10 things you shouldn’t miss at the Henry Ford Museum

This October 9th marks 109 years since the Ford Motor Company introduced the Model T to America. And you can celebrate that pioneering spirit at the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, where the legend of Henry Ford’s innovation lives on.

A must-see for any car lover, the museum in Dearborn, Mich. (about 10 miles from Detroit), goes beyond the automotive and is heavy on history, America and clever inventions. From the rocking chair that Abraham Lincoln was sitting in when he was shot to the first car Ford ever built, here are 10 sights and activities that museum visitors, both young and old, won’t want to miss.

Dymaxion House

The outside of the Dymaxion House gives a peek inside, too — Photo courtesy of Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation

Architect Buckminster Fuller thought this round house was the wave of the future, but that wasn’t the case. Now the only prototype can be found at the Henry Ford Museum. Visitors can go inside the shiny structure and see the revolving closets, vintage furniture, and small kitchen and imagine what life was like inside in the 1940s.

A real family even lived in this house until the 1970s, though it was attached to a more conventional-looking house for added space.

John F. Kennedy limousine

John F. Kennedy was riding in this car when he was shot in 1963 — Photo courtesy of Gary Malerbra via Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation

The limousine John F. Kennedy was riding in when he was assassinated on November 22, 1963 is one of many pieces of history with a sad backstory. Even with its history, the car, a 1961 Lincoln Continental Presidential Limousine, was repaired and put back into presidential use until 1977.

The limo is part of the museum’s Presidential Vehicles exhibit, which also features cars used by presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan.

Rosa Parks bus

Bus number 2857 was made famous by Rosa Parks’ refusal to move to the back — Photo courtesy of Gary Malerbra via Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation

Rosa Parks is well-known for her actions that helped lead to America’s Civil Rights movement. She defied segregation laws in 1955 by not giving up her seat on the bus to a white man and moving to the back. After an extensive renovation by the museum, visitors can see the bus where history happened – and even hop aboard and sit in the seats.

Other Civil Rights movement-era artifacts are nearby in the Liberty and Justice for Allexhibit, including a “whites only” drinking fountain from 1954.


Civil Rights Museums & Monuments

George Washington’s camp bed

George Washington’s camp bed is one of many presidential pieces on display — Photo courtesy of Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation

America’s first president lived a long time ago, so claims of him sleeping in various beds are hard to substantiate now. However, this camp bed in the museum’s collection was definitely used by George Washington during the Revolutionary War. A camp chest from 1783 is also on display.

Ride in a Model T

A Model T in Greenfield Village — Photo courtesy of Gary Malerbra via Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation

In Greenfield Village, next to the museum, visitors can purchase a ride pass and travel back into the past to see what transportation was like in Henry Ford’s time. The pass allows visitors unlimited rides on a restored Model T, horse-drawn vehicles, the carousel and a Model AA Bus. The Model T seats five.


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Lincoln’s rocker

The chair Abraham Lincoln was sitting in when he was shot at Ford’s Theatre — Photo courtesy of Shannon McGee

The rocking chair Abraham Lincoln was sitting in when he was shot in 1865 holds a prominent place in the museum’s With Liberty and Justice for All exhibit. Blood-stained and showing signs of wear, the historic artifact is stored in a clear case and has been at the museum since the 1980s.

1896 Quadricycle

An 1896 Quadricycle, the first car Henry Ford made — Photo courtesy of Gary Malerbra via Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation

There are quite a few vehicles in the museum that car enthusiasts will be, well, enthused about! This is one of them. Although the Model T is better known, the Quadricycle was actually the first vehicle Ford ever built. It was originally sold for $200, but Ford bought it back for $65 after he became successful.

Help build a Model T

Museum visitors help build a Model T — Photo courtesy of KMS Photography via Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation

The museum has several daily events to help visitors learn more about history and innovation. For instance, kids and adults alike can enjoy being hands-on as part of a Model T assembly line in the Made in America: Manufacturing exhibit.

Museum employees are available to assist, and visitors can spend as much or as little time as they want participating. This activity is included in the price of admission.

Replica of Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park lab

A look inside the recreation of Thomas Edison’s lab — Photo courtesy of KMS Photography via Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation

Although he was born in Ohio and spent much of his childhood in Michigan, Thomas Edison’s greatest inventions happened in Menlo Park, N.J. Henry Ford himself recreated Edison’s Menlo Park lab in Greenfield Village, and today visitors can see how the space looked when Edison invented the phonograph, the light bulb and other marvels there.

An Edison lookalike is also on hand at certain times of day to meet and greet visitors.

Taste what’s new at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival

Orlando’s Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, now in its 22nd year, is something like a benevolent Blob from an alternate universe. It grows exponentially – 2017’s is the longest ever at 75 days – and draws inspiration from new nations, ingredients and styles – every year. Only it’s the guests who are moving through the park’s many marketplaces, devouring everything in sight.

