Day #281 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Happy New Year!…Part 1…The “Year in Review!”…11 days and counting…

During our journey on the Maharajas Express, an impressive fireworks display was orchestrated at Hanwant Mahal located in Umaid Palace in Jodhpur, aka, The Khaas Bagh. We were honored and breathless. See the post here.

Today’s photos are a compilation of photos we’d taken in our travels in India before the lockdown. Included will be the link for each post on which the photo appeared. Photos will be divided for February 2020 and March 2020 today and tomorrow’s New Year’s Day.

“The Taj Mahal, Crown of the Palace is an ivory-white marble mausoleum on the south bank of the Yamuna river in the Indian city of Agra. It was commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan (reigned from 1628 to 1658) to house the tomb of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal; it also houses the tomb of Shah Jahan himself. The tomb is the centerpiece of a 17-hectare (42-acre) complex, which includes a mosque and a guest house, and is set in formal gardens bounded on three sides by a crenelated wall.” See the post here.

Well, here it is, New Year’s Eve 2020, a challenging year for all of us to put behind us. Unfortunately, the year’s end doesn’t end the woeful state of the world in light of Covid-19. The fears, the stress, the lockdowns, and the subsequent loss of life and financial security will remain well into 2021.

From this site: “Indian Statesman and Spiritual Leader. Mohandas Gandhi, who came to be popularly known as “Mahatma” (Great Soul), was born a colonial subject of the British Empire. He studied law at University College in London and was admitted to the bar in 1891. In 1893, Gandhi became a legal advisor for an Indian law firm in Durban, South Africa (then also a British colony). Appalled at the racism against South Asians there, Gandhi became an activist for equal rights. However, Gandhi disdained the violent tactics often employed by socialist and anarchist activists and advocated new forms of nonviolent resistance, collectively known as “Satyagraha” (truth and firmness). Influenced by traditional Hinduism and the works of Jesus, Leo Tolstoy, and Henry David Thoreau, Gandhi’s methods stressed change by noncooperation with the colonial authorities, including disruptive (though nonviolent) demonstrations and general strikes and boycotts. See the post here.

When it ends is beyond the speculation of the medical profession, scientists, or politicians who espouse their personal views on what we can expect in the future. Vaccines aren’t rolling out quickly enough. Many are refusing vaccines, and stubborn, thoughtless people throughout the world continue to refuse to wear a mask, social distance, and maintain a high degree of personal hygiene.

My spectacular dinner was made by the thoughtful chef at the Amritsar Ramada, where we’ll stay for three nights. See the post here.

Most likely, after the holiday season ends, within a week or two, we’ll see a resurgence of cases when many have refused to avoid crowded indoor spaces at gatherings. How does this impact us? In many ways, especially in our ability to get out of India.

This giant 108-feet-high idol of Hanuman was unveiled at Jakhoo Hanuman temple in Shimla on November 4, 2010. See the post here.

Yesterday, India revised its Covid-19 international flight policy as follows in this article here.

“India has extended its ban on international flights to 31 January, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) announced today. India was set to lift the ban on international flights on 31 December after nine months of restrictions before today’s changes.

International flights will be suspended until February.

Since the pandemic outbreak, India has suspended international flights to curb the spread of the virus. Restrictions were due to be lifted on 31 December before the DGCA extended the ban by a month. Now international flights will have to wait until at least the beginning of February – India has extended its ban multiple times this year and may do so again.”

Me and our guide. Shoes are not allowed in the area of the Golden Temple in Amritsar. Women must wear scarves, and men must wear some form of a turban. See the post here.

Of course, I saw this article in the middle of the night when I happened to awaken. First thing this morning, I contacted Emirates Airlines to inquire if this would result in the cancellation of our upcoming flight. They stated that based on the fact we’d booked our new flight before this recent lockdown, we should be allowed to leave.” The keyword here is “should.”

Amit helped Tom fashion a turban to enter the Golden Temple. I thought he looked good with it! See the post here.

This morning, Tom and I discussed the possibility that if we aren’t allowed to leave, we have to face the reality that we may end up back here at this hotel or another, depending on what we decide to do at the time. We must face this reality, although it’s not easy to do.

Aligned and ready to perform at the nightly ceremony at the closing of the border gates between India and Pakistan. See the post here.

This uncertainty is causing me to feel a little stressed, although I continue to strive to maintain an even keel day after day. I guess I’m more worried about Tom than myself. But, he assures me, he’ll handle it if we can’t leave. He’s kept his expectations in check, whereby I have embraced the prospect of leaving India with enthusiasm. If we can’t go, a change of hotel (and food) may be helpful, but with this hotel, at least we know how diligent they’ve been in maintaining a clean environment. “Love the one you’re with!”

Sunrise over the Ganges River before the beginning of the morning ceremonies on the river. See the post here.

In the past few days, we’ve seen more guests wearing face masks than we’d seen in the past many months. This has been comforting to both of us, especially during our walks in the corridor. It feels better not to have to tell other guests to wear a mask. I only had to tell one person this morning, as opposed to six or more.

One of several cremation sites along the Ganges in Varanasi. Women prepare the bodies while men attend the cremation for however many hours it takes. Bodies are cremated within six hours of death when possible. The cremation fee is typically INR 14306.31, US $200, and most families have enough funds to cover the cost. The ashes are pushed into the river. Note the firewood in this scene. See the post here.

As for New Year’s Eve, it holds little interest for either of us at this point. The front desk staff called this morning to inform us it will be noisy tonight, well past midnight. There’s a big party happening tonight. We have no choice but to accept this reality. Also, Vinood, the manager on duty, called to tell us that our Covid-19 tests are scheduled for January 9th between 9:00 and 10:00 am. Hopefully, this won’t be in vain.

