A compilation of life changing memories…Triggered by a stunning documentary…

We took this photo of Mount Kilimanjaro from the window of our tiny plane on our way to the Masai Mara for a photo safari, one of many great experiences in our three years of world travel. 

With no TV and staying “home” on rainy days, it’s not always easy to entertain ourselves. Even with the number of books I consume each week from Kindle Unlimited at Amazon for USD $10, FJD $21.46, a month, the all-you-can-read, no-more-than-10-books-at-a-time program, I can only spend so many hours a day reading.

Not one to sit in one spot for hours on end, I find myself busy doing “this and that” when I’m not chopping, dicing, or cooking.  With no housecleaning or laundry to tackle, exterior windows to wash, or yard to maintain, the days we stay home can easily turn into a mindless blur of unimportant trivia. 

With the best of intentions yesterday, I never got around to working on the spreadsheet when more online research for our future foray to South America distracted me for hours. 

During those periods when our brains are deeply engaged in researching a location for which we’re very passionate, the time flies by. Before we knew it, 3:00 pm rolled around. 

We’d planned to watch a documentary we’d recently downloaded, Earth’s Natural Wonders at precisely 3:00 pm to take a break from the research to become entrenched in one more series that are literally mind blowing in their photography and content.

Most often, we watch David Attenborough’s phenomenal series about life and the mystery of our planet. With dozens more of his episodes downloaded, we stepped outside the box to check out this other documentary for which we’d recently downloaded two episodes.

In our old lives, we watched similar documentaries from time to time but, not with the fervor we do now. It was an episode of a Natural Geographic episode that eventually brought us to the Masai Mara and the Serengeti in Kenya to see the Great Migration, of which we only witnessed the tail end, off in our planning by a week. 

We were in awe of this herd of elephants on the road as we drove (self-drive) through Kruger National Park.  Seeing animals in the wild has truly changed our lives.

Instead, we spent the most exhilarating days of our lives on a photo safari, never for a moment regretting we hadn’t seen more of the Great Migration when nature’s bounty lies before us in the savanna, overlooking the flat topped acacia trees.

As if living in a dream, the Big Five was in our view and in our photos in the first 10 hours riding in the open vehicle with our dear friend and guide, Anderson with whom we’re still in touch yet today.

As we watched the documentary in high definition scanning the globe, our mouths were agape at how many of the locations and wildlife encounters we’ve had in our travels.

From seeing Mount Kilimanjaro from the scratched window of our tiny plane to the giant herd of elephants we encountered on a self drive through Kruger National Park to another larger herd walking by our open camp at night while having dinner in the bush, it all remains in our hearts forever.

The series showed the story of the giant California Condors from the egg to fledging the cliffs of the Grand Canyon, bringing to mind our months of taking photos of the growth of the Laysan Albatross in Kauai, an experience we’ll always treasure.

“Pinch me,” I said to Tom as the show ended, who was as equally entranced, “Did we really do all of this?”

He looked at me and smiled that same smile I recall from almost 25 years ago when we first met, “And just think, we’ve only just begun.”

After those few hours of searching (many more hours/days of research to come) for future explorations to Antarctica, the Amazon, the Pantanal, Machu Pichu, and more, watching the video further confirmed that this life we’re living is definitely for us. We long for more and more.

We have no regrets for the many years that came before our travels. Therein, lies almost a lifetime of experiences and memories. Leaving that life behind in itself elicits a memory, albeit it is painful in some parts, joyful in others. 

How did these two over 60’s individuals, living a relatively “average” life in Minnesota manage to break away from it all as if driven by some unknown force we mutually shared?

To go against everything we knew and loved, to face the dangers and challenges of life on the move, often to not-so-safe places, still baffles us. Was it in our DNA generations passed or was the wanderlust embedded in us based on our life experiences in our distant past? We may never know the answer.

From seeing the newly hatched albatross chicks from the parents sitting on the single egg to them almost ready to fledge by the time we left Kauai after a four-month stay, it was an extraordinary experience.

Perhaps, we’ll never need to know the “why” instead of focusing on the “how” and the “what” that we continue to find thrilling and exhilarating. 

