Please “unfriend me” if…Social media during lock down…

The excellent staff served 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.
Note: To all of our readers visiting our site via a smartphone, please click the “View web version” tab under the word “Home” at the bottom of the page to access the web version enabling you to access all of our archives on the right side of the page. We’ll be updating our site in a few months, making these extra steps unnecessary. Thank you.

Regardless of difficult times, our lives are filled with the love and support of family/readers,/friends from all over the world. In 2019, when I had emergency open-heart surgery in South Africa, there was and continues to be an outpouring of generosity in prayers and warm wishes. 

We can proudly say, we have “no haters” imposing upon the joys and challenges of our daily lives of world travel.

Now, as we wait in a hotel room in Mumbai, India, for the virus to run its course and free us and the rest of the world to be able to continue with our lives, again the kindness and concern expressed by countless readers throughout the world flood our inboxes.

This generosity of spirit not only brings smiles to our faces as we rifle through the messages, trying to respond to each one personally, but it honestly has had an impact on our day-to-day lives.

As I lay on the sofa in our holiday home in the bush in February, March, and April 2019, with mosquitoes buzzing around our heads, temperatures well into the  40C (100F) range, with power going off and on due to load-shedding (utility company turning the power off for hours at a time to conserve resources), nothing beyond the loving attentiveness of my husband, family and local friends brought me more peace and comfort than hearing from so many of you.

With the impact of this dreadful virus, we’re all locked down in one way or another, and yet our readers continue to reach out to us each day. This feeling of “never being alone” has such a positive impact on both of us as we, like you, muddle our way through this challenge.

The hotel staff, some of which are shown in the above photo, have embraced each guest with such kindness, extraordinary service, and a high level of concern, far beyond what one would expect during these trying times. 

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.

And beyond the communication we so much treasure with our worldwide readers is the opportunity to connect with family and friends via Facebook, which we use more than any other form of social media. 

Over the past 7½ years of world travel, Facebook has been a valuable source for us in seeing photos and reading stories about our loved ones and friends. Few of our blog readers share Facebook with us when they have their friends and family with whom they share the most detailed aspects of their lives.

Unfortunately, if a reader “friends” us, if we don’t know them and there’s no accompanying comment that they are a reader/friend, we may not accept their friend request. We’re not on a mission to have thousands of Facebook friends since doing so would result in too much sorting through posts.

For me, I go to Facebook five or six times a day to see what’s happening. I don’t notice annoying ads or promotions. But, I notice “hate speech” and “toxic vitriol,” which is often politically based. 

I try to breeze by the toxic comments, but like many of us, especially now with “time on our hands,” it’s not easy to do. I find myself reading hateful remarks about our leaders and the leaders of other countries, regardless of theirs or my political affiliation, that is an outright slam against their service and a slam against them as human beings.

I challenge anyone in this world to step into their shoes, now, in the past, or in the uncertain future, to do a better job than they are doing. Sure, we all fantasize about how “we’d do it better,” but none of us, regardless of how well-read or educated we believe we are, can fathom the depth, the magnitude of what is required to be in such a position unless we’ve been there.

No, I am not condoning poor or ruthless leadership. Nor am I expressing a personal political view. I don’t want to see or hear “hate speech” of any type on my Facebook feed. We are each entitled to our opinions, and yes, they can be voiced at appropriate times.

But, now, as we all struggle to stay upbeat, positive, and hopeful for the future, during this particularly challenging period in history, none of this toxicity is doing any of us any good. 

Thus, if you feel compelled to continue posting “hate speech” on Facebook, which as a medium, I consider a valuable source of hopefulness, humor, and optimism, please feel free to “unfriend” me. 

Yes, I can read about your troubles, challenges, joys, thoughts, health, and emotions as I have shared mine. Yes, I love seeing your photos of your family, your friends, scenery, places you’ve been or long to be and, animals, cats, dogs, wildlife, anything that walks, flies, or crawls. Who doesn’t love funny animal videos?

