It’s a wonderful life…

This is a thick-tailed bushbaby that visited us last night in the dark. It happened so quickly I had no time to set the camera for the nighttime view, but we were happy to see this special creature who usually makes an appearance at night.

If anyone owns a Chromebook you know how difficult it is to manipulate and edit photos. Oh, what I’d give to have my old Windows 8 laptop (we didn’t like Windows 10, either) with the ability to make folders on the desktop, to store and easily edit photos. To become proficient at these processes requires an entirely new learning curve. And, although I am a fairly quick study when it comes to digital equipment, my level of interest in learning this bulky process escapes me.

This male warthog is, by far, the largest warthog we have ever seen. This morning Tom named him, Tiny. He’s already become a regular.

At this point in time, I am only interested in savoring our surroundings, taking and sharing photos of our stunning discoveries, preparing our daily posts, and cooking a quick and easy meal on the gas grill (Tom does this part while I prep the food). With the wonderful help of Zef and Vusi, we don’t have to clean, make the bed, sweep, dust, clean bathrooms,  or even do laundry since they do it all.

Tiny is somewhat friendly, although a little scared since he’s only now getting to know us.

Right now, I have the washer going with one load of two I’ll do today to lessen the amount of wash they’ll be doing. Everything in our luggage, which we never unpacked in India, smells musty and must be washed. A few days ago, they did almost half of it. They fold so much better than I do, so it’s nice to hand it over.

Tiny posed for a photo.

It’s not as if we did much in those 10 months in the hotel, other than hand washing our clothing. Had we handed it over to the hotel to do, it would easily have cost us a fortune, as much as US $100, ZAR 1527, a week. Our clothing survived and we’re no worse for the wear (no pun intended).

It’s hard to resist the request for pellets from the bright-eyes kudus.

Speaking of “no worse for the wear,” when speaking with my friend Chere in Minnesota last night while Tom and I sat on the veranda, sipping an adult beverage and waiting for more wildlife, she suggested we write about how we feel about our India experience, what we learned in those 10 months and how we can use those lessons going forward. Great suggestions, Chere.

They venture right onto the veranda without hesitation but for safety reasons, we encourage them to back up. After all, these are huge wild animals.

However, at this point in time, having dwelled on the challenges of that long lockdown with our readers for months, we’re both ready to put it behind us, as we’re certain our readers prefer to do as well. The only thing we learned about ourselves (sorry, we aren’t more insightful) was that our level of determination to get back to our happy place far superseded our discomfort in that hotel room.

Wildebeest Willie is easily recognizable since he’s missing the tip of his right horn.

Now, we are pleased with ourselves for doing exactly what we wanted to do to ensure we’d get here, 59 hours of travel and all. No regrets. Not a one. For us, it just goes to prove if we want something bad enough, sheer will, determinations and careful planning can pave the way for us to achieve our goals.

Wildebeest Willie is so at home, he now naps here.

We aren’t heroes. We aren’t brave. There’s nothing special about us. We simply wanted something that was important to us and we were willing to wait for it. That’s what we learned. I suppose in a way, we knew this all along. After all, we gave up our familiar lives to fulfill a dream of a lifetime.

Is this my place at the table? What’s for dinner?

And now, here in Marloth Park, unencumbered with responsibility, other than to share our photos and stories with each of our worldwide readers on a daily basis, life is once again simple and uncomplicated. Of course, right now, we’re anxious for the 14-day self-quarantine to pass from those scary 59 hours with 9 days remaining of quarantine as of today.

Sharing among friends. There’s enough for everyone!

Once that ends, we’ll be even more excited to be here, of course, while continuing to exercise strict adherence to Covid-19 safety protocols.

A very exciting post will be upcoming tomorrow when we had a terrifying visit from a predator!  Please check back then and brace yourself, as we did!

Happy day!

Photo from one year ago today, January 18, 2020:

Two years ago today, we visited Kruger National Park to see this elephant family crossing the road with a few babies protected by the parade. For more photos, please click here.

 

daya day assigned to a particular purpose or observanceMore (Definitions, Synonyms, Translation)

 

 

 

 

19 hour power outage due to electrical storm plus load shedding and no WiFi…The beat goes on…

Young male kudu reaching to grab some leaves off a tree.

As I began to prepare today’s post we’d been out of power for the past 19 hours starting at 4:30 pm Saturday. Last night, a storm came through and knocked out a transformer several kilometers from here. We have no WiFi after the inverter also quit working and subsequently no WiFi. The power finally came back on at  1:00 pm today.

Adorable female bushbuck.

