Part 1…A shocking and totally unexpected situation…We aren’t in Seychelles on the cruise…What???…

I don’t know where to begin to tell this convoluted story of sheer travel frustration and dismay.

In many ways, the details of this story only compare to the fiasco of attempting to find a place to stay when we ended up in lockdown in India when Covid-19 hit. That resulted in our being trapped in a hotel room in Mumbai in March 2020 for ten long months, indeed a somewhat awful travel memory.

Now, this new harrowing experience is more than a correlation between our determination to continue traveling and our intent to maintain an optimistic attitude during one of the most complex travel situations over the past ten years. But. this current situation could have been the straw that broke the camel’s back had we been considering putting an end to our travels.

After ten years of highly experiential travel, we pride ourselves in being well-prepared and knowledgeable on most potential challenges we may encounter.

So here’s how it all began and ultimately played out starting Thursday. November 24, a mere three days ago.

The drive from Marloth Park to Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger Airport was relatively smooth and uneventful. We dropped off the rental car and wheeled our two well-stuffed duffle bags into the lovely little airport, checked in with our two duffle bags looking forward to a pleasant, albeit long 19-hour trip, including layovers, until we’d land in Mahe, Seychelles, with a one-night stay at an oceanfront Hilton Hotel.

We didn’t anticipate any problems. Our documents for our arrival in Seychelles and our subsequent return to Marloth Park 12 days later were in order. Or…so we thought…

When booking the Seychelles cruise with Intrepid Travel months ago, we asked countless questions and conducted extensive research on immigration and Covid-19 requirements. Our online research verified that we’d receive a Seychelles visa upon arrival to the country.

Nothing in the comprehensive documents and instructions from Intrepid Travel over the past months stated that any additional documents would be required than the requested copies of passports, vaccine certificates, and my food preferences.

We verified what Intrepid needed via multiple email messages and a chat module on their website.

Once we completed the usual easy flight on Airlink to Johannesburg Tambo Airport, around 7:30 pm,1930 hrs., we checked in at the Ethiopian Air counter. The rep gave us all the boarding passes we needed.

The agent asked to see the border authority’s approval for arrival and departure for Seychelles. We were dumbfounded. We’d never heard of such a form.

The rep firmly stated, “You need to have approval from the Seychelles border authority that you’ve been approved to enter the country.” She gave us a link to begin the application process, which we could do online right then and there. At this point, we had four hours until our flight, and we weren’t concerned. Surely, we’d get the form completed and processed on time for our flight.

At first, we thought it was no big deal. It was just a minor inconvenience. We found a good place to sit and began the process. The WiFi signal at Tambo was very poor. I could get online on my phone with the weak signal but not on either of our laptops. While we started the application, we were approached and asked by other passengers if they’d been informed of this requirement. They, too, had no idea about applying for this border authority permit.

Fast and furiously, we scrambled on our phones with the awful signal trying to get the forms for each of us submitted. The application kept shutting down due to the poor signal, and we didn’t get our forms submitted until about two hours before the flight. We had options to choose from as to how it would cost for various expediency, based on the urgency of the approved documents. We choose the most expensive option for the fastest approval at Euro 78 per person, US $81.23.

We waited and waited. One of the other couples going through the same process got their approval, but the others, including us, did not.

We all asked if we could board the flight to Addis Ababa, the next leg of our flight which was five hours, with a three-hour layover, before our last flight to Seychelles. Nope, this was not allowed. We either got on now with the approval or…this was it…we weren’t going. By the time we were supposed to board, while we were still at the Ethiopian Air counter, we still didn’t have the approval. The Ethiopian Air agent told us we were too late to board and weren’t getting on the flight.

At this point, I should mention there was not another available flight to Seychelles that would allow us to board the ship in time for the sailing.

But, here is the clincher. All this occurred at 10:40 pm, 2240 hrs, November 24, 2022. At this point, we had less than 26 hours to get out of South Africa, or we’d become “undesirables” and couldn’t reenter South Africa for five years.

Instantly we knew we needed to have a Plan B. In tomorrow’s post, we’ll share Plan B and tell you what transpired.

Be well.

Four days and counting…Saving more money on future cruises…Blood on the veranda…What could that be?…

We were shocked to see the blood on the veranda, but there was no evidence of its source.

We had a busy morning. We rushed off to the doctor at 9:15 am to get a few more prescriptions. This will be my third round of antibiotics for the acute sinusitis I got when I had Covid-19 in April. The other medications I am currently on have been adjusted, lowering some doses, and adding a nebulizer treatment. I tried to avoid taking more antibiotics but this needs to go away once and for all.

Once back at the house, Zef was here cleaning and changing the linen. There was a problem with the bathroom sink over the weekend and it was tricky trying to do six nasal flushing treatments a day in the bathroom sink when we knew it wouldn’t get fixed until Monday. We didn’t tell Louise about it until this morning since we didn’t want to disturb their short holiday in Mozambique. over the weekend.