This year, Epcot celebrates its 35th anniversary and as such, favorites from festivals past are hot on the must-taste list of annual pilgrims and noobs should mark their event passports, as well. These include Thailand, Spain and India Marketplaces, each of which are offering brand-new dishes to savor.

Teriyaki-glazed SPAM hash, new in the Hawai’i Marketplace; Culinary Director Gregg Hannon says SPAM’s been on their to-do list for a number of years — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson

Many guests choose to wing it, others study the dishes and map out strategies, but unless your competitive eating skills rival the world’s top contenders, you’re going to tap out before you can taste everything.

“Some of my friends and regulars who come here are telling me it’s taking three or four visits to make it to everything,” says Gregg Hannon, Culinary Director, Epcot Food and Beverage, “so if you’re a visitor who has that kind of time, attack it by spending one day in each section of the park.”

Important to remember come this time of year: Epcot has rides, too!

Hannon laughs. “Definitely take breaks between bites,” he says. “We’ve got Soarin’ and Test Track and you can take in one of the Eat to the Beat concerts we’re having all festival long. During this time of year there’s a great vibe in the park, everyone is really enjoying the culture and the food, but we’re still an amusement park!”

If you’re a veteran festival-goer, or a curious first-timer mapping out a strategy, here are some items that are new to this year’s menu – which you’ll want to add to your must-taste list – as well as new marketplaces.

On the menu

Braised beef “stroganoff”

Braised beef “stroganoff” — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson

The braised beef “stroganoff,” with tiny egg noodles, wild mushroom and Boursin Garlic and Fine Herbs Cheese sauce can be found at The Cheese Studio in Future World West.

Seafood salad

Spain’s seafood salad – everything tastes better in a martini glass — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson

Spain is a returning marketplace this year.  The above ceviche-like dish is among its new offerings.

Charcuterie in a Cone 

Noshy handheld: Charcuterie in a Cone — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson

The Charcuterie in a Cone is among Chef Hannon’s festival favorites. “The imported meats and cheeses and olives are flavored with an herb vinaigrette and it’s great for walking around and nibbling on.”

Crispy chicken with griddled cornbread and red eye gravy

Down-home comfort: crispy chicken from Farm Fresh — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson

Dig soul food a la Disney? Sample the crispy chicken with griddled cornbread and red eye gravy at the Farm Fresh Marketplace. There are three craft cider options with which to pair it, plus Florida Orange Groves Mango Mamma wine, made local in St. Petersburg.

Zesty cheeseburger and cheddar cheese macaroni handwich 

Zesty cheeseburger and cheddar cheese macaroni handwich — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson

Its “cheeseburger”-inclusive name might be confusing, but the beefy mac blend that fills this bread cone has been a hit with guests. Disney staffers tout it as “comfort in a cup.”

Spicy Ethiopian red lentil stew

The author’s favorite so far: spicy Ethiopian red lentil stew — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson

You don’t have to be a vegan to enjoy the Africa Marketplace’s spicy Ethiopian red lentil stew with vegan yogurt and quinoa, but it is among the dishes at this year’s festival that vegans can enjoy with abandon. It’s also one of Hannon’s top picks.

Pistachio cardamom bundt cake

Pistachio cardamom bundt cake — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson

The pistachio cardamom bundt cake, available at the India Marketplace, features chocolate-coconut mousse at its center.

Seared shrimp and scallop cake

Seared shrimp and scallop cake with cold noodle salad — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson

Many people come to Epcot to “Thai one on.” At the Thailand Marketplace, you can pair the seared shrimp and scallop cake with a Singha lager or Helfrich Gewurztraminer.

Sweet pancake with spicy chipotle-chicken sausage

Sugar & spice: the sweet pancake — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson

Spice lovers will feel the heat at the new Flavors from Fire Marketplace. This is the sweet pancake with spicy chipotle-chicken sausage, onion jam and maple butter syrup. If that sweetness tempers the spice too much, save room for the dark chocolate mousse with cayenne pepper, chili powder and raspberry dust.

Ribeye taco

Tex & Mex? The Ribeye taco — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson

This Mexico Marketplace delight will appease carnivores. It features marinated ribeye, roasted chipotle sauce and grilled scallions on a corn tortilla.

Seared scallops with corn and succotash

Seared scallop from Coastal Eats — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson

Scallops are notoriously easy to overcook. Hannon says that lots of training ensures they’re seared to order on-site, even in a Festival Marketplace. Coastal Eats is where you’ll find the seared scallops with roasted corn and butterbean succotash and chili-chipotle butter sauce.

