Day #233 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Costa Rica?…Is it a possibility, just in case?…

On a rainy day in the town of Zarcero at the Senor Scissorhands Topiary Garden.

Today’s photos are from this date while living in Atenas, Costa Rica, in 2017 for almost four months. For the story and more photos from this date, please click here.

It isn’t easy to relate to the fact that it was only three years ago we were living in Atenas, Costa Rica, in a fabulous house with more rooms and space than we could ever use. We spent our days in the pool and hot tub, dined at the massive dining room table, and spent our evenings in the well-equipped “viewing room.” We went sightseeing, on tours and took thousands of photos, mainly of exotic birds.

Another of Tom’s wonderful bird photos, in this case, a small Green Parrot.

Oh, what I’d give to be back at that house, to swim in that pool, to cook in that exceptional kitchen, and dine at the big dining room table. The nearby market was well stocked with everything we could want or need, with lots of grass-fed meat, free-range chickens and eggs, locally grown coffee, and fabulous imported cheeses.

Recently, I contacted our old friends, Barb and Sam, the lovely owners of that beautiful villa, and they’d happily make it work for us if we were to return. When looking at their listing online, found here, we see there is availability in the off-season, which works well for us. Would we consider traveling there shortly if South Africa doesn’t open its borders by a specific date yet to be determined?

It was fun to walk under the topiary arches.

We would. Unfortunately, getting it is tricky from India, requiring 33 hours of travel time, lots of plane changes, COVID-19 checks, and endless requirements to be allowed into the country, which surely will be the case anywhere we go in the world. As it turns out, most future flights out of India required leaving the hotel for the Mumbai airport three to four hours before the first flight, always in the middle of the night. Subsequently, we’ll have two nights without sleep. This isn’t easy, by no means.

Our best bet would be to fly business class with seats that lay down into full-length beds with good pillows and blankets. Realistically, this would be the only way of making such a long trip that would work for us. We can manage not sleeping for one 24-hour period, but not for two nights in a row.

The door to Senor Scissorhands Topiary Garden.

When we flew from South Africa to Ireland in May 2019, three months after having open-heart surgery, we booked a business class flight for me while Tom stayed in the coach section. The extra cost to upgrade is about US $2000, INR 148,500 per person. It may be worth it to us when we try to get out of here, in any case, with travel times to anywhere we’d like to go (airport to airport) more than 24 hours.

Since we haven’t been on cruises or rented any cars since October 2019, this added expense fits our annual budget. Knowing we’ll do this, if possible, gives me considerable peace of mind, regardless of where we travel from here. Of course, there are many conditions we need to investigate to be able to leave Mumbai, such as; can we use our ability to fly to the USA now as a means of us flying to such countries as Costa Rica? After all, right now, if we wanted to, we could fly to Dallas and grab a flight from Dallas to Costa Rica if necessary.

Basilica Nuestra Senora de las Piedades in Naranjo, Costa Rica.

Have we set a timeline to leave India if South Africa’s borders don’t open? Not yet. We’re still holding onto the hope to go to South Africa before anywhere else in the world. We have a certain degree of apprehension about flying to so many airports and on so many flights, in light of COVID-19.

Can we last, holding out here, until February or March? We both think we can hold out. At this point, based on our routine, time seems to be passing quickly. March is only four months away. But, March will be one year we’ve been in this hotel room. That’s a little hard to digest.

When we think about spending the upcoming holidays in this hotel room, we cringe a little. We’re OK. But we know we can handle it. We’ve been through worse situations in the past. We’re safe, feeling well, and always working on our total well-being, physically, mentally, and spiritually.

We hope you are OK, too!

Photo from one year ago today, November 11, 2019:

Out to dinner at Stella’s Fish House with son Greg; and DIL Camille’s family, charming granddaughter Maisie sat next to me. Please scroll down for more the year ago grandchildren photos. For more, please click here.
Introspective grandson Miles wasn’t interested in fish and had a burger instead.
Always-smiling Madighan loved being with her family and eating seafood along with a taste of Grandpa’s barbeque ribs (who, like Miles, didn’t eat fish). 

Day #132 in lockdown Mumbai, India hotel…Costa Rica in 2017…Fantastic bird watching!…

Pool Sun Deck - Outdoor Lounge Area
The most appealing veranda in the world for birdwatching and poolside lounging in Atenas, Costa Rica. See the still-active rental link here.

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 shortly, making these extra steps unnecessary. Thank you. 

Today’s photos are from the post from August 2, 2017, while in Atenas, Costa Rica. See the link here for more photos.

Tom is as content as he could be at La Perla de Atenas

We stayed at Bev and Sam’s gorgeous villa in Atenas, Costa Rica, only three years ago. We met the lovely couple while in Kauai, Hawaii, in 2015. We’d been to their beautiful home in Kauai, a former botanical garden, as shown in the links below.

The bed and bedding in the master bedroom were very comfortable.  

To see their fantastic property in Kauai, click on each of these two posts here and here, where we took many photos while visiting their home for “Movie Night.” 

In most cases, we’ve stayed in vacation homes with water views. But, the valley and mountain views in Atenas were all we needed at that point. 

By coincidence, our first Movie Night was on our 20th wedding anniversary. But with many friends we’d made arriving for their event, we decided to celebrate our anniversary on another night.

The massive grounds are landscaped and maintained to perfection.

On other occasions, we visited Bev and Sam at their home. Since our place in Princeville was too small for entertaining guests, I insisted on bringing homemade dinner and dessert on one occasion. 

Lush vegetation and greenery on the grounds surrounded us by the mountains, hills, and valleys. The property is located at an elevation of approximately 4000 feet (1219 meters).

While visiting on one occasion, they shared that they’d recently purchased a fabulous property in Costa Rica, and if in the future, we ever wanted to rent it, they’d give us the “friends and family” discount.