As we quietly sit here in calm and relatively easy living on a beautiful tropical island, we know more is awaiting us down the road. After posting the photos of the house in Costa Rica yesterday, we also researched wildlife tours in that country of considerable wildlife and eco-diversity. Surely, we’ll explore while there.

For now, here in peaceful Vanua Levu, Fiji living in a quaint quiet village, with sounds from the rainforest, more than the sights, calling us to alertness many times each day, we easily languish knowing full well what lies ahead.

And most of all, recalling the wonders of these first three years bestowed upon us by good health and good fortune, we continue to feel grateful for every moment of our world travels including these quiet times.

If it all had to end now, we’ve experienced more than we ever dreamed possible, more than we ever expected from our lives, as individuals and as a couple. For this and more, we are grateful and above all…in awe.

Soon, we’re taking off with Ratnesh, returning with new and fun photos tomorrow! Please check back.

Photo from one year ago today, November 5, 2014:

We’d made dentist appointments in Maui for teeth cleaning. But, once we arrived, Tom felt uncomfortable with the less than professional setup for the dental office. After asking us to wait for an hour for our two pre-booked appointments, we decided it was an omen that we cancel and find another dentist down the road. For more details, please click here.

Power outage for over six hours yesterday…Thank goodness its back on…One day until safari…

Our soft sided bags for the tiny plane.  They said no shaped hard bags.

Yesterday, we were imagining what it would be like getting ready to leave for safari with no power after it went out at 9:45 am, not returning until 4:15 pm. We also wondered how we’d shower and get ready to go out to dinner last night if the power remained off. There would be no hot water.

Our laptop batteries were dead. Our smartphones were charging when the power went out and wouldn’t last through the night enabling us to read our books.

We couldn’t watch movies on the laptop. All the food in the freezer and refrigerator would go bad and we’d have no ice. Plus, the danger of home invasions greatly increases when there’s no power.

There’s always monkey families along this stretch of road.

Need I say that we discussed our options if the power didn’t come back on by 5:00 pm:

1.  Go out to dinner, staying out at late as possible.
2.  Return to the house which may possibly still in the dark.
3.  Go to bed, no reading, a habit that hard to break, one we’ve acquired without having a TV.
1.  Get a cab, stay in a hotel overnight with AC for a night, free WiFi, dinner, and breakfast the next day (All the resorts have generators), returning on Friday, hopefully with power or,
2.  Pack up all of our safari luggage, get a cab to stay overnight both Thursday and Friday nights, leaving for the airport at 7:00 am Saturday morning.
1.  Tough it out, stay in for dinner making something easy while its still light, tuna salad on a bed of lettuce with a side of coleslaw. Nuts for dessert.
2.  Play Gin by candlelight until bedtime

This one was more interested in picking at the grass than noticing us stop to take a photo.

What did we actually do?  We played Gin for 6 1/2 hours.  Tom slaughtered me!

At 4:15 pm the power returned. We made the tuna salad anyway. And, when the power came back on, we began charging all of our equipment, had dinner in the outdoor living room, watched a few shows we’d saved on the hard drive, headed to bed at 11:00 pm with no bugs in the mosquito netting. Once again, we were content.

Tomorrow morning, we’ll be heading out. You’ll hear from us by the end of the day on Saturday (depending on where you are in the world) when hopefully, we’ll have arrived in one piece and early enough to take a few photos to post, provided we have the promised good Internet connection in the Masai Mara. 

Last night while getting ready for bed in the bathroom, there was a huge lizard sitting atop the light fixture above the mirror. Tom tried to move him along with a too-small dustpan to no avail.  He took off to return a short while later but finally was gone this morning. It was the biggest lizard we’d seen in Kenya thus far. 

Talk about an “outdoor living room.”

We’ve packed everything except our drying laundry. It was on the clothesline overnight and it rained in buckets. Most likely, Hesborn washed it again this morning and again, hung it to dry. With today’s good breeze with slightly less humidity, we might get lucky. 

We printed our e-tickets for the tiny plane on our portable printer. We’re charging all of our equipment and bringing all required cables, chargers, and adapters. Everything on our list is included.

