Delightful evening with Madighan…Tom returns today…

Another one of our adorable, fun, and quirky grandchildren, Madighan.

Last night was terrific with Madighan! Right away, we walked across the hotel’s parking lot to Pizza Luce, where we sat in a booth, ordered dinner, and had a delightful chat. After dinner, with a to-go container to bring back home to Miles with garlic bread, we headed back to the hotel to watch a shark movie and work on our crocheting.

On Sunday, I’ll get back to work on my crocheting project for Mad, and we’ll bring food for an early dinner when we return to Greg’s to watch the Minnesota Vikings game and have the food we’ll have brought from Costco, returning to our hotel around 5:00 pm for the rest of the evening.

Tom, TJ, and Tammy are returning from up north today, and they’ll drop Tom off at Billy’s Bar and Grill in Anoka in time for the usual Friday afternoon Lyman family get-together. It will be the final time we’ll see Tom’s siblings and other family members since we’re leaving Minnesota (and the US) on Wednesday to make our way to Quito, Ecuador, in South America. It’s a nine-hour flight with layovers.

This flight, much shorter than most of our flights, should be over in no time at all. Our only apprehension is how we’ll do in the high altitude where we’ll be for three days. Once we know we’re fine, we’ll be greatly relieved and be able to enjoy ourselves. We arrive a day earlier than planned to allow ourselves a little longer to acclimate to the altitude. Hopefully, that works as intended.

It’s hard to believe we’ll leave the US in five days. On Monday, we’ll focus on packing. All of the items we replaced and ordered from Amazon have arrived, and we will soon be able to fine-tune the packing and see where we are weight-wise. We will have to pay for our bags, but we hope we won’t go over our one bag each and one supply bag as the only checked bags we have.

If we go over, since we’ll be gone so long, we have an extra suitcase with a few cracks in its hard-shelled exterior that we can use in a pinch. We don’t want to add a fourth checked bag, but considering all the supplies we needed for the Galapagos cruise, we may be overweight and will have to deal with it one way or another.

This morning, when I went downstairs to the restaurant for breakfast, I met a lovely couple from Michigan, and we chatted for a few hours while another couple traveling with them joined us. The conversation was lively and animated. They enjoyed our stories and sharing their own stories, and I had a great time.

After a while, I realized I needed to get going to start on today’s post since I am going to leave the hotel at 2:00 pm to drive the rental car to Billy’s, so Tom will have a way back to the hotel, which is 45 minutes from Anoka. Tammy and TJ are dropping him off, which is in their neck of the woods, rather than driving him back to the hotel in traffic.

Greg suggested I leave the hotel at 2:00 pm to avoid Friday rush-hour traffic, which I plan to do in less than two hours. If I get to Billy’s early, I can have sparkling water while I wait 45 minutes for Tom’s family to arrive along with Tom at about the same time. I’d rather wait there than be stuck in traffic.

I haven’t driven that far in a few years, and I’m a little apprehensive, but I’ll do my best and be as careful as possible. Driving never bothered me in my old life, but now, after not driving for so long, I question my reflexes. Fortunately, no one will be in the car with me, and of course, I won’t be looking at my phone, only listening to the directions from Maps. Tom will drive back to the hotel at the end of the evening.

That’s it for now. We’ll be back with more tomorrow.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, October 6, 2013:

While on safari in the Masaai Mara, Kenya…We could sit for hours and watch the antics of the hippos. Their lethargic movement and playful personalities are a pleasure to behold. For more photos, please click here.

The countdown has begun…10 days and we’re off on our big change of plans…

An oxpecker on the back of a young male kudu, eating the bugs and debris off his body.

Yesterday was a highly accomplished day for a Sunday. Then again, any day of the week is a day that may require us to “pull up our bootstraps” to figure out a solution to an imminent situation, such as we encountered regarding the new lockdown in Kenya, which started on Friday, preventing us from going on our planned and paid trip to Little Governor’s Camp in the Maasai Mara.

If you missed yesterday’s post with the details, here is the link.

In all, we discovered we’ll lose a total of US $400, ZAR 6007 from the Kenya online Kenyan visa, and cancellation fees of US $100, ZAR 1502 per traveler for canceling the flight with Kenya Airways. It was quite a daunting task, undoing all the bookings for Kenya and creating new bookings for the USA. But now we feel at ease that we’ve got a handle on it.  Now, we wait for refunds and credits to be applied to our credit cards.

Mr. Young Kuda stared at himself in the glass window to the second bedroom.

Many of the credits will take 30 days to process. At this point, we have the cash layout for the expensive Kenya trip and the upcoming trip to the US. We look forward to all of the credits coming through soon.

This morning we visited Louise to explain our situation. Since it makes no sense to pay for two-holiday rentals simultaneously, we have no choice but to clear out of this house, leaving it available for Louise to rent it to other potential tourists while we’re away, especially when our return date is uncertain at this point.

Overall, we anticipate returning in approximately six weeks from our arrival on April 10, 2021, which would take us to the end of May at the latest. We can only speculate at this point. As soon as we know more, we’ll let Louise know what date we’ll be returning.

More kudus with oxpeckers on their backs.

Last night we informed our kids and grandchildren that we’ll be coming, and they, along with us, are enthused for our return. It will be wonderful to see all of them once again after the long haul in India. It will be around 18 months since we were in the US to see everyone, so the timing is perfect.

Next week, we’ll start packing. We’ll only bring a minimal amount of clothing and supplies with us, especially since we’ll need room in our luggage for the items we’ll be picking up at our mailing service in Las Vegas. We didn’t pay the huge fees to send that package to us, plus the associated hassle with insurance and customs fees. We’re certainly grateful.