We put a large bowl in the bathroom sink and used that each time I did the nasal treatments or washed our hands, dumping the water onto the shower floor and rinsing the bowl each time. That worked. TIA. This is Africa. Stuff happens. Then again, stuff happens wherever we’ve lived in the world, including back in the USA.

When Tom stepped onto the veranda this morning, he spotted this trail of blood with no indication of its source. There are a few leaves in the center but aren’t of importance.

The extra refrigerator we use that’s on the veranda died over the weekend. We emptied everything out and moved the items to the main refrigerator in the kitchen. I’m sure while we’re gone, Louise will arrange to have the refrigerator repaired since we use it often, especially when doing a two-week grocery run or having guests.

Tom is currently on his way to Komatipoort to get my prescriptions filled so we’ll be good to go on Thursday. Fortunately, he was willing to drive up and back on his own as he’d done last Friday for the same purpose. This enabled me to work on some projects around the house; folding laundry, prepping for dinner, and writing a schedule for all of the medications which require my attention every two hours.

I contacted Louise to send the link for our next three months’ rent due at the end of this month and immediately paid that, taking one more item off of the “to-do” list. Yesterday, I set up bill pay for upcoming credit card payments due in December in the event we have poor WiFi on the ship which we’re expecting. We entirely pay off our credit card balances each month unless we’ve charged a huge amount for a pricey cruise or trip, which we’ll pay over two months.

The animal (or human, for that matter) walked along the side of the house where the blood droplets continued.

Speaking of money, Tom discovered another price drop, a Black Friday special, on Cruise Critic, for our upcoming cruise next August. He called Costco Travel that evening and we received another price reduction of US $1100, ZAR 19175…plus an additional US $1000, ZAR 17432, cabin credit which added to our existing US $300 cabin credit, ZAR 5227 for a total of US $1300, ZAR 222652, that we can use for purchases of drinks, WiFi or purchases in the shops which are always fun for me when we have unused cabin credit. The cruise lines do not refund leftover cabin credit.

Our total benefit for that one call to Costco on November 18, resulted in us saving US $2100, ZAR 36588, less the reduction on the complimentary Costco gift card, which we can’t use until we get back to the states. The last such gift card we had, we used toward the purchase of this new Lenovo Windows 11 Ideapad Flex 5 which I am very happy with. Using a Chromebook, for all we do wasn’t ideal for me but works well for Tom.

A hornbill stopping by for some birdseed we place on the bushbaby ledge.

Of course, this price reduction reduced the amount of the gift card Costco provides for booking travel with them. Originally, before all the price reductions we’ve got on this cruise with credits for canceled cruises and price drops, we only owe US $2996, ZAR 52161 as compared to our original price for that cruise US $16275, ZAR 2834406.

It’s imperative that we stay on top of all of these posted price reductions. The cruise seller/agents don’t watch for the price drops on cruises. It’s up to us to keep an eye out and then ask for the benefit of the reductions and perks.

Earl stopped by last night for some pellets on the bench which he prefers to eating off of the ground.

This upcoming cruise in Seychelles didn’t offer any price reductions or perks. Once we set sail or at the end of the cruise, we’ll be posting the cruise fare and added expenses.

Today, the temperature and humidity are moderate and we’re quite comfortable which is a welcomed relief. There are many hours of load shedding but we are fine with that, as long as our inverter is working and provides WiFi, the ability to recharge our equipment, a fan in the bedroom, and the light from one lamp.

May you have a pleasant Monday! Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, November 21, 2021:

It was great to see this elephant from Amazing Kruger View restaurant while out to dinner with another couple the previous night. For more photos, please click here.

A little life is fading away…

Hoppy is trying to eat a little but is not thriving like the other piglets. The hair on her back stands up as a sign of defense since I stood nearby to take this photo.

There are no words to describe how sad it is to watch precious little warthog Hoppy slowly lose her life. Her mom brings her and her two siblings to see us at least once daily. But Hoppy’s broken leg prevents her from thriving, and she is losing weight and drifting away. Now, when they visit, she nuzzles the remnants of the lucerne into a little bed she makes for herself using her snout.

She no longer stands to eat pellets, even if we toss them near her. When it’s time to go after they stay for an hour or more; she hops along on her three legs, unable to put any pressure on her right front leg. It’s swollen. There is nothing the rangers can do. Some animals may be treated, such as bushbucks and other animals. In the wild, nature takes its course, however sad it may be.

Warthogs may proliferate with three or four piglets each season, while bushbucks, kudus, duikers, wildebeests, zebras, and others generally only have one offspring per season. As a result, less money is allocated to treat injured and ill warthogs, which, as you’ve seen in our past posts, often fall prey to severe injuries.

Hoppy doesn’t have much chance of survival with this severe leg injury. We don’t know how much longer she’ll be able to keep up with her mom and siblings.

Warthog’s protective nature of protecting their young, and their territory, coupled with their often feisty personalities, lead them to be easy targets for other prey, including lions and leopards, as illustrated a few days ago in this post. These types of injuries are hard to see when we have a particular affinity for warthogs with their intelligent and humorous nature.

