Counting down the days until our next adventure…

Earlier this week, while on the Manly Ferry, we were finally able to take sunny morning photos of Sydney Harbour, a cruise ship, another ferry, and Harbour Bay Bridge.

There’s an app we often use to calculate between two dates.  I must admit I probably use it everyday for one reason or another. So if this free app, Time and Date, could be of use to you, please click here. Enter the dates you’d like to calculate and voila!  Easy.

The Sydney Opera House appears to be a floating island.

This morning, contemplating upcoming travels sent me into a tizzy of unbridled enthusiasm, especially now that prior worrisome factors are behind us. Here’s a few calculations made from today’s date of March 31, 2017 that we’re anticipating for the remainder of 2017 using the above app:

22 days –  Cruise from Sydney to North America (24 days)
48 days –  Cruise from Vancouver to Alaska (9 days)
57 days –  Flight from Seattle, Washington to Minneapolis, Minnesota
99 days –  Flight from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Las Vegas, Nevada
124 days – Flight from Las Vegas, Nevada to Costa Rica
237 days – Cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Valpareso, Chili on to a back-to-back cruise to Buenos Aires, Argentina (30 days combined)
268 days – Buenos Aires, Argentina (30 days – ending January 23, 2018)

Lighthouses always create an interesting photo opp.

Of course, of all of the above dates, we’re most excited to head back to the USA to see family and friends. By the time we arrive in Minnesota on May 26, 2017, it will have been (again using the app) as follows since we left Minnesota on October 31, 2012:

“From and including: Wednesday, October 31, 2012
To, but not including Friday, May 26, 2017

Result: 1668 days

It is 1668 days from the start date to the end date, but not including the end date.

Or 4 years, 6 months, 26 days excluding the end date”

Wow! That’s hard to believe! We won’t have seen our three adult children, their partners, and our six grandchildren since they visited us in Hawaii during Christmas time in 2014, a total of 875 days (as of January 2, 2015, when most of them left Hawaii). That’s a long time.

Beautiful scenery.

As for son Richard who lives in Henderson, Nevada, we won’t have seen him since January 3, 2013, when we sailed away on our first international cruise. So it’s been a total of four years, six months, and four days since we’ve seen Richard, and it’s slightly longer for sister Susan who lives in Las Vegas. So, unfortunately, Richard wasn’t able to join us in Hawaii, but we’ve all stayed in close touch over these years as with the others. 

Sandy beach on a sunny day wasn’t populated early in the morning.

Between Skype phone calls, interaction online, and chat in Facebook and email, we’ve been able to stay in touch with all of our family members and friends. Had the Internet not been available, a journey such as ours would have been heart-wrenching, if not impossible.

Across the bay from the ferry.

Instead, we anticipate seeing everyone and spending as much quality time together as their schedules allow. Of course, we’re excited, as is evidenced by our frequent calculations of the number of days until we arrive.

In the interim, with the sun finally shining here in Fairlight/Manly with the after effects of Cyclone Debbie hitting our area last night. The cyclone has since passed leaving a wake of destruction in its path. Also, check out this video of a shark that made “landfall” during the cyclone, which Aussies are now calling “sharknado!”

The Sydney Opera House took on an entirely new look in the sunshine, especially after our own opera experience at the world famous venue.

On a more serious note, please click here for details regarding Cyclone Debbie. We pray for the safety and recovery of the many citizens who suffered the ravages of this destructive storm that hit Queensland this week.

Perhaps this was a tourist helicopter ride?

Today brings us partially cloudy skies with snippets of sun peeking through. Should this continue through the day, a sightseeing expedition may be on the horizon.

Happy day to all!

Photo from one year ago today, March 31, 2015:

There were several refrigerate cases with a wide array of New Zealand-made and Fonterra Cheese Factory-made cheeses.  With cheese suitable for our way of eating, we often seek to visit cheese factories when we travel. For more details, please click here.

Taking care of business…It’s not always easy but we get it done!

A sunny day view of a portion of the Sydney skyline.
We’ve certainly been busy over these past many days.  Between the immigration issues, missing package, ordering Tom a new laptop, and some added supplies from Australia, every moment of our days have been fully occupied.
Navy base in Sydney Harbour.
Yesterday, we made a bus trip to Manly to a pharmacy and health food shop for a few items. Without a car during these 40 nights in Fairlight, we haven’t wanted to bother Bob for every little trip we need to make. We’ll be here another 23 nights.
Without a moment’s hesitation, Bob would take us anywhere we’d like to go, but we haven’t wanted to take advantage of his kindly nature. It’s enough he’s taken us sightseeing and grocery shopping on several occasions. He’s insisted.
Amphibious navy ship in Sydney Harbour.
Public transportation is easy in Sydney. With the free Hop, Skip, Jump bus plus the paid bus and the Manly ferry, it’s been fun getting around so quickly, only using a taxi on a few occasions, such as on Monday’s appointment at the immigration office, which required a taxi for a portion of the trip.
We added plenty of money to our OPAL cards used for payment for buses, trains, and ferries. It worked out quite well for us and is so convenient.
There’s a restaurant, the Sydney Tower Restaurant, at the top of this space needle for 360-degree viewing of the city.
Yesterday afternoon, our “missing” package finally landed at the Geeveston post office. Anne, our thoughtful past landlord, immediately turned it around using the funds we’d left to forward it to us here in Fairlight. It’s expected to arrive in four or five days, most likely by next Tuesday.
Late yesterday, Tom’s laptop arrived at our mailing service in Las Vegas, Nevada. This morning, Eric, our rep, informed us it would be AU 521.85, US $400, to ship it Fed-Ex overnight, which isn’t really “overnight” when there’s no way it will arrive tomorrow when it has to go through customs once it comes.
Garden Island Jetty in Sydney Harbour.
Most likely, it will arrive on Tuesday or Wednesday next week.  In the interim, we’ve adapted as best as we can. Tom spends time on his smartphone while I busily work on our posts, photos, and future travel plans. 
His lack of a laptop right now has made me realize how dependent I am on helping me with research daily. It will be great to have him jump in and help at will, instead of handing him my laptop to look something up while I busy myself with cooking and household tasks.
Manly Municipal Council building in downtown Manly which we visited yesterday, on a sunny day.
We haven’t had a house cleaner since our arrival although we’ll have someone next week. I haven’t scrubbed floors and bathrooms in so long I can’t recall and look forward to Bob’s cleaner coming next week. We like to keep our living quarters clean, so we have both been running around tidying, sweeping, and trying to keep our current “home” as spotless as possible.
Today, it’s raining again, and we’ll stay put. We do make a point to explore every sunny day but have little motivation to get out in the rain. I’m trying a new recipe today and bit off more than I can chew with the multitude of required chopped ingredients and steps in the preparation and cooking.   
View from our veranda, late yesterday afternoon of the Carnival Spirit leaving Sydney Harbour and heading out to sea.

