Day #209 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Package delivery from hell…

Moments before it rained in the Maasai Mara, Tom captured the clouds rolling in at precisely the right moment. Wow, Tom!

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2013 while returning from safari to Diani Beach, Kenya. For more on this date, please click here.

It all began in July when we’d ordered necessary supplies from the US to be sent from our mailing service in Las Vegas, Nevada to our hotel in Mumbai, India. Included in that box is our new second passports, which we’d applied for while in the US last November.

 Arriving at the landing strip, this tiny plane was the only one in sight.  Then I knew this was Edwin’s plane and we’d be flying in it once again.

Note: On Monday, for those of our readers finally receiving the daily posts, we are in the process of changing the look of these emails to be more consistent with the look of our site and reducing the number of posts in each email from five to one, as we had in the past when using Blogger as opposed to WordPress which we’re using now. It is only through your kind comments and support that we are able to make our site as user friendly and appealing as possible. Thank you for this, and of course, for continuing to share in our daily updates.

OK. Here goes. Another package from hell story and folks, as I’ve promised Tom, our last. We will no longer be ordering favorite items we need from the US, not now and not in our future travels, providing someday we can get out of here. The most recent and LAST package was sent from our mailing service on July 28, sent FedEx Express. 

Edwin prepared for takeoff while I was sitting behind the empty co-pilot’s seat. For the first leg of the flight, it was just Tom and me on the plane with Edwin. Tom sat behind me so he too could look out the window.

Since we had a number of items in the box of varying values, I insured the package for INR 73,443, US $1000, probably more than the value of its contents but I rounded it off. If it was lost, at least we could recover the INR 29377, US $400, shipping fees plus the contents. That was my second mistake, the first being sending the package in itself. I shouldn’t have insured it at all, which I will explain going forward.

FedEx in India is not like the dependable, efficient FedEx in the US and perhaps some other countries. Here, you can call for help and be on hold for hours, never to reach a human being. I am sure part of this was due to COVID-19 but from what we’ve discovered as businesses have now opened up here, the process for receiving a package is horrendous.

Approaching the landing strip to pick up seven more passengers, most complaining they hadn’t seen the Big Five. We kept our mouths shut when we’d seen the Big 5 in the first 10 hours on safari.

It was only about three weeks ago, after sending dozens of email messages, that we were informed we needed to submit a number of documents, including passport bio and back pages, a letter from the hotel, and our visa documents. Why all this to receive a package? It’s obvious, they certainly went through the box to view the contents. Why all this?

Then, while still in Delhi after 2½ months, it finally went through customs to determine a customs duty. Regardless of the contents, they assessed the contents for the insured US $1000, with a duty tax of INR 71364, US $974, including some arbitrary COVID-19 processing fee. In other words, we had to pay this horrific amount in order to receive the box based on my declaration of the insured contents. My faux pas, entirely.

         Control panel of the single-engine plane.

Then, on top of that, there was virtually nowhere online that we could pay this amount in advance. The only way to pay was to do a bank transfer. While sitting in the lobby yesterday, with the help of the wonderful hotel manager, Umesh, I was on the phone with our bank in the US trying to do the transfer but, FedEx India’s SWIFT number wouldn’t work through a US bank account. 

Oh, good grief, I was sitting down there for over an hour with no air con in the open lobby, temperature around 90F, 32C, wearing a mask and gloves and sweating up a storm while the FedEx guy had the package in his truck and wouldn’t deliver it until we paid.

 A breathtaking view from the plane.

Our amazing hotel manager offered to pay out of his bank account for which I could pay him, but that didn’t work either due to the SWIFT account issue. Frustrated, we both racked our brains. Basically, we needed INR 71364, US $974, in cash. Who carries that many rupees in their possession? Not us. That’s a lot of bills.

Finally, after multiple sweaty attempts to figure this out, I told Umesh we had no choice but to go to ATMs to get the cash. When we first arrived in India and tried to get cash, we had to go to several ATMs when, in India, they only dispense INR 10000 maximum per transaction. We have two debit cards and this would mean four different ATMs.

 As we flew over Diani Beach the smoke from fires burning, clouded the view. In Kenya, there’s no ban on burning often resulting in noxious fumes filling the air.

Plus, when we got here many moons ago, we tried five or six ATMs on a weekend and all of them were out of cash. I imagined yesterday, Saturday, we’d run into the same problem. Umesh and I took off in the hotel’s van heading to the closest bank ATM expecting more luck at an indoor bank facility and they were out of cash!!!

We drove to another bank ATM, five minutes away in dense, noisy, traffic. The walk up to the second bank’s ATM room was treacherous with uneven clumps of cement in an undefined walkway. I hung onto Umesh for dear life.

The miracle of all miracles, the two machines in that tiny room, allowed me to make eight transactions, each at a cost of INR 200, US $2.72. I used both mine and Tom’s debit cards four times each. With the Africa bag in my possession, including a plastic bag to hold the huge number of bills, a sense of relief washed over me as we made our way back to the hotel.

A final view of the King of Jungle. We were never disappointed, continually offering an opportunity for a close-up and the opportunity to observe his/her playful antics and instinctual behaviors. Thank you, lions.

Umesh called the FedEx guy to return to the hotel with the package at which point, I met him in the lobby while he counted out the money, gave me a receipt, and placed the 8.62 kg, 19-pound box onto the hotel luggage trolley. One of the staff members brought the package up to our room.

We’ve yet to open the box, after waiting 48 hours to handle it. If there is COVID-19 on the outside of the box or on the interior contents from inspection, a sufficient amount of time would have passed.

Enough about that! We won’t be writing any more posts about delayed packages in the future. We’re done ordering stuff from the US. 

Well, anyway, we’re emotionally recovered from that debacle and can now go back to the debacle on hand!

Be well!

Photo from one year ago today, October 18, 2019:

In this case in Chepstow Castle ruins, the presence of vines created such a pleasing effect that it remained in place over the centuries.For more photos, please click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day #206 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Auto email issues resolved!…Romantic Lion Couple…Rated “R”…

It was a perfect morning. The Romantic Lion Couple in the Maasai Mara in 2013, appeared casual and at ease under the shade of this tree. But, the air was filled with passionate tension.

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The female lion occasionally opened an eye, checking out his next move.

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2013 while on safari, staying at Camp Olonana in the Maasai Mara, Kenya. For more on this date, please click here.

We’ll always remember the day while on safari in the Maasai Mara, of the mating lion couple we aptly named the Romantic Lion Couple. When our guide, Anderson, spotted this female and male lion lounging under a tree at a distance through his high-powered binoculars, he knew exactly what was going on and drove like a “bat out of hell” to get there in time for us to watch the rarely seen event.

“She likes me. She really likes me!” He looked at us as if seeking approval to move along.

We all waited patiently for an hour in order to get today’s repeated photos. It was amazing to see the cycle of life with these two majestic animals getting along so well, when often they are at odds with each other, often over food. Generally, in the wild, female lions hunt and nearby male lions steal their food.