But, Hoppy? What happened there? It’s unlikely it was an injury. The newborn’s bones are flexible, and it’s doubtful she incurred this severe injury after we saw her within hours of her birth when mom and babies stopped by, and we observed the leg problem immediately.

With all the inbreeding in wildlife in Marloth Park, other areas, and national parks, it’s possibly a congenital disability, but it could quickly have occurred during birth. We’ll never know for sure, but in the interim, we’re watching a fast path to her demise, which, based on how she is moaning when she lays in the lucerne, we expect it won’t be too long. She’s withering away.

On the right is the mom we called Wounded, who was attacked by a leopard or lion. She likely won’t survive either, although her injury looks a little better, as shown in the photo below.

We know that one day soon, her mom will arrive with only two piglets, and then we will know….unless she passes during the hour or two, they are in our garden each day. Yes, I know the words people always say., “It’s the nature of wildlife,” with the same logical sense that accompanies life in the wild.

The great joy of spending our days and nights in the bush leaves a propensity to feel deeply for these animals. It’s unavoidable. But, in this environment, unique from anything else we’ve ever known, it’s easy to become attached in a way similar to falling in love with a puppy in only a few days.

Last night, we canceled our reservation at Jabula and stayed home. I wasn’t up to going out again. One of the medications I am taking causes me to be sleepy, and I didn’t have the steam to go out. We took out a container of leftover stir-fry with fried rice for Tom, and I made a salad to go with us. We had a nice dinner in the dining room. Since the insects were so awful outdoors, we had no choice but to eat indoors.

Wounded’s injury still looks awful, and she will not survive when sepsis sets in.

This morning, when we got up, I washed all the insects off the kitchen counters before we made breakfast or prepped any food for tonight’s dinner of bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin, fried rice (for Tom), green beans, and salad. We already had dozens of flying insects in the kitchen, which are attracted to hot food and meat when prepared and served. We had to shut the dining room doors during dinner. After dinner, we headed to the bedroom so Tom could spray the kitchen with Doom.

A few of today’s photos are repeated. There haven’t been many photo ops this weekend, with more tourists in the park and the awful heat on Saturday topping 103F, 39C. Fortunately, today is a fantastic and cloudy day with moderate temps and humidity. It certainly is appreciated by both of us.

Happy day.

Photo from one year ago today, November 20, 2021:

Gordon Ramsay, also known as Gordy, lounged in the garden after eating veg and pellets. He visits us at this house as well as the last. Each bushbuck has some distinguishable markings, making it possible to recognize past visitors using our past photos for reference. For more photos, please click here.

Did we get in on an outstanding, unanticipated windfall?…

What a cute bird. Friends Lynne and Mick identified this bird as a grey-headed bushshrike.

The only word I can think of to describe the bit of good fortune  was windfall or in our case “safari luck” that we experienced yesterday resulted from Tom reading what’s called a “roll call,” for which he was signed up to receive email messages each time a passenger posts a comment on CruiseCritic.com.

Yesterday’s comment from a passenger who’ll be sailing on the same cruise we’ll be on next August from Edinburgh, Scotland, to Amsterdam, Holland, stated prices for the cruise had dropped substantially. In the past 24 hours. In the cruise industry, most cruise lines allow those who booked early to take advantage of price drops before the final payment is made.

Tom took this photo of this colorful bird, albeit a little blurry.

With credits we received for canceling past cruises due to the pandemic and visa issues, we still owed a remaining US $8600, ZAR 149127 (roughly), for this expensive cruise to Norway. The price had dropped over US $4500, ZAR 78058!!!!

windfall
/ˈwɪn(d)fɔːl/
  1. an apple or other fruit blown down from a tree or bush by the wind
  2. a large amount of money is won or received unexpectedly

Promptly at 3:59 pm, 1559 hrs., Tom started dialing Costco Travel’s phone number. Often it can take us an hour or two on hold to get through to a live representative. We’ve found that dialing nonstop, minutes before their offices open in the US,  is the best and most efficient way to get a live rep on the phone right away. This has been our only frustration with Costco Travel.

A rep came on the line in less than a minute. Tom explained the price drop he found at Azamara’s site. It took 45 minutes on the line for the rep to confirm that we were entitled to the price drop. Only moments after Tom ended the call; we had a new cruise confirmation document with our vast price reduction of US $4520, ZAR 78286.

Bushbuck in the garden; Tulip, Lilac, and Johnny; and Delilah, one duiker.

All we’ll owe for the final payment to the US is due on March 20. When it’s due, we will pay the balance of US $4096.62, ZAR 71061.20. Costco keeps one of our credit cards on file for this purpose, so we don’t have to call to pay the balance.

The original cost of the cruise for two  passengers was $16274.62., ZAR 282,938. Our total price now is US $11754.62, ZAR 204302.35 before all the credits we received in the past year for canceled past cruises.

We’re thrilled! It isn’t often we’ve been able to benefit from this much of a price drop in one fell swoop. After the documents confirmed all this, Tom posted on CruiseCritic.com to alert other passengers to the price drop. Many have responded that they, too, have saved this substantial sum.

We couldn’t have been more delighted to see Norman, Nina, and Noah this morning. We gave them an apple, but they didn’t seem interested after sniffing it.