The nightly ceremonies on the Ganges River were easily observed from our reserved balcony seating. What a great way to celebrate my birthday!  The nine umbrellas represent the nine planets. Hindus value every aspect of the planet and the universe. See the post here.

So there it is, folks, today’s status and concerns. We wrap this up, wishing every one of our family/readers/friends a safe and happy New Year. May we all come out of 2020 with hope and optimism for the new year to come.

Stay safe!

Photo from one year ago today, December 31, 2019:

We’ve shared this freaky photo from a sighting in our bush house on New Year’s Eve, 2013, several times. This foot-long insect, a Giant Africa Millipede (as long as my forearm), was on the wall by the bathroom door in the master bedroom, which made us cringe. Tom, as always, disposed of it outdoors, but of course, didn’t kill it. Sleep didn’t come easy the remainder of that night, fearing that the rains of the previous few days may have brought more of these ugly things indoors. For more photos from the year-ago post, please click here.

Day #280 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Visa extensions done!…12 days and counting…

Tom’s burger in Palermo, Buenos Aires, with ham, eggs, cheese, and beef plus fried potatoes.

Today’s photos are from December 30, 2017, while staying in Palermo, Buenos Aires, Argentina, over the holidays in a boutique hotel, awaiting our upcoming cruise to Antarctica, sailing on January 24, 2018. For more on the post, please click here.

Only three years ago, we arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Tom’s birthday, December 23, 2017, to begin the one-month wait to fly to Ushuaia, Argentina, to board our upcoming 18-day cruise on Ponant’s Le Boreal. We’d booked that particular cruise after searching for weeks to find a cruise meeting our primary criteria; being able to disembark the ship while in Antarctica to board the 10-person Zodiac boats to embrace the authentic Antarctica experience, up close fully, and personal.

This is where we dined one night, San Serrano Deli & Drinks.

The cost was outrageous for our budget, over US $36,000, INR 2,637,995, but we felt it was worth it as a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. We paid it off over many months, so it was paid in full by the time we sailed, and the only other expenses were those on our cabin bill. WiFi, meals, drinks, and tours were included in the cruise fare, resulting in few costs after sailing.

However, that one month in the tiny boutique hotel in Buenos Aires presented some challenges of its own, none of which we couldn’t handle with ease. An included continental breakfast consisting of boiled eggs, deli meats, cheese, fruit, pastries, coffee, and tea got us through the day. With no restaurant in the hotel, we headed out on foot to find yet another spot for dinner each evening.

Guest started filtering in when it was hot outdoors, although many patrons dined at tables near the busy street.

Due to the fact we prefer to dine by 7:00 pm, our restaurant choices were limited to a degree. Many restaurants didn’t open until 9:00 pm or later. We prefer not to dine so late, especially as early risers have the small breakfast to hold us through the day since we choose not to eat lunch, resulting in way too much food. With our low-carb/keto way of eating, we’re never hungry until the early evening.

That month in the hotel was challenging in some ways, particularly around Christmas and New Year’s. Most restaurants were closed on Christmas Eve and day and also on New Year’s Day. We diligently searched for dinner options for us for those three evenings, but there were none. We weren’t willing to walk the streets at night in the dark, which didn’t seem safe or sensible.

We stretched our necks to read this menu on the wall. After a while, a server brought us menus.

In the end, it all worked out well. We enjoyed a few drinks at the hotel bar (no food available) as we laughed over the irony. We were the only guests in the hotel at Christmas! Subsequently, we ended up purchasing a wide array of deli meats, canned tuna, and a variety of cheeses to eat at the little table and chairs in the Jacuzzi area in our hotel room.

We made it through the holidays, looking forward to the upcoming cruise, often laughing over our peculiar situation. That was one long month. But, it was nothing compared to the ten months we’d have spent in this hotel. At least there, we went out each day and evening to explore the exciting area, often walking for many miles.

You couldn’t pay me to eat this grilled chicken salad with grilled tomatoes. I need some beef!

As for today, we’re settled down, hoping our new flight will continue to stay in place as it has in the past 48 hours. With only 12 days until we depart, now on January 11th, we’re getting all of “our ducks in a row.” The hotel manager had booked a different lab for our Covid-19 tests on January 10th when the company we’d booked didn’t respond to email inquiries or answer their phone. I sent an email canceling the first company and feel comfortable that the second company booked by the hotel will suit our needs.

After uploading our hurried post, we began the painstaking process of filing for an extension of our now-expired  Indian visas. Whew! What a cumbersome process! The website stated it would take approximately 14 days for approval. Our applications were posted on the 13th day.

Sullivan’s Irish Pub, on a corner in the neighborhood.

Suppose by the time we’re ready to leave. We don’t have the extensions. In that case, we’ll have the hotel print the documents and email verification that we did apply. Hopefully, the immigration department at the airport will accept those records at the airport as we depart.

What are our odds of actually being able to leave for South Africa? At this point, it feels as if 50% is fair speculation. We have decided that we will not stay in India if we are turned away at the airport. We’ll find another flight to some other country while at the airport and head out. Since everything changes day by day, at this point, we can’t commit as to where this will be.

One of many historic buildings we’d see each time we headed down Gorriti road.

Today, I will start going through luggage to see how I can lighten the load. Tom doesn’t usually care to pack his bag until a day or two before we depart. That’s fine with me.

May you have a good day as we all wind down this dreadful year. Be well.

Photo from one year ago on December 30, 2019:

Painting on the wall outside a sushi restaurant in Palermo, Buenos Aires, Argentina on this date in 2017. For the year-ago post, please click here

Day #279 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Yikes!…Our flight got canceled!…

Simple, yet lovely.