Was this a precursor to women notoriously being the cooks and men eating the food we shopped for and cooked? Of course, in today’s world that has changed dramatically, for the better with men often cooking, and from what we understand becomes more and more prevalent in these times of more equality.

 Although he appeared relaxed, he was well aware of the task at hand, politely awaiting the perfect opportunity.

Right, now on day #206 in lockdown, while longing to do our own cooking, I’d be thrilled to cook a meal while Tom sat by and watched. He can steal my food anytime! But, for us, when preparing meals, he helps with the prep and does all the dishes. I love this arrangement and can’t wait for it to begin once again.

In the interim, I’m still working on the revisions on our almost 3000 past posts, one by one. Most days, I can complete one page of 20 posts out of a total of 150 pages. I am only on page 34 with 116 more pages left to do.

“I think it’s time to get this show on the road!”

Now that all five of the long 2000 word posts are done, I can focus on the corrections to ensure I can complete one page of 20 per day. At this rate, it will take approximately four more months for me to complete the task. A part of it has been enjoyable, rereading every post we’ve done while I search for errors to correct.

 Actively engaged in mating before our eyes.

By no means, is this an assurance that I didn’t miss some of the errors. But, it’s certainly a lot better than it was in the old Blogger format I was using as opposed to WordPress which allows for proper line spacing and font construction. Also, I am correcting all the double-spacing after a period for each sentence.

Afterward, he moved back to the tree in his usual spot, perhaps contemplating his next move.

During these past eight years, the use of double-spacing after a period has long been defined as unnecessary. Originally, this double spacing was established as important when typing on a typewriter. Old-timer that I am, I learned that old habit and didn’t start changing it until recently. I have no doubt, I am missing some of the corrections in this regard when editing each of the 3000 posts.

It takes about eight minutes of editing time per post resulting in almost three hours each day, beyond the time it takes to do the daily post plus stopping every ½ hour to walk in the corridors. These tasks keep me busy most of the day. What else do I have to do while in this hotel room? When I am done, I’ll be relieved and grateful I took the time for this daunting task.

Their tree on the left, we drove away, with those same smiles on our faces knowing that for some magical reason, we had a safari that couldn’t have been more perfect, more fulfilling, more life-changing than the 21 1/2 hours we spent with Anderson in that sturdy Land Cruiser, bouncing too high heaven, feeling lucky, so lucky!

May you have a pleasant day!

                                                                    _________________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, October 15, 2019:

The view of the Wye River in Wales, we encountered on a drive in the area For more photos, please click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day #205 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Done…Done…Done…Consistency…

Tom, Anderson, and me, posing at the Kenya/Tanzania border marker, still smiling but not objecting when it was time to head back to the Masai Mara.

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2013 while on safari, staying at Camp Olonana in the Maasai Mara, Kenya. For more on this date, please click here.

Finally, we were able to stand at the marker that separates Kenya from Tanzania, a pose worthy opportunity for all of us.

A popular expression, frequently used by Indian people is, “Done, done, done,” when asking them for assistance. They couldn’t be more eager to please. We appreciate them, their kindness, and their great service. Living in this hotel for so long with a frequent turnover of staff, leaving for a break for a few weeks to return to their homes to be with family, it’s no wonder consistency is not always possible.

I know I looked goofy with my Bugs Away hat, a scarf tied on my face. Honestly, I didn’t care. If I’d had a paper bag on hand, I’d have worn that. We did everything we could to keep the flies out of our noses, mouths, and ears.

Has anyone you know lived in a hotel for 205 days, unless of course, they are a celebrity and make a hotel their permanent residency? We are no celebrities. And, if we were, we’d probably be in a much different situation. But, it’s only from the same services over and over, often as a result of the rotating staff that inconsistencies become more prevalent and subsequently, more obvious after such a long stay.

Unable to get as close as we’d like due to the rough terrain we did our best to zoom to get the following photos on the remaining wildebeests.

Tom says, “The only consistency is the inconsistency.” I’ve laughed each time he says this, always with the intent of dampening our momentary frustration.

They were increasing in numbers as we approached the border.

In many businesses throughout the world, consistency becomes a top priority. One can always count on the lettuce being in the same spot in the grocery store, the shoes in a specific area in a department store, the sunscreen on the same shelf in the pharmacy, and so on.

Although the sight of the two-plus million wildebeest would have been unbelievable, I began to wonder if doing so was as important to me as it had been in the past. It may sound as if it’s a rationalization for not having been able to see it, but, the flies were a huge deterrent for both of us. They were flying into our noses, mouths, and ears.  It was awful.

In the restaurant business, if you formerly dined at, for example, the Cheesecake Factory for their strawberry cheesecake, you’d expect the same flavor, the same sized portion, the same taste, and at least for a time, the same price.

No more than a few minutes into the return drive, on our way back to Kenya, we spotted a mom and baby elephant, tails swishing batting off the flies. They, too, must feel the effects of the dung of millions of animals.

In our almost eight years of world travel, we’ve found a profound lack of consistency in dining when returning to the same establishments for a repeated menu item or, as in the case here in our lovely Mumbai hotel, ordering the same breakfast items and the same dinner items, day after day, which are often different in portion size, taste, and appearance almost every time they arrive by room service.

But if I don’t repeat this exact same order each day, after 205 days, something won’t be right. I’d love to say, “The usual, please.” My order changes from time to time as I fine-tune my diet to keep the carb count to a minimum. So, I realize, I must be very specific in regard to my orders. It’s never the same two days in a row. Breakfast tends to be fairly consistent, although, we often have to remind the restaurant when we call to make the bacon crispy as opposed to it swimming in grease, when half done. Tom orders the exact same breakfast every single day; cheese omelet, eight pieces of crispy bacon, and bananas every day and the same dinner every night.

After about an hour into the return drive, we saw the last of the wildebeest stragglers, facing a long walk home to the Serengeti in Tanzania. (80% of the Serengeti is in Tanzania with the remaining 20% in Kenya).

It isn’t that they don’t want to please. They do more than anywhere we’ve been in the past. It boils down to the person taking the order which varies from time to time and the sous chefs preparing the food. Last night, only having ordered the same grilled boneless chicken legs, side orders of steamed broccoli, and spinach,  night after night, my dinner arrived with only half as much chicken as usual and twice as many vegetables. Go figure.

The giraffes walked along the hillside at our camp as we wearily sauntered to the restaurant at Camp Olonana for late lunch, cold beverages, and time to regroup for the upcoming afternoon drive.

Tonight, when I order the same dinner again, but this time I’ll mention “More chicken please.” I won’t say “Fewer vegetables, please.” If I do, I’ll get too tiny a portion of each of these two vegetables. Instead, I’ll eat whatever I get.

I’ve stopped requesting my vegetables to be sauteed with garlic. They know I don’t use any vegetable oils and I’ve asked that they only use only butter to prepare my food, but everything was always swimming in butter, maybe the equivalent of three or four tablespoons. Now, I order the butter on the side and use about one tablespoon between my two vegetables.

