Day #205 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Done…Done…Done…Consistency…

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.

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2013 while on safari, staying at Camp Olonana in the Maasai Mara, Kenya. For more on this date, please click here.

Finally, we were able to stand at the marker that separates Kenya from Tanzania, which poses an excellent opportunity for all of us.

A popular expression frequently used by Indian people is “Done, done, done,” when asking them for assistance. They couldn’t be more eager to please. We appreciate them, their kindness, and their excellent service. Living in this hotel for so long with a frequent turnover of staff, leaving for a break for a few weeks to return to their homes to be with family, it’s no wonder consistency is not always possible.

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.

Has anyone you know lived in a hotel for 205 days, unless, of course, they are a celebrity and make a hotel their permanent residency? We are no celebrities. And, if we were, we’d probably be in a much different situation. But, it’s only from the same services repeatedly, often due to the rotating staff, that inconsistencies become more prevalent and, subsequently, more evident after such an extended stay.

Unable to get as close as we’d like due to the rough terrain, we did our best to zoom in to get the following photos on the remaining wildebeests.

Tom says, “The only consistency is the inconsistency.” I’ve laughed each time he says this, always with the intent of dampening our momentary frustration.

They were increasing in numbers as we approached the border.

In many businesses throughout the world, consistency becomes a top priority. One can always count on the lettuce being in the same spot in the grocery store, the shoes in a specific area in a department store, the sunscreen on the same shelf in the pharmacy, and so on.

Although the sight of the two-plus million wildebeest would have been unbelievable, I began to wonder if doing so was as vital to me as it had been in the past. It may sound as if it’s 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 wasn’t perfect.

In the restaurant business, if you formerly dined at, for example, the Cheesecake Factory for their strawberry cheesecake, you’d expect the same flavor, the same sized portion, the same taste, and at least for a time, the same price.

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

In our almost eight years of world travel, we’ve found a profound lack of consistency in dining when returning to the same establishments for a repeated menu item or, as in the case here in our lovely Mumbai hotel, ordering the same breakfast items and the same dinner items, day after day, which are often different in portion size, taste, and appearance almost every time they arrive by room service.

But if I don’t repeat this same order each day, after 205 days, something won’t be right. I’d love to say, “The usual, please.” My order changes from time to time as I fine-tune my diet to keep the carb count to a minimum. So, I realize I must be particular regarding my orders. It’s never the same two days in a row. Breakfast tends to be pretty consistent, although we often have to remind the restaurant when we call to make the bacon crispy instead of it swimming in grease when half done. Tom orders the same breakfast every day; cheese omelet, eight pieces of crispy bacon, and bananas every day and the same dinner every night.

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).

It isn’t that they don’t want to please. They do more than anywhere we’ve been in the past. It boils down to the person taking the order, which varies from time to time, and the chefs preparing the food. Last night, only having ordered the same grilled boneless chicken legs, side orders of steamed broccoli, and spinach,  night after night, my dinner arrived with only half as much chicken as usual and twice as many vegetables. Go figure.

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

Tonight, when I order the same dinner again, but this time I’ll mention “More chicken please.” I won’t say, “Fewer vegetables, please.” If I do, I’ll get too tiny a portion of each of these two vegetables. Instead, I’ll eat whatever I get.

I’ve stopped requesting my vegetables to be sauteed with garlic. They know I don’t use any vegetable oils, and I’ve asked that they only use butter to prepare my food, but everything was always swimming in butter, maybe the equivalent of three or four tablespoons. Now, I order the butter on the side and use about one tablespoon between my two vegetables.

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

It’s the same thing when cleaning our room. The towel count became consistent after about two months, so we’re good there. I suggested they don’t change our sheets daily to every other three days, which is OK with us, but they continue to change the sheets daily. I’ve stopped asking.

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

We don’t use their lotion and ask they don’t leave tubes of lotion. The counter space in the bathroom is limited. With no drawers or a medicine cabinet, we leave all of the toiletries we use on the countertop. This will never be resolved.

But, more importantly, we’ve requested with hotel management that all room cleaners have been staying overnight in the hotel for no less than three weeks. If they contracted the virus on their off days, they could easily infect us when spending 30 minutes in our tiny room each day.

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

Invariably, even with their masks on, I’ve learned to recognize their hairstyles (all men), and over and over again, I end up asking, “How long have you been staying in the hotel?” They say fifty percent of the time, considerably less than three weeks, many less than one week. We prevent those cleaners from entering our room, asking them to find someone who has been here for three weeks or longer. They always comply, eager to please.