Today, we’re staying in on a cool cloudy day. We’ll make our “unwich” (bread-free) subway-type sandwiches tonight using good quality deli meats, Emmenthal cheese, avocado, red onions, tomatoes, and keto mayonnaise, wrapped in large lettuce leaves and finally in parchment paper. We hadn’t had this treat since we were stuck in a hotel in Minnesota, sick with Omicron, while Tom could still drive before pneumonia made it impossible for him to go out. That was in May.

As for my headache, I am delighted the medication has begun to work, and the pain has improved by 50%. Again, tonight I’ll double the dose from 10 mg to 20 mg as directed by Doc Theo. This should result in considerably more improvement over the next several days. I am hopeful. I’ve had two good nights’ sleep since I increased the dose on Monday night.

Tomorrow morning, I’m off to Stoep Café in Komati for breakfast and “girl talk” with Rita. If I can, I’ll complete the post before we leave at 10:00 am; if not, I’ll finish it when we get home. Plan to see the new post, a few hours later than usual.

Enjoy your day!

Photos from one year ago today, September 7, 2021:

Broken Horn and Hal in a bit of scuffle over pellets this morning. For more photos, please click here.

Part 2….Two new exciting bookings…Update on the ailing little bushbuck…

This weekend is Women’s Day in South Africa, which is actually on Tuesday, August 9. For information on the holiday, please click here for last year’s post where we described details regarding this holiday.

Busy morning with ten zebras stopping by for drinks from the pool and pellets.

As for our injured/sick little bushbuck baby that we discovered in the garden yesterday, we received an audio message on WhatsApp regarding her condition. I tried to move the audio to today’s post so you could hear it, but it wasn’t possible to do with my version of WordPress.

As a result, the audio message explained that the issue with the young bushbuck was a hydration issue, resulting in her inability to get up. With the bush sparse in vegetation and the mother unable to eat sufficiently to produce milk, the baby was near starvation. They are bottle feeding her at Dr. Piet’s office, and it’s “touch and go” for now.

If she makes it through the next few days, they will move her to the boma, where she will be nursed to health by Deidre at Wild and Free Rehabilitation Centre until the little one can return to the wild in Marloth Park. Will she find her mother at that point? Maybe, maybe not. It’s hard to say. But, by the time she’s released, she’ll be old enough to eat on her own.

“Why not eat some pellets and get off my feet?”

As for our next booking, we booked another cruise on the Celebrity Summit, which will sail one day after our Azamara cruise from Scotland to Amsterdam ends, which sails on Norway’s north and west coasts. The itinerary for the new cruise is as follows:

Friday, August 18 Reykjavik, Iceland 4:00pm
Saturday, August 19 Isafjordur, Iceland 8:00am 5:00pm
Sunday, August 20 Akureyri, Iceland 7:00am 4:00pm
Monday, August 21 At Sea
Tuesday, August 22 Prince Christian Sound, Greenland (Cruising)
Wednesday, August 23 Qaqortoq, Greenland 7:00am 5:00pm
Thursday, August 24 At Sea
Friday, August 25 At Sea
Saturday, August 26 St. John’s, NL, Canada 7:00am 6:00pm
Sunday, August 27 At Sea
Monday, August 28 Halifax, NS, Canada 7:00am 6:00pm
Tuesday, August 29 At Sea
Wednesday, August 30 Boston, MA 7:00am

The cost for this cruise is US $7280, ZAR 122162, for a two-person balcony cabin, including taxes, port fees, gratuities, drink packages, and WiFi for two. To receive these perks, we had to pay the additional US $1200, ZAR 20135, but overall we saved money doing it this way. We could use only a part of a credit we received from Celebrity when we contracted Covid-19 on the last two days of the most recent cruise from Florida to England.

The reason why we could use only half of the credits we received is due to the fact the credits would expire before the upcoming Celebrity cruise mentioned today. However, they had made a typo on my certificate and listed the expiration date as 2024. But Tom’s certificate stated it expired in 2023 before the sail date. There was nothing we could do. We were grateful we got half due to their typo, but we had to make a fuss about it.

When the cruise ends in Boston, we’ll visit my cousin Phyllis for a few days and then head to Minnesota and Nevada to see more family over a month. During that time, we’ll renew our driver’s licenses in Nevada, our state of residency. Sometime between now and then, we have to renew our passports. It may be required for us to travel to Cape Town or Johannesburg to visit the US Consulate to do so.

One thing at a time: we have plenty to figure out right now regarding getting new 90-day visa stamps to continue using South Africa as a base for this next year when we leave for other adventures.

There’s always so much for us to figure out. I looked at Tom and said, “Do you want to stop traveling?” Immediately, he answered an emphatic “no,” asking me how I felt. I don’t want to stop either. So the challenges of figuring out our travels continue.

Even when the others began to wander away, a few remained at rest.

When we had canceled the three back-to-back cruises due to our inability and unwillingness to mail our passports to a visa service or consulate and be without a key in a foreign country (very risky), to obtain a visa for various countries along the way, we had already paid in full for the first of the three cruises.