After completing the stunning Costa Rica property, it was about a year later that we rented it for almost four months. We cherished every day and night in the fabulous property.

We didn’t have trouble finding grass-fed beef in Costa Rica if these skinny cattle are any indication. The meat from grass-fed cows is tough but so much healthier. 

Costa Rica allows US citizens to visit for 90 days. Subsequently, we had to do a border run for the fourth month. We flew to Managua, Nicaragua, staying at a nice hotel and seeing a few sites for a weekend. However, that trip wasn’t particularly memorable. We were happy to return to the villa a few days later.

While living there, we only had a rental car for a few weeks, off and on. The cost of renting a car in Costa Rica was outrageous, but taxi fares were relatively affordable. We’d planned long road trips for those times when we had a rental car and used a taxi for shopping and local sightseeing. It all worked out well.

With thick cushions to use for these chairs, we certainly managed a daily dose of Vitamin D.

The highlight of our time at the villa was bird watching. The property, located in a canopy of massive trees and vegetation, left us constantly looking for stunning birds we’d never seen anywhere in the wild. 

If you scroll through our archives from August to November 2017, you’ll see some of the unique birds we enjoyed while situated on the fabulous veranda, often spending hours in the pool and hot tub, day after day. 

Kitchen with 2 Islands and Bar Stools
Fantastic kitchen with two islands.

Without a doubt, it was the most beautiful pool-time we’ve spent anywhere in the world, besides the infinity pool abutting the ocean in Sumbersari, Bali, in 2016. 

Although we only had a few social engagements with locals in Costa Rica, we thoroughly enjoyed our alone time poolside and constant bird watching, walking through the cultural village of Atenas and the local park. It was a memorable time.

Enjoying the Pools at Night
Evening pool and veranda view.

Gosh, we’d certainly love a place with a private pool right now. We need some Vitamin D and a little color on our pale skin after months indoors.

So it goes. We carry on with hope. We pray you are hopeful as well!

Photo from one year ago today, August 2, 2019:

Sunset across the bay in Connemara, Ireland. For more photos, please click here.

Packing, planning and pool…Favorite photos begin…Could we ever settle in Costa Rica?…Two days and counting….

Beautiful scene from the veranda.

“Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”

This is a Rufous-naped Wren sitting atop the African Tulip Tree, captured from the veranda.

Two mornings from today, we’ll be on our way to the airport to fly to Miami to board our cruise the following day, Thanksgiving Day. This morning, I packed all of my clothes, leaving out a swimsuit, tee shirt dress, and underwear for the next few days. 

Frog visitor on the bumper of the rental car while at Supermercado Coopeatenas.

A few minutes ago, Tom and I weighed my packed suitcase, and it weighs 48 pounds (22kg), well within the maximum allowed by American Airlines of 50 pounds (23 kg). It seemed so heavy, and I’m thrilled it all worked out well.

Ulysses was working in the yard…no lawnmower…weed whacker instead.

Last night, we watched the final two episodes of the final season of Mad Men. It was a peculiar thought-provoking finale that could be interpreted in many ways. We opted for a more optimistic perspective.  If you haven’t watched this series, we highly recommend it.

Giant iguana at Zoo Ave.
Green lizard in the courtyard.

Today, we’re using all of the remaining food in the fridge for a mishmash two-night dinner; tuna salad, salmon salad (using the remaining eggs), sausages, bacon, salad, and steamed veggies. Soon, I’ll start chopping and dicing.

Stunning blooms, Pine Cone Ginger.

Boiled eggs are hard to peel here. I don’t know why. I’ve tried every trick I’ve found online, yet I still ruin half of each egg trying to remove the thin shells. That will keep me busy for a while.

Closer view of Atenas from the veranda.

In reviewing our photos for favorites, I struggled a little. With thousands of photos, it could take me all day to go through them, which I’d prefer not to do. Instead, I uploaded a handful to post today. 

Butcher at the Friday Farmer’s Market.

Tomorrow, we’ll write a detailed review of this lovely vacation home with photos, and on Wednesday, the final day, we’ll include the final expenses and favorite bird photos. That will wrap up our final posts from Costa Rica.

An Owl Butterfly we spotted in the courtyard with what appears to be a large eye to scare off predators.

How are we feeling about leaving? We’ve loved it here. The house, the people, the grounds, the wildlife, and the scenery has been over-the-top. Will we return someday? It’s improbable. As I always say, there’s so much more world to see and let’s face it. The clock is ticking.

Graffiti on a wall in Atenas.

We’ve asked ourselves, “Could we ever settle in Costa Rica?” For us, due to a lack of desire to “settle,” the answer is “no.” Costa Rica is a relatively affordable place to live. It possesses lovely people, scenery, and wildlife, appealing to many ex-pats from all over the world, but we can’t see ourselves settling anywhere at this point. 

Juan Ramon was showing us around the museum.

The ex-pat lifestyle isn’t for us. Buying or renting a permanent home, buying furniture and household items, and a car are so far removed from our radar, we can hardly even imagine the possibility. 

Old railroad bridge after a long walk from the railway station.

Sure, at some point, we won’t be able to continue. We accept this reality. At one point long ago, we mentioned here that we’d begun to peruse real estate options in various countries to get an idea of where we may live when that time comes.

It was roasting coffee beans at the El Toledo Coffee Tour.

But, the longer we’ve continued, we’ve lost interest in pursuing such a premise. We have little interest in looking at houses for sale in any country unless we’re doing a story for a property owner/landlord, helping them to promote their property, or out of curiosity to share details here.

Inside the antique cafe at the El Toledo Coffee Tour.