Since there’s no rush, it doesn’t feel stressful, as I’ll do it in stages as the day progresses.

Hopefully, your day is low stress! Be well.
Photo from one year ago today, March 30, 2016:
There was never a shortage of beautiful scenery in New Zealand one year ago. For more details, please click here.

Tom’s new laptop order in process…News on lost package…

Surfboard shop in Manly Beach.

Whew! We’re on a roll! “Safari luck” has kicked in! Immigration issues are solved, we found Tom a new computer which will be shipped today and much to our surprise, our package missing after a February 11th shipping date from Nevada, has arrived at the post office in Geeveston, Tasmania as of this morning. 

Anne, our former landlord in the Huon Valley, Tasmania will forward it to us tomorrow. It should arrive within five days. We couldn’t be more thrilled and relieved.

We walked through the uncrowded outdoor Corco in Manly, a pleasant area to visit.

This past Sunday, if you’d have asked us how we’re doing, we’d have said we were a little worried over all of the above. Then when we had a awful experience trying to purchase a new laptop online for Tom, an unfamiliar feeling of stress escalated. 

It wasn’t as simple as finding the right product and having it shipped to Australia. We contacted most of the major digital equipment suppliers in Australia and were unable to find the make, model and specs for the laptop he preferred; an Acer 15.6″ touch screen with backlit keyboard and one terabyte of storage, hopefully with Windows 10. As for other specs, he had some flexibility. 

On Saturday, numerous booths lined the walkway through the Corso mall.

Adding to the difficulty in searching online was the fact that we only had one computer to use for the search, taking twice as long as usual. Considering the fact that certain aspects of Australian products have variances from our more familiar US-made products, buying locally wasn’t all that appealing. No offence intended for Australia. This is true in every country.

When I dropped my laptop in Marloth Park, South Africa, in 2013, breaking the screen, I had no choice but to purchase an HP, the only touch screen we could find locally only to discover the “new” model was missing many familiar aspects vital to my use and had trouble with a letter on the keyboard which drove me nuts. I only kept it until we got to Hawaii in 2014 when I replaced it for an Acer model with similar specs as indicated above for Tom.

Rather than shopping, many spent time at the beach for the volleyball competitions, which we’d visited earlier in the day. That day, walking 10,000 steps came easily.

Let’s face it…we all like what we know and find familiar. It will be tough enough for Tom, not an especially savvy user, to adjust to the newer Windows 10 operating system. 

But, it made no sense to purchase an aged new-in-the-box model with Windows 8.1, now an outdated operating system which I still have until we get to the US when I, too, will make a new purchase. My laptop’s functionality is rapidly declining.  Hopefully, it will last for another 60 days.

Many types of handmade crafts are on display each Saturday.

Since the onset of our travels we replaced our laptops about every 18 months. The constant traveling has taken its toll and no doubt, the constant use has a bearing on the life of these products. Plus, with the reasonable cost of laptops over the years, its makes no sense to adopt workarounds from issues that develop over time.

In Tom’s recent situation when only a few days ago on Saturday morning, his laptop died. As mentioned in a prior post, we took it to a repair shop only to discover there was literally nothing that could be done to repair it.

Monument in Manly.

After we exhausted the prospect of making a purchase in Australia (plus, prices in Australia were about twice as much as in the US, even considering shipping costs), we decided to make a purchase in the US and have it shipped to us here in Fairlight/Manly.

We strolled through an outdoor market in the Corso shopping area in Manly.

This wasn’t as easy as one would think. Most suppliers in the US don’t ship internationally and if they do, they only offer the economy rate which would be unlikely to arrive in time before we leave on April 22nd. Also, we wanted Tom to have a laptop in hand within a week or two, if at all possible.

Right now, he’s using his phone with the house’s Wi-Fi connection and is able to access his email, Facebook and his usual favorite sites. When I’m not posting or doing some work for our travels, he uses my laptop. Not ideal; it’s our only option at the moment.

This display caught Tom’s eye, and we stopped to check it out.

Finally, late Monday afternoon, after deciding we’d use Amazon for the purchase from the link on our site, we found what we were looking for, spec-wise, not shipping-wise. But, unfortunately, even Amazon, a global shipper, couldn’t get it quickly enough.

Tom insisted on buying me this silver necklace (in the event he becomes forgetful in his old age). I thought it would be perfect to wear on cruises when its hard to remember names when meeting so many people. I’m often called “Jennifer” instead of “Jessica.” This cute necklace should help.

Subsequently, we ordered the laptop with our Prime membership’s free shipping feature to be sent to our mailing service in Nevada, expected to arrive tomorrow. Eric, our mailing service rep will turn it around and ship it to us using insured express 3 to 5 day international shipping. That cost will be high but at this point, we feel this is our best option.

Sure, we could have waited until we arrived in the US in 60 days, but Tom without a laptop with the upcoming 24 night cruise and the nine-night Alaskan cruise, this would not have been appealing to him, especially since we’d have to purchase VOOM Wi-Fi for the 24 night cruise for my use anyway.

