We made it to Dubai…Harrowing experience…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The chocolate cake the chef made for us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

An owl we spotted in Kanha National Park in India.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Black Eagle on the lookout for a meal.

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

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

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

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

Be well.

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day #289 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…3 days and counting…Are we worried about exposure while traveling?…

Beautiful statue at the beach in Pondicherry.

Today’s photos are a continuation of those we posted during our first few months in India on tour, in today’s case on March 27, 2020, See the post here. We’ll continue on this path, sharing more tour photos until it’s time for us to hopefully depart on January 11, 2021. From there, God willing, it will be an entirely new world!

We can’t believe we’re three days from departure and still, our flight remains in place. We can’t totally relax at this point, after our experience of being turned away at the airport on March 20, 2020, to then begin this awfully long lockdown in a hotel room in Mumbai, India.

A church we visited in Pondicherry. 

Peace of mind will only come once we’re in the air on the flight from Dubai to Johannesburg on January 12th. From there, an overnight stay in Joburg and then on to our flight to the Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger Airport, where we’ll pick up our rental car, to commence the one hour drive in daylight hours to Marloth Park.

The journey will consist of considerable exposure to people, at airports, hotels, and planes. Are we worried about the added exposure to Covid-19 compared to minimal exposure all these months in the hotel in Mumbai? We’d be foolish to say we’re not concerned.

The stunning interior of Our Lady of Angels Catholic Church in Pondicherry.

No doubt, Emirates Airlines have instituted extensive measures to protect its passengers while flying. We have less concern about being on the plane, other than if we have to use the restroom. We plan to be careful with our fluid consumption while traveling. Of course, we won’t partake in their complimentary cocktails during the two flights, only drinking minimal amounts of water as needed.

Our bigger concern is for safety at the airports, waiting in queues, and at the two hotels where we’ll be staying along the way, one in Dubai, the next in Joburg. At this point, we have no idea as to where and when we will eat along the way. Most likely, I won’t eat anything on the flights since they won’t have anything suitable for me.

Entrance to the cemetery in the French Quarter in Pondicherry.

Our current hotel chef stated he’d have breakfast delivered to our room on departure morning. We need to allow three hours at the airport for our 10:25 am flight, which is only a 3¼ hour flight until we reach Dubai. We won’t need to eat again until we’re at the hotel in Dubai near the airport. I looked up the menu and they have beef!

I’m certain Tom will order a burger and fries. I’ll order two beef patties without the bun with lettuce and cheese. Most likely, we won’t dine in the restaurant which may be packed with travelers and may be less safe than dining in our room. We’ll play that by ear. But, all of these factors are important to consider.

This morning, we packed and weighed our bags. We are within 2 kg of the maximum weight of 40 kg each. With Emirates Airlines, the total weight is the issue, not the number of bags. We have three checked bags between us and one carry-on we’d like to check, leaving us with the laptop bag for Tom and the yellow Costco bag and handbag for me.

A shrine on the interior of a temple in Pondicherry.

If for some reason, we are over on the weight, we’ll take the small purple bag with us as an additional carry-on which contains our heavy jeans, pants, and shorts. All we have left to do is pack the clothes we’re wearing, the laptops, cords, adapters, power strips, and the final batch of the few toiletries we’ll be using over the next few days and a few odds and ends.

I wish I could say we’re excited at this point, but until we get to Marloth Park and enough time passes when we’re at ease that we didn’t contract the virus during our two travel days, it’s only then we can fully relax and embrace our glorious surroundings in the bush.

Thank you to so many of you who continue to write and send well wishes for our departure and safety. It means the world to us, as all of you do as well.

Stay safe.

Photo from one year ago today, January 8, 2020:

This was the photo we posted, one year ago today. When we visited friends Kathy and Don in Pretoria, South Africa, two years ago, we visited this monument, the Voortrekker Monument, which is an unusual-looking structure located in Pretoria, South Africa. At the time I walked up all these steps (not all steps we tackled are shown in the photo) without getting out of breath or having any health issues. It was a little over a month later, I had open-heart surgery with three main arteries 100% blocked. Who knew? For more photos from this date, one year ago, please click here.

 

 

Day #288 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…4 days and counting…

When I originally took this photo of Tom’s dinner early on in our India travels, he said, “Don’t post that. It looks disgusting.” Now, it’s starting to look appetizing to both of us.