Yes, I can read news about Covid-19 as a reality we all face. But, not for one more day can I read “hate speech.” If you can’t stop, even during this challenging time, please… UNFRIEND ME.

I won’t judge you, nor will I announce “who” unfriended me. I’ll just let you “waft” away.  

May we all stay safe and hopeful during this difficult time.

Photo from one year ago today, March 30, 2019:

Young males gnus (wildebeest) have blondish hair on their heads, so mature males will leave them alone and not fight until they mature when the blond hair changes color.  Due to the blond hair, the older males perceive the young males as females and have little interest in harassing them. For more photos, please click here.

Thanks to our readers who wrote with thoughtful wishes…No”haters,” thank you!…

Rock formations in the Galapagos Islands.

Over the past many weeks, we’ve received countless messages. After yesterday’s post here, in which we addressed our health issues, we received many more. If I didn’t respond to you directly after receiving your message, please know I am doing my best to respond to every one of you. However, with so many messages, I may miss a few, and we extend our heartfelt appreciation for reaching out.

Gosh, we appreciate the fact that we don’t have ‘haters.” Even with the best of health and circumstances, it’s disheartening to receive hateful messages and impossible not to read them. Over the years, we’ve had a few hateful messages; in 90% of the cases, we chose to ignore and delete them. Not many hateful messages deserve a response.

Who are these people who write to bloggers and who post comments on social media? I don’t get it. Certainly, we’re all entitled to voice an opinion, but doing so with grace and dignity should be the order of the day. Unfortunately, it is not. Sure, we’ve had some strong opinions sent to us via the comments section on this site or by email.

We have often responded to those trying to avoid being defensive. But, when one expresses a strong opinion to which the recipient may disagree, it’s not always easy not to defend one’s case for the opinions shared.

Beautiful scenery from either side.

While we were in lockdown in India in a hotel room for ten months, we wrote a post, found here, entitled,

“Please “unfriend me” if…Social media during lockdown.”

This post was directed at Facebook friends who may be posting negative, hateful messages, not necessarily directed at us but directed to others, which may be construed as attacking, racially profiling, gender bashing, or offensive to some people, including groups, celebrities, and politicians.

My goal was to exclude those “Facebook friends” who wrote negative comments that appeared on my feed for any of my chosen friends to see, passing on the negativity down the line.

We prefer to use Facebook to see what our friends and family are doing, places they’ve been, people they’ve seen, and a wide array of life experiences. I don’t add everyone who “friends” me, especially if I don’t know them. As a result, I don’t have a huge number of Facebook friends. Otherwise, it takes too long to go through each day’s feeds and updates to see information and photos from those people we do know.

I don’t spend more than 15 minutes each day looking at Facebook. As I’ve mentioned, once I am done posting, I don’t use my laptop other than for travel research, financial matters (using Express VPN for security), recordkeeping, and streaming shows at night since my laptop has an HDMI outlet to hook it up to the TV so that we can watch on the big screen. Tom’s Chromebook doesn’t have such an outlet, although we could purchase an adapter if needed. But we’re OK with the current set-up as is.

Many have asked if we use Instagram, X (formerly Twitter), and other forms of social media. We choose not to. The reason is very easy for us…we don’t want our entire lives to be about social media. The pressure of constantly taking photos and coming up with clever quips and opinions is not in our wheelhouse.

This was wide enough that a small boat could pass through.

As our readers so well know, we do not use our posts to espouse opinions about everything in life. Instead, we prefer to keep our site free of negative opinions that may offend, annoy, or upset any of our readers. Sure, we freely share opinions on inanimate situations and travel venues, trying to stay focused on our day-to-day lives and how travel impacts our daily lives.