This morning it dawned on us that in six days, we’ll be going through the Panama Canal for the second time. Tom reminded me that we’re currently “living in the moment” and shouldn’t “think that far ahead.” Good grief!  Six days isn’t too far ahead. 

 A babbling brook in the mountains.

And yes, we are living in the moment. As soon as I upload today’s post, Tom proofreads it for errors, I’ll peel eggs, finish making dinner, and we’ll head out to the pool for yet another fabulous sunny afternoon in Costa Rica.

Mom and calf in the neighborhood.

May you have a fabulous sunny day wherever you may be!

Topiary at Zarcera Topiary Garden
Elephant at the topiary garden in Zarcera.

Photo from one year ago today, November 20, 2016:

It was a bright and sunny day as we exited the ship one year ago today in Adelaide, Australia, to walk through this port building. For more details, please click here.

Camera issues and safari luck…Another beautiful recovery of an injured bird…Three days and counting…

Tom captured this Sierra Birdbum after being stunned from hitting the window, dropping to the top landing steps leading to the ground level. He called out to me to come to see her, which I did, but he stayed in place, taking photos of her eventual recovery. 

“Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”

This appears to be a Tropical Kingbird spotted sitting on the roof above the veranda near the master bath.

Last night, as Tom often does, he replaced one of the batteries we have for the camera charging in the plug-in charger. The camera only requires one battery at a time, but we have four to ensure we never run out of juice when taking photos almost every day.

When he removed the battery from the charger, inserting another for a charge before we depart in three days, he noticed something was wrong with the charger. The charging light wouldn’t stay on even when he tried multiple outlets. 

Inserting the batteries into the camera, we noticed the recent replacement wasn’t fully charged. Gosh, we’re dependent upon our equipment! Immediately, we pulled out all of the possible cables we had, searching for one that was a USB.

It was quite a while before she began to regain awareness.

What a dilemma! With the thought in mind that we’d purchased the camera in New Zealand in 2016, the adapters and plug-ins were not suitable for our universal adapter set up for US plugs to accommodate outlets worldwide. But, it wasn’t ideal for New Zealand plugs to accommodate worldwide outlets.

After monkeying around with every possibility, for which both of us are pretty adept, we were left with only one alternative…order a new charger from Amazon with two-day delivery, having it sent to our hotel in Florida where we’ll be on Wednesday for a total of only 18 hours. Tricky. 

Hopefully, Amazon’s usual trusty delivery dates will be as accurate as they’ve been for us in the past, and the charger will arrive on time. It’s scheduled to arrive on Tuesday (two days before the US holiday Thanksgiving) when the hotel will hold it until we reach the following day, Thanksgiving Eve.

Finally, she began checking out her surroundings.

If we hadn’t had enough time to order and receive this essential item and, with stores all closed in Florida for a holiday, we’d have found ourselves aboard the ship, unable to recharge the camera. It was a case of “safari luck” that happened last night, allowing sufficient time to receive a replacement.

Cruise ships generally have a camera shop but carry few accessories other than those for the expensive cameras they sell. If we couldn’t receive a replacement charger, we may have had no choice but to purchase another camera from the ship. (We plan to buy another camera before the Antarctica cruise anyway but prefer to have more options than what’s usually available on the boat).

We’d planned to look for another camera in Buenos Aires, certainly a big enough city to accommodate our needs. We weren’t disappointed with the current camera we’d purchased in New Zealand, never anticipating this issue when we thought we had all the adapters we needed.

We both waited patiently until finally, only seconds after taking this photo, she was able to fly off.  Whew!

Oh, the trials and tribulations of world travel never cease to amaze us! It’s not uncommon for us to be searching for a variety of products when we don’t have access to the well-supplied stores in the USA with vast options for brands and specifications. 

Online purchases, although handy, require exorbitant shipping fees to most locations outside the USA with customs checks and subsequent tariffs and fees. Many US-based online suppliers don’t ship outside the US. In Costa Rica, many items cannot be sent into the country or are not worth the added expenses.  (See this link for details on importing items to Costa Rica).

Often, we pay more for necessary supplies, such as the added cost of US $450 (CRC 255,277) for shipping and insuring the heavy box of cold weather clothing and supplies to Florida from Nevada. It’s the “nature of the beast” that we accepted a long time ago and is always considered when planning our budget. 

Today is another gorgeous sunny day which we’ll enjoy poolside. The pool is heated using solar panels and is pleasantly warm on sunny days and icy cold. Tom decided to wait until later in the day to watch the Minnesota Vikings Football game on NFL GamePass since he doesn’t want to miss the prime sunshine while we “play” in the pool.

Have a delightful Sunday watching your favorite sports team!    

Photo from one year ago today, November 19, 2016:

There was a “future cruises” presentation in the Centrum. For more details, please click here.

Heading out one more time…Four days and counting…

We were overlooking a portion of the valley.

“Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”

A fluffed-up version on an unknown bird Tom captured in the afternoon.

We decided to return to the market for a few more items for the upcoming cruise since there won’t be time or opportunity to shop when we arrive in Florida on Thanksgiving Eve (US holiday) while departing on the cruise the following day, on Thanksgiving Day. Most likely, stores won’t be open.

On most cruise embarkation days, we’ve been able to stop a pharmacy or market for any last-minute items we may need. The cruise lines don’t weigh baggage, nor are the number of things an issue. But, in most cases, we have a flight to the city where the port is located when baggage weight does become an issue.

While we were in Minnesota during the summer, we purchased an additional small suitcase. We knew that once our clothing for Antarctica arrived in Florida at our hotel (comes in the next few days), the sweaters, waterproof pants, hats, gators,  gloves, poles, and other items wouldn’t fit into each of our single clothing suitcases. 

Apartments are located on a busy highway.