We’ve decided to go to Nevada at the end of our US stay so we won’t have to haul around the extra 20 pounds, 9 kg, paying for overweight luggage while flying in the US. We’ll fly back to South Africa from Las Vegas, when at that point, it will be an international flight, allowing more weight in our bags.

Medium Daddy waits while Tom refills the pellet container.

The packing will be challenging, separating what we’ll need for the US with varying weather conditions in each location and what we’ll leave behind in South Africa. But, as always, we’ll figure it out. Most likely, while in the US we’ll purchase some new clothing for both of us. We each need several items which we can only find there.

For now, we’ll continue to enjoy our bush home and the dozen or so warthogs, kudus, bushbucks, and wildebeest who’ve become very familiar to us and us to them. Mostly, I’m concerned about Frank and The Misses, who’ve enjoyed eating the seeds we’ve offered several times a day.

Surely, none of them will starve without our constant supply of pellets and seeds. The vegetation is lush and green, and most likely, they’ll visit other houses for treats such as those we offer. Once we return, within a few weeks, they’ll all be back. Frank and The Misses find berries, seeds, and bugs readily available in the park. Hopefully, they’ll remain in this territory while we’re gone.

We’ve done an inventory of how much food we have left. If we head to Komati tomorrow for a few odds and ends, we won’t need to purchase more groceries before we depart. Louise will give us a plastic tote to store our non-perishable food items, and of course, they will store that along with the baggage we’re leaving behind when we depart Marloth Park in 10 days to head to Nelspruit for an overnight stay for the next day’s long journey ahead.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, March 29, 2020:

The casual dining room where we had breakfast and dinner the first few weeks was in the hotel in Mumbai, India. A few weeks later, they closed the restaurant and started serving us room service only. It was a long ten months. For more, please click here.

Yesterday’s post heading stated, “Everything could change.”…Everything did change!!!…What’s next?…

The seed solution for Frank and The Misses. Now they both eat out of the little container. Once they’re done, we take away the container.

In an attempt to stay calm, bit by bit, we’re piecing together what our plans will be going forward now that it’s confirmed by Little Governor’s Camp that they will be closed during the new Kenyan 60 day lockdown. This morning we received an email from the rep to inform us of the news.

Now the process of planning our next move begins today. We’ve definitely decided we’ll be returning to the US to see family and get our Covid-19 vaccines, preferably the one jab, so that we can carry on with our plans. Since we don’t know the exact dates, we’ll be able to get the one jab. We’re not booking any flights beyond getting to Minnesota, where we’ll be vaccinated. South Africa won’t have a sufficient vaccine supply for us as non-citizens to eventually be vaccinated.

We’ll return to South Africa in about four to six weeks. From there, we’ll head to Nevada, where we’ll spend another week or two visiting sons, Richard, take care of any necessary business tasks, and then carry on. At this point, we are ok not knowing the date we’ll return when it is entirely based on the dates and type of vaccine we’ll be able to get.

This warthog has blood coming from his left eye.

I want to state at this point emphatically: We are not stopping our world travels by returning to the US for the vaccines and family visits. This was the most logical way to get a new 90-day visa stamp for South Africa, see family, and get the vaccines, a multi-purpose trip now that we cannot go to Kenya due to their new Covid-19 lockdown.

Also, while we are in the US, we will continue to post daily, as we always have, hopefully adding photos along the way. Before we know it, we’ll be back in Marloth Park, hopefully to this same house in the bush, and once again, seeing our favorite wildlife and human friends.

After enjoying nap time after eating the treats we’d offered, eggs and meat, a pile of mongooses.

As of this moment, we have canceled all the hotels we had booked except the one near the Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger Airport. Also, we’ll still take the same flight we’d already booked to Johannesburg, But we won’t be making the return flight from Johannesburg on April 14. We’ll try for a refund for the return portion of the flight, but I doubt we’ll get that.

Bushbucks were eating pellets in the bush. Tom tossed them far out to them so the warthogs wouldn’t scare them away.

I already spent 30 minutes on hold with Kenya Airways to cancel our flight to Kenya and back due to the Kenyan lockdown. Their website isn’t user-friendly, and there are 404 messages on the refund page. We’ll try calling again later today and continue to work on attempting to get a refund.

If Kenya Airways doesn’t provide the refund, we’ll have no choice but to contact our credit card company, who will assist in processing the refund. We had to do this in 2019, and they were beneficial, promptly providing us with the refund, especially now in light of Covid-19.

Kudu in the bush was watching for the pellet situation.

As of this moment, we had canceled two hotel bookings, Little Governor’s Camp and the car rental we’d booked for April 14 when we were scheduled to return to South Africa. We’ll have lost the cost we paid for our Kenya visas, for which we paid over US $200, ZAR 3005. There is nothing we can do about that. If that is all the losses we incur due to the cancellation of the trip to Kenya, we can accept that.

Male bushbuck in the garden.

Today, we’ll book the hotel in Minneapolis but wait to book a hotel in Las Vegas until we know what date we can leave Minnesota to head to Nevada. Right now, we are working on booking the flight, which is all over the place with pricing and hidden charges, extra charges for basic seats, and baggage in some cases.

Tom just finished booking the flights, which comprised of three flights with a 28 hour travel time. We’ll have to wait at the airport in Johannesburg for almost 8 hours before the first leg takes off, resulting in a 36 hour travel time with nowhere to sleep in between. We’ve done this before.

The pigs eat the seeds we put out for Frank and The Misses. We had to come up with another plan.

Tomorrow morning, we’ll visit Louise and Danie to tell them what’s happening and that we may not be back until May. Undoubtedly, all of this isn’t very reassuring, but it’s the way it is, especially in times of Covid-19. We are both doing ok, and we’ll be relieved when all the bookings and refunds are resolved.

