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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a fantastic day, and continue to stay safe.

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

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

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

An owl we spotted in Kanha National Park in India.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Black Eagle on the lookout for a meal.

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

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

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

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

Be well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay safe and healthy.

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

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

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

Beautiful statue at the beach in Pondicherry.

Today’s photos are a continuation of those we posted during our first few months in India on tour, in today’s case on March 27, 2020, See the post here. We’ll continue on this path, sharing more tour photos until it’s time for us to hopefully depart on January 11, 2021. From there, God willing, it will be an entirely new world!

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

A church we visited in Pondicherry. 

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

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

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

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

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

Entrance to the cemetery in the French Quarter in Pondicherry.

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

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

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

A shrine on the interior of a temple in Pondicherry.

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

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

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

Stay safe.

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

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

Day #288 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…4 days and counting…

When I initially took this photo of Tom’s dinner early on in our India travels, he said, “Don’t post that. It looks disgusting.” Now, it’s starting to look appetizing to both of us.

Today’s photos are a continuation of those we posted during our first few months in India on tour, in today’s case, on March 26, 2020. See the post here. We’ll continue on this path, sharing more tour photos until it’s time for us to depart on January 11, 2021, hopefully. From there, God willing, it will be an entirely new world!

There were messages all over Facebook, Google News, and numerous other news outlets that South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa would speak last night or today to impose a higher level of lockdown that would prevent travel between provinces.

This building was shown in the movie Life of Pi, filmed in Chennai, India.

If that were the case, we’d be stuck in Johannesburg until a more stringent lockdown would eventually be lifted. Johannesburg is in Gauteng Province, and Marloth is in Mpumalanga. It would be very frustrating for us to spend weeks or months in Johannesburg in a strict lockdown, certainly no better than what we’re facing now. At least here, we know what to expect.

It would be too risky to attempt to drive from Johannesburg when police are stopping drivers on the highways imposing fines and jail time due to violating travel bans. As it is, even in “normal” times, it’s best to avoid being stopped by police as we experienced in 2013, when Tom was stopped for “allegedly speeding,” resulting in a “cash ” payment to be allowed to continue on the road. We learned quite a lesson from that event.

The two gold statues of a revered couple were highly instrumental in doing good works for the Indian people.

Cyril won’t be speaking after his Covid-19 council met on Wednesday to discuss additional lockdown measures based on increased virus cases and changes in various strains. It’s not rocket science to understand why cases would increase after the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. As it turned out, it was all speculation.

In South Africa (80% of the population are Christian), as is the case in many countries worldwide,  cases have spiked since the holidays. When many gatherings of family, workers, and friends, with few wearing face masks or social distancing, continued to congregate to celebrate, more and more cases resulted from these types of events.

On the side of the road, this woman was shaking seeds out of a basket to be used in making vegetable oil.

So, with four days remaining until we head to the Mumbai International Airport for our flight on January 11th, we are still on pins and needles, hoping nothing will change that will have an impact on our reaching Marloth Park, after two days of travel, on January 13, 2021.

I know the repetition of our discussions on getting out of here may be tedious and redundant. But, as our long-term readers know, we “tell it like it is,” including what’s most prevalent on our minds at any given time. No doubt, the next four days will consist of a similar dialog.

Once we’re on the move, we’ll stay in close touch since we’ll have ample time in Dubai and again in Johannesburg to provide all of our readers with updates on our experiences. Also, for those who have yet to travel during the pandemic, we’ll include information on how Covid-19 is being handled at various airports and on the flights.

Another of Tom’s meals while touring India in February and March 2020.

After all, we’ll be at four airports during our two days of travel: Mumbai, Dubai, Johannesburg, and Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger. As it turns out, if plane travel is relatively safe and airports are clean with appropriate precautions, picking this time in history may prove to be suitable for fulfilling one’s dreams of safari.

There aren’t enormous crowds while on safari, which usually consist of only six to eight tourists and one guide, in an open-sided vehicle (bus or van tours should be avoided during the pandemic). Most likely, these types of fee-based safari tours will provide social distancing for passengers as well.

Another great point about Kruger National Park is its massive size as follows:

“Kruger National Park is one of the largest national parks in the world, with an area of 19,485 km2 (7,523 sq mi). The park is approximately 360 km (220 mi) long and has an average width of 65 km (40 mi).”