The Maasai gathered up their cows to return them to the security of the village, close to our camp, away from the risk of attack.

It’s the same thing when cleaning our room. The towel count became consistent after about two months, so we’re good there. I suggested they don’t change our sheets daily to every-other-three days which is fine with us, but they continue to change the sheets daily. I’ve stopped asking.

The “Retired Generals” lined up to welcome us back to the Maasai Mara.

We don’t use their lotion and ask they don’t leave tubes of lotion. The counter space in the bathroom is limited. With no drawers or a medicine cabinet, we leave all of the toiletries we use on the countertop. This will never be resolved.

But, more importantly, we’ve requested with hotel management, that all room cleaners have been staying overnight in the hotel for no less than three weeks. If they contracted the virus on their off days, they could easily infect us, when spending 30 minutes in our small room each day.

And then, there were elephants lumbering across the road only feet from our vehicle.

Invariably, even with their masks on, I’ve learned to recognize their hairstyles (all men), and over and over again, I end up asking, “How long have you been staying in the hotel?” Fifty percent of the time, they say considerably less than three weeks, many less than one week. We prevent those cleaners from entering our room, asking them to find someone who has been here for three weeks or longer. They always comply, eager to please.

Oddly, keeping tabs on all of this is practically a job in itself. We’re desperately trying, after all these months in lockdown, to ensure we don’t become infected. Over and over again, it’s repeated on the local news, that there are no available hospital beds or ICU beds available in any hospital in Mumbai. That certainly is a frightening thought.

As the landscape became less cluttered and the flies no longer nipped at us, we were happy to be returning to the Maasai Mara.

Today, listening on to a podcast with Minnesota’s well-known virologist, Dr. Michael Osterholm, he said Minnesota, North and South Dakota, and Wisconsin are only days away from running out of hospital beds, the main reason, along with the rising numbers of cases, we have no interest in returning to the US at this time.

Instead, we stay hunkered down in Mumbai, not in a state of angst, but in a state of acceptance, that we could be here for many more months to come. If somehow, we could pin down “consistency,” it might become a little easier…or not.

Be well.

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Photo from one year ago today, October 14, 2019:

Tom’s lunch at a restaurant in Chepstow, Wales. He’d certainly enjoy this now! For more photos, please click here.

Day #203 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…More exciting safari photos from Kenya into Tanzania…

Breakfast in the savanna, wild animals surrounding us. Presented by our guide Anderson, there were croissants, cold cereal, pancakes, eggs, sausage, and a wide array of fruit. Although I could only eat the eggs and sausage, I was content.

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2013 while on safari, staying at Camp Olonana in the Maasai Mara, Kenya. For more on this date, please click here.

A cool morning in the bush.

Today’s old post from this date in 2013, made me swoon with delight. Memories of our glorious experience in the Maasai Mara continued which, as shown in today’s photos, a stop for breakfast in the savanna, topped off the adventure in an indescribable manner.

A cool guy in the bush.

To be outdoors in the crisp morning air, in plain sight of lions, cheetahs, elephants, and more, while we both, and our safari-mates were in awe of this exquisite event, simple in its concept, magnificent in its enactment. The thought of being so exposed to nature, most of which were always on the hunt for the next morsel of food, there we were dining on human food befitting a fine Sunday brunch with its many choices.

As we left the area of Camp Olonana, cows were in abundance. In the Maasai, Mara. Cows serve as food for the Maasai tribes. (A story follows soon about their lifestyle and their low carb, grain-free, starch-free, sugar -free diet)!

Of course, my way of eating was considered in the chef’s preparation of breakfast with a few items I could eat, including scrambled eggs,  sausages, and real cream for our coffee. Seated on cloth camping stools, we all savored every morsel of our meal while sipping on the still-hot perfectly brewed coffee.

Hot air balloon rides are common in the Maasai Mara. We’d considered this option but decided we’d rather spend the time on the ground with better up-close photo opportunities with the wildlife.

Our surroundings were blissful, as we relaxed in the cool morning, knowing full-well that later in the day, the baking of the sun would heat the air along with the vegetation spewed humidity to accompany the heat, for yet another day of scorching temperatures.

The eland antelope, fairly common in the Maasai Mara, posed for us in the morning sun.

The six of us, determined adventurers, never complained about the outrageously bumpy rides across the savanna when Anderson spotted a point of interest at distance to race across the uneven terrain, crossing over rocks, potholes, and bushes of all heights and sizes. At the end of each day, we were surprised we weren’t achy and in pain having literally exercised rarely used muscles as we bounced about, on the morning and afternoon hours-long safaris each day, except for a lunch break back at the camp midday.

Mom and baby eland.

Later in the day, we made an exceptionally bumpy two-hour drive to Tanzania to hopefully see the tail-end of the Great Migration, as Anderson described, which presented some interesting challenges and surprises we’ll share in tomorrow’s post.

Anderson busied himself setting up our breakfast only allowing any of us to set up the camp stools. Notice his well-equipped picnic basket. The stainless steel containers were filled with our still-warm breakfast, thoughtfully prepared by Ambrose, the chef, very early in the morning.

As I write here now, Tom is watching yesterday’s Minnesota Vikings game on NFL GamePass, the service he pays for each year to stream the games from any location in the world providing we have a decent WiFi signal. The game actually transpires during the night while we’re sleeping so each Monday morning, he’s excited to hook up his laptop to the TV using the HDMI. I do the post, looking at the game’s highlights as I prepare the post, while he’s glued to the screen.

Anderson took this next photo of us, a little blurry but worth keeping, the only shot we had of our group of safari mates.

He makes a point of avoiding the news and Facebook on Sunday nights since he doesn’t like to know the final score in advance of watching the game. It would take away the anticipation and excitement.

This hyena was curious as to our intentions.

Yesterday, I finished the fifth and final 2000 word post which ended up at over 3600 words. It was an article about how to travel long term with or without medical issues, insurance concerns, prescription refills, emergency solutions, and seeking medical care while abroad. It’s a comprehensive post, centered around our personal experiences after all these years. It will be available tomorrow or the following day.

Cheetah blocking the road.

Now I can get back to editing old posts which easily will take many more months. It’s become a part of my daily routine which honestly I don’t look forward to, but do nonetheless.

Such a relaxing day, lounging with the family!

As for the package, this morning I received an email from FedEx stating the package will be delivered by Wednesday. We’ll see if that will actually transpire.

Most likely a mom and a maturing baby, butt to butt, in quiet repose.

Have a great day!

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Photo from one year ago today, October 12, 2019:

We walked in the pouring rain under the Chepstow Town Gate in Chepstow Wales to a restaurant for lunch. We stayed for 11 nights in a holiday home in the nearby village of Shirenewton. For more photos, please click here.

 

 

 

 

Day #202 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Lovely lions…

Mom growled over her successful hunting day, without a single male in view, confiscating her kill.