Today’s photos are a continuation of those we posted during our first few months in India on tour, in today’s case on March 26, 2020, See the post here. We’ll continue on this path, sharing more tour photos until it’s time for us to hopefully depart on January 11, 2021. From there, God willing, it will be an entirely new world!

There were messages all over Facebook, Google News, and numerous other news outlets that South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa was going to speak last night or today to impose a higher level of lockdown that would prevent travel between provinces.

This building was shown in a scene from the movie, Life of Pi, filmed in Chennai, India.

If that were the case, we’d be stuck in Johannesburg until a more stringent lockdown would eventually be lifted. Johannesburg is in Gauteng Province and Marloth is in Mpumalanga. It would be very frustrating for us to spend weeks or months in Johannesburg in a strict lockdown, certainly no better than what we’re facing now. At least here, we know what to expect.

It would be too risky to attempt to drive from Johannesburg when police will be stopping drivers on the highways imposing fines and jail time, a result of violating travel bans. As it is, even in “normal” times, it’s best to avoid being stopped by police as we experienced in 2013, when Tom was stopped for “allegedly speeding,” resulting in a “cash ” payment in order to be allowed to continue on the road. We learned quite a lesson from that event.

The two gold statues of a revered couple who were highly instrumental in doing good works for the Indian people.

As it turned out it was all speculation. Cyril won’t be speaking after his Covid-19 council met on Wednesday to discuss additional lockdown measures, based on increased cases of the virus and changes in various strains. It’s not rocket science to understand why cases would increase after the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

In South Africa, (80% of the population are Christian), as is the case in many countries throughout the world,  cases have spiked since the holidays. When many gatherings of family, workers, and friends, with few wearing face masks or social distancing, continued to congregate to celebrate, more and more cases resulted from these types of events.

This woman, on the side of the road, was shaking seeds out of a basket to be used in making vegetable oil.

So, with four days remaining until we head to the Mumbai International Airport for our flight on January 11th, we are still on pins and needles hoping nothing will change that will have an impact on our reaching Marloth Park, after two days of travel, on January 13, 2021.

I know the repetition of our discussions on getting out of here may be boring and redundant. But, as our long term readers know, we “tell it like it is,” including what’s most prevalent on our minds at any given time. No doubt, the next four days will consist of a similar dialog.

Once we’re on the move, we’ll stay in close touch, since we’ll have ample time in Dubai, and again in Johannesburg to provide all of our readers with updates on our experiences. Also, for those who have yet to travel during the pandemic, we’ll include information as to how Covid-19 is being handled at various airports and on the flights.

Another of Tom’s meals while touring India in February and March 2020.

After all, we’ll be at four airports during our two days of travel: Mumbai, Dubai, Johannesburg, and Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger. As it turns out, if plane travel is relatively safe and airports are clean with appropriate precautions, picking this time in history may actually prove to be good for fulfilling one’s own dreams of safari.

There aren’t huge crowds while on safari, which usually consist of only six to eight tourists and one guide, in an open-sided vehicle (bus or van tours should be avoided during the pandemic). Most likely, these types of fee-based safari tours will provide social distancing for passengers as well.

Another great point about Kruger National Park is its massive size as follows:

“Kruger National Park is one of the largest national parks in the world, with an area of 19,485 km2 (7,523 sq mi). The park is approximately 360 km (220 mi) long, and has an average width of 65 km (40 mi).”

An artfully designed temple built over 1000 years ago in Chennai.

This extensive area which includes hundreds of budget, moderate, and luxury camps/resort accommodations, is the perfect vacation/holiday for individuals, couples, and families. What is particularly fantastic about Kruger National Park is the option for visitors to “self-drive” only requiring a daily entrance fee as shown below:

Daily Conservation Fees for 1 November 2020 to 31 October 2021
South African Citizens and Residents (with ID) R105 per adult, per day R52 per child, per day
SADC Nationals (with passport) R210 per adult, per day R105 per child, per day
Standard Conservation Fee  (foreigners) R424 per adult, per day R212 per child, per day

As for the comparison to USD to Rand/ZAR, R424 as described above for foreign nationals, the entrance fee is USD $28.20, INR 2062, per person, per day. Of course, with our intent to visit many times during a hopefully longer stay, we’ll purchase an annual pass, referred to as a Wild Card, with access to 80 national parks in South Africa. Details are found here.