There are no photos from a prior post to share today other than the above from this date in 2016 while in Penguin, Tasmania, Australia, due to other “fish to fry” today, as you’ll see below. Please click here for the post.

While settling in for our lazy second half of the day yesterday afternoon, I noticed an email from Emirates Airlines. Our flight scheduled for January 12, 2021, has been canceled. No explanation. No refund included. It was just canceled. We spent the remainder of the afternoon searching for and booking another flight.

Fortunately, we were able to book another flight on Emirates Airlines one day earlier. However, on January 11th, not the 12th, this new flight includes a 16-hour layover in Dubai. There were no other shorter-flight options. Frustrated and fearing this would happen again, last night, I stayed up late to listen to Cyril Ramphosa, president of South Africa, speech about re-instituted Level 3 lockdown measures.

Much to our relief, at this point, South Africa’s borders won’t be closing, hopefully, not over the next few weeks anyway. However, this doesn’t mean this new flight won’t also get canceled. Based on fewer tourists and business flyers traveling at this time, these airlines will cancel flights if they aren’t full enough.

While booking the January 11th flight, we noticed that the business class was sold out. This might be a good sign that this flight may be more fully occupied, increasing the odds of staying in place. We’d considered upgrading to business class at one point, but the extra cost of US $2000, INR 146741, per person wasn’t worth it.

By 7:00 am, we’ll head for the nearby Mumbai Airport for the 10:30 am flight. The only good part of this flight is that we won’t have to leave this hotel in the middle of the night. The hotel has rescheduled our COVID-19 test for January 9th since it takes a full 24-hours for the results. We couldn’t risk having the difficulty on the 10th for this reason.

Based on the new flight details, our overnight stay in Johannesburg still works out along with the flight on January 13th from Johannesburg Tambo Airport to Nelspruit/Mpumulanga/Kruger Airport and the booking for our pre-arranged rental car. All said and done. We’ll arrive in Marloth Park on the same day and time on January 13th, after a two-day travel period.

Thank goodness, we’ll have the overnight in Johannesburg and be able to catch up on some sleep and food. But, alas, much to our dismay, President Ramaphosa banned all alcohol sales in South Africa until January 14th or perhaps longer. “No, worries,” says dear friend Louise last night amid the madness. She’s got wine and brandy for the night we arrive. That’s our Louise and Danie!!!

We aren’t “lushes” by any means, having had no problem going without drinks the past ten months, but settling in with a big steak and a glass of red wine for me and brandy for Tom was definitely in our minds as part of our arrival festivities. In more news today, I’ve been reading that the alcohol ban may be overturned since it severely impacts South Africa’s economy and jobs. We shall see how that goes.

To top it off, we took a peek at India’s visa status. The previous statement that all foreign traveler’s visas would automatically be provided with an extension if they leave within 30 days of the re-opening of all International flights has been reversed. Well, that went away, and now, much to our chagrin, we have to apply for an extension after all.

You wouldn’t believe how complicated this process is! That’s why I haven’t included more photos today and am wrapping up this post as quickly as possible. There’s a 14-day window to accomplish this, and when our flight changed from the 12th to the 11th, this places us on the 13th day today. As soon as I wrap this up, we’ll start the process which, most likely will take the remainder of the day.

I won’t be finishing my walks today and will be sitting at my computer filling out forms for the remainder of the day. Lots of small-sized documents have to be attached, so I will have to make adjustments accordingly. Oh, good grief. Stressful.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, December 29, 2019:

We often encountered beautiful flowers when we walked the neighborhood in Pacific Harbor, Fiji, on this date in 2015. For more on the year-ago post, please click here.

Day #278 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…15 days and counting…

We’d been warned against purchasing locally caught fish in Fiji when it was often caught close to the shore where bacteria is heavy in the waters from sewage disposal.  As a result, we never purchased any fish during the past four months. I was looking forward to cooking fish once we arrived in New Zealand, our next stop in our journey.

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2015 while staying in Pacific Harbour, on the island of Viti Levu, Fiji when visiting the local farmer’s market. For more details on this post, please click here.

It almost feels like yesterday, when we spent the holidays in Fiji five years ago, living on two islands; four months on the smaller island of Vanua Levu and one month on the main island of Viti Levu. In each case, we had exceptional experiences, even during the holiday season.

Dried leaves used for weaving rugs and other items.

Having little opportunity to interact with others, on either island when tourists quickly came and went, every aspect of our experiences was on our own with one or two exceptions; Sewak, a neighbor in Savusavu, and a lovely newlywed couple while in Pacific Harbour with whom we dined out before they left to return to the US.

A particular delight in Fiji was the friendly nature of the local shopkeepers, household helpers, and people we encountered along the way. Some property owners and managers of holiday homes, we’ve rented have made a concerted effort to socialize with us while others are kind and friendly but standoffish to a degree.

Pineapple is a commonly grown fruit in Fiji, often available for the taking in many areas. At the farmer’s market, they mostly sell to visitors, not as many locals.

I suppose it was no different when either of us owned and managed rental properties in our old lives. We maintained a level of aloofness in the event something went wrong and as the owner/manager, we’d have to remain “professional” in the event of any potential issues. We get this.

Of course, those that made the effort, have since become lifelong friends such as Louise and Danie in South Africa. The fact they’ll manage our holiday rental is relevant, as we totally respect and honor the integrity of the business-side of our relationship. The rest is pure friendship and fluff.

Pineapple leaves stripped from the pineapples are used for weaving and decorations.