There’d be no way to make the cold weather items fit into our existing bags, nor would the weight comply with the airline’s restrictions. As it turns out, we’ll only pay for having four checked bags, not additional weight, if we stay within the individual bag restrictions of 50 pounds (23 kg) each.

We’re flying from Costa Rica to Florida and will collect our new items from the shipment that will have arrived from our mailing service at our one-night hotel in Fort Lauderdale. 

We’ll unpack the box at the hotel, distributing the various supplies (including my new computer) between our usual single bag each while filling the new bag with the cold weather clothing. Apparently, according to our mailing service, the shipped box weighs about 75 pounds (34 kg).

Cattle on a hill.

Most likely, about a third of the contents of the box will be packing materials, which we’ll dispose of, item by item. The remainder should fit between the remaining bags. We’ll take care of this task as soon as we arrive at the hotel on Wednesday evening before going out for dinner.

When the cruise ends in Buenos Aires on December 23rd (Tom’s birthday), we’ll stay in Buenos Aires until the Antarctica cruise returning on February 8th. At that point, we’ll ship all the winter clothing (including oversized parkas the cruise line gives to all passengers at no additional charge) back to our Nevada mailing service, along with the new piece of luggage, to hold until some future date.

Perhaps, someday, we’ll travel to another cold climate, and it will make sense to have already the clothing being stored for us. This may sound like a lot of work, but we calculated the costs and convenience factor, discovering this process was most sensible for our needs.

A rare guardrail on a level highway but seldom seen in the mountains.

Today’s trip to town may not be the most practical outing when we intend to go to the supermarket for a few more purchases. Over these past many months, I’ve discovered I can drink herbal tea without causing gastrointestinal distress if I add a few tablespoons of unsweetened coconut cream, not coconut milk which often has other ingredients and sugar. Also, I use it in my daily turmeric tea, which I have each afternoon.

The product comes in cans, not my preferred means of storage, which seems to be the only containers used worldwide for this particular product. When I was sure this product wouldn’t be available on the upcoming 30-night South America cruise (I’ve asked on all previous cruises to no avail), I told Tom I’d live without it. 

Instead, I’d drink bottled water (I’m not too fond of the plastic bottles) throughout the cruise, forgoing tea, iced tea, coffee, wine, or other beverages in an attempt to keep me feeling at my best. It’s disappointing to be unable to drink any other beverages when food is already so restrictive. 

A hilly road is heading toward town from the mountains.

However, I’m grateful I can travel the world with my beloved husband/travel companion and have no complaints. Over the past few days, in his usual thoughtful manner, he’s been insisting we head back to the market once more to purchase eight cans of coconut cream to keep in our luggage. We can keep the opened cans cold, stored in one of our plastic containers in the fridge in the cabin.

I hesitated, knowing the added weight of eight cans would add 2.7 kg to our luggage at about one pound each. Purchasing them here in Costa Rica impacts the importance of the baggage for the upcoming American Airlines flight on Wednesday. 

He insisted on the premise that this item was well deserved when how I eat on a ship is very restrictive and relatively tasteless. Finally, yesterday afternoon, I relented.

Barrier trees lining the road the Roca Verde neighborhood.

This morning at 9:00 am we took a taxi to town once again for the market and another stop at a local pharmacy. By 11:00 am, we’d returned with at least another 10 pounds (4.5 kg) of additional “stuff” to load into our bags including three small bags of organic unsweetened cocoa, another item I seem to tolerate in moderation, another special treat.

On Tuesday, we’ll pack everything. In most cases, we can have everything packed within a few hours. I’ll have two posts to complete on Tuesday as well, one daily post and also Wednesday’s “final expenses” post which I’ll upload at the airport in San Jose. On Thursday, we’ll also do a daily post from the hotel with new photos and updates.

That’s our day folks! Once we’re done here, we’ll probably spend two to three hours in the pool on this blissfully sunny day while Isabel is busy cleaning the house.

House at the end of the mountain roads in Roca Verde, our neighborhood these past almost four months.

May you have a blissfully sunny day as well, if not in regard to the weather, in your hearts!

Photo from one year ago today, November 18, 2016:

A historic street in Perth which we visited one year ago while on the 33-night cruise circumventing Australia. For more photos, please click here.

Another outstanding photo for “Sightings from the Veranda”…Holy Moly!…Five days and counting…

White cows were grazing in a pasture.

“Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”

Tom Lyman, you never cease to amaze me!  What a shot of the classic “Froot Loops” cereal (per Tom) Toucan, technically known as the Rainbow-billed Toucan, aka the Keel-billed Toucan (different than the Toucan in our previous post with the Fiery-billed Aracari Toucan as shown here) taken in our yard in Atenas, Costa Rica. The veranda never disappoints as we wind down our time in this tropical country.

As Tom listened to his favorite podcast while sitting on the veranda in the late afternoon, “safari luck” prevailed once again as a stunning bird stopped by a distant tree. Tom has a good eye and keen vision with his glasses on, often observing a sighting long before me.

We were both pleased and surprised at how steady he was in taking this ideal shot of the colorful species, different from the Fiery-billed Aracari Toucan he’d captured a few weeks ago.