That’s all for today, folk. Please continue on this journey with us. We’ll be back with daily updates.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, January 7, 2020:

The photo we posted one year ago, which was taken in 2019, as we continued to have such a fantastic weekend celebrating friend Don’s birthday while staying at their gorgeous home in Pretoria. This photo was taken at a Mexican restaurant with 10 of us in attendance, again celebrating Don’s birthday. For more photos,  from one year ago, please click here.

 

 

 

 

Day #286 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…6 days and counting…Complicated paperwork…

Often, cows and bulls are depicted in Hindu temples.

Today’s photos are a continuation of those we posted during our first few months in India on tour, in today’s case on March 20, 2020, when we included some favorite photos. See the post here. We’ll continue on this path, sharing more tour photos until it’s time for us to leave on January 11, 2021. From there, God willing, it will be an entirely new world!

The number of steps required to get out of here far exceeds the necessity of organizing our stuff and packing our bags. That’s the easy part. With all the Covid-19 restrictions, South Africa  and UAE requirements, Emirates Airlines requirements, visa extension documents, we’re bombarded with tasks each and every day as the time nears.

“Kapaleeshwarar Temple: Dedicated to one of the forms of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati that is Arulmigu Kapleeswar and Karpagambal respectively, the temple should be on the top position of your list of temples to visit.

With only six days until we fly out of India, we have the front desk staff running back and forth to our room with more and more copies of what we need. Here are a few of the items required:

  1. Letter from the hotel with the dates we stayed here – Done
  2. Letter from Louise with the rental agreement details for South Africa – Will be done today
  3. Copies of all the Indian visa extension documents, in the event we aren’t approved in time and provided with the extension document which we’ll have to print – Will wait until Friday to see if we’re approved with a single document each
  4. Copies of our approval to re-enter South Africa when we overstayed in 2019 – Done
  5. Installation of the South Africa Covid Alert app on our phones – Done
  6. Pack and weigh our bags befitting Emirates baggage restrictions in ample time to pay for our excess online (lower cost of doing so). We have one extra (third) checked bag.
  7. Printed Covid-19 negative PCR test
  8. Health questionnaire for South Africa
    This hall at the temple site is used for weddings, arranged marriage meetings, relaxation, and prayer.

We have yet to complete the health questionnaire which we’ll complete today. The form wasn’t editable online so Tom will complete both of ours. My handwriting is illegible.

Need I say, all of this is cumbersome and frustrating when many of the forms to be completed online on various websites don’t work correctly. We tried for days to enter Tom’s passport information into the Emirate’s website and finally today it accepted his information. I can only imagine how challenging this stuff would be for those folks with a limited online experience and/or lack of patience.

A moonlit evening at the beach.

Today, we found out, after reading and reading various rules and restrictions that UAE, where we’ll layover for 16 hours, will only accept Covid-19 PCR test results from certain labs in India. The hotel arranged this for us and now we’re waiting to see if that lab is approved or we have to change to a different company.

If we aren’t able to get on the upcoming flight, we’ll have to start this entire process all over again, since the dates represented in the forms will have changed. Oh, our fingers continue to be crossed along with those of many of our readers who have so generously supported our ability to leave India at long last.

St. Thomas Church in Chennai. “There are over 19.9 million Catholics in India, which represents around 1.55% of the total population and the Catholic Church is the largest Christian Church in India. There are 174 dioceses in India organized into 29 provinces.”

So that’s the latest, dear readers. We spend the better half of each day engaged in the prep to leave here and easily roll back into our usual routine when the day’s tasks are completed. We walk, we write, we make lists and notes, and when free of all that, we escape into another few episodes of Shark Tank and our new binge-watch-worthy series, A Million Little Things – quite entertaining and good mindless drivel in which to escape for a few hours. Go ahead, give it a try.

Stay safe and healthy!

Photo from one year ago today, January 5, 2020:

On this date in 2016, we were in Sydney, Australia, preparing to board our ship for a 14-night cruise to Auckland, New Zealand. For more about the year-ago post, please click here

 

 

Day #285 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…One week and counting…

 

We took a detour to see this temple in Tanjore known as the “Big Temple” since the name is long and difficult for people to remember. ”Kapaleeshwarar Temple: Dedicated to one of the forms of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati that is Arulmigu Kapleeswar and Karpagambal respectively.”