Louise and Danie will be the first people we’ll see when we arrive and the last people we see when we depart with many more times in between for pure socialization and fun. We can’t wait to see them and all of our other many special friends in Marloth Park, providing all goes well in 15 days.

And now? How is it going? We’re doing OK, relatively cheerful, entrenched in our usual routines, and anticipating beginning to go through our luggage in order to lighten the load when it will soon be time to pack. I am totally prepared to once again, “say goodbye” to many of my clothing items in order to accomplish this daunting task.

Rows upon rows of pineapples for sale for one third the cost as in Hawaii.

Fortunately, unloading a number of clothing items will be easy when many of them were purchased a year ago in Arizona when I was 25 pounds, 11.3 kg, heavier. I won’t be saving any of those in the event of a future weight gain, which I’ve promised myself won’t happen again. With strict luggage weight restrictions, we can’t afford such a scenario as keeping clothing we don’t wear.

While in this hotel, I’ve washed and worn the same two pairs of black stretchy pants that still fit and three shirts that are very baggy. During this entire almost 10 months I haven’t worn a bra (TMI) and dread having to do so going forward. It’s still uncomfortable on my chest from the open heart surgery and may remain so indefinitely.

The look on this kid’s face is priceless as he checks out the big slices of locally grown watermelon at the farmer’s market in Suva. Hope his dad made a purchase.

But, on travel day, I’ll need to bite the bullet to be “appropriately dressed” in public. The only notice anyone took of me while walking in the corridors was as this masked “mean” woman telling everyone to put a mask on, or cover their nose with their mask. I still don’t get why people don’t cover their nose!

That’s it for today, folks. We hope you have a pleasant day as we wind down this dreadful year toward the New Year.

Photo from one year ago today, December 28, 2019:

With no new photos, one year ago we posted this photo on this date in 2013 giving a perspective of the small size of this island, somehow appealing to her for its varied vegetation. For the story posted, one year ago, please click here.

Day #277 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…What a difference a day makes!…16 days and counting…

The intensity of the glow changed as the magma at the crater burst into many explosions.

Today’s photos were from this date in 2014 when we visited erupting Mount Kilauea with our kids and grandkids during their visit to join us on the Big Island, Hawaii, for the holidays. They were all so busy running around taking their photos, we never got a photo of all of us together that night, although we wish we had. For the story, please click here.

Last night, after a good night’s sleep, I felt much better, more upbeat, and positive. I certainly was feeling frustrated yesterday, especially while preparing the post, thinking of all of the mishaps on Christmas Day as described in detail here. I don’t believe I’ve ever whinged quite much in a position as I did in that post, not even on some of our most challenging days.

The trees impeded a portion of our views but ultimately gave us a better perspective of the glow.

Oddly, getting it “off my chest” here provided me with a modicum of relief that has followed me well into today, and I am fine once again, hopeful, optimistic, and my usual chipper self. It didn’t hurt to read that South Africa stated that the new supposed more lethal variance of Covid-19 is not an issue at this point.

It’s incredible how our emotions are impacted by poor sleep. We’ve particularly noticed this on long travel days when we may be flying in the middle of the night, resulting in a layover for several hours to board another long flight. Many of those travel days often resulted in 24 hours or more with little to no sleep.

The glow was in its full glory. What a sight to behold!

Neither of us can sleep sitting up on a flight, although we may be able to doze off in short spurts for an hour or two. In our youth, staying up all night wasn’t as tricky. A short nap the next day would put us back on track. But, as we’ve aged, we find those up-all-night scenarios have a significant impact on how we feel until, again, we can sleep through the night.

The most challenging lack of sleep experience we’ve had in our travels was on December 1, 2013 (see the post here), when we flew from Mombasa, Kenya to Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger with one nightmarish situation after another. By the time we arrived in Marloth Park, we’d been traveling for over 30 hours.

The crowd roared with excitement as it exploded.

The level of exhaustion at the end of that trip was beyond anything either of us had ever experienced. But, arriving in Marloth Park after the hour-long ride from the airport to discover a plethora of wildlife wandering the bush and the dirt roads sent us into such a state of ecstasy, we forgot all about being tired.

I don’t expect our enthusiasm to be much different now. However, it may even be exacerbated by the fact that we were finally able to leave this confinement in Mumbai, India, after almost ten months, to be back in our “happy place.”

Preferring not to use any flash to avoid disturbing others, Tom was a little muted in this photo. 

Our scheduled flight with Emirates Airlines on January 12th from Mumbai to Johannesburg is still booked today. We’ll continue to watch each day for any potential changes. If there were to be any changes, we’re hoping to know before we head to the airport in the middle of the night. We’ll surely be keeping an eye out, several times a day, over the next 16 days.

We’re excited to share today’s repeated photos from our visit to the lava-flowing Mount Kilauea while our kids and grandkids visited us in Hawaii in 2014. What a fantastic experience for all of us! How many adults and kids have an opportunity in their entire lifetime to see lava flowing? It was an adventure.

Shortly before the sun went down, we were separated from the family and unable to get a group photo as we’d hoped. Instead, Tom took this of me and the telescope. 

As we reviewed past experiences in these months of repeated photos, we realized how extensive our travels have been and the myriad of past adventures we’ve had along the way. If by no fault of our own, we had to end this journey due to Covid-19 limitations, we comfort ourselves in the knowledge that we’ve been blessed to see more than we ever dreamed possible in a lifetime.

As Tom always says, “We are humbled and blessed.” So true. So very true.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, December 27, 2019:

This photo was posted on this date in 2014 and again, one year ago today, when our family visited Mount Kilauea on the Big Island of Hawaii. This was my favorite shot of the evening with the backdrop of the glow of the lava. For more, please click here.

