Busy day…Soon, on my way to the cardiologist…

There are countless varieties of cactus in Morocco, such as this.

It’s already 11:00 am, and I have to leave here by Uber in less than 90 minutes. It doesn’t leave me much time to focus on today’s post. Please bear with me as I’m rushing through it since I’d like to get my exercising done before I leave since I don’t expect to return until about 4:00 pm from my 1:45 pm appoi’tment.

I was advised to arrive at 1:15 to complete a pile of paperwork. I hope it’s online rather than paper copies since my handwriting is illegible. Subsequently, I’ll have to arrange my Uber by 12:15 since its about a 25 minute drive to the clinic. I’d requested an appointment at their nearby clinic, but the only appointment available was at a further distance near the center of Henderson. Most likely, I’ll get there about 15 minutes early but that’s ok. I can always play with my phone while waiting.

This morning I prepped everything for tonight’s dinner except the bacon for Tom’s bunless cheeseburger (plus rice and salad) which we can cook while the burgers are cooking. Again tonight, I’m having a ground chicken burger, delicious topped with homemade sugar-free ketchup, onion and tomato with salad on the side.

Last night, I awoke several times but overall I managed to get in eight hours, much to my surprise. I feel good, so it’s weird to go to a doctor, but it’s a must-do now. Once there, I will book my next appointment which will consist of a variety of tests including the most important cardiac ultrasound to determine the status of my heart valves.

It’s hard to believe we’ll be leaving here in 27 days. Our rental in Apache Junction begins on April 1, and we’ll leave here the same day. Our rental agreement ended on March 31, but the kindly owner Zoltan said we could leave on the morning of the first, which works prefectly for us.

Zoltan has been a fantastic landlord/owner. Here is the link to this wonderful property. Without a doubt, we’ll make a point of staying in his condo next time we come to Nevada. As our regular readers know, we have loved it here, especially when we haven’t needed a car with either easy delivery for anything we may need plus a plethora of shops and restaurants down one flight of stairs from our floor.

Sure, today and next week, I’ll have to pay for Ubers for both cardiology appointments, which for two days of round trips could total $200. But at a rate of about $40 a day for a rental car, it is a small price to pay. If we’d had a car, most likely, it would have been sitting in the parking garage most days. In total, during all of our time here, we’ll have spent no more than $800 for Uber when three months of a rental car would have been over $3600. It was a no-brainer.

Today, in the next few days, we’ll book a rental car for March 30 to April 2 for our drive to Apache Junction and decide once there what we’ll do about a car during the five or six weeks we’ll be there when Tom’s sisters have offered the use of their cars that they seldom use. We may do just that, insisting they take some cash from us, which surely they’ll resist doing.

The washer just finished. I need to hang the towels on the rack and then get started on my exercises.

Thanks to many of our readers who’ve sent messages wishing me good luck at the appointments. It’s so appreciated knowing you are thinking of me.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, March 5, 2014:

Tom and Hamoudi, the spice shop owner in the souk, Jemma al Fna, in Marrakesh. For more photos, please click here.

What???…No rental car???…How are we managing that?…

Beautiful scenery on the Big Island, Hawaii, in January 2015.

When Tom returned from Chicago, Illinois, on January 10, he didn’t pick up another rental car. Instead, he took an Uber back to the condo in Lake Las Vegas. Before he left, we did some cost comparisons, considering traveling to Henderson for dinner with Richard, shopping, and any other trips we may need to make using Uber instead of renting a vehicle at the airport.

At an average total cost for 28 days of $800. The daily cost, including taxes and fees, plus fuel, is $29 per day. For the sake of ease, let’s say a rental car’s total daily cost is $30. The average round trip cost using Uber (including tax and tip) for anywhere we’d go is $60.

Most likely, with all the shops and restaurants down one flight of stairs from the corridor on our floor, it’s unlikely we’d go anywhere more than once a week, thus incurring a cost of $60 each time. Using Uber once a week for four weeks is $240 instead of the $800 rental fee, saving us $560 every four weeks.

With almost 12 weeks remaining since he dropped off the car on January 9, considering three four-week periods, we’ll save $1680 when we leave here on March 31, 2024. When we had a car for the first few weeks, it sat in the parking ramp, mostly unused.

Buying all of our groceries online from Smith’s Marketplace (using Instacart Boost shipping) and any other items we need online, and with the availability of the wonderful Season’s Market down those steps with a three-minute walk, we certainly don’t need a car for shopping.

Plus, the many restaurants within walking distance, one of which we’ll visit this weekend, located at the bottom of the steps, the only times we’ll need to go out is to join Richard and his significant other for dinner at another location. In those cases, if the restaurant is further away from his home, we’ll Uber to his home and ride with them. We don’t expect them to pick us up at this location; it’s about 20 minutes each way.

When we choose not to rent a car, we don’t do so, expecting others to “cart us around.” We always prefer to be as independent as possible, wherever we may be.

Yesterday, while working out in the fitness center down the corridor, I noticed my Sketchers shoes weren’t providing as much support as needed, as I’ve quickly increased my time on the treadmill. Once back at the condo, I ordered a brand of workout shoes from Amazon; I know from experience that they work for me. I ordered them using a no-cost feature they offer, allowing me to try them on and return them if they don’t work for me.

