How am I going to do it?…Two days and counting…Favorite Ireland photos…

Tom standing at the doorway to a house at the Connemara Heritage and History Centre and the Dan O’Hara Homestead.

Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland 
“The submarine was invented in Ireland.  John Philip Holland (29 February 1840 – 12 August 1914) was a Christian Brother from County Clare who invented the first submarine used by the US Navy and the first Royal Navy submarine– Holland 1”

_____________________________
Over the past several weeks while feeling awful due to side effects from several medications, I knew it was time to wean myself off of them. I’ve wondered how I would be able to manage all the walking and being up and about all day and evening while on the upcoming Baltic cruise.

There’s no way I’d want to spend the days and nights in the cabin.  Thus, over the past two weeks, I stopped two drugs and today, I started reducing the dose on the third, a beta-blocker that is causing me to feel sleepy all afternoon and evening.  

A friendly little lamb at the centre.

I’m already on two medications to lower my blood pressure which I’ll continue to take but this third medication, bisoprolol, has a profound effect on how I feel all day.  Also, my blood pressure and pulse are too low further exacerbating the level of weakness and exhaustion.

While in South Africa at my last appointment, the surgeon stated I could stop these last two drugs, amiodarone, and bisoprolol by the six month anniversary of the surgery coming up in six days.  He didn’t suggest I stop the statin but based on extreme muscle pain caused by this drug I made a decision to stop it.

At first, when I stopped the statin, I noticed an improvement in the pain in my arms and legs.  About a week later, it returned and it made me look hard at these other two drugs could also be contributing to the pain.

Thatched roof structures.

After reading the drug literature from the manufacturers and non-biased drugs and prescription informational sites,  I knew I’d better get off the two other drugs in order to begin feeling better.  

The side effects of all three drugs were similar in some ways, all of which contribute to pain, muscle wasting, and weakness.  When this morning I cut the heart-shaped pills into little pieces with a plan to taper over the next nine days taking  of a pill the first three days, ½ the second three days and ¼ on the final three days, stopping entirely on the 10th day.
A footbridge leading to a hut.
This drug called Cardicor (South Africa trade name), aka bisoprolol, is particularly dangerous to reduce the dose.  Why didn’t the doctor warn me about this and getting off amiodarone, both of which may cause problems when stopping?

I am prepared for any possible side effects and if necessary, I’ll slow the process even further. I am anxious to see how I’ll feel around noon today with today’s reduced dose.  Usually, at noon, I can’t even keep my head up, so tired from the drug which I’d have taken at 8:00 am.  

However, I am also prepared that I won’t notice a major improvement until I’m off it entirely.  Why did I choose to do this four days before the upcoming cruise?  If I didn’t I would be spending the better part of each day, sleepy and exhausted in the cabin.  I had to take the chance.
Dan O’Hara’s home in which he lived with his family.
In the interim, I’ll be checking my pulse and blood pressure every few hours during these next several days, ensuring I am not experiencing any difficulties.  If I do I can slow the weaning process over several weeks.

If I experience major problems while weaning, I’ll immediately go back to the original dose and wait until we get to the UK at the end of the month when I plan to see a cardiologist for a checkup.  

Of course, I’m hoping that one day soon, I’ll feel better but I’m not expecting too much.  This has been a long, painful and challenging process over which I’ve had little control.  I continue to walk but can’t seem to build much endurance in my current state of weakness.
Tom had to bend over to enter the stone house.
My packing is almost completely done.  Tom packed his clothing this morning.  Tomorrow, after the final load of laundry is done, and once the clothes we’re wearing are dry, we’ll finish packing our bags and weigh them.

Tomorrow, we’ll be back with the final expenses for Ireland and the wrap-up of our favorite photos.  Please check back. 

Be well.

__________________________________________________


Photo from one year ago today, August 6, 2018:

This may have been a huge matriarch we spotted from across the Crocodile River from the fence in Marloth Park.  For more photos, please click here.


Wrapping it up…Three days and counting…Favorite Ireland photos…

A pretty rainbow starting behind the Twelve Bens mountains.

Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland 
“Despite what many
tourists believe about the Irish and our drinking habits, drinking in public is
actually illegal across Ireland. The only day of the year when this law is
slightly bent is on St. Patrick’s Day when there simply aren’t enough police
officers to monitor the one million-plus tourists on the streets of Dublin. The
law is a fairly new one, only coming into place in September 2009. It is also
illegal to be drunk in a pub…but that’s a law that’s rarely enforced!”