I wrote most of today’s post off-line in an attempt to be ready to post shortly after the power returned,  Mostly, we were worried about the food in the refrigerator. This morning, Tom cooked the burgers we had planned for tonight’s dinner on the gas grill which we had for lunch instead of dinner. Louise suggested we put all the perishables in the freezer hoping they will survive until power was restored and it appears they did.

What a handsome face with young horns.

Are we upset about this? Not at all. This is the bush in Africa, not Palm Beach, and one must expect these situations to occur on a fairly consistent basis. In any case, this is a whole lot better than sitting in a hotel room in Mumbai, India. Right now, we’re situated on the veranda, enjoying various visitors, as well as Mr. & Mrs. Hornbill building their nest in a bushbaby house that they’ve taken over.

Kudus often visit in a family and/or social group, referred to as forkl

It’s cooler today after the rains, although still very humid, typical for the bush. But, we’re fine. It’s nice to see the bush is a little greener this morning after the downpour, creating more food for the wildlife. After all, it’s summer here now. January is equivalent to July in the Northern Hemisphere, so we have months to go until it cools down.

They certainly know how to grab at our hearts with their adorable faces and big eyes.

In the interim, we’re both handling the heat as well as we can, which is often as high as 108F, 42C, during daylight hours and dropping only slightly at night. After spending 10 months in air-conditioned comfort in that hotel room, it’s taken us a few days to adapt to the temperature differences. But, now, we’re good.

This male kudu was so bold he came up onto the veranda.

There is air conditioning in the two bedrooms here, none elsewhere in the house. Due to frequent power issues and the expense of running air-con, few, if any Marloth Park residents have or use full house air-con which is common in the US. Whether it’s power outages, load shedding, snakes, scary-looking insects, flies, ants, and bees, we’re prepared to handle it all.

Scratch that itch!

Certainly, being here wouldn’t be ideal for some nor may this lifestyle fulfill their objectives for holiday/vacation time. For us, it’s a way of life that is totally befitting our desires and interests. We thrive in this environment. Will we be able to do this as we age, making our way into our 80’s or more (God willing)? The answer to that will be entirely predicated by how well we care for our health, a goal we strive to achieve each and every day of our lives.

We took all of these photos at different times throughout a single day.

For now, we are grasping at every morsel Mother Nature tosses our way, whether it is Wildebeest Willie, who was here all morning and rested for hours in the bush near us, his big tail swishing every few minutes to bat off the flies, or a flower blooming among the thorns of the sickle bush trees, it all matters to us.

Now, totally off two blood pressure medications as of the past month, checking it today, as I do every so often, I was reassured by my state of relaxation and low stress, at a measly 114/60. Peace, pleasure, and purpose can bring each of us a state of being that is not only good for our health but also, our state of mind and spirit.

Kudus are determined to get what they want and will literally stare us down until we comply.

And our purpose? What is that? Are we doing this entirely for our own personal pleasure? Believe me, spending over half of each day writing and taking photos to share with all of you gives us tremendous purpose when hundreds, if not thousands, of readers worldwide, write to us explaining how the minutiae of our day-to-day lives somehow give them a moment to pause and enjoy nature, culture, people, and more, right along with us.

We never tire of spending time with kudus, from the antelope family. They don’t have antlers. Instead, they have horns which they do not shed.

Yes, selfishly, we revel in your kind comments as a wave of warmth passes over us each time we read such an expression. But we’ve found that, in some small way, we may contribute to a moment of joy for others as they “traveling along with us.” So today, we thank you for your kindness and support as we extend our love and caring for all of you.

Without all of you, we may never have lasted this long, over 8 years, on this seemingly never-ending journey which we blissfully continue here in Africa, once again. It calls to us. It calls to many of you. It’s grand to be “home.”

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, January 17, 2020:

Two years ago today, Ken set up the camera on a timer to take this photo of all 10 of us as we celebrated Rita’s birthday at our place.! Fantastic! For more about the year-ago post, please click here.

 

 

 

 

 

Photos working now…Such a stressful situation…Figured out the issue…By the skin of our teeth…

Mom and babies…

There are no captions on some of the photos today and in the past few posts due to WiFi issues.

Saturday morning and load shedding just started at 9:00 am for the next 2½ hours. Much to our delight, yesterday, electrician Moses came and rigged a means for us to have WiFi during power outages. That way, we can distract ourselves during the few hours without power. I’m thrilled to see it’s working this morning. Plus, I am over-the-moon happy that I figured out that photos from my phone won’t show in our posts but will easily upload from my camera

Until I figure out how to rename the older photos I took using my phone when we first arrived, I will be using only the camera for all photos. Hopefully, we’ll never encounter this issue again. I can’t tell you how many readers contacted us about this issue and I’d tried to respond one by one. Unfortunately, with so many, I won’t be able to respond to each one. Please know we thank each and every one of you for writing to us.