The shoes will work for me when I try them today when they arrive in a few hours. We are Amazon Prime members and get free overnight shipping. Between Smith’s and Amazon, we can receive anything we need. The only time we visited a pharmacy was when Tom needed a few medications when he went to Urgent Care with bronchitis. There’s an example of when we’d now use Uber, both for a visit to the clinic and then to Target Pharmacy for the prescriptions. We had a car at that time.

But still, if we’d used Uber for all of that, the most we’d have paid for the trip to the clinic, Target, and back to the condo would have been a total of $60 since they are only five miles from here, only the cost of two days of a rental car.

In any case, being frugal like this probably saves us thousands of dollars each year, allowing us to spend more on those things that mean more to us: nice hotels, holiday homes, and good food. Also, we can choose quality products and brand names when buying something, if preferred. At this point, we don’t feel trapped at all in this ideal location. If we change our minds, we can rent a car.

Last night, the low-carb enchiladas were excellent. I forgot to take a photo when we both were hungry and preoccupied with eating our lovely dinner. We’ll eat it again tonight and I wrapped the remainder for the freezer for two more nights. It’s always good to have pre-made meals in the freezer for those unexpected occasions when we prefer not to cook.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, January 16, 2014:

The Guineafowl parent gathered all their chicks together as we slowly drove by while in Kruger National Park. For more photos, please click here.

Frustrating road trip…Rental car pickup, not so much to our liking…

Two oxpeckers on the back of a female kudu are ready to start pecking at her coat for insects or injuries.

It’s a long and trying drive to the Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger Airport, several kilometers outside the city. There’s considerable traffic on the N4 Highway with frequent stops for road and now, bridge construction. Trucks often line the two-lane highway slowing the flow of traffic.

A fantastic aspect of driving on South Africa’s highways is that drivers, including truck drivers, move to the far left to allow drivers behind them to pass. We’d never seen this intelligent driving behavior anywhere else in the world. Also, fairly often, there are passing lanes marked on the road, adding to traffic flow.

Another kudu with three oxpeckers on her back and neck. They often manage to photobomb our shots. See the warthog checking out the action for the photo.

Tom is a great driver, and although I usually feel at ease as a passenger, this particular highway, amid these benefits, still can be a nail-biter at times. It took no less than 90 minutes each way plus another hour at the airport, returning one car with Budget and collecting another car with Thrifty. That was our big mistake. We shouldn’t have booked with Thrifty had we known what we’d encounter.

Upon arrival at the Thrifty counter, we were informed that we must return the car every 30 days to have it inspected, although our confirmed contract was 79 days. Of course, we didn’t know this when we booked the car. However, with the pricing 33% less than Budget (prices change daily), it was irresistible to use them. Next time, we’ll call and ask about their policy, which we’ve never had to do in the past eight-plus years.

On her neck.

Could Covid-19 have been responsible for them changing their policies? Who knows?  So much has changed regarding travel in the past 14 months since this pandemic nightmare began. It has become necessary to check and recheck all terms and conditions regarding any aspect of the journey.

We plan to research to see if there’s an alternative and if we can cancel that contract without a penalty and return to Budget when they post lower pricing from time to time. We’re both frustrated about having to spend no less than four hours every 30 days to return the car for inspection.

Oxpeckers jump around the animal’s body quickly. They seem to like kudus particularly.

As I was writing this post, I stopped for a few minutes to check with rentalcars.com. No refunds are allowed once the car is picked up. We are stuck with this old car with over 40,000 km, smaller, and more challenging to maneuver on the bumpy roads in Marloth Park and Kruger National Park.  Herein lies the reality, “You get what you pay for,” especially when it comes to car rentals.

As it turned out, we didn’t return to the house until almost 3:00 pm, 1500 hours, having left the house at 10:30 am. In essence, this process resulted in nearly a full day away from enjoying precious time in the bush. On the return drive, we decided against the planned shopping in Malalane, after all, and headed straight back to Marloth Park. We’d already shopped in Komati on Monday, and we’d be fine until next week when we return.

It was great to see an oxpecker partaking in our birdbath. Tom makes sure it has fresh water each day.

As world travelers who continue to use a wide array of travel services, we learn something new almost every day, even during the pandemic. No doubt, it’s more work now to plan than ever in the past. At this point, we’ll be waiting until the last minute to see what we’ll need to do to get our visas stamped by June 30, 2021.

The world is still in flux and will be so for years to come. Also, right now, we’re relieved we didn’t go to Minneapolis this week as previously planned. We’d be there now during enhanced rioting, carjacking, and shootings. Many members of Tom’s family live near some of the areas included in this challenging time for the city and its people. We pray for the safety of our family members, friends, and residents of the town and suburbs impacted by this strife.

We’ve seen bushbuck, Torn Ear, three days in a row.

Today, sunny and warm, we’ll stay put outdoors on the veranda, cherishing each visitor that stops by. So far, this morning, we’ve had mongoose, kudus, bushbucks, warthogs, and of course, as always, Frank and The Misses. Undoubtedly, more will come by before the day’s end.

