Wow! It was two years ago today that we left India after spending 10 months in lockdown in a hotel room!…Reliving the past two years…

Notice the genet in this trail cam photo taken at 1:27 am.

We’ve certainly had some ups and downs over the past few years, but that is true for most of us who have survived the pandemic. For many of us, we sadly lost loved ones, while many of us managed to recover from Covid-19, albeit with long-haul symptoms for some. I am grateful to finally recover from an awful bout of Omicron with symptoms that lingered for eight months, from April to December 2022. Whew!

Today, we are reminded that we traveled from Mumbai, India, to Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger, South Africa, taking 2½ days. I recall being so grateful to be here that neither of us was very tired when we arrived.

Notice the giraffe bent over in this trail cam photo.

We’ve left several times over the past two years for a new 90-day visa stamp. Here’s what we’ve done in each case since our arrival in January 2021, keeping in mind that each time we go to our “home country,” we can re-enter South Africa without incident.

Two Big Daddies stopped by before we were outdoors, looking for pellets.

January 2021: We started a new 90-day visa. We self-quarantined for 11 days upon our arrival. Louise grocery-shopped for us so we could cook our meals during the quarantine period.

April 2021: We had booked a tour to Kenya for a few weeks, but then Kenya closed its borders, and we had to cancel everything. At that point, South African immigration provided free 90-day extensions without application to travelers already here.

July 2021: Traveled to Minnesota to get vaccinated and see family. We returned to South Africa with a new 90-day visa since we were coming out of the US.

October 2021: Traveled to Zambia and Botswana for one week, receiving new 90-day visas upon our return.

January 2022: Visa extensions were applied for and received for a new 90-day period with the law firm’s assistance in Cape Town, South Africa.

March 2022: We traveled to the US, sailed on a cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Southampton, and got Covid on the ship on April 20, having to cancel the next cruise we’d booked, losing our money. Stayed in the US for several weeks. We returned to South Africa with a new 90-day visa since we were coming out of the US.

May 2022: We returned to South Africa with a new 90-day visa since we were coming out of the US.

August 2022: Traveled to Zambia and Botswana for a week and received a 90-day visa (with dissatisfaction from the immigration officer that stated, “you are border-hopping.”

November 2022: A failed trip to Seychelles due to government regulations at the last minute resulted in our traveling to the US. Returned to South Africa in December for a new 90-day visa, expiring on March 9, 2023

March 2023:  Currently working with the same law firm in Cape Town, hoping to receive another 90-day visa extension. Once received, we’ll be able to stay until early June, when we’ll leave South Africa for about a year to embark on other travels.

A better view of the giraffe in the middle of the night on the trail cam photo.

We had sent the request for the extension process, including the necessary documents to get started on December 22, allowing ample time for the law firm to get our file started. The country now has a requirement that applications for extensions must be submitted within 60 days of the current visa expiration date, but it also states on other sites that it’s 45 days. On some government sites, it says the 60-day period allows ample time for processing. So, now we are waiting to hear from the law firm today that applying will be acceptable.

Trail cam photo. Nina stopped by early in the morning a few days ago.

There’s always a Plan B. In the worst-case scenario, we can fly to Newark, New Jersey, one of the closest US airports, spend three or four days and then fly back here for another 90-day visa. We are prepared to do this if necessary or if our request for an extension is denied for some reason.

My arm continues to improve. Last night, I slept for a much-needed nine hours. It feels good to be rested to this extent, and now without the lingering Covid-19 symptoms, I feel better today than I have since last April before we got Covid. Tom is doing great as usual and is content to spend the better part of each day on the veranda, watching US football and reviewing his other interests.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, January 11, 2022:

Two years ago today, I was wearing my N-99 mask, face shield, and gloves continuously during the entire 2½ days of travel from Mumbai, India, to Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger Airport. The post may be found here. For the year-ago post commemorating this date the previous year, please click here.

In the past almost 10 years of world travel which National Parks have we visited in Africa?…

Map of national parks on the African continent.