Casino and bar in the Corso.

Yesterday, when Royal Caribbean was offering a 30% discount on VOOM Wi-Fi, we purchased the high speed service for two devices at the cost of AU 691, US $527.76. If we waited to get on the ship to make the purchase we’d have paid 30% more.

Tom before yesterday’s haircut in Manly.

This particular sailing from Sydney to Seattle is a “repositioning” cruise which offers numerous discounts when the cruise line has to move a ship from one location of the world to another. However, all services and events remain the same.  \The cruise fare is considerably less than the usual fare but such extras as free WiFi, free gratuities, free beverage packages and large cabin credits may not be included. 

Yesterday, Bob took us grocery shopping and for Tom to get what proved to be a great haircut. Ironically, as indicated below in the one-year-ago-photo, he had a haircut at the same chain salon, Just Cuts, on exactly the same date in New Plymouth, New Zealand. Go figure. Coincidences do happen.

Tom, this morning, after yesterday’s haircut.

But, safari luck…hmm…we’re grateful and flying high with how so much can change in a few short days. 

Be well. Be happy.

Photo from one year ago today, March 29, 2016:

Tom’s hair had grown unruly since his last haircut in Savusavu, Fiji in early November, almost five months earlier. This haircut took place at Just Cuts in New Plymouth, New Zealand on March 29, 2016. Coincidentally, Tom had a haircut on March 29, 2017, at Just Cuts Salon in Manly  which we’re posting today. Ha! For more details, please click here.

Cyclone Debbie now upgraded to Category 4…Safari luck prevails…Sightseeing photos…

Bob, our kindly landlord, and new friend, have insisted on driving us to see some of the sights in the area, including the beautiful historic St. Patrick’s Estate as shown in today’s photos.

For our readers who may be unsure about our current location, we are very far from the effects of Cyclone (hurricane) Debbie, which is expected to make landfall later today in Queensland (in the north of Australia). Here’s a link to a local newscast regarding Cyclone Debbie.

Had we been in Queensland, as we were in June 2015 when we first arrived in Australia, we’d have been close to the area and most likely feel the full effects of this dangerous storm.

It appears the location wasn’t open to the public due to an upcoming wedding, but Bob managed to get us onto the grounds for photos.

Instead, we’re a several-hour flight south of Queensland, living in New South Wales, a 30-minute ferry ride from Sydney. So again, we send prayers for the safety and well-being of the citizens of Queensland as they work their way through this difficult next number of days. 

Yesterday’s visa extension brought us a significant round of “safari luck,” over which we continue to reel with enthusiasm, allowing us to stay in Australia for our final 25 days with a renewed sense of lightness and peace of mind. Whew!

Then, last night, shortly after, I headed to bed to read news on Tom’s phone (while he used my laptop). Now that we’re down to one phone and one laptop, he called out to me. I jumped out of bed, wondering what required my immediate attention.

“St Patrick’s Estate is a site of exceptional historical and cultural significance – a Manly landmark located south-east of Manly, a beachside suburb of northern Sydney. Established as the first National Catholic Seminary in Australia in 1889, St Patrick’s College and Archbishop’s Residence (located on the Southern part of the precinct) are legacies of a unique time in the growth and development of the Catholic Church in Australia.” (From the website).

Alas, he had great news. He’d checked the tile I’d made on my desktop for the United States Postal Service package tracking, and something had changed for the first time since February 11th when it stopped showing any progress. See here for details:

Date & Time Status of Item Location
March 26, 2017, 1:50 pm             Arrived              LOS ANGELES, 
Your item arrived at an origin transfer airport in INTERNATIONAL, LOS ANGELES, UNITED STATES, on March 26, 2017, at 1:50 pm. The item is currently in transit to the destination. 
March 25, 2017, 11:21 pm Processed Through Facility ISC LOS ANGELES CA (USPS),
March 25, 2017, 11:21 pm Arrived at Facility ISC LOS ANGELES CA (USPS),
February 11, 2017, 9:30 pm Customs Clearance ISC LOS ANGELES CA (USPS),

Our rep, Eric at our mail service in Las Vegas, Nevada, Maillinkplus, stated that perhaps his 12-day tracking process located the package, which apparently had been sitting in a warehouse in Los Angeles, California, and was finally on the move again. Eric also wrote that it’s rare for an express priority package to become lost. 

What a magnificent building!

We’ve worried that our package may have been the exception and that the most important package we were ever about to receive had been lost in transit. Here’s a list of some of the items in this package that caused us to worry to this extent:

1.  All of our tax documents (with social security numbers on them) for 2016, resulting in the fact that we’ll have to file an extension with our accountant in Nevada.
2.  Our two new driver’s licenses for Nevada, for which we’d applied online. Without these, we wouldn’t rent a car when we arrive in Minnesota in 60 days.  If we reapplied, the process would never be completed and shipped in time if, in fact, Nevada DMV would allow us to request replacements from outside the US. (They only allow one online renewal every four years).
3.  My new unlocked smartphone. 
4.  A one-year supply of my contact lenses.  

The lawn was prepared for an upcoming wedding at St. Patrick’s Estate.

With items #1 and #2, our identity could easily be stolen for any illegal purposes, putting us in a dire state. So we’d decided if the package weren’t found soon, we’d have no choice but to sign up for one of those ID credit protection companies.

Plus, we hadn’t insured the package (due to the high added expense) since the cost to Tasmania, where we had it shipped, was planning to reach us in three weeks before we left the Huon Valley. 

View from the site of the upcoming wedding, hampered somewhat by a hazy, cloudy day.

It wasn’t that the value/cost of the contents of the package was that high. Instead, it was the significance of the first two items listed above. Everything else could easily be replaced. 

The shipping rate automatically includes AU $131, US $100 insurance, and money-wise, we’d only have been out a few hundred dollars more, not worth paying the high rates for added insurance.

