Worthwhile itinerary changes added more time we can spend in Minnesota visiting family…Newly revised itinerary here today…

Tom, looking good with his recent haircut and, of course, always with a smile on his face.
The smell of the white flowers on this tree was intoxicating.

Every few days, Tom checks prices on cruises we’ve booked.  A cruise booking benefit provided to US citizens (may not apply to citizens of other countries) is as follows: 

If a price drop occurs before the final payment’s due date (90 days before the cruise sail date), we can ask that the price be dropped to the new pricing on multiple occasions.  If the price increases at any time before final payment, it has no bearing on our final price.

Entrance to Jardin Botanico. No entrance fees are charged.

However, a stipulation on this benefit is that we are responsible for discovering these price drops.  Subsequently, almost daily, Tom checks prices online for all cruises we’ve booked, searching one by one.  Doing so has saved us thousands of dollars over these past five years.

A map was posted with the layout of the triangular facility.

Yesterday, while he was searching for price drops, he noticed a newly posted cruise: Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas, April 26, 2019, a transatlantic crossing with an almost identical itinerary to the cruise we booked a few days ago, with a slight difference in dates and number of sailing days at considerably lower pricing.

A few remaining flowers blooming late in the season.

Immediately, he got to work to contact Vacations to Go to book this particular cruise based on two pertinent facts that particularly appealed to us:  one; we’d be able to stay in Minnesota with family for four more nights going from 13 nights to 17 nights and; two, we’d save a considerable sum.

A garden of stock-type plants.

In doing so, we eliminate the necessity of staying in Amsterdam for 11 nights. Instead, we’ll be staying three nights which is plenty of time to spend in the big city. Based on research we’d done, it would be costly to stay in Amsterdam for the prior extended period.

A statue of Julius Caesar.

Here are the changes we made yesterday: 

Originally booked cruise:
Celebrity Reflection 4/22/2019 – 5/6/2019
$4,497.10 (inc tax, no tips, no perks) (ARS 84,892)
$150 (ARS 2,832) cabin credit

Change to a different cruise:
RC Serenade of the Seas  4/26/2019 – 5/12/2019
$2,806.32 (inc. tax, no tips, no perks) (ARS 52,975)
$325 (ARS 6135) cabin credit
Includes two extra nights

Four additional nights in Minnesota:
4/8/2019 – 4/25/2019

We didn’t enter the information building.

Savings differences:
Difference between cost of two cruises:  $1,698.78 (ARS 32,068)
Difference cabin credit:  $175 (ARS 3,283)
Total savings:  $1,865.78 (ARS 35,220)

As a result of these changes, we’ve adjusted the itinerary we posted on January 3, 2018, as follows. To avoid confusion for those that closely follow our itinerary, we felt it was important to post the revisions as shown below:

 Location  Days  Dates 
 Buenos Aires – Prodeo Hotel 
 12/23/2017 – 1/23/2018 
 Ushuaia – Ushuaia – Antarctica Cruise 
 1/23/2018 – 2/8/2018 
 Buenos Aires – Prodeo Hotel 
 2/8/2018 – 2/10/2018 
 Marloth Park, South Africa 
2/11/2018 – 5/11/2018
  Zambezi River Cruise – Victoria Falls 
5/11/2018 – 5/19/2018
 Marloth Park, South Africa 
5/19/2018 – 8/16/2018
 Uganda – See gorillas,  Visit “Cradle of Mankind” in SA
8/16/2018 – 8/23/2018
 Marloth Park, South Africa 
 8/23/2018 – 11/20/2018 
Mozambique, Africa (get visa stamped) 
 11/20/2018 -11/21/2018 
 Marloth Park, South Africa 
 11/21/2019 – 2/17/2019 
 Valparaiso, Chili 
 2/17/2019 – 3/24/2019 
 Cruise – San Antonio, Chili – San Diego 
 3/24/2019 – 4/8/2019 
 San Diego – fly to Minnesota – Family Visit 
 4/8/2019 – 4/25/2019 
 Cruise – Fort Lauderdale to Copenhagen 
 4/26/2019 – 5/12/2019 
 Ireland –  rent country house – research Tom’s ancestry 
 5/12/2019 – 8/9/2019 
 Amsterdam – (wait for upcoming cruise) – hotel stay 
 8/9/2019 – 8/11/2019 
 Cruise, Baltic – Amsterdam to Amsterdam 
 8/11/2019 – 8/23/2019 
 England – rent countryside house 
 8/23/2019 – 10/24/2019 
 Southampton to Fort Lauderdale 
 10/24/2019 – 11/8/2019 
 Las Vegas, NV – Los Angeles, CA – Scottsdale, AZ 
 11/8/2019 – 12/3/2019 
 Ecuador – Galapagos – Rent vacation home 
 12/3/2019 – 3/01/2020 
 Peru – Machu Picchu – Rent holiday homes, visit site 
 3/1/2020 –  3/31/2020 
 The Pantanal/Amazon River Cruise – Brazil (2   cruises) 
 3/31/2020 – 4/30/2020 
 Number of days  