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2013 while on safari, staying at Camp Olonana in the Maasai Mara, Kenya. For more on this date, please click here.

Seeing lions in the wild will always be magical for us. Having the opportunity to take photos of these majestic animals in their natural habitat only exemplifies this blissful sensation. Some of the most exciting moments while on safari over the past seven years, since our first safari in 2013, left us reeling with excitement with a divine sense of satisfaction.

Life is good for this female.

After all, isn’t the safari enthusiast, especially in Africa, on the hunt for that specific opportunity? This is not intended to negate the exquisite joy in watching a herd of elephants cross the road in the wild or a pair of rhinos lounging under the shade of a tree on a hot sultry summer day.

It all matters. It all elicits a rush of endorphins that few sightings in nature are capable of providing. Right now as I write here we have NatGeo playing Destination Wild in the background with penguins in CapeTown, South Africa, and I can’t help but stop to look, that same rush of enthusiasm washing over me.

The cubs took a break to relax.

Thoughts of Antarctica flood my mind every time I see or hear anything about penguins, elephant seals, killer whales, and seals, reminiscent of our stunning experiences in 2018, never to be forgotten. But, observing lions, more readily accessible in Africa will always remain an objective when we return to Africa, hopefully sometime in the near future.

The lion photos we share today, each of which were taken and posted in one day on this same date seven years ago. Each shot is easily recalled, my arms tired from holding up the camera for hours at a time, and my enthusiasm tempered to avoid making any sounds of excitement that could easily distract our subjects.

Moments later they were back at their meal again.

As time goes by, we both learned more and more about taking advantage of the opportune moments for taking good photos. As explained in our recent 2000+ word post of a few days ago, found here. No, we aren’t technologically advanced and expert photographers but we did learn to capture shots that appealed to us as shown here today.

For any of our new readers, we must emphasize that we DO NOT go on “hunting” safaris where wild animals are brutally murdered for “trophies.” I have no problem with hunting for food especially when animals need to be culled to save the remaining population. But, hunting and killing endangered animals is far beyond my comprehension.

The cubs enjoyed the meal while mom stayed back keeping an eye out for danger.

In Africa, there are countless such safaris for “trophy” hunters and many so-called “farms” that breed wildlife for this very purpose. Who are these people that get a thrill from these killings? Who would want to shoot and kill an elephant, a giraffe, or a lion? Honestly, I couldn’t befriend such a person, especially after all of our joyful photo safaris over the years.

While here in India, we had the opportunity to see tigers in the wild while on safari. Of course, this was thrilling and fulfilling. But, somehow lions remain in our hearts as one of our favorite sightings and subsequent photos, perhaps due to the fact that they will be more readily available for our viewing in times to come.

Tom, on safari, drinking a beer in the late afternoon, in awe of what we’ve experienced, having never expected it to be so rewarding and fulfilling in many aspects.

We won’t be returning to India in our future travels. During the first seven weeks that we were here, we scoured important sites throughout the country, satisfying our desire to learn as much as possible in a short time, only cut short by COVID-19. Had we been able to continue on, we would have had an additional almost three weeks which we forfeited when lockdown began.

This morning, I received an email from FedEx stating our package cleared customs and will be on the move. We’ll see how that rolls out.

Be well.

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Photo from one year ago today, October 11, 2019:

While in Torquay, England we spotted this impressive design being made by a skilled sand sculptor. For more photos, please click here.

 

 

 

Day #199 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Has it really been 199 days?…

 

Tom nudged me to turn around when I had the camera pointed in the opposite direction. I gasped when I saw this, a gift from the heavens. Thank you, Kenya.

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2013 while on our first safari experiences in the Maasai Mara, Kenya. For more on this date, please click here.

As I wrote the heading for today’s post, “Day #199 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel,” I flinched. Has it really been 199 days that we’ve lived in this one room? Has it really been 199 days since we’ve gone for a walk in the fresh air, free to wander at our discretion, window shopping, stopping for a beverage at an outdoor cafe, or even wandering into a restaurant for a meal?

Has it really been 199 days since we prepared a meal, opened a refrigerator for a snack, or even sat at a table to comfortably consume a delicious homemade meal? Has it really been 199 days since we had a steak, a hamburger, or a pork chop? Or, yet a glass of wine or cocktail?

This female lion, like all animals in the wild, is constantly on the lookout for the next meal to feed her cubs, who were also lying under this tree as shown in the photo below.

In actuality, it’s been more than 199 days since we did any of the above. We left the US for India on January 29, 2020, a full 253 days ago. But, for our purposes here today, we’ll discount the first period of time up until lockdown in India on March 24, 2020, when those prior days were spent sightseeing in India as a part of our previously glorious world travels.

Has it really been 199 days since we began handwashing all of our clothing in order to save US $400, INR 29319, a month in laundry fees if the hotel washed and dried all of our clothing?

And now, that liquor is served in the rooms as of a few days ago, we’ve decided to further abstain since neither of us enjoys drinking in a hotel room. But more so, the cost of the average glass of wine or cocktail with 38% in taxes will cost around US $15, INR 1099. If we each had one drink per night, one month later, we’ll have spent an additional US $900, INR 65968. It’s just not worth it to us, not even for the cost of an occasional drink. We’ve waited this long…

The female lion is at leisure with her cubs under the shade of a tree.

And then, I ask myself, are the same meals we’re eating day after day made with healthy ingredients? Are the eggs free- range? Is the chicken we’re consuming every single day free-range or laden with antibiotics and chemicals? Are the ample portions of vegetables I consume night after night, pesticide-free? We have no idea and, asking such questions, with the language barrier, makes answers impossible. Long ago, I gave up asking questions about quality and food sources.

Most travelers stay in a hotel for a few nights, a week at most. None of these issues are a concern for one night or one week. However, 199 days later, these concerns are unavoidable, even in a nice hotel, like this. Of course, they are always considering cutting costs. It’s the nature of business especially for a huge conglomerate like Marriott.

The three guys in our safari vehicle laughed when us girls said that hippos are cute. They are actually responsible for the most deaths of humans than any other animal in the wild.

Yes, we are safe in cool comfort with great WiFi, a comfortable bed and bedding, and two quality chairs we sit on day after day. Yes, we can stream popular TV shows and movies from a variety of streaming services. In total desperation, we start watching in the late afternoon until bedtime, when there is literally nothing else to do. (I walk the hallways, starting first thing in the morning, every hour, and then between shows in the afternoon. I’m finished by dinnertime having accomplished my goal of 10,000 steps per day, roughly 5 miles, 8 km). Tom walks and does the stairs in the morning.

Has it really been 199 days that somehow, we’ve both maintained our sanity, continued to be able to laugh, get along with one another with nary a blip, and stay motivated to continue to write here each and every day? Yes, it has really been 199 days.

The acacia tree, usually flat on the top is a common tree in Kenya.

The question we ask ourselves is, “Can we take another 199 days?” That remains to be seen.

Be well.

