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.

Flight and car booked for Madeira…Spend! Spend! Spend!…Ouch!

Our view from the salon (living room) looking into the center, open-air courtyard while writing each day. It’s cloudy today.

We’re at a point that the money will be flying out the window between now and the end of August. 

Yesterday, we spent US $795 for one-way airline tickets for two from Marrakech, Morocco to Funchal, Madeira which much to our delight,  is only a six-hour flight including a layover. We’d budgeted US $800 for this flight when we booked the house almost two years ago and yesterday paid US $795.

Thu May/15/2014


Total travel time:

5 h 55 m

custom air icon Marrakech Lisbon 1 h 35 m
Terminal 1
TAP Portugal  243
Operated by
Economy / Coach

2 h 35 m
custom air icon Lisbon Funchal 1 h 45 m
TAP Portugal  1639
Economy / Coach

Most likely we won’t arrive at the house until well after midnight with the necessity of driving up the steep unfamiliar roads. This particular flight with TAP Airlines was our only option from Marrakech. 

As for the car rental, we’ve learned our lessons in our past travels. In order to avoid paying the entire two and a half month rental in advance plus the “excess” they charge to hold on the car, over $5000, as in the past, we booked one month at a time. 

If the car rental company won’t renew the rental for this same monthly amount, we’ll order another car close to the end of the first car rental period for the next month, dropping off the first car and picking up the second car.  It will be necessary to do this for one more time for the last two weeks of our two and a half month stay. The Funchal, Madeira airport is no more than 30 minutes from the rental house making this back and forth no big deal.

Here are the details for the first rental car:

Car: Alamo Rent A Car, Funchal, Portugal (FNC)
Driver: Thomas Lyman
Base price: €439.92
Taxes & Fees: €182.18

Car total: €622.10

Car Economy
Pick up: Thu 05/15/14
10:30 PM0
Funchal, Portugal (FNC)
Drop off: Sat 06/14/14
10:30 PM
Funchal, Portugal (FNC)

The car rental is shown in Euros, not US dollars, which results in US $859.49 for one month. By the end of our two and a half month stay, we’ll have spent $2149 for the car rental for which we’d budgeted $2900 which included fuel, leaving us on target in this area as well. 

The next item we have to pay is the balance of our rent for Madeira which is in the US $2000 range. In June, we’ll pay for one of two upcoming cruises, US $3497 (cruise begins on August 31, 2014) and the second on US $3216 on July 1 (cruise begins on September 23, 2014). Many more outlays follow in August and there on which we’ll share later.

A part of the reality of traveling these days is the necessity of paying well in advance of receiving the product or service when attempting to get the “best deals.”

My dinner last night, a mixed grill with an extra side of veggies. 

Although most hotels don’t require advance payment unless booked through online services. (We book most of our flight, hotels, and cars via on our website.  Feel free to do the same at any time. We make a small token when any of our readers click our links, which help offset the cost of maintaining our website. No pressure. But, it doesn’t cost you an extra penny to use them).

Based on some great rates we received on a few of our future hotel bookings, we chose to pay a few in advance, such as the hotel stays upcoming in the next five months for Vancouver, BC; Boston, MA, and Paris, France. Booking these hotels are required as stopping points while we await the cruises.

The only hotel we haven’t paid in advance is in London on August 16, 2014, for the above-mentioned total of US $3216 (for a period of two weeks). London is pricey. Also, at the beginning of May, we’ll have another outlay of US $4500 for more tickets for our kids to Hawaii with only one more to go down the road.

All in all, we’ll be paying out $1000’s over the next four months, all of which we’ve budgeted. Undoubtedly, we must carefully watch our spending over the next several months.

Tom’s dinner, a grilled filet mignon with a side of mushroom gravy and three circles of mashed potatoes. Notice the lack of vegetables. That’s my guy!

I’d hope to purchase a new camera now to be included in our box of supplies being sent to Madeira next week. Based on these bigger expenses at this time, I’ve decided to wait until after some of these expenses are paid and behind us. Tom encouraged me to buy it now. But, my practical nature prohibits me from doing so.

Most likely, when we arrive in Boston on September 21, 2014, we’ll head out to purchase a new camera and two new laptops.  Tom’s screen is cracked and continues to crack as a result of a hinge problem. Mine? Well, we know the problems there! A cheap HP with a bad keyboard and other issues.

Yes, we cringe over this big expense that seems to come all at once. Living as carefully as possible, when all is said and done, we stay on track with our budget.

Today, we’ll stay in for another evening of Madame Zahra’s fine food, minus spices, continuing our comprehensive planning, and budgeting. And of course, a little bit of Gin playing is definitely in order, especially with me in the lead, a rare occurrence. Perhaps, I’ll be the winner in Morocco, logging my first “country win” with only 26 days to go.

Photo from one year ago today, April 19, 2013:

The excursion offered that day was a visit to this cruise line owned beach in Turks and Caicos. There was no way we were interested in baking in the sun for three or four hours, paying for lawn chairs and umbrellas when we had the ship’s pools almost to ourselves. For details from this date, please click here.