We made it to Dubai…Harrowing experience…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The chocolate cake the chef made for us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day #287 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…5 days and counting…One major document down, one to go…

An older man was walking his cow down the road.

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 24, 2020, when we included some favorite photos. See the post here. (It was this particular post in which we described the challenge of finding a place to stay when all of Mumbai (and India) was locked down. 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!

Last night, around 11:00 pm, Tom’s India visa extension to February 3, 2021, arrived in his email. Although we both filed on the same day, mine has yet to reach the same time frame. Now, with only five days remaining until we depart, we’re hoping mine comes through soon.

A Marwari horse with curly ears at the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. 

Receiving the two Indian visa extensions is an essential aspect of giving us some peace of mind. Knowing the exiting immigration process won’t be any more complicated than we usually anticipate. My email is set up for a bell notification each time I receive a new message which I turn off at night.

I’ll undoubtedly be paying lots of attention to incoming messages, as I’ve already been doing, fearful for a piece of news from Emirates Airlines that the flight has been canceled. When I received a message from them yesterday afternoon, my heart skipped a beat for the few seconds it took me to read the message. It was a reminder to follow the upcoming flight’s COVID-19 protocol and to pre-pay for excess baggage online or end up paying more at the airport.

An Indian Roller.

Of course, we always pay online to save on the cost of excess baggage, usually around the time we check-in for the flight, when everything is packed and weighed. If all continues to be a “go,” we’ll accomplish this task on Sunday for the upcoming Monday flight.

Our Covid-19 test will be conducted here at the hotel on Saturday, January 9th, barely meeting the 72 hours time frame for our first arrival in Johannesburg, South Africa, on January 12th. Since the test results take 24 hours, we had no choice but to do the test on Saturday. If we had it done on Sunday, we wouldn’t have the results in time for our Monday morning flight to Dubai, UAE.

Statues made from stone and granite are offered for sale to locals and tourists.

Yesterday, after posting, we handled most of the required documents we’d listed in yesterday’s post here. Once my visa extension arrives, we’ll be able to ask the hotel to print both copies for us. Fingers crossed again.

This morning, I received a text from Louise that  South Africa’s President Cyril Ramphosa may be speaking about other lockdowns tonight. If so, I’ll stay awake to listen to this to discover if he’s going to close the borders once again. This is problematic for Louise and Danie as well as for us. If the borders close again, this seriously impacts their bookings for holiday renters for their many holiday homes in Marloth Park. We’ll all be out of luck.

Gorgeous leis of flowers offered for sale as offerings.

The stress is palpable. I must admit I am a little “touchy” right now, even a little snappy at poor Tom. But he’s holding up well and putting up with me. I am rarely snappy or moody. But, under these circumstances, it’s hard not to deflect some of the worry and concern. It’s not as if I cry, or complain aloud, or even raise my voice. Instead, I may respond with somewhat of a “tone in my voice,” as Tom describes it.

The highlight of our day continues to be at dinner when now, while dining, we’re watching Gordon Ramsey’s Hell’s Kitchen, a good diversion. The more diversions right now, the better, keeping our minds off the next five days until we hopefully depart.

Women are weeding the peanut fields.

We’ve decided on a Plan B this morning. If we can’t board the flight to South Africa while at the Mumbai International Airport on Monday, we will return to this hotel, process our refunds for the flights, seats, and excess baggage, and make a new plan based on available flights out of here.

We are doing this while at the airport will only be stressful and frustrating. It’s not as if we will be able to jump onto some other flight to some other country without reviewing Covid-19 restrictions, available places to stay, visa requirements, and flight dates and times. If we were 25-year-old backpackers, this might be easier. But, for us old-timers, we need a solid plan.

A termite mound in Kanha National Park.

So there it is, dear readers, another “day in the life” of these two senior citizens of the world, making every effort to create a safe transition in light of the worldwide pandemic, with countless restrictions every step of the way, and yet somehow maintain a degree of the quality of life we’d chosen over eight years ago.