Whew! Life goes on.

Be well!

Photo from one year ago today, March 28, 2020:

One year ago today, we posted this photo from 2018 taken in Kruger National Park. For more details, please click here.

Oh, oh, alarming news!…Everything could change!…

Bossy in the garden, posing for a photo.

Last night while out to dinner at Jabula Lodge & Restaurant, having our usual great time, commiserating with owners Dawn and Leon and other guests, and also savoring a predictably fabulous dinner, I heard a notification ding on my phone. Although I have only a few app notifications set up to alert me, I took a peek to find this article:

“Kenya imposes new lockdown – What are the restrictions?

Kenya has imposed a new lockdown to combat a surge in coronavirus infections.

President Uhuru Kenyatta on Friday announced a ban on all inland travel in the capital Nairobi and four other counties.

Kenya’s Covid-19 positivity rate has jumped from 2% to 22% between January and March, and Nairobi accounts for nearly 60% of the cases- Kenyatta said that hospital admissions had increased 52% in the past two weeks and that at least seven people are dying every day from coronavirus.

This is Tiny searching in the garden for more pellets. He tends to scare off all of the other animals.

What do the new measures mean?

No road, rail, or air transport will be permitted in Nairobi, Kajiado, Kiambu, Machakos, and Nakuru.

In-person meetings will also be banned.

As for curfew, hours now start at 20:00 until 04:00 am (instead of 22:00 until 04:00 am`) in the five counties. Special passes that allowed people to travel during curfew hours have also been revoked.

Alcohol sales in the areas have also been banned, and restaurants can only provide takeaway services.

The president also ordered “an immediate suspension of all face-to-face teaching, including universities,” except for students currently taking exams.

Kenya reopened its schools and colleges in early January, which had been closed for ten months.

All sporting events are also suspended.

International travel is permitted but subject to a negative coronavirus test.

The new measures begin on Friday at midnight.

These two warthogs are Narrow and The Imposter. A brave impala invaded the scene.

Coronavirus in Kenya

This week Kenya recorded between 1,000 and 1,500 cases per day.

“According to our health experts, our third wave started to gain strength in early March,” said Kenyatta.

The peak of this wave is expected in the next 30 days, with more than 2,500 to 3,000 cases per day,” he added.

Recognizing the impact these decisions will have on the economy, Kenyatta added that these “measures are temporary and necessary to contain the spread of the disease and therefore to stop further loss of life.”

“I am convinced that the cost of inaction would be much worse,” he said

At least it sounds that international travel is still allowed, but the question becomes;  Will Little Governor’s Camp still serve guests when restaurants and bars must be closed? A big part of the charm of the camp is the frequent arrival of elephants to the restaurant during mealtime.

This is Bossy and an unknown kudu. She usually waits for us in the driveway or the garden when we go out at night.

Will we, as guests, want a takeaway meal when part of the safari experience is delightful meal times, socialization, and good food, all of which are factored into the high daily cost. Would we even want to go if that’s the case? Probably not.

I called two phone numbers for Little Governor’s Camp on Saturday this morning, but no management staff answered our questions. Also, in both cases, the staff members answering the phones stated that more news would be reported on Monday, and they’ll know more about the restrictions and how they will impact the camp and the camp’s guests.

So what is Plan B if we cannot go on this planned adventure? I’m assuming we’ll be able to get a refund for the camp and flights. It will be trickier to get refunds for the flights, but in light of Covid, we may not have a problem. We can easily cancel all hotel bookings without an issue since they all have free cancellation policies. I’m not sure if we’ll be able to get a refund on the flights to and from Nelspruit to Johannesburg and back, which were booked separately. We shall see.

But, all of this hinges on what we find out on Monday or even as late as Tuesday. If we don’t go, we won’t have time to plan and book a trip to another location, apply for an online visa, etc. Honestly, neither of us feels like going through that again right now. Our only option with our South Africa visas expiring on April 12th, we’ll have no choice but to return to the US for a short stay.

Such a handsome male bushbuck.

In doing so, we’ll stay long enough to get our Covid-19 vaccines and then head back here. Depending on which vaccines we can arrange, we may be gone a month or more. We’ll see our family during this time and take care of any business we need to address. We’ll go to Minnesota to see part of the family and then head to our state of residence, Nevada, where we’ll see the eldest son Richard.

Once again, our lives are up-in-the-air due to Covid, uncertain of what the immediate future holds. At this point, neither of us is losing any sleep over this and will wait patiently for what transpires next week. We knew at some point we’d have to return to the US to get the vaccine.

The likelihood of us getting a vaccine in South Africa is unlikely in the next few years. With upcoming cruises on the distant horizon and required vaccines for all cruises, this may be as good a time as possible to get it done. We’ll certainly keep you well-informed of the situation as it rolls out.

Note: In the past few minutes, we received an email from Little Governor’s Camp. This afternoon, they hold a manager’s meeting to decide if they will close during the 60 day lockdown period or stay open. We will report the results in tomorrow’s post.

Have a peaceful and fulfilling day, dear readers.

Photo from one year ago today, March 27, 2020:

Beautiful statue at the beach in Pondicherry. For more photos, please click here.

Visa documents finally submitted…Hotels booked…Carjackings…

Female bushbucks are so shy.

Note: Late posting due to power and WiFi outage.

In only 27 days, we’ll be leaving Marloth Park to make our way to Nelspruit where we’ll stay overnight for our early morning flight to Johannesburg from Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger Airport. Based on the fact our flight is so early, we preferred not to be on the N4 highway in the dark.

Many carjackings occur on highways in South Africa at night (less so during the day) prevents us from ever driving to Nelspruit in the dark. As a matter of fact, there has been a 537% increase in carjackings in Minneapolis, Minnesota (our former home state) as seen in this news article.