_____________________________
During a downpour late yesterday we drove to John and Theresa’s Flaherty’s Seafood takeaway restaurant in Carna, at the edge of town.  Tom wanted their outstanding fish and chips one more time before we leave Connemara in three days. 
Mom and calf resting on a sunny morning.
I was longing for more calamari rings which I’d sautee with my salmon filets, last night and tonight.  Once again, it was delicious.  Of course, Tom loved his fish and chips, huge portions he can finish today for a snack. See the photos below.
Tom’s huge fish and chips dinner from Flaherty’s Seafood in Carna.  Great leftovers!
This morning I packed 90% of the items into the supplies suitcase.  The balance can be finished in minutes when we add the toiletries we need until we depart.  My clothing bag is also 90% packed with only a few items left to wash and dry including clothes we’re wearing now.
Big brown cow.
Then we’ll have to pack the few carryon bags; the yellow Costco bag; the duffle bag; and Tom’s computer backpack.  He has yet to pack but will do so tomorrow so we can appropriately distribute the weight-based on weight restrictions imposed by the airline.  
Cow on a hill.
The costs for the bags on the upcoming KLM flight is Euro 40.35 US $45 for the first bag and Euro 62.76, US $70, for the second.  Since we each check one bag plus our one supplies bag, our total cost for baggage will be Euro 143.45, US $160.  This is comparable to the fare for another person for the short flight from Dublin to Amsterdam.  The allowable weight for each bag is 23 kg, 50 pounds.
“Estimates vary of the percentage of natural beef cattle births that produce twins. One estimate (Gilmore) puts the percentage at about 0.5 percent or 1 in every 200 births. Approximately one-half of the sets of twins should contain both a bull and a heifer calf.”
We’ve often wondered if we could further lighten our load but after handling each and every item as I packed, I didn’t see anything I’m willing to part with.  Many of our readers have asked why we don’t bite the bullet and get rid of more.
Cattle are curious creatures and often look at us when driving past.
But the reality remains…we don’t have a storage unit, a home or an apartment where we could go to repack.  The cost of making such a situation available is prohibitive.  
Cattle in the pasture along our driveway.
Also, we’d feel confined having to return to a certain location to repack.  The nature of our peculiar lives is…everything we own travels with us, not necessarily the usual situation for most on-the-move world travelers.
“Donkeys are a traditional part of Irish rural life. There’s something appealing about donkeys. Their long ears, the dark rings around their eyes and their shaggy coats create an image that endears them to us. They fit into the category of “amiable animal”, along with hedgehogs, red squirrels, and pandas.”   For information on adoption from the Donkey Sanctuary in Ireland, please click here.
We no longer carry any foodstuffs of any kind, even those low carb products that may not be available in every country.  During those periods, we’ve easily learned to “live without.”
Almost one million cattle are slaughtered for consumption in Ireland each year.
As we prepare to leave on Thursday, we’ve done a good job of planning meals and using the food products we have on hand.  We’d even gone as far as planning breakfasts and the number of eggs to prepare each morning.
Cattle are rather photogenic.
The tiny freezer will be emptied including the removal of our own ice cube trays.  Many countries don’t use ice as readily as Americans and the trays have come in handy. In many countries, the only ice cube trays available for sale are those that make tiny cubes which melt quickly, diluting our beverages.

Sure, when we see how much space the ice cube trays take, even stacked inside one another, we could think twice about packing them.  But, as I often say, some items are simply worth the trouble.
We spotted this pheasant on a stone wall in Carna.
If we can fit items into our bags and not exceed the maximum allowable weight, resulting in more expense, we don’t hesitate.  The bigger problem is when the bags are so full, they’re difficult to close.  We do our best.

I am still hoping to feel better by Thursday.  The side effects of stopping the two medications are taking their toll on me.  Hopefully, soon, that will improve.  For now, I’m ok, well enough to fly and board a cruise.  From there, we’ll see how it goes.

May your Monday be grand!
__________________________________________________
Photo from one year ago today, August 5, 2018:
Where in the world would one drive down a road to encounter this site outside their car window? For more photos, please click here.

Food in Ireland…Favorite food photos…4 days an counting…

I made myself a dinner of sauteed garlic butter calamari and hake.  My vegetables were on a separate plate.

Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland 
“Ireland has won the Eurovision Song Contest more than any other country
– a record seven times (1970, 1980, 1987, 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1996). It was
also the first country to win the contest three times in a row.”

_______________________________________________________

When we envisioned spending three months in Ireland, we imagined we’d be dining out at least once a week, spending time at the bar meeting new people.
But, the reality of this area is the fact that driving on these narrow winding roads is foolhardy and dangerous.

Whenever John, the fish guy, had fresh scallops available, we’d purchase two 12-packs.

Many local drivers whip through the bends and curves of the local roads at high speeds, making driving particularly risky after having a few drinks at the pub.  Early on, we decided it didn’t make sense for us to take the risks.  

Scallops we cooked, sauteed in butter, garlic and olive oil.  Delicious!

No, there aren’t many, if any, police cars on the road patrolling for drivers after they’ve had a few drinks but equally, there are animals wandering on the roads, particularly sheep.  Avoiding them and the fast-moving cars and trucks on the narrow roads didn’t leave us feeling enthused to venture out for dinner very often.

Chicken dinner at Tigh Mheaic, a great pub and restaurant in Carna when we dined out with friends Lisa and Barry.
Add the fact that the cost for dining out at no less than Euro 89.35, US $100, for the two of us with a few drinks, taxes and tips, made dining out nonsensical for us.  Subsequently, we only dined out an average of once a month during our three months in Connemara.

Scallops, potatoes, blood pudding, and salad at Tigh Mheaic.

After having lost huge sums of money as a result of non-refundable cancellations on prepaid bookings after my recent heart surgery, we’ve had to be extra careful on purchases of all types.  