Best  National Parks in Africa’s Top Safari Countries from this site:

  1. Masai Mara National Reserve – Kenya

  2. Serengeti National Park – Tanzania

  3. Chobe National Park – Botswana

  4. Kruger National Park – South Africa

  5. Etosha National Park – Namibia

  6. South Luangwa National Park – Zambia

  7. Hwange National Park – Zimbabwe

  8. Queen Elizabeth National Park – Uganda

  9. Liwonde National Park – Malawi

When we review the above list of African national parks, we cannot help but smile. Of course, we’d love to have visited each of these national park, and perhaps we will at some point. But, at this time, we’ve been to six of these nine top locations, which are highlighted in bold type.

Besides Africa, we’ve been to three national parks in India from this site, including:

1. Kanha National Park

2. Bandhavgarh National Park

3. Kaziranga National Park

4. Nagarhole National Park

5. Ranthambhore National Park

6. Periyar National Park

7. Gir National Park

8. Sunderbans National Park

9. Nanda Devi Biosphere & Valley of Flowers National Parks

10. Jim Corbett National Park

Again, those we visited in India are highlighted in bold type. As shown, in the case of India, we’ve been to three out of ten, and we doubt we will return to see the others.

When we say “visited” national parks, we mean having been on safari in each of these national parks. While on the last cruise, another passenger asked how many safaris we’d been on. We haven’t kept an exact count, which I wish we had at this point.

But, based on a reasonable estimate, we’d say it’s no less than 200 or 300. And yet still, we revel in the excitement of “one more time.”  Many of these safaris were with a guide. In India, our private tour of the country included our private safaris with a driver and our guide, which occurred in Kanha National Park and Bandhavgarh National Park where on both occasions we saw the elusive tigers.

We were on safari in Ranthambhore, hoping to see the Bengal tiger but that was in a group tour while we were on the Maharajas Express Train with about 20 passengers. It was, by far, our least favorite of all guided safaris when we saw very little, certainly not a tiger, and the driver drove too fast. One of the passengers was injured, falling out of her seat. This story is detailed in our post from that date here. This post also includes our final expenses from the luxury train adventure.

But, besides that less than stellar experience, we’ve enjoyed ourselves every time. Probably, we’ve done self-drive safaris considerably more than guided safaris. We’ve been on many guided safaris in Kruger National Park, which in some cases had resulted in the most sightings, particularly one of our favorites when we experienced the Ridiculous Nine as opposed to the Big Five. See our link here.

The Big Five is often a goal for first-time visitors to Africa and many safaris later for some. The Big Five sightings consist of the following: rhino, lion, elephant, leopard, and Cape buffalo. Sure, we love seeing all these majestic animals, but we’re long past that goal. We are grateful to see whatever treasures Mother Nature bestows upon us on any safari in a national park.

And “safari luck?” We coined that phrase years ago when we found ourselves lucky on safari and at other times in our world travels. Yes, we’ve had some ups and downs, most recently with our unpleasant experiences getting Covid -19 on the first cruise, having to cancel the second cruise, and later becoming ill with salmonella when we first arrived in Marloth Park.

But now, we feel our safari luck is returning with the plethora of animals visiting us at this house, and surely when we soon head to Kruger National Park for more adventures.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, June 15, 2021:

It was a busy morning in the bush. For more photos, please click here.

Is this enough?…

Big Daddies in the garden, getting along well with a female while they eat pellets.

A few days ago, Tom asked me, “Are you bored or antsy?” Is this enough?”

I giggled when I answered. “With the world still in some form of lockdown or another, there is nowhere I’d rather be.”

Without question, I have a short attention span and can easily become bored or antsy. Throughout my life, I’ve learned to find ways to entertain myself to avoid boredom or discontent. As Tom and I have discussed on many occasions, if we were living in a condo somewhere right now, waiting out the hopeful end of the pandemic, I could easily be climbing the walls in search of mental stimulation. He doesn’t experience such an issue.

Helmeted Guinea-fowls stopped for another visit. Their chicks are getting big, but no blue heads quite yet.

How in the world did I ever maintain my sanity during the ten months in that awful lockdown in India? The only way it was possible was to develop a consistent routine and stick to it. This may sound counterproductive. But, in that particular situation, the routine saved me; the daily posts, the 8 km walk in the corridors, working on the new website, along with endless hours in research on many of my favorite topics.

Another shot of guinea-fowls and chicks.