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Photo from one year ago today, October 8, 2019:

High Street in Torquay, Cornwall, England, many towns and villages have banners flying indicating the main shopping area. For more photos, please click here.

 

 

 

 

Travel Tips for Wildlife Photographers around the World….

Maasai Mara in Kenya
How did we get so close, so lucky to get this shot?  We ended up calling it “safari luck” when we saw the Big Five in the first 10 hours on safari. The photo was taken in the Maasai Mara in Kenya.

Note: Today’s lengthy post is #4 of 5 required for SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

Today’s post is not intended to be a photographic instruction piece. Your personal equipment isn’t a point of discussion for our purposes here. Also, I will preface that I am not a photographic expert, by any means. Preparing 3000 posts over these past years has been our primary focus. As much as we’ve loved sharing our photos, becoming experts in photo-taking simply wasn’t a goal of ours. Others may say it should have been.

But, our worldwide journey has been wrapped around our goal of doing and being whoever we chose to be, at any given time, as we’ve scoured the world, not necessarily doing and being what is expected of us. Sure, great skills in photography would have been an asset, Somehow, my interest in acquiring those skills has not been at the forefront of my mind. We are merely typical travelers, who happen to hold a camera in our hands, excited to share what we see through our eyes, not a perfect, perhaps edited version of what treasures we behold.

More so, our somewhat simple goal has been to share with our family/readers/friends inspirations that which we’ve gleaned from our eight years of non-stop world travel (barring the over six months we’ve been stuck in a hotel room in Mumbai, India while in lockdown, due to COVID-19). Thus, our topic of travel tips for wildlife photographers around the world is more about the “where,” the “what,” and the “when” to take photos of wildlife, as opposed to the instructive mode of “how.”

older elephant resting his trunk on his tusk
In most cases, we were within 25 feet of any of the animals in our photos. Notice, this older elephant resting his trunk on his tusk. Our guide assumed this old male to be around 60 years old, close to his life expectancy. The photo was taken in the Maasai Mara in Kenya.

No doubt, some of today’s travel tips for wildlife photographers around the world will include a portion of the “how” when positioning yourself and your subject for the ideal shot, not necessarily the perfect shot. It may be a shot that bespeaks your passion, as it has with us, for animals in the wild and then, those that may not be in the wild which are equally fascinating and photo-worthy.

Why write travel tips for wildlife photographers around the world?…

Unable to take photos these past many months, we’d decided early on in this confinement to take advantage of the thousands of photos we’ve posted throughout the past eight years and share them once again. This provided us with fodder for our daily uploads while fulfilling the expectation of our years-long reader throughout the world. Only early on in our journey in 2012, we failed to post photos, a time when we had virtually no experience in using a camera and little interest in learning to do so.

No more than a few days into our journey, we realized, a few shots here and there, taken using our phones, just wasn’t going to be sufficient. We purchased a small-sized Samsung point and shoot when I thought it was kind of “cute” since the exterior was pink. Over the years, we purchased a few upgrades from the first purchase we made while at a port of call on our first cruise at a Walmart store in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. .Oh, good grief! We had no clue how to use it!

Oxpeckers can dig into the flesh of animals to extract parasites
Oxpeckers can dig into the flesh of animals to extract parasites, ticks, and other insects that may burrow under their skin as is the case of this kudu. Sadly once the insect is extracted, the oxpecker may continue to peck at the injured site, making matters worse. The photo was taken in Marloth Park, South Africa.

Had other world travelers written such a post describing travel tips for wildlife photographers around the world, we may have checked it out. But, in 2012, there were few people online doing what we have been doing; traveling the world for years to come, without a home, without storage, with only the items in our then overweight luggage (we’ve since improved that scenario), intent on finding appropriate wildlife subjects in most countries in their itinerary.

Had we discovered such a site that emphatically stated we had to learn all the features of a camera and how to use them, I may have looked the other way, Tom included. Comparable to our lack of interest in bungee jumping, learning the nuances of a camera wasn’t in our wheelhouse. We just weren’t interested.

So, today, for the first time ever in almost 3000 posts, which we’ll achieve in less than 30 days, (within two days of our eight-year travel anniversary), we’ll be delighted to share what we’ve learned for the where, the what, and the when, of taking photos that may not be perfect, but will hopefully fill your hearts with blissful memories of places you’ve been and wildlife you’ve been blessed to see and experience, both in the wild and elsewhere.

wildlife photographers around the world
Finding the rarely seen Colobus Monkey put me on a photo-taking frenzy. The photo was taken in Diani Beach, Kenya.

The “where” of travel tips for wildlife photographers around the world?

It’s been these very photos, that prompted us to write travel tips for wildlife photographers around the world, that may include the more experienced photographer and also those, who, like us at one point, could barely figure out how to use the flash or the zoom, let alone more complicated settings.

When we decided to travel the world early in 2012, ten months later we were ready to go, having sold every worldly possession while booking two years into the future to provide us with peace of mind in knowing we had a place to live wherever we traveled. In the process, we kept in mind our preferences, not only in regard to the type of life we wanted to live, the type of property we wanted to live in, but also the surroundings we craved.

wildlife photographer in Kruger National Park, South Africa
We waited patiently and mom stood while the baby sat up on her/his hind end, nose touching mom. The photo was taken in Kruger National Park, South Africa.

What appealed most to our tastes and desires were a few vital factors:

  1. Beautiful surroundings and scenery, when possible
  2. An abundance of nature within easy reach
  3. Access to experiencing wildlife and other animals on a daily basis, if possible
    wildlife photographer in Princeville, Kauai, Hawaii
    This Laysan Albatross parent and chick sit close to one another until the chick becomes more confident and the parents feel more at ease. In time, the chick will be left behind on its own to fledge, most likely five to six months later. At five years of age, they will return with a mate and begin the life cycle all over again. The photo was taken in Princeville, Kauai, Hawaii.

Utmost in our travels, access to wildlife became more and more important to us, as time continued on. We’d seen all the historic buildings, churches, and structures, to satisfy a lifetime. We’d dined in excellent restaurants befitting my way of eating. We shopped in unique local markets, adapting to available foods and resources, We experienced the nuances of cultural differences from that which we’d known in our old lives and met countless people everywhere we traveled.

But, as far as travel tips for wildlife photographers around the world, where one chooses to go is of the utmost importance. In Dubai, we were disappointed with little wildlife, other than camels, available for photo-taking, as well as in Morocco. We went wild with delight over the vast array of birds in Costa Rica. We loved shepherding sheep on a farm in England. And, we giggled at a pig farm in Tasmania, Australia.

wildlife photographer in New Plymouth New Zealand
Alpacas are excellent photo subjects. The photo was taken on an alpaca farm in New Plymouth New Zealand.

In Madeira, Portugal, we saw dolphins and whales while on a catamaran tour out to sea. In Hawaii, the birds, whales, and other sea creatures were in abundance. In Antarctica, we were in heaven with the sheer numbers of penguins, killer whales, elephant seals, and birds, let alone the scenery beyond our wildest dreams.