Again, thank you, dear readers, for reaching out. We always appreciate hearing from you and your positive perspectives.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, November 18, 2013:

We watched the movie “Out of Africa,” in the bush last night, surrounded by curious animals. Meryl Streep and Robert Redford both played award-winning roles in the movie, which won the Academy Award that year for Best Picture, with Meryl winning the Best Actress award. Redford won as best actor in other awards granted to foreign films. For more, please click here.

Thank you for the positivity!!!…

Medium Daddy, not quite full grown but on his way to being a Big Daddy in years to come. Notice his musculature. Wow!

It was a year ago yesterday that I uploaded a post with a heading that read:

“Please “unfriend me” if…Social media during lockdown….”

The purpose of that post may be found at this link, was accomplished. Throughout the lockdown period and continuing today, the positivity we’ve experienced from our worldwide readers and social media friends has been nothing but upbeat.

Even now, as we’ve reported our upcoming return to the US to visit family, get the vaccine and get our passports stamped, allowing us to reenter South Africa when we’d adamantly stated, we wouldn’t be returning to the US during the pandemic, has been supportive and encouraging.

Frank was standing on the veranda railing.

Well, who knew what this pandemic would bring? Who knew it would be impossible to get the vaccine in South Africa anytime soon? Who knew a planned trip to Kenya would be canceled due to more lockdown measures implemented by its government? Who knew it would make so much sense for us to change our minds?

Our change of mind could easily have been fodder for criticism and negative feedback. But, not a single reader of our site or social media wrote a negative word or comment instead of encouraging us all the way. For this, we are very grateful.

Whether or not our “Please unfriends me if…” had an impact will never be known. Primarily, that particular post was intended for our social media contacts, not so much our readers, who have always been outrageously kind and supportive, with a few rare exceptions.

Lots of kudus stopped by this morning.

But, at times, although not necessarily directed to us specifically, Facebook was rife with negativity. We’ve seen a dramatic change for the better in the past year. Did the pandemic do this?

One could say we could easily leave Facebook if we don’t like the majority of the content. But, for us, it’s a convenient and useful way to stay in touch with friends and family when often we are isolated, such as while in lockdown in India. And even here, now, we don’t have the usual numbers of social interactions we experienced in our previous stays in Marloth Park. People are careful to avoid social contact in most cases.

When we were in Marloth Park in 2018/2019, we saw friends several times a week. Now, with Covid-19 on everyone’s mind, it’s been less frequent, leaving us feeling a little isolated at times. Thank goodness for that! Of course, the wildlife visitors continually entertain us and, no doubt, we thoroughly enjoy each other’s company and that of the friends we’ve been able to see.

He, like, everyone else, loves the pellets which we offered freely.

Many have written to us over the past few days with heartfelt empathy over the cancelation of our trip to Kenya. We appreciate the generous messages we’ve written back, but we are pretty fine with the change, especially when we receive all of our money back. We’re still waiting for a few bigger sums to be refunded, almost US $4000, ZAR 59424, from both Little Governor’s Camp and Kenya Airways. Hopefully, we’ll see these refunds coming through soon.

Getting our passports stamped for another 90 days in South Africa and the opportunity to receive the vaccine have been many motivators in returning to the US. The bonus is the opportunity to see our family members after an 18-month hiatus, typical of many family members who haven’t traveled to see one another due to the pandemic.

Quite handsome.

Thus, this change in our itinerary will ultimately prove the most sensible and beneficial change in our many years of world travel. We thank all of our thoughtful readers for their kind comments, email, and WhatsApp messages and look forward to continuing to share our story for years to come, health providing.

    He stayed around for quite a while, posing for the camera.

Stay healthy and embrace life as many of us mourn the loss of loved ones during this dreadful pandemic and attempt to accept a new way of life in times yet to come.

Photo from one year ago today, March 31, 2020:

An owl we spotted at Kanha National Park in India. For more, please click here.

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

The excellent staff served 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 depart on January 11, 2021, hopefully. From there, God willing, it will be an entirely new world!

