Tom’s latest haircut…A new look and…A new smartphone purchase in South Africa…

Tom’s excellent new haircut.  She cut his hair this time as opposed to using the electric clippers.  Cost with a tip?  ZAR 130, US $9.35 (includes tip).  Wow!  I love the beard!

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

A band of mongoose stopped by for raw scrambled eggs. Note green dish in the right center of the photo.

When Tom grew a beard in Bali, he quickly became frustrated with it when he said it was “scratchy” on the pillowcase when he was trying to sleep. As light sleepers, any type of distraction can prevent a good night’s sleep.


Recently, when he hadn’t shaved for a day or two I raved about the stubble, he decided to give it another try.  So far, so good.  We all enjoy seeing our beloved significant other with a new look from time to time, don’t we?

I can’t say I shake it up much, living this lifestyle but as I continue to work on my weight loss, albeit slowly but successfully, that’s all the new look he’s getting out of me. 

Tom’s wild hair before the haircut.

Later, I’ll disclose how much I’ve lost and how I’ve done it.  It may be another two months until I reach my goal.  I’m only losing about .5 kg (one pound) a week at this point although I never “cheat.”

Yesterday, we decided to head to Komatipoort a little early and left before I’d finished the day’s post as mentioned in yesterday’s post.  On the way to Spar Center, we stopped at the Pep Cell Phone Store first to no avail.  There wasn’t a single phone in that store that appealed to me.

Realizing I probably wouldn’t keep a new phone for more than a year or so, the price was a major consideration.  As it turned out, I left the Vodacom store a few doors from the market with one of the most expensive phones in the inventory price at ZAR $2500, US $179.86.

Within an hour another band of mongoose came by for eggs or…was it the same group that was here earlier?  These animals and others are very tricky in making us think they are a new batch of visitors!

Of course, there’s no required contract when buying “unlocked” phones to which one can add two separate SIM cards, one for voice, another for data.  Once I selected the phone I wanted as shown in the photo, the salesperson put my existing voice SIM card in the new phone and I was ready to pay.

Not unexpectedly, their credit card machine didn’t work (this happened years ago at this same location when we tried to buy data) so Tom headed to the neighboring bank’s ATM for the cash. 


In the interim, the store’s tech guy showed up and got the handheld credit card processing device to finally process my credit card purchase.  We can always use the extra Tom got from the ATM, so it was no big deal.

My new smartphone purchased yesterday at the Vodacom store in Komatipoort.

Actually, this happens a lot here.  After all, this is Africa, not the USA and services don’t always work as expected, seamlessly and without complications.  Networks are often down, electricity is often down and packages don’t arrive as anticipated.

Our package containing hundreds of dollars of supplies, shipped from the US on May 28th has yet to arrive.  Dear Louise has taken over the daunting task of getting the package sent to Marloth Park. 

The postal service has acknowledged it has arrived in Pretoria after successfully going through customs.  We’ve called no less than 10 times seeking an answer.  But the language barrier has been an obstacle that seems to have impeded the conversations when we did manage to get someone on the line.  We’ll see how it rolls out, posting the results here.

Last night, our next door neighbors, staying in the house for two, stopped by for happy hour.  We had a great time with Lydia and her son Jody from Amsterdam.

When we returned to the house, we put away the groceries after which I finished and uploaded the day’s post.  I was anxious to get my new phone up and running with all my favorite apps.

The process went as smoothly as I hoped and within a few hours, the new phone was loaded with all my information and apps.  Although I rarely make a phone call on the smartphone, I usually use it for the same types of mindless drivel most people do. It was a relief to have this handled.

Last night, tourists from Amsterdam who are renting the house next door, joined us for sundowners on our veranda.  With the outdoor heater on low, we were able to stay comfortable at the big table.  We had a great time with Lydia and Jordy and have already connected in Facebook.

There’s a tinge of green developing in the bush after on and off drizzling over the past few days.  This little bit of rain can be so beneficial for the grazing wildlife.

Tonight, we’re invited to dinner at friend’s Uschi and Evan’s home.  We have no doubt this will be another enjoyable evening in the bush.  Still, the wildlife visitor count is low and we’re looking forward to Monday when the tourist traffic thins out and our animals friends return to our garden.

Have a fabulous summer weekend for some and winter weekend for those of us in this side of the world!

____________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, August 10, 2017:

One year ago today we booked the Protea Hotel in Buenos Aires where we stayed while awaiting the cruise to Antarctica.  The nightly rate included this breakfast.  We ate the eggs, cheese and meats only, no cereals, milk, pastries or fruit.  For more details, please click here.

Hippo Day!…First time sighting since our arrival…Exceptional dinner party…

At first with the naked eye, from way across the river, we thought this was a rhino.  Tom looked through the binoculars while I zoomed in for a photo to delightfully discover it was a hippo, the first we’d seen since our arrival.  That’s a cattle egret near her/his head.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Gecko on the orange wall at night.  Check out the “red eye.” Where’s the tail?

With company coming for dinner and with most of the food prepped, we decided to take a drive to the Crocodile River, since after the rains, we’d hoped to see more wildlife.

In my old life, I’d never have taken the time on a day company was coming for dinner when I’d be too busy to take a few hours for frivolities.  This life is different allowing me time and motivation to do exactly whatever strikes me at the moment.

We took off in the little blue car after stopping at the petrol station to add air to a low tire (which seems to be holding up OK) and off we went on the outrageously bumpy dirt roads that take us to the river.

Since hippos stay close to the water and with the river so low recently, we hadn’t expected to see any hippos, not from Marloth Park or in Kruger National Park.

It was hot, humid and the air felt thick.  Bugs congregated around us each time we stopped and got out of the car to scan the riverbanks for possible sightings.  We stopped at the usual brick overlook structure but didn’t see a thing. 

A group of tourists relaxed on the tiered seating having lunch and drinks.  It’s always busier on these roads and overlooks on the weekends when many South Africans from other areas flock to Marloth Park for a few days of “holiday fun” among the precious wildlife, often retreating from the “extra” humans in the park.

We’ve noticed that generally, we have fewer visitors to our house on weekends.  The only thing we can attribute this to is the added cars and people visiting.  Could the wildlife prefer to stay “undercover” when there are so many humans milling about?