It all boils down to what you’d like to accomplish in your travels. If wildlife is your top priority, it’s important to conduct research to determine if the location you’re hoping to visit has an abundance of wildlife. Many countries we’d assumed would be rife with wild animals were not necessarily the case when the only means of taking photos of very elusive animals was while on a planned safari.

No doubt, we’ve been on safari no less than 100 times over the past years; some guided tours, some with a private guide, and many of our own as “self-drives” through national parks. In each of these cases, one must be prepared to be patient and accept the reality that, at times, you may not be able to take a single photo of the more elusive animals and only see the usual plentiful antelopes and birds.

wildlife photographer in the Maasai Mara in Kenya
We were in a Toyota Land Cruiser with open sides, 25 feet from the lion. Much to our surprise we never felt frightened or at risk at close-range to any of these big animals, including this massive male lion who gave us a great show. In the background in the carcass of a zebra, this lion savored for lunch. The photo was taken in the Maasai Mara in Kenya.

For birdwatching enthusiasts, almost every country has a plethora of birds presenting countless photo ops. Taking photos of birds in flight requires definitive camera skills, not every amateur photographer possesses as has been the case for me in most scenarios. However, some of our favorite photos are of the Laysan Albatross in Kauai, Hawaii, and of course, in the millions of penguins in Antarctica, a photographer’s dream come true.

In researching possible destinations, important travel tips for wildlife photographers around the world is to determine how important multitudes of photos are to you or if a select number will satisfy your needs and curiosity. For us, with our daily posts, taking tens of thousands of photos each year, the numbers of decent shots are important. For the average traveler, returning home with 100 good shots may be totally fulfilling. It’s important to decide where you are on the spectrum.

The “what” of travel tips for wildlife photographers around the world?

Amid all the decisions in deciding on locations, one must define what is most important for you to see and photograph. If lions are at the top of your list, Africa is by far, the most opportune continent to visit, especially if choosing to stay for a while. But, not every country in Africa is safe to visit, nor is there an abundance of lions easily accessed in some countries in Africa.

wildlife photographer in Atenas, Costa Rica
Tom’s photo. What a shot of the classic “Froot Loops” cereal (per Tom) Toucan, technically known as the Rainbow-billed Toucan, aka the Keel-billed Toucan. The photo was taken in Atenas, Costa Rica.

We chose Kenya and South Africa as one of our many goals in seeing lions. When it came to tigers we knew India was our best option. We were never disappointed in each of these countries. There are 13 countries where tigers may be spotted, but for us, India proved to have the best opportunities to encounter them in the wild.

At this point, we should mention, animals in zoos and wildlife facilities do not fulfill our objectives. If that were the case, one could simply visit a zoo in their hometown or home country. For us, the wild aspect has been a top priority when we have distinct opinions we won’t share here today about wild animals locked in cages or small enclosures.

That’s not to say, many rehabilitation centers throughout the world may have excellent open spaces for wildlife with the intent of eventually releasing them back into the wild, when possible. We have visited many of these, some of which we’ve found rewarding, providing excellent photo ops as shown in our past posts.

wildlife photographer in Kruger National Park
Impalas have exquisite markings on their faces and bodies. The photo was taken in Kruger National Park.

We’d never have seen a Tasmanian Devil in Tasmania if we hadn’t visited a rehab center, other than the sad roadkill we observed in the mornings. We’ve yet to see one of the more elusive nocturnal animals in the wild, the endangered pangolin. Hopefully, someday we’ll have that opportunity.

Each traveler(s) must decide for themselves, “the what” is most befitting their goals and objectives when returning home, or in continuing on a year’s long journey such as ours with a litany of photos exciting and memorable to savor over the years to come.

The “when” of travel tips for wildlife photographers around the world…

There are three important questions one may ask themselves in regard to the “when” of taking photos of wildlife. For most, they include:

  1. When is the best time in life to embark on such a journey? Only each individual, couple, or family can make that determination based on specific lifestyle, travel budget, work constraints, and worthy of mention, general health. It’s important to note, that embarking on a safari for hours at a time on bumpy dirt roads with potholes, with fast unanticipated turns could be difficult for some. Also, climbing in and out of the jeep-type vehicles may be extremely challenging for those with certain physical conditions, advanced age, or lack of mobility. This is not an experience for those who could become distressed during a “rough and tumble” experience. Also, individuals with severe back or neck problems could find a safari unbearable. If time is limited, the experience may equally be limited. Many choose a one or two-day safari, as part of a bigger trip and find themselves disappointed, unable to have seen, and taken photos of some of their personal favorites.
  2. When is the best time of the year to see and photograph wildlife? This varies by the area of each country you choose to visit. Research is imperative to determine the best seasons for viewing wildlife. Often rainy seasons are less desirable. Most often the best seasons are during the heat of the hottest time of the year. This is important to know if you are sensitive to the thought of sitting in an open-air vehicle while on safari. Although, there are many safari companies that have enclosed air-conditioned vehicles that may be more suitable for those individuals, although taking photos will be restricted in such vehicles. If you’re interested in the Great Migration in Kenya and Tanzania, that eventful experience only occurs in the fall months and must be timed perfectly to witness the five million animals traversing the Serengeti and the Mara River over and over again. Here again, research is imperative.
  3. When is the best time to snap the shot to acquire the best possible photo? When it comes to taking photos of wildlife, timing is everything. This has been an area we both feel we have found most rewarding, as our skills increased over the years. Patience and perseverance are the keys to this aspect. At times, we’ve sat still quietly for 20 or 30 minutes to acquire the best photo. Also, being aware of when to click the shutter is vital for the best possible photo of your chosen subject.
    the pellet crumbs on the nose of this adorable bushbuck
    Notice the pellet crumbs on the nose of this adorable bushbuck. The photo was taken in Marloth Park, South Africa.

In conclusion…

Many of our photos posted here today will illustrate, in part, our use of travel tips for wildlife photographers around the world. They aren’t perfect, but for us, they have fulfilled our desire to create a memory that will easily endure through our lifetime and for those that follow us, for theirs.

If as a photographer, you’ve been able to learn and develop comprehensive photographic skills, it will only add to your pleasure and fulfillment. Perhaps, in time we may choose to fine-tune our skills, but for now, the spontaneous and heartfelt representations of those animals we’ve discovered in the wild, on farms, and in rescue facilities, has provided us both with exactly that which we hoped to achieve as we traveled the world over the past eight years.

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Photo from one year ago today, October 7, 2019:

ocean in Torquay, Devon
It was wonderful to see the ocean once again in Torquay, Devon. For more photos, please click here.

 

 

 

 

Day #197 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Seven years ago today…


This is a Topi only found in the Maasai Mara.

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2013 while on our first safari experiences in the Maasai Mara, Kenya. For more on this date, please click here.

Please bear with us as we share repeated photos as we work our way through October 2013. It was that single experience while on safari many times in the Maasai Mara, Kenya, living in a luxury tent (photos of the tent will follow in a few days), that everything changed for us.