When I reviewed 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 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 because 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 hasn’t been much to say or share based on these ten 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 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 to print. Finally, last night, my extension approval came through, which was a huge relief. Without proper stretching, 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 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-old post. For the year-ago post, when we included the cost of our 55-day tour of India, eventually cut short, please click here.

Part 4 and the last photos of Oxford…Motivated by the right and left brain…

As we prepared to depart Oxford we got this final shot.

This may sound odd but, I think I like London more than Paris. My thoughts on this were precipitated by Tom sending me a “brain game” a few days ago that indicate we are both almost half, left and right-brained. Tom leaning to the left, me leaning to the right.

The sky in the UK is ever-changing.

Here’s the link to the 30-second test if you’d like to try it.

Romantic, creative, emotional on the right; practical, mathematical, factual on the left. That somewhat unscientific test may have been correct after all. I loved Paris as a “dream” of Paris. Once there, my practical left brain took over.

The varying colors of the row buildings created a charming feel in the village of Oxford.

For us, it was too commercialized, expensive, and unfriendly. Yes, the sights and history are breathtaking but, after 16 days, we’d formulated an opinion totally overrun by the practicality of the left brain.

For both the Bampton and Oxford photos I had to use the cheap camera in order to save the battery on the better camera for photos of Downton Abbey. As a result, these photos may not be as clear as those at the Highclere Castle. It proved to be a wise decision when the battery on the better camera was used entirely at the castle. Soon, we order a new camera, this time with two batteries.

London, on the other hand, is a more left-brain city. It just makes sense to us. People are more friendly and dignified, it’s easier to get around, the taxes aren’t as high, and most of all, we feel welcomed. 

St. Mary the Virgin, University Church.

It helps that we’ve been able to freely speak in the same language and that we’ve met many wonderful people since we arrived eight days ago, engaging in several enjoyable conversations.

The interior of St. Mary the Virgin, University Church.
More interior of St. Mary the Virgin, University Church.

Our practical sides enjoy the interactions with people we encounter along the way, from the ticket guy at the “tube” to the checkout person at the grocery store where we purchase snacks. Warm. Friendly. Approachable.

The alter at St. Mary the Virgin, University Church.

Don’t get me wrong. Paris is lovely. However, for us, three of four days would have been enough. As one stays longer, a location’s true essence begins to reveal itself as we’ve so well discovered living in countries from two to three months at a time. We either love them or we’re ambivalent after the long stay. There’s no in-between.

A walkway between college buildings.

Perhaps a small part of our lack of enthusiasm is due to the fact that we’re chomping at the bit to get back on another cruise which we’ll be boarding one week from today. 

We took this photo for Tom to send to a former co-worker with the same last name, minus the “e” at the end.

It’s easy for us to understand why we don’t spend almost everyday sightseeing. However, others may not. It’s this simple. When we’d spent all our lives living in Minnesota (over 40 years for me), we never went sightseeing. On occasion, we’d visit a local attraction with our family. But, never sightseeing

As long as there are shops and food the tourists will find it, even on the side streets.

We live in the world.  We have no home.  The world is our home as we move from location to location. It’s human nature to “settle in” finding joy and comfort in everyday activities, at times mundane, although none the less, pleasing to one’s desire for comfort and familiarity. That’s us. That’s our lives.

Hertford Bridge, the “Bridge of Sighs” in Oxford is similar to the “Bridge of Sighs” we saw while in Venice last summer.

And yes, we’ve loved what we’ve seen in Paris and now in London (more sightseeing tomorrow). But, we love looking out at the ocean, our surroundings, nature, learning culture, and lifestyle different from our own.

One more departing shot of the Radcliffe Camera (meaning “room”) building.

Somehow, for whatever time we may have been in a location, meeting people and making new friends, even those with whom we may not share the same language, make it more meaningful. 

A side street in Oxford of little interest to tourists.

Tomorrow at 7:30 am, we’ll walk to the Kensington station to take the “tube” to Victoria Station to hook up with our tour group for an all-day experience. Rain is predicted for the entire day.  We’ll upload the post for the day before we depart the hotel in the morning and be back on Tuesday with many new photos of our day-long tour of the city and the Thames River.