Oddly, keeping tabs on all of this is practically a job in itself. After all these months in lockdown, we’re desperately trying to ensure we don’t become infected. Over and over again, it’s repeated on the local news that there are no available hospital beds or ICU beds available in any hospital in Mumbai. That certainly is a frightening thought.

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

Today, listening on to a podcast with Minnesota’s well-known virologist, Dr. Michael Osterholm, he said Minnesota, North and South Dakota, and Wisconsin are only days away from running out of hospital beds, the main reason, along with the rising numbers of cases, we have no interest in returning to the US at this time.

Instead, we stay hunkered down in Mumbai, not in a state of angst, but a state of acceptance, that we could be here for many more months to come. If somehow, we could pin down “consistency,” it might become a little easier…or not.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, October 14, 2019:

Tom’s lunch at a restaurant in Chepstow, Wales. He’d undoubtedly enjoy this now! For more photos, please click here.

Day #201 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel… Recalling a dreamy adventure…

Upon our arrival at Camp Olonana, now renamed Sanctuary Olonana, we were greeted by a Maasai warrior playing a welcoming tune on his flute while on the deck overlooking the Mara River. We knew we’d chosen the perfect environment to fulfill our dreams of safari combined with exquisite accommodations, service, and cultural experiences.

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2013 while on safari, staying at Camp Olonana in the Maasai Mara, Kenya. For more on this date, please click here.

Reviewing the photos from seven years ago today from the luxury safari resort on the Mara River makes me swoon over the beautiful memories, open spaces, and mind-blowing cultural experiences. In the blissfully chilly mornings when we embarked on our first safari of the day. Usually, around 6:00 am, the air was crisp and fresh, free of pollution and sounds other than those in nature.

The fast-flowing Mara River is muddy due to erosion and lack of man’s intervention. The local Masai tribes are dependent upon its waters as well as the wildlife and vegetation. This river that the Great Migration crosses over and again as it makes its way from the Serengeti to the Masai Mara. We missed the crossing of the millions of wildebeest, but we traveled to Tanzania in the safari vehicle to see the tail end. By the time we made that journey, we were so satisfied with our safari experience that we hardly gave it a thought.

At 5000 feet, 1524 meters, above sea level, we were embraced in a world unlike anywhere else we’d ever been at that point. This was without a doubt, “the bush,” “the savanna,” the place one who loves wildlife can dream of exploring, and exploring we did with a passion, a fervor with a sense of excitement unlike any other we’d ever known.

Ambrose, our well-trained chef, made meals perfect for me, an appropriate version of whatever Tom and the other guests were having. The food was fresh, hot, and delicious on every occasion.

The unfamiliarity of what was to come was tinged with a bit of fear and apprehension, which was easily surpassed by our enthusiasm. After the first early morning safari in the open-sided vehicle, all of our apprehension wafted away, replaced only by a hunger for more, more, more.

The all-inclusive camp consists of three meals daily, appetizers, snacks, beverages, high tea in the afternoon, and alcoholic drinks at any time of day or night. Glass bottles of purified water were presented at our table at all meals and in our tent for drinking and brushing teeth. I was so excited I failed to take a photo of our delicious GF chicken curry lunch.

The WiFi-only worked in the camp’s main lounge room, and the signal was weak, making uploading photos, let alone an entire post seem less of a concern than under normal circumstances. We hoped our readers would wait patiently for the time when we could begin sharing our photos, days later.

All produce at Camp Olonana was organically grown in their on-site garden. A certified ecologically friendly resort, the care was given to the food, and water, fuel, and electricity was refreshing in this distant setting. For example, all electrical outlets were shut off (lights stayed on) from 10:30 am to 6:30 pm and off again during the night. Considering our need to recharge our equipment, we were given a power strip connected to the generator that was available 24 hours a day. Many more measures were implemented to maintain the ecological integrity of the camp, which consisted of 14 tents, a spa tent, the lodge, a gift shop, offices, and housing for staff.

Somehow we managed to eke out a few posts while we were thereby making our way to the lounge room immediately after dinner, while still wearing our dusty safari clothes for the day, which we had no time to change before dinner. We didn’t return from our afternoon safari until almost 7:00 pm each evening, with no time to freshen up and change.

Camp Olonana was cool at night and had few mosquitoes and insects. The cool nights were heavenly, requiring a down comforter to keep us warm. That was a rather pleasant sensation! Our tent was #4, a short jaunt down this stone-paved walkway.