Last night, after a fantastic dinner and evening at Jabula with Rita, Gerhard and Lee, we received an email from Azamara. They will NOT give us a refund for the canceled cruise. Instead, they are giving us a future cruise credit that expires in June 2023.

We won’t be able to apply it for the cruise we have booked with Azamara for next August to Norway. We will lose almost US $5000, ZAR 83896, unless we book another cruise on Azamara by June 30, 2023. This infuriated us! We can’t call until Monday evening since their offices are closed over the weekend. We’re trying to figure out what we’ll do. Once we know, we’ll report it here.

We’ve decided not to make ourselves crazy worrying about this until Monday. We’ll still enjoy the blissful weather and visitors who may stop by on this busy holiday weekend. We are grateful we are safe, healthy, and doing well.

Enjoy our photos from the past few days, and have a lovely weekend as well.

Photo from one year ago today, August 6, 2021:

Helmeted guinea fowls were kicking up the soot in the firepit while taking a “soot bath.” For more photos, please click here.

Ten things we don’t like about cruising…Funny warthog behavior…

A warthog named Busybody noticed the pellets we’d set on the railing for the kudus.

Each morning when I am getting ready for the day, I take my phone into the bathroom and listen to podcasts. Lately, with our interest in cruising, I have been listening to two podcasts; one is La Lido Loca, and two is Cruise News. The podcasters of both of these shows are highly knowledgeable, albeit a little goofy, and stay up to date on what’s going on in the cruise industry, including realistic and straightforward observations on the good and the bad of cruising.

Busybody made himself comfortable in the awkward position and devoured the pellets.

This morning, on La Lido Loca, the podcaster discussed ten things he hates about cruising which prompted today’s topic from our perspective, which may be different from his in some ways. Right now, we must admit, we’re a little apprehensive about cruising with constant changes in policies, pricing, and itineraries.

Untypical for warthogs, Busybody got up on his hind legs to reach the pellets.

Also, recently contracting Covid-19 on a cruise may have impacted our view of cruising, at least for the time being. Our recent cancellation of the 42-night triple back-to-back cruise left a bad taste in our mouths when we’d have had to snail mail our passports to a US company to get visas for various countries’ ports of call. This impossible situation gave us no alternative but to cancel the entire booking, losing more money in the process. We’re tired of losing money on cruises with policy changes, leading us to point #1.

TEN THINGS WE DON’T LIKE ABOUT CRUISING

  1. Cruise lines making changes regarding an itinerary, which may be beyond their control, such as the war in Ukraine but failing to provide full refunds for deposits and final payments.
  2. Cruise lines do not provide clear and concise visa requirements at the time of the booking.
  3. Inconsistent Covid-19 requirements and protocol. Poor treatment of infected passengers during their quarantine period in the cabin.
  4. Failure to compensate passengers for travel expenses when a cruise is canceled last minute. Travel insurance prices have increased since the pandemic, preventing many travelers from making a purchase.
  5. Mandatory tips added each day of the cruise. Why can’t passengers tip for good service at their discretion? How do we know how the mandatory tips are distributed? We have no problem tipping but employees should be paid sufficiently. We never remove the mandatory tips (which can be done). Some cruise lines include tips in the fare pricing as a perk, which is preferred.
  6. Constant promotion to passengers during the cruise to pay for additional services that aren’t included in the basic cruise fare.
  7. Outrageous WiFi fees for their poor quality connection. We need WiFi during cruises. We understand service may be slow at certain points. But, failure to upgrade their often antiquated systems and expect passengers to pay is frustrating.
  8. Pre-cruise long hold times on the phone when calling with questions. Slow response time from cruise lines when making email inquiries.
  9. Long waiting periods for refunds, when they are allowed
  10. Errors on bills. If we don’t check our TV bill daily, we miss incorrect charges. Customer service is good about reversing such charges when they are found. Passengers must take the responsibility for frequently checking their account charges.

When listening to the podcast today, he’d comment about things other passengers do that annoy him such as “cutting in line” and taking more food than they can eat in the buffet. We don’t pay much attention to what other cruisers are doing, finding most passengers to be friendly and likable and the staff who strive to provide excellent service.

Big Daddy said, “Where are those pellets waiting for me on this railing?” We gave him more, carefully staying back to avoid those massive horns.

We are more interested in how the cruise experience impacts our expectations of quality, seamless situations, safety, and financial equity.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, July 17, 2021:

Tom was not named after this grand uncle. This headstone is located at St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Waukesha, Wisconsin. For more photos, please click here.

Coldest night so far…Another fun anniversary to celebrate!!!…New photos from nighttime trail cam and more…

Today, we celebrate 31 years since we met in 1991. This is our last selfie, taken at the silent disco on the cruise in April 2022, the night before we both developed symptoms of Omicron. We are grateful to have recovered and, of course, to be together through all the ups and downs of being home-free, storage-free world travelers for almost ten years. That special anniversary is upcoming on October 31!!!