The hippo is considered the most dangerous mammal in Africa.  From this site: The hippo is responsible for more human fatalities in Africa than any other large animal. Male hippos actively defend their territories which run along the banks of rivers and lakes. Females have also been known to get extremely aggressive if they sense anyone coming in between their babies, who stay in the water while she feeds on the shore. Hippos can run at speeds of over 20 miles an hour and they have enormous jaws which host up to 20-inch canines.”
I suppose the longer we’re here we’ve become protective of this unique location, preferring it stay natural and unencumbered with the likes of too many tourists coming and going, often staying for only two or three days. Then again, the revenue generated by tourists is vital for many of the shops, lodges, and homeowners renting their properties to incoming tourists.

Sadly, some of the tourists ruin it for everyone, disturbing the quiet and easy flow of life in this veritable paradise for animal lovers and those seeking the serenity of this magical world, so far removed from everyday life.

We watched for some time, attempting to get a better photo of this hippo with a few oxpeckers on her/him, clearing off the insects.

As we drove along the river, eyes searching to the distant shore, we spotted something dark and mysterious across the river.  Keeping in mind, we could be talking about a distance of up to one kilometer (.62 miles) from our vantage point, making photo taking with our less fancy camera, a bit tricky to get a clear shot.

Tom maneuvered the car into a perfect place to park while we got out and walked through brush and grass to get as close as possible.  Getting closer by 15 meters (50 feet) is nothing compared to the distance we were from the sighting but we forged along anyway.

At such a distance, it was difficult to get a clearer photo but we were none the less thrilled to get these photos.

The perception that moving even such a short distance closer would enhance the quality of our photos, spurred us on. Batting off flies and other insects, we steadied ourselves as much as possible to take today’s hippo photos.

We’d love to have seen more hippos like we had while in the Masai Mara, Kenya in 2013.  But, with the inaccessibility of the Crocodile River, we happily take what we can get, always thrilled in the process.   Here’s a photo of hippos we’d taken while on safari in Kenya:

We captured this “bloat” of hippos along the Mara River during our first hour on safari in Kenya in 2013.  Here’s the link from that date.

The above photo doesn’t in any manner make us feel, “Oh, that was then.  This is now.”  Instead, we think in terms of our collective worldwide experiences. Africa presented these experiences to us. When?…is irrelevant.  So, it’s easy for us to revel in one hippo knowing we had the above opportunity long ago and perhaps will have more in the future.

Here’s another photo we posted on Tom’s birthday, December 23, 2013, of this glorious hippo at sunset as we crossed the Crocodile River:

As the sun went down, the reflection on this hippo in the Crocodile River, on Tom’s birthday in 2013 was special.  For the link from that date, please click here.
Yesterday, as we continued on, we were breathless over other encounters on the road back to our property, photos which we’ll share in the next few days.  Each time we embark on a drive, we have few expectations and, in one way or another, we’re always pleasantly surprised. This upcoming week, we’ll head back to Kruger, this time staying on the paved roads.

As for last night’s dinner party of six, it was delightful.  Our friends Lynne and Mick, and Janet and Steve were here for a what proved to be a near perfect evening.  As always, the conversation flowed with ease and the pace was low key and stress-free. 
Each time we go to the river, the first animal we long to see is an elephant.  We’re seldom disappointed.

We were pleased they enjoyed our meal of mozzarella stuffed meatballs, topped with homemade marinara, and two kinds of cheese along with a side of bacony green beans and salad.  For dessert, we served ice cream bars and coffee with cream.  After they left, at almost at 11:00 pm, Tom had a lot of dishes to wash but together we cleaned up and awoke to only a few things left to do this morning.

In yesterday’s post, I mistakenly mentioned Janet and Steve will be away for some time.  As it turns out, they’ll be back in Marloth in no time at all and we look forward to seeing them again soon. 

This big guy was taking water into his trunk and spraying it on his back to cool off on the very hot day.

In a few days, Lynne and Mick return to their home in Jersey (UK) for many months.  We won’t see them again until November other than to run over to their home this afternoon to say goodbye and see their newly thatched roof (almost done).  Later we’ll return “home” to some mighty fine leftovers.

Last night’s sunset, after our guests arrived, hard to see through the trees.

That’s it for today folks. Of course, we’ll always be on the lookout for more to share with each of you every single day! Have a great day!

 ____________________________________

 
Photo from one year ago today, March 25, 2017:

Volleyball competitors warming up for tournaments in Manly, Australia.  For more photos, please click here.

Halfway through our Marloth Park rental….Another dinner party for six…Back to my old ways?…

From this site“Flapping the ears can express excitement and joy. In turn, the beating of the ears on the skin can be heard. This sound causes other elephants to prick up their ears and to get in contact with the first elephant.  In hot weather, elephants use their ears primarily to cool down.”  We suspect it was cooling down with temps well into 40C (90F) on the day we took this photo.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

This female kudu was comfortable eating carrots out of my hand.

This evening we’re having dinner guests only a few days prior to the two couples, Janet and Steve and Lynne and Mick, each takes off for their respective homes in the UK, staying for several months.  We’ll look forward to their return!

In the interim, Kathy and Don are returning to Marloth Park in a week and we’ll certainly enjoy spending time with them while they’re staying at their lovely home in Marloth Park.  Linda and Ken will return in June or thereabouts and we look forward to seeing them soon.

This is how it goes for many homeowners in Marloth Park, primarily based in other parts of the world, returning for one, two or three-month stints a few times a year.

The first thing we look for when driving along the river is elephants.

Many South Africans have homes in other parts of the country, also returning to Marloth as their part-time holiday home.  Few rent homes, like us.  Most own two or more homes, traveling back and forth between their various properties.

That life never appealed to us.  We’ve wanted to be free to travel to wherever we may choose, at any given time.  Did we contemplate having a home here, considering how much we love it?  Perhaps for one second. 

But then, the thought wafted away when we realize we’re most fulfilled continuing on this path of life-on-the-move,  one that works magically for who we are and who’ve we’ve become over these past years.  Why change what’s working so well and for which we’re ultimately fulfilled and happy?