Instead, we chose to focus on the best possible ingredients for cooking our own meals including a regular influx of fresh fish and seafood which has been more readily available in Ireland than anywhere we’ve lived in the past almost seven years.

Smoked salmon salad at Glinsce House, located five minutes from our house.

Our meals have been easy to prepare and spectacular.  I can’t imagine eating scallops again when I now know what “real” scallops look and taste like.  Also, the grilled calamari has been such a treat and will be hard to duplicate.


As I prepared today’s post discussing it with Tom we decided to head out this afternoon to O’Flaherty’s for one last order of fish and chips for him and some uncooked calamari rings for me to sautee and add to tonight’s plate of salmon, cooked spinach, cabbage, and broccoli.

My breakfast included scrambled eggs with onion and cheese, smoked salmon and tuna pate from the Connemara Smokehouse.

Often readers write to us requesting recipes and meal suggestions.  The ease of my low carb, starch-free, grain-free and sugar-free way of eating only requires a well seasoned and prepared source of protein along with a few low carb vegetables, cooked/and or raw.  

Tom’s fish and chips from John’s takeaway restaurant at the far end of Carna, O’ Flaherty’s Seafood.
In most cases, I can cook my meals and Tom’s in less than 15 minutes. Often, lately, he’s taken over preparing his own meals especially since he was cooking for me for so many months. 

Tom’s huge portion of deep-fried hake from O’Flaherty’s Takeaway.

The majority of the time spent in the kitchen is in cleaning and prepping the vegetables and an occasional salad.  Recently, we’ve taken a break from side salads after we discovered fewer preservatives are used on lettuce in Ireland, including organic lettuce doesn’t keep very long.  Surely, sometime in the future, we’ll reintroduce them to our meals.


Today, a little more packing is on the agenda. Yesterday, we bleached and washed all of our white clothing which we often do before packing. We’ll be in good shape when we’re ready to leave at 10:00 am on Thursday morning.


Have a pleasant Sunday!

  __________________________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, August 4, 2018:

Impalas (male is shown here) and warthogs seem to get along well.  For more photos, please click here.

Thinking back to many months ago…5 days and counting…More favorite photos…

Downtown Clifden.

Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland 
“Connamara Chaos is a region of chaotic terrain on Jupiter’s moon Europa.”

_______________________________________________________

After a much needed good night’s sleep, I awoke this morning determined to get started packing, beginning with all my clothes in the master bedroom’s walk-in closet. 

Twenty minutes later all of my clothing was neatly folded in my suitcase.  I’d even begun packing the “supplies” suitcase which I’ll complete later today or tomorrow leaving out toiletries we’ll use over the next several days.  
An island in the lake.
I’ll place those items in a large ziplock bag for easy access for our overnight in Dublin and following two nights in Amsterdam.  The clothing I’ll wear during those three days and nights will be left on top of the other clothes in the suitcase, again for easy access.

While packing this morning, I couldn’t help but recall packing in Marloth Park as we prepared to leave almost three months ago.  Where has the time gone?  This morning as I packed in blissfully cool weather, I asked myself how I managed in the heat in South Africa during those last three months as I edged closer to be well enough to fly the long distance to Ireland.
Ruins in the area.
Sure those last three months were February, March, April, and part of May which are cooler during the summer months in Africa.  But, it had been unseasonably hot during that period with humid temperatures well into 32Cs, 90Fs.

Without aircon in the house except for the master bedroom and numerous power outages, it was a difficult time.  Looking back to how awful I was feeling then, I don’t know how I got through it.  
A Belted Galloway grazing among the rocks.
On the other hand, Tom was continuously busy cooking and caring for me.  He, too, was feeling the heat along with the brunt of the seemingly endless power outages, and occasional water outages.  It wasn’t easy.

And yet, when I was finally able to go out on the veranda during the last two to three weeks before we left, seeing the wildlife a few more times, made all of it worthwhile and bearable.
Ruins of a former home, partially restored.  It appears the house is occupied.
Oddly, many of our favorites came by, as if to say goodbye which brought tears to my eyes.  How we loved our time in South Africa with only the final three months being difficult after my four surgeries.  Also, saying goodbye to all of our friends was difficult, not knowing when we’d see them again.

We may be banned from South Africa for five years based on the fact we overstayed our visas by those three months.  Although we’ve produced medical documents to request a waiver, we may never be approved.
This beautiful horse appears to be pregnant.
All of that is behind us now and although my recovery still continues, especially as I wean myself off several toxic drugs, those last three months in Africa have become somewhat of a distant memory.

This afternoon, I may go back upstairs to pack a little more.  In the interim, we’ll go about our day.  Not unusual, it’s another dark and rainy day.  We’ve already chopped and diced everything we’ll need for dinner and can sit back and relax knowing our time to leave is coming near.
One of the many small fishing boats we see daily.
May you have a peaceful weekend.
___________________________________________________
Photo from one year ago today, August 3, 2018:

The closest living relatives of hippos are porpoises and whales.  For more Kruger National Park photos please click here.

Cruise upcoming…6 days and counting until we leave Connemara…Favorite photos continue…

Sunset across the bay.

Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland Halloween originated in Ireland.  Halloween as we know it today actually originates from the ancient Celtic
festival of Samhain, when the people would light bonfires and wear scary
costumes to ward off unwelcome spirits. Samhain is an old Gaelic word which
translates to ‘darker half’, thus marking the beginning of winter.”

_______________________________________________________

It’s been easy living in Connemara Ireland.  We didn’t go out more than necessary for shopping and minimal sightseeing.  We had Ann as our weekly house cleaner each week with the exception of three weeks when she was ill.  Tom did the bulk of the cleaning in her absence.

We cooked easy but delicious meals, healthful and suitable for my way of eating.  The kitchen is well stocked with almost everything we’d use during a three-month stay. (We’ve since replaced the French Press coffee plunger which Tom accidentally broke last week).

The only drawbacks to the house were the spiral staircase and its difficult-to-use oven which prevented us from using it more often than absolutely necessary.  It’s part of the complicated stove used for heating the house and water system and requires 30 minutes to preheat the oven with inconsistent temperatures.
Kylemore Abbey castle…quite stunning.
Everything else has been ideal.  There are two beds in the master bedroom which allowed me to avoid the risk of Tom bumping into my still-healing incisions.  Going forward we’ll be sharing a bed once again, as we always had and ultimately prefer…in a mere six days.

The living room has been comfortable for us after we moved the furniture around to suit our needs with comfy chairs with views of the sea and other comfy chairs facing more ocean views and the flatscreen TV.  
Kylemore Abbeys Victorian Garden.
Unusual for us, we’ve spent a lot of time with the TV on, not necessarily watching anything during the day but enjoying our streamed shows in the evenings which we download from various sites, some free, others paid.

At 1630 hours, 4:30 pm, each evening we’ve settled into “happy hour” seated in the two comfy chairs looking out to the ocean from the big picture.  Tom had a cocktail while I had a glass of red wine.   
World-famous food truck, Misunderstood Heron, draws tourists from all over the country.
An hour later we’d be drinking iced tea (for Tom) and Pellegrino sparkling water (for me) as we’d get busy putting dinner together with a plan to sit down to eat by 1800 hours, 6:00 pm.

After dinner, Tom cleans the kitchen while I figured out the evening’s viewing, setting up my laptop with the HDMI cord hooked to the TV.  Since it stays light so late I’ve stayed up later than in the past and we often “knocked off” three favorite episodes.
View of Killary Fiord from the Misunderstood Heron.
Endless chatter and laughter between us ensued during the day and well into our viewing time in the evenings.  Often, we’ve had to replay a portion of a show when we were talking over it.  Needless to say, it has been a favorite time of the day for both of us.

Going forward?  Everything will change.  Two days in Amsterdam and then onto the cruise won’t necessarily allow time for lounging.  I’m so used to lying on the sofa when I run out of steam.  I’m going to have to push through these periods.  
Formerly an actual food truck, the Misunderstood Heron changed to a renovated shipping container which provided more space for food prep.  However, it’s still referred to as a “food truck.”
We’ve never enjoyed spending time in our cabin during the day.  Mornings will be busy with breakfast in the dining room at a shared table in order to meet new people.  No doubt, we’re ready for some socialization.  

After breakfast, we’ll get our laptops and head to a comfy location in order to prepare the day’s post taking the better part of the day when friendly folks stop by to chat.  We never say we’re too busy for socializing!
What a spectacular spot for boating!
This particular cruise only has a few sea days.  We are booked on one two-day tour in St. Petersburg but no others.  For the other ports-of-call, we’ll grab a taxi at the port to give us a tour of the city for a few hours, allowing us to take photos and experience the local charm.

Evenings, we’ll head to the Crown & Anchor Society complimentary happy hour(s) for priority club members such as us, usually hanging out with other passengers.  Appetizers are usually served at this time, often items I can have: raw veggies, prawns and a variety of imported cheeses.

After the happy hour, we’ll head to dinner for a shared table in the main dining room.  We prefer not to have assigned seating which requires sitting with the same passengers each night.  
The Misunderstood Heron’s view from their backyard.  
We’ve found the option to choose when we want to dine and the freedom to be seated at a shared table with new passengers each evening creates a more well-rounded experience for us.  We seldom make dinner reservations and simply show up at the dining room, usually by 1930 hours, 7:30 pm, whenever we’re ready to eat.  Generally, the queue is short and the wait is insignificant.

I can only hope and pray I can do all of this.  At this point, I have no idea.  Thank goodness Tom is totally supportive of what I will and won’t be able to do. This takes a lot of pressure off of me.  So, we’ll see how it goes.

Have a fantastic weekend!
___________________________________________________
Photo from one year ago today, August 2, 2018:

What an animal!  We feel fortunate to have been able to get today’s photos of lions.  For more lion photos, please click here.

Starting to wind down…7 days and counting…Trying to get well…

Family of four walking along the road.

Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland 
“The shamrock is not the national symbol of Ireland.
The shamrock is recognized around the world as a symbol of Ireland and all things Irish but the harp is actually the official National Symbol of Ireland. You can see the real harp on which the symbol is based at the Trinity College library, which dates back to the fifteenth century.”