Swine & Brine cocktail

Cutest name contender: the Swine & Brine — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson

Bourbon lovers on the lookout for a less booze-forward cocktail, hit up Flavors from Fire for the Swine & Brine. This autumnal beverage features Evan Williams Bourbon and comes garnished with a hunk of pork.

Grilled tuna tataki

Grilled tuna tataki — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson

From Hawai’i, the grilled tuna tataki with seaweed salad, pickled cucumbers and wasabi cream is a light bite that pairs well not only with the popular Florida Orange Groves Sparkling Pineapple wine, but also the Florida heat!


Diverse and Delicious Dining in the House of Mouse

New marketplaces

Food & Wine veterans may be most interested in the five brand-new marketplaces they’re featuring this year.

Active Eats features some returning favorites from festivals past (loaded mac n’ cheese with Nueske’s pepper bacon, cheddar cheese, peppers and green onions) and focuses on super foods – avocado and quinoa among them.

Coastal Eats is pretty self-explanatory. This is where you’ll find this year’s version of something I’ve touted in the past: the miraculously well-seared Disney festival scallop!

Flavors from Fire is another that needs no explanation; the spice-infused selections run the gamut from app to dessert!

The Almond Orchard – hosted by Blue Diamond Almond Breeze – features this nutrition-packed snack in its offerings, as well as a host of the event’s bubbly champagnes.

Which theme park is the most terrifying at Halloween?

Image result for Which theme park is the most terrifying at Halloween?

Thrill-seekers beware! There’s a reason Fright Fest at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, Calif. has won the USA TODAY 10Best Readers’ Choice Award for Best Theme Park Halloween Event twice in a row.

Every night from now until Halloween, over 500 zombies and other ghoulish creatures will take over Six Flags Magic Mountain, and they have one mission: to frighten all who dare to enter the park after dark.

After hosting Fright Fest for 25 years, Six Flags Magic Mountain has mastered the art of the scare. In addition to rides and roller coasters, there are several scare zones and 13 mazes throughout the park. New this year is “Dead End,” a maze where the corridors are pitch black, and guests have only flickering flashlights to help find their way.

The “Damned ‘N Disguise” masquerade ball offers guests a frightful show, and Club 6-Feet Under is a scary but fun pop-up party where you can grab food and drinks. And because Six Flags Magic Mountain is home to DC Comics’ Justice League, the Suicide Squad will be making an appearance for their second year.

Whether you startle easily or are hard to scare, there will certainly be enough bumps in the night to make you jump!

Do your business in these 10 work-friendly bathrooms

Texting, typing and technology in the lavatory – will wonders never cease? With bathrooms equipped for such things, the idea isn’t as odd as you might think.  From outdoor shower outposts to tech-friendly toilet stalls, these hotel bathrooms are a working traveler’s dream come true.

Scattered across the Southwest, here are 10 hotels (and the respective rooms/suites) with bathrooms fit for both working and washing.

Garden of the Gods Collection | Colorado Springs

The spacious Pinon Suite bathroom — Photo courtesy of Garden of the Gods Club

Choice bathroom: The Piñon Suite at Garden of the Gods boasts a bathroom featuring four separate spaces.  Not only is there is a dual sink vanity, but another vanity loaded with outlets is just a few short feet away.

An isolated toilet stall allows for some much-needed privacy in case someone else needs to shower, and a separate dressing closet offers enough storage for a dozen people.  The list of amenities goes on and on from there, and we haven’t even stepped foot outside of the bathroom yet!

Log hours: My goodness, this could be one of the largest hotel bathrooms in the Western United States. Between a morning cup of coffee at the makeup bar, super fast Wi-Fi and enough electrical outlets for a Christmas festival, this three-room bathroom suite is better equipped and more luxurious than most any office you’re likely to come across.

Gateway Canyons Resort | Gateway, Colo.

Outdoor shower in the Casita bathroom, apt for early morning or evening hours — Photo courtesy of Gateway Canyons Resort

Choice bathroom: A Casita room at Gateway Canyons on the first level offers an outdoor shower and indoor bathroom complete with marble floors, granite countertops, opulent vanity mirrors, a step-in spacious shower, a water closet and enough space for a small gathering.

Log hours: This bathroom is perfect for conference calls in the wee hours of the morning as you can easily escape to the outdoor garden shower with cascading vines along the stone, accompanied by unobstructed views of constellations or a spectacular sunrise.

The bathroom itself is lavish, with a claw foot tub, water closet and step-in stone shower.  However, the pièce de résistance is the exterior space, particularly that moment when your bare feet enter a haven of happiness and isolation. Type a story, have a glass of wine and shower among the stars in one of the nation’s most impressive indoor/outdoor bathrooms.

The Little Nell | Aspen, Colo.