One can only imagine the merchandise for sale in this store 325 years ago.

We’ll take the hotel’s umbrella and wear our hooded jackets preparing to get soaked as we did in Versailles a few weeks ago. Our left brain says to be prepared. Our right brain says “go anyway, rain or shine!”

                                            Photo from one year ago today, August 24, 2013
With the Internet finally working the following day, we had one more day without a post. Tomorrow, it will be easy going forward when we were able to post almost every day with photos with only a few days without service over the next year.

Tanzania…To see the tail end of the Great Migration…

It was difficult to fathom the massive size of this older male elephant we encountered as we began the drive to Tanzania
Later, we came across this mom and baby, the smallest of the baby elephants we’d seen in any of the prior days.
The drive to Tanzania offered stunning scenery with low lying clouds.
Hanging partway out the window of the sturdy Toyota Land Cruiser, I took this shot as Anderson made our way over terrain definitely not suited for road vehicles.
Gradually, the scenery began to change to include the migrating wildebeest, many of whom had yet to make the journey back to the Serengeti.  Anderson explained they will continue on, instinctively finding their way to the large herds of millions.
Unable to get as close as we’d like due to the rough terrain we did our best to zoom to get the following photos on the remaining wildebeests.

Vultures love the Great Migration for the carcasses more readily available with the massive numbers of wildebeests falling prey to illness, attack, or injury in their lengthy migratory journey.

The closer we were to the Kenya/Tanzania border, everything changed; the temperature became hotter, more humid with fewer breezes, the flies clustered around us, the dust blew in our faces and eyes and the landscape became more sparse and unfriendly.
The wildebeest grazed for the few remaining green patches of vegetation, soon to realize that they must move on to meet up with their herds.
Increasing in numbers as we approached the border.
Although the sight of the two-plus million wildebeest would have been unbelievable, I began to wonder if doing so was as important to me as it had been in the past. It may sound as if its a rationalization for not having been able to see it but, the flies were a huge deterrent for both of us. They were flying into our noses, mouths, and ears.  It was awful.
Finally, we were able to stand at the marker that separates Kenya from Tanzania, a pose worthy opportunity for all of us.
Wildebeests, not quite as homely as warthogs held less appeal for us.  Warthogs are playful and funny.  Wildebeests, not so much.

Several years ago, as Tom and I were seated on the comfy bar stools at the  island in our kitchen in Minnesota, we watched a National geographic episode with a stunning video of the Great Migration. 

Yeah, I know I looked goofy with my Bugs Away hat, a scarf tied on my face. Honestly, I didn’t care. If I’d had a paper bag on hand, I’d have worn that. We did everything we could to keep the flies out of our noses, mouths, and ears.

As we watched the two-plus million wildebeest and other migratory animals as they traveled from the Serengeti in Tanzania, crossing the winding Mara River several times, to end for the lush vegetation during the rainy season in the Masai Mara in Kenya, it proved to be a profound experience for me with my lifelong dreams of Africa.

(To see the map of Diani Beach to the Masai Mara Kenya and Tanzania, please click here).

As the show ended, I looked in Tom’s eyes and said, “I must see this in my lifetime.”   He smiled and said, “Yeah sure, Sweetie.”

Tom, Anderson, and me, posing at the Kenya/Tanzania border marker, still smiling but not objecting when it was time to head back to the Masai Mara.

At this point, we had yet to conceive of the idea of traveling the world, not even as a distant thought, never as words spoken to one another. In January 2012, as Tom’s retirement was fast approaching in 11 months, in a single day, in a single conversation, we made the decision. 

Our outstanding guide and new friend, Anderson. His exuded pure joy at our delight and enthusiasm to see what he sees every day, never taking it for granted, which surprised us. 