_______________________________________________________

As I struggle to wean myself off yet another dangerous drug, Amiodarone, that had recently caused me to bump into walls, feel dizzy and be very unsteady on my feet, I am feeling exhausted and out-of-sorts.  

The drug has a long half-life and may take a year to get entirely out of the patient’s system.  Here is a document on its awful side effects.  Here’s additional information from the US FDA which considers the drug with a “Black Box” warning.
We often see abandoned boats along the shore overgrown with vegetation.
After reading tons of information on this drug and having been told by the surgeon I could get off these and other drugs “in a few more months,” at my last visit, and when I began experiencing side effects, last Saturday I took the last pill, going cold turkey.  It will take a long time for the side effects of the drug and the weaning process to subside. I couldn’t wait another day.

Why get off such a dangerous drug so close to the time we’re leaving?  The side effects were worsening daily and I felt I had no choice.  Side effects may easily result in permanent damage to many parts of the body.
Cloudy reflections on the lake.
If you are currently taking this heart medication (or others), please talk to your doctor before changing or stopping the dose.  For some, this could be life-threatening.  I am no offering any form of medical advice.  I am only sharing what has happened to me.

I’d hoped once I stopped the statins, I feel totally better.  Foolish me.  I have two more drugs to wean myself off of but won’t do so for some time until Amiodorane is more out of my system.  
Wildflowers are blooming throughout Ireland this time of year.
This drug is used for an irregular heartbeat, known as AFib, which I only had in the hospital while in ICU.  Once at “home” I had no more incidences.

Due to the nature of this drug, my resting heart rate has been too low, often in the high 40’s.  It’s no wonder I have been so exhausted and lacking in energy.  Why I was given such high-risk medications baffles me.  
Yellow irises at the water’s edge.
I wish I’d been told the risks and could have made my own decisions.  But at the time of the surgery, I was frightened, confused and relying on medical professionals to decide for me.  I wish I’d been more inquisitive about the medications, instead of taking them blindly.

Now, I am on my own, trying to figure it out.  I contacted the doctor for advice but he made it clear I am no longer under his care based on the fact we have left South Africa.  
Even the craggy rocks appeal to the sheep during times of rest.
I do not want to go to a cardiologist at this point.  I was told to see one at the one-year anniversary of the surgery providing I wasn’t having heart issues which I am not. The only issues I’m having at this point is the side effects of various dangerous heart medications.

No, I won’t get out my soapbox about Big Pharma and how it’s influence has become worldwide.  That’s for another day.  Right now, I’m looking forward to not walking into walls and doorknobs and feeling steady on my feet.  Hopefully, soon that will come but I have to be realistic that I may need to get off more drugs to feel totally well which could take many more months.
Sheep family on a hill.
I deliberated over whether I should mention this here.  But, after being so candid all along, and, if any of my experiences helps only one reader in some small way, it is worth it.  Again, please consult with your doctor for any and all medication changes.

Today, I will begin packing, doing so in bite-sized pieces over the next several days, instead of rushing at the last minute.  I always dread the packing but once I get started, I realize how easy it really is.

Thanks for listening.  Have a fantastic day!
___________________________________________________
Photo from one year ago today, August 1, 2018:

Our bird feeder is often surrounded by hornbills.  For more photos, please click here.

Camera issues and safari luck…Another beautiful recovery of an injured bird…Three days and counting…

Tom captured this Sierra Birdbum after being stunned from hitting the window, dropping to the top landing of the steps leading to the ground level.  He called out to me to come see her which I did, but he stayed in place, taking photos of her eventual recovery. 

“Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”

This appears to be a Tropical Kingbird we spotted sitting on the roof above the veranda near the master bath.

Last night, as Tom often does, he replaced one of the batteries we have for the camera that had been charging in the plug-in charger. The camera only requires one battery at a time but we have four to ensure we never run out of juice when we’re taking photos almost every day.

When he removed the battery from the charger, inserting another for a charge before we depart in three days, he noticed something was wrong with the charger.  The charging light wouldn’t stay on even when he tried multiple outlets. 

Inserting the batteries into the camera, we noticed the recent replacement wasn’t fully charged.  Gosh, we’re dependent upon our equipment! Immediately, we pulled out all of the possible cables we had searching for one that was a USB.

It was quite awhile before she began to regain awareness.

With the thought in mind that we’d purchased the camera in New Zealand in 2016, the adapters and plug-ins were not suitable for our universal adapter with is set up for US plugs to accommodate outlets all over the world.  But, it wasn’t suitable for New Zealand plugs to accommodate worldwide outlets.  What a dilemma!

After monkeying around with every possibility, for which both of us are fairly adept, we were left with only one alternative…order a new charger from Amazon with two-day delivery, having it sent to our hotel in Florida where we’ll be on Wednesday for a total of only 18 hours. Tricky. 

Hopefully, Amazon’s usual trusty delivery dates will be as accurate as they’ve been for us in the past and the charger will arrive on time.  Its scheduled to arrive on Tuesday (two days prior to US holiday Thanksgiving) when the hotel will hold it for us until we arrive the following day, Thanksgiving Eve.

Finally, she began checking out her surroundings.