Tiny and a friend, getting along well while sharing pellets.

This is alarming in the US and even more alarming in South Africa as described in this article. In this province of Gauteng,where Johannesburg is located, there were 9025 carjackings in 2020. This is sufficient to make road trips of any type during the night, considerably more dangerous.

As a result, whenever we have an early morning flight out of the small Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger Airport, we prefer to stay overnight in a nearby hotel. Also, when leaving Little Governors Camp in the Maasai Mara on April 13th, we’ll fly out from the Maasai Mara in a small plane landing at Wilson Airport, not too far from the major airport in Johannesburg where we’ll fly out on the next available flight back to Nelspruit the following day. This requires another hotel stay.

Tiny loves to nap in the garden.

Having accumulated so many “free nights” using on our site for those 10 months in Mumbai, India, we were able to use three of those many accumulated “free” nights for the three one-night hotel stays. The dollar value of the free night is based on the price we paid for each of those nights.

At many points during those 10 months, we paid less than US $100, ZAR 1496, per night, requiring us to pay the difference when using our free nights, for hotels priced above that amount. Thus, between the three hotels on all ends of the stay in Little Governors Camp, we had to pay an additional almost US $180.

Ms. Hornbill abandoned her nest in the bushbaby house, but returns often. We wonder where her new nest is located.

Why three hotels for a six-night departure from Marloth Park?

  1. April 8, 2021 – Nelspruit, South Africa overnight awaiting the early morning flight
  2. April 9, 2021 – Nairobi, Kenya overnight awaiting the net morning’s early morning flight from Wilson Airport, a short distance from Jomo Kenyatta International in  Nairobi
  3. April 10, 2021, to April 13, 2021 – Little Governors Camp (3 nights)
  4. April 13, 2021 – One overnight in Nairobi before the early morning flight back to Nelspruit followed by the return drive to Marloth Park upon arrival.

As much as we tried to reduce the number of required overnight stays, in order to avoid driving in the dark, this was our only option. Others may have been able to eliminate some of this “monkey business.” But also, delays due to Covid-19 could result in delays or cancellations of flights. This way we protect ourselves in more than one way, reducing potential travel stress.

Cute bushbuck walks daintily.

No, we don’t like all the additional exposure at three airports (both coming and returning) and three hotels and one camp stay. But, we had to carefully weigh our options and make choices that work for us. As you can see, booking all of this is time-consuming and at times, frustrating.

As of yesterday morning, we hadn’t booked any of the hotels. When we began the e-visa process with yet another company, after the company in Washington, DC, required the e-visa to be snail-mailed which didn’t work for us, through considerable research, Tom found yet another company we could use, that is reputable that will email our e-visa within the next five days.

Tiny and a friend.

While again, while filling out the application, and submitting our documents, their system stated our dates didn’t match up from the dates at Little Governors Camp with our entry and exit dates. This prompted us to realize we’d better get to work booking the two hotels in Nairobi so the dates would match up.

Finally, after hours in the bedroom with the fan on, (load shedding occurred during this period while we used the inverter to run the fan), sweating like pigs in the heat and humidity, our documents were accepted from IVisa and our five-day wait began.

Whew! That was challenging. Now, all we have left to do which we’ll take care of over the weekend is booking a rental car for three more months which we’ll pick-up upon our return to Nelspruit/Mpumalanga on April 14, 2021, for our return drive to Marloth Park.

Little, attempting to get on the veranda. He’s so bossy!

Then, perhaps, we can relax for another 90 days in South Africa until July when the visas will expire once more. Next time, we’re hoping to apply for an extension which will take us to October, at which point we’ll have to leave South Africa for an upcoming cruise (which may or may not happen) in November. That is up in the air, as is so much due to Covid-19 and immigration laws.

Tonight, our friend Alan and his adult niece Kristen will be joining us for sundowners and appetizers. Thank goodness, it’s a little cooler today, although not cool enough for my liking with the high humidity. But soon, we’ll begin to head toward winter and eventual cooler temps.

May you have a pleasant and healthy day! Oh, oh, load shedding just started again! No power for the next 2½ hours. Oh, well.

Photo from one year ago today, March 12, 2020:

Lakshmi was so sweet and welcoming. I patted her thick trunk and looked deep into her eye. More here: “This Ganesh Chaturthi, you can visit the extraordinary Manakula Vinayagar Temple situated approximately 400 metres away from the Bay of Bengal in White Town, Pondicherry. Read on to know why devotees, photo fanatics and experience seekers flock to this special temple of Lord Ganesha.” For more, please click here.

We’re leaving on an exciting expedition in 37 days!…

This elephant was a frequent visitor
This elephant is a frequent visitor to Little Governors Camp. Not our photo.

It was a painstaking process to figure out where we could go during the pandemic to have our visas stamped for a new 90-day stay in South Africa. The restrictions were frustrating and prohibitive for many locations. Many countries couldn’t accommodate us under any circumstances.

After extensive research over the past few weeks, it was in the past week that we considered returning to Kenya. The last time we’d been there was in 2013 when we’d longed to experience our first photo safari in the Maasai Mara.

From this site:

“Maasai Mara, also sometimes spelled Masai Mara and locally known simply as The Mara, is a large national game reserve in NarokKenya, contiguous with the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. It is named in honor of the Maasai people, the ancestral inhabitants of the area, who migrated to the area of the Nile Basin. Their description of the area when looked at from afar: “Mara” means “spotted” in the local Maasai language, due to the many short bushy trees which dot the landscape.

Regularly, elephants enter Little Governors Camp in the Maasai Mara, Kenya, often at mealtime, looking for a morsel to savor off the plates of the guests. Not our photo.