A spiritual sanctuary of one of Aspen’s most famous hotels — Photo courtesy of The Little Nell

Choice bathroom: The Little Nell Junior Suite boasts a steam shower, Jacuzzi soaking tub, dual stone vanities, June Jacobs spa amenities (new men’s line coming this winter), a separate water closet with phone line and 700-thread-count, plush cotton bath sheets, hand towels and washcloths.  Not to mention, the marble flooring and walls are heated (think warm tushie while working).

Log hours: This is Aspen, folks; it’s going to be borderline impossible to find a single place in town where you don’t want to log hours. However, for the parent of a napping child or for the man or woman who needs to get some serious work done, this is one Aspen retreat that you’ll be dreaming of for years to come.

When the little ones start to stir and you still need to get some mileage added to that assignment, simply use kids’ bath amenities such as the bath mitten, animal towel and bath robes to let your tykes snuggle with in bed for a few more minutes while you continue to work. You might as well order a glass of wine from your porcelain palace as a post-work celebration.


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Anniversary Inn | Salt Lake City

Taking a journey through time is a simple as logging a few hours in this Egyptian empire — Photo courtesy of Anniversary Inn

Choice bathroom: Mysteries of Egypt at Salt Lake City’s Anniversary Inn is an entire suite dedicated to the 3,000-year-old legends. Relax like a Pharaoh in this wall-to-wall stone bathroom, which comes complete with a jetted tub fit for two (also good for spreading out documents should you be working) and a shower with hot water gushing out of a snake’s mouth. You might even find a secret passageway…

Log hours: Head directly for the tub. Don’t even fill it! Indulge in some chocolate and caramel-dipped pretzels or choose from a list of complimentary DVDs and order a movie snack pack. The Pharaoh themes are humorous, uplifting, spiritual and, at times, make you feel like you’re in a real pyramid.

You’ll take in the Egyptian charm as you apply modern-day tools to your craft such as Wi-Fi, television and a DVD player. Plus, when you’re done, reward yourself with an incredible soak in the tub or take a shower, but be sure to watch out for the snake!

Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm | Albuquerque

Soak in the luxury and the smells of this lavender farm while the cool desert breezes warm your soul — Photo courtesy of Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm

Choice room: You can’t go wrong with the Deluxe Patio Farm Suite. This incredible oasisin the middle of Albuquerque’s arid landscape is surrounded by 40 acres of lavender.  And the suites are housed in their own 1930’s dairy-style buildings with tin roofs and white-stuccoed walls.

The Farm Suites offer wood burning fireplaces, original artwork, hardwood floors and gorgeous views of the gardens, acequias and the lotus pond.

Log hours: You’re here for one reason: to be inspired by the aromas of the farm. I spent close to three hours one mid-summer afternoon – during a two-child nap – working away on my laptop in the contemporary, white, sleek bathroom while soaking my feet in the bathtub filled with the resort’s lavender products.

As the flowers’ powers unleashed their relaxation, I happily typed while constantly gazing out the window above the bathtub to the vegetation blowing in the breeze.

L’Auberge de Sedona | Sedona, Ariz.

An outdoor shower with natural elements wakes up the senses and synapses — Photo courtesy of L’Auberge de Sedona

Choice bathroom: Cottage Suite at L’Auberge in Sedona. The marble bathroom has an oversized Jacuzzi tub, steam shower and an oversized window that looks out toward the red rock mountain horizon. The best part is the outdoor, open-roof cedar shower located on the suite’s private balcony.

Log hours: There’s something about an outdoor shower; it gives you the flexibility of holding an open-air meeting while others might sleep, or to catch a shooting star while adding last-minute notes to an agenda. The stars and sunrises are spectacular, and the smell of the cedar always soothing.

Due to hot desert temps, working in the early morning and late evening are a special treat to catch a cool breeze often lacking during the day. Warm up when you’re done with a hot shower!


Best Luxury Hotel Brand (10Best Readers’ Choice Awards 2017)

Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain | Paradise Valley, Ariz.

Indoor and outdoor spaces blend in this large-scale, airy bathroom — Photo courtesy of Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain

Choice bathroom: The Camelback Casita bathrooms have the Midas touch – polished, floor-to-ceiling tiles reflect the sun and change colors depending on the sun’s (and your room’s) position. Nonetheless, for this writer, it’s that natural, outside element, that brings magic.

The Spa Suite has an outdoor bath so you can enjoy bubbles under the stars in complete privacy.

Log hours: If you must work during the day, and from the bathroom, while say a child is napping from the glorious hours of 1 pm to 4 pm, why can’t you partake in some of the sun’s magic as well?

Plop on the floor, plug in and, as you type, watch the solar power change your surroundings. It’s something extremely unique and spiritual. Of course, the outside soaking tub has much potential as a workspace, reading nook and even Snapchat backdrop.

Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North | Scottsdale, Ariz.

Soak in the spacious bathtub, or spread out your work and soak in the solitude of the simple lines — Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North

Choice bathroom: Set on the property’s highest point, the three-bedroom Pinnacle Suite offers three full bathrooms, two outdoor garden showers and a guest powder room with shower. The full bathroom in the main suite bedroom offers hand-painted sinks from Mexico, a deep soaking tub and private outdoor garden shower, framed in latilla.

Log hours: Enjoy Scottsdale’s 330 days of sunshine by basking in a relaxing sunrise shower or glimpse the stars with an evening soak in the tub. Plenty of natural light soaks in through the floor-to-ceiling shower windows, which frame the tub.

Waldorf Astoria | Park City, Utah

The whirlpool suite perfectly captures the essence of work and relaxation — Photo courtesy of Waldorf Astoria Park City

Choice bathroom: The one-bedroom whirlpool suite bathroom at Waldorf Astoria is a must in the outdoor adventure mecca of Park City. It features Salvatore Ferragamo bathroom amenities and a jetted garden tub fit for two.

There’s also an European shower featuring two showerheads, two sinks with a lower vanity in between and a private water closet. Best perk: the bathrooms also feature a flat screen.

Log hours: With one of the few televisions in the toilet, this bathroom offers an enormous amount of work time opportunity while catching up on the news and headlines. The Waldorf Astoria brand is known for its remarkably luxurious accommodations and perks worldwide, so this Southwest bathroom abode won’t disappoint.

The Joule | Dallas

Puns aside, this bathroom truly is a jewel of travel, work and pleasure — Photo courtesy of The Joule

Choice bathroom: Designed by Adam Tihany, each penthouse bathroom in this Dallashotel varies in layout and design with features that include floor-to-ceiling windows offering exquisite views and natural light, an oversized freestanding tub, rainfall shower, heated Toto toilet and an array of products from The Spa at The Joule.

Log hours: Take a soak in the freestanding tub or set up shop in the shower. There are plenty of views and uplifting light from the enormous windows.

Disneyland is selling mini corn dog nachos for one month only

A Disneyland restaurant is serving corn dog nachos for one month only

Disneyland has become somewhat of a culinary destination, dishing out the most Instagrammable and outrageous looking dishes — and this latest instance is no exception.

The resort’s new treat is a unique twist on nachos, but instead of tortilla chips, it’s served with tiny corn dogs. On the menu at White Water Snacks at the Grand Californian Hotel, these corn dog nachos appear to come topped with nacho cheese, tomatoes, olives, green onions, jalapeños and guacamole.

If you’re interested in trying this surprising dish, you better head to Anaheim ASAP because they’re only available through the end of September as part of the snack bar’s rotating Hot Dog of the Month menu.

Previous month’s hot dogs specials included a mac and cheese-topped dog with bacon, and a chili cheese dog with fritos.

The First World War invention that turns vertigo sufferers into mountain climbers

“Some people call it climbing for dummies,” said Mark Morrison with a grin, putting a hand over his eyes to stare up hundreds of feet of rock into a sky of flat, hot, Southern Hemisphere blue. “That’s OK by me. I want to make climbing more accessible.”

For the past three years, Mark and his wife Laurel have been setting up a via ferrata – a climbing route of steel staples, cables and bridges, first used by the military in the Italian Dolomites during the First World War. It ascends the Twin Falls, which twists and bounces down 1,000 feet of granite near Wanaka in New Zealand’s South Island.

Last weekend they opened the final section which will, they claim, make Twin Falls the highest waterfall via ferrata in the world. The full mega-route is called Lord of the Rungs; a cheeky nod to the Otago region’s role as a Middle Earth location in the blockbuster film series.

Twin Falls bounces down 1,000 feet of granite near Wanaka in New Zealand’s South Island
Twin Falls bounces down 1,000 feet of granite near Wanaka in New Zealand’s South Island CREDIT:CAMILLA RUTHERFORD FOR WILDWIRE WANAKA

If ever there was evidence that the idea works, it’s me: I genuinely thought I’d signed up for a waterfall walk, not a climb, and only realised when Laurel gave me a form with a box saying “Are you scared of heights?” – which I ticked. I’m OK with steep slopes, but vertical drops are not my thing. We agreed that I’d try the first section and take the path down if necessary.

“Here’s the key rule,” she said, trussing me and the two other rookies into tough webbing harnesses, clinking with steel carabiners. “You must always have two clips attached to the wire. Always.” Ah, this rang a bell. It was just like the Go Ape! in my local park. But bigger.

We took turns to scale a practice boulder several times, clipping and unclipping, grabbing handholds, looking for foot staples, holding onto the steel cable. Then we climbed a 1,000-foot waterfall. This was the intermediate option: with the walk down again it took around five hours and included plank bridges, precipitous wire crossings and a shedload of cables.