Today’s photos are a continuation of those we posted during our first few months in India on tour, in today’s case on March 17, 2020 when we included some favorite photos. See the post here. We’ll continue on this path, sharing more tour photos until it’s time for us to leave on January 11, 2021. From there, God willing, it will be an entirely new world!

It’s ironic, that in the above-mentioned post from which we’re sharing photos once again, the heading on March 17, 2020, read:

The waiting game continues…Tomorrow, we fly out of Madurai to Mumbai…Three days and counting…

It was almost 10 months ago that we were on pins and needles as we are now, in this case, hoping to leave for South Africa in one week as opposed to three days. When we arrived in Mumbai with only three days remaining until March 20, 2020, for our then-upcoming scheduled flight on which we weren’t allowed to board, we had to return to the SunNSand Hotel, a pretty hotel on the beach.

This temple is over 1000 years old.

As posted several times, they literally “kicked us out” of the hotel on March 24th, assuring us they’d booked a room for us at the Orchid Hotel in Mumbai. Our bags were loaded into a taxi and we headed to the Orchid Hotel, only to discover they’d never heard of us and that they, too, were closing immediately, due to the lockdown. We were sorely disappointed they’d lied to us. (Thus, we wouldn’t return there if we are forced to stay in Mumbai if this upcoming flight also falls through).

We had nowhere to go. Almost every hotel in Mumbai was required to close and for the next few hours, we were in a panic. There we were in the Orchid Hotel lobby with all of our bags, unable to find a still-open hotel. Fortunately, the wonderful manager at the Orchid got on the phone and started calling every quality hotel in Mumbai looking for a room for us.

This view reminded us a little about entering the Lost City of Petra in 2013.

It was a stressful few hours, as we researched other options online such as holiday/vacation homes as an alternative. None of those we researched were available due to the lockdown or responded to our inquiries. After several hours passed, the hotel manager had found that this hotel, Courtyard by Marriott Mumbai International Airport, was staying open for the time being anyway.

During the first two or three months of our almost 10 months stay, it was impossible not to be concerned that we’d continue to have a place to stay. As the months wore on and more and more guests arrived, we could finally relax knowing, if they had ample business, they’d stay open.

The beautiful beach scene at the Ideal Beach Resort in Mahabalipuram. We particularly enjoyed this resort.

Early on, at one point, only six rooms were booked including ours. It was during this period, it was most worrisome. How could they afford to stay open with so few guests? Thank goodness Marriott is a hugely successful international company. It was this fact that allowed them to continue operations whereby other privately owned hotels most likely couldn’t afford to stay open during the lockdown.

The first few weeks we ate both breakfast and dinner in the dining room. But as cases of Covid-19 continued to rise, all restaurants in India were forced to close, except for those offering takeaway. It was at that point, we began dining in our hotel room.

The colorful temples in Chennai were breathtaking to see. “Kapaleeshwarar Temple: Dedicated to one of the forms of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati that is Arulmigu Kapleeswar and Karpagambal respectively, the temple should be on the top position of your list of temples to visit.”

A few months ago, the restaurant reopened and it was at that time, we discovered more and more guests not wearing masks in the corridors when they headed downstairs to dine, as often as three times a day. They figured they wouldn’t be wearing a mask while eating, so why wear a face mask on their way to the restaurant?

It was this laissez-faire attitude that convinced us it was too risky to dine in the now-opened restaurant beside those careless individuals. We opted to eat breakfast and dinner in our room, only having exposure to the masked room service staff member, whom we never allowed to enter our room. Tom has always grabbed the trays, placed them on the bed, closed the door, and immediately washed his hands.

The newly added pool area at Ravla Khempur is also known as the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, where the popular movie was filmed. This was a favorite tour during our travels in India.

Each meal, before and after we dine, we thoroughly wash our hands in hot soapy water. We have trays we keep in the room which Tom frequently washes in the shower. We have kept it as safe as it can be. Now, going forward, hopefully in one week from today, we’ll continue to be safe during our time at four airports (Mumbai, Dubai, Johannesburg, Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger), on three flights, and staying in two hotels in our efforts to make our way to Marloth Park.

So far, so good. There’s been no canceled flight email message for the January 11th flight. We wait, we hope and we pray we can fly away!