Again, we reminded ourselves that these roadside shops/homes don’t ever have electricity. 

Tonight, we’ll eat in having leftover tuna salad, fillet mignon, and coleslaw; easy, quick, and delicious. I’ll set the alarm on my phone leaving it under my pillow and by 7:00 am tomorrow morning, we’ll be on our way to the tiny airport down the road. 

If we don’t get to see the Great Migration since it moved on, we are totally accepting of this fact and won’t allow ourselves a moment of disappointment. Once we start taking photos, we’ll be on cloud 9.

They say the drive from the tiny airport in Masai Mara in itself is an adventure!

See you soon from “the bush.”   

Dreaming of Africa…

Diani Beach, Kenya

When I was a young girl, I dreamed of going to Africa, a dream so far removed from my reality, I considered it a fantasy.  As life moved on, time zipping past me at supersonic speed, on occasion, I dreamed of Africa.

Was it the raw, wild of the continent, the mystery of the mix of barren deserts and lush forests or the lure of bearing witness to the wildlife roaming free?  Yes, to all of these.

In my typical American life; 64 years long with many years of love and marriage, family and friends, work and play, I have seldom asked God for more than I have had.  Sure, I asked for answers to difficult questions, relief from an aching heart and guidance during difficult times.  But, I never asked for Africa. It was too much to ask for, selfish, unnecessary.

Now, as I count the months on my fingers every other day the time to visit Africa is coming near. Reflecting on how quickly my life has passed by so far, I know the time is closer than it seems.  

I’m finally going to Africa. I am going to Africa with my love, my best friend, my go-to person whom I run to when the big bird alights on the dock, when the albino squirrel leaps across the picnic table and when the bald eagle swoops into the trees.  That which we love; the water, smooth as glass in the calm, or white capped in the wind, the greenery of the short season, the fluffy blanket of snow in the long season, the blue sky on a clear day or daunting sky in looming storms. We’ve loved it all.
We’ll spend a long time in Africa, three months in Kenya, three months in South Africa in the wild.  We won’t be living in a tent or sleeping in a sleeping bag. We’re not your basic backpacking world travelers nor are we luxury travelers lounging in hotels, dining in gourmet restaurants, waiting to be waited on. We’ve experienced that kind of travel.  We’ve loved that too.

The photos of the house in Kenya are in the post of April 23, 2012.  I can’t get them out of my mind.  This morning at 4 am, after a night of fitful dreams of Africa, I awoke, jumping out of bed to put in my contacts.  I could no longer sleep.  As I do quite often lying in bed, I read the email on my phone.
This morning a message came from my cruise representative, Joaquin at Vacations to Go about Africa’s seasons which reads:

“Wildebeests and zebras typically spend December to April nursing newborn calves in Tanzania. The slow-moving calves lure lions, cheetahs and hyenas, and the resulting mix of predator and prey offers prime viewing opportunities in Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Crater.
When the rains end, usually in May, the animals head north in search of food. This is the start of the Great Migration, a steady stream of animals in columns that stretch for miles, heading toward the western and northern Serengeti. June and July are the best months for witnessing the migration in Tanzania. In August or September, the herds begin to cross into Kenya to graze amid the lush greenery of the Masai Mara National Reserve. Some naturalists claim that the Masai Mara contains the largest concentration of predators along the migratory route. The animals will stay here until October or November. Most safaris visit the area before fall brings another rainy season to the plains and the herds turn south, back to Tanzania.”
We will be in Kenya from September 1 to November 30, 2013.  We will travel to view the Great Migration based on where the wildebeest will be crossing the river and grazing during the time we are there, all dependent upon the weather at the time; either the Serengeti or the Masai Mara which is much closer to where will will be living in Diani Beach on the coast of Kenya.  

Rather than arrange a costly structured safari, the property owner who lives next door to the house in Kenya, has suggested we hire the experienced locals who will take us when the timing is right.  In a way, this adds to the adventure. We shall see what is best and decide at that time.

With our never ending aches and pains, our variety of prescription medications for age related issues, our multitude of dietary restrictions, our fears unfounded and real, our dislikes of airports, our preconceived notions, my best friend and I are going to Africa. 

A dream comes true…