South Waikato Jewel in the Crown a Successful Nightmare

A range of problems have erupted as huge amounts of people continue to visit Te Waihou Blue Springs.

Tour Travel in Vietnam

It’s no longer one of New Zealand’s best kept secrets as visitors to a Waikato spring skyrocket, raising safety concerns as the walkway struggles to cater to the demand.

An investigation is currently underway as South Waikato District council staff look for solutions at the Te Waihou Blue Springs, on the outskirts of Putaruru.

A record number of 5200 people visited the springs in December, increasing to 8949 in January, raising concerns about parking, lack of signage, litter, toilets and dangerous driving.

Group assets manager Ted Anderson said the Springs had become a victim of its own success.

He said there’d been concerns about buses and cars parking on both sides of the road due to a lack of parking at the carpark.

“We do need some road safety improvements. We widened the road and improved the shoulder and did the best with what we’ve got and our success is such we’ve been overwhelmed,” Anderson said.

Councillor Herman Van Rooijen said having no road markings on the 1 kilometre stretch leading to the springs was a safety concern.

“It’s very windy, it’s got one particular sharp S curve so now we are getting a lot of out of town people who have probably never driven on a rural road.

“It’s great the numbers on the walkway have increased but it’s getting quite dangerous. If a accident happens, there’s hell to pay.”

Van Rooijen said logging contractors from Hancock Forestry Management have gone beyond the call of duty, redirecting their trucks during the busiest times.

Owner of Waihou Lodge & Blue Springs Farmstay Cheryl Waite was “livid” when she had trouble getting home one Saturday afternoon.

Lines of cars were parked for 1.5km both sides of the road leading up and past the walkway, she said.

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Bryce Harper’s ‘Travel Gear’ Includes Redskins Cap

Travel gear..this is all I need #SB50 #DCfamily

A photo posted by Bryce Harper (@bharper3407) on

Bryce Harper apparently wants to look really good when heading out to the West Coast to take in the Super Bowl 50 festivities.

The Washington Nationals star outfielder — the reigning National League Most Valuable Player, mind you — on Saturday evening posted a photo on his Instagram of his travel gear for the trip.

As you can see above, included are the essentials: a backpack, a bag for his suit, a water bottle.

And a sharp-looking New Era Redskins baseball cap.

Now, we at the Redskins Blog have heard Harper’s allegiances lie with another football team — possibly even another football team within the NFC East.

But we always respect athletes on our local teams representing the #DCFamily, as Harper puts it. As you probably remember, the slugger donned a Kirk Cousins “You Like That” shirt during a workout last month.

He also sent out this tweet congratulating the Redskins on clinching the NFC East Division title in December:

Congrats to @KirkCousins8 and the @Redskins on clinching the NFC East Division! Well deserved fellas #NFL #DC

— Bryce Harper (@Bharper3407) December 27, 2015
So with Spring Training right around the corner, we hope Bryce enjoys his last few days off before what we are sure will be another huge year for No. 34.

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Sanctions Lifted, American Tourists Head to Iran

The lifting of sanctions on Iran last month has resulted in a surge of bookings, tour operators say, many from Americans undeterred by a State Department warning laying out the risks of taking trips there.

Tour operators say the demand has been so acute that they are racing to add new departures and selling them in record time.

“It’s similar to Cuba in my mind where suddenly it’s both O.K. to go there officially but also with travelers thinking this place is going to change,” said Barbara Banks, director of marketing and new trip development at the Berkeley, Calif.-based Wilderness Travel, which sold out its spring trip to Iran and is planning a fall trip focused on the saffron harvest. “They want to experience the destination before it gets watered down by lots and lots of people going.”

Tourism in Iran is already popular with Europeans. Iranian officials told The Associated Press last fall that about five million foreign travelers visited Iran in 2014, and that the country aims to attract 20 million tourists, spending $30 billion, by 2025.

Among growth signs, Air France recently announced that it plans to start three flights weekly between Paris and Tehran beginning in April. Already Iran is a one-stop destination from New York via Istanbul, Dubai or Doha on Turkish Airlines, Emirates or Qatar Airways.

Iran hosts some of the world’s oldest cultural monuments, including 19 Unesco World Heritage Sites, and its varied terrain ranges from desert locales to ski resorts.

“It’s just extraordinarily beautiful, and the sites are as magnificent as any you can find in the world,” said William O. Beeman, a professor and chairman of the anthropology department at the University of Minnesota and an expert in Iran. “Isfahan is comparable to Machu Picchu or Angkor Wat. These are major centers of civilization that have been lovingly restored.”

He plans to take 14 travelers to Iran in June on a sold-out trip organized by Iran Luxury Travel, a two-year-old company in North Carolina. Steve Kutay, a former importer, founded Iran Luxury Travel in his retirement “as a good thing to do,” he said, in terms of encouraging people-to-people diplomacy (trips start at $2,995 a person, double occupancy for eight days).

“One of the biggest surprises about Iran is that they love Americans,” he said. “They hear you speak English and assume you’re British, and when they learn you’re American they want to have their picture taken with you and invite you to eat. I’ve never been so popular.”

The State Department warning, however, says that travelers should be wary, noting, “Various elements in Iran remain hostile to the United States.” Last month, Iran freed four Americans of Iranian descent, including a reporter from The Washington Post but the State Department still warns that people with both Iranian and American citizenship in particular risk detention.

Intrepid travelers are booking tours anyway. In response to an increase in inquiries, the Seattle-based Mir Corporation, which has been operating in Iran for 15 years, has added new train trips and small group departures in the country this year, for a total of about 10 different trips.

“We’d seen it for a while but as people become comfortable with Iran on the world scene, they think it may be a good time to do something they may have wanted to do for a while,” said Annie Lucas, vice president at Mir. “We feel there’s pent-up demand on the part of intrepid travelers.”

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