"It was just like the Go Ape! in my local park. But bigger"
“It was just like the Go Ape! in my local park. But bigger” CREDIT: CAMILLA RUTHERFORD FOR WILDWIRE WANAKA

I will never understand how that simple act of clipping onto a wire switches off the fear in the brain. After all, you’re still hundreds of feet up in the air: you could fall off a bridge to swing like a baby in the void, or have a heart attack out of reach of the emergency services. Or that’s how you think if you’re me.

Instead we clipped and reached and swung and climbed, shuffling carefully along the cable bridges, stabilised by two guide wires at arm height. Below us the ground dropped away, and dropped away, until down between our feet was a heavenly view of lakes and mountains and toy cars and thousands of tiny red deer grazing the lush grasslands below.

“This is amazing!” said Dinesh, an ultra-fit, youthful retiree from America, happily swinging off walls to take photographs of his wife, competently scaling one rock face after another.

It was even more amazing when we reached the top of the intermediate climb and leapt into a freezing pool under the waterfall, where the pounding water had created a hollow.

"Below us the ground dropped away, and dropped away, until down between our feet was a heavenly view of lakes and mountains"
“Below us the ground dropped away, and dropped away, until down between our feet was a heavenly view of lakes and mountains” CREDIT: CAMILLA RUTHERFORD FOR WILDWIRE WANAKA

That’s where we met Mark and his more experienced climbers, halfway up their route to the very top. That’s the section they’ve just cabled. Next time I’ll be able to do that too.

“We asked the local landowner when we first had the idea,” said Mark. “He wondered who the hell would want to do it – but he was fine with it. As long as we don’t interfere with the fawning in October.” Climbing mates helped them plot the route, make the holes with a hammer drill on a rope, glue in staples and eyelets, thread through hundreds of feet of cable and build the bridges. A helicopter pilot friend dropped off the hardware and equipment.

Don’t give up on the Great Barrier Reef. It is not ‘dead’, environmentalist urges

The Great Barrier Reef is not “dead”, the leader of a new initiative to salvage the natural wonder has urged. Andy Ridley, the founder of Earth Hour and man behind a new campaign called Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef, has warned against speaking in such dire terms about the colourful coral world off the coast of Australia, claiming it remains “one of the healthiest [reefs] in the world”.

“[To say the Great Barrier Reef is dead] implies that we have given up on what is, to me, the most amazing natural icon on our planet and that is a red line we should not cross,” he said. “The state of the Great Barrier Reef is appalling but, in reference to its size, it’s still one of the healthiest in the world.”

The Reef, composed of more than 2,900 individual reefs and covering some 133,000 square miles, has suffered at the hands of coral bleaching events both this year and last, a stress reaction brought about by unusually warm water temperatures, damaging more than 90 per cent of surveyed areas. The effects of climate change has contributed to the loss of half of the world’s coral.

Clownfish with Anemone, off Opal Reef near Port douglas
The Great Barrier Reef is the size of 70 million football fields and plays host to a hugely diverse ecosystem CREDIT: TOURISM AND EVENTS QUEENSLAND/CHRISTIAN BOTELLA

Numerous commentators over the last few years have begun to sound the death knell for the reef, which attracts more than two million visitors to Australia every year. While the reef is most certainly under threat, and has narrowly missed being classified as endangered by the Unesco World Heritage committee, the story is a more nuanced one than those words imply, Ridley says.

The long-time advocate for the environment will fully launch his new project, Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef, in November 2017. Using an open source business model similar to that of WWF’s Earth Hourcampaign – an annual event which encourages people around the world to turn off non-essential lights for an hour, the organisation aims to build a global community united behind a common cause.

Coral bleaching chasing coral
Coral bleaching is a natural stress reaction to rising water temperature and when blinding white can still be rejuvinated if given enough time CREDIT: THE OCEAN AGENCY XL CATLIN SEAVIEW SURVEY/RICHARD VEVERS

“Globally we need to crank up the action and get into a more adult conversation of what we need to do. If we wait for our politicians, we will be waiting forever and it will be too late.” said Ridley.

The call is for citizen action; for individuals to become the future guardians of the reef. The campaign is aiming for the 7 per cent of the reef designated to tourism to become the engine behind gathering information on its health. With thousands of boats out on the reef at any one time, they become platforms for citizen science, research and recruiting other contributors.

“We want to track back the lineage of every citizen back to someone or some action on the reef itself. If we can get this right, it’s going to be the first operation to quantify the effect of the actions happening all over the world. We want to illustrate the effect of a mass movement.” said Ridley.

Through posts on social media platforms, the reef can be seen in real time and certain trends will be observed. Knowledge of the reef can be transferred across the world to assist other programs.