Here’s some information on this stunning bird from this site:

“Anatomy – Best known for its large bill, the keel-billed toucan is a large and colorful bird with black plumage, a bright yellow throat and cheeks, vibrant red feathers under its tail, and a yellow-green face. Its light green, the banana-shaped bill is splashed with orange and tipped with red and blue and can grow to be a third of the size of the toucan’s 20-inch body. Though cumbersome looking, the bill is relatively light because it is made of protein and supported by hollow bones. The toucan’s vast wings, however, are heavy and make flight laborious.
View over the valley as the clouds roll in.
Habitat – These unique birds are found in tropical and sub-tropical rainforests from southern Mexico to Venezuela and Colombia. The keel-billed toucan is crepuscular, meaning that it is most active during dawn and dusk. It lives in groups of six to twelve birds and rarely flies long distances because of its heavy wings — it is, however, quite agile hopping from branch to branch. The monogamous pairs make their nests in natural or wood-pecker created tree holes, taking turns incubating their eggs.
Diet – Keel-billed toucans feed primarily on fruits and eat insects, lizards, tree frogs, and even eggs. They consume their food by grasping it with their bill and quickly flipping it up into the air, and catching it in their mouths. They swallow their fruit whole and regurgitate the larger seeds while the smaller ones pass through their digestive systems. This method means that toucans play an essential role in reproducing the fruit trees they depend on. These beautiful birds are almost always seen feeding on fruits high up in the canopy; however, they will occasionally fly down to feed on the shrubs or catch a lizard from the undergrowth.
Threats – The species is not currently listed as endangered, but it is threatened by human activity. Habitat loss is a constant menace to the species’ populations. They are sometimes still hunted for their meat and ornamental feathers. At one time, they were prevalent in the pet trade, but it has since been revealed that their poor disposition makes them destructive pets. They’re valuable to Belize — where they are the national bird — bringing tourists who hope to catch a glimpse of their stunning plumage.”
Part of the road heading to downtown Atenas is closed due to the re-paving of the road.

This is the first photo we’ve captured in the wild of this particular Toucan. However, we’d seen several at the rescue facility, Zoo Ave, which we visited early in our stay, posting many photos over these past months.

Spotting this beautiful bird on the villa grounds only added to our exquisite experiences of spending most of our days outdoors in the pool area and lounging on the veranda. At the same time, we chatted, continued our continuing online research, and stayed in touch with family and friends.  It’s genuinely been blissful.

With relatively low taxi fares in town, locals and ex-pats often use taxi services to get around with the high cost of cars and trucks in Costa Rica. Each time we went into town, a 10-minute drive, the round trip taxi fare with a tip has been US $7.05 (CRC 4,000). 
We didn’t get out much in Costa Rica, mainly due to a lack of a rental car (costly here) and high costs for chartered tours at distant locations (we’ve “tightened our belts” for upcoming adventures). 

We arrived in Costa Rica during the rainy season, which also made sightseeing tricky when, at times when roads were washed out, and there were landslides and road closings. However, we’ve easily stayed well engaged and entertained during this past three months, reveling in the lush surroundings and vegetation, an ideal haven for birds and wildlife…equivalent to a rainforest in our yard.
We were surprised to find this vacant lot in town without a “for sale” sign (in Spanish, “en vente”).
As the time approaches for departure in five days, we feel a bit nostalgic. Last night, at dark, we sat on the veranda watching the village’s lights below in the valley and listening to the sounds of music and festivities that seem to permeate the air most nights. 

Now, with the weekend upon us, we’ll hear even more music well into the wee hours of the morning, pleasant Spanish dance music, as the little town of Atenas celebrates life.  We’re humbled and grateful to have been a part of it over this extended period while we anticipate what is yet to come…
Happy day!
              Photo from one year ago today, November 17, 2016:
Carlo, Michelle, friends we made on a prior cruise picked us up at the cruise terminal building in Fremantle, Australia, for a day of sightseeing in Perth and Freemantle. It was a memorable day. For more, please click here.

Wow!…Safari luck as we wind down our time in Costa Rica…Six days and counting…

The colorful entrance to an art store in Atenas.

“Sightings on the Veranda in Costa Rica”

Once again, Tom’s been able to capture another fabulous bird from the veranda while I was busy indoors making dinner. This Yellow-tailed Oriole, although at quite a distance, was a treasure to behold. More photos will photo with his mate! 

Each afternoon, after we’re done in the pool, usually around 3:00 pm, Tom takes his computer to the veranda to listen to his favorite podcasts. At the same time, I’ll busy myself indoors, preparing dinner, downloading shows on Graboid, working on photos for future posts, or returning email messages.

Eating only one meal a day, by 5:00 pm, we’re ready for dinner, and we both get into a full-on mode to get everything to the dining room table, hot and prepared for an enjoyable meal.

A cafe along the boulevard.

Yesterday, after spending time in the pool’s cool water, which hadn’t heated up by its solar power during the overcast day, we turned on the jacuzzi to let it warm. The air was cool and windy, and the thought of the warmth of the jacuzzi was rather appealing.

Stepping into the warm water of the hot tub was delightful. We stayed for over an hour, chatting endlessly as usual. We hadn’t used the jacuzzi much (this was only the second time) since we arrived over three and a half months ago in an attempt to keep the costs down for the owners. 

Bev and Sam had kindly given us an excellent rental rate for our extended stay. As always, in all vacation homes, we’ve been mindful of our use of the utilities, turning off lights, fans, and appliances when not in use.

Side entrance to Catholic Church in Atenas, Iglesia Catolica Atenas, located in the center of town.

These two-hour afternoon “breaks” from each other are by no means “needed” to be away from each other.  But, somehow, we’ve just gravitated toward this time apart to engage in activities that may not appeal to one another.

While I’m bustling indoors, Tom has the camera close at hand during these periods and has been fortunate to capture several outstanding bird photos, especially over several weeks.

Cafe and bakeshop.

Perhaps it’s the time of day or weather conditions that bring more birds to the grounds than other times of the day.  It’s been the rainy season in the Alajuela Valley over the past months. Each day, we see more birds shortly before the deluge begins each afternoon. 

Yesterday was no exception when Tom called out to me to also take photos of stunning birds resting in the various trees on the grounds, sometimes in flocks or pairs and with many singles on their own.

We squeal with delight when we see less common varieties, often colorful and bespeaking one’s perception of wildlife in Costa Rica. Over the past five years, we’ve become more and more interested in birds, as shown in our many posts. 