As for the posts from January 13th and 14th, I will work with our web people, to get those photos to upload on the prior posts. If it’s not possible, we’ll have to resign ourselves that they are lost forever and new photos will replace them in the many months to come. Goodness, with the abundant wildlife before us, there is certainly plenty of time and wildlife to fill in the blanks.

Baby poses by big rock.

Well, we’re still reeling and happy to be here, but according to yesterday’s news, we arrived by the “skin of our teeth.” Emirates Airlines has suspended all flights to and from South Africa, See the news story here. Also, with three days having passed since our arrival, we remain hopeful we won’t experience any symptoms of Covid-19.

Band of mongoose…

There was one situation during the 59 hour travel period that worried us. We were waiting for at least 20 minutes in the tube when the doors to the plane had yet to open. Hundreds of passengers were crowded into the small space, many with their masks below their noses, talking loudly, coughing and sneezes. This is the airline’s fault. They should have been more stringent in boarding passengers.

Wildebeest Willie came to call…

Also, during boarding and de-boarding, no social distance guidelines were followed, on any of the flights. Mask wearing on the flights was also sketchy when passengers justified removing their masks in anticipation of food and drinks being served. It was a scary 59 hours.

Mongoose trying to crack an egg we offered.

Now, safe in our wonderful bush house, we are feeling hopeful the remaining 11 days of self-quarantine will pass quickly and we can relax from there while continuing to exercise the utmost caution when out and about or with friends in Marloth Park. Jabula and a few other restaurants have adequate social distancing outdoor seating which we’ll visit in the weeks to come.

Soon, once we’ll upload today’s post, we’ll head to Daisys’ Den for birdseed for our numerous visitors. There are about six mating pairs of francolins, Frank & The Misses, nesting hornbills in a bushbaby house at the edge of the veranda, and many noisy and fun-to-watch other bird species. We try to avoid feeding the helmeted guinea fowls since they are pesky, relentless, and can be bothersome.

Tonight, we’ll make bun-less burgers on the grill with “butt” bacon, topped with fresh cheddar cheese and topped with a fried egg, alongside more of the delicious cheesy sausage known as boerewors, here in South Africa.

I have yet to figure out a walking strategy. I posted a request to rent a treadmill or stationary bike from anyone who may be interested in Marloth Park. I’ve had one response so far for a bike, but I do prefer a treadmill. We’ll see how that rolls out over the next several days.

Ah, folks, now that we know the new photos will work, we have peace of mind and are beginning to relax. Yes, it’s very hot and humid outdoors today where we’ll spend the bulk of our day. There’s plenty of flies, insects and for all we know, venomous snakes nearby.

The only air-con in the house is in the two bedrooms, only available when load shedding is done. If it becomes unbearable, we can always opt for a short nap during which we’ll turn on the air-con and cool down, shortly later returning to the veranda. It’s too hot for me to walk on the roads. It should cool down in a few months.

May you have a safe and pleasant day. We’ll be back with more tomorrow and also with photos you can see!

Photo from one year ago today, January 16, 2020:

Three years ago today, this scene at La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires particularly caught our eye. For the year-ago post, please click here.

 

Resolving the issue with photos but power is out now…

Cute little warthog resting in the lucerne.

At the moment, “load shedding” is happening and I can’t use my laptop. For some reason, I can’t get my phone’s data to tether to my laptop. I can’t worry about that now Eskom, the power company shuts off power to specific areas at certain times to reserve power resources, an average of twice a day, usually for two to three hours.

Last night the power was out between 1:00 am and  3:30 am. Danie rigged up an inverter for us so we could use two fans to keep cool. Although we awoke when the power went off the two fans served us well. It’s very hot at night in this area. Sleeping is nearly impossible without at least a fan.

Mom and two babies enjoying some pellets.

\We experienced load shedding during our past visits to Marloth Park. We can live with this. It’s a reality of life in the bush, a small inconvenience in the realm of things.

As for the issues with photos not showing in the posts, I believe I have resolved it with a suggestion from our web people. It was entirely my doing. After today, I will replace all of the posted photos with the correct extensions and the photos will appear at these links:

January 14, 2021 link here.

January 13, 2021 link here.

I was uploading photos from my phone without changing the extension as a JPEG. I don’t know how I missed this!

My camera isn’t taking good photos due to humidity issues. We will figure out all of this to ensure we can capture decent shots to upload. It may take a few days, but rest assured, I am working on all of this

Soon, Moses, Louise, and Danie’s electrician will arrive to set up the inverter to work with the router. Once done, we’ll be able to be online during the outages. This will help greatly, especially since I do the posts in the mornings in order to free up my afternoons for other tasks, photo ops, and sightseeing.