But, this wasn’t an experience of “dressing for dinner,” looking fresh and perky to socialize with others. The only socializing we did at Camp Olonana was with the friendly staff, our guide, and our “safari-mates,” the four other people in the six-passenger vehicle we shared each time we ventured out.

The veranda to our tent.  Approaching, it took our breath away.

Anderson, our guide, treated us to a hot breakfast in the bush, all prepared suitable for each passenger’s taste and desires. A cooler of canned and bottled beverages, including beer, was available at any time. During this period, I didn’t drink alcohol and stuck to small sips of bottled sparkling water in an attempt to avoid having to stop too often “to check the tire pressure,” as Anderson referred to as a bathroom break, behind a big rock or bush.

The comfy furnishings made it tempting to lay here and watch the wildlife stroll or swim past from time to time. We only had time to sit here for one hour during the three days.

It was there I learned to gingerly “go,” knowing full-well a snake could be in close proximity. But it was a task that presented itself in many other parts of the world, especially the Middle East, Asia, and Indonesia, where toilets are merely a hole in the floor, not the most straightforward scenario for women wearing pants. It’s so much more difficult for women to wear pants than men.

Although we were escorted to our tent the first time, Tom wanted to handle the long, sturdy zipper to ensure no issues. Of course, it was a breeze, opening to a virtual paradise of tent interiors.

But, like everything else in our almost eight years of world travel, we adapted and embraced our surroundings, all the while cajoling ourselves that it all was a part of the adaptation we had to accept as we’ve continued to travel the world. Has that all changed now in light of Covid-19? Only time will tell.

With no Internet connection in the tent and neither of our WiFi devices able to connect, we comfortably sat in the lodge to go online to post. As we’d mentioned, the connection was poor, preventing us from posting many photos until returning to Diani Beach, where still the connection wasn’t strong. We slept in the bed on the left, keeping our electronics plugged in on the bed on the right. We unpacked, with our equipment plugged in, anxious to write here to begin sharing the experience.

Certainly, the adaptation required for us to remain in lockdown in a hotel in India for 201 days has been a true test in itself. As I’ve mentioned in past posts, I am not certain about the lessons we’ve learned in lockdown, but when and if we discover them, we’ll certainly share them here.

Stay safe and healthy.

Photo from one year ago today, October 10, 2019:

John and Renate’s 500-year-old farmhouse in Witheridge, Devon, England, has been appointed with authenticity in mind. For more photos, please click here.

More safari photos and stories…Picnic breakfast in the bush…

A fantastic morning in the bush.

With a picnic basket on the passenger seat in Anderson’s Land Cruiser filled with a wide selection of delectable hot breakfast items for the six of us and Anderson, we took off for our last morning drive at 6:30 am .

A cool guy in the bush.

Oddly, I didn’t feel a sense of dread in it almost being over since I had chosen to live in the moment, relishing precisely what was at hand than projecting leaving the next day. 

As we left the area of Camp Olonana, cows were in abundance. In the Maasai, Mara cows serve as food for the Maasai tribes. (A story follows soon about their lifestyle and low-carb, grain-free, starch-free, sugar-free diet)!

As we bounced along in the vehicle, animated conversation wafting through the air, I said, “I feel like I have an “E” ticket at Disneyland, and the day is just beginning!” Everyone laughed, so we all felt in agreement with the joyful anticipation. Anderson, who’d never left Africa in his life, required an explanation which I gladly provided.

Hot air balloon rides are shared in the Maasai Mara.  We’d considered this option but decided we’d rather spend the time on the ground with better up, closer photo opportunities with the wildlife.

The view of the hot air balloons made an exciting backdrop for our early morning photos.

With the air nippy early in the early morning at 5000 feet above sea level, we were glad Anderson had warned us to wear jackets. For the first time since leaving the US, we brought out the Scottesvest Parkas, perfect for this chilly environment. 

Unfortunately, my parka was bright blue, my only option in my size at the time of purchase long ago. Blue attracts tsetse flies, of which there were none in the Maasai Mara but that we’ll find plentiful soon in South Africa. Tom’s was a perfect Khaki green.

The waterbuck, reasonably expected in the Maasai Mara, posed for us in the morning sun.

I imagined we’d search for a few morning treasures and picnic by 8:00 am. But, the distractions of the wildlife kept us from wanting to stop until one of our safari mates cried hunger around 10:30 am. We could easily have kept going with little regard for food or coffee.

Mom and baby eland.
Anderson busied himself setting up our breakfast, only allowing any of us to set up the camp stools.  Notice his well-equipped picnic basket. The stainless steel containers were filled with our still-warm breakfast, thoughtfully prepared by Ambrose, the chef, very early in the morning.