Maasai Mara is one of the most famous and important wildlife conservation and wilderness areas in Africa, world-renowned for its exceptional populations of lionAfrican leopardcheetah, and African bush elephant. It also hosts the Great Migration, which secured it as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa, and as one of the Ten Wonders of the World.”

A few years ago, while in South Africa, we booked a fantastic tour in Kenya for which we’d prepaid the entire cost well in advance, at a then cost of ZAR 223225, US $15,000. It was only a few months later that I had to have emergency open-heart surgery when we were only days away from departure for the extraordinary experience.

On such short notice, we lost the bulk of the fare. Thanks to Louise for helping us get a partial refund while I was still in the hospital. We understood that the short-term cancellation had put the host of the tour in a tough spot when it was impossible for him to resell our spot on such short notice. We were grateful to get back the 30% she arranged for us.

We can only imagine the excitement of being back in the Maasai Mara, let alone with elephants visiting the camp. Not our photo.

But, it never left our minds what we missed on that trip. The one venue of most interest to us was a stay at Little Governor’s Camp in the Maasai Mara, Kenya. Nor, did it ever leave our minds how much we enjoyed many safaris/game drives in the Maasai Mara, unlike anywhere we’ve visited since that time in 2013.

At that time, we stayed at Camp Olonono another luxury tented camp where we had an extraordinary experience as we anticipate we will once again. We went out on two game drives each day and couldn’t have seen more wildlife than we did. At Little Governor’s Camp, we’ll embark on two game drives each day, hanging around the camp for what we hope will be a recurring experience that Little Governor’s Camp is known for, elephants visiting the resort/campgrounds, even at times, entering the dining area and picking food off the plates of the guests. Oh, gosh, this will be the epitome of “safari luck” if this occurs while we’re there.

Of course, as always, we’ll prepare ourselves the elephants may not stop by while we’re at the camp. Instead, we’ll revel in the outstanding experiences we’ll surely have while out on the game drives. If someone were to ask us how many times we’ve been out on photo safaris after all these years, it would have to be well over 100. We never tire of the experience.

Governors' Camp | The Masai Mara, Kenya | The Africa Specialists™
We’ll be staying in a luxury tent with an ensuite bath and many amenities. Not our photo.

We still have a lot to do to complete the requirements for this upcoming trip; apply for online e-Visas, apply online for the complicated COVID-19 form required for entry into Kenya, arrange for hotels on either end, get Covid-10 PCR tests before we depart South Africa and arrange a rental car for three months for our return.

So far, all we’ve done is book the multiple flights and book and pay in full for Little Governor’s Camp required this close to arrival time. The camp has arranged for our small-plane round-trip flight in and then out of the Maasai Mara from a small airport in Nairobi.

We’ll report back later as we work our way through the process of wrapping up the tasks required to complete this upcoming adventure. If we had to leave South Africa for this visa thing, we decided that doing something wonderful was the way to go. We’re both thrilled to have this figured out!

Today, we left the house while a few repairs were being made on our bush house. “Little” had made a massive hole in the screen door to the veranda, trying to get into the house and a ceiling panel in the master bedroom had started coming down after weeks of rain and humidity. While the workers were here, we drove around the park, taking some exceptional photos which we’ll begin sharing in tomorrow’s post. Also, we took exciting photos in the garden early this morning, which we also can’t wait to share.

See you here tomorrow! Have a great day!

Photo from one year ago today, March 3, 2020:

We loved this sign, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, for the Elderly & Beautiful.” For more photos, please click here.

Day #246 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Ten reasons to avoid test cruises…

Tom’s hair was blowing with his back to the wind at Sails Restaurant in Diani Beach, Kenya. The cool ocean breeze was heavenly.

Today’s photos are from dining out at our favorite restaurant during the final few days we spent in Diani Beach, Kenya, in 2013. For more details, please click here.

Each day when I walk the corridors, I listen to podcasts on various topics. Recently, on a mission to further improve my health, I listened to podcasts from Dr. Ken Berry, Dr. Ali Nadir (cardiologist), Dr. Shawn Baker, Dr. Jason Fung, and Dr. Paul Saladino, and more, all of whom advocate a very low/zero carb way of eating, which with their advice, I’ve been able to lower my blood sugar and blood pressure dramatically as described in this post from a few days ago.

I equally enjoyed the cool ocean breeze at Sails. It was so hot that night. We were sweating. 

When I need a break from health podcasts, I often listen to travel-related podcasts relevant to today’s COVID-19 situation in hopes of learning something useful for our future travels. By accident, I came across Tony’s podcast site, La Lido Loca, and was fascinated to listen to his take on why it makes little sense to accept such an invitation. To listen to Tony’s excellent podcast on this topic, please click here.

Here are his ten reasons why not to embark on a free test cruise:

  1. A cruise line must have the “free” passenger sign a document accepting the potential risks of participating. In other words, if you get the virus during or after the test cruise, you will not have legal recourse against the cruise line.
  2. There is an expectation that test cruise passengers must have a doctor’s letter confirming they don’t have any pre-existing comorbidities that may result in severe cases of COVID-19 or even death.
  3. You will be virus tested at the port upon embarkation, disembarkation, and possibly many more times during the cruise.
  4. This is not normal cruising with all the fluff and activities cruisers may be used to. Passengers will be directed to activities during the cruise and subject to the guidelines and requirements that reduce the risks of becoming infected.
  5. Restrictive port experiences are unlike those typically offered by the cruise line. You will not be able to wander on your own if any ports of call are visited, nor will you be able to choose a multitude of experiences.
    Tom’s crab au gratin was as delicious as usual.
  6. What happens if you or others get the virus, either in reality or in a simulation, which may require even those without the virus to lockdown in their cabin? Cabin selection is up to the cruise line. One may end up in an inside cabin when they usually book a balcony cabin. A lockdown during a simulation could result in days in a windowless cabin when you aren’t even sick.
  7. Disruptive cruise – You may be in the middle of enjoying a meal or a drink, or an activity, required to stop immediately for health checks and other protocols.
  8. A cruise may be cut short if too many passengers become infected with COVID-19. This could happen after paying round-trip airfares to reach the cruise embarkation point, at your own expense, only to have the cruise cut short after 24 to 48 hours when passengers are reported to have contracted the virus resulting in the cruise ending early.
  9. Waiting around – For test results, for new procedures, for activities, and a variety of entirely unfamiliar protocols, passengers may spend hours each day waiting for the next activity or event.
  10. Stringent adherence to the CDC’s virus protocols; masking, social distancing, hand washing, and more. The usual socialization most cruisers enjoy will be obliterated.
    My dinner at Sails was too heavy on the oil, very different from the first time I’d ordered this entrée.

Are you still interested? Probably, not. If so, contact your favorite cruise line and see if options are available for you to participate. Most cruise lines got their authorized cruise resellers with invitations to participate. It will be interesting to see how these cruises roll out.

We’ll be watching for those results and will report back here for details.

As for us cruising in the future, hum, we’ll see what happens. Our next booked cruise is scheduled for November 30, 2021. We’ll see if that transpires and if we decide it’s safe to go if it does.

Happy day to all!

Photo from one year ago today, November 24, 2019:

Tom’s Reuben sandwich with jumbo onion rings when out for bingo at a restaurant with friends Karen and Rich one year ago. Drool-worthy! Click here for Tom’s win.

Day #224 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Hesitating to mention, a frustrating situation…

I love this look on Tom’s face as he’s learning how to handle the python. Like an infant, the python’s head must be held up to avoid injuring it.

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2013 while living in Diani Beach, Kenya, during Tom’s first of two snake-handling experiences. See the link here.

The purpose of today’s post is not to complain (well, maybe a little) as much as it is intended to alert those who may have dietary restrictions of varying types and can never be too careful. We haven’t been able to get it right after 224 days.

This African Chameleon, variety unknown, is winking their left eye for the photo! Check out the funny little mouth! Neither of us hesitated to handle this non-poisonous creature.

During these 224 days and nights, we’ve been ordering breakfast and dinner for that many days. They still don’t have it right! I’d also like to preface this post with this: the staff at this hotel are very kind, with the best intentions. Regardless of how frustrated we may become and how graciously or less graciously we express ourselves to them, there is a language barrier that will supersede today’s frustrated comments.

Although, I have been evident and specific with the restaurant manager, chefs, and cook, as to what I can eat to maintain my health which is as follows:

  1. No sugar, starches, or grains
  2. No vegetable oils, no olive oil, only butter
  3. No fruit or fruit juices
  4. No rice, no beans, no lentils, no flour, no fillers, no potatoes, no bread

To further simplify this, I remind them of this:

“I can eat any animal products, fish or chicken, butter, cheese, eggs, salt, and mustard.”

We were both at ease handling this harmless reptile, fascinated with its pre-historic appeal. 

Lately, I stopped eating vegetables when I was trying to figure out why my stomach hurt all the time, which continued after I left out the vegetables a few weeks ago. Also, at times, some restaurants, from what we’ve discovered in our travels, cook their vegetables in the same pot of boiling water as the pasta they cook throughout the day. I’m just not going to risk eating vegetables and avoid them for the remainder of our time here. I am extremely gluten intolerant.

My restrictions are posted in the kitchen for all cooks and staff to see. I’ve been eating this way for 11 years, and no doubt, I’ve struggled with this even on cruise ships where I felt ok eating vegetables when their cooks had a better understanding of gluten intolerance and didn’t cook vegetables in the pasta water.

Chameleon on my leg. Its legs were sticky, grasping at the fabric of my pants.

But, here in Mumbai, where 90% of what the Indian people consume contains starches, grains, and sugars (including fruit and juices). Delicious? Yes! Suitable for me? No!

Over the past week, when I quit the vegetables, I began eating a “plain” (as requested) ground chicken patty, topped with a butter-fried egg, Emmental cheese, and bacon. It was delicious. I was thrilled with my new option to have “mixed it up” a bit from my usual grilled boneless, skinless chicken parts (I don’t like chicken breasts since they are often too dry unless cooked on the bone with the skin I can’t get here).

This is a grass snake, non-poisonous, slithering on Tom’s arm. 

In a post on October 27, 2020 (found here), I mentioned I’d experienced an 80% improvement in the pain in my legs while walking, which I’ve had since open-heart surgery in 2019 in South Africa. Somehow, I couldn’t get past that 80% improvement when I’d significantly reduced my carb load after I stopped eating those red sauces in Indian chicken curry and Makhani dishes in September.

Tomatoes and tomato sauces can have many carbs from the natural and added sugars in the sauce. I’d been a fool to eat those but did so in sheer desperation. I’d hoped that dropping these red sauces in early September would help reduce the inflammation in my legs after the two separate leg surgeries I had six weeks after cardiac bypass surgery when both of my legs became seriously infected. Good grief. What a mess I am!

This semi-poisonous snake paralyzes its prey. If they bite a human, the area of the bite will feel numb for a few hours but poses no systemic risk.  We were told to keep the head away from us while handling it. This is me holding it as Tom took the photo. In 2018, in South Africa, we both went to snake handling school, with Tom doing more handling than me.

So, by eliminating the red sauces, I started experiencing improvement in the pain in my legs up to about 80% until I started eating the chicken burger (no bun) dinner. I knew I had no problem with any of the items on the plate. I’d spoken directly to the head chef, asking him the ingredients in the chicken patty. He said, “Chicken, onions, garlic, and salt.”