Day #276 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…OK, here goes…17 days and counting!!!…A frustrating Christmas Day…

This was our favorite photo of the day, a giant Billy Goat with quite the beard and defined facial markings.

Today’s photos are from this date in 2016 while staying in Penguin, Tasmania, Australia. For more details and photos, please click here.

Yep, we’ve started the countdown until we leave India. In 17 days, on January 12, 2021, we’ll hopefully be on our way. The only scenario that could prevent us from going to South Africa, as planned, will be that President Cyril Ramphosa decides to close the borders once again due to the new strain of Covid-19.

On a drive through the countryside in Penguin, Tasmania, the ocean can be seen in the distance.

From this site, the following was posted:

“Scientists and officials have warned the country’s 56 million people that the new variant, referred to as 501.V2, carries a heavier viral load and appears to be more prevalent among the young. “It is still very early, but at this stage, the preliminary data suggest the virus that is now dominating in the second wave is spreading faster than the first wave,” Prof Salim Abdool Karim, the chairman of the government’s ministerial advisory committee (MAC), said.”

Over the next few weeks, Cyril will announce any changes necessary regarding this update. We continue to hold our breath, awaiting any news, striving to stay upbeat and hopeful. At this point, it’s been incredibly challenging to do so. Christmas Day was undoubtedly a memorable day in this hotel, but not in a good way.

Cattle are curious when humans pass by.

I’d considered not mentioning what transpired yesterday in an attempt to remain upbeat. But, after what happened and our goals of being “transparent” in our experiences, good and bad, we decided we’d share our highly disappointing Christmas Day.

Many of our readers have kindly written to us, espousing our determined attitude and resilience in bearing the brunt of this situation. We appreciate all those thoughtful comments. But, we are no different than many of you when managing a challenging situation. We “buckle up” and make the best of it. Thankfully, our loving relationship with one another and generally good demeanor have been instrumental in getting us through this.

Cute countryside signs.

We’ve often reminded ourselves how fortunate we’ve been that we are staying safe from the virus and have comfortable surroundings. However, lacking in space, and no matter what, we’ve been able to remain calm and composed. This acceptance served us well until yesterday, Christmas Day.

The morning started OK. Then, as the day continued, we encountered several guests in the corridors, talking loudly to one another, spewing spittle as they spoke, talking on cell phones, pacing in the halls, not wearing masks. Regardless of them being on the phone or in conversation, we kindly asked them to put on a show or return to their rooms.

Cattle on a hill.

Our comments were of no avail. We stayed back from them, by no less than five meters, 16 feet in each case, except once when I was carefully rounding a corner, and three unmasked individuals ran right into me. I couldn’t help but raise my voice, “You must wear a mask in the hotel!” They ignored me. I bolted in the other direction.

This scenario continued throughout the day. I finally gave up and discontinued my last walk for the day. Twice, I notified the front desk to hear once again their apologies and statements that have told every guest to wear a mask in all public areas. The guests don’t care for their well-being or care to follow the hotel’s government-mandated requirements,

Once back in our room, all was fine for the next few hours. Later on, as we settled in, watching the new Netflix period series, Bridgerton, a delightful bit of mindless drivel, we were conscientious of excessive noises spewing from the corridors. People were yelling and talking loudly while outside of their rooms. Why not go into the room and make noise? Since it was daytime, and we weren’t leaving our room, we didn’t make a fuss.

Highland Breed cattle. See this link for details on this breed.

By 9:00, we settled in bed, continuing to watch another episode of the series. We were well aware that the door to the suite next to us was banging every minute or so during this time. Each time someone on the floor opened or closed a door, that partially opened door slammed so loud it startled us each time. Whoever was in that room engaged the deadbolt, leaving the door ajar. The air pressure in the hallway causes this.

No less than 20 times in the past months, we had reported this issue to the housekeeping manager when the staff was cleaning the large suite, going in and out, not wanting to use their keys to enter each time. All they had to do was push the door open with the deadbolt engaged with the door ajar but not locked. Each time we complained, within a half-hour, someone came and locked the door properly.

At times, this happened at night when we were trying to sleep. On occasions, guests were leaving the door in this state when they snuck into the stairwell to smoke (not allowed) or go back and forth between rooms where their friends or family members were located. This happened several times after 1:00 or 2:00 am, and as late as 4:30 am, at which point, we had to call the front desk, again complaining.

This annoyed male approached the fence when we stopped for photos.

During the next few hours, people were going in and out of that room, slamming the door each time and often leaving the deadbolt engaged for the big jolt in our room. We must have fallen asleep five or six times to be startled awake after we’d reported this.

As it turned out, the staff was having a party in that suite next door, unbeknownst to management, since we were told (after calling again) that no guests had booked that room. After reporting it a short time later, the door banging finally stopped, and the noise died down, but not entirely.

The only time a guest should be awakened during the night in a hotel would be in the event of a fire or other type such an emergency. But, the worst of it was yet to come when at 11:30 pm, during one of those times we were attempting to doze off, our doorbell rang. Tom bolted out of bed, opened the door with the chain engaged, and handed a letter stating the restaurant could only service 50% occupancy at any given time due to Covid-19. Tom lost it.

Although this one mooed at us, they didn’t bother to get up.

I won’t write what he said. But the question remains in our minds today, why didn’t he place the letter under the door (it fits) or on the little table outside of our room?

Finally, at around 1:00 am, when I was falling asleep, I heard the dreadful sound of a phone vibrating in the room next door, loudly and repeatedly every 20 minutes throughout the night. The head of the beds in our room and the room next door abut one another, and once again, whoever was in that room, didn’t turn off their “notifications.”  They’d have to be passed out not to hear the noise!