Alternate view of the bay.

In any case, there’s nothing we can do but wait to see if the package arrives in Tasmania in time to be shipped to us here in the Sydney area. Anne, our former landlord, has agreed to forward it to us when and if it arrives. If it makes it to Tasmania in time, we’ll pay extra to have it shipped to us overnight.

If it doesn’t arrive on time before we sail away on April 22nd, we’ll have Anne send it to Minnesota, and it will be waiting for us when we arrive. We won’t rent a car until we have that package in hand with our driver’s licenses.

The church is located at St. Patrick’s Estate.

We’re hopeful, based on yesterday’s tracking update. Maybe safari luck will kick in one more time for the arrival of the package. We’ll keep our fingers crossed and post the result of this situation here.

One of several entrances to the main building.

Thanks to our thoughtful readers for the many emails and Facebook messages we received wishing us well on the immigration issue. Your kindness means the world to us.

Today, another cloudy and rainy day, we’ll grocery shop since we are totally out of food.  Anticipating we may be asked to leave the country, we used every last bit of food over this past week. Thanks to our thoughtful and kindly landlord Bob for driving us to shop and sightsee. 

Have a lovely day!

Photo from one year ago today, March 28, 2016:

Our favorite cow, a neighbor, regularly visits our “neighborhood” walks while living on the alpaca farm in New Plymouth, New Zealand.  It was Easter on this date last year, and we posted this as our Easter photo. For more photos, please click here.

Immigration news…New photos of us and Bob…

Our kindly and thoughtful landlord, Bob with Tom.
We returned from the Manly Ferry and bus ride back to our holiday home at around noon. It’s a bright sunny day without a cloud in the sky and we’re on CLOUD 9!!!

We’re no longer illegal immigrants!  No words can say how happy we are to have this dreadful, worrisome situation behind us. The staff at the Australian Immigration Office couldn’t have been more helpful. 

In only took about 30 minutes to receive a new Bridging Visa that will last until April 22nd when we’ll board the ship that will hightail us out of Australia and bring us back to North America for our upcoming Alaskan cruise and nine weeks visiting family.

We were happy to have photos of Bob with each of us.

This morning at 7:45 am we met Bob at his door ready to go. He drove us to the Manly Ferry and only five or six minutes later we boarded the ferry to Circular Quay in Sydney, a 30-minute ride.

No doubt, both of us were worried about the outcome of our 10:00 am appointment, but we both attempted to remain upbeat and hopeful. I continued to take photos on what proved to be a sunny day, the first we’d experienced in the past two weeks since our arrival in Sydney by cruise ship.

Once we arrived at Circular Quay we took a taxi to immigration, a traffic-congested 20-minute ride in Monday morning rush hour traffic at a cost of AU $17.50, US $13.33. We arrived with an hour to spare decided to head to a local coffee shop for a cup of tea for me and coffee for Tom.

We sat outdoors at this cafe sipping coffee, tea and chatting with an American couple we met.

The instructions for our appointment clearly stated we were not to arrive any sooner than 15 minutes prior to the scheduled appointment. With comfortable seating at an outdoor cafe, we met a wonderful retired couple from the US and the lively banter began. 

Before we knew it, it was 9:45 and we needed to make the short walk for our appointment. I felt my heart rate increase in worrisome anticipation of a poor outcome. In no time at all, we were seated in a waiting area on the fourth floor where others with similar immigration status were also waiting for the outcome of their situation. 

Our ticket number was 001. Surely the wait wouldn’t be long. Moments later, we heard our number being called to find the kindly rep who’d worked with us the first time we arrived at immigration almost two weeks ago in an attempt to sort this out.

Within 15 minutes, we were told with smiles on their faces that they’d provide us with a new Bridging Visa and within 30 minutes, we were out the door with documents in hand giving us an extension, good until midnight on April 22nd.

Tom and I with Sydney behind us on another cloudy day., taken a few days ago.  Today, finally, we have sunshine!

Thank goodness, the upcoming cruise didn’t include any Australian ports of call. Had that been the case, we may have had an even more serious situation. Luckily, this particular cruise itinerary didn’t include any stops in Australia. We were good to go.

We thanked the rep and her assistant profusely. Tom even put his hands together and bowed as he’d so graciously done time and again in Bali, in gratefulness for a service well provided. We both chuckled over the fact that some habits are hard to break, especially one as special as that bow.

Now, back home after a pleasant outdoor ride on the ferry and a quick bus ride, I began today’s post excited to share our good news. Once I wrap this up, we’ll get back to work on ordering Tom a new laptop we found online with expedited international shipping.

Now, we can go back to thinking about our missing shipment from Nevada that included all of our tax documents, our two new driver’s licenses, my new phone, and a variety of other items we’d included in the package. One thing at a time, please.

Thanks to all of our wonderful readers who sent us good wishes for today’s outcome. Your concern meant so much to both of us! Happy day!

Photo from one year ago today, March 26, 2016:

Taking photos of the two pink cockatoos at the alpaca farm in New Zealand through the narrow chain link fence was tricky.  This unedited photo illustrates the tightness of the fence and the beauty of this pink bird.  For more photos, please click here. 

Technology dwindling…Tomorrow’s trip to Australian Immigration…

Volleyball competitors warming up for tournaments.

Hurricane/Cyclone Debbie is building strength expected to hit Queensland’s coast on Tuesday morning (48 hours from now). Unfortunately, for our thoughtful and concerned readers, this is nowhere close to our location.

In the US, it’s comparable to a hurricane coming ashore in New England, with us being in Georgia at the time resulting in no risk for us in this area. However, we pray for the safety and well-being of all Australian residents as they “batten down the hatches” in preparation for this building cyclone.

There were many lifeguards on the beach ready for action if necessary.

On to yesterday’s activities, including a trip to the computer repair store in Manly…Bob dropped us at the computer repair shop in Manly shortly after they opened at 9:00 am. He wanted to stay and wait while we went inside to drive us to our next stop.