We could sit for hours and watch the antics of the hippos. Their lethargic movement and playful personalities are a pleasure to behold.

In tomorrow’s fourth 2000 word post (only one more to go), we’ll explain this further in regard to taking photos of wildlife. It’s a long post to which we’ll be adding more repeated photos but will illustrate how being amateur photographers has enhanced our world journey.

It was seven years ago today that we were entrenched in the exquisite glory of being on safari twice a day, while never disappointed. Throughout my life, I swooned over photos of animals in the wild, wondering when and if I’d ever have the good fortune or be brave enough to embark on such a journey.

A lone hippo searching for a morsel on the ground.

Little did I know at the time that bravery wasn’t a necessary element in experiencing the joys of safari. Instead, it is definitely a sense of adventure, which with a professional guide and later on, as our own guides, presented little risk with a multitude of thrills. At one point in our posts, I equated it to having an “E” ticket at Disneyland (remember, old-timers, like me?) and the thrills were seemingly never-ending.

Looking back at the photos now, especially while outrageously confined in lockdown in a hotel in India for 6½ months, these photos still send a rush of endorphins through my bloodstream, making me realize how addicted I’ve become to this amazing rush after all of these years.

 We realize that this gruesome photo may be difficult for some to see. But, it’s a part of the food chain which we decided we would accept on our safaris as a reality of the life cycle. This crocodile was consuming either an impala or gazelle.

Each day on Facebook I peruse dozens of photos from various safaris in Africa and countless photos of wildlife in Marloth Park from the many friends we left behind. Many of us belong to various Marloth Park FB groups and the photos make me long to return in a way I can barely describe.

When I think that perhaps someday soon we can return to see our animal and human friends, shop in a grocery store, cook our own meals, savor a glass of red wine or cocktail at happy hour, and move about freely in open spaces, my heart skips a beat.

The Mara River. Our tent was located on the shore where sounds of hippos filled the air beginning around 4:00 am as they awoke.

On top of that, at any time we’d like, we can make the 20-minute drive to the Crocodile Gate to enter Kruger National Park to excitedly search for the next big rush; elephants, lions, cape buffalos, cheetahs, leopards, rhinos, most of which we don’t see as readily in Marloth Park.

The well-rounded experiences of that location is all we could ever dream of and, without a doubt, was where we had the most exciting, enduring, and blissful experiences in our almost eight years of world travel (as of October 31st). Whether it was dinner at Jabula Lodge & Restaurant or dinner at our own table or theirs, with friends, sitting by the braai (bonfire), or even those special times alone on the veranda, just the two of us, reveling in every visitor that graced our garden during the day or evening, it all was special.

 No swimming in this river!

Will we appreciate it more now than we did then, during the total 18 months we spent in Marloth Park, in 2013, 2018, 2019? I don’t think so. We treasured every single day and night, just like we’ll do once again, sometime in the future. When? We don’t have a clue. But, we wait patiently for news on the horizon when borders will open and we can be on our way.

It won’t be easy getting there. It’s a long flight and most likely with COVID-19 protocols, it will be 35 hours or more from airport to airport and then, a five-hour drive from Johannesburg to Marloth Park. Apparently, the closer (one hour drive) airport of Mpumalanga/Nelspruit/Kruger won’t be opening for some time. Time will tell.

 “Please pinch me,” I told Tom at that time. “I must be dreaming!”

Right now, our biggest concern is getting that package delivered. The hotel manager is helping us and working directly with FedEx. Hopefully, today, we’ll hear something. In the meantime, it’s the status quo, same old, same old.

Have a peaceful day and please stay safe and healthy.

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Photo from one year ago today, October 6, 2019:

A goose with a knot on her head on the farm in Devon, England. For more photos, please click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day #196 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Photos from Kenya in 2013…

Anderson, our safari guide in the Maasai Mara, took us on an unplanned 90-minute safari rather than wait at the airstrip for another couple to arrive on a later flight. This was one of the first photos we took along the Mara River. Our tent was located on the banks of the river where the hippos awakened us with their hysterical morning calls. We couldn’t believe our eyes or ears.

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2013 while on our first safari in the Maasai Mara, Kenya. For more on this date, please click here.

Anderson referred to these ostracized male cape buffaloes (one of the Big Five) as Retired Generals. They’ve lost the battle for dominance and are forced out of the herd to fend for themselves for the rest of their lives. Kind of sad. He gave us a nice pose, hungry not only for vegetation but also for attention.

It was seven years ago today, we embarked on our very first safari, in this case in the wildlife-rich Maasai Mara in Kenya. This life-changing adventure will always remain in our minds as the stepping stone into a world we only dreamed about, never imagining that safaris would become such an integral aspect of our world travels.

I love warthogs. Vegetarians, they amble around for the tiniest morsels. They are delightful to watch.

Also, included in today’s post, are photos from my first experience of flying in a small airplane. I was terrified, but our pilot, Edwin, who reassured me when he spotted the magnificent Mount Kilimanjaro when I had an opportunity to take the photo shown here today. Ironically, this event cured me of my fear of flying in small planes.

I was nervous when I saw them, adding fuel to our small plane, which was fueled by using a hand crank, typically used in WW2, according to Tom’s recollection of history.

In our enthusiasm to share these experiences, we’ve probably posted many of these photos on many past posts. Yesterday I finished writing the fourth of the five 2000 word posts I had to do for our web developers who’ve been working on our SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to provide us with a better presence in searches on the web, ultimately bringing more readers to our site.

View from the plane after leveling off.

When that particular 2000 word post is uploaded this coming week, I’ll be adding more of the same photos you’ll see over the next few days, as we re-share photos from the Maasai Mara experience as it occurred in 2013. Please bear with us for the repetition.

Seeing Mount Kilimanjaro changed everything for me. The inside of the plane was so small, it was difficult to get a good shot maneuvering around the other passengers since we were on the opposite side.

During these circumstances of COVID-19 lockdown, it’s not easy to avoid repetition, when we have nary a new photo to share of anything in our present-day lives, which for us, like many of you, consists of the routine and repetition of many functions and activities of daily life.

This appeared to be some type of horse farm. Look at the reflection of our plane on the ground! What a sight! I couldn’t believe we were inside that tiny thing!

This morning, I spoke to the hotel manager who has personally taken on the responsibility of getting our package situation resolved. We are so grateful for his help and kindness. He’s even got his wife, who doesn’t work for the hotel, involved in trying to figure a way for us to pay the customs taxes and fees. We’re hopeful.

At the moment as I type, Tom has his laptop plugged into the TV and is watching the Minnesota Vikings game from yesterday. With the huge time difference between the US and India, he can’t watch it until Monday mornings since the game plays while we’re sleeping. I enjoy watching the games so I keep an eye on it as it’s playing. But, the disappointment over their losing record, is discouraging, making me less interested.

After three takes off and three landings, we finally arrived to meet our guide, Anderson who’s lived in the Masai Mara region all of his life. What a guy!  We loved him the moment we met him, spending the next several days with him.