This morning, my FitBit indicated I’d slept one hour and 56 minutes. I’m exhausted. This morning, after speaking to my son Greg’s family in Minnesota, I decided to see how I’d do walking the corridors in my current state. No way! I did 1.5 miles, 2.4 km, and gave up, dragging too much to continue through the day.

The countryside in Tasmania certainly reminded us of New Zealand, where we stayed for three months in 2016.

However, during the 1.5 miles, I saw no less than six guests without masks, with as many wearing masks, and heard a woman “coughing up a lung.” No way was it safe to walk the corridors today. I gave up.

Tom is watching football on his laptop using his earbuds. I’ll spend the remainder of the day working on the corrections on our site with Nat Geo Wild on the TV in the background. It’s comforting to see wildlife in Africa and other parts of the world, so hopeful that soon we’ll be face to face. So hopeful, in 17 days.

Thanks for listening to my rant.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, December 26, 2019:

During the cocktail hour before dinner on Christmas Day in 2018, Tom and Kathy posted last year on this date. For more, please click here.

Day #275 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Merry Christmas to all…

Christmas tree in the lobby of our hotel in Mumbai.

Today’s photos from today, December 25, 2020, were taken by Tom in the hotel lobby in Mumbai.

I wish I could say it feels like Christmas Day today, but it does not. This morning, Tom, after hearing “Merry Christmas” from a passing couple (wearing masks, yeah!) in the corridors as he did his walk he took the lift downstairs to the lobby to find a Christmas tree and other decorations, resulting in today’s photos.

At some point today, well-masked and gloved, I will head down there also to see the decorations. Perhaps, this will precipitate a glimmer of holiday spirit. The lack of feeling “Christmasy” doesn’t negate the fact we are well aware and profoundly moved by this particular time of the year and its meaning for us, celebrations or not.

Firstly, we both want to thank the unbelievable number of readers that sent us warm wishes from all over the world. We attempted to reply to each one, but as we tried to do so, we began to realize it would take days to respond to every one of those particular messages personally.

Instead, we extend our heartfelt appreciation for how you, our dear readers, brought light and hope into our hearts during Tom’s birthday on December 23, Christmas Eve, and now Christmas Day here in India. The outpouring of encouraging and loving messages made this time very special for us.

Gingerbread houses in the hotel lobby.

Surely, it’s one of many heartwarming perks we’ve gleaned from sitting here, day after day, writing to YOU, regardless of how boring and mundane our content, especially during in this confinement, day after day, month after month, as we anxiously await the prospect of getting out of here soon in a mere 18 days.

Again, yesterday, we considered our prospects of a backup plan if the flight to Johannesburg is canceled last minute. Tom tends to be more optimistic and assumes we’ll make it, whereby I always prefer to have a Plan B in place, just in case.

I guess at this point. We can’t conclusively state what we’ll do at the Mumbai International Airport in the middle of the night if we’re denied boarding our booked flight a second time, which would repeat the situation on March 20, 2020. In researching online, there are so many varying restrictions and regulations due to Covid-19. Based on our ongoing research, many of the previously mentioned options we’d considered don’t appear to make as much sense as they did weeks ago.

In any case, we have scheduled a lab tech to come to our hotel on January 10, 2021, to perform the Covid-19 tests for both of us, with results available online and printable within eight hours. Not only does Emirates Airlines require the tests, but also it is required to enter most countries.

Here, in our posts, we contemplated several Plan B options. However, in the future, we have to see how it all rolls out as time nears. I’m sure if the flight is canceled between now and then, we’ll be notified. The worst-case scenario is that it will be canceled while we’re already at the airport in the middle of the night.

More decorations in the hotel lobby.

Anyway, back to Christmas. Hum…each time I look at the homepage on my phone and see “December 25, 2020,” I’m reminded of how most of us throughout the world are anxious for this dreadful year to come to an end. But, what will the New Year bring? Will sufficient numbers be vaccinated to reach a state of herd immunity eventually?

In many countries, such as South Africa, it is expected that only 10% of the entire population of 58 million will be able to receive the vaccine due to a lack of financial resources and infrastructure to accomplish a loftier and more reasonable goal. We can only wait and see how it all rolls out.

In any case, we wish every one of our readers who celebrate a very Merry Christmas, filled with hope, love, and prayers for the future. For those who do not, we wish you, along with the remainder of the world’s citizens, a safer, healthier, and more promising future in years to come.

Stay healthy.

Photo from one year ago today, December 25, 2019:

Tom and brother-in-law Gene. Note Tom: always using his hands when he tells a story. We didn’t include photos of other family members when they preferred not to publish their photos online. No problem. For more, please click here.

Day #274 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Merry Christmas Eve…Scroll down for our Christmas poem from the past…

Today’s poem I wrote years ago is from a post on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2013, while in Marloth Park, South Africa. For more details, please click here.

The above Christmas graphic is to express our wishes to family, friends, and readers worldwide. In reviewing the countries mentioned in the above image, we haven’t visited four of these 15 countries: China, Israel, the Philippines, and Norway. We still have plenty of the world yet to see!

Tom was delighted with the endless stream of birthday wishes that came his way via Facebook and email. Many came through our site and my email as well. He appreciated every single kind and generous message. Thank you!

Tom and I never say “Merry Christmas” until the actual “eve” begins on December 24th, which is several hours from now. In our old lives, we were often still reeling from the festivities from his birthday the previous day. This year? None of the “reeling.” Instead, we wait with bated breath for the next 19 days until we know we can depart India and begin the long journey to South Africa.