It’s been so long since we’ve taken photos we are a little rusty. By no means an expert photographer, it’s always a work in progress.

Two visiting girls.

The wildlife continues to visit with two new species today. We look forward to sharing our photos in the months to come. Due to the fact I will be removing and replacing all the photos from the past few days, I may not do the India expenses today after all. The temps are in the 90F, 38C, range and it’s just too hot to think about numbers.

Thanks for your patience with our photo issues. Hopefully, now it will be resolved.

Have a pleasant day!

Photo from one year ago today, January 15, 2020:

Three years ago, Tom and I sat in the hotel bar in Palermo, Buenos Aires watched the Minnesota Vikings playoff game. We were the only patrons in the bar, but had a wonderful evening together. For more, please click here.

 

 

 

 

 

Hello, my Africa…It’s good to be back where we belong…

Today’s photos were taken at dusk resulting in less clear images. We work on improving our photos going forward!

What can I say? How we feel is beyond description. At the moment, we’re seated at the big wooden table on the ground level veranda with nary a railing, overlooking the bush parklands, rife with wildlife. No sooner than we opened the screened (yeah!) sliding door, they were here, albeit tentatively, wondering who we are and what we may have in store for them.

We served up treats from a 40 kg, 88-pound bag of pellets already opened last night for the stream of visitors that arrived only moments after we did. Sitting by the fabulous braai, a South African fire pit, we gasped in awe of the treasures our eyes beheld, one species after another, including seven giraffes at our driveway, several kudus, warthogs, guinea fowl, bushbucks, and more.

Then, this morning, they all returned, perhaps others than those from last night, anxious to see who will be their new neighbors. Besides, this is their land, not ours and in reality, we are the visitors, not them. Ah, the number of times, we’ve said in our posts, “Pinch me, is this real?”

And now, I say this again, with as much, if not more enthusiasm than ever. At times, I wondered if the excitement would be as profound as it was in the prior 18 months we spent in Marloth Park over the past eight-plus years. But, if anything, it was more.

The 10 months in the hotel room in India catapulted us to a new level of appreciation and gratitude, one we thought we could never achieve, after all the exquisite experiences since the onset of our travels in 2012. But, here we are now, reeling with pure joy to be back where we belong.

The familiarity we felt as we drove from Nelspruit after our three full days of travel, was comforting. As we began the long final drive toward Gate 2 in Marloth Park, around 3:00 pm yesterday, where the guards at the gate gave us a one month pass to hang on the rearview mirror with offers for more in months to come. We knew we were “home.”

We drove to Louise and Danie’s beautiful Information Center to be greeted with the enthusiasm we so cherish, with them as such great friends for the past seven years, during which we always stayed in close touch when we were away. We sat at their gorgeous bar, commiserating for a few hours until finally, it was time to come to our new home.

We knew the house was small, a single story with two bedrooms, two en-suite bathrooms, a spacious lounge/living room, a dining room with a  fantastic table and upholstered chairs, and a good-sized modern kitchen with a countertop with bar stools, well-equipped with everything we’ll need.

Louise grocery shopped for us, putting everything away as we would have. She knows us so well after all these years. Soon, we’ll prepare our first meal, steak on the braai. Is it any wonder, we’ll be eating beef for the next several days? We weren’t hungry for breakfast this morning and last night, we didn’t bother with dinner. Instead, we had a small plate of good cheeses to share, along with water and iced tea.

We definitely had good luck during the three travel days, which included the following details Tom compiled this morning::

“Three flights; the first from Mumbai, to Dubai, 2 hours 45 minutes with a 16-hour layover. A second flight from Dubai, to Johannesburg an 8 hour 45-minute flight with a 26-hour layover. The third flight from Johannesburg, to Nelspruit (Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport), 45 minutes.
Then, the rental car drive, from Nelspruit to Marloth Park, 1 hour 30 mins.
3 flights       12 hours 15 minutes
2 layovers   42 hours
1 drive           1 hour 30 minutes
Total travel time from door to door was 59 hours, which included hotel departures, shuttles, waiting at airports, and spending time working on three months of car rentals at the Budget counter in Nelspruit.
If anyone would have asked me a few years ago if we’d be open to 59 hours of travel time to anywhere, we would have said it was too challenging, even for “sturdy us.” But, as we all know, motivation and purpose are powerful drivers and we’re grateful we stuck to our commitment to return to South Africa, instead of “giving up” and returning to the US at this time.
And here we are, sitting together, in touch with each other’s needs, wants, and joys, as always. Nothing, after those 10 trying months has diminished the strength of our love and commitment to one another. We’re still “stuck like glue.”
Again, thanks to everyone for the endless stream of good wishes. There will never be enough time to reply to each and every one of you, but please know we appreciate every single one of you.
Stay safe. Be well. Be happy.
Photo from one year ago today, January 14, 2020:
This hornbill from a photo taken in 2019, decided to look at her reflection in the glass of the little red car, assuming it was another Hornbill, perhaps a possible mate. For more from the year-ago post, please click here.