The next day, the wheels were in motion to begin to contemplate the process of liquidating everything we owned: house, cars, furnishings, clothing, winter coats, stuff, stuff, and more stuff, a lifetime of stuff.

The small herds of wildebeest continued as we worked our back on yet another long rough road back to the Masai Mara.

Night after night when Tom returned home, we sorted out the details as to how this would all transpire. During the daylight hours, I set the plan in motion. To say I worked on my computer for 8 to 10 hours a day was an understatement; searching, researching, finding, booking, committing. Relentlessly. 

No more than a few minutes into the return drive, we spotted another mom and baby elephant, tails swishing batting off the flies. They, too, must feel the effects of the dung of millions of animals.

There were two things we knew for sure:
1.  Tom wanted to sail by ship through the Panama Canal: Done on January 13, 2013.
2.  I wanted to see the Great Migration: Not completely done. But, completely satisfied for now having been on safari this past week and for having the opportunity to see the tail end of the Great Migration when Anderson drove the six of us to the border of Tanzania to witness the stragglers.

Although we were quite a distance from them, we enjoyed this photo of mom and bay making their way up a steep incline.

Cindy and David, a lovely couple, safari mates, had just returned from the full experience. We’d missed it by a week or more. Anxious to hear their reaction, I pumped them for details. Was I jealous? Not at all.   was excited to glean whatever tidbits they’d share of their glorious experience. And they did.

After about an hour into the return drive, we saw the last of the wildebeest stragglers, facing a long walk home to the Serengeti in Tanzania. (80% of the Serengeti is in Tanzania with the remaining 20% in Kenya).

Oddly, they were not disappointed to see a portion of it again when Anderson promised to take us to see the tail end of the Migration on the third day of our safari. 

As the landscape became less cluttered and the flies no longer nipped at us, we were happy to be returning to the Masai Mara.

We’d already found the rhinos Cindy and David longed to see earlier that morning, that we had already seen and photographed the previous day when they weren’t with us. Once they had their photos, having also completed their Big 5, they gladly joined us, a feeling we well understood and appreciated.

And then, there were elephants lumbering across the road only feet from our vehicle.

The border of Kenya and Tanzania was an extraordinarily rough hour and a half drive from our location at the time in the Masai Mara.  No words can describe how rough.  The dirt and rock trail was a far cry from a road.  As the crow flies it may have been a half-hour drive. Anderson masterfully maneuvered the Land Cruiser through rock creek beds, water-filled creeks, up steep inclines, and down treacherous rocky hills.

In my old life, you couldn’t have paid me to ride along on such a road. Here I was, that sh_ _ eating grin on my face, bouncing along with the rest of us, occasionally holding Tom’s hand out of pure delight, with the unfathomable knowledge that we were on our way to another country, albeit only the border, having the times of our lives. Besides, we had the dangerous road in Belize and the more frightening road in Tuscany behind us.  We were now seasoned “road warriors.”

The closer we got to Tanzania, the flies were unbelievable. Imagine the dung of over two-plus million animals as they made their way across the same terrain we were traveling. The flies. OMG! 

The “Retired Generals” lined up to welcome us back to the Masai Mara.

As they attempted to fly into our mouths, our eyes, our nostrils, our ears, I tied my BugsAway hat’s hanging fabric around my face, hoping to offer some protection. For whatever reasons mosquitoes love me, flies love me more. Remember the flies in Tuscany? This was 1000 times worse! I wrapped my hands into the parka I’d worn that morning leaving no exposed skin, except for what remained of my face which you can see in the included photos.

Suddenly, something hit me.  Ah, maybe it was OK we didn’t see the Great Migration in its entirety. With the mind-blowing safari experience these past days, my desire to be in the bush was richly fulfilled, although not ended. Someday, we’ll go back. 

In the end, the flies may deter us from seeing the Great Migration after all.  I feel no disappointment or loss.  Seeing the remaining wildebeest as we neared Tanzania was enriching. Leaving Tanzania to return to the fly-free Maasai Mara was equally enriching. GET ME OUT OF HERE! I didn’t say it, not wanting to be a wimp, but I sure thought it.