If we hadn’t had enough time to order and receive this important item and, with stores all closed in Florida for the holiday, we’d have found ourselves aboard the ship unable to recharge the camera.  It was definitely a case of “safari luck” that it happened last night allowing sufficient time to receive a replacement.

Cruise ships generally have a camera shop but carry few accessories other than those for the pricey cameras they sell. If we couldn’t receive a replacement charger we may have had no choice but to purchase another camera from the ship.  (We plan to purchase another camera before the Antarctica cruise anyway but prefer to have more options than what’s usually available on the ship).

We’d planned to look for another camera in Buenos Aires, certainly a big enough city to accommodate our needs.  We weren’t disappointed with our current camera we’d purchased in New Zealand, never anticipating this issue when we thought we had all the adapters we needed.

We both waited patiently until finally only seconds after taking this photo, she was able to fly off.  Whew!

Oh, the trials and tribulations of world travel never cease to amaze us!  It’s not uncommon for us to be searching for a variety of products when we don’t have access to the well-supplied stores in the USA with vast options for brands and specifications. 


Online purchases, although handy, require exorbitant shipping fees to most locations outside the USA with customs checks and subsequent tariffs and fees.  Many US-based online suppliers don’t ship outside the US.  In the case of Costa Rica, many items cannot be shipped into the country or are simply not worth the added expenses.  (See this link for details on importing items to Costa Rica).

Often, we pay more for necessary supplies such as the added cost of US $450 (CRC 255,277) for shipping and insuring the heavy box of cold weather clothing and supplies to Florida from Nevada.  It’s the “nature of the beast” that we accepted a long time ago and is always a consideration when planning our budget. 

Today is another gorgeous sunny day which we’ll enjoy poolside.  Tom decided to wait until later in the day to watch the Minnesota Vikings Football game on NFL GamePass since he doesn’t want to miss the prime sunshine while we “play” in the pool.  The pool is heated using solar panels and is pleasantly warm on sunny days and icy cold on cloudy days.

Have a delightful Sunday watching your favorite sports team!    

___________________________________________


Photo from one year ago today, November 19, 2016:

There was a “future cruises” presentation in the Centrum.  For more details, please click here.

Final expenses for Fairlight/Manly Australia…40 days gone…On to cruising…Favorite photos…

 
Beautiful sky at sunset, taken from our veranda.

Tom’s shot of a stunning sunset.

Its about 10 am Saturday, April 22nd on this side of the International Dateline.  During our upcoming cruise, we’ll cross back to the opposite side of the International Dateline gaining a day.  We’ll post this peculiar phenomenon when it occurs on May 1st during the upcoming cruise.

The Sydney Opera House at night, taken from the Manly Ferry.

Luna Park in Sydney Harbour at night, taken from the Manly Ferry.
Saying we’re excited is to minimize the extent of our raging enthusiasm.  It’s not that we’re anxious to leave the South Pacific after almost two years.  It’s simply that we’re excited for what is yet to come.

A Cockatoo visitor in the yard.

Our friend, Mr. Magpie, who visited us inside the house.
In reviewing how much time we spent since arriving on land in Australia on June 11, 2015, is shown below using the online “date to date” app at this link:


“From and including Thursday, June 11, 2015

To, but not including Saturday, April 22, 2017

Result: 681 days

It is 681 days from the start date to the end date, but not including the end date or, 1 year, 10 months, 11 days excluding the end date.”

Hand feeding Kookaburra in the yard.
The interior of the Sydney Opera House as we waited for the performance to begin.  In a short time, almost every seat was occupied.  We had excellent center seats four rows from the stage.

Wow!  We’ve been in this part of the world for a very long time although the diversity of our experiences have been vast.  We won’t take the time to list them all here today but feel free to review our archives during these above dates. 

The cafe where we had a beverage the morning of our final appointment at the immigration department.

Now, packed and ready to leave for the port at noon today, our hearts are filled with joy and satisfaction for the time we spent in this part of the world.  Even with the fact that I’d been “under the weather” since a spine injury on June 1, 2016, which followed with the exacerbation of the Helicobacter Pylori infection I acquired in Fiji in 2015, we still had a great time.

The scene in Manly near the ferry.

These two difficult scenarios confirmed how resilient and dedicated we are in continuing our journey, even with stumbles along the way.  Never once during this extended period of less-than-stellar health, did either of us lose hope and faith that we’d be able to continue on.
Offseason bloom on the grounds of Fairlight Gardens.

Nor did we ever get on one another’s nerves, not for a day, not for an hour.  Mr. Overly Grumpy never reared his ugly head.  Then again, Ms. Overly Bubbly made fewer appearances than usual.  Now, we’re both in the Overly Bubbly mode with plans to stay that way going forward.

Ken and Tom drinking beer.

Me and Linda toasting at lunch.
We met friends Linda and Ken from South Africa in Sydney for lunch.  It was a perfect day among friends!
Our experiences in Fairlight, although limited as I was slowly improving, were delightful with opportunities to meet with old friends as shown in today “favorite photos.”
St. Patrick’s Estate in Manly, a popular event venue.