“Great,” I said, “I can eat those and continued to do so for the past week. Then, my legs were getting worse by the day. The past several mornings, I could only walk at a snail’s pace. What was wrong? Frustrated and, of course, worried, I decided to check my blood sugar using my glucometer, which I’d been told to use when I started this way of eating to determine if a particular food was causing inflammation. High blood sugar an hour or two after eating? This means that the specific food I’d eaten was too high in carbs for me.

Tom wound it around his hands, keeping the mouth at a distance.

Last night after dinner, my blood sugar was 40% higher than after eating a usually meager carb meal. I hadn’t checked it in several months, but this made me rethink what I’d consumed. It wasn’t the bacon, the cheese, or the egg. I’ve never had a problem with these. Also, I hadn’t had any “pasta water” vegetables.

Immediately, I called the head chef whom I’d spoken to previously, asking once again the ingredients in the burger. He explained it had bread crumbs to hold the chicken together. I knew I tasted something in those supposed plain chicken burgers, similar to the smell and taste of a loaf of store-bought whole wheat bread. I should have known better. Had I not told them over and over again, no bread, no flour, no starch, no grains?

For a small snake, this snake has a large head.

I do not have celiac disease, but I have a huge gluten response known as gluten intolerance. By the time I stopped eating gluten in 2011, the damage was done to my arteries combined with a strong genetic predisposition to heart disease, insulin resistance, and Type 2 diabetes. In essence, almost lifelong history of eating a very low-fat diet of products containing starch, flour, sugars, and grains contributed to my having cardiovascular disease.

The cardiologist in South Africa explained I’d had these bad arteries for 30 or 40 years. There was nothing I could do to reverse it. Still, perhaps the continuation of a low-inflammation, low carb/keto diet, and lots of exercises, along with a healthy lifestyle, could prevent it from getting much worse, giving me a few more years of life.

At last! He’s got python handling figured out! He couldn’t have looked more pleased! 

No wonder I’ve been suffering while walking since I started eating those ground chicken patties a week ago. May I say I was enraged? I composed myself during the phone call. Today, I sent a message to management to ensure they post my restrictions, once again, in the kitchen for all to see. After all, we’ve been here for 224 days.

Now, with the likelihood of gluten remaining in the body for weeks, if not months, I have to start all over again, hoping to get my legs to work better while walking. I will still push myself to walk 10,000 steps (5 miles, 8 km) a day. I will no longer take the risk of eating that otherwise delicious chicken patty that most likely contained an entire slice of whole wheat bread.

Close up of the python Tom handled.

In closing this post, I’d like to stress that no matter how much we request special dietary considerations in dining establishments throughout the world, one can never be assured the food they are serving is safe for us. In any case, it’s best to order food prepared as plainly as possible in restaurants and save the exciting dishes for our safe home cooking.

Food for thought (no pun intended). Happy day!

Photo from one year ago today, November 2, 2019:

This photo illustrates how the gangway was jammed into the ship. For details, please click here.

Day #222 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Today is our 8 year world travel anniversary…Happy Halloween!!!

This affectionate camel leaned on his owner’s shoulder when I approached.

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2013 while living in Diani Beach, Kenya, when we embarked on a mini-vacation to celebrate our first anniversary of world travel. See the link here.

Here we are, eight years from the date we first left Minnesota to begin our year-long journey to see the world. Most years, we’ve celebrated this anniversary with more enthusiasm than we ever celebrated our wedding anniversary or the day we met in 1991.

Camels were walking along the beach along the Indian Ocean.

For us, this anniversary lumps the other anniversaries into one particular day on Halloween, October 31, wherever we may be in the world at the time. That’s not to say we ignore our other anniversaries. Still, this one signifies our “freedom” in retirement, to see the world on our terms, visiting those places that most appeal to our senses, rather than some preconceived notion of where one “should” go while touring the world.

And we’ve continued to experience life on our terms except for the past 7½ months when we’ve been in lockdown in Mumbai, India, waiting for international flights to resume. Hopefully, soon that will change, and we’ll be able to be on our way once again. As for any potential celebration of today’s anniversary, life will continue as it has over the past months. There isn’t a lot more we can do.

Tom spotted them coming and alerted me to grab the camera. I ran like crazy to catch up with them to take these photos. The cost for a ride, up for negotiation, was Kenya Shillings $2000 each, US $23.56 for two. 

Sure, we could have dinner in the dining room, but the menu is still the same, and we wouldn’t order anything different from what we’ve been eating. Tom, like me, is trying to lose the weight he’s gained, and neither of us sees a reason to change for a day.

Nor are we interested in drinking alcohol when we haven’t had a drink in over seven months, which would most likely result in not feeling so well. When we move to our following location and have a chance to socialize, we can ease our way back into a happy hour event, here again on our terms.

The pristine beach, the delicate, clean sand of the Indian Ocean made for a pleasant walk on the beach after 4:00 pm yesterday, as the day cooled.

We are allowed to leave the hotel now, but with the streets packed with people not wearing masks and social distancing, and with India in the #2 spot in the world with the most COVID-19, behind the USA, we feel it’s too risky. Mumbai has the highest number of cases anywhere in the entire country. Also, the smog and the traffic are unbearable, typical for big cities in India.

I suppose I should have zoomed in as he did when taking mine. You can see my shadow as I’m taking the photo.

I must admit I experienced some angst going out to the two ATMs two weeks ago today to get cash to pay for the package we finally received after a three-month delay. Tom has a hard time understanding the Indian accent with his hearing loss from years on the railroad. I always handle all communications with the people of India who do possess a strong accent, some of whom speak little English.