An artfully designed temple was built over 1000 years ago in Chennai.

This extensive area which includes hundreds of budget, moderate, and luxury camps/resort accommodations, is the perfect vacation/holiday for individuals, couples, and families. What is particularly fantastic about Kruger National Park is the option for visitors to “self-drive,” only requiring a daily entrance fee as shown below:

Daily Conservation Fees for 1 November 2020 to 31 October 2021
South African Citizens and Residents (with ID) R105 per adult, per day R52 per child, per day
SADC Nationals (with passport) R210 per adult, per day R105 per child, per day
Standard Conservation Fee  (foreigners) R424 per adult, per day R212 per child, per day

As for the comparison to USD to Rand/ZAR, R424 as described above for foreign nationals, the entrance fee is US $28.20, INR 2062, per person, per day. Of course, with our intent to visit many times during a hopefully longer stay, we’ll purchase an annual pass, referred to as a Wild Card, with access to 80 national parks in South Africa. Details are found here.

That’s all for today, folk. Please continue on this journey with us. We’ll be back with daily updates.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, January 7, 2020:

The photo we posted one year ago, taken in 2019, as we continued to have such a fantastic weekend, is celebrating friend Don’s birthday while staying at their gorgeous home in Pretoria. This photo was taken at a Mexican restaurant with 10 of us in attendance, again celebrating Don’s birthday. For more photos from one year ago, please click here.

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

An older man was walking his cow down the road.

Today’s photos are a continuation of those we posted during our first few months in India on tour, in today’s case on March 24, 2020, when we included some favorite photos. See the post here. (It was this particular post in which we described the challenge of finding a place to stay when all of Mumbai (and India) was locked down. We’ll continue on this path, sharing more tour photos until it’s time for us to depart on January 11, 2021, hopefully. From there, God willing, it will be an entirely new world!

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

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

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

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

An Indian Roller.

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

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

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

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

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

Gorgeous leis of flowers offered for sale as offerings.

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

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

Women are weeding the peanut fields.

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

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

A termite mound in Kanha National Park.

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

May you have a safe and healthy day.

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

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

Day #286 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…6 days and counting…Complicated paperwork…

Often, cows and bulls are depicted in Hindu temples.

Today’s photos are a continuation of those we posted during our first few months in India on tour, in today’s case on March 20, 2020, when we included some favorite photos. See the post here. We’ll continue on this path, sharing more tour photos until it’s time for us to leave on January 11, 2021. From there, God willing, it will be an entirely new world!

The number of steps required to get out of here far exceeds the necessity of organizing our stuff and packing our bags. That’s the easy part. With all the Covid-19 restrictions, South Africa  and UAE requirements, Emirates Airlines requirements, visa extension documents, we’re bombarded with tasks each and every day as the time nears.

“Kapaleeshwarar Temple: Dedicated to one of the forms of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati that is Arulmigu Kapleeswar and Karpagambal respectively, the temple should be on the top position of your list of temples to visit.

With only six days until we fly out of India, we have the front desk staff running back and forth to our room with more and more copies of what we need. Here are a few of the items required:

  1. Letter from the hotel with the dates we stayed here – Done
  2. Letter from Louise with the rental agreement details for South Africa – Will be done today
  3. Copies of all the Indian visa extension documents, in the event we aren’t approved in time and provided with the extension document which we’ll have to print – Will wait until Friday to see if we’re approved with a single document each
  4. Copies of our approval to re-enter South Africa when we overstayed in 2019 – Done
  5. Installation of the South Africa Covid Alert app on our phones – Done
  6. Pack and weigh our bags befitting Emirates baggage restrictions in ample time to pay for our excess online (lower cost of doing so). We have one extra (third) checked bag.
  7. Printed Covid-19 negative PCR test
  8. Health questionnaire for South Africa
    This hall at the temple site is used for weddings, arranged marriage meetings, relaxation, and prayer.

We have yet to complete the health questionnaire which we’ll complete today. The form wasn’t editable online so Tom will complete both of ours. My handwriting is illegible.