Tom was content to be on his laptop researching and other websites that appeal to him. We both enjoyed it when it was 3:00 pm when we began streaming favorite series with multiple seasons. That time wrapped in mindless drivel helped us both so much. We don’t need to do that now, although we may stream a few shows when we go to bed.

Of course, being with Tom helps me considerably. He constantly makes me laugh and brings up topics he knows I’ll enjoy contemplating and discussing. We never run out of conversation. Even here in Marloth Park, we’ve developed a routine that only adds to our sense of fulfillment and lack of boredom.

Mongoose is waiting for Tom to come out with a pan of scrambled eggs.

As it turns out, we do most of our chatting in the late afternoon when we may decide to have a beverage, referred to as “sundowners” here in South Africa. These may be iced tea, hot tea, or a glass of wine for me or a cocktail for Tom, depending on what feels right at the moment.

Tom lights the various citronella candles and coils to keep the mosquitos at bay while I put last-minute touches on what we’ll be having for dinner. Then, for the first time all day, we relax and unwind, engaged in lively chatter, sharing thoughts, dreams, and hopes for the future.

This is our boy, Torn Ear. Enlarge the photo to see his left ear is torn.

Often, we relive travel experiences of the past almost nine years of world travel. At times, we look at old posts and recall the magic moments along the way. It’s never dull. It’s never boring. At other times, we discuss plans for the future. Right now, we are considering where we’ll go when our visa stamps are needed by June 30th. At times, we grab my phone and look up the Covid-19 restrictions for various countries, which may change daily.

Little and guinea-fowl, getting along nicely.

Then, of course, we have the exquisite opportunity to engage with the wildlife that enters the garden throughout the evening. Although most wildlife comes to visit us for the pellets or whatever species-appropriate morsels we may have to offer, we can’t help but consider they may be seen since it’s “fun” here. We can dream, can’t we?

We can’t help but embrace both of these. The concept of living in the moment and dreaming of the future seems to work for us. It was that belief that got us both through those challenges ten months in India, and now, more than ever, we appreciate our sheer determination to get out of India, just in time when Covid-19 has grown to horrific levels.

Big Daddy politely shares pellets with the girls.

Need I say how grateful we are? Never a day passes that we don’t take time to reiterate how happy we are to be here, leaving no thoughts or time for boredom.

It’s always wonderful to see them all sharing the pellets as opposed to headbutting.

Stay safe and continue to protect yourselves and your loved ones.

Photo from one year ago today, April 26, 2020:

Two Big Daddies head butting for dominance. For more year-ago photos, please click here.

We’re baaaack!!!…Sorry for the disappearing act!…Still unable to upload new photos…

This blind priest prays in this position all day, standing outside the  Eklingi Temple. As a functioning temple, no photos are allowed. Silver was used in embellishing the interior and it was stunning.

Please know how frustrating it is for us when we’re unable to upload a post and new photos. During the past year, we’ve had numerous occasions when our site was down during the upgrade and thereafter due to one issue or another. Then, over the past few days, there was some type of WiFi issue making it impossible to upload photos, let alone the text content.

We’re always in awe of the detailed carvings, many of which required decades of diligent work to complete.

But, now we’re thinking it is an issue with WordPress which is being worked on now as I prepare this post without new photos. Instead, we’ve added some photos from last year on this date.

As a result, yesterday morning, I threw my hands up in the air after trying for two days, to take a break and wait until today. So far, I still cannot upload photos.

Yesterday, we were preparing to entertain friends for sundowners for eight of us and we had a busy day preparing for our guests, making a wide array of snacks and treats for happy hour.

Sacred cows kept safely on the grounds of the temple.

Actually, it’s less time-consuming to prepare a meal than a wide array of starters (appetizers) but entertaining this way is traditional in South Africa, although cooking on the braai is the next favorite option. Unfortunately, in this smaller house, we don’t have the number of serving items, space, and dinnerware to accommodate a sit-down dinner for eight. But, we did fine last night with Louise‘s help in providing us with serving pieces of various types including adequate numbers of wine glasses.

South Africans love their wine and rightfully so when some of the world’s finest wines are produced in this country, with many vineyards close to Cape Town. Of course, I only drink my favorite, Four Cousins, Skinny Red, which is 33% less alcohol and only a few carbs.