 

We made it to Marloth Park…Heavenly, as expected… Short post…One photo…

Miss Kudu

Only one image is shown on this post.

It’s after 7:15 pm on Wednesday night and we are out of steam. I’d hope to do a post tonight, but I just don’t have the energy necessary to put it together tonight We’ve already taken several amazing photos and tomorrow morning, coffee in hand, we’ll look forward to sharing details about our new home and new life at Lovebird’s Nest in Marloth Park, and some special wildlife photos from our garden. It’s heavenly, to say the least.

Please check back tomorrow while we get back into our usual rhythm of posting daily,

Thanks for your patience, kind words, and encouragement. We are so grateful!

Be well.

 

We made it to Johannesburg…The best laid plans of mice…

May the New Year bring us all together regardless of our spots or stripes…

Today’s photos are from our post on December 31, 2018, while enjoying New Year’s in Marloth Park. These photos are a taste of what is yet to come

Well, folks, we’re almost there. A short time ago, we arrived at the hotel in Johannesburg, showered, and dressed in comfy clothing and we’re staying put for the night, ordering room service for dinner. In the morning, prior to heading back to the Tambo International Airport, we’ll have breakfast in the restaurant before heading out.

Mom and baby. What a sight!

Mask wearing (or not wearing) is worse here in Johannesburg than anywhere we’ve been along the way or, even in India. Apparently, South Africans think that wearing the mask partially over their mouth is sufficient.  President Ramaphosa stated in a new speech last night that people will be arrested, fined, and jailed for failure to wear a mask.

Either the President needs to be more specific about how to wear a mask in his speeches or people just don’t care. Enough about that! I’ve been whining about mask-wearing for months. I am going to try to let it go with “other fish to fry” and certainly plenty of other diversions upcoming by 3:00 pm tomorrow afternoon when we’ll arrive in Marloth Park.

Adorable giraffe at rest.

In the interim, I have to confess, I am not following through on a promise I made about posting our final expenses for the 10 months in lockdown in Mumbai, India before we’d get situated in South Africa. In the past two nights, according to my Fitbit, which is pretty accurate, I’ve slept a total of six hours. I just don’t have it in me to work on the numbers with my foggy brain.

However, I will post those figures in the first weeks that we’re in Marloth Park when we’ll be relaxing outdoors, well-rested, and enjoying our wildlife visitors, moment by moment. Also, we received more well wishes for safe travels than we can ever respond to. But, we read every single one and tried to respond to as many as possible. If we missed replying to you, please accept our apologies and know that we appreciate each and every comment and email.

There were dozens of zebras playfully carrying on in the parkland.

Also, based on my current lackluster state, I wasn’t very creative in choosing photos for today’s post, just grabbing a date and going with it. These photos are a taste of what’s to come over the next months, as we make every effort to keep our photos relevant, fresh, and interesting.

As for this last flight of eight hours from Dubai to Johannesburg? Well, we weren’t able to get an upgrade to business class for Tom so I enjoyed the extra room and totally lay-down seat with a big soft blanket, pillow, and even a thin mattress pad that the flight attendant added early on to all of our seats in that section.

Although at quite a distance, it was delightful to see so many giraffes and zebras together in the open field.

Although everything was relatively comfortable, I just couldn’t sleep. During the eight hour flight, I watched four movies, my favorite of which was the recent Harrison Ford, Call of the Wild. Weak and exhausted, I cried real tears, although I was well aware that the adorable and endearing dog, Buck was computer-generated (CGI). I suppose it’s no different than getting emotional watching an animated movie with sweet characters.

During the four movies, I dozed a few times, never more than 30 minutes at a time, but not at all during the last movie, The Call of the Wild. It’s a wonderful family movie for mushy animal lovers like me.

Playfully interacting with one another.

I was offered champagne in the middle of the night, or wine or cocktails but I declined. I didn’t want my first taste of wine to be on an empty stomach on an airplane. As mentioned, alcohol is currently banned in South Africa so we may have to wait a while to have “sundowners” with our friends.