Last night, my dinner was a huge improvement. Most nights, except for the once-a-week tiny piece of salmon I order, I have chicken, usually chicken breasts which I don’t care for. I asked for other chicken parts since I prefer dark meat and they served me a good-sized plate of deboned dark meat in a decent-sized portion. Why didn’t I ask for this in the past?

Well, I tried. In the past, I’ve asked for the dark meat to include chicken thighs and chicken legs. They always stated they didn’t have them, just breasts. Last night when I ordered I said, “I’d like chicken but NO breasts.” Somehow, with the language barrier, this made sense to them, and a plate of deboned chicken thighs and legs arrived, well-roasted and moist, along with a good-sized portion of sauteed mushrooms.

My knees were still a little wobbly from the flights. I was thrilled to be on the ground, meeting our guide Anderson for our time in Onolana. At that point, I knew I’d be less fearful of the return flight.

I’ve been saving two hard-boiled eggs from my breakfast to eat with my dinner since it never was enough. Last night I didn’t eat the eggs when I was full for the first time since I gave up the curried chicken and paneer makhani, several weeks ago to reduce the number of carbohydrates I’d been consuming. The pain in my legs has improved but is not gone. ye. It could take another month or two until I get full relief.

Today, I’ll begin working on the 5th and final 2000 word post. It will be great to have this obligation behind me.

Have a good day filled with hope for the future!

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Photo from one year ago today, October 5, 2019:
That morning, at the farm in Devon, when the rain stopped for a few minutes, we walked in the mushy grass to the greenhouse to collect these vegetables and berries we used for dinner. For more photos, please click here.

 

 

 

 

 

Day #176 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…The adventures in Kenya continue…Dining in a cave…

 

Dinner in a cave at Diani Beach, Kenya, seven years ago today. I thought Tom looked great in this photo, but I reminded myself of Morticia wearing all black or, on the day in Abu Dhabi, UAE, when we entered the famed White Mosque, requiring that I wore the black abaya in the 100+ degree weather.

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2013, while we were living in Diani Beach, Kenya for three months. For more details from that post, please click here.

Standing at the top of the stairway leading down to the natural cave, we were able to look down at the bar below. Every effort was made to maintain the original integrity of this environment when it became a restaurant over 100 years ago, renovated in the 1980s.

As we recall the photos and story from seven years ago today, we are reminded of how we may have taken our “freedom” for granted. To be able to dine out, be outdoors, see wildlife, flowers, plants, and trees and people were always a delight, but, perhaps, will be all the more meaningful going forward.

The lounge in the bar where we had our drinks while waiting for our table. The restaurant didn’t open until 7:30 pm with most diners not appearing until 8:30 or later. I guess us old folks from the US are early diners. We’ve found that dinner is typically served at 8:00, often 9:00 pm or later as we’ve traveled the world.

As mentioned in a prior post, we’re attempting to determine a lesson or purpose that will serve us in years to come from these many months in lockdown. Will a greater sense of freedom be the answer to this question? For our regular readers, it’s been evident all these years that we’ve been grateful and appreciative of our surroundings, never taking anything for granted. Should a sense of freedom become the focal point for our past and future appreciation and gratitude?

Another view of the seating areas in the bar, depicting somewhat of a Moroccan theme, which was ahead for us at this point when we’d booked a holiday home in Marrakesh, Morocco, a mere six months later.

Today, as we see how much enjoyment we derived from yet another evening’s foray in sampling Kenya’s dining various establishments in Diani Beach, my heart did a flutter thinking how much fun that would be now. The variety of food options, the ambiance, and the possibility of a cocktail or glass of wine, sends my taste buds and brain into a frenzy of hopefulness and excitement.

View of the walls in the bar. All lighting in the walls and at the table as a result of candles, creating a warm atmosphere, romantic to say the least.

This special experience in Kenya on this date seven years ago, dining in a cave was memorable, so much so we returned a second time. The ambiance was over-the-top as shown in today’s photos, the food was fresh and delicious and the service was exemplary.

Diners began to filter in around 8:00 pm, filling all tables by the time we were ready to leave around 9:45 pm. We’d been warned not to rush the servers in Africa. Many countries’ servers are accustomed to taking their time in delivering the bill. Most often, as is the case in Kenya and many other countries, tips are only allowed to be paid in cash, not added to the credit card slip.  That required us to keep adequate cash on hand.

The ambiance of any venue is definitely a  factor in enjoying a meal. Whether it be in a pleasant holiday home, comfortably situated at a dining room or kitchen table, dining out in a lively atmosphere of a popular everyday dining establishment or a cozy, romantic spot such as illustrated in today’s photos, it all adds to the enjoyment of the meal and of course, the companionship.

Compliments of the chef, we were both served this tangy GF marinated salad. Tom took one bite turning his serving over to me, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

In this case, in Diani Beach, we couldn’t have enjoyed it more. The unique decor, lighting, and service added another element to our meals. We’d expected it to be more expensive and were pleasantly surprised by the reasonable bill, which, with the cost of the driver (who waited for us in the parking lot), the food, tax, tips, and beverages, the total was only US $68, INR 4999, for the entire evening. I didn’t order alcohol, only a Perrier, my drink of choice at that time.

This was the view to my right as we sat at a cozy, not too small table against one of the walls. We always prefer a wall, table as opposed to one positioned in the center of the room.

As mentioned in the past, I didn’t drink any alcohol for about 20 years. I didn’t have a “drinking” problem, but just decided to stop for health reasons, thinking it was “better for me.” Ultimately, it seemed to make no difference at all in my health whether I drank wine or not.

My dinner, Cheesy Chicken atop a pesto sauce was well seasoned and pleasing to the palate, although the serving size was small. Rather than a chicken breast, this serving was a small single thigh which with the vegetables proved to be sufficient.

After open-heart surgery, the cardiologist and surgeon suggested that drinking red wine in moderation was good for the heart. I’m still not certain if that’s been proven inconclusive, but for now, I’ll go with that theory. Good grief, one has to enjoy life, too! Then again, there’s certainly no wine in my life at this point in time, and won’t be until we leave here someday.

Tom’s dinner of two small Filet Mignon, each with a different sauce.

When looking online, it appears that Ali Barbour’s Cave Restaurant is still open, even during this time of COVID-19. If we ever return to Diani Beach, Kenya, which we may, we’ll visit this fine restaurant once again, to renew the experiences we had in 2013.

The stairway going up and out of Ali Barbour’s Cave Restaurant. Gee, we’ve gone up and down a number of stone stairs in those past months!

For now, we have what we have; safety, relative comfort, air-con, a comfortable bed, housekeeping, shows to stream in the evenings, good WiFi, and… All of you beside us, encouraging us with your positive feedback each and every day.

May your day bring you comfort and peace of mind amid all this madness.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    ____________________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, September 15, 2019:

The driveway from our house in St. Teath, Cornwall, England, to the narrow road. For more photos, please click here.