We spotted this elephant from the overlook shelter along the river a few days ago

In the interim, Louise informed us, if we’d like we can stay in this same house, named “Orange…More than Just a Colour” for our entire remaining year until we board a ship one year from today, March 24, 2019, leaving for the US for another family visit. 

We had a choice to stay in this house or move to another house.  But, we like the house enough to stay another year, if Louise and the owners will have us.  We’ve offered to move out for certain periods, if they find other renters willing to pay more.  We can move on a dime!  Louise assures us that’s unlikely.

How do we feel about staying in one property for such an extended period?  Surprisingly, quite good.  Many of the animals have already come to know us and will continue to do so as time marches on.  The house is comfortable (we only use the main floor) and has literally everything we can possibly need.

Could this be a courting male and female?

Then, as we plan visits to other countries in Africa over this upcoming year, we’ll have a place to leave our stuff, packing only what we’ll need for the specific trip.  This gives us peace of mind and makes these side trips considerably easier.

This morning, up and at ’em early I started chopping and dicing for tonight’s dinner party.  Yesterday afternoon, I also did a little prep, making the remainder of today low key and easy. 

Entertaining in this lifestyle is very different from our former lives.  I used to put so much pressure on myself, planning elaborate meals and setting an elaborate table, often for many guests.

We often wonder about a lone elephant.  Is it a male that has been ejected from the family who now has to make his own way in life, finding a mate, to later be off on his own once again.

In this life, I plan easy homemade meals that don’t require endless hours of standing in the kitchen.  There’s no need to make vast numbers of appetizers, side dishes, and desserts.  No one here seems interested in desserts so I don’t bake as I would have years ago.

The best part is I don’t feel bad about cooking less elaborate meals.  I’ve changed so much over these past years, no longer striving to be the consummate hostess, finding simple delicious meals is ideal in the bush, whether made in a pot or on the braai (barbecue).

The only thing I miss is linen napkins.  The paper napkins sold in the area are small and flimsy.  Nothing is nicer than a cloth napkin for guests.  I guess I have to let that go. 

Waterbucks at the Crocodile River. 

Soon, we’ll jump in the new little blue car and head to the local market to buy more paper napkins, bringing the camera with us as always, perhaps seeing “someone” special along the way.

It’s a good life here.  There’s absolutely nothing that has disappointed us during these past six weeks since our arrival.  Often, when people “return” they’re expectations are so high they cannot be fulfilled.  For us, Marloth Park is more exciting than it was four years ago.

Maybe we’re wiser, more tolerant, and with fewer expectations after what we’ve learned during these past years.  We don’t fuss over the heat, the bugs and the days when few visitors stop by.  Its all a part of living in the bush in this very special place, unlike any other, anywhere in the world.  We’re grateful.

May your day find you feeling grateful and fulfilled.

_______________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, March 24, 2017:

A rare moment of a blue sky with rainy cloudy skies day after day since we’d arrived in Fairlight almost two weeks earlier.  For more Australia photos, please click here. It was four year ago today, on March 2, 2014, that we began posting this feature, “Photo from one year ago today.” 

The falling leaves make us sad…Today is the first day of fall in South Africa…Socializing galore!!!…

I was indoors preparing dinner while Tom noticed this mongoose digging a hole in the yard.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

A grasshopper we found on new friends Janet and Steve’s veranda.  Four years ago, we’d written a story with photos of hundreds, if not thousands, of grasshoppers in our yard.  For videos and details, please click here.
Today, south of the equator its the first day of fall.  This morning, out on the veranda as always, we both noticed leaves falling from the trees and low lying brush. 

Perhaps we noticed the leaves falling to the ground in the gentle warm breeze simply due to our awareness that fall has arrived.  As we mentioned in earlier posts, fall and winter may not be good times for the wildlife in Marloth Park, most of whom are dependent upon the green vegetation on the trees, plants, and bushes.
It appeared she/he may have found something.

We’ve never been here in the fall. Four years ago we left on February 28th while summer was in full bloom. February is comparable to August in those countries located north of the equator.

Of course, for our family and friends in Minnesota, today is the much revered first day of spring when those living in cold climates jump for joy at the prospect of warmer weather.
More digging.

There’s no shortage of warm weather here.  Today is expected to reach 95F, (35C), dropping to a high of 79F (26C) tomorrow for a huge weather change.  That’s South Africa for you.  But, it’s these big weather variations that have an effect on foliage.

In our old lives, we’d never stay outdoors all day and evening with temperatures in the 90’s.  But, here it’s the course of life in the African bush.  The locals have adapted and we have as well.  The only air con we use is in the car (a must) and while sleeping.
Francolins are commonly found in the bush.  They don’t fly much but are fast walkers and, very noisy.
We’ll watch and see how winter in the bush will be for the wildlife, hoping only for the best for them while praying for rain.  Winter is the dry season in this part of the world.
This week has been and will continue to be a busy social time for us.  Sunday we visited Gail and Mark (their story will be posted on Friday).  Last night, Wednesday, new friends and neighbors Sandra and Paul (two doors down on the right) came for 5:00 pm happy hour and stayed until almost 10:00 pm…we had a blast!
Helmeted Guinea Fowl often hang around the yard.

Today, Wednesday, our dear friends  Louise, and Danie, who happen to be our property managers, are coming for dinner.  On Saturday,  Janet and Steve (whose home we visited for dinner a few weeks ago) and Lynn and Mick are coming for dinner, with both couples leaving Marloth Park at the end of March, who’ll be gone for a few months, later in the year.  We’ll see them all again since we’ll be here (in and out for visa purposes) until March 24, 2019.

On April 2nd, we’re attending an Easter party at Kathy and Don’s MP home on the Crocodile River, after they’ll have been staying at one of their other homes located in Pretoria, South Africa, returning to Marloth Park for a while.  Surely, we’ll socialize regularly with that wonderful couple as well.
It appears there are more ostriches in Marloth Park than four years ago when we were here.  We’re enjoying every one we encounter.

Friendly, fun and welcoming people have taken us into the fold of their social lives as many come and go between other homes in other locales, often other countries.  We’re looking forward to Linda and Ken returning in a few months for plenty of good times with the two of them.