OK, friends, I’m wrapping it up here. I need to order something to eat after not having a morsel in the past 24 hours. I don’t care to eat in the middle of the night or at 5:00 am in the morning when food was served on the plane. Plus, the options for me were limited, as they are on the room service menu at this Protea by Marriott hotel. But, I’m more needing to eat than feeling hungry.

Ostriches don’t seem to mind what’s going on in the park. They are happily doing their own thing. 

Somehow, amid our very busy day tomorrow, we’ll post a short blurb and possibly a few new photos when we fly and drive to our new home in the bush.

Have a pleasant day and evening wherever you are and thanks for being our friends! Whew!

Photo from one year ago today, January 12, 2020:

On this date in 2015, in Kauai, Hawaii here is another of Tom’s exquisite sunrise photos. For the year-ago story, please click here.

 

 

 

We made it to Dubai…Harrowing experience…

I look like a scary insect while seated on the flight to Dubai.

Where do we begin to describe this harrowing day that started at 7:00 am this morning when we began the drive to the Mumbai International Airport through crazy Monday morning traffic at this early hour? It was quite a daunting experience.

But, before we get to that, I’d like to mention that the Courtyard by Marriott, Mumbai International Airport made our departure extra special when they “comped our dinner” and sent an exquisite chocolate cake up and a beautiful handmade card filled with signatures from the staff, to our room last night. Since I don’t eat cake, I could only admire it and take a photo as shown below. We’d just finished dinner and Tom ate a small piece, leaving the rest behind.

We settled the final bill last night, making checkout this morning quick and easy. We arranged for a wake-up call at 6:00 am but neither of us slept a wink. My Fitbit said I slept 4 hours 44 minutes, but the majority of that was me lying still and trying to fall asleep most of the night, causing my heart rate to become slow enough, that Fitbit “thought” I was sleeping.

Check out the look in Tom’s eyes! I howled!

In our past travels, especially during the first few years, we had trouble sleeping the night before a travel day. As time marched on, we combated this issue and were able to sleep. However, after these past 10 months, we lost some of the familiarity of being on the move once again.

We arrived at the airport with over three hours until departure, plenty of time to do what had to be done, all of which we dreaded. Our baggage sailed through without any excess baggage fees only after I reminded the Emirates rep at the counter that the website allowed a total of 40 kg, 88 pounds, per person and I’d be happy to show her that fact on the Emirates app on my phone when she tried to tell us the maximum was 23 kg. The excess fees would have been more than the airfare. She relented and our bags went through at no additional cost.

That bullet dodged, we made our way through the airport toward the security check-in and immigration each of which took no less than 30 minutes to get through the queues. In each case, we had to produce copies of our endless documents. In each case, they seemed to have no idea how to process the paperwork. Somehow, we made it through.

The airport in Mumbai, quiet in some areas, but a madhouse in others.

Throughout this process, we were stunned by the number of passengers not wearing their face masks properly or only covering their mouths and not their noses. I’m not exaggerating when saying no less than 40% of passengers that we encountered weren’t following masking and social distancing protocol.

Finally, we reached our gate to sit in chairs and begin a horrendous wait including while in the “tube” where the poorly masked passengers were huddled in close proximity to one another. We desperately tried to avoid facing anyone directly, but it wasn’t easy.

They’d provided us with face shields and we were wearing the extra heavy-duty N-99 masks we’d purchased in the US over a year ago to protect from the smog in India, long before the mention of Covid-19. Apparently, N-99 masks are one step safer than the coveted N-95. Regardless, we were nervous over the close proximity of all of those people.

Boarding the plane was like it was in the “old” days, people packed tightly together, talking loudly, spewing spittle, with little regard for the virus. We cringed in our seats as they passed by. A young girl around 10 years old, sat next to me while I was on the aisle seat in the grouping of four center seats.

The beautiful card the staff at the Marriott made and signed for us.

During the entire flight, I had to ask her to put her mask back on, while her arms were continually flailing my way. It was awful. We never ate the offered food, a spicy Indian dish which didn’t work for me and Tom wouldn’t like. As of this moment, we’ve yet to eat a morsel today. Soon, we’ll order very pricey room service, but we need to eat before the long night ahead. Tom’s having a burger and fries and I ordered the Caesar salad, no croutons, with a salmon add-on. Had I ordered a burger it wouldn’t have been a sufficient portion of 200 grams, with no bun, no fries.

Everything was smoother when we arrived at the relatively quiet Dubai airport. We had plenty of help from staff and the reps at the Emirates desk. We asked for an upgrade to Business Class but they could only accommodate one seat for the additional US $650 plus tax. Tom insisted I take it. If they get a no-show or cancellation, Tom will join me “up-front.” I hope that works out. I feel a little guilty.

