the final destination so lost bags could be redirected? As I reviewed my expenditures on clothes and holiday gifts, I was over the customs allowance for two persons. Furthermore, I was transporting one-half liter too much wine. Rather than be fined for trying to beat the system, I recorded all of this and claimed my expenditures on the declaration form later with receipts to back up my claim. I planned to pay duty on the excess. I had an uneasy feeling that all would not be usual, but what?

Despite a flat space, sleep is difficult
I am always amused that the arrival time in Los Angeles is before we leave Auckland through the convention of the international date line. We left Auckland at 7:30PM on November 1 and arrived at LAX about 9:30 AM the same date. KC, at over 6'3", appreciated the stretched out overnight accommodation. I do not relax or sleep well no matter the accommodation. This trip was no different.
There the normality of the journey ended early the next morning before breakfast. As the Kiwis say, it all "turned to custard". be continued...

Kiwi Traveler

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Riverstone Kitchen Restaurant, a Place to Celebrate

Kia Ora!

 Riverstone Kitchen is not a well kept secret, at least with me. This is our favorite restaurant in central east South Island and without a doubt one of the best in all of New Zealand. The location is just outside the town of Oamaru about 50 kilometers south of Timaru. As the site includes an extensive vegetable and herb garden, one enjoys fresh produce from the gardens as well as selected local meats prepared to perfection. My favorite meal is to indulge in the Chef's Tasting Menu, a five-course feast with or without wines to complement the flavors (poor KC as the designated driver gets just one glass of wine. I go for the whole thing). Compared to restaurants in this class, the prices are very reasonable. The wait staff are familiar with the menu and the preparation of the food. They can recommend appropriate wines if one is ordering off the menu. Furthermore, they remember you when you return.

So this is how our guests independently chose to bring their 3-week holiday in New Zealand to an end. (Sarah was browsing in the cookbook section of a Timaru book store and picked up one of Chef Bevan Smith's cookbooks. The clerk then extolled the restaurant and the idea was set, independent of my influence. This is where they wanted to go.) We were the guests of Sue at a wonderful meal at the Riverstone. We brought with us a bottle of Port Molyneux from Aurum Winery, which perfectly complemented the blue cheese on wheat cracker finale (yes, even after indulging in the wine selections for each of the five courses, we drank just a little more.) Sarah gifted the remains of the fortified dessert wine to the wait and kitchen staff, who sipped it as we left. We were the last customers at the end of the evening.

It is also how KC and I chose to end this 6-month assignment in New Zealand a week later. We had the same lovely server, as we have had many times. We enjoyed an extraordinary meal--actually for this restaurant, extraordinary is the usual. When it came time to leave, I waved farewell at the other server, a man who has also served us well in the past, but our server was no where to be seen. I had wanted to thank her again and say good-bye. We went out and got in the car. Then she appeared at the restaurant door and ran out to wish us a good return trip. What a sweet love, she is!

Thank you, Riverstone.

Kiwi Traveler

Sue Learns to Drive on the "Wrong" Side

Kia Ora!

When Sue and Sarah set up our tour at the I-site in Invercargill, Sue specifically asked for an on-site location in Christchurch for a rental car. The staff at Invercargill did an excellent job of all our reservations, but someone (they or we) slipped up on this one. Supposedly, Ace Car Rental was available on-site at Christchurch Airport. We didn't see them there.

Sue called. They were off-site but would pick us up. (They should have had our arrival time and been waiting for us as had all our other anticipated arrivals on this trip.) We waited. Outside. It was windy and cold. Sue called again. They were very busy. After nearly an hour, they finally showed up at the airport.

The Ace agency van was old with frayed upholstery. The lot for Ace Rentals was about 10 minutes from the airport, somewhat hidden on a back street. Arriving there, the driver stomped off, and we unloaded our own bags. Again I signed on as the major driver and, because Sarah's license was still not in her possession, Sue was back-up driver. The plan was that when the visitors return to the Christchurch Airport, I will stay in Timaru. So could Sarah fax them her driver's license? No. Could she go into Ace Rental in Timaru and be added as a driver? No. They have no agent in Timaru or anywhere nearby. Time for the back-up driver--Sue--to learn left side driving!

(Note here: Sarah and I are experienced left side of the road drivers and thought we two would handle the driving for this trip. In fact, years ago Sarah helped me learn driving on the left side: "Keep your body in the middle of the road," she advised. She lived for two years in Japan in her first job out of college.)

Our next trip was to Mt. Cook Village, high in the Southern Alps. (See Tramping at Mount Cook Village) Now was the time for Sue to do her maiden voyage sitting in the right side of the car and driving on the left side of the road. Sarah tried to be the navigator as she was for me, but I rudely elbowed her out of the way thinking as the "official" driver I would be close to help Sue. (Sorry, a little misunderstanding, Sarah!) Sue was a bit tentative at first but not for long. Never once did she stray into the right lane. Her only problem, and it is a common one for all of us coming from right side driving, is that the turn signals and gear shift are switched (I always specify automatic transmission for this reason). The driver sits on the right side of the car, but our hands automatically try to signal on the wrong side. All we do is set the windshield wipers churning, which does nothing to signal cars following.

Sue drove all the way to Mt. Cook Village, including through a vigorous heavy wet snowfall accumulating through Burke's Pass. (She is from Illinois; she knows all about driving in snow.)

When we left Mt. Cook Village and took the scenic but longer route back, Sue jumped right in and took off. She was stoked about this driving. If I had wanted to be the driver, I'm sure I would have had to wrestle her out of the car. I sat meekly in the back while Sarah navigated. Sue is an excellent and confident driver.

Our trip back took us through Waimate, home of Waimate Knitting Factory Store. Their products are fine merino wool or merino and possum blend sweaters, socks, scarves, etc.

"Would you like to stop and look at the products?" I asked.

"No, let's just go home," was the consensus from the three. As we drove down main street, we saw a hard-to-miss sign: "EVERYTHING ON SALE THIS WEEK ONLY", Waimate Knitting Factory Store.

That car spun around and headed in the direction of the arrow on that sign so fast, it made me dizzy. We were generous to a fault in helping the Waimate economy.

One day in the last week, we noticed our license plate on this car. It greatly amused us; even more so when by chance we parked next to another car with the license plate: GUY.

The Adventurous Four Didn't Need Gals 5, 6 and 7
Kiwi Traveler