The Masai gathered up their cows to return them to the security of the village, close to our camp, away from the risk attack.

By the time we headed back on an alternative equally rough dirt and rock road it was already 2:00 in the afternoon when we pulled into Camp Olonana. Having had breakfast the second day in the bush, I was hardly hungry for lunch, knowing we’d be having dinner after our later game drive, which we pushed to 4:30 pm instead of the usual 4:00 pm. After being in the vehicle for 7 1/2 hours, we all welcomed a little break. 

We were covered with dust and dirt.  We didn’t care.  There was no sense in cleaning up to go out on safari again in a few hours. By the time we returned from the 4:30 drive at 7:00 pm, we were exhausted and hungry, ready for dinner. 

The giraffes walked along the hillside at our camp as we wearily sauntered to the restaurant at Camp Olonana for late lunch, cold beverages, and time to regroup for the upcoming afternoon drive.

We made a quick stop at our tent to pick up our laptops to post photos and to brush our teeth to get the dirt and dust out of our mouths. For either of us not to shower and change to have dinner in a restaurant was beyond us. Somehow, we didn’t care.

Another fine safari day ended.  The next day, we’d return to Diani Beach on yet a tinier plane at 1:30 pm, after our visit to the Masai Village for our tour with Chief Richard.  We’ll share that story in a few days with many photos and surprising facts about these interesting tribespeople, living a sparse and primitive life, far removed from our own reality, to become deeply entrenched in our hearts.

But, Tom and I have decided on one extra post we’ll be presenting tomorrow that we’d intended to include with today’s post. However, after careful consideration for not only our young grandchildren and others who are enjoying looking at the animal photos, we’ve decided to present the “Romantic Lion Couple Mating Ritual.” (How did we get so lucky to observe this event?) with a warning that there are graphic mating photos to be posted tomorrow, October 15th. We’re placing a reminder in the heading should you decide to observe it. 
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We appreciate the comments as an opportunity to stay in touch “with the world” but also as an opportunity to respond to questions on the information we may have missed in posting. Feel free to check the prior day’s comment daily (some days, there aren’t any, other days there are several), perhaps inspiring you to comment as well. We don’t care if you misspell or make typos. Good grief, I make my share of typos, writing almost every day! 

Passage through the Suez Canal…A profound revelation…Tom speaks!

Early this morning we arrived in Safaga, south of the red star as indicated on this map. On Tuesday, we’ll be in Aqaba, southeast of the red star on this map.

It wasn’t merely an experience of real estate, of a narrow waterway, maintained through continuous dredging for over 144 years to provide access for ships from the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea.  For us, it was so much more. Beginning Sunday morning at 5:00 am, our eyes were transfixed on the long canal, brought to life so long ago. 

Our first early morning view of a town along the Suez Canal, all partially built apartments whereby renters must installs windows and door as floors from the bottom up are rented.
Haze is everywhere from both blowing sand and pollution.
Shortly after stepping out on the balcony at 5:00, we passed under the Friendship Bridge.

Standing on our balcony at precisely the correct moment, amid busily getting dressed for the day, we were enthralled when the massive Friendship Bridge passed over our heads, our camera clicking wildly to get a good shot, none nearly as good as this link.

Please check the link below for details on the relationship between Japan and Egypt in building this suspension bridge, vital to the management of the Suez Canal.

As we witnessed 7 plus hours of the 13 hour transit, whether on our balcony for a few hours or in our perfect placement by the windows in the Windjammer Café, we were reminded of the awe inspiring experience only four months ago of our passage through the Panama Canal. 

Tugboats accompany each ship as it makes its way through the canal as a precautionary measure in the event of an emergency.  Fifty ships per day transit through the canal.
There were 14 tugboats in our immediate area.
These ramps are used for unloading equipment.
These ramps continued to appear at various locations, although we didn’t see any in use.
Al-Firdan Bridge, the largest swing, double-cantilever bridge in the world.