In order for us to leave the airport and return only hours later for the next flight, we had to have a complimentary Covid PCR test since we were leaving the terminal due to UAE regulations. This was no big deal. Shortly after, the hotel shuttle was waiting in a nearby parking lot outside of Terminal 3 and we made our way to this bargain hotel which is quite fine for resting for these few hours.

Our dinner, without drinks, (we have plenty of bottled water), will cost more than the hotel room with the taxes and fees. So it goes. Here again, we aren’t allowed to leave the hotel, but we had no intention of doing so anyway. We’re content we don’t have to spend the next several hours with lots of people until 1:30 am when we have to return to the airport and go through immigration and security one more time.

The chocolate cake the chef made for us.

I know I’m rambling a bit from the poor night’s sleep so I’m signing off soon and will return again, providing all goes well, once we’re in the hotel in Johannesburg. That layover would have been 21 hours so once again, it made sense to stay in a hotel and await our next flight on Wednesday.

Most likely we won’t sleep tonight since we have to leave this hotel by 1:00 or 1:30 am. By the time we get to the hotel in Joburg, we’ll be ready and hopefully able to get a full night’s sleep. Our flight the next day to Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger will only require that we get to the airport around 10:00 am for our 12;30 pm, 45-minute flight. We hope to be in Marloth Park by around 3:00 pm.

As I mentioned to many well-wishing family, friends, and readers, we won’t totally relax until the 14-day quarantine period ends in Marloth Park and we feel confident we didn’t get the virus.

Stay safe, stay healthy, and breathe the fresh air. We certainly did that today!

Photo from one year ago today, January 11, 2020:

Saturnalia, a Sculptural group by Italian artist Ernesto Biondi at the botanical garden Buenos Aires in 2018. For the year-ago story, please click here.

 

 

 

 

 

Day #291 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…On our way tomorrow morning!…We’ll have been in India for 354 days…

 

An owl we spotted in Kanha National Park in India.

Today’s few photos are a continuation of those we posted during our first few months in India on tour, in today’s case on March 30, 2020, See the post here. We’ll continue on this path, sharing more tour photos until it’s time for us to hopefully depart tomorrow, on January 11, 2021. From there, God willing, it will be an entirely new world!

When Tom did the math this morning, he discovered we’ll have been in India for 354 days as compared to our original planned 65 days for our tour on the Maharajas Express, followed by the private tour of the country, cut short weeks early due to Covid-19.

Speaking of Covid-19, we received our Covid-19 PRC and antibody test results by email late last night and both were negative, not to our surprise. We’ve advised our friends in South Africa that we’ll self-quarantine the first 14 days and after that, when getting together we will follow social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines and only meet outdoors in small groups.

In any case, when people get together in Marloth Park it’s always outdoors in order to keep an eye out for visiting wildlife. All of us are equally obsessed! When, eventually, we do visit friends for “sundowners” we’ll bring our own glasses and beverages which is typical behavior in South Africa, the home of BYOB.

A Sambar Deer and her youngster, while on a game drive in India.

We’re almost completely packed. All of our necessary documents are printed. We’ve decided against ordering breakfast so early in the morning before we depart. We’re leaving the hotel at 7:00 am for the 20-minute drive to the airport for our eventual 10:30 am flight to Dubai.

Tomorrow, while waiting during the 16-hour layover in Dubai, whether we make it to the hotel or not, we’ll have time to prepare and upload another post, at which point we’ll include the final expenses for our almost one year in India. That will be most interesting for us to see as well.

The second of the three flights we’ll take the following day, on January 12, is from Dubai to Johannesburg is at 4:30 am. Since we’ll need to be at the airport two to three hours before departure, there’s no way either of us will get in any sleep before we depart, if we are able to get to the hotel between flights. I can’t imagine sleeping until 1:00 am, getting up, showering, dressing, and heading to the airport.

We both suspect we won’t be allowed to leave the airport between flights, due to Covid-19 restrictions, and as mentioned in an earlier post, we’re prepared to forgo the hotel room we booked and stay in the terminal for the duration. That will be one long wait, approaching the longest layover we’ve had, back in 2013 in Istanbul. There again, we’ll see how it goes.

A Black Eagle on the lookout for a meal.

When de-boarding the flights, we plan to stay in our seats until all passengers have exited the plane, thus avoiding close proximity to anyone. We’ll face the opposite direction of the crowd passing in the narrow aisle. In reality, there is only so much we can do to protect ourselves from contracting the virus. The most important aspect will be in keeping our “eye on the ball,” never being restless or careless for even a moment.