When we look back at all the countries we visited where it wasn’t easy to make friends, we’re so grateful to be here among our human and animal friends.  Last night, during our fun evening. Big Boy (warthog) stopped by to check out the pellet situation. 
 At “our house” the pellet situation is good and will remain so regardless of our social activities, the time of the day and of course, the season of the year.
We spotted these two zebras on the side of the road on our way to the market.

Today’s heading reminded me of Nat King Cole’s song, “The Autumn Leaves,” a favorite song of many of his fans.  Here’s the link to the song on YouTube with the beautiful lyrics below:

“The falling leaves drift by the window
The autumn leaves of red and gold
I see your lips, the summer kisses
The sun-burned hands I used to hold


Since you went away the days grow long
And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song
But I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall

Since you went away the days grow long
And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song
But I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall”
Whether today is the beginning of spring or fall for you, may you have a very special season.
___________________________________
Photo from one year ago today, March 21, 2017:
The sun peeked out for a few hours while we were in Manly, Australia making our way to the ferry to head to the immigration office regarding our “illegal” status.  For more details, please click here.

Change in plans…Social calendar filling up!…Power outage on 100F, 38C day!…Hot, hot, hot!

Vervet monkeys aren’t as destructive as baboons who we’ll send on their way
while Tom stands tall while holding up a big stick. 

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

This handsome male bushbuck rested in the yard for quite a while as the sun was setting.  He was still there after dark, as far as we could tell.

Last night, we changed our plans for our anniversary night.  Our intent was to go to Ngwenya overlooking the Crocodile River for Kruger Park and sunset views. 

As it turned out, a few times during the day Danie stopped by, once bringing us a bottle of wine I couldn’t wait to try last night and loved it and another time, he suggested we go to Ngwenya tonight instead of last night. 

Thursdays at Ngwenya are weighed-by-the-plate buffet which is not only a great deal but also offers a wide variety of options suitable for my way of eating.  Both Louise and Danie eat like we do and have done so for many years

In the yard, there’s a fenced-in garden intended to protect the vegetation.  Ha!  the monkeys have no trouble crawling inside and making a mess.  These vervet monkeys are fun to watch with their playful antics.

Since it was so hot at 100F (38C) it made sense not to have to put on nicer clothes than my braless tank top and baggy Capri jeans so we decided to dine at “home” rather than head out on the outrageously hot evening.

Even the little rental car’s AC can’t keep up with its miniature engine and low AC output.  Staying in, cooking on the grill and eating outdoors made a lot of sense to us.  Plus, I could sample that bottle of wine Tom chilled in the freezer long before “happy hour.” 

We cooked the two pork chops for Tom with a lamb chop for me, along with a side of mushroom casserole, fresh green beans and a crispy chilled salad, perfect for the hot and humid evening.

Little did we expect the power would go out just before we sat down to eat at 6:30.  Of course, it would. With power limitations in Marloth Park and with many tourists here for spring break (started in some parts of the world), everyone is running their AC on the ultra hot day.

There was a troop of about 20 vervet monkeys in our yard.

We only use AC when we go to bed.  With no screens on the windows, it gets extremely hot indoors.  We don’t use the AC in the main part of the house when it can’t cool enough with the two-story high ceilings.  Plus, we’re in Africa.  What did we expect?  Cool comfort and ease of living?  Hardly.

After a rash of visitors early in the day, we were content to sit back and relax during for dinner.  I needed to get an early start on today’s post since we’re having company this morning, initiated by Danie, which is bringing us a heart-stopping story we can’t wait to share tomorrow.

Wow!  Will the action-packed adventures and stories ever settle down?  We don’t think so…not in Marloth Park.  Our Cozi calendar is smoking with scary and exciting daytime plans on Saturday (you won’t believe what we’re doing!!!) and many upcoming social events.

They move so quickly, it’s tricky getting good photos.

Also, we have fun social plans for Sunday night with lovely couple Janet and Steve whom we met at Kathy and Don’s party a few weeks ago and enjoyed great conversation.  It is thoughtful of them to invite us!

Also invited to dinner on Sunday are friends Lynne and Mick who came for dinner last Saturday night at our “house.”  (Kathy and Don are at their other house near Pretoria right now returning around April 1st with more social events on the horizon). 

This valuable time in Marloth Park is an easy reminder why we longed to return to this magical place.  Sure, it’s hot, sticky and uncomfortable at times.  The mozzies and insects can be downright annoying at times. 

Seldom do they stop playing long enough for a photo.

The dusty unpaved roads bring up all kinds of allergy symptoms from watery eyes, itching, and runny noses.  After all, this is Africa, not Scottsdale, Arizona or Boca Raton, Florida. 

We can’t jump in the car and head to a modern mall to replace all the swimsuits we accidentally left on one of our last cruises.  At the moment, I don’t own a single swimsuit.  Tom has one.

There’s a plunge pool here but we don’t use it.  With no swimsuit and too many support staff stopping by each day, it’s too risky to go without.  After the magnificent pool in Atenas, Costa Rica we’re kind of spoiled anyway.  How could anything compare to that pool? 

These two vervet monkeys were playing in the side yard.

Living in the dense bush doesn’t allow for most pools to be in the sunlight.  Neither of us cares to swim or lounge in an under-cover or indoor pool.  So no swimming here, but swimming isn’t why we’re here. 


It’s the wildlife, the ambiance of this tucked-away place and it’s the people who add so much to the charm and magic of this unusual wildlife-rich location.


During the power outage, we dined outdoors by candlelight and when the bugs got too pesky we wandered into the bedroom with a candle and watched a few shows on my laptop to keep us entertained.  By around 11:00 pm, the power came back on and we were able to get a good night’s sleep.  Today’s temps will be comparable to yesterday.

Please watch today’s video to see their playfulness and how easily they fly from tree to tree. 

What can I say?  We couldn’t be happier and more fulfilled. Regardless of any minor inconveniences, we couldn’t be enjoying ourselves more.  Our daily lives are rich with each day manifesting into another special day, entrenched in exquisite memories we’ll carry with us forever.

Thank you, dear readers, for sharing it all with us.