One such program is Eye On the Reef, a reef monitoring and assessment program run by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. “It is arguably one of the biggest citizen science projects that people can participate in. It is part of our sightings network and as managers of the reef, we use it to get a picture of what people are seeing in the Marine Park” said Fred Nucifora, Director of the Reef HQ Aquarium.

“While there is a requirement for government support, what this actional movement requires is people. Local actions on a global scale result in global change.”.

Everything you need to know about travelling to South Africa with children

It’s too expensive to take the whole family to South Africa during the school holidays (I’m a teacher) so I bought a cheap off-season flight. I checked online what documents I needed (or thought I had) and knew I had to carry my son’s unabridged birth certificate. I had a letter of permission from my husband, and his passport.

Several readers have come forward to report problems travelling to South Africa
Several readers have come forward to report problems travelling to South Africa CREDIT: AP/FOTOLIA

Unfortunately, Emirates told me that, as I was a parent travelling alone with a child to South Africa, I must get my husband’s letter of permission signed by a solicitor. I tried to find a solicitor near Gatwick, but it was a Sunday and phones went unanswered.

I asked Emirates if they could put me on Monday’s flight once I got the letter signed but was told this was not possible and that only my agent, Travel Up, could help.

The manager at Travel Up, while sympathetic, says there is nothing to be done other than for me to buy a new return ticket. I am devastated as I can’t afford to spend another £700. Can you help?”

Gill Charlton, consumer expert, replies:

You are the third person to contact me in as many weeks to say they’ve been refused travel to South Africa as a lone parent because they don’t have a parental consent affidavit.

An affidavit is a signed letter sworn under oath in person before a solicitor or a commissioner for oaths. It costs £5. This requirement has been in place since June 2015 when the South African Department of Home Affairs brought in new regulations to prevent child trafficking. All children under 18 must travel to South Africa with their unabridged birth certificate showing the names of their parents – even if travelling with them. If the child is accompanied by one parent, South African immigration requires consent – in the form of an affidavit – from whoever is registered as the parent on the birth certificate.

The regulations were introduced to prevent child trafficking

The affidavit must be sworn within three months of travel and a certified copy of the absent parent’s passport attached. If you had booked direct with Emirates you could not have failed to see the warning about the documentation needed for children entering South Africa as it is set out in full on the “Review Your Itinerary” page before payment is taken. However, you booked through Travel Up which, like most online agents, does not alert customers to this and is not legally required to do so.

Your confirmation merely states that you should contact the visa agent CIBT to check entry requirements and that Travel Up is not liable for denied boarding due to invalid documents. Emirates could perhaps have flown you the following day as a goodwill gesture if you had booked direct with them, but it could not change an agency-issued ticket.

Travel Up is claiming that a warning about entry requirements for children is set out in its flight confirmation email. It may be now, but it was not when you bought your ticket in May. I don’t think this is a satisfactory situation. Both airlines and agents should have a legal liability to warn passengers about this complex issue.

Does EasyJet’s new filtration system suggest toxic cabin air really is an issue?

Airlines have long denied a link between contaminated cabin air and so-called aerotoxic syndrome, which has been blamed for the deaths of several pilots and cabin crew.

However, a decision by EasyJet to trial a new air filtration system on its planes has been seen by many as acknowledgment that toxic cabin air is a problem.

“This is a massive step forward,” said Tristan Loraine, a former British Airways captain, who claims toxic cabin air forced him into early retirement. “It’s the biggest story in aviation for about three decades.”

During a flight, crew and passengers breathe in a mixture of recycled cabin air and bleed air, which is drawn in from the engines.

Airlines deny cabin air is dangerous, but critics argue otherwise
Airlines deny cabin air is dangerous, but critics argue otherwise CREDIT: GETTY

Airlines and plane manufacturers have repeatedly claimed that bleed air is safe to breathe. However, critics counter that it is contaminated with toxic chemicals, such as engine oil, and describe it as the “asbestos of the skies”.

In a report published this year in the journal of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Public Health Panorama scientists linked toxic cabin air to cancer, chronic fatigue and neurological problems. The report claimed more than 3.5 billion passengers, plus 500,000 pilots and cabin crew, had been exposed to low levels of engine oil in 2015.

Unite, the union, said last year it was pursuing 67 legal cases against UK airlines on behalf of former and serving cabin crew who say they have been affected by contaminated cabin air.

EasyJet will become the first commercial airline to trial the new air filtration system, which has been developed by Pall Corporation.

“EasyJet is working with Pall to identify and reduce incidents of unusual smell and fumes in the cabin,” the carrier told Telegraph Travel. “These events can have short term effects on health and can lead to flight disruption.”

However, the airline claimed the decision to trial the air filtration system had nothing to do with studies linking cabin air with long-term health problems. “Independent medical research has found no evidence for any such link,” it said.