Most often when we travel, we both are friendly and at times, will chat with people around us. Not this time! No talking, laughing, talking to anyone more than is absolutely necessary. It’s the nature of the beast. It’s the nature of this dreadful, tiresome pandemic.

So there it is folks, our last post prepared in this hotel room, 291 days later, after 354 days in India. We never planned to stay so long. Staff members here have asked when we’ll return to India. To avoid being rude and blurting out “never,” we politely reply, “We still have a lot of the world left to see.” So true. So very true.

Again, thank you to our readers who’ve sent endless messages with well-wishes for our safe arrival in Marloth Park and we wish all of you the very best as well as we all work our way through these challenging times.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, January 10, 2020:

Two years ago photo. These Hornbill mates are often very noisy around us, asking for seeds. They sure had us trained, says Tom. For the post one year ago, please click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day #290 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…2 days and counting…Covid-19 tests done!…

The wonderful staff serving us at the Courtyard by Marriott Mumbai International Airport. They couldn’t be more attentive and concerned about our needs and those of the other stranded foreign nationals staying at the hotel during this difficult time. Thank you, dear staff members, for taking such good care of us, including taking everyone’s temperature this morning.

Today’s few photos are a continuation of those we posted during our first few months in India on tour, in today’s case on March 30, 2020, See the post here. We’ll continue on this path, sharing more tour photos until it’s time for us to hopefully depart on January 11, 2021. From there, God willing, it will be an entirely new world!

When I review past posts from 2020, searching for photos to post here today, I ran across the post from March 30, 2020, with a heading that read: “Please unfriend me, if…Social media during the lockdown.” After uploading that post I referred to it on my Facebook page asking any “friends” that felt compelled to post negative comments during the lockdown to feel free to unfriend me. Only one such “friend” did so. None of us needed to see toxic vitriol during this challenging time.

Overall, other than political jokes and some negative comments here and there, my Facebook page has been friendly and uplifting since that time. Of course, advertising has been annoying, as I’m sure they’ve been for all FB users. It’s not that I spend much time on Facebook but, at night, when sleep is elusive, I scroll through zillions of posts, mainly from “groups” I’ve chosen to follow,  geared toward the masses as opposed to me specifically. That works for me.

From time to time, when I encounter an offensive (to me) post, I simply click to “hide this post” to remove it from my view and those who may be following me. There may be one of these every other day. I’ve yet to begin using Twitter and Instagram, due to the fact I already spend enough time on my phone and laptop.

During the lockdown in India, the Courtyard by Marriott Mumbai International Airport has created this heart image as a show of supports using lights in various hotel rooms.

This may change at some point, but lately, there really hasn’t been much to say or share based on these 10 months in lockdown. I didn’t want to be wracking my brain every day, trying to find something noteworthy to post on either of these. Tom and I are good at sharing our views with one another and seldom feel a need to express them elsewhere.

Now, as our departure time nears, we’re wrapping up a few tasks. This morning we sent our proof of health insurance and both of our Indian visa extensions to the front desk ton print. Finally, last night, my extension approval came through which was a huge relief. Without a proper extension, there’s a possible fine of US $500, INR 36,690, per person for an “overstay.” Also, not having an extension could result in delays which may result in missing a flight.

This morning, a rep/phlebotomist, well masked and wearing protective (PPI) gear, from a certified diagnostic lab in Mumbai, arrived at our room for our Covid-19 PCR test, and the antigen test which we may have done needlessly.  When we became ill with an awful virus on our last cruise which ended on November 8, 2019, we both had horrific coughs that lingered for two months, I had to seek medical care and inhalation therapy in order to be able to breathe. We both had the most dreadful coughs of our lives.

Although unlikely, that it was Covid at that early date, we’ve always wondered if it was possible. The antigen test will put those thoughts to rest. The PCR test is required by the airlines and the countries we’ll be entering during the upcoming flights. The cost of the two tests for both of us was US $41.77, INR 3060, done right here right at the hotel outside of our room door.

After we’d read how uncomfortable the test was for so many people, we were surprised to discover it was no big deal whatsoever. For the antigen test, a blood draw was required, here again, quick and painless. We’ll have the results in our email within 24 hours, perfect for our departure on Monday morning. We’ll print several copies of each.

Right now, as I write this, in 48 hours we’ll be landing in Dubai. It’s hard to imagine we’ll be on our way. Please stay with us as we wrap up these last few days.

Stay safe and healthy.

Photo from one year ago today, January 9, 2020:

 A dazzle of zebras in an open field, from a two year ago post. For the year-ago post, when we included the cost of our 55-day tour of India, eventually cut short, please click here.