One day and counting…Yeah!..Almost on our way!…

A giant tortoise in the Galapagos Islands was heading back out to sea. Check out the pattern on the sand.

I’m done packing except for a few items we’ll use between now and tomorrow morning when we depart at 8:30 am. I feel organized and accomplished. It was relatively easy packing this time. Besides Tom needing to pack, which he’ll surely get started soon, we are in good shape.

I’ve gathered most of the things all over the house. A few minutes ago, Tom weighed my bag and the supplies bag, and it looks like the weight on those is within the 23 kg (50 pounds) maximum allowed by Copa Airlines. The laundry is done. Tonight’s light lunch and dinner are ready to go.

My new computer will be ready for pickup at Costco by Friday. I am looking forward to getting everything set up on the laptop. It should be ready to use after a few hours of work loading my files on the Windows 11 desktop. I’d used a Chromebook when my Windows laptop died in India, and I ordered a Chromebook for the first time. It was shipped to our hotel while we were in Udaipur, India.

When we left Marloth Park last April, I gave that laptop to Vusi, one of our excellent housekeepers in the bush. The only thing wrong was that the letter “t” wasn’t working. Vusi didn’t care about the “t.” He and his family would use it to stream Netflix shows.

Using Chrome, it took a long time for me to get used to not being able to place folders on the desktop and constantly subject to keeping folders on Google Drive. It was more work for me, and I was continually mindful of how I named and where I placed folders. It was cumbersome and time-consuming.

This current broken computer has served me well over the past two years. Our laptops generally last two years based on how much we’ve traveled and the subsequent wear and tear. Another hindrance to the life of our laptops has been determined by the humidity in any given location. Over the years, we’ve lived in many locations with extremely high humidity.

Yesterday afternoon, I spent a few hours assembling an online grocery order with Albertsons Market in Henderson, Nevada. We intend to pick up the order at the market on Friday afternoon after we pick up the laptop at Costco. However, after carefully going through their system and placing almost 100 items in the cart, I couldn’t process the order. (We needed many food products to start at a new location. Their system wouldn’t allow me to use our VPN, nor would they allow me to process the order without using the VPN.

Their system picked up that we were out of the country, and they assumed it was a fraud. Why would someone in Ecuador order 100 items from their market? This makes a lot of sense. Their staff could spend considerable time gathering almost 100 items, and no one shows up to pick up the order. Their system could have assumed we’d be using a stolen credit card.

One of my credit card numbers was stolen only a week ago, and now, a new card awaits me at the mail service in Nevada. A replacement card arrived in a few days. I was notified by the credit card company that they suspected fraud, and they were right. It was for a purchase I hadn’t made, and then the card was declined without using a proper PIN on the back.

This has happened to us almost a half dozen times over the years. I’m grateful we aren’t responsible for unauthorized charges and that the credit card companies are on top of detecting such issues and not making us accountable for those charges. However, they state that it’s also up to the customer to check their purchases to ensure there hasn’t been any fraud.

Due to this condition, I have it set up to get notified for most purchases on our cards. We only have to click “yes” when a text arrives asking if we made the purchase. This is not an inconvenience unless the card is declined if we don’t acknowledge the request for a “yes.” This has happened only a few times.

That’s why I have all of our credit cards, Tom’s and mine, set up for notifications to go to my phone since he doesn’t pay much attention to texts, let alone phone calls. Nor does he use his phone for email, shopping, or anything other than playing games. He explained that after 42½ years working on the railroad and having to be near a phone or getting beeped on a pager, he has little interest in using a phone other than for calls to and from family.

My phone dings when I get a text, so if we’re shopping, I can quickly say “yes” and proceed with the transaction. It may sound time-consuming, but given the difficulty of receiving a new card via snail mail, it is the best way to keep our cards secure. Nonetheless, fraud still happens every so often.

Tom just meandered upstairs to pack while I stayed on the main floor working on this post. He doesn’t need me to help him other than occasionally neatly folding his shirts in a closet. I’m not good at folding button-up shirts, but I am better at it than he is. He helps me by weighing and carrying the bags up and down. It is a joint effort in some ways.

As mentioned, I will write the post on my phone in the car tomorrow. When we get a signal, I will upload it. I may not get a signal until we reach the airport in Guayaquil sometime around noon, drop off the car, check our bags, go through immigration, and get settled at our gate with working WiFi.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, December 13, 2013:

This was our first photo of the dung beetle in action. The female often sits atop the ball of dung while the male moves it along using his back feet while his front feet grasp the ground for stability. The female lays eggs in the ball, so she tags along as he rolls. They search for an adequate hole to bury the ball. The ball is used as sustenance for both of them and the maturing larvae. Nature is amazing! For more photos, please click here.

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

When I initially 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 depart on January 11, 2021, hopefully. 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 would speak last night or today to impose a higher level of lockdown that would prevent travel between provinces.

This building was shown in 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 are stopping drivers on the highways imposing fines and jail time due to 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 to be allowed to continue on the road. We learned quite a lesson from that event.

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

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

In South Africa (80% of the population are Christian), as is the case in many countries worldwide,  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.

On the side of the road, this woman 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 tedious 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 on 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 prove to be suitable for fulfilling one’s dreams of safari.

There aren’t enormous 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 was 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 US $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, taken in 2019, as we continued to have such a fantastic weekend, is 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.