We took this shot of the bridge as it opened for us while having breakfast in the Windjammer Café.

At this point, I can’t say which I enjoyed more. Tom emphatically states, he preferred seeing the Panama Canal, due in part to the better seminars leading up to it on the Celebrity Century and, in his own previous knowledge. 

We assumed this must be military housing along the Suez Canal.
It appears that with the immense population in Middle eastern countries, many live in apartment buildings as opposed to single family homes.  The cost of living is very high in Egypt.
Although these may appear as single family homes, upon closer inspection, we felt certain they were upscale multiple unit dwellings.
Mosques were abundant in all the villages we past along the passage through the canal.
Many areas appeared modern and well developed.

For me, I went into both of them with little knowledge or interest, with only the intent of embracing a whole “new world” in the discovery of their wonder and significance as many ships, over many years made the passage.

A ferry, taking off into the canal.

Yesterday, a new element entered the picture, the literally hundreds of soldiers staggered along the 110 miles of the canal, rifles and machine guns in hand, protecting the rights of passage on the canal, vigorously waving to us as we passed by. 

Slightly more than halfway through the canal, we encountered Great Bitter Lake, a salt water lake a part of the Suez Canal that leads to Small Bitter Lake.
This interesting building was under construction in the Great Bitter Lake area.

They whistled, (Tom whistled back), they cheered, they jumped up and down, mile after mile, expressing sheer joy in seeing a passenger ship as opposed to the hundreds of freighters passing through each year, cold, stark and unfriendly. Many of the passengers stood on our balconies cheering and waving, surprised by the continually enthusiastic reception, milepost after milepost.

The peninsulas in the Bitter Lakes area were intriguing with armed soldiers standing on the shore waving at us.
More soldiers and citizens waving as we sailed by.

As we traveled the streets of Alexandria and Cairo, we experienced the same warm reception from people on the streets, little children in front of rundown hollow houses, and teenagers sitting on a fence by the road as our air conditioned bus flashed by. We couldn’t resist waving back.

Cheerful, friendly teenagers, waving at our bus a few days ago.

Our perception of this part of the world; fraught with fear, prejudice and preconceived notions, perpetrated by the sensationalized 24/7 news, evaporates at the wave of a hand, a friendly smile and a welcoming cheer. 

From time to time, we’d see luxury homes along the shores.

No, this doesn’t make us careless about our safety. It was only two days ago that we wandered about in the area of the Pyramids feeling paranoid and overly cautious with Mohammad, our loyal Uzi armed security guard at our side most of the day. Even us, finding ourselves momentarily afraid of him.

A large mosque on a peninsula in Great Bitter Lake.

No, we won’t let our guard down, not for a moment. But we will, relish in the commonality of the human spirit, to embrace others, to find joy in a simple act of kindness or acceptance wherever we may be, if only in a wave, if only in a smile.

In the poorest of areas, well maintained mosques were easy to spot.

This, is why. This, is why we took this risk, this journey, leaving everything and everyone we knew and loved behind.  We have so much to learn, to understand, and to accept about the world around us, about ourselves and about others.

The barren shore along the Suez Canal.
And perhaps, in a way, we were meant to share a piece of it, however small, with all of our worldwide readers.
During our transit, two other cruise ships were making the transit, but most of the ships were well-packed freighters. Later in the afternoon, around 2:30, we stood on our balcony as we began the final exit of the Suez Canal, an experience we will always remember.

Tom’s take on the above.. “There is evil in the world.  But, overall, 99% of the world’s population are good and law abiding. For example;  anywhere in the world, you can be driving down a two-lane highway at 50 MPH with oncoming traffic and all that is separating life and death is a single dotted white line. That same 99% of the people abide by that line. We’re no more at risk traveling the world than we were on that two-lane highway.”