*When we prepared this itinerary on January 3, 2018, we had 20 remaining nights during the first stay at the Prodeo Hotel in Buenos Aires until we depart for the Antarctica cruise on January 23rd. We have 16 nights remaining until we depart, but we chose not to change the published itinerary reflecting this difference.

An alternate view of the information center.

Yesterday, we went sightseeing to the Carlos Thays Botanical Garden, a 10-minute taxi ride from our hotel. The cab fare was a paltry US $3.22  (ARS 60), but we walked back to the hotel on the perfect weather day with brilliant sunshine and temperatures around 72F (22C).

A statue of a wild dog nursing two human babies.  This statue depicts the Roman mythological story of Romulus and Remus.

The season of flowers blooming was late for the botanical garden since it’s mid-summer here now. However, we were able to take many good photos of plants, trees, and a few remaining blooming flowers. 

Unknown pods preparing to bloom.

We walked through the garden for a few hours. The garden is located in the city, and the 17 acres triangle-shaped facility was surrounded by busy roads on all sides, making our long walk a bit noisy. Nonetheless, we had a pleasant stroll through the property, leaving with many good photos.

Small flowers in a garden patch.

After leaving the botanical garden, we decided to walk the busy streets of an area of Palermo we’d yet to see.  The hustle and bustle of Saturday shoppers and a handful of tourists filled the sidewalks and roads. We had to carefully watch where we were walking due to the uneven pavement.

Bamboo tree.

After walking for some time, we took a side street to head back to our neighborhood, an hour-long walk. It felt good to be out and about in the fresh air, away from our laptops, after staying indoors in the comfortable lobby of the pleasing hotel where we’ve worked for many days on future planning.

A decorative pond with a statue.

By 6:00 pm, we headed out to dinner. We found yet another restaurant we’d yet to try. (Only one repeat thus far).  I had a glass of Malbec (wine), and Tom had a few beers. By 9:00 pm, we were back in our room to relax and read for a few hours. It was a great day, especially after we had the opportunity to extend our time in Minnesota with family and also save a good sum in the process.

These purple flowers, Agapanthus, looked familiar, and we remembered there were blooming wildly in New Zealand when we arrived in January 2016.  Thanks to friend Louise in Kauai for once again being a great resource for names of flowers, trees, and birds!

Next week, we’ll head out for more sightseeing.  For now, we’ll be sharing photos over the next several days from yesterday’s outing. As I sit here in the lobby now well afternoon, Tom is wearing his earbuds while watching football on his laptop as we fast approach the time for Super Bowl. With the Minnesota Vikings in the playoffs, he is interested in how the competing teams are doing.

We’ll be back tomorrow with more. We look forward to “seeing you” then. Have a wonderful day, wherever you may be. 

Photo from one year ago today, January 7, 2017:

We saw Meerkats at a rescue center in Tasmania. These adorable creatures are marsupials in the mongoose family. For more details, please click here.

Yesterday’s road trip…Mount Taranaki, a rain forest and a botanical garden…More garden photos tomorrow…

Our favorite photo of the day.  Zoom in to see this bee’s facial features.  Amazing!

After writing yesterday’s post which we uploaded by 10 am after a very early start, we looked at one another and said, “Let’s head out!” We’d written about how little we’ve been traveling while living here in New Zealand enjoying our surroundings to the degree that we haven’t been motivated to leave for even a day.

We crossed numerous streams and rivers on our way up the mountain, including driving over this one-lane bridge.

When we do travel, we prefer sunny days for better photos and viewing scenery, but after being in for many days after Tom’s over-week-long illness, except for a night out for dinner and another outing for grocery shopping, we were excited to get on the road. 

We read this sign to get a lay of the land.  Inside this building, we were able to grab a map of the gardens to assist us on our walk.

Without a big plan in mind, we headed on to the long drive through winding country roads to steep winding mountain roads, not unlike those we experienced long ago when we spent three months in Boveglio, Tuscany, Italy in 2013. 