Nagda Temple is not a functioning temple, but the Gods contained therein are attended to on a daily basis. They are symbolically brought food, flower offerings, and bathed each day. No visitors are allowed when the Gods are sleeping.

Last night, Lesley took photos of us, speaking of red wine, and I didn’t smile much in the photo of Tom and I when I knew my teeth were red after my first of two glasses of red wine. That’s the only thing I don’t like about red wine, the awful staining of otherwise white teeth. A good brushing later in the evening gets rid of “that look.” But, but “they” say not to brush until a few hours pass after drinking red wine, something to do with the acidity not being good for the enamel if brushing while still drinking.

I don’t know. I don’t always believe what “they” say when over the years, we’ve discovered “they” were wrong about so many things.

In any case, we had a lovely evening with Linda and Ken, Lesley and Andrew and Louise and Manie. The conversation was lively and we both enjoyed their appreciation of our sundowner spread of various snacks and treats. It’s always a joy for a host and hostess to see guests enthusiastically partaking in the foods we prepare, The only thing missing was many of our other friends who’ve yet to get the vaccine to become able to travel here.

Tom takes a photo of me taking a photo of one of several beautiful temples.

The mosquito issue doesn’t end when darkness falls. If anything, they get worse in the dark. As a result, most sundowner parties end by 7:30 or 8:00 pm, rarely later. This is disappointing since it’s at this point when a party is in full swing, but everyone has to wrap it up and go home. Some diehards will sit by a bonfire and tough it out with the mozzies. But, this mature group, us included, weren’t prepared to deal with the darned mosquitos. The reality of entertaining in South Africa is that most social events occur outdoors. Here in Marloth Park, this is especially true when most houses are not built for indoor entertaining including at restaurants. Well, this is all good except for the reality, that at dark by about 7:30 pm this time of year, the mozzies come out in a flesh-eating frenzy.

That was the case here last night. By 8:00 pm, our guests had left. Tom and I had cleaned everything up, the dishwasher was running and we headed into the bedroom to watch a show on Amazon prime and wind down. After an hour or so, we took out some of the leftovers for a late-night treat. It was another lovely evening in the bush.

Tonight, we’ll return to Jabula Lodge & Restaurant for dinner again, after our visit on Thursday with Linda and Ken. Soon, they’ll be leaving the bush to return to their home in Johannesburg. We’ll be spending both Sunday and Monday evenings socializing with them once again, always a great pleasure.

The temple structures were made of marble which is abundant in India but over the years the white color has changed to this light brown coloring.

Please know we are totally aware of the photo issues and are working hard to resolve them. It may not be resolved for a few more days. Have a great weekend.

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

All of the above photos are from one year ago, Please see the link here.

Tom’s unique podcast story…Check out this video!…

Listen to the above video with a mention of Tom and his daily participation on the most popular podcast in the Midwest, Garage Logic.

Tom has been listening to a radio show, Garage Logic, directly from Minneapolis/St in the US. Paul, Minnesota, his birthplace. In the early 90s, he started listening to the shows when, at that time, radio broadcasts couldn’t necessarily be streamed hours after a live broadcast. If he were working during the broadcast, he’d missed out entirely. Episodes may be found here.

A few years ago, Garage Logic was no longer associated with KSTP 1500 radio and began to conduct their podcasts, available on several podcast apps. A few years later, as the internet became enhanced, he could stream the past broadcasts, listening at his leisure to the two to three-hour broadcasts. There was no charge to listen to the shows.

During our years of world travel, Tom rarely missed an episode. It was easy to catch up once we were settled in our following location if we were on a cruise or during travel days. In most cases, the WiFi signal was sufficient to be able to stream the shows. Over the years, I started listening to it in the background while I was preparing a post. You know, we girls can multitask! But, as Joe says, about wives, girlfriends, and significant others, the CP, the Chief Procurer.

Also, over the years, I found the show to be quite entertaining, often leaving us both laughing out loud over the host’s unfiltered opinions and attitudes. Although we don’t always agree with their viewpoint, it’s entertaining listening, as with many podcasts. It’s those differences that often add to the entertainment factor.