Lots of bathers and surfers enjoying the morning surf.

We appreciated his kind offer, but we knew we’d manage fine on our own. We were quite a distance from the outdoor mall, the Corso, in Manly, where we planned to stop at a pharmacy for a few items if we had to leave the country tomorrow after our morning appointment at the Australia Immigration Office. 

There was a heavy cloud cover with occasional peeks of the sun through the clouds.

At least we’d have enough products with us if we’re unable to return to Australia before the cruise on April 22nd. As the time approaches, it’s a daunting thought, now only 24 hours away. I wonder how much sleep we’ll get tonight. 

As much as we’d like to let such thoughts escape us today and tonight, it’s difficult to ignore.  Having had these two weeks to imagine the possibilities, we’ve had ample time to digest and contemplate what may transpire.

Families at the beach playground reveling in fact it wasn’t raining for the first time in weeks.

As to yesterday’s trip to the computer store…we paid an AU 55, US $42 diagnostic fee when we left the laptop, told to call at noon to see what could or could not be done to repair it. 

Many luxury condos and apartments line the beach road with small units beginning well over a million dollars.

We left the shop hopeful the problem was repairable with the major concern of repairing it. Would we get it back by Monday, in case we’re required to leave the country?

We reframed our thinking, hoping to gear up for a positive day, and began the long walk along Manly Beach’s esplanade to be thrilled to see the level of activity and excitement in the popular beach area. A popular annual volleyball tournament was in full swing, along with the biggest rash of surfers and swimmers we’d seen anywhere in the world at any given time.

Volleyball on Manly Beach.

As we made our way to the Corso outdoor mall, we enjoyed the walk. Lately, we’d hardly walked much with all the rain keeping us indoors. Checking my FitBit several times a day, I’ve been disappointed with how few steps my device has logged over these past few weeks.

Man and child making sandcastles on the beach.

Yesterday, we logged nearly 10,000 steps when later in the day, Bob insisted on taking us out for some sightseeing, during which we took many great photos along with those from the morning walk.

After a stop at the pharmacy in the Corso, we continued to walk toward the wharf where we hoped to catch the free Hop, Skip, Jump bus that would take us back to our Fairlight neighborhood, requiring more walking to reach our holiday rental.

More surfers in the water.

Upon our return, it was almost noon. We called Ben at the computer store, only to be told Tom’s laptop was deader than a doornail. There was no way to repair it without incurring more cost than a new laptop. This was not good news.

Schedule of tournaments for the annual Volley Fest event in Manly Beach.

With our missing shipment from the US, which included my new smartphone, and now, with Tom no longer having a laptop, we’re down to only two significant devices. Between us, we between only one laptop and one phone. Ouch.

Entrance to Volley Fest activities.

After we discover our fate tomorrow at the immigration office and if we’re allowed to stay in Australia, we’ll order a new laptop to be shipped here to us, insured with guaranteed three-day delivery, entirely possible from the USA to Australia. 

Lone surfer on Manly Beach while sun peeking through the clouds.

Of course, we’ll pay a premium for expedited and insured shipping, which we’re willing to bear when the alternative is buying locally at considerably higher prices along with modifications suitable for Australia, not the USA. 

Tomorrow, our post will be live later in the day after we return from immigration, especially if “safari luck” kicks in. On the other hand, if we have to leave promptly, we’ll post a short notice and will do a complete post once we arrive at the new out-of-the-country destination. Either way, no more than five hours later than usual, some posts will be uploaded on our current status.

Bleachers where spectators can watch the competition.

Please keep your fingers crossed for us! Back at you soon!

Photo from one year ago today, March 25, 2016:

Our favorite cria, Mont Blanc, wasn’t gaining weight, although occasionally, he’d munch on a bit of vegetation. We watched his progress daily, only to a sorrowful end some weeks later. For more details, please click here.

Tom’s computer died…Short post today…Off to repair shop…

Tom’s photos of the sunrise at Fairlight/Manly.

It appears that the power button for Tom’s laptop has died. As a result, this morning at 9 am, Bob is dropping us off at the computer repair shop in Manly where we hope it can be repaired. If not, we’re in big trouble.

View of the sea at sunrise.

Tom, without a laptop, is unthinkable. It’s glued to his hip. But, if they can’t fix it, he says he can wait until we arrive in the US in 60 days to make a new purchase which we’d both planned to do in any case. 

It’s incredible how quickly the scene changes at sunrise and sunset.

In years past, we’d purchased laptops from Costco and had hoped to do the same again shortly after we arrive in Minnesota at the end of May. So we’ll see how that goes.

A rare moment of a blue sky with rainy, cloudy skies day after day since we arrived almost two weeks ago.

We’ve had a few challenges lately, but we’re bound and determined to continue with a positive attitude, especially with our main focus being Monday’s immigration office appointment looming in our minds.

Tom injured his back three days ago when he was helping Bob move an air con unit to top things off.  The next day the pain began, and he’s been nursing it back to health.  

Soon, the red sky wafted away.

My usual “pack mule” won’t be able to do any heavy lifting for a while. We sure hope we aren’t flying out of here on Monday to another country. Gee…that would be challenging.

Let’s face it…stuff happens. None of us are exempt from unexpected incidences occurring, one on top of another. Yet, we keep reminding ourselves that these past 53 months have been relatively seamless, barring a few glitches along the way.

At the end of the day, as the sun began to set.

Once we’re done at the computer store, we’ll stop at a pharmacy for a few items, the health store, take some photos in Manly, and head back via the Hop, Skip, Jump bus that makes frequent stops near the ferry station.

Sorry for today’s short post. We’ll be back tomorrow with the result of the repair and new photos.  Later, when we return, Tom will proofread today’s post when I’ll correct any errors.

Have a fabulous day!

Photo from one year ago today, March 25, 2016:

Paritutu Rock is located along the shore in New Plymouth, New Zealand, one year ago. For more photos, please click here.