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, January 4, 2020:

This repeated photo was the only one we posted, one year ago today. On this date in 2014, similar to the main photo in this post of December 14th, once again, we looked toward the driveway to discover giraffes coming our way. What a glorious sight! Click here for the one-year-ago post.

 

 

 

Day #253 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Apprehension follows enthusiasm…

The bright sun creates a sparkling sea, which we’ve cherished every day that we’d been in Maui. There had only been one totally overcast and rainy day in the six weeks we spent on the island, although it rained for short periods for many days, to later become sunny.

Today’s photos are from this date in 2014 while wrapping up our six-week stay in Maui, Hawaii. For more on that day’s story, including our final expenses for the stay, please click here.

We’d be foolhardy to assume we’ll actually be able to board that flight to South Africa without incident. When we arrived at the Mumbai Airport on March 20, at 1:00 am while waiting in a queue for hours, four days before the official lockdown, we were turned away for the flight to South Africa, as they were slowly closing their borders in a highly inconsistent manner.

All these photos shown today were taken on a sunny Sunday early afternoon.

We ended up having to return to our original hotel in Mumbai which informed us they were closing the next day. For that full story, please click here. It was a nightmare, to say the least. We haven’t forgotten a minute of those first few days until we eventually settled in this hotel.

Over the next few weeks and months, we were worried this hotel would be forced to close as well, often asking the reception staff for a status update. Miracle of all miracles, when almost every hotel in Mumbai had closed, the Courtyard by Marriott Mumbai Airport remained open. For this, we are very grateful.

Hibiscus bloom year-round in the islands.

In yesterday’s post, I whinged, whined, and complained over issues we encounter each day, mainly with other guests not wearing masks and social distancing. Later in the day, I felt bad for perhaps sounding ungrateful. The hotel staff has been excellent, albeit inconsistent at times, and the hotel itself is very fine. To see yesterday’s whiny post, please click here.

Please don’t write and beat me up. I’ve done it enough to myself already. We are grateful to have been able to live in this safe, clean, air-conditioned hotel room for the past eight months, precisely 253 days to be exact, as shown above in the heading. We’re grateful for the kindness of the staff, the food, although limited due to our own design, the comfortable bed, and the good WiFi. We’re grateful we’ve been able to afford living here for what will prove to be 10 months by the time we leave, hopefully on January 12, 2021.

And yet a few new blooms magically appear in the tropical climate.

We always promised to tell our readers “like it is” and sometimes that isn’t “pretty,” The reality remains, we could be turned away at the airport again on January 12th. With COVID-19, everything can change on a dime. In the next 42 days, South Africa could again lock down their borders if cases escalate and if coincidentally it falls on the date we’re leaving. Also, India could prevent international flights from entering its borders.

At least, if we knew we couldn’t fly a few days earlier, we could redo our mindset and come up with an alternate plan, hopefully unlike the fiasco we encountered as mentioned above on March 20, 2020, in the middle of the night while exhausted and frustrated.

The shoreline from our condo’s beachfront.

Over the next few days, we’ll come up with a Plan B, should we be turned away at the airport once again. Once we make that decision, we’ll share it with you here. In the interim, we’ve both decided to temper our enthusiasm with a bit of trepidation and uncertainty.

To be able to arrive in Marloth Park, Mpumalanga, South Africa in the late afternoon of January 13, 2021, is, at this point, is a lofty dream. Pulling this off may prove to be a challenge. Thus, at this point, we’ll continue to take the necessary steps to proceed with those three flights, safely and without incident.

The blooming season in Hawaii has long since passed for some flowering plants and trees.

Even so, one can easily worry about contracting COVID-19 while riding in taxis, at the airports, or while on airplanes. None of this is easy. None of this is fun. But, we cannot stay any longer in strict confinement when on January 12th, it will have been almost 10 months.

We can only maintain a glimmer of hope, that all will transpire as planned and that we’ll arrive at our blissful destination, full of hope, joyful anticipation, and plenty of excitement.

The bananas in the yard grow bigger each day, soon ready for picking.

A heartfelt thanks to so many of our family/friends/readers for all of the encouragement and support we received on social media, through email, and comments on our site. We appreciate each and every one of YOU!!!

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, December 1, 2019:

One year ago, we arrived in Nevada to visit family. Son, Richard is definitely a Vegas Golden Knight’s superfan when he had this mural painted on a wall in his backyard pool area. We’re looking forward to attending a game with him on December 8th. For more, please click here.