The aircon units used in bedrooms here can cool in the hottest weather and warm when it’s cold. We’ve never used the heating feature since we feel we don’t need to waste the electricity required to power the heating aspect of these units. Instead, we bundle up in warm clothes and, at night, sleep with layers of blankets we can strip off if necessary.

It’s incredible how much our body heat warms the bedroom at night. We noticed it when we left the bedroom at night to get something from the kitchen. We have never turned on the heat while in South Africa.

Last night at dinner, while seated at the dining room table (it was too cold to eat outdoors), my fingers were as cold as they would have been outdoors in the middle of winter in Minnesota. Holding them under warm water for a few minutes solved the problem.

Later, fully dressed, we got under the two top layers on the bed to watch a movie, one Tom hadn’t seen years ago, and now I know why. It was Armageddon, a movie I’d seen once and recalled, like the adventure of a disaster movie. The past few years are reminiscent of movies I watched about pandemics. Isn’t it ironic that those movies have come to us in the form of real life? I sure hope no massive asteroid start hurdling toward earth!

According to many news reports we read from time to time, we face disasters, right and left. Sometimes, I find it best not to read those articles. One can become anxious and depressed over such news. We both choose to embrace the positive aspects of life. Negative thinking can quickly impact one’s quality of life and health.

That doesn’t mean we are oblivious to what’s happening globally and even locally. We stay aware enough to tweak our lives as needed to consider the challenges such as using less fuel, not being wasteful, recycling, and being mindful of using products and services we don’t need. This also means tightening our budget as needed in tough economic times.

Last night, after two hours on hold with Costco Travel about finally receiving our over the US $5000, ZAR 79,318 credit from Azamara from us canceling the Black Sea cruise when the itinerary was changed due to the war in Ukraine. We intended to offset the final payment due at midnight for the first leg of the upcoming cruise in November for the triple back-to-back from Athens to Cape Town.

Why should we pay in advance when they owe us so much money? Luckily, after being on hold for two hours, the Costco rep finally got through to Azamara and resolved the issue. They credited us over US $5000. We’ll pay for the second leg in a few weeks and the third, weeks later.

Big Daddy gracefully stepped over the fence with his long legs.

This particular triple back-to-back is very expensive, much more than we’re usually willing to spend. But. It’s an almost entirely new itinerary for us, seeing countries we may never be able to see again, and we decided to bite the bullet and book them. Of course, we are concerned about getting Covid-19 again, based on our recent bad experience. But, we’ve chosen not to live our lives in fear, preventing us from new experiences.

We hear so much about people getting Covid-19 on cruise ships. But, if we were to research other venues and circumstances, people are still getting sick from different scenarios. That doesn’t mean we are careless and unconcerned. It simply means we’ve decided to move on and resume our world travels more expansively.

This evening, the two of us will celebrate the anniversary of the day we met 31 years ago, on June 28, 1991. We are grateful to be together after all these years, still in love and blissfully interested in one another.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, June 28, 2021:

Thick Neck stopped by frequently at our last house, but we’ve yet to see him here. Maybe one day, soon. For more photos, please click here.

One day and counting…Packing day…Exciting windfall described at the end of today’s post!…

    The new watch face on my Fitbit Sense. How appropriate is that? I didn’t walk much yesterday when I took this photo, and we were too busy with other tasks.

Yesterday, after we returned from picking up Tom’s suit and a few items for me at Target, I began to pack. Much to my delight, the four fancy dresses I’d purchased on Amazon, sight unseen, fit me well. The wrinkle-proof dresses fit into my small carry-on Samsonite bag and my camera and costume jewelry.

Although I purchased quite a few new items, including four pairs of jeans, I managed to fit everything else into my one large bag. The only issue will be the weight, which we’ll figure out at the end of the second cruise when we fly from New York to Minneapolis on May 1. As always, it will all work out.

At least I’ll be returning to Marloth Park with enough clothes, underwear, and shoes to get me through the following year in South Africa and for any side trips that we’ll need to make in the process for visa stamps. Mostly, I purchased comfy easy-wash-and-wear tee shirts, a few pairs of versatile black pants, and a few dressier tops for special nights out, such as for my 75th birthday party at Jabula, a mere ten months from now.

I purchased one pair of Skechers walking shoes and will buy one more pair when we get to Minneapolis, where there’s no tax on clothes and shoes, which will save 7.5% plus a 20% coupon I got online. I didn’t need to bring another pair of shoes on the two cruises when right now I have one black sandal, one tan sandal, one silvery flat shoe, one pair of walking shoes, and two pairs of Keds leather slip-on for a total of six pairs of shoes, the most I’ve had in over eight years. How exciting!

I still don’t have an official handbag, but Tom will carry my lipstick in his pockets on the cruises. Instead of handbags, I usually travel with one large South African cloth bag, which holds more than any handbag. I purchased these at the shop at the Mugg and Bean at Lower Sabie in Kruger National Park. I am now using my second bag. Before we left, I machine washed my first of the two fully lined bags, which came out brand new after air drying. I left it behind and am currently using the newer second bag.