Need I say, all of this is cumbersome and frustrating when many of the forms to be completed online on various websites don’t work correctly. We tried for days to enter Tom’s passport information into the Emirate’s website and finally today it accepted his information. I can only imagine how challenging this stuff would be for those folks with a limited online experience and/or lack of patience.

A moonlit evening at the beach.

Today, we found out, after reading and reading various rules and restrictions that UAE, where we’ll layover for 16 hours, will only accept Covid-19 PCR test results from certain labs in India. The hotel arranged this for us and now we’re waiting to see if that lab is approved or we have to change to a different company.

If we aren’t able to get on the upcoming flight, we’ll have to start this entire process all over again, since the dates represented in the forms will have changed. Oh, our fingers continue to be crossed along with those of many of our readers who have so generously supported our ability to leave India at long last.

St. Thomas Church in Chennai. “There are over 19.9 million Catholics in India, which represents around 1.55% of the total population and the Catholic Church is the largest Christian Church in India. There are 174 dioceses in India organized into 29 provinces.”

So that’s the latest, dear readers. We spend the better half of each day engaged in the prep to leave here and easily roll back into our usual routine when the day’s tasks are completed. We walk, we write, we make lists and notes, and when free of all that, we escape into another few episodes of Shark Tank and our new binge-watch-worthy series, A Million Little Things – quite entertaining and good mindless drivel in which to escape for a few hours. Go ahead, give it a try.

Stay safe and healthy!

Photo from one year ago today, January 5, 2020:

On this date in 2016, we were in Sydney, Australia, preparing to board our ship for a 14-night cruise to Auckland, New Zealand. For more about the year-ago post, please click here

Day #285 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…One week and counting…

We took a detour to see this temple in Tanjore known as the “Big Temple” since the name is long and difficult for people to remember. ”Kapaleeshwarar Temple: Dedicated to one of the forms of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati that is Arulmigu Kapleeswar and Karpagambal respectively.”

Today’s photos are a continuation of those we posted during our first few months in India on tour, in today’s case on March 17, 2020, when we included some favorite photos. We’ll continue on this path, sharing more tour photos until it’s time for us to leave on January 11, 2021. From there, God willing, it will be an entirely new world! See the post here.

It’s ironic that in the post as mentioned above from which we’re sharing photos once again, the heading on March 17, 2020, read:

The waiting game continues…Tomorrow, we fly out of Madurai to Mumbai…Three days and counting…

It was almost ten months ago that we were on pins and needles as we are now, in this case, hoping to leave for South Africa in one week as opposed to three days. When we arrived in Mumbai with only three days remaining until March 20, 2020, for our then-upcoming scheduled flight on which we weren’t allowed to board, we had to return to the SunNSand Hotel, a stunning hotel on the beach.

This temple is over 1000 years old.

As posted several times, they literally “kicked us out” of the hotel on March 24, assuring us they’d booked a room for us at the Orchid Hotel in Mumbai. We were sorely disappointed they’d lied to us. Our bags were loaded into a taxi, and we headed to the Orchid Hotel, only to discover they’d never heard of us and that they, too, were closed immediately due to the lockdown. (Thus, we wouldn’t return there if we were forced to stay in Mumbai if this upcoming flight falls through).

We had nowhere to go. Almost every hotel in Mumbai was required to close, and for the next few hours, we were in a panic. There we were in the Orchid Hotel lobby with all of our bags, unable to find a still-open hotel. Fortunately, the excellent manager at the Orchid got on the phone and started calling every quality hotel in Mumbai looking for a room for us.

This view reminded us a little about entering the Lost City of Petra in 2013.

It was a stressful few hours, as we researched other options online, such as holiday/vacation homes as an alternative. None of those we researched were available due to the lockdown or responded to our inquiries. After several hours passed, the hotel manager had found that this hotel, Courtyard by Marriott Mumbai International Airport, was staying open for the time being anyway.

During the first two or three months of our almost ten-month stay, it was impossible not to be concerned that we’d continue to have a place to stay. As the months wore on and more and more guests arrived, we could finally relax knowing, if they had a great business, they’d stay open.

The beautiful beach scene at the Ideal Beach Resort in Mahabalipuram. We particularly enjoyed this resort.