 

 

 

Day #250 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Our 2013 hotel criteria…Has it changed?…

Out for a drive in Maui, we stopped to walk along the beach.

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2014 while we were staying at Maalaea Beach, Maui. For more photos and details, please click here.

As the long days and nights continue in this long-term confinement, we tend to dream about places we’ve visited in the past and places we’d like to visit in the future. Have our criteria changed much over the years? From this post on November 11, 2013, we had outlined our criteria for staying in hotel rooms throughout the world.

Maui has one beautiful beach after another.

Now, on day #250 of living in a hotel room, we thought it would be interesting to see if our criteria have changed in the past seven years since we originally uploaded this post. Here they are:

  • Free WiFi
  • Laundry options in the room or in the building
  • A sofa in the room (it’s tough to sit on the bed typing on my laptop for hours posting photos and writing)
  • Convenient location: to our next destination (when possible), for sightseeing, (if time allows), and for local modes of transportation for dining out, grocery shopping, etc. (Not applicable now).
  • Kitchenette or full kitchen for longer stays (Not applicable now)
  • Reasonable cost (in most cities a decent hotel room will run from US $175, INR 12941, to US $200, 14790, per night or more with city taxes and fees. (Prices have increased in the past seven years from this original amount as mentioned)
  • Air conditioning (we seldom, if ever, will travel in cold climates)
  • A safe in the room
  • Good view. For us, this is important. If we’re to pay US $200 a night, we want a good, if not great view. (Not applicable now)
  • Great reviews from recent guests for a 4.0 rating or higher. Tom will read from 30 to 50 recent reviews to satisfy our objectives.
    Many beaches are left in a natural state with vegetation growing along the shoreline.

Newly added to this list based on our past and recent experiences include:

  • Complimentary breakfast
  • Complimentary coffee and tea
  • Complimentary bottled water
  • Comfortable bed
  • Sufficient plug-ins for our equipment
    The colors in these hills look more like a painting than real life.

At this point, we feel we’ve had enough hotel experience to last us a lifetime but, not knowing when we can depart Mumbai, staying put in this hotel provides us with the fulfillment of most of the above criteria. Going forward, if and when we’re able to freely travel in the future, these same criteria will be applicable and to our standards.

For the time being, we have booked this hotel room until January 3, 2021, when by happenstance, we checked for future pricing and found, on our site at Hotels.com to discover this hotel was selling rooms for US $50, INR 3698 per night for the bulk of December and US $57, INR 4215 per night for the balance of December, all the way to January 3, 2021. We couldn’t get these prices booked quickly enough.

In a matter of minutes, the clouds began to disperse for a better view of the mountaintop. Notice the buildings at the top of the mountain.

Now, we continue to watch prices to extend our reservations further as needed as we wait this out. As always, especially lately, we’ll play it by ear.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, November 28, 2019:

Upon arrival in Mombasa on Thanksgiving Day in 2013, we took this photo from the ferry, as another ferry was taking off. Notice the crowds. For more photos from that day in 2013,  please click here. For more of the year-ago post, please click here.

 

 

 

 

 

Day #247 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Crucial COVID-19 treatment information…

 

Stunning homes along the channel as we sailed out to sea from Fort Lauderdale.

Today’s photos are from this date in 2017 as we were sailing out to sea on Celebrity Infinity from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on a partial circumnavigation of South America, ending in Buenos Aires, where we stayed for one month in a hotel, awaiting an upcoming cruise to Antarctica. For the story from that date, please click here.

A while back we conducted a vote as to whether we should include COVID-19 news and treatments which we may discover along the way. The results of that vote were 51% against, 49% for. Subsequently, we have diligently stayed away from controversies, and conspiracy theories revolving around the pandemic.

Cargo ship at the port.

Today’s comments do not consist of a controversy or a conspiracy. It is a simple medical fact…sugar is not an essential nutrient and is particularly harmful to seriously ill hospitalized COVID-19 patients. If only one of our readers or a loved one benefit from this information, this post would be well worth any backlash or negative comments we may receive from naysayers.

Unless one has been living under a rock for the past 10 years, the dangers of consuming sugar have been reiterated over and over again. Again, sugar is not an essential nutrient. If we never consumed any sugar in our lives, we’d never be missing a single nutrient vital for life.

Bridge in Fort Lauderdale.