Of course, no experience compares to the daily sense of comfort and companionship we spent with our kindly landlord, Bob Reed. This morning,  Bob sent us the following email as posted below.  It warmed our hearts to be able to develop such a fine relationship with this kindly man, now a lifelong friend.  There’s no doubt we’ll stay in touch.

The grounds at St. Patrick’s Estate were prepared for a wedding.

Bob wrote the following:

“Good morning Tom and Jessica, welcome to your new adventure upon the high seas and continuing adventure that most of us only dream about. 

How lucky I have been to have met you both and have had the pleasure of your company for the past 40 days.
Those happy memories will stay with me forever.
Even though I cannot be with you as you travel the world, your wonderful website will be my companion to where you are and what exciting places you are visiting.
May good health be your constant companion during your world travels.
Jessica, I will also miss the wonderful dinners you cooked for Tom and me and our daily conversations solving all the problems of the world.  Well trying anyway.
Hopefully one day our paths will cross again and we can spend time together reminiscing about the happy times we spent together.
You both left a little bit of your hearts here at Fairlight Gardens.
Lots of love as you travel the world.
Bob Reed”
Tom in a pub with me for dinner in Circular Quay.

Reading Bob’s thoughtful message brought tears to our eyes.  How did we get so lucky to become friends with yet another very special person?  We truly are blessed.
Giant surf at Manly Beach on a gorgeous day.
Rather than write back to Bob in an email, we decided to write back here:
Dear Bob,
No words can express how much we’ve appreciated your kindness and love and for of your constant and thoughtful attention to our needs.  Above all, your efforts at building a lasting friendship among the three of us will always be treasured as one of our favorite memories of the time we spent in Australia, here in beautiful Fairlight, a gem amongst towns throughout this fine nation.
Thank you for your lovely property, your attention to detail in every aspect, driving us about town and spending time with us.  You truly optimize the essence of friendship and generosity.
We hope that someday our paths will cross again but if they do not, no worries, we’ll always carry you in our hearts wherever we may be.
Much love and good health always,
Jess & Tom
Bob and Tom at Dobroyd Head.
Should any of our readers decide to visit Sydney, we assure you an excellent experience if you book Bob’s lovely property, either Fairlight Gardens private apartment, as we did with this link here. For Bob’s Fairlight Gardens Bed and Breakfast, please click here.
Bob and I a Dobroyd Head.

There’s no doubt in our minds that Bob will ensure an equally exceptional stay for our readers as well.  If you have any questions, you can be assured he’ll reply promptly.
Bob, Bev, and Colin (a popular name in AU and UK) when they all joined us fo dinner at our apartment.

As for our final expenses, current to the last expenditures of two days ago, they are listed below.  We’ve found Australia to be more expensive than many parts of the world but have found staying in holiday homes is much less costly than staying in a hotel. 

Christine, Tom and I at dinner two nights ago.

With the excellent public tranportation services in Sydney and surrounding areas including buses, trains and ferries, its not necessary to rent a car.  We managed very well taking advantage of the affordable public transportation and of course, Bob frequent insistence on driving us on many occasions.

Expense US Dollar Australian Dollar
Vacation Rental  $ 4,564.08  $ 6,053.92
Airfare   $    217.00  $    287.83
Taxi   $    105.01  $    139.29
Ferry (OPAL Card)  $   140.00  $    185.70
Shipping  $   460.00  $    610.16
Groceries  $ 1,014.25  $ 1,345.33
Dining Out  $    361.43  $    480.24
Entertainment  $    102.06  $    135.38
Medical & Pharmacy  $ 1,230.26  $ 1,534.68
Total  $ 8,197.09  $10,891.59
Average Monthly Cost  $ 6,233.20  $ 8,282.22
Avg Daily Cost – 40 days  $    204.93  $    272.30

In less than two hours, we’ll be out the door and on our way by taxi to the Sydney Cruise Terminal arriving in about 45 minuter.  Our next post will be uploaded aboard the ship tomorrow with photos for the next 24 nights. 

Out to dinner with friends Christine and Colin, who we met on our last cruise which ended 40 nights ago.

We hope our readers will continue to travel along with us during these upcoming 33 nights at sea, plus an additional two night gap while we stay in a hotel in Vancouver.  We plan to share many new stories and exciting photos along the way.

Cruise ship in the Sydney Harbour.

This morning while still dark at 5:45 am, we could see our ship, Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas, entering Sydney Harbour.  What a sight!  We can hardly wait to board!
A bunny we posted on Easter Sunday, spotted on a walk with Bob.

Happy day to all!

_________________________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, April 22, 2016:
Due to poor signal aboard the ship one year ago today, we didn’t include a photo. Instead we posted a list of some on the freebie on the ship, Royal Caribbean Voyager of the Seas.  Here they are:
Some of the “freebies” included on this particular cruise are:

  • Fitness center to include a few free classes and activities
  • Trivia games
  • Daily Mass
  • Men’s Shed
  • Water aerobics
  • Mensa challenge
  • Movies shown daily inside the large theatre and outdoors on giant screen by the pool
  • Dance lessons
  • Mini golf tournament
  • Lectures and seminars
  • Singles gatherings
  • Bridge lessons and tournaments
  • Shuffleboard, ping pong, video games
  • Napkin art workshop
  • GLBT meetings
  • Ice Skating and skating shows
  • Rock climbing
  • Paper aeroplane making
  • Drama class
  • DreamWorks characters on display in Promenade Deck
  • Voyager Scavenger Hunt
  • Karaoke auditions and eventual show in theatre
  • Shows in the main theatre in the evenings at 6:45 pm and 8:45 pm, different each evening
  • Live music at various bars both during the day and in the evenings

Favorite photos..Leaving for Auckland tomorrow morning at 10 am…



This cria who’s birth we were able to attend  when we first arrived on the farm was born only 30 minutes earlier. 