Joe Soucheray is the show’s host, accompanied by his sidekicks who cover social media, news, traffic, and production, including Chris Reuvers,  Matt Michalski, John Heidt, Kenny Olson, and more. The show is newsworthy, funny, and ultimately entertaining. They can present information that doesn’t offend anyone and yet is rich in content and views.

Over the years, Tom would email them tidbits from “On This Date in Minnesota History,” which they often read on the show mentioning Tom’s name. However, while we were in lockdown in Mumbai, India, Tom began sending Joe Soucheray an email with daily updates from the site for ten months.

Instead of Joe using the site himself directly, he chose to mention Tom’s name every day when Tom sent in the information, rarely missing a day. When Joe mentioned this in each podcast, he always said, “Only because they come from Mumbai, India, from our friend Tom Lyman, it was on this day… And then, Joe reads the information Tom sent in, “On This Date in Minnesota History.”

Now that we’re in South Africa, as Tom continues to send Joe the newest updates, “On this Date in Minnesota History,” Joe says, “Only because they come from Marloth Park, Mpumalanga, South Africa, from our friend Tom Lyman, it was on this day…And then Joe continues with the story.

If you were to click on the February 23rd podcast here and scroll forward to precisely one hour, 18 minutes, 39 seconds, you’d hear Joe’s mention of Tom. We must admit, we get a massive kick out of this. In addition, they have invited both of us to their studio to record a podcast with them the next time we are in Minnesota, which will be May 2022. It will be our pleasure. No doubt, we don’t mind a little “press” from time to time.

Have a fantastic day, and continue to stay safe.

Photo from one year ago today, February 24, 2020:

There was no post on this date one year ago, based on the poor WiFi signal we experienced while on safari in Kanha National Park in India.

Day #291 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…On our way tomorrow morning!…We’ll have been in India for 354 days…

An owl we spotted in Kanha National Park in India.

Today’s few photos are a continuation of those we posted during our first few months in India on tour, in today’s case on March 30, 2020, See the post here. We’ll continue on this path, sharing more tour photos until it’s time for us to hopefully depart tomorrow, on January 11, 2021. From there, God willing, it will be an entirely new world!

When Tom did the math this morning, he discovered we’ll have been in India for 354 days as compared to our original planned 65 days for our tour on the Maharajas Express, followed by the private tour of the country, cut short weeks early due to Covid-19.

Speaking of Covid-19, we received our Covid-19 PRC and antibody test results by email late last night and both were negative, not to our surprise. We’ve advised our friends in South Africa that we’ll self-quarantine the first 14 days and after that, when getting together we will follow social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines and only meet outdoors in small groups.

In any case, when people get together in Marloth Park it’s always outdoors in order to keep an eye out for visiting wildlife. All of us are equally obsessed! When, eventually, we do visit friends for “sundowners” we’ll bring our own glasses and beverages which is typical behavior in South Africa, the home of BYOB.

A Sambar Deer and her youngster, while on a game drive in India.

We’re almost completely packed. All of our necessary documents are printed. We’ve decided against ordering breakfast so early in the morning before we depart. We’re leaving the hotel at 7:00 am for the 20-minute drive to the airport for our eventual 10:30 am flight to Dubai.

Tomorrow, while waiting during the 16-hour layover in Dubai, whether we make it to the hotel or not, we’ll have time to prepare and upload another post, at which point we’ll include the final expenses for our almost one year in India. That will be most interesting for us to see as well.

The second of the three flights we’ll take the following day, on January 12, is from Dubai to Johannesburg is at 4:30 am. Since we’ll need to be at the airport two to three hours before departure, there’s no way either of us will get in any sleep before we depart, if we are able to get to the hotel between flights. I can’t imagine sleeping until 1:00 am, getting up, showering, dressing, and heading to the airport.

We both suspect we won’t be allowed to leave the airport between flights, due to Covid-19 restrictions, and as mentioned in an earlier post, we’re prepared to forgo the hotel room we booked and stay in the terminal for the duration. That will be one long wait, approaching the longest layover we’ve had, back in 2013 in Istanbul. There again, we’ll see how it goes.

A Black Eagle on the lookout for a meal.

When de-boarding the flights, we plan to stay in our seats until all passengers have exited the plane, thus avoiding close proximity to anyone. We’ll face the opposite direction of the crowd passing in the narrow aisle. In reality, there is only so much we can do to protect ourselves from contracting the virus. The most important aspect will be in keeping our “eye on the ball,” never being restless or careless for even a moment.