Our final walk through Central Park in Atenas.

We’re certainly not birding experts, and at times, we struggle to identify specific species when we can’t readily find information online. Thanks to the assistance of many of our regular readers, we often receive an identification 24-hours after we’ve uploaded a post after mentioning we’re seeking the identity.

Recently, our most avid participants in providing information have been our friends Louise in Kauai, Hawaii, where we spent four months in 2015, and here in Atenas in our neighborhood, Charlie, who’d be also quite a bird enthusiast. Thanks to both of you!

Each week we’ve had the taxi driver drop us off at this location so we can walk through the town on our way to the Supermercado Coopeatenas, the grocery store where we’ve shopped during this past many months.

Throughout the world, we’ve been able to ask our readers for assistance. Invariably, we receive a response, after which we edit the specific post to reflect the name of the bird as opposed to my inquiry in the caption. Thanks to all of our worldwide readers for your assistance.

While we were there for almost a year, from 2013 to 2014, we were so busy observing and photographing large and small creatures. We failed to spend much time on birds. Now, as we contemplate our upcoming stay in Africa in less than three months, we do so with added enthusiasm.

This trip to Africa will be different from our enhanced interest in birds. For us, when no “big game” is handy for observation, birds are an equally fascinating alternative. We commend avid bird watchers for their patience in getting the perfect shot.

A famous pizza shop, Pizza Olivera, is often attended by ex-pats.

With the planned purchase of a new longer-range camera soon, we look forward to enhanced shots of birds and other creatures we find in the wild before the Antarctica cruise.

There will be no shortage of photos for the “Sightings on the Veranda in Costa Rica” we’re wrapping up at the end of our remaining six nights in Atenas. Soon, we’ll be posting our “favorite photos” of Costa Rica, and next Tuesday, we’ll share our final expenses on our last post before heading to Florida for the South America cruise.

Have a blissful day.

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

One year ago, our friends Michelle and Carlo, whom we’d met on a prior Australian cruise, picked us up at the port in Perth while we were on another Australian cruise. We had a fabulous day. Michelle and I shopped while Tom went with Carlo to his office nearby. This is CJ (for Carlo Junior), the family’s Char Pei, who took a liking to Tom. For more photos, please click here.

The countdown has begun…Seven days and counting…

A local grower was wheeling his bananas on the road near the bus stop.

“Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”

Tom’s photo. Love it! Three in one…Green Parrots…

In only one week, on November 22nd, we’ll be on our way once again. This wind-down week has begun as we wander through the house, reminding ourselves of what we have to pack that have been scattered about; the camera battery charger plugged into an outlet in the kitchen; the tripod standing in a corner in the living room; a few kitchen utensils and special spices in the cabinets.

We have a reminder list on my laptop, but it seems to change at each vacation home we’ve occupied. We make a concerted effort never to leave anything behind. 

But a few years ago, we left my comfy neck pillow on a ship and an adapter in Penguin, Tasmania, which our friend/landlord Terry sent to us in the Huon Valley, Tasmania, our next move from there.

One of a few liquor stores in Atenas.

Each time we pack, we attempt to lighten our load by donating or tossing worn clothing or items we never seem to wear. Our motto;  If we haven’t worn it in a year, let it go. Since most things we purchase are done online from time to time, we aren’t happy with the fit or appearance.

We purchased plenty of clothing while in Minnesota this past summer which should last until we returned to the US in 2019. After leaving Bali on October 30, 2016, I’d gained 12 pounds while trying to eat more frequently (and most likely eating too many carbs) with my gastrointestinal issues. 

Since we arrived in Costa Rica, I’ve lost 10 pounds and am almost back to my usual weight with my clothes fitting more comfortably. The next few pounds will easily fall off in the next few weeks, even while on the cruise where I never gain an ounce eating the bland food I’m often served, such as a piece of salmon, some broccoli, and a salad.

An unidentified old building in the village.

Since Tom stopped eating fruit, he’s lost seven pounds. Wow! What a message that is about the sugar and carbs in fruit! Instead, we both eat lots of non-starchy vegetables.

It’s imperative, not only for health reasons, to maintain our weight but also in considering the fit of our clothing.  We cannot run to the mall to our favorite store to purchase the next size up. This fact certainly is an excellent motivator to keep us on track.

Before completing today’s post, we called the taxi to take us to town for our final shopping and visit to an ATM. We needed to get enough cash for taxi fare to the airport and tips for the villa’s staff. Once we get to Fort Lauderdale, we’ll visit another ATM to get US dollars, enough for miscellaneous tips for the upcoming cruises.

A clothing store was claiming to sell American products.

With a necessary stop at the Pharmacia (far-ma-see-a) and another for our final groceries for the remaining meals, we’ll be set to go. Clothes are washed and ironed, all receipts are scanned, and we have sufficient toiletries for the upcoming 30-night cruise. 

Most cruise ships have travel-sized items for sale, but they are often two to three times the cost we’d pay at a market. Before our final shopping trip before packing, we always check our inventory of toiletries to see what we’ll need to fill in, especially for cruises. We avoid carrying items we may easily find at a market in the new country.

Besides a small inventory of cosmetics I keep in a few Ziplock sandwich bags, we carry one normal-sized shampoo, conditioner, gel and hairspray, toothbrushes and toothpaste, shavers, and blades, and a variety of items for emergency medical issues that may arise. 

Swimming pool supplies store.

We attempt to keep it “light,” but based on never going to a “home” to restock and repack, we have no choice but to carry everything we own with us. They confiscate our “power boards” (surge protectors) on cruise ships, returning them to us when we disembark. They always provide us with alternative devices they deem safe aboard ship to handle our many plug-ins for recharging our equipment.