So, today? Nothing special other than our commitment to each other, to waiting out the time international flights resume, to our dedication to improving our health through regular exercise, healthy eating, good sleep, and positive thoughts, and our unstoppable passion for continuing in our travels, for hopefully, years to come.

Tom shot this appearing footless photo of me. We were walking on the beach on the day of our first travel anniversary in 2013. I was wearing those ugly water shoes, grateful they were hidden in the surf. Gosh, it would be nice to be tan now, getting regular doses of Vitamin D. Instead, we take supplements.

Happy Halloween to those who celebrate, and good day to all!

Photo from one year ago today, October 31, 2019:

 With no photos of us on our travel anniversary in the past few years, we posted this photo from October 31, 2017, our fifth anniversary of traveling the world, taken on the veranda at the villa in Atenas, Costa Rica. For more photos from that date, please click here.

Day #221 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Kenya anniversary holiday, seven years ago…

A morning view of our tucked-away ocean cottage at The Sands at Nomad in Diani Beach, Kenya.

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2013 while living in Diani Beach, Kenya, when we embarked on a mini-vacation to celebrate our first anniversary of world travel. Tomorrow is our eighth anniversary of embarking on our world journey. For more from this date, please click here.

The restaurant has opened in the hotel. If we so chose, we may now dine there. As we’ve settled into a comfortable routine, sitting in our comfy chairs in our hotel room, with trays on our laps, I doubt we’ll change our routine. I think this may be the case for the duration, for however long that may be.

Finally, we were able to take photos of the elusive Colobus Monkey. Note the long sideburns. 

What a fantastic three-night stay at The Sands at Nomad Resort! They treated us like royalty, knowing we’d be documenting our entirely unnecessary experiences. Today’s photos bring back many pleasant memories, which bring a smile to our faces during this challenging time.

Many times we ask for special pricing for several reasons:

  1. We’ll be promoting the business, not only while we’re on the premises, but also for years to come via our website
  2. In most cases, we’ll be staying longer than most guests
  3. We have acquired a five-star rating as renters from past property owners and property managers
Another Colobus with the long swatches of hair. Not all of them had these particular markings.

As in the case of those mentioned above short three-night stay, our special pricing included a discount of 30% off the regular room rates. We were happy with that at the time. But, now, after researching online, their prices have increased by 40%. Today, their room rates range from a low of US $329, INR 24551, to a high of US $418, INR 31192, per night. Such prices would be beyond our reach if we could return to Kenya anytime soon.

We had such a good time during those three days. During our three months in Kenya, other than the apprehension we felt for our safety due to high crime risks, Our favorite restaurant, Sails, which we visited many Saturday nights, was bombed by terrorists a month after leaving.

After returning from the pool where the umbrellas provided too much shade, Tom did a quick 20 minutes in the sun on one of the chaise lounges in our front yard.

We were ill-advised about renting a car while in Kenya, even in the more upscale area of Diani Beach, due to the high risk of carjackings. Instead, our landlord provided us with the name of a reliable local man who drove us everywhere. Based on these facts we didn’t go sightseeing as much as we have in other countries.

It was while we were in Kenya that the horrific attack transpired at a shopping mall in Nairobi. Even at the grocery store, the taxi was searched by military staff carrying rifles, and we were searched upon entering the market or the phone store where we purchased data. Military personnel was stationed at every ATM.

The chaise lounges at our ocean cottage, where fresh towels are delivered each day.

Our family members and many friends/readers contacted us to ensure we were ok. But, Diani Beach is an almost 10-hour drive from Nairobi. The fact our house and the owner’s house next door were guarded by two guards in two 12-hour shifts seven days a week provided us with a modicum of peace of mind, especially at night.

We had a red emergency button next to our bed, and the windows throughout the house had steel bars on all windows. At night, we had to close the windows due to the mosquitos and other insects when there were no screens on the windows. The house became a hotbox during the night with only a slow-moving ceiling fan over the bed.

Early this morning as we left our cottage for breakfast in the main restaurant.

Why did we go to Kenya? To be able to visit the Maasai Mara for our first safari experiences. But, we are grateful for the time we had in Kenya, which toughened us up. The fantastic local people we met, who were warm and kind, and the rich cultural experiences were presented to us in one way or another, day after day.

Kenya is now open for tourists, and occasionally, there are a few odd flights out of Mumbai. But, based on the above scenarios, neither of us feels it makes sense to return at this time. We long for the freedom of movement, driving, shopping, and dining out, all of which will be possible when and if we can return to Marloth Park, South Africa.

A sunny view from our veranda to the sea.

Don’t get me wrong, Johannesburg and other cities in South Africa have very high crime rates, as shown here:

Countries with the Highest Crime Rates (from this site)

The countries with the ten highest crime rates in the world are:

  1. Venezuela (84.36)
  2. Papua New Guinea (80.04)
  3. South Africa (77.29)
  4. Afghanistan (76.97)
  5. Honduras (76.65)
  6. Trinidad and Tobago (72.43)
  7. Brazil (68.31)
  8. Guyana (68.15)
  9. El Salvador (67.84)
  10. Syria (67.42)

Marloth Park, in itself, a five-hour drive from Johannesburg, has its share of crime from time to time, mainly burglaries of the bush homes, occupied by both locals or tourists. Let’s face it, many cities in the US are not safe right now either.

This adorable cat came to visit daily as we sat on the veranda of our beach cottage.

The bottom line is, “you can run, but you can’t hide.” Of course, with COVID-19, that becomes another consideration for which countries will accept us and their subsequent restrictions for US citizens and those arriving from India. In time, it will all come to fruition, won’t it?

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, October 30, 2019:

Bartenders are performing tricks at the Ice Bar on the ship. For more photos, please click here.