But we were in a group, after all, and we didn’t protest. We so enjoyed our companions that we didn’t give it a thought, knowing we’d join right in once the food and drinks were set up.

With room for four at the small table, some of us sat nearby, eating breakfast on our laps. There were croissants, cold cereal, pancakes, eggs, sausage, and
a wide array of fruit. Although I could only eat the eggs and sausage, I was content. 

Anderson found a perfect spot under a tree where the grass was short, away from potential danger. Also, the place he’d picked had a nearby huge rock that provided modesty for all of us to “check the tire pressure” before hitting the road again after breakfast. 

Bending over the table was our safari mate, David, and sisters, Susan and Linda, all experienced travelers to the right.

At this point, I’d become rather adept at managing my “tire pressure checking” in the wild, a feat I’d never considered before embarking on this experience.  See…we’re never too old to learn new tricks!

From left to right, on the ground first: Tom, Anderson, David, Linda.  In the truck, from left to right, is David’s wife, Cindy and Linda’s sister Susan.  I took the photo.

Anderson had observed the last morning that I had asked for “real cream” for my coffee, of which there was none.  Here we were the following day, and he proudly whipped out a can of fresh cream. I couldn’t have been more appreciative of him for remembering. 

Anderson took this next photo of us, a little blurry but worth keeping, the only shot we had of our group of safari mates.

We had much to accomplish on the road again after breakfast before our morning drive ended.  Anderson had promised we’d go to Tanzania to see the tail end of the Great Migration. 

Besides myself, with excitement, I could hardly wait to get back on the road. Tomorrow, we’ll share the photos of another round of rhinos we found that morning and our subsequent exciting trip to Tanzania, another highlight of our adventure.

This hyena, not the cutest creature in the bush, stopped for a morning pose, curious about our intentions.
Cheetah blocking the road.

Patiently waiting for her to clear the road, he meandered to the side of the road, content to watch us as we were only a few feet away.

As we searched for more rhinos (check back tomorrow for rhino photos), we continued to find more awe-inspiring sightings with the help of Anderson, his eagle eye, and his use of the finest pair of binoculars in the land.  We were thrilled when he spotted this lion family lounging under a tree at a distance as he maneuvered our way for a closer view.
Females and young lions were lounging in the shade of the tree.  Our perception was that the male lions hang out with the family, which is not the case.  Once these young males mature, they’ll go off on their own to hunt, mate, and occasionally hang out with their male sons and siblings.
Such a relaxing day, lounging with the family!
Watching the lions was addicting. We could easily have stayed there all day, but we had to keep moving, searching, and veering toward our goal to travel to the Tanzanian border to see the tail end of the Great Migration.
It was taken quite a distance since we had little time to chase down an ostrich.  Nonetheless, it was fun to see.
After what we’d seen after the Great Migration had left a week earlier, we were not disappointed we’d missed it. Someday, as mentioned earlier, we’ll return to the Maasai Mara, planning it to coincide with the two million wildebeest crossing the Mara River over and again as it winds from the Serengeti to the Maasai Mara.  
Most likely a mom and a maturing baby, butt to butt, in quiet repose.
 But, having an opportunity to travel by Land Cruiser across the rough plains to Tanzania was exciting in itself.   It was hard to believe we could accomplish all of this with the day we’d already experienced in the remaining time. Leave it to Anderson to figure it all out for us. Again, we were never disappointed.
Our safari mate, Susan, was so excited to see this turtle.  With hers and Linda’s new giant cameras in hand, none of us minded stopping for a photo op.

Before noon we were on our way to Tanzania, with more exquisite sightings along the way. We hope we still have your interest in our safari as we attempt to wind our way down.  Yet to share:

1.  Rhinos and our trip to Tanzania, including a few fantastic lion photos along the way.
2.  The dinner hosted by Camp Olonana in the bush is a surprise treat for Maasai singers and dancers and a feast pleasing to any palate.
3.  The trip to the Maasai village and our visit with Chief Richard, his two wives, and many children and extended family.
4.  The review of Camp Olonana, Sanctuary Retreats, where we’ll someday return and hope to visit their other worldwide locations sometime in the future.
5.  Our return flight and musings of our entire journey.

We are holding stories unrelated to the safari that we’ll share as we move along. So far, Africa has proven to be a world on its own, leaving us breathless and hungry for more. 

It would be worthwhile to go on a bird-watching safari with wide varieties. Focused on the larger creatures, we often missed bird photo ops. Had we had more time, we definitely would have taken more bird photos.