As we all are aware sugar (and high carb foods that convert to sugar in our bodies upon consumption) is highly detrimental to diabetes or those with metabolic syndrome. Most recently, as I’ve strictly reduced my carb consumption and watched my blood sugar and blood pressure dramatically reduce to a point where I’ve been able to stop two 20-year medications, has been evident to me which I shared in this post a few days ago.

After spending no less than two hours a day researching ways in which I can improve my cardiovascular health, I discovered two things of the major causes of cardiovascular disease: Smoking (I was an occasional smoker in my youth) and sugar (in my case, the consumption of too many carbs/sugar in my diet from a lifetime of eating a low fat, high carb diet). It took 30 to 40 years for my cardiovascular disease to manifest.

People waving to ships as they make their way out to sea.

So, this morning a podcast popped up on my phone from Dr. Robert Cywes, a highly reputable surgeon who’s become involved in saving lives through diet who is known as the “Carb Addiction Doctor,” entitled, The Absolute Evidence, The Truth About Cardiovascular Disease, Sugar or Fat by Robert Cywes. The content of this podcast is found here:

Well, what does the above topic have to do with COVID-19? A lot actually. As Dr. Cywes explains, hospitalized COVID-19 patients who become unable to eat due to being intubated or too sick to eat, are given IVs containing GLUCOSE which is PURE SUGAR.

View of houses on the channel.

If you or a family member are pre-diabetic, diabetic, or suffering from a metabolic disease (and many other conditions), this massive dose of sugar can send the patient into a state of high blood sugar/diabetes requiring treatment with insulin which only exacerbates the virus to a point that may contribute to death. Why do we keep hearing about poor outcomes/death for diabetics and patients with other comorbidities? Many are being pumped full of sugar, only increasing their risk of death.

No, I am not a medical professional, nor do I profess to know more than the average person. But, it’s not rocket science to figure out that massive infusions of sugar is detrimental to many patients and the sugar is not needed. When I had open-heart surgery in 2019 in South Africa I made sure it was stated in bold type on my chart that no IV was to contain glucose. There are simple, non-glucose alternatives if fluids are needed, containing healthy fats and protein or if a short-term treatment, plain saline is generally safe.

So, there it is, folks. Listen to the above podcast. Do your own research. Talk to your doctor. Tell the hospital staff if you or a loved one are hospitalized. Save a life.

That’s all I have to say.

Photo from one year ago today, November 25, 2019:

When we didn’t have any new photos to share here is a six-year ago photo we posted in 2019.  This view from the second-floor balcony at Whalers Village in Kaanapali Beach was breathtaking. For more photos from this post, please click here.

 

 

Day #245 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Golfing for travelers…

 

A manmade pond on the Kahili Golf Course in Maui, Hawaii, created a pretty scene.

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2014 while living in Maui, Hawaii. Please see here for more details.

Neither of us ever took up the sport of golf mainly due to the fact neither of us is very good at it. After a few tries over the years, each separately, the frustration factor was simply too much to overcome, nor did either of us have enough interest in the sport to take lessons.

In a way, when we began traveling the world, we were glad we had no interest in playing golf. Hauling clubs all over the world made little sense considering how much we travel. The added costs for flying with two sets of golf clubs, plus fees and expenses would have far surpassed our budget, requiring we sacrifice something more important to us such as quality holiday homes, rental cars, and dining out.

The lush lawns at the Kahili Golf Club in Maui were similar to the gorgeous lawns at our condo in Maalaea Beach

Many avid golfer travelers rent clubs as they travel but then again, that may have been for a few trips a year, not non-stop world travel. Nonetheless, we’ve enjoyed the beauty of many golf courses throughout the world and have either driven through them to revel in their carpet-like lawns and at times, dine in the clubhouse.

In Princeville, Kauai in 2015, where we lived for four months, we acquired a social membership to the Makai Golf Course which allowed us access to the pool, fitness center, dining, and social activities. We certainly took advantage of that membership at US $250, INR 18,547, per month for the two of us. In reviewing their site, we weren’t able to determine the cost of that same social membership now, particularly in light of COVID-19, when everything has changed.

A gazebo and footbridge on the course with the ocean at a distance.

It’s difficult to determine costs for any travel-related expenses at this time when so much has changed due to COVID-19, but in reviewing costs to travel with golf clubs, the added cost will vary from airline to airline, depending upon their included and extra baggage fees. It could range from US $35, INR 2595, to US $150, INR 11122, per bag or more.