___________________________________


Photo from one year ago today, March 8, 2017:

Each night on most cruises,  my meals consist of salmon or chicken breast with prawns and a side of spinach and mashed cauliflower.  For more cruise food photos, please click here.

Antarctica- Saturday, January 27, 2018…Tom’s photos…

Tom certainly got it right when he captured this Black Browed Albatross chick with what appears to be a smile. 

Today, we’re heading to South Georgia Island, a popular stopping point on the route toward the Antarctic Circle.  We’ve yet to see snow-covered islands and glaciers.  Soon enough, that will come.  But, it’s a long way from Ushuaia and today is only day five of the 17-day cruise.

The beautiful scenery in the Falkland Islands.  Notice the birds flying above.

Many of our readers have written asking the status of my injured knee  Thank you all for your thoughtful concern. As it turned out, yesterday at 5:00 pm, I visited the ship’s doctor, fearful that the infection wasn’t improving after four full days of antibiotics. 
Penguins fill the hills.

Bound and determined, I wasn’t about to be missing out on any of the many upcoming Zodiac boat excursions, and with another sea day to recoup, I felt I had no choice to see what was going on.

It’s fascinating to see how penguins love to stay close to their family members and friends.

My leg was turning red further up my thigh, several inches from the original site of the infection.  It wasn’t in a specific line creeping up my leg as one might expect from “blood poisoning.”  Instead, it was in bright red blotches, each of which was tender to the touch.  This was worrisome.  I had no idea what was going on or how to treat it.

They’re never far from easy access to the sea.

This is cruise number 22 for us in the past over five years during which neither of us has ever visited a ship doctor, not even when we contracted awful coughs, colds, and cases of flu.  Fortunately, we’ve never had norovirus or seasickness requiring medication from the doctor.

A lone Caracara.

After a very thorough exam of my knee, my leg, my groin, and mid-section he determined I have the equivalent of phlebitis, inflammation in the vein in my leg and lymphatic system, which if left untreated could be a disaster.  He determined it hadn’t spread to any other parts of my body and was localized in my leg. 

Black Browed Albatross in a massive colony.

He prescribed a strong prescription anti-inflammatory drug which must be taken with food three times a day along with continuing the antibiotic for at least four more days.  Although concerned with the diagnosis, I was especially relieved when he said I can keep walking as long as I can tolerate it. 

A lone little bird.

Even with the pain these past many days, I’ve been able to participate in the long walks on the excursions although I continue to walk gingerly due to the pain.  Tom has been patient and helpful as always, hanging on to me as we’ve navigated our way over the rough, rocky and uneven terrain. 

This is unreal…the Black Browed Albatross on Steeple Jason Island, remove tall grass from these massive “pod-like” structures, adding mud and vegetation to make it a free-standing pod on which they can nest. Here’s a young chick making a little noise while atop her/his elevated nest.  That’s amazing! 

I’m scheduled to return to the doctor tomorrow at 5:00 pm to decide the next course of treatment if there has been a sufficient improvement.  We’re hopeful when this morning I noticed the redness and tenderness has improved about 20%, not a significant amount but enough to make us feel optimistic.

More chicks and parents sitting atop their raised pods.

During this last outing on Steeple Jason Island in the Falkland Islands, he took all of the photos while I watched my footing using the walking sticks that the ship recommended we all bring with us.  Tom, as sure-footed, as one can be, hasn’t needed to use them, hence we only brought along one pair.

It was stunning to see all these Albatross atop these pods in their massive nesting grounds.

In our enthusiasm to present our photos and with the sketchy Wi-Fi signal, we failed to mention any information about the Falkland Islands.  Here’s a bit of information from the ship’s newsletter, to fill in the blanks:

The varying species can easily hang out together as shown in this photos of Penguins and Albatross.

“The Falkland Islands have a rich history embracing maritime trade, sealing, whaling, as well as cattle and sheep farming.  The English navigator, John Davis, aboard the “Desire” made the first confirmed sighting of the islands in 1592. 

The first landing is attributed to the British Captain, John Strong in 1690 at Bold Cove, Port Howard on West Falkland.  Early visitors were sealers, whalers and penguin hunters from different corners of the world.  Many imported domestic animals were left at various locations as a food source for future voyages.

A preening chick on the nest.

Cattle spread rapidly throughout the islands.  Travel was on horseback and South American gauchos made their mark.  Stone and turf corrals were constructed and remains of these can be seen scattered across the islands. particularly on East Falkland.

It is “wildly” congested in spots!

The year 1833 saw the re-assertion by British for its sovereignty.  By 1845 the capital had been moved to its present site and was named Stanley, after the Colonel Secretary, Geoffrey Smith Stanley. 

A bird of prey, the Caracara awaits the next opportunity for a meal.

Stanley became an important port for vessels involved in whaling and rounding Cape Horn.  Settlements and farms were built across the islands and sheep farming took over from cattle ranching as a mainstay of the economy.

The ship’s naturalists set up a perimeter of flags for us to walk.  This curious Caracara had to investigte the flagpole.

Falkland Islanders participated in both World Wars. The World War I Battle of the Falklands is commemorated the monument on Ross Road whilst the Cross of Sacrifice commemorates World War II.  For 74 days in 1982, Argentine troops occupied the Falkland Islands. 

There are over one half million Albatross on this island.

A British Task Force was sent to recover the islands. Fierce fighting took place on land, at sea, and in the air with a number of Islanders aiding the British military.  Ultimately, Argentine Forces surrendered to the British Forces.”

As mentioned above, today’s photos were taken by Tom while we were at Steeple Jason Island in the Falkland Islands.  He’s becoming quite the photographer!  For more information on this island, please click here.

They seem to go on forever.  What a sight!

Tomorrow’s post will be arriving later in the day since we’re heading out again, in the early morning, on the Zodiac boats to South Georgia where we’ll certainly be in for quite a surprise which we can’t wait to share with all of you.

Have a fabulous day filled with many wonders!
________________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, January 27, 2017:
This fish mascot wandered about the Australia Day celebration for photo ops.   For more photos, please click here.

Tonight’s is our Minnesota Meet & Greet at 5:00 pm at Grizzly’s in Plymouth, Minnesota…Rundown of a typical busy day…

Perfect pink orchids.