Early on, at one point, only six rooms were booked, including ours. It was during this period. It was most worrisome. How could they afford to stay open with so few guests? Thank goodness Marriott is a hugely successful international company. This fact allowed them to continue operations whereby other privately owned hotels most likely couldn’t afford to stay open during the lockdown.

The first few weeks, we ate both breakfast and dinner in the dining room. But as cases of Covid-19 continued to rise, all restaurants in India were forced to close, except for those offering takeaway. It was at that point. We began dining in our hotel room.

The colorful temples in Chennai were breathtaking to see. “Kapaleeshwarar Temple: Dedicated to one of the forms of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati that is Arulmigu Kapleeswar and Karpagambal respectively, the temple should be on the top position of your list of temples to visit.”

A few months ago, the restaurant reopened, and it was at that time, we discovered more and more guests not wearing masks in the corridors when they headed downstairs to dine, as often as three times a day. They figured they wouldn’t be wearing a mask while eating, so why wear a face mask on their way to the restaurant?

This laissez-faire attitude convinced us it was too risky to dine in the now-opened restaurant beside those careless individuals. We opted to eat breakfast and dinner in our room, only having exposure to the masked room service staff member, whom we never allowed to enter our room. Tom has always grabbed the trays, placed them on the bed, closed the door, and immediately washed his hands.

The newly added pool area at Ravla Khempur is known as the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, where the famous movie was filmed. This was a favorite tour during our travels in India.

Each meal, before and after we dine, we thoroughly wash our hands in hot soapy water. We have trays we keep in the room, which Tom frequently flows in the shower. We have kept it as safe as it can be. Now, from now on, hopefully, in one week from today, we’ll continue to be safe during our time at four airports (Mumbai, Dubai, Johannesburg, Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger), on three flights, and staying in two hotels in our efforts to make our way to Marloth Park.

So far, so good. There’s been no canceled flight email message for the January 11 flight. We wait, we hope, and we pray we can fly away!

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, January 4, 2020:

This repeated photo was the only one we posted one year ago today. On this date in 2014, similar to the main photo in this post of December 14, once again, we looked toward the driveway to discover giraffes coming our way. What a glorious sight! Click here for the one-year-ago post.

Day #284 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…8 days and counting….Am I too old for this?…

This is the grass left from harvesting rice. Note the horns on these buffalos. Indian ricegrass is highly palatable to livestock and wildlife. It is a preferred feed for cattle, horses, and elk for all seasons. In spring, it is considered a preferred feed for sheep, deer, and antelope and a desirable feed for sheep, deer, and antelope in late fall and winter.

Today’s photos are a continuation of those we posted during our first few months in India on tour, in today’s case, on March 15, 2020. We’ll continue on this path, sharing more tour photos until it’s time for us to leave on January 11, 2021. From there, God willing, it will be an entirely new world! See the post here.

Surprisingly, every 30 minutes, I check my email to see if our flight was canceled? Even during the night, when I awaken for a few minutes, I check my email. I can’t help myself.

Festival in the street. “Meena Sankranti is an important Hindu festival observed on the auspicious occasion of the sun’s transition from Pisces to Aries. Known as Meena Sankramanam in South India, the festival will be celebrated on March 14 (Saturday), 2020, all over India. Celebrating a Sankranti is often marked with the donation of various things. According to specific personal needs, the people celebrate the event at the onset of every month. Some Indian states like Punjab, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala observe the occasion at the beginning of each month. In contrast, states like West Bengal celebrate the festival during the latter half of the month.”

With the upcoming 16 hour layover in Dubai, we decided to take a chance and book a room at a nearby hotel in Terminal 3 at the Dubai Airport. They may not let us leave the airport without collecting our bags, and if so, we’ll forego the room. It’s just not worth it to go through that entire process of collecting our bags since they will already be ready to be put on the next flight to Johannesburg. 16 hours later.

The cost of the room was US $47, INR 3435 with taxes. If we can’t board the flight for whatever reason or leave the airport to go to the hotel in Dubai, we’ll lose the US $47 since the last cancellation date is January 8. For this small amount, we’re willing to take the risk.

The festival continued along the road.