Today, we’re making low-carb pizza, our favorite meal, for the last time in the upcoming 80 nights when we won’t be preparing any meals. We’ll make enough to last for three nights and then begin chipping away at the items we purposely froze for the remaining four nights. We like the ease we plan for these final days and nights, keeping stress and rushing at a minimum.

The busiest petrol station in town next to the ATM we’ve used during these three and a half months.

A week from now, we’ll be at the San Jose Santamaria Airport awaiting our flight to Miami, Florida, for a one-night stay at a hotel near the port, boarding our ship the next day. We’re excited!

Have a pleasant day filled with sunshine!

Photo from one year ago today, November 15, 2016:

The supermoon over the sea. For more cruise photos, including people we met, please click here.

Surcharges are a necessary evil we chose while traveling the world…More wildlife photos from Costa Rica…

Look closely to see the face, only a mother could love, of a live crocodile behind a chain-link fence at Zoo Ave.

“Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”

Tom’s photo, early this morning, of a cute dog that stopped by to say “hola.”

Definition of “surcharge:”


an additional charge, tax, or cost.
an excessive sum or price charged.
3.   an extra or unreasonable load or burden.

Word Origin and History for a surcharge:

v. early 15c., from middle French surchargerfrom Old French sur- “over”
(see surchargier “to load” (see charge ). The noun is also first attested early 15c.

When most of us think of a surcharge, we believe in terms of an automatically imposed fee or tax added to a purchase over which we have little choice to accept as “the cost of doing business.”
Here’s a longer view of the above crocodile.

As world travelers these past five years, we find that we must bear the cost of a wide variety of surcharges that we chose to impart generally for the usual benefit of convenience.

Convenience is a huge factor in our financial lives. We choose convenience when we pay more than preferred or expected prices for many items, in an effort to ensure a better experience.
Let’s review some of these self-imposed surcharges, we encounter as a result of traveling the world:
1.  Baggage fees: Sure, we could travel “very light” hauling only backpacks and carry-on luggage. However, for the sake of having enough clothing, supplies, and digital equipment in our possession, we often pay excess baggage or baggage weight fees, depending on the airlines.
A curious turtle scurried quickly toward us.
2.  ATM fees: We do not go into banks or currency stores, paying exchange rate fees and credit card fees to obtain cash. More economically, we use ATMs to save money using our debit cards and thus incur only two fees; one, the cost of using the machine; two, the charge from our bank when using an ATM at an international ATM facility.
3.  Rental cars: At times, we pay higher fees for rental cars when we need a large enough vehicle to accommodate all of our bags; three checked bags and three carry-on bags.
4.  Medical costs: Recently, we incurred added medical fees to acquire a medical certification enabling us to board the upcoming Antarctica cruise, beyond the cost of the cruise itself. Soon, when we arrive in Buenos Aires, we’ll make an appointment at a travel clinic to update our vaccinations and get prescriptions for malaria pills prior to returning to Africa. We pay a premium for the few medications I use that aren’t covered by insurance and must be shipped to our location at any given time.
Turtles tucked away under the bushes.
5.  Tips: Particularly on cruises, we choose to add tips to the cost of the cruise at the time of booking which at this point, is running US $27 (CRC 15,372) per day. While on the ship, we may choose to pay additional tips for enhanced services and attention to detail befitting our convenience and experience.  In addition, for convenience, we may pay porter and bellman fees, depending on the circumstances.
6.  Flights:  On many airlines, they are now added extra fees for specific seats on the plane in the “coach” or economy section. At times, since we’re taller than the average passenger, we may choose a bulkhead seat or other seat with more legroom.
7.  Vacation Homes with added amenities: We prefer to rent a vacation/holiday home that includes Wi-Fi and all utilities paid, a pool, an upgraded kitchen with modern appliances and ample kitchen utensils, although we’ve had many exceptions. Of course, we always pay a premium for good views, which we’ve found is ultimately important to the our level of enjoyment.
8.  Mail and shipping fees: Since we’re unable to receive mail, piece by piece, in most countries, we often make purchases for clothing and supplies, accumulating them along with any snail mail that may arrive, placing them in one large box to be shipped. Most products we purchase include free shipping, but we must pay exorbitant fees to have all of the items sent to us at specific locations. For example, the box being shipped today which includes all the clothing we had to purchase for Antarctica, my new laptop and other supplies, we’re incurring a US $450 (CRC 256,199) shipping fee for the items to be shipped FedEx from Nevada to our upcoming hotel in Fort Lauderdale. This requires our mailing service to open all the arriving packages and boxes, toss the paper and packing materials and neatly place all the items in one box. Their fees imposed for this process are included in the above price.
A leopard atop a high perch.

9.  Internet/Wi-Fi/SIM card fees: We cannot travel without regular access to Wi-Fi; not at hotels, airports, and vacation homes. With our daily posts, photos and research, we chose not to be without Internet services for even a day. Ensuring a connection is always readily available often results in us paying added fees, including SIM cards for phone and data, when we chose not to pay the outrageous costs for roaming cell service in the US.

10. Visas – entering and exiting fees: Upon entering and exiting some countries, an arbitrary fee is charged for visiting their country. This is not the case in every country, but when we encounter such situations we may pay as much as US $40 (CRC 22,7773) at each immigration stop.
All of the above fees and more quickly add up to thousands of dollars each year. Although under many circumstances, we’ve opted for the lowest possible costs for each of the above, willing to forgo some conveniences, we’ve found paying these fees, although often begrudgingly, make life just a whole lot easier.
Sloths, known to by shy, are not easy to photograph when they tend to stay well hidden and out of sight.
We’re not backpackers. We don’t live in hostels. We don’t always use public transportation, preferring taxis and rental cars as an alternative. We aren’t 25 years old with minimal requirements. Nor, are we “high maintenance” always requiring the “best” of everything. Most likely, we fall somewhere in the middle, seeking a somewhat comfortable and somewhat convenient life as nomads.
May your life be comfortable and convenient.
Photo from one year ago today, November 14, 2016:
Tom’s shot of the sunset as we set sailed to our next destination. For more details, please click here.