There’s nothing that could bespeak the holiday season for us at this time. We have nothing planned for today or tomorrow. Instead, we’ll focus on our feelings of gratitude for that which we do have in our presence and afar at this time; the love and friendship for one another, our family, friends, and readers; safety from Covid-19; and of course, the fingers-crossed prospect of leaving India before too long.

As more and more news comes out of South Africa with a rapid increase in new cases, especially from a new strain, we wait with bated breath, hoping the borders stay open for the next 19 days and nights, allowing us ample time to get out of here.

Today, the air-con in the building isn’t working, but it is being worked on, based on a call we received from the front desk. It could take two to three hours until it’s working again. It’s stifling in our room and getting hotter by the minute. I just returned from a fast walk in the corridors, dodging guests talking loudly on phones, without masks, and I’m sweating up a storm.

Midway through my walk, I stopped to send an email to the front desk. They, too, are upset about guests not wearing masks and want us to report any discrepancies we observe, if we don’t mind. They don’t want to get sick, nor do the loyal staff who have left their homes, their families for months at a time to work and live here. It’s unfair for everyone.

Ah, anyway, we’re trying to get into the holiday spirit, and the best way we can do this is through memories of Christmases past. In reviewing which photos we’d post today for Christmas Eve, I stumbled across this poem I wrote in our old lives a few nights before the family arrived for Christmas Day dinner.

I decided to share this poem again today, seven years later. It seems all the more appropriate based on the circumstances everyone is experiencing all over the world. Here you go:


Elbow to elbow, we’re all gathered here

Family and friends, sharing holiday cheer

Our plates, all filled with tasty delights

Our appetites whetted, to take the first bites

The candlelight glowing on each smiling face

As we look to each other, wondering who will say “grace”

The words are well-spoken, as hands are held tight

The meaning, so special, this holiday night

Elbow to elbow, we’re all gathered here

At this table, we’ve gathered for many a’ years

We’ve enjoyed fancy dinners, some romantic for two

And squeezed in so many, as our family grew

And now, here are our children, adult, and attached

In love with their partners and very well matched

With room at the table, their children are here

As we teach them the meaning of holiday cheer

A few are still missing, there always will be

Their gifts in the mail, not under the tree

We’re feeling their love, across all the miles

Holding back tears, remembering their smiles

Elbow to elbow, we’re all gathered here

Putting aside life’s trouble and fear

The food and the merriment, the taste of good wine

The joy and the happiness, knowing they’re mine.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

We’ll be back with more tomorrow on Christmas Day.

Photo from one year ago today, December 24, 2019:

No photos were posted on Christmas Eve last year other than the above. Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah to our family, friends/readers all over the world. For more on this post, please click here.

Day #273 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Happy birthday to my resilient, cheerful husband!!!…

In this photo, taken at Aamazing River View in November 2018, on Saturday night with friends, I cut off the top of his “tall” fluffy hair but I like this photo of my guy, Tom.

Today’s photos are from Tom’s birthday party in Marloth Park on this date in 2018. For details, please click here.

Happy birthday to my dear husband Tom. I’m sorry it’s so uneventful with no special meal, no drinks, no cake, and no presents. But the biggest gift of all has been the resilience both he and I have shared over the past nine months, in this monotonous hotel room, making the very best of a peculiar situation, day after day.

Beautiful platters of snacks that Rita and Gerhard prepared, along with a huge amount of decorations.

This morning Tom started rattling off all the countries where he spent his birthday over these past years of world travel. Here’s the list:

2012 – Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

2013 – Marloth Park, South Africa

2014 – Pahoa, Big Island, Hawaii, USA

2015 – Pacific Harbour, Viti Levi, Fiji

2016 – Penguin, Tasmania, Australia

2017 – Buenos Aires, Argentina

2018 – Marloth Park, South Africa

2019 – Apache Junction, Arizona, USA

2020 – Mumbai, India

The outdoor table, set for 10.

This morning, much to our delight, dear friends Rita and Gerhard called us from the US to wish Tom a happy birthday. It was the two of them that hosted the surprise birthday party for Tom in Marloth Park in 2018, as shown in today’s photos. It was fabulous to hear their voices and share our mutual memories of life in Marloth Park.

What great memories! We have had so many wonderful times over the past years with new friends throughout the world. Surely, we’ve been blessed and are very grateful, especially when we recall experiences we’ve had during the holidays and birthdays, including ours and that of our newly made friends.

Our hosts, Rita and Gerhard, couldn’t have done anything more to make this a spectacular birthday for Tom and a celebration for all of us. Our heartfelt love and thanks to them both.

On Facebook today, birthday wishes for Tom are pouring in and we can’t wait to begin reading them all soon. During this challenging time, these heartfelt wishes mean all the more to him and also to me.

Not intended to be over-mushy, overly-gushy, I can’t help but add that these past months, however challenging, and often boring have not been as awful as one may think, Tom has been a rock for me, as well as being an endless source of laughter and entertainment. There are countless days and nights we’ve laughed so hard we cried, along with endless conversations about our situation, past exquisite memories, and dreams for the future.

Danie and Louise. We can’t wait to see them soon!

Although at times, we stayed quiet for several hours in a day in our own little world (literally), we rarely, if ever, felt a sense of disharmony. Staying on an even keel for each other and for our own mental health and well-being has been our goal each and every new day. And, this dear readers, we’ve done well. No, there’s nothing special about either of us. We just were determined.

As the days and nights blended into each other, we tackled one at a time, focusing on the goal in mind…to come out of this trying lockdown as the loving and caring couple as when going in. Today, on Tom’s birthday, I thank him for his part in helping to keep me on an even keel while maintaining himself in a state of a consistently even disposition.  When one member of a couple accomplishes this, it’s easy for the other to follow suit.