If the flight is canceled before the 8th, no problem, we can cancel everything at no loss to us, although it could take two months to receive refunds from the airlines. We’ve already alerted the hotel here in Mumbai that we’ll be returning to this hotel if we aren’t allowed on the flight or any other flight. They’ve agreed to hold this room for us. If we can’t fly, we’ll be back at the hotel before noon.

What a dreadful thought! But now that we’ve accepted the possibility that we may not leave, I am not feeling stressed anymore, regardless of my frequent email checks. For a few days, I could feel the tension coursing through me. But now, with my blood pressure and heart rate as low as ever, I am feeling like my old self again, old indeed.

There were dozens of participants.

Speaking of “old,” I ask myself, “Am I still up for all of this as I’m fast approaching my 73rd birthday next month? My recent drop in blood pressure stopped all hypertensive drugs, with my blood pressure now running around 100/60. My blood sugar is at the lowest in my adult life, averaging about 4.3 mmol/L, 80 mg dl, except with a slight rise after eating to 5.0 mmol/L, 90 mg dl, the pain in my legs gone, and the pain in my back is almost completely gone, I am a new person.

Add the fact I am 25 pounds, 11.3 kg, lighter than when we arrived at this hotel. You bet I feel younger than I did last March. I now easily walk 10,000 steps a day, which is 5 miles, 8 km. My only challenge will be walking this much in Marloth Park when there’s an injured leopard on the loose. Nonetheless, we’ll figure it out, as we always do.

A small band was leading the procession.

I suppose feeling old is predicated on how healthy we feel. No doubt, I have cardiovascular issues that may or may not improve with all these newly implemented measures. In the interim, I am psyched to continue with our travels, as is Tom, if the pandemic measures make it possible and safe.

If, at some point, if it’s necessary and safe to return to the US for a year to wait out the pandemic in other parts of the world, we’re prepared to do so, perhaps staying in different states in the country to visit family members and see other parts of our own USA. In that eventuality, we’ll continue to do our daily posts while we wait.

Indian music is quite beautiful.

After almost nine years of posting (since March 15, 2012), doing so has morphed into an integral part of our very existence. Sharing our daily lives with all of you throughout the world has added an element of joy and appreciation that is difficult to describe. At no point do we imagine we won’t continue to write here each day.

Thank you for sharing these details many months with us. Your love and support have been highly instrumental in our ability to stay positive and hopeful. Thank you for all the kind and loving holiday wishes and the endless stream of messages we receive each day, as you look forward, along with us, to us departing India in eight days.

No offense intended to India. It’s a fascinating country with beautiful people, many history, charm, and culture. Under different circumstances, we would have appreciated it so much more.

Be well.

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

In error, in yesterday’s post, I added the above photo as the year-ago photo when the above photo was from one year ago. I have since corrected yesterday’s year ago photo. On this date in 2016, we posted this photo of a vegetable stand where we purchased most of our produce during the 28-day stay in Pacific Harbour, Fiji. For more from that date, including final expenses for Fiji, please click here. For the year-ago post, please click here.

Day #283 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…9 days and counting…No delusions…

This kind man, Mr. Ganapthay of Cholan Art Village, made the experience of visiting his nine generation family bronzing business all the more special to both of us.

Today’s photos are a continuation of those we posted during our first few months in India on tour, in today’s case on March 14, 2020. See the post here. We’ll continue on this path, sharing more tour photos until it’s time for us to leave on January 11, 2021. From there, God willing, it will be an entirely new world!

We have no delusions about getting out of here in nine days. We both have accepted the reality that we could be returning to this hotel, hours after heading for the airport in the early morning, to book it once again. We have definitely decided we would return to this particular hotel, on the premise, “love the one you’re with.”

Mr. Ganapthay warm smile won our hearts. He showed us the items at varying stages in the production.

One may ask, why not go for new scenery or the option to be outdoors? We’ll have spent 10 months here and didn’t contract Covid-19. That’s all the assurance we need. Plus, to start over, with all of our food requirements, cleaning protocol and safety concerns would only add more stress and confusion, which if we can’t leave, we don’t want.

So that aspect of our potential inability to depart India, in itself, gives us peace of mind, knowing what to expect. Most likely, international flights would resume in two or three months and we’d start over again. At any point, we have the option to “throw in the towel” and return to the US since repatriation flights are still available in small numbers.