We got a kick out of this display for free coffee.  With no receptionist in attendance, one could help themselves.

By far, those mountains in Italy had some of the steepest winding roads we’d driven in our travels, except for the Atlas Mountains we traveled in Morocco in April 2014. 

Not a huge fan of driving through mountainous roads, yesterday I was at ease with the automatic transmission of our rental car and the lack of the necessity to pass slow-moving vehicles in front of us. We didn’t encounter more than a half dozen vehicles through the mountains making the drive relatively easy and comfortable.

As we commenced our walk, we spotted this gardener at work.

We hoped to get to the Visitors Centre partway up Mount Taranaki but when it began to rain during our walk through the Pukeiti Gardens and rainforest we decided it might be wise to head back down the mountain, realizing that scenic views would be impossible on the cloudy rainy day.

The Pukeiti Gardens is known for its world-class rhododendron collection exquisitely set within a rainforest with the flowering season from July through March. We were grateful to have arrived during the season to be able to see and take photos of the beautiful flowers and gardens. Every so often, the sun peeked out, allowing us a few better quality photos as shown here.

The rhododendrons are in full bloom at this time of the year, summer in New Zealand.

Here’s a little info from the Taranaki Regional Council’s website about the origination of the beautiful gardens:

“A vision fulfilled:
One man’s dream has literally flowered at Pukeiti on the slopes of Mount Taranaki — a garden renowned worldwide for its stunning collection of rhododendrons and other plants, and an institution that is much a part of the region as the mountain itself.

Founder William Douglas Cook’s vision was a vast natural garden of rhododendrons. Today that vision is a reality, thanks to the efforts of Cook and countless volunteers and members of the Pukeiti Rhododendron Trust through the decades since the garden opened in 1951.
(To read some stories from the early days, click on “History and culture” in the navigation panel at left.)

Pukeiti has the largest collection of rhododendrons in New Zealand, its sub-tropical vireyas known as the world’s finest. It also boasts major displays of cardiocrinum, hostas, hydrangeas, magnolias, primulas, liliums, bulbs, and alpine and herbaceous plants, all against a backdrop of luscious native bush and dramatic Mount Taranaki.

The Taranaki Regional Council assumed ownership of and responsibility for Pukeiti on 1 July 2010, as a result of an approach from the Trust. The move secures the future for Pukeiti and its unique collection of plants.

The Council also owns and operates Tupare, and Hollard Gardens, Kaponga, on behalf of the people of the region.”

The walkways were easy at the beginning of our walk.

Had it not rained, we’d certainly have stayed longer walking further along the many kilometers of trails. But soon, as we began trekking through mud and slippery rocks, we knew it was time to get back on the road.

We continue to be in awe of the maintenance and care in this lovely country. There appear to be few, if any, rundown properties, bad roads, or trash on the sides of the road. We’ve yet to encounter a “bad” or unsafe-feeling area in the Taranaki Region. At public venues, such as Pukeiti Gardens, clean restrooms are readily available. No fees are required to enter the gardens and rainforest.

The rainforest is beautiful. Well coated with repellent I never received a bite. Tom, without the use of any repellent, was never bitten. Surprisingly, we didn’t sense any biting flies, mosquitos, or sandflies in the rainforest.

We only encountered two other parties and one gardener in the gardens on the less-than-ideal day but never felt ill at ease in the secluded rainforest. Back home in the later afternoon we were pleased for the experiences and look forward to more similar outings.

Today is by far, the rainiest day since our arrival, much-needed rain to provide a greener pasture for the grazing alpacas and other grazing animals throughout the country. 

Unable to find the name of this structure online (metered wifi), we assume it may be a Maori (indigenous people to NZ) tribute. Please correct us if we are wrong.

As I listened to the pelting rain pounding on the metal roof during the night, I thought about the alpacas. This morning, as I stepped outdoors to see how they’re doing in the heavy rain, they were all busy munching on the grass picking up their heads to look at me, with the adorable funny little smirk on their faces, none the worse for the wear.

Feeling relieved, I wiped my bare feet and returned back indoors for what will surely be a quiet day at home.  We don’t mind a bit. Each day is a treasure.

We hope today will be a treasured day for YOU!

Photo from one year ago today, February 17, 2015:

The Nene Bird is the Hawaiian Island state bird, evolved from the Canadian Goose with which we’re very familiar after living in Minnesota. These geese are commonly seen in Kauai, where we lived for four months a year ago. Please click here for more details.