Before we arrived in Minnesota two weeks ago today, we’d anticipated we’d be visiting a wide array of sightseeing spots in Minnesota when we were with our family members during this extended visit. 

Waterfall incorporated into the landscape.

As it’s turned out, our time together has revolved around the usual activities that family members who live nearby who do many things together.  How often do you go sightseeing in your own town, area or village?  Not much, if any.

We’d assumed we’d be taking photos of popular tourist locations which we’d post online with our many stories to tell.  It hasn’t been that way at all.  We’ve blended into daily life commensurate with that of most grandparents, driving grandchildren around town, attending ballgames, local events, activities planned at parks and lakes.

Lush lined walkways and paths.

Sure, we have a few tourist type events planned on our remaining online Cozi calendar and family organizer which no doubt, we’ll share in upcoming posts.  But, we’ve hesitated to post photos during the flurry of activity at our family member’s homes and out and about at more typical points of interest.

I must admit, I’ve often left the camera behind when I’ve had the one-on-one days with the grandchildren preferring my hands be free to engage with them as opposed to snapping photos.  Plus, we’ve visited many kid-related venues where surely parents and grandparents don’t want their little loved ones  appearing in our photos.

Every path providing visual cotton candy.

Plus, I haven’t wanted to leave the camera in the car while at a movie theatre while I attended  this week’s three “kid” movies including “Captain Underpants,” “Wonder Woman” and “Diary of a Wimpy Kid, the Long Haul!”

As a result, although I continue to be mindful of potential photo ops, we’re totally engrossed and committed to living and loving to the fullest during our six weeks in Minnesota, now with only 28 days remaining until we depart for Nevada.

Appealing restaurant at the gardens.

Speaking of photos ops…tonight is our Minnesota Meet & Greet at Grizzly’s Wood Fired Grill at 220 Carlson Parkway, Plymouth, MN 55447.  If you’ve found you can or cannot attend, please email as soon as possible. 

Space is limited at the restaurant.  We’ve had a few cancellations which we’ve been able to fill in the past 24 hours.  But, it’s still not too late to notify us for a spot if you’d like to attend.  Typical for most events we expect a small percentage of “no-shows” and can  easily overbook by a few more spots at this last minute. 

Appealing decor and menu.  But, we seldom dine off the ship when on a tour with concerns the food would be challenging for my way of eating and also, the pointless expenditure when the ship’s food meets our requirements and budget.

Update on yesterday…whew!  It was a busy day as follows:

 8:00 am:  Pick up granddaughter Madighan from her home (40 minutes in traffic from the hotel)
 9:00 am:  Return to hotel for self serve buffet breakfast, which the kids love (30 minutes in traffic)
10:30 am: Drive to Arbor Lakes to shop with Madighan (30 minutes in traffic)
11:30 am: Find the local Chuck E. Cheese so Madighan could play games (She doesn’t like their pizza and wasn’t hungry.  She only drank water while we played games)
12:30 pm:  Drove to a make-your-own frozen yogurt shop in Maple Grove (10 minutes in traffic)
 1:30 pm:  Drove back to Arbor Lakes movie theatre to watch movie.  She was full from frozen yogurt and didn’t want a movie snack or drink. (That was a short drive)
 3:30 pm:  Left the movie theatre, drove to a local craft store to purchase a coloring set for Madighan to stay occupied at Mary’s during the barbecue.  As it turned out, she played with grandson Vincent and great grand nephew David and was never bored for a moment.
 4:00 pm:  Drove to Coon Rapids to pick up two of Tom’s sister, Patty and Sister Beth and nephew, Jim. (60 minutes in traffic)
5:00 pm:  Drove to Tom’s sister Mary’s home (10 minutes on city streets) for the weekly barbecue.
8:45 pm:  Returned Patty, Sister Beth and Jim to Patty’s home (10 minutes on city streets)
9:00 pm:  Madighan and I returned to her home in St. Louis Park (30 minutes in lighter traffic) where I dropped her off, visited with daughter-in-law Camille and grandchildren Maisie and Miles.
9:45 pm:  Returned to hotel in light traffic (22 minutes)

Time spent driving: slightly over 4 hours

Building on the grounds of Butchart Gardens.

As for Tom, his day was equally busy.  He’d borrowed one of son Greg’s pickup trucks to get around on our split busy days.  He’s not here now for me to ask about the rundown on his day (he’s out with grandson Vincent) but, based on his visit to nephew Tim, lunch with his retired railroad buddies, and later visit to brother Jerome in hospital and eventually meeting us at the barbecue at Mary’s, his day included almost as much driving as mine.

We have no doubt that our remaining days in Minnesota will be comparable to those as above stated.  This level of activity may be typical for many grandparents who are actively involved in the day-to-day lives of their grandchildren, adult children and other family members.  We commend them for their dedication.

With no signs on this building, we expected this might be a residence for one of the families of this family-owned business.

But, love doesn’t always manifest in the “doing.”  For us, once we’re gone again, the love will maniefest in our “hearts and minds” for the precious time we spent in the past, in this summer of 2017, and at other times when we’ll visit in the future.

Tomorrow, we’ll be back with photos from the Minnesota Meet & Greet and most likely many stories to tell about those who generously took the time to come and visit with us.  We’re humbled and grateful for all of this!

_____________________________________


Photo from one year ago today, June 9, 2016:

Each day in Bali, we rescued many grasshopper who were drowning in the pool.  Once we take them out, they dry off for awhile in the sun and then fly off.  Some appear dead but often come to life awhile later.  For more details in Bali, please click here.
 

Memorable dinner with a loyal reader in Vancouver…

Tom and I with our friend Sheila, a Vancouver reader and resident.

Several weeks ago, we received an email from loyal reader and Vancouver resident, Sheila who’d found us long ago as a result of Tom’s frequent posts on Cruisecritic.com.  On many occasions including the 24-night cruise we just completed, we’ve met many members/passengers who’ve seen Tom’s posts.

We invited Sheila to join us for dinner at our hotel in Vancouver, the Marriott Pinnacle Downtown.  She was able to arrive at the Showcase Restaurant by 6:15, arriving by public transportation from work.

We became fast friends with Sheila and hope to see her again someday.