Phone number while traveling…What’s with PayPal requiring a number?…

Walk along the esplanade near the Sydney Opera House.

We must be clear and concise when we provide travel suggestions. So when our reader Susan wrote the following in an email today, we felt it was necessary to clarify our phone situation, which may be unclear, especially to newer readers.

Susan wrote:

“A few days ago, you mentioned in a post that you were having trouble with
PayPal due to lack of a US phone number.  Many posts ago, I read you had dual SIM card phones and kept a US telephone number. Has that changed along the way?  I liked your idea of the dual SIM card phones because I
would like to have a “stable” phone number plus be able to use SIM cards
in various countries as we travel.”

The answer to this query is multi-layered, so please bear with us as we respond to this critical question.

Oh…the name of a clothing store in Sydney.

Short-term travelers such as those traveling for a week or two, nothing is necessary regarding your use of a cell phone, providing you contact your carrier about the cost of roaming fees. If you limit your calls to short talk time, you may not incur substantial roaming fees.

However, if you plan to talk to family and friends back home, your best solution is to use Skype or another free face time service. If you use your cell phone’s data, which is necessary to make the Skype call, you may incur your home provider’s outrageous roaming data charges. Its best to check before you travel.

If you’d like to purchase a SIM card to install into an unlocked phone, you may do so once you arrive in the new country, which can be purchased at most convenience stores, grocery stores, and cell phone stores. 

Tom in front of Sydney Opera House.

Recently, we purchased a SIM card at the local Cole’s grocery store. Unfortunately, it didn’t work in our Windows smart phone. I was shocked that Cole’s gave us a full refund (via store credit) for the purchase even after we’d opened the package and activated the card. That’s unusual. I wouldn’t plan on this occurring in most cases.

If this exceeds your level of knowledge of using SIM cars for your phone, go to a phone store in a local mall and they’ll set it up for you providing you have an “unlocked” phone which is a one that allows a SIM card (or two) to be installed to work for calls and/or data.

If you don’t have an unlocked phone, your home provider usually will provide some options for roaming rates you can live with. Caution: don’t take a risk and underestimate how quickly you can incur roaming charges. We’ve heard nightmarish stories of thousands of dollars in costs incurring over short periods.

Optical illusion…ship is actually across the channel.

As a result, when we began traveling the world in 2012, we chose not to have a US provider. The roaming fees would be too costly if we could freely call family and friends at our leisure and…use data on the phones as we traveled; maps, games, searches for local venues, etc.

Instead, we purchase SIM cards in locations where we may need to make local calls such as for taxis. Otherwise, we can use our Skype phone number, which we bought for US $5 a month providing us with a US number in our home state. 

Using our Skype phone number to call any phone number worldwide may run under US $2 per hour of talk time. However, having this number (from our home state of Nevada, USA) has limitations:

1.  We can’t send or receive texts.
2.  We need a data connection to make the calls. 

Conveniently, the train station, ferry station, buses and taxis serve the same area in Circular Quay, Sydney.

In 2015, when we entered Australia, we purchased a data hot spot (Wi-Fi device) which enables us to use data on our smart phone when we’re out (my phone died and the new phone is in the missing package we’re tracking at this time) thus we can use any type of communication apps with others who use such apps as “Whatsapp” and others.

As to the answer to Susan’s above inquiry, PayPal insisted they confirm my identity with a text received on my smart phone number. Unfortunately, this didn’t work for us. We can’t receive texts with our current setup.

In speaking with PayPal, they figured out a workaround and finally used a series of security questions as mentioned in a prior post thus enabling us to use the service as we had in the past. 

Apparently, PayPal had beefed up their security since the last time we’d used it several months ago. So it should work well for us going forward. Additionally, since we never do bank transfers to pay strangers for holiday/vacation homes, we use PayPal, Stayz, AirBnB, etc. through their direct credit card payment processing. This provides us with a layer of security and resolution should we experience a “scam” rental which can easily occur.

As the Manly Ferry pulls out of Wharf #3 at night.

Continuing with the answer to Susan’s question; yes, you can keep a stable number in one of your SIM card slots on an unlocked phone but keep in mind, you’ll be paying roaming rates when you’re out of the country where you purchased the card. This can add up quickly. 

The bottom line? Traveling the world means sacrifices and changes if you don’t want to spend thousands of dollars a year in communication fees. We pay US $5 a month for our phone number, varying amounts for SIM cards in various countries and data charges as we go when applicable.

For example, here in Fairlight/Manly, the house has good Wi-Fi. As a result, for any calls we’ve made, we’ve been able to use our US $5 a month phone number at very low hourly rates while we’re online only. 

When out and about, we don’t make calls and have decided not to purchase a SIM card here. The lowest price we’ve found is around US $30 which, since we don’t make calls while out, there’s no need to add a SIM card after all. Most cells phone will allow an “emergency” call without a SIM card. Verify this on your phone if you decide to go without a SIM card entirely. Always have a means of calling “911, 999” etc. for emergency situations.

Tom’s second meal at Searock, medium rare sirloin steak with mushroom sauce and chips.

In Susan’s case she could buy a local SIM card for the country she’s visiting and have a “stable” SIM card in her home country to use at her discretion. No doubt, this is complicated. But, perhaps, someday, data and calling will become worldwide eliminating all this confusion and effort.

For the regular short term traveler, this isn’t complicated.  Just don’t spend hours talking on your phone or using social media or playing games, all of which use data and roaming fees. Instead, use Skype to Skype for free calls to loved ones, using the “free” data you may have available at your hotel or holiday home for other purposes.

With our Skype number we can call our family members cell phones while they’re away from their computers. We use data and “minutes” calling them. They only use their usual “minutes” n speaking with us. It’s effortless when we’re using “free” data.

All other “face time” apps require use of data. Please consider this when calculating “away from home” conversations, texts and chats.