May you have a safe and healthy day.

Photo from one year ago today, January 6, 2020:

This was the only photo we posted on this date in 2020. The photo is from two years ago today. Tom and I hid in the bedroom, and once the others arrived for friend Don’s birthday dinner, we suddenly appeared to be surprising everyone. In the background are Keith (Don’s brother) and Ken, with Don and Linda in the center and Robin and Karen in the foreground.  It was a fun surprise. We had a fantastic stay with Kathy and Don in Pretoria, South Africa, at one of their several homes. For more photos from the year-ago post, please click here.

Day #242 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Where else could we go?…Favorite Costa Rica photos…

View of Atenas from our veranda in Atenas, Costa Rica.

Today’s photos are from our post on this date in 2017 while living in a gorgeous home in Atenas, Costa Rica. For more details, please click here.

While reviewing photos from past posts on this date, I stopped looking when I found these from 2017 while we spent four months at the luxurious villa, La Perla, in the sleepy little town of Atenas, Costa Rica. The still-active listing for this fabulous holiday home may be found here.

This is a Rufous-naped Wren sitting atop the African Tulip Tree, captured from the veranda.

Recently, we contacted our friends, the owners, Bev and Sam out of sheer curiosity. Could we return to this property for 90 days to wait while more borders opened up, allowing us to continue on our travels thereafter? Surely, it would be a much better situation than we’re in now!

Unfortunately, it’s impossible for us to commit to a property at this point when we have no idea when we’d be able to fly out of India when international flights out of here limited to only a few locations, all of which, at this point are other locations in India and a few countries we aren’t interested in visiting. That doesn’t do us any good.

Frog visitor on the bumper of the rental car while at Supermercado Coopeatenas.

From this news story, flights that are available at this time, are as follows:

“India has entered into “bilateral air bubble agreements” with 18 countries. Under these agreements, two countries agree to operate direct passenger flights both ways in order to operate normal flights between them once things get back to normal after the pandemic.

Giant iguana at Zoo Ave.

The list of countries India has a travel bubble with is the US, the UK, Germany, France, the UAE, Maldives, Canada, Japan, Bahrain, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Qatar, Iraq, Oman, Bhutan, Kenya, Bangladesh, and Ukraine.

Traveling to Afghanistan from India can be done by Afghan nationals, Indian and foreign nationals with valid visas and passports, and the same for those traveling to India as mentioned by guidelines under the MHA. Similar criteria lie for Bahrain, Kenya, and Bhutan, Iraq, Japan, Maldives, Qatar, UK, USA, and Oman. The airline will have to finally ensure that there are no other travel restrictions for the people traveling under the particular visa permit before issuing their tickets and boarding passes.”

Stunning blooms, Pine Cone Ginger.

We could travel to Kenya but medical care there is horrific, making it unrealistic for us to return during the pandemic. We considered the Maldives but it wasn’t a good possibility due to poor medical care, only 30-day visas, and also very high prices for hotels and holiday homes, far beyond our budget.

The other countries don’t appeal to us due to political unrest, massive cases of COVID-19, poor medical care, and/or a lack of availability of the type of holiday homes we’d be interested in renting. We aren’t interested in traveling to Afghanistan, Iraq, Qatar, Oman, Bhutan, and Bahrain.

An Owl Butterfly we spotted in the courtyard with what appears to be a large eye to scare off predators.

We have three cruises booked in and around Japan in 2022 and would prefer to wait until that time when we’ll visit various ports of call and possibly stay in a holiday home for a period of time. Hopefully, by that time, we’ll be able to cruise again and the pandemic will be under control.

Mom and calf in the neighborhood.

This is the way that it is. We wait.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, November 20, 2019:

While in Minnesota last year, we stayed with friends Karen and Rich when their beautiful property was listed for sale and has since sold. They are moving to a warmer climate. For more photos, please click here.