Adding the cost of greens fees, cart, taxes, tips, and beverages can easily be as much as US $1000, INR INR 74139 for two players at an upscale course, and 30% this amount at a modestly priced course. If we were golfers, hauling our bags with us, we’d feel committed to playing at each new location, spending thousands more each year.

We were tempted to try either of these buffets offered at the Kahili Golf Course. But, as usual, buffets in the US seem to offer less acceptable options for my way of eating.

No, doubt, for an avid golfer with ample funds allocated for the sport, golfing throughout the world would be quite an adventurous and fun experience, especially if done so as a couple, avoiding the necessity of finding others to play with at each location, who may not suit your level of play.

As mentioned in the above-posted link for today’s photos, we both were literally addicted to playing Wii Golf in our old lives, eventually resulting in what our family doctor referred to as “Wiinjuries,” injured incurred due to excessive play of the very fun video game, played on a flat-screen TV. Of course, this was nothing like playing “real” golf but certainly was fun until we both had to quit due to shoulder injuries acquired from playing this “small” version of golf.

Although there was a road sign warning of “crossing by the Nene birds (Hawaiian geese), only these Cattle Egrets ran back and forth across the road.

For those interested in traveling with their golf clubs, here are some tips from the PGA’s website here:

  • Try to get a non-stop flight, if possible. The fewer times baggage handlers need to move your clubs from plane to plane in a short amount of time, the better.
  • Get a durable, well-made travel bag. Hardshell bags are more expensive and the best will run around $250. But Schmidt said they’ll give you more protection if you want that peace of mind.
  • If you use a soft-sided bag, don’t forget to pack a golf club protection device. It looks like an adjustable aluminum crutch that’s taller than your driver and keeps your shafts from being damaged in case the bag is dropped upside down.
  • Don’t forget that golf bags are considered “oversized check-in”. If you don’t know where to find check-in or pick up at a particular airport, Schmidt said make sure you ask someone as soon as you get there. And if you’re unsure about the cost or weight allowance, check with the airline or your travel agent. Be aware that some airports will send your golf bag through the regular baggage belt (with all of the other luggage) but others (such as Atlanta Hartsfield) will leave at a different location for oversized bags.
  • Add some personal ID marking to your bag. Miller said adding some bright-colored string or a pom-pom will help you identify it quickly. Many bags have places for business cards as well. Don’t forget to include your cell phone number. If possible, include the name of the hotel where you’re staying.

 

This lush greenery outlined the entrance to the golf tunnel. What a beautiful way to mask an otherwise less appealing entrance and exit!

PGA.COM COURSE FINDER: Locate a course near you by distance, price, or type

  • Don’t wind up with more luggage than you need. “Never travel with more bags than you can manage alone,” Miller said.
  • Think about a cab or car service (or ride to the airport). Drops you off closer to the gate than parking, which means a long haul at times with a large bag to roll.
  • Pack your clubs so they won’t move around in the travel bag. “If you’re going to Scotland or Ireland, it’s easy because you’re going to be throwing extra sweaters or a windbreaker in there to give it extra protection,” Schmidt said.
  • Tip: Use your travel bag for additional storage. “You can put gifts and other things you’re bringing back home in that golf bag,” Schmidt said.
  • Don’t leave your expensive electronics in your golf bag. Rangefinder? GPS? Treat it just like your computer – carry it on with you.
  • If you’re still leery of putting your equipment on a plane, do use a shipping service. “It’s not necessarily the most affordable way to transport them,” Schmidt said. “But if you want the peace of mind, they do a good job with that.”
    As we ended our visit to the golf course, one more panoramic view was in order.

Well, at this point in lockdown, 245 days later, simply walking through or dining at a golf course would be delightful. Even, if we could play Wii now, that would also be a good way to spend time in this hotel room.

At the moment, Tom is watching yesterday’s Minnesota Viking football game on his laptop. I didn’t care to see it since I accidentally stumbled (no pun intended) across the outcome.

Otherwise, all is fine. Another day…

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, November 23, 2019:

One year ago on this date, I’d forgotten to take photos while visiting family in Minnesota. Instead, I posted this photo from this same date in Maui in 2014 which we’ve highlighted above. For the story from one year ago, please click here.