A few weeks earlier, Kathy and Rita nonchalantly asked Tom, “What’s your favorite meal?”  He replied, “Meat, mashed potatoes, sweet corn, and green beans.  Well, look here! All his favorites and more, steamed cauliflower, potato salad, Greek salad, and spinach salad. What a fantastic meal!

So, happy 68th birthday, my love. Keep walking, keep talking, and keeping smiling. There will be many more birthdays to come, hopefully under less confining circumstances. You are dearly loved.

The bright light behind us wasn’t the best vantage point in taking this photo. From left to right: Don, Kathye me, Tom, Danie, Gerhard with Louise and Rita in front.

I’m cutting this post short today. Let’s get this party started!!!

Happy holidays to all!

Photo from one year ago today, December 23, 2019:

Rita and Gerhard gave Tom a birthday party in 2018. In this photo, Jandre, Danie, Kathy, Tom, me, Rita, Louise and Gerhard on the veranda overlooking the Crocodile River at Tom’s birthday party last year. We had a memorable time! For more details, please click here.

Day #274 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Part 3…Christmas wishes…Chanukah wishes (belated)…Kwanzaa wishes…Boxing day wishes!…

On the last night of the Maharajas Express, we were all assisted in dressing in traditional Indian attire.

Today’s photos are from the post on March 18, 2020, as we recapped some of the time we spent in India prior to the lockdown. For more on this date, please click here.

Reading the post from March 18, 2020, made us cringe when realizing it was two days later, when our booked middle-of-the-night flight to South Africa, for which we were turned away at the airport at the last minute, required that we return to the hotel from whence we’d come, only to close a few days later. This resulted in our search for a hotel that was allowed to stay open during the lockdown. Subsequently, that scenario brought us to this hotel, Courtyard by Marriott Mumbai International Airport.

We never imagined we’d see the Taj Mahal. And yet, that morning in the haze and pollution, it lay before our eyes in its full splendor.

This is no typical Courtyard by Marriott one finds in cities throughout the US and other countries, often with few floors and fewer amenities than many larger hotels. This hotel is comparable to a regular Marriott with outstanding decor, many levels, and great amenities. There’s nothing budget-like here.

Amid all the issues over foods we don’t eat, noise, inconsistencies in food preparation, and the endless stream of mask-less guests, overall it’s as good of an experience as we could have expected under these challenging circumstances. Never once was any request we made dismissed or not regarded with the highest esteem.

Exquisite decor in ancient palaces and temples.

The cleaning, room service delivery, and management staff have excelled in every way. We’ve been treated with the utmost respect, kindness, and consideration for which we are very grateful.

Fortunately, booking the continuation of our stay, month after month enabled us to get the best possible pricing, allowing us to easily afford this long hotel stay, unlike any stay in the past. Most recently, the prices for about a six-week period dropped to as low as US $50 a night, INR 3697, per night, the lowest we’ve paid anywhere in the world.

The locals doing their laundry in Lake Pichola but no laundry soaps are allowed. Fishing and private boats are not allowed on the lake in Udaipur.

Being able to use our accumulated “stamps” from on our site, also provided us with many “free” nights when 10 stamps result in one “free night” of comparable value. Of course, these low rates reduce the value of the “free night” credits for future bookings, using the accumulated stamps.

The food situation surely has been the most challenging during this stay. With my ultra low carb way of eating and Tom’s picky taste buds, we had no choice but to order meals outside the realm of our desires and tastes. In the interim, eating a diet of increased carb consumption each day, more than I was used to. The red Indian sauces and excess amounts of vegetables, often greasy and overcooked, caused my health to go downhill.

Several castles are located in or near the man-made lakes in Udaipur.

Tom had no options other than eating chicken pasta with a creamy white sauce every night resulting in a weight gain. I hadn’t gained during that period, but my weight was up considerably from my usual, which had crept upwards while recovering from open-heart surgery.

Many of the medications I’d been taking after the surgery (none of which I still take or need) left me sleeping half the day and grossly inactive, rapidly gaining weight. A year later, I was up 25 pounds, 11.3 kg, and my blood sugar was high, bordering on familial Type 2 diabetes, which only exacerbates cardiovascular disease and blood pressure.

A snake charmer, an expected event in India.

Chronic pain returned making walking the corridors all the more difficult, although I never missed a day. A few months ago, I stopped eating those high carb sauces and vegetables, reducing my blood sugar to a low normal range, and have been able to totally stop taking medications for hypertension, with my blood pressure now at 100/60 without drugs.

As of this morning, I have lost the extra 25 pounds, 11.3 kg, and now fit in all of my old clothing. Thus, when we pack soon, I will be able to donate all the clothes I’d purchased in larger sizes, while in the US a year ago. Whew! So, in that respect, being in lockdown forced me to research ways in which I could reduce my blood pressure and blood sugar, which subsequently resulted in weight loss with relative ease. What a wonderful Christmas gift to myself!

The fantastic chef on the train, John Stone, who assured all of my meals would be perfect and they were..

Tom has lost a portion of the weight he needs to lose as a result of eating that high carb pasta, but surely will do so within the next two months, especially after we get to South Africa when we can prepare our own meals. Hopefully, if all goes as planned, we’ll be leaving  India in 21 days (three weeks from today), arriving in 22 days. We wait with bated breath!

For those who celebrate, we wish you a Merry Christmas and New Year!

Photo from one year ago today, December 22, 2019:

Photo of the beautiful Crocodile River taken from Marloth Park on this date in 2013. For more, please click here.