Cabin air is bled through aircraft enginesCaptain Loraine was ill-health retired aged 44 after suffering from a range of health problems, which he attributes to cabin air.

“I would get chemical blisters on my nose, I would feel nauseous, I would feel mentally slow – I would just generally feel out of it,” he told Telegraph Travel. “Over the years it just got worse and worse.”

British Airways confirmed that Captain Loraine had retired due to ill health, but claimed his health problems were not related to toxic cabin air.

Since retiring, Captain Loraine helped establish the Global Cabin Air Quality Executive (which will host a conference on cabin air at Imperial College London this week) and has filmed several documentaries about contaminated cabin air, including Welcome Aboard Toxic Airlines. He has won a British Citizen Award for his work.

Captain Loraine welcomes EasyJet’s decision to trial the new filters, but he believes more needs to be done by the industry to tackle contaminated air.

“The oil companies are saying don’t breathe this stuff in,” he said, showing Telegraph Travel pictures of what appear to be tins of engine oil emblazoned with warnings from the manufacturers about breathing in the lubricants. “The aerospace industry in total denial.”

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has always said there is no evidence of long-term health effects from cabin air, citing various studies and Government-commissioned research. However, in a recent statement to Telegraph Travel, it conceded such a link “cannot be ruled out”.  

The CAA has also been promoting a new NHS service on its website, which was set up as a “care pathway” for victims of “fume events”. Promoting the service on its website, the CAA acknowledged “there is strong evidence that some people experience acute symptoms as a consequence of fume events.”

In a statement British Airways said: “We would not operate an aircraft if we believed it posed a health or safety risk to our customers or crew. We always encourage our colleagues to report any potential safety incidents to allow us to investigate them, and all reports are shared with the CAA.

“There has been substantial research into questions around cabin air quality over many years.  In summary, the research has not shown that exposure to potential chemicals in the cabin causes long-term ill health.”

Is it safe – and ethical – to visit Myanmar?

Travellers should keep visiting Myanmar (Burma) despite the conflict taking place in the north of the country, which has been described by the UN as having the trademarks of ethnic cleansing.

This is the view of one tour operator that says trips to the south-east Asian country are both safe and morally sound.

What is happening in Myanmar?

The Burmese military has launched an offensive against Rohingya “extremists” in Rakhine state, with many of the international community concerned Muslim civilians are being targeted in the Buddhist-majority country.

Violence has engulfed the Bangladeshi border region in recent weeks, with reports emerging of Rohingya villages being razed to the ground and civilians being cut down as they attempt to flee.

The United Nations has branded the offensive a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.

Some Rohingya, a minority in Myanmar, have accused the army of state-sanctioned massacres and rape, though the army says it merely responding to attacks from “extremists”.

Has the Foreign Office issued advice?

Last week the Foreign Office (FCO) said there was a “significant risk of intercommunal violence in Rakhine”, to which it advises against all but essential travel – as it has for a number of years.

“This is due to continued tension following serious civil unrest in 2012 and a continued risk of armed conflict and the threat of landmines in the northern areas,” it said, citing outbreaks of violence every year since.

“In late August and early September 2016, security operations in northern Rakhine have involved the clearance of villages and mass displacement of populations,” it added.

The state of play in MyanmarDo tourists visit Rakhine – and should I cancel my trip to Myanmar?

Few visit the western region, many to see the ancient abandoned city of Mrauk U, the capital of the powerful Mrauk U kingdom from 1430 to 1785.

“None of the areas on our itineraries are in any way impacted by the current problems,” said Liddy Pleasants, managing director of Stubborn Mule Travel. “Ngapali Beach is in Rakhine State but in the far south and around 500km away from where the violence is occurring.

“Some clients are concerned about visiting Burma from a moral point of view during the current troubles. This is a more difficult personal decision. Our own view is that avoiding travel to Burma does not achieve anything and can in fact be to the detriment of the country as a whole.

The classic shot of Bagan in Myanmar
The classic shot of Bagan in Myanmar

“Large parts of the country now rely on tourism to a very great degree. In the past, much of the tourist infrastructure was owned by the government and there was a compelling argument that a tourist embargo would help avoid giving money to the government and therefore help bring about change.

“However, this is no longer the case; the vast majority of hotels and restaurants are now privately owned, and employ local people. Guides are self-employed or work for privately owned tourist enterprises. Drivers again mostly work for privately owned tourist enterprises. Taxi drivers, porters, waiters, souvenir sellers, ticket vendors, hawkers, craftsmen and many more derive all of their income from tourists and would find their livelihood very adversely affected if the tourists stop coming. It is our opinion that avoiding travel to Burma will have little impact on the government and the military but a more profound impact on local people.”