Seeing her warm, friendly smile and hearty welcome warmed our hearts.  Seated at a comfortable booth in the pleasant surroundings was conducive to our spending almost three hours engaged in animated travel chatter.

Sheila, an experienced cruiser/traveler was rife with her own experiences we found varied and interesting.  We giggled when she explained she felt she’d known us for a very long time, having read almost all of our posts over these past years.

This bed and bedding were outrageously comfortable.  For the first time in weeks, we had a good night’s sleep.

Over these five years of posting, I’d hadn’t given much thought about how readers may come to know us from reading our posts; our quirks, our views, our foibles along with the nuances of our nomadic lifestyle. 

She reveled in our candor and vulnerability in sharing such finite details of our daily lives but insisted she’s much more private about her personal life and would never be able to “spill the beans” as we do on a daily basis.  Although, Sheila didn’t hesitate to express how she enjoys our revealing candor.

Functional and comfortable lounge area in our hotel room.

It interested us to hear this perspective and we took pause for a moment that perhaps we may “over share” at times.  But, as we’ve watched our worldwide readership grow, we’ve come to realize that part of which may most appeal to readers throughout the world is that very vulnerability. 

We’re all human and seldom have an original thought, expression or emotional response.  For the same reason, many can’t stop watching reality TV (which is often scripted in parts) they may be curious to follow our posts.  The difference though is that nothing  about our lives is “scripted.”

View from our hotel room at the Marriott Pinnacle Downtown.

Each and every day we tell it like it is; no exaggerations, no embellishments, and no fluff.  It’s simply real life, as lived by these two senior citizens traveling the world, because we can because we love it…a story told in a world of words and photos.

By 9:30 pm, we’d taken today’s photos, said goodbye to Sheila with hearty hugs and promises that, if and when we ever return to Vancouver, we’ll surely get together again.  It was a memorable evening.  Dinner wasn’t too bad either!

Thank you, Sheila, for taking the time and effort to come see us, to share your thoughts, your vast travel stories, your warm demeanor, and kindness.  You’ll always hold a special place in our hearts.

May all of our readers find themselves in the company of someone as delightful as Sheila!

________________________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, May 16, 2016:


This appeared to be a Balinese boat, called Madurai, one of many designs that we spotted in the fishing harbor in Negara which is quite a site to see.  For more beautifully decorated boats in the harbor please click here.

Making new friends..A couple, like us, traveling the world…

Sue and Scott, our new world travel friends from the US with whom we spent the evening.

We’re not so unique when traveling among passengers on cruise ships.  Many passengers are enthusiastic world travelers with many more years of experience and often having visited more countries than we have to date.

Sure, most have homes and a lifestyle that includes trips to Home Depot type stores on weekends, planting gardens, mowing the lawn and a wide variety of household tasks we forfeited years ago.

The lighting was poor for photos of the tango dancers at the party.

Many have the day to day interaction with friends and family that they may see in person on a regular basis whereby our interactions with family are conducted online through Skype calls and face time.

As we continue to cruise and travel this vast Earth, we find ourselves building many relationships that may prove to last throughout the remainder of our lives with fine people we stumble across along the way, many on cruise ships such as this most recent experience.

There was a show for Crown and Anchor members in the ice skating arena last night.

The speed with which these relationships grow is astounding but when the interactions may almost be daily it’s not difficult to escalate into a deep relationship in a relatively short period of time, such as the day/weeks spent cruising together, spent in idle hours of conversation and activities.

Such was the case last night and over these past three weeks, we’ve spent sailing on Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas, since April 22nd, soon to end in four days on May 15th.  We’ve made as many new friends as the time allows when we’re not watching a movie or hanging out for short periods in our cabin.

Last night’s dinner table included Sue and Scott’s friends John, Susan and their son Jonathan,

Whether we’re in one of the several bars, the main dining room or preparing a post in the Diamond Club, there’s always an opportunity to make new friends if one so chooses.  And, we so choose, when the situation is right.

Several days ago, while waiting in a lengthy immigration queue in Salon B, the ice arena, we met a lovely couple Susan and Scott who like us, are traveling the world.  We couldn’t wait to have an opportunity to hear their story and share mutual experiences and details of how and why they, too, travel the world and have been doing so for the past 13 months.

Tom in the Tavern bar waiting with me to see Sue and Scott.

Susan and Scott also sold their home and downsized their lives considerably.  Although they have storage with a plan to own another home somewhere down the road, during this period of time, they’re always on the move to explore new lands.

Years ago, Scott survived a horrifying bout with cancer changing their perspective on how they wanted to enjoy retirement down the road.  Now, both having retired, they’re free as birds to fulfill a lifelong dream of traveling the world. 

Tom and his two Diamond Club bar buddies.

With a decades-long plan in place, they’ve been able to “step outside the box” of traditional life in the USA and like us, pursue this seeming adventurous life of world travel and exploration.  They’ve done it well over these past 13 months and plan to continue until they’re ready to settle down once again. 

Last night, we met Susan and Scott in the Tavern Pub for happy hour, later attending a Crown and Anchor Welcome Back party at the ice rink and finally meeting three friends they’d made at dinner over these past many nights aboard the ship, another Susan, husband John and adult son Jonathan. 

Last night’s photo of friends Ray, Terry, Ulla and Julie when I walked passed them on the Promenade deck on my way to meet Tom and new friends, Susan and Scott.

The seven of us met for dinner at the Sapphire Dining Room for an 8:30 pm dinner reservation.  Seated at a round table the conversation flowed with an intoxicating level of enthusiasm, myriad questions regarding ours and  Susan and Scott’s lifestyle of “living in the world” and general chit chat.  it couldn’t have been more fun.

The highlight of the evening was hearing about Susan and Scott’s worldwide adventures.  Although unlike us, staying in countries for extended periods of time, they may stay as little as one to three days, seldom staying more than one week.

In the beginning of our planning, we decided against short stays of less than a few weeks, when we felt we’d become tired of constant travel days.  That’s worked for us.  For them, it’s been enriching although they’re now expressing interest in staying for longer periods.

Captain Rick and other staff presentation to top Pinnacle Club member (picutred center), the top tier in the Crown & Anchor Society requiring considerable cruises over many years of sailing to acquire.