Earthquake hit last night in Costa Rica… 6.5 magnitude… Epicenter only 50 miles from us… Second earthquake for Tom…

Image result for earthquake costa rica stats today
The epicenter of last night’s 6.5 magnitude earthquake was in Jaco, 67 km (50 miles) from us in Atenas.

 “Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”

Another of Tom’s excellent bird photos, two Green Parrots admiring each other.

Last night, around 8:30 pm, we lounged in the screening room while binge-watching the final season of Mad Men. With time running out before we depart Costa Rica (9 days) when we’ll cancel the Netflix account (we won’t be watching anything for a few months while cruising), we were wrapped up in this delicious drama when suddenly, the glass walls in the room began to shake violently.

For that post, please click here., occur for Tom, this was only the second time in his life he’d experienced a quake, the prior in Italy in June 2013, while we lived in a 300-year-old stone house in Boveglio, Tuscany. Having grown up in California, where earthquakes frequently occur of varying magnitude, this was yet another such experience for me.

Although the house shook rather violently, I’ll admit, it seemed to last much longer than the typical 10 to 30 seconds as indicated next.

From this site:
“Generally, earthquakes only last for seconds. Strong ground shaking during a moderate to large earthquake typically lasts about 10 to 30 seconds. Readjustments in the earth cause more earthquakes (aftershocks) that can occur intermittently for weeks or months.” 

Maxi Pali market in Esparza Costa Rica.

Within seconds, Tom and I realized what was happening as we left the room to find a safer area in the house with less glass. Within seconds we were standing in a safe spot in the center of a small hallway between the screening room and the living room.

Once it ended, when neither of us panicked, we wandered through the house, assessing for any damage.  We were shocked when we noticed multiple ceiling fans still moving from the shaking, none of which had been turned on.

Moments later, Tom said, “Let’s get the camera! Look at the pool!” Had we moved a little more quickly, we would have had an opportunity to take a better video of the water sloshing in the pool with water splashing violently onto the veranda floor. It was astounding. As a result, our included video isn’t as outstanding as it could have been if we’d had the camera on hand.

Here’s our video:

The property itself suffered no apparent damage. This sturdy, well-built house survived without any issues whatsoever. The lights had blinked off and on several times, but luckily (safari luck prevails), we hadn’t lost power.
After assessing the house for damage, satisfied all was fine, we returned to the screening room, checking our laptops for the latest news on the earthquake. Varying magnitude readings were scattered throughout the web from 6.3 to 6.9.

This morning the various geological centers throughout the world seemed to settle because it was a 6.5 magnitude. There were numerous injuries reported throughout the area affected by the quake. Luckily, Costa Rica, from reports thus far, didn’t suffer the loss of lives, although it’s been reported two or three fatalities from heart attacks occurring at the time of the quake.

From this site:
“Costa Rica hit by 6.5 magnitude earthquake

A 6.5 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Costa Rica on Sunday night, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said. According to the USGS, the quake was centered 16 km west of Jacó, Costa Rica, at a depth of 10 km. It gave the quake a preliminary magnitude of 6.8 but later downgraded it.  The observatory at the Universidad Nacional Costa Rica said the earthquake measured 6.9. Jacó lies southwest of Costa Rica’s capital, San Jose, and is part of the region of Puntarenas, on the Pacific Coast.

According to a statement from Costa Rica’s presidency, three people suffered fatal heart attacks that coincided with the time of the earthquake — two in Jacó and one person further south in Coronado. It said the country’s Judicial Investigation Agency was investigating the deaths.

At least one building in Jacó had been evacuated due to apparent damage, and there were reports of walls collapsing and objects falling in other parts of the country. Still, there were no reports of any further injuries, the statement said.

Costa Rica’s hospitals were functioning normally, and minor power outages had been quickly resolved, it said, with the quake felt most severely in the provincial districts of Quepos, Parrita, and Garabito — of which Jacó is capital.
The presidency said that emergency response agencies had been activated and remained on.”
“Strong Earthquake Rattles Costa Rica
There were no immediate reports of deaths or serious injuries Sunday night after a strong earthquake shook Costa Rica. With a preliminary magnitude of 6.5, the quake knocked items from store shelves and sent people rushing out of buildings in panic. Four minutes after the initial earthquake, a magnitude 5.2 aftershock struck.  President Luis Guillermo Solis said via Twitter that the government was still gathering information. He urged people to remain calm and prepare for aftershocks.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake was centered along Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast, about 10 miles southeast of Jaco, which is about 60 miles southwest of the capital of San Jose.

The quake was at a depth of about 12 miles. The country’s Public Safety Ministry said there were reports of two serious injuries resulting from the earthquake but did not provide additional details. Electricity was knocked out in some areas as power lines and poles fell. Still, there were no reports of significant infrastructure damage from the quake, which hit a lightly populated place on the Pacific Coast. The government reported some rockslides obstructing highways near the epicenter. The U.S. National Weather Service said there was no Pacific-wide tsunami threat, Reuters reported.”

Please click here for a more comprehensive map and more details from this Costa Rica agency, Vulcanological and Seismological Observatory of Costa Rica Ovsicori. We’re grateful to be safe, hoping we won’t experience too many violent aftershocks, chalking this up as one more experience in our vast world travels.
May you be well and safe as well.
Photo one year ago today, November 13, 2016:
It took a while to get the passenger off the ship to load the bus to head to Port Hedlund, Australia. We were surprised by the steep level of this gangplank when so many passengers are disabled seniors. For more details, please click here.