Normally, a five hour drive to get to an airport would be too long in our perspective.  But, New Zealand is so beautiful, we have no qualms about the long drive especially when we’re leaving early enough we won’t feel rushed. 

When we first arrived and flowers were still blooming, we particularly loved this photo of Mount Taranaki.

On this return trip to the airport in Auckland, we won’t feel compelled to stop to take photos when we’ll have completed all of our NZ photos unless, of course, we see an irresistible sight.

A one day old cria nursing.

Upon arrival in Auckland we’ll make our way to the car rental facility, drop off the vehicle taking their free shuttle to the airport.  Our flight isn’t until 5:55 pm.

Our favorite neighborhood cow who’d walked up to the fence to see us when we were on a walk.

We’ve finished most of the packing except for the clothes we’re wearing today and the few toiletries we’ll use through tomorrow morning.  Staying overnight in Sydney, we’ll both will wear the same clothes tomorrow and again on the day we board the cruise, only changing underwear. 

This photo made us laugh over and over especially with the shorter alpacas ears down and other alpaca’s ears at full attention. 

Spending two weeks on a ship with limited wardrobes along with the cost of having laundry done by the ship’s laundry service (necessary mid cruise) getting two sets of clothing dirty before we even board the cruise makes no sense.  If we spill on ourselves, we’ll haul something clean out of a suitcase.  

Grapes growing at the Okurkuru Winery which we visited on two occasions.

Once on the cruise, we have enough to wear to avoid frequent repeats. Jeans and khakis are allowed in the main dining room except on dress up nights.  Shorts and nice tee shirts are acceptable everywhere on the ship during the day.

This peculiar occurrence, never observed by Trish and Neil, had us ready to go into the paddock to help these two tangled alpacas.  The larger alpaca wasn’t too happy with this situation.  Fortunately they managed to break apart.  Once we knew they were OK, we couldn’t stop laughing. 

We weighed our bags moving items around to reduce the baggage fees we’ll pay later today for the third checked bag.  Its tricky weighing the bags on our stand-on travel scale. Tom weighs himself first and then weighs himself again holding the bag. 

We visited the Taranaki Cathedral Church of St. Mary in downtown New Plymouth on its last open day when it was closing permanently due to earthquake instability.

The only way we could weigh the bags is in the upstairs bathroom with a solid surface floor with the remaining floors carpeted.  Once Tom lifted the large bags he barely had room to stand on the scale and not bump into something. 

This photo, taken through the glass in the kitchen window, was the first of many times she peered inside watching me prepare dinner.  Love this!

It all worked out when both of our larger bags weighed under the allowance of 30 kg, 66 pounds.  The remaining third bag, based on our reshuffling everything should weigh under 20 kg, 44 pounds, resulting in fees of NZ $522, US $362.  Its frustrating to have to pay so much for the extra bag but as hard as we try we can’t dispose of one more item in our possession. 

Tom at Taylor Dental in New Plymouth on the day he had his abscessed tooth pulled, a painless and inexpensive experience at NZ $170, US $115.

Today, when all is done, including both today’s and tomorrow’s post, we’ll spend time with the alpacas, hand feeding those interested and laughing over the playful antics of the youngsters. 


There are countless creeks and streams in New Zealand.  We’d hope for sunny day photos but many times when we went out for the day it started sunny and clouded over within the first hour.

Its not easy leaving here.  We have many memories we’ll carry with us, some of which we’re sharing in today’s and tomorrow’s post as our favorite photos. Tomorrow, we’ll share the expenses for our 87 days in New Zealand.

We visited Plas Mawr, a historic architecturally interesting home by invitation of its owner June, whom we met while grocery shopping.

Unfortunately, the Internet signal here doesn’t allow posting of as many photos as we’d have preferred and, with the many photos we took while here it was difficult to pick and choose favorites.  Many others were left behind that our less frequent readers may have missed and possibly enjoyed.

When Trish and Neil went on holiday, we watched over the birth of two cria, an extraordinary experience for both of us.

Feel free to go through the archives on the right side of our daily homepage to see any posts you may have missed for this location or any other locations, all the way back to 2012 when we first began posting.  To access each year, month or day, click on the little black triangle to open that period of time.

The front dining room at the Table Restaurant where we dined on Valentine’s Day.

We’ll be back tomorrow with the final expenses and a heartfelt goodbye to this special location and superior experience.

Beautiful flowers when we visited the Pukekura Botanical Garden near the mountain.

May your day bring you a superior experience as well!

______________________________________


Photo from one year ago today, April 14, 2015:

Sunset in Kauai, one year ago.  For more photos, please click here.