My second salad on next day at Searock in Sydney had more chicken which was less overcooked.

Feel free to contact us with any questions but we suggest that you first call your provider for your roaming options which may provide precisely what you’ll need.

For world travelers, it essential to consider the long term costs. For us, with a strict budget and lengthy period of travel, we don’t use Twitter, SnapChat, Instragram etc. all of which would incur a cost we may choose not to incur while out and about.

Hopefully, our daily posts are ample communication for our readers, and our Skype phone number fulfills the needs of our family members and friends.

I hope this answers Susan’s questions. May all of our readers have a lovely day!

Photo from one year ago today, March 24, 2016:

Ingredients we posted one year ago that we use for making homemade toothpaste. Click here for recipe and details. 

An inside peek on the joy of meeting people along the way…Smiling and blushing at the same time…

Bob explained this single red bloom, a type of lily, is growing out of season.  The photo was taken on a cloudy day.

There’s no doubt our hearts are filled with appreciation and joy from the kindness and love we receive from people we meet along the way, whether it’s in a town, a quaint village, or on a cruise.

The curiosity and interest in our lifestyle are often coupled with an abundance of warmth and friendship we can hardly believe comes our way with such ease. We often ask one another, “How did we get so lucky to meet so many fine people?”
Now 11 days since the last cruise ended, we have received emails from passengers we met during the 12 days at sea. Again, we were asked for our web address prompting us to hand our business cards more times on this shorter cruise than when we sailed on the 33-night cruise when we’d attached ourselves to the same two fine couples for happy hour and dinner every night. 
We had a lot of fun with Lois and Tom and Cheryl and Stan, remaining in touch since the cruises ended on December 3rd via Facebook. It was a memorable experience during the lengthy cruise, which circumvented the entire Australian continent, which we’ll always remember fondly.
With the steep drop in the yard of the holiday home, there’s a protective fence, as shown with this pretty succulent leaning against it.
However, we learned a valuable lesson…mingle. The depth of the meaning of our world travels enhanced by having a wide array of experiences; meeting people from all walks of life, meeting people from many parts of the world, while hearing their often exciting and unique experiences of not only travel but of life itself.
Mingling with many people provides us with the added opportunity to learn even more about human nature, a process that hopefully will continue through the balance of our lives regardless of where we may be at any given time. 
We’ll never delude ourselves in stating, “We’ve seen and done it all.” But, in many ways, we’ve just begun with so much more of the world to see ahead of us. If we continued to travel for 10 to 20 years or more, we’d barely have touched the surface of what this world has to offer. 
We remind ourselves daily to remain humble and in awe of the world and our opportunity to live this life, often through challenging and difficult times, which to date have not deterred our enthusiasm in any manner.
Tom took this photo of the center of the above succulent.  Simple beauty with dewdrops.
When we receive an email such as the message we’ve included below, we share it not to “toot our own horn” or to “brag” about people “liking us.” That’s not us, as those of you who have followed our candid and vulnerable story for any length of time is most assuredly aware.
We share this email with our readers to join us in the pleasure we glean from meeting wonderful people along the way. After all, our loyal readers seem to empathize with our trials and tribulations as well as in the memorable happy events we encounter day by day.
While aboard the recent 12-night cruise ending on March 13th, we met a lovely couple, Christina and Harold (whom we’d mentioned on a few prior posts) on the third day of the cruise during Cruise Critic’s “cabin crawl,” an event where various members volunteer to show their cabins in other categories.

In this particular case, Christina and Harold kindly hosted a lovely event with food and drinks in their penthouse cabin, which even we’d never seen after 17 cruises in the past four-plus years. 

Coleus, an excellent shady area plant.

Little did we know we’d hit it off so well with this special newly engaged couple, considerably younger than us (by about 25 years), world travelers in their own right, with Harold having visited many of the exciting countries we’ve stayed in our travels.

It wasn’t just the commonality of our experience that connected us. It was the warmth and kindness we all exuded in one another’s company.  
Yesterday, we received this beautiful message from Christina that warmed our hearts, prompting us to ask if they’d mind if we share it here today. Christina wrote back promptly saying they love for us to share it, and thus, here it is, presented with a bit of modesty and surely a blush on our faces:  
“Hello from sunny Florida!!!
Harold and I went to Christchurch, Auckland, Vegas, and Houston before my return home to Tampa last night – It’s been a fantastic adventure!! 

You were the most memorable couple we had the pleasure of meeting – We looked for you in your designated spot on the last day, went to the lounge, called your room a few times, and didn’t get you – you were like beautiful angels who had now disappeared. 

Harold is a world traveler (I’m brand new to his adventures). He has never met anyone who traveled for pleasure more than he did until he met you, and he’s been raving about you ever since – We’re honored to have met you!!!! 
We want to say THANK YOU for being so kind and open, telling us about your lives, giving the great life lessons and advice you gave (we kept looking at each other in shock because you were honestly speaking to us), your travels, your healthy eating lifestyle (as I’m trying to convince Harold that that’s the way to go.) and inviting us to meet you someday out on your adventures. These excellent chapters of your life have genuinely impacted us!! 

I finally got a chance to look at your website and the fun memories you share!! We love what you’re doing in your retirement and look forward to seeing you again someday, hopefully sooner than later. 

We will keep you in our prayers for safe travels and excellent health throughout, and we’ll be watching with admiration and love!!

It’s back to reality here on the home front – work, work, work – However, now the plan is to fund a perfect retirement, vacation more, and enjoy life!! 

You’re our heroes!!!!

With love,
Unknown variety of red berries.

We wrote back expressing the appreciation we feel for having met them, the time we spent together (including dinner served by butlers in their suite) and at various times throughout the ship and, the hope that our paths will cross again someday. Thank you, Christina and Harold, for sharing a part of your lives with us and for your heartfelt, meaningful message.