Most often when we travel, we both are friendly and at times, will chat with people around us. Not this time! No talking, laughing, talking to anyone more than is absolutely necessary. It’s the nature of the beast. It’s the nature of this dreadful, tiresome pandemic.

So there it is folks, our last post prepared in this hotel room, 291 days later, after 354 days in India. We never planned to stay so long. Staff members here have asked when we’ll return to India. To avoid being rude and blurting out “never,” we politely reply, “We still have a lot of the world left to see.” So true. So very true.

Again, thank you to our readers who’ve sent endless messages with well-wishes for our safe arrival in Marloth Park and we wish all of you the very best as well as we all work our way through these challenging times.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, January 10, 2020:

Two years ago photo. These Hornbill mates are often very noisy around us, asking for seeds. They sure had us trained, says Tom. For the post one year ago, please click here.

Day #290 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…2 days and counting…Covid-19 tests done!…

The excellent staff served us at the Courtyard by Marriott Mumbai International Airport. They couldn’t be more attentive and concerned about our needs and those of the other stranded foreign nationals staying at the hotel during this difficult time. Thank you, dear staff members, for taking such good care of us, including taking everyone’s temperature this morning.

Today’s few photos are a continuation of those we posted during our first few months in India on tour, in today’s case, on March 30, 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!

When I reviewed past posts from 2020, searching for photos to post here today, I ran across the post from March 30, 2020, with a heading that read: “Please unfriend me, if…Social media during the lockdown.” After uploading that post, I referred to it on my Facebook page, asking any “friends” that felt compelled to post negative comments during the lockdown to feel free to unfriend me. Only one such “friend” did so. None of us needed to see toxic vitriol during this challenging time.

Overall, other than political jokes and some negative comments here and there, my Facebook page has been friendly and uplifting since that time. Of course, advertising has been annoying, as I’m sure they’ve been for all FB users. It’s not that I spend much time on Facebook but, at night, when sleep is elusive, I scroll through zillions of posts, mainly from “groups” I’ve chosen to follow,  geared toward the masses as opposed to me specifically. That works for me.

From time to time, when I encounter an offensive (to me) post, I click to “hide this post” to remove it from my view and those who may be following me. There may be one of these every other day. I’ve yet to begin using Twitter and Instagram because I already spend enough time on my phone and laptop.

During the lockdown in India, the Courtyard by Marriott Mumbai International Airport has created this heart image as a show of supports using lights in various hotel rooms.

This may change at some point, but lately, there hasn’t been much to say or share based on these ten months in lockdown. I didn’t want to be wracking my brain every day, trying to find something noteworthy to post on either of these. Tom and I are good at sharing our views and seldom feel a need to express them elsewhere.

Now, as our departure time nears, we’re wrapping up a few tasks. This morning we sent our proof of health insurance and both of our Indian visa extensions to the front desk to print. Finally, last night, my extension approval came through, which was a huge relief. Without proper stretching, there’s a possible fine of US $500, INR 36,690, per person for an “overstay.” Also, not having an extension could result in delays which may result in missing a flight.

This morning, a rep/phlebotomist, well masked and wearing protective (PPI) gear from a certified diagnostic lab in Mumbai, arrived at our room for our Covid-19 PCR test and the antigen test which we may have done needlessly.  When we became ill with an awful virus on our last cruise, which ended on November 8, 2019, we both had horrific coughs that lingered for two months. I had to seek medical care and inhalation therapy to be able to breathe. We both had the most dreadful coughs of our lives.

Although unlikely that it was Covid at that early date, we’ve always wondered if it was possible. The antigen test will put those thoughts to rest. The PCR test is required by the airlines and the countries we’ll be entering during the upcoming flights. The cost of the two tests for both of us was US $41.77, INR 3060, done right here, right at the hotel outside of our room door.

After we’d read how uncomfortable the test was for so many people, we were surprised to discover it was no big deal whatsoever. For the antigen test, a blood draw was required, here again, quick and painless. We’ll have the results in our email within 24 hours, perfect for our departure on Monday morning. We’ll print several copies of each.