However, carrying a big cloth bag from South Africa is unsuitable for nights out on a cruise, especially when wearing dressy clothes. Tom always says he’s my “pack mule.”  As for Tom, other than the suit, shirts, two ties, a pocket scarf, and a pair of black Cole Haan shoes, he didn’t need a thing. His casual button-down shirts for dinners on the cruise and dining out in Marloth Park are in perfect condition. He rotates about a dozen of the quality wash-and-wear shirts and an equal number of tee shirts.

Today is about getting organized and wrapping up our packing. Last night we had delicious homemade pizza left from the prior night’s dinner. The past three nights, I wore a long-sleeved shirt and compression stockings when we sat outside on the veranda by the edge of the pool having sundowners, and I only got one bite. That was excellent, resulting in a good night’s sleep.

Yesterday, I was also working on getting my Fitbit Sense to pair with the Bluetooth on my new phone. It wouldn’t pair after numerous attempts and workarounds. Finally, I had to do a factory reset on the Fitbit, and now I’m waiting to see if it worked as the software was reinstalled. There are always a few issues with a new phone, aren’t there?

OK, the Fitbit is now working and paired with my new phone’s Bluetooth with my new watch face. Check out the above main photo!

As for the windfall, as mentioned earlier…wait until you hear this! On Tuesday, when Tom was re-checking current cruise pricing on our remaining booked cruises, he discovered a huge price drop on our 42 night three back-to-back cruises from Athens to Cape Town.

There was a price drop on the final leg of over US $3100!!! Immediately, he contacted Costco Travel, and we were given the new price drop, saving us this considerable sum of money. We couldn’t be more thrilled and surprised. What an exciting discovery that wouldn’t have been possible without Tom’s diligence!

We’ll be back tomorrow with a short post before we embark on the four-hour drive to the port in Fort Lauderdale to the ship after Tom drops off the rental car at the nearby airport.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, April 7, 2021:

This lovely giraffe on the side of the road stood at attention. For more photos, please click here.

Tom made an exciting discovery!!!…Can we start feeling enthused about traveling again?…

Has Hal taken over for Broken Horn whom we haven’t seen in a few weeks?

It’s been easy to get out of the state of mind about traveling during the pandemic. Almost every day, news hits the wires that make us wonder when and if we’ll be able to return to our years-long journey to see more and more of this magnificent world we live in.

The clock is ticking faster now, more than ever, as we age, regardless of how hard we try to reduce the impact of aging. Neither of us feels any less agile or capable of continuing to travel than we did when we began in 2012. Yes, we’ve experienced some bumps in the road, literally and figuratively, mainly for me with some health issues.

But, our desire and determination to continue had only waned during the past two years of the pandemic when none of us knew what the future holds. Even now, there’s a degree of uncertainty hanging over all of our heads regarding travel. Many have changed their lives, excluding vacations/holidays to relax and unwind, instead looking at other avenues to accomplish these objectives.

Hal likes to rub his muddy face on the trees to get cleaned off.

Each day, we hear about cruise disasters, at times making us tentative, but we aren’t hearing about the successful cruises sailing all over the world. Many are incident-free, with many safety protocols in place to protect the passengers and crew. No, cruising won’t be as fun as it was for us in the past, when we socialized day and night, mask-free, enjoying lively conversation and dinners with six or eight other guests at big round tables. Those days may be gone, for now, and into the future. Only time will tell.

Knowing our first cruise, a transatlantic cruise with Celebrity Cruise line is sailing in only 66 days from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, has left us wondering if it will cancel. At this point, we’re beginning to believe it will sail after all as planned. It’s a repositioning cruise at an excellent price to get the ship back to the UK and Europe, so it will sail as planned, most likely from what we can determine thus far.

Our goal is to stay in the UK with easy visa requirements until our next cruise sails in June from Istanbul, Turkey. It’s an easy flight in less than four hours. We plan to move around the UK during those two months, as we did in 2019, to experience more quaint and charming holiday rentals and hotels.

Bossy looks more and more pregnant each day.

Of course, we plan to see friends Linda and Ken who live in Buckinghamshire, another attractive English countryside location, which we love more than the big cities. At this point, we can’t book anything until we are on our way across the Atlantic Ocean to ensure nothing impacts the cruise.

We have no concern whatsoever making plans at this late date, only days before our arrival in Southampton, England, on April 21. We don’t want to risk losing deposits and full payments if something happens beyond our control. It’s one of those scenarios where we’re comfortable “playing it by ear.” If we can’t wrap up a holiday rental, we find a historic hotel, of which there are many.

All of this “cruise talk” brings us to the exciting news about Tom’s discovery in the past few days. In researching pricing for our currently booked cruises to 2023, he found three cruises with substantial price drops. To enjoy the benefits of a price drop, it’s up to the passengers to check pricing regularly, not the travel agency or cruise line. Such price drop benefits can only be gleaned before the final payment date, not after.

Hal does a nice job of trimming the grass in the garden.