We shared various tidbits of information between us including; tours in Africa, international health insurance, VPN benefits and on and on.  The conversation couldn’t have been more enjoyable with this delightful couple with whom we have no doubt, we’ll stay in touch as we continue on after this cruise ends.

Yesterday, at breakfast, we met two women who’d sadly lost their husbands, now traveling together.  As it turned out they’ll be sailing with us on May 17th on the Celebrity Solstice nine-night cruise to Alaska.  We look forward to seeing Diann and Helen (another Helen) on this upcoming cruise.

Tonight, most likely we’ll share the evening with friends Ulla, Ray, Julie and Terry with whom we’ve spent many evenings, always having a fabulous time. Tomorrow night, we’ll spend the evening with new friends Alice and Nate, another world-travel-experienced couple, much younger than us.  Here again, we love sharing mutual stories of our adventures.

This towel monkey made by our cabin steward Mira, (the best cabin steward we’ve had to date), was on display when we returned to our cabin last night.

Whew!  It’s been fun. With only four days remaining until we disembark the ship to head to Vancouver, British Columbia where we’ll stay for two nights, we’re soaking up every moment relishing in the companionship of interesting and entertaining people.

May your day bring you face to face with interesting and entertaining people…just like YOU.

______________________________________


Photo from one year ago today, May 11, 2016:

Me in the pool waving at Tom when he insisted on a photo.  We spent lots of time in the pool in Bali especially on days like that, hot, humid and with many flies after the previous night’s heavy rain.  For a similar photo of Tom, please click here.

Wonderful night with friends…Fabulous restaurant…One day and counting…

Christine, Tom and I huddled together for a photo.

When Bob dropped us off in Manly, parking in a local ramp, we all walked out to the Corso outdoor mall.  We had a bit of shopping in mind.  We parted ways with Bob while Tom and I headed to the pharmacy for a few last minute toiletries.

I was on a mission to purchase a suitable black skirt.  Since I don’t own a single dress and recently tossed my raggedy worn black skirt I was determined to find something a little dressy that I could wear on the many formal nights on both upcoming cruises.

Tom with Christine and Colin, the fabulous friends we met on the last cruise.  We were thrilled to see them again.

Although I don’t own any dressy “tops” a dressy skirt could help me feel slightly more appropriate on the formal nights.  Once we got everything we needed at the pharmacy, we wandered along the lengthy boulevard in the Corso while I visited a few women’s shops.

Prices are high on clothing, shoes and many items in Australia.  As I perused a few items I winced over the how expensive everything was priced but remained determined to find what I wanted. 

Finally, at the popular Sussan store, I found the perfect skirt but again cringed over the price of AU $89.95 but when converting it to US dollars at $67.70 (tax included), it didn’t seem so bad after all.  I handed over my credit card and made the purchase.

As a big slab of bacon oozed out of Colin’s burger, he couldn’t resist taking a photo.

Then, of course, in typical enthusiastic shopper style, I longed for an appropriate pair of shoes that would work well with the knee length “pencil” skirt.  Stopping at a few shoe stores as we continued the walk on the Corso, my mission appeared hopeless. 

There was no time to go to a mall.  My only hope was to wait until our ship docks at a port of call on the upcoming cruise, maybe in Hawaii on May 9th. In the interim I’ll live with what I have on hand, one pair of high wedge sandals I purchased in Hawaii in 2015, the last pair of shoes I’d purchased, (except for one pair of Keds white leather slip-on shoes I seem to wear more often than not). 

Tom and Colin ordered the Bacon Cheeseburger which they thoroughly enjoyed.

Once we approached the Manly Wharf, we found a comfortable place to wait until Christine and Colin’s ferry arrived from Circular Quay in Sydney.  Based on the schedule and our early arrival, we had a 30-minute wait.

Both the people and bird watching entertained us sufficiently for the time to pass quickly and before we knew it, we spotted Christine and Colin searching for us by the entrance to the Wharf.

Hugging affectionately, we were all happy to see one another.  We’d said our goodbyes the day the ship disembarked in Sydney on March 13th. At that time we were preoccupied as we were faced with dreadful concerns about our “illegal immigration” status after we’d received a worrisome call from the Australian Department of Immigration while aboard the ship.

Tom, Christine, and Colin enjoyed their burgers.  Christine had ordered a similar burger with Halloumi cheese.

We walked across the road to the Italian restaurant Crinitis where we spent the next almost four hours, engaged in lively conversation, laughter and memorable good times.  None of us ordered wine or cocktails.  I drank mineral water while the three of them ordered sodas.

We shared the story of our immigration issues with Christine and Colin who were shocked by our peculiar experience.  After all these years of travel, none of us had ever experienced such a scenario and hopefully never will again in the future.

The grilled Barramundi and vegetables sauteed in olive oil and butter were delicious.  A red pepper aka capsicum in Australia was particularly delightful.

The time passed so quickly, we were all surprised when we finally realized how late it was getting. With limited bus service for us and ferry service for them, we decided to say goodbye and head back to our respective “homes.”

It was a beautiful day in Manly.  We arrived at 2 pm and were scheduled to meet Christine and Colin around 3:45 pm.

Our bus arrived nine minutes after we approached the stop and minutes later we arrive at our rental and embarked on the steep path to the house.  With his usual thoughtfulness, Bob had turned on all the lights for us. 

In no time at all, we were hunkered down on the sofa in time to watch yet another amazing David Attenborough wildlife story.  It was impossible to wipe the smiles off our faces over the enjoyable evening of good friends and good food. Watching wildlife in Africa didn’t hurt either.  Hmmm….

This swing activity for kids looked fun with an attendant on site who strapped the kids into a harness.

This morning we did a little more packing comfortable that by noon tomorrow when our taxi arrives we’ll be set to go.  Instead of preparing tomorrow’s post today which I usually do on the final day, I’ll have plenty of time to do it in the morning.  Easy peasy.  Life is good.

May life also be good for YOU!

________________________________________________


Photo from one year ago today, April 21, 2016:

One year ago, Tom’s dinner aboard the ship including tender steak, broccoli, and fried potatoes.  In addition, he ordered a starter and a dessert.  For more details, please click here.