Wax and sand are used in making molds.

However, as our long time readers know, that is not our objective. With the rampant rise in cases of Covid-19 daily and the lack of coordination on the flow of the vaccine, we feel better off making other plans at this point. If we were going to be stuck here another nine or ten months, we may have no choice but to do so. For now, that’s not on our radar.

Instead, we’re trying to be proactive as to our choices over the next few weeks and going forward. Also, we are bracing ourselves for the upcoming realities of Marloth Park, which for many travelers may be difficult and inconvenient.

The wax mold for the bronze head of a God that his brother sculps, soon to be completed.

Since we belong to many Marloth Park Facebook groups, each day, we read what’s going on in the park. At times, it’s disheartening and may cause many travelers to think twice before booking a bush home in the wild. Such challenges at this time include:

  • Heat: It is summertime in SA upon our arrival, and the temperatures can easily rise well into the 100F, 40C, or more. It’s hot and sticky, often with not much of a breeze, if any at all. This is Africa, not Palm Beach.
  • Power: Due to Eskom, the electric power company, there are almost daily power outages, referred to as “load shedding” to reduce usage. This results in sleepless nights when temperatures are over 100F, 40C, during the day when we can’t use a fan or air-con. Most bush houses don’t have air-con in the living areas so residents must bear the daytime heat regardless. Besides, we prefer to spend the majority of each day outdoors to see the visiting wildlife, rather than sitting indoors in an air-conditioned room.
    The brother, in the process of manufacturing an item.
  • WiFi: Without power, we won’t have WiFi in the house. Fortunately, this time, we have WiFi on our phones and although it can be pricey when they are used as hotspots if used excessively, it’s worthwhile for uploading posts and conducting online searches.
  • Water outages: The water in MP is not safe to drink or use for brushing teeth. From time to time, the water supply is cut off for hours, or even days. We’ll deal with this on a case by case basis and improvise as needed. We’ll always have plenty of bottled water on hand.
  • Mosquitoes: We decided against taking prophylactic malaria medication. Once again, we plan to stay in Africa for an extended period and it’s not recommended to be taking the drugs long term. The last time I took them was while we were in Botswana in 2018. I had an uncomfortable reaction, some weird headache, and stopped them after a few days. As it turned out we spent 15 months in Africa in 2018-2019 and diligently used roll-on repellent for full protection, which we re-applied every six hours. With regular use of the repellent, we were able to avoid being bitten.
    They work in their bare feet next to the very hot items.
  • Snakes: They are everywhere during the hot summer months, often in the house and gardens, many of which are highly venomous, and life-threatening. It’s imperative to constantly be on the lookout for snakes, immediately reporting their presence to one of the many professionals in Marloth Park. We will contact Juan, whom we know and is an expert handler. They will not be killed but will be relocated to other safer locations, such as in Lionspruit, another conservancy with wildlife, located within Marloth Park.
  • Grocery shopping: Although there are a few shops in Marloth Park, most of them offer only grocery items applicable for short-term tourists. Most likely, once a week we will travel the 22 minutes to Komatipoort to shop at the big market, Spar, and the larger meat market. There is a small meat market in MP that served us well for many items, owned by the same larger company in Komati. With frequent power outages, we don’t want to worry about meat and other groceries spoiling. We’ll have to shop frequently, increasing exposure to Covid-19 in the busy town.
    Rows upon rows of shelves filled with bronze figures for sale.

Yes, many tourists would shy away from such challenges. But, after a total of 18 months of experience, living in the bush since the onset of our travels, we feel comfortable that we can handle it. After all, when I returned from the hospital after open-heart surgery, in awful pain and discomfort, and again more than a month later, after two surgeries on both legs, I managed then and we’ll manage now.

For us, the experience is worth it, as it is for many who visit and many who own bush houses. I can’t say we’ll never whinge a little about such inconveniences since as we’ll always, “tell it like it is” but, in any case, it will be a lot more enjoyable than sitting in this hotel room for 10 months. This morning, again, our bacon was burned. Hum, bacon every day, 10 months. Go figure.

Now, let’s get through these next nine days and be on our way!!!

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, January 2, 2020:

At the New Year’s Eve party a few nights earlier. For more, see here.