It’s not only a breathtaking scene, an exquisite animal in the wild, or a blissfully colorful flower we encounter in our travels that fills us with an appreciation for this magical world… it’s the people we meet who open their hearts to welcome us for a moment, for a day, or a lifetime…
P.S. I couldn’t resist including contact information for Christina’s real estate business in Tampa, Florida, USA.  We have no doubt she is a highly competent real estate professional.  Please contact Christina at this link
Thanks, dear readers and friends, for sharing another day in our lives!
Photo from one year ago today, March 23, 2016:
When seeing these fish prices in New Zealand one year ago, we felt they were quite reasonable. For example, one TV guru Gordon Ramsey’s favorite, is the John Dorey and red snapper (which we purchased).  At the NZ price of 37.50, the US $25.33 for a kilo is 2.2 pounds! What a great price! For more details of our visit to the seafood market, please click here.

Working on our immigration issue…Five days and counting….

The sun peeked out for a few hours while we were in Manly making our way to the ferry.

When we left the Australian Immigration office in Sydney nine days ago, we were told to watch for the Bridge Visa we’d received via email by the end of the day.  The officer at immigration had given us a phone number to call if we had questions in the interim.  We had many questions when we’d had a difficult time understanding the vague and complicated instructions given to us by the immigration officer who, with the best of intentions, was unsure as to how to handle our case.

Later in the day the email arrived stating we had another appointment at the same office on March 27th at 10 am. That was clear to us.  Thus, we didn’t call the phone number which we’d left on the kitchen table which continued to nag at me.  Should we call?  Or should we wait until our appointment?

Yesterday morning, we decided to call to see if there was anything additional we could do or prepare for the upcoming appointment on Monday.  After waiting on hold for 20 minutes in the queue, finally a friendly rep came on the line.

Sailing on a windy day.

In reviewing our file, she adamently stated we needed to apply for Visitors Visa #600 before our appointment on Monday.  When we asked this same question to the rep at the immigration office “Should we apply for the visa online?” the she wasn’t sure if we should or not, leaving us confused when we left.

Calling might provide us with an answer.  There was no way we wanted to show up on Monday having failed to do something required in this complicated process.  Yesterday, we were relieved we’d called when we were told we better not show up on Monday without having applied online for Visitors Visa #600, a necessary adjunct to our Bridge Visa which was in place for only two weeks (ending on March 27th).

If we didn’t get the Visitors Visa, we’d be in big trouble next Monday when the Bridge Visa expires at midnight.  The phone rep immediately sent us the link to apply for the Visitors Visa. 

An appealing candy kiosk in at the Manly Ferry station.

We each followed the link in the email deciding to complete the form simultaneously on each of our laptops in order to aid one another in ensuring accuracy.  There was no margin for error in this process and lately, as error prone as I had been (you know…wrong day at the opera), following along together made sense.

Before we could even begin the 20 page process, we had to sign up for an online immigration account which required a series of seven or eight security questions. 

Having to deal with answering security questions can be a tricky process.  If an answer is off by only one letter, one number or a single aspect of the answer, it may result in total frustration when trying to recall what was originally intended.  

Manly is a charming beach town with shops, restaurants and water activities.

We didn’t want to make a lengthy handwritten list for each of us.  We’d already written down the complicated passwords including all types of characters, capital and lower case letters and numbers.  You know how that goes.

It ended up taking at least a half hour to getting our individual accounts set up.  As we’ve mentioned, its been very rainy and humid since we arrived.  When we were 10 minutes into this process, I suggested we turn on the air con.  We were both drenched in sweat.  Oh, I don’t like this stuff.

Immediatey Tom turned on the air conditioning.  Besides, we’d done two loads of laundry hanging it indoors on the portable rack making the humidity all the worse in our little apartment. The air con was a welcomed relief.

Yummy looking mounds of interesting flavors of ice cream at the Manly Wharf.

Once we’d established the accounts, we proceeded to begin the 20 page online document.  It was a slow process when we continually received error messages for entering words in unacceptable formats.  We plodded along.

Once we completed page 4 and hit the “continue” button for page 5, we both received an error message, “You cannot continue from this point based on your current status.  Call the immigration office immediately.”  Oh, oh.

We called again, waiting on hold on Skype for another 30 minutes only to be told, when a different rep came on the line after looking up our file, that were not supposed to fill out this form.  We were to wait and see what transpires on Monday. Oh.  She was very kind and apologetic that we were told otherwise.  We asked her to note the conversation in our file which she promptly handled.

After dark this cruise ship headed out to sea from the Sydney Harbour.  Hopefully, that will be us one month from today on April 22nd.

In one way we were relieved to avoid completing the remaining 16 pages but in another way, we were further concerned as to the outcome on Monday.  There was nothing more we could do at this point.

Worse case scenario…we could be told to leave the country immediately and not return for three years, missing our cruise on the April 22nd, forcing us to fly to New Caledonia, book a hotel  for almost a month and wait for the ship to arrive at a port of call three days after the cruise begins and then have to load our bags on a “tender boat.” 

Best case scenario…we’ll get another Bridge Visa, good until April 22nd when we’ll board the ship in Sydney.  There’s another possibility that we’ll have to leave the country, fly to another country and return a day later.  Also, there are possible fines, penalties and circumstances we aren’t aware of at this point which by Monday, we’ll be well informed.

Kookaburra atop the roof of neighboring house.

We’re surprised how we’ve been able to still enjoy our time in Fairlight, Manly and Sydney based on our concern over this situation.  We’ve taken many photos, seen so much and have been out and about reveling in this beautiful area.  Also, we’re still able to laugh and maintain a hopeful and positive perspective. 

After all, the results of this scenario whichever way it goes, won’t cost us more than money, time and inconvenience.  In the realm of things, as we always say, “If we have our health, we’re safe and we have one another, we can handle it.”

So it goes.

May you have good health and be safe with those you love.


Photo from one year ago today, March 22, 2016:

Many farms in New Zealand have ocean views adding another layer of beauty to the scenery.  For more photos, please click here.