Upon discovering recent price drops on three of our seven booked cruises for which we’d yet to pay the final balances, two of which are payable this month, Tom got to work. Last night, he managed to get in touch with Costco Travel after being on hold for over an hour and requested the following prices to be dropped on those three cruises as follows:

  • Sail Date: July 10, savings amount:           US $2600,  ZAR 39761*
  • Sail Date: November 8, savings amount:   US $1680,  ZAR 25697
  • Sail Date: November 19, savings amount: US 1280,    ZAR 19578

Total savings for 2022:  US $5560, ZAR 85036

No doubt, it was worth staying on hold for such a long time. We were in bed and put down the phone while Tom worked on his laptop, and I played with my phone until a rep came on the line.

Saving this amount of money furthered our enthusiasm going forward. If these three cruises have further price drops, we’ll be able to start the process all over again. Of course, Tom will continue to watch the prices, as he always does before final payments are due on the remainder of the cruise. or any of the remaining cruises and go even lower.

So, that’s our news of the day.

Have a rewarding day, too!

Photo from one year ago today, February 1, 2021:

This was an excellent profile of one of our favorite animals, a giraffe. For more photos, please click here.

Summer solstice today in the Southern Hemisphere..Again, we made a decision about our visas expiring in a month…

Impala with an oxpecker in Kruger National Park.

This morning, when checking the news for any relevant topics to share today, other than the news-hogging Omicron variant, I stumbled across several articles about today being the official start date for summer in South Africa. It was nice to see headlines about something other than Covid-19, which is monopolizing headlines worldwide.

Impalas on the side of the road as we passed.

To stay on top of things, I read several news reports from worldwide sources. I tend to particularly like news from the UK and South Africa, both of which seem to be most relevant to us during our time in this country. The UK media tends to report on activities in South Africa, especially now when many tourists from the UK often visit SA during the holiday season. Of course, travel has been dramatically tempered since the onset of Omicron, which is raging in the UK right now.

Also, at this time, we’re paying particular attention to news directly out of South Africa to see if President Ramphosa will extend visas for foreign nationals, which will directly impact us.

Baby impala, perhap only days old.

However, at this time, to be safe with our visas expiring in a little over a month, we had decided to use the services of the law firm in Cape Town that we used to obtain a waiver after we were banned from the country for five years when we overstayed by 90 days when I had emergency open-heart surgery.

The law firm did an excellent job for us when we contracted their services in May 2019 while we were in Ireland, and they could handle everything remotely. We feel confident using them again. As a matter of fact, Gerhardt and Rita used this same firm with our recommendation when they applied for their four-year retirement visa while in the US.

Zebras near the Verhami Dam.

We considered applying for the South Africa four-year retirement visa but doing so requires an extended stay in the US which didn’t work for us. Foreign nationals cannot apply for an extended visa while in South Africa. Subsequently, in the past few days, we decided to go ahead and apply for a 90-day extension with the law firm, which will take us to the end of March (and beyond until April 23, if need be).

Why pay for a law firm to assist us? Right now, the immigration department is so backlogged with applications, we will get a faster result if we use a law firm.

Zebras seeking shelter from the sun under a bush,

At this point, we still don’t know if our booked transatlantic cruise to the UK will sail on April 8th. The final payment will be taken from our credit card online at Costco on Christmas Day. We were hoping that Celebrity Cruise Line would do so before the final payment is due if they ended up canceling the cruise.

However, many cruise lines require full payment on the original final payment due date, even if they intend to cancel the cruise in a few months due to the pandemic. This provides them the free use of our money for many months while we end up having to wait for a refund for months after they cancel the cruise. It can take three to four months to get a refund after the cruise is canceled. It’s the nature of the beast.

A newborn wildebeest suckling.

Based on what’s happening in the UK right now with the Omicron wildfire of cases, we’re expecting the cruise will be canceled. Based on stats from the website Worldometer, yesterday, the UK, with a population of 68,409,000, had 91,743 new cases. For comparison’s sake, the US had 143,530 new cases, also yesterday, with a population of 333,850,090, which continues to have the highest numbers of cases and deaths worldwide.

Yes, I know these numbers can easily be skewed. After all, humans are entering the information. Does a person who goes to the hospital with a fatal heart attack become a Covid statistic when they also happen to have Covid-19 at the time of death? Sure, there’s plenty of this going on, especially when many countries provide hospital remuneration when patients die from the virus.

Wildebeests resting near Verhami Dam.

But, we have nothing else to go on, and perhaps these stats serve as a guide to what’s happening throughout the world. I can only imagine how many cases aren’t reported in most parts of the world. Not everyone who gets Covid019 gets tested or goes to a medical facility for treatment. It’s not foolhardy to speculate that more than half, if not more, of the cases, go unreported.

We live in precarious times. We can’t anticipate what the future holds, even based on daily living. All we can do now is continue to strive toward good health, fulfilling relationships with family and friends, kindness to others and our world, and fiscal responsibility to the best of our ability.

May this holiday season remind us of our blessings and those areas of life for which we can be grateful.

Photo from one year ago today, December 21, 2020:

This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #263. In December 2019, we were preparing to enter the stadium for the Las Vegas Golden Knights game with my son Richard. Thanks, Richard, it was an enjoyable night! Here‘s the post from that night. For more photos, please click here.