Right now, as I write this, in 48 hours, we’ll be landing in Dubai. It’s hard to imagine we’ll be on our way. Please stay with us as we wrap up these last few days.

Stay safe and healthy.

Photo from one year ago today, January 9, 2020:

 A dazzle of zebras in an open field from a two-year-old post. For the year-ago post, when we included the cost of our 55-day tour of India, eventually cut short, please click here.

Day #289 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…3 days and counting…Are we worried about exposure while traveling?…

Beautiful statue at the beach in Pondicherry.

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 27, 2020, See the post here. We’ll continue on this path, sharing more tour photos until it’s time for us to hopefully depart on January 11, 2021. From there, God willing, it will be an entirely new world!

We can’t believe we’re three days from departure and still, our flight remains in place. We can’t totally relax at this point, after our experience of being turned away at the airport on March 20, 2020, to then begin this awfully long lockdown in a hotel room in Mumbai, India.

A church we visited in Pondicherry. 

Peace of mind will only come once we’re in the air on the flight from Dubai to Johannesburg on January 12th. From there, an overnight stay in Joburg and then on to our flight to the Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger Airport, where we’ll pick up our rental car, to commence the one hour drive in daylight hours to Marloth Park.

The journey will consist of considerable exposure to people, at airports, hotels, and planes. Are we worried about the added exposure to Covid-19 compared to minimal exposure all these months in the hotel in Mumbai? We’d be foolish to say we’re not concerned.

The stunning interior of Our Lady of Angels Catholic Church in Pondicherry.

No doubt, Emirates Airlines have instituted extensive measures to protect its passengers while flying. We have less concern about being on the plane, other than if we have to use the restroom. We plan to be careful with our fluid consumption while traveling. Of course, we won’t partake in their complimentary cocktails during the two flights, only drinking minimal amounts of water as needed.

Our bigger concern is for safety at the airports, waiting in queues, and at the two hotels where we’ll be staying along the way, one in Dubai, the next in Joburg. At this point, we have no idea as to where and when we will eat along the way. Most likely, I won’t eat anything on the flights since they won’t have anything suitable for me.

Entrance to the cemetery in the French Quarter in Pondicherry.

Our current hotel chef stated he’d have breakfast delivered to our room on departure morning. We need to allow three hours at the airport for our 10:25 am flight, which is only a 3¼ hour flight until we reach Dubai. We won’t need to eat again until we’re at the hotel in Dubai near the airport. I looked up the menu and they have beef!

I’m certain Tom will order a burger and fries. I’ll order two beef patties without the bun with lettuce and cheese. Most likely, we won’t dine in the restaurant which may be packed with travelers and may be less safe than dining in our room. We’ll play that by ear. But, all of these factors are important to consider.

This morning, we packed and weighed our bags. We are within 2 kg of the maximum weight of 40 kg each. With Emirates Airlines, the total weight is the issue, not the number of bags. We have three checked bags between us and one carry-on we’d like to check, leaving us with the laptop bag for Tom and the yellow Costco bag and handbag for me.

A shrine on the interior of a temple in Pondicherry.

If for some reason, we are over on the weight, we’ll take the small purple bag with us as an additional carry-on which contains our heavy jeans, pants, and shorts. All we have left to do is pack the clothes we’re wearing, the laptops, cords, adapters, power strips, and the final batch of the few toiletries we’ll be using over the next few days and a few odds and ends.

I wish I could say we’re excited at this point, but until we get to Marloth Park and enough time passes when we’re at ease that we didn’t contract the virus during our two travel days, it’s only then we can fully relax and embrace our glorious surroundings in the bush.

Thank you to so many of you who continue to write and send well wishes for our departure and safety. It means the world to us, as all of you do as well.

Stay safe.

Photo from one year ago today, January 8, 2020:

This was the photo we posted, one year ago today. When we visited friends Kathy and Don in Pretoria, South Africa, two years ago, we visited this monument, the Voortrekker Monument, which is an unusual-looking structure located in Pretoria, South Africa. At the time I walked up all these steps (not all steps we tackled are shown in the photo) without getting out of breath or having any health issues. It was a little over a month later, I had open-heart surgery with three main arteries 100% blocked. Who knew? For more photos from this date, one year ago, 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.

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.