Happy day!

Photos from one year ago today, April 13, 2020:

Jackfruit is known for its health benefits.  See this link for nutritional details. This photo was posted at this link on April 13, 2015. For the year-ago post, please click here.

Continued…Life on a farm…An experience like none other…

John was excited to share details of this rare tree with us. “It is a Wollemia Nobilis. Wollemia is a genus of coniferous tree in the family Araucariaceae. Wollemia was only known through fossil records until the Australian species Wollemia Nobilis was discovered in 1994 in a temperate rainforest wilderness area of the Wollemi National Park in New South Wales, in a remote series of narrow, steep-sided sandstone gorges 150 km north-west of Sydney. The genus is named for the National Park.”

Fascinating Fact of the Day about Devon, Cornwall:
Devon has the country’s oldest bakery (from this site):
It isn’t only pasties we’ve been making forever. We’ve also been making bread and biscuits since before America was born. How do we know? Jacka Bakery on the Barbican made biscuits that went onto The Mayflower for the sailing of the Pilgrim Fathers. It is the oldest bakery in the country, even older than those sandwiches you get in South West Train buffet cars. Just think, if Jacka hadn’t been there all those years ago, we might not have the USA today. You’re welcome. We also used to have the oldest hotel in the country, the Royal Clarence in Exeter, but that is temporarily burnt to the ground.

Yesterday morning, we jumped into the car and took off for Exeter Airport to return the vehicle and get another car. Having decided we’d only rent cars for one month because our credit card insures the car for 30 days only.
The pond next to our house, Pond Cottage with a few ducks and geese.
Since we have no home or car in the US (or anywhere else in the world), we can’t use those policies to cover rental cars. Over the past few years, we’ve taken a chance to arrange 90-day rentals without added insurance, although the rental agreements cover a portion of the loss if the car is damaged.

There’s no way we’d be interested in paying an extra GBP 10 (US $12.43) or GBP 15 (US $ 18.65) a day for added insurance when we often don’t pay those amounts for the rental itself.  Also, I don’t drive in foreign countries when the stick shifts in on the left and driving is on the left side of the road. I’m not a good enough driver for that level of coordination!
Wet logs on the bottom, dry logs for our use in the fireplace, at the top of this pile.
Nor do we want to pay equal amounts per day by adding me to the policy. When we go to the US in 46 days, we’ll most likely rent two cars, enabling us the freedom to visit with the family at our leisure.

As a rarity, we’re staying at my friend Karen’s home in Eden Prairie, which she kindly offered.  We’d stayed with Karen during our last few weeks in Minnesota before leaving to begin our travels.  
There are numerous barns and paddocks on the 150-acre farm.
We kindly refuse most offers to stay in the homes of others throughout the world when we have our routine, which may not work well for our hosts. Having remained with Karen in the past and the ease we felt in doing so, we’re comfortable staying with her again.

Of course, we’ll be busy with family most days and evenings and plan to eat most of our meals out to ensure we don’t impose on Karen, family, or friends. With my restricted way of eating, it’s too much to expect hosts to figure it out. I’m sure we’ll have a few meals with Karen and her significant other.
Lush greenery is prevalent on the 150 acres.
Anyway, back to the car rental… With heavy rain and an inconsistent GPS signal, it took much longer than we’d anticipated to make our way to Exeter Airport and then, once there, to find a petrol station. Sure, I asked my phone for assistance. With the poor signal, each time indicated the closest was 10 or 12 miles from our current location.  

We continued to drive around the area of the airport until we finally found one five miles away.  We’ve never had such problems getting from one location to another in any part of the world due to the lack of a consistent internet signal. 
Renate, the owner, suggested we keep the gate closed and the front doors.  Otherwise. The ducks and geese will enter the house.
However, we chose to live in the country, and it’s a small price to pay for the beauty of the area and our joy in living on a farm. We have good WiFi (although slow) at the cottage, for which we are grateful.

We stayed calm. We finally headed back to the airport to return the car and collect another. We asked for the exact vehicle with the new contract, and this was accomplished at ease. We’ve had great rentals and customer service at a company we’ve used time and again, Europcar.
A handy feeder for sheep and other barnyard animals.
At last, we were back on the road. We decided to shop yesterday when we realized how far it is to get to Tiverton from the farm to the grocery shop, which we’d planned to do today. We easily found the Tesco Superstore, comparable in size to a Walmart of Costco.  

We’d planned a couple of favorite recipes to make during the week. Still, we could not find the ingredients, including Italian sausages or any well-seasoned sausage without wheat or sugar.  
This is the area where the sheep are sheared once a year.  John and Renate have a company with workers from Australia or New Zealand in their “off-season” (Southern Hemisphere) that shear their sheep.
One of the second recipes required coconut flour, almond flour, and flaxseed. When we saw the sizes of the bags of each, we decided it made no sense to have leftover ingredients we’d have to dispose of when we leave England in 31 days.  

Instead, we revised our grocery list on the app on my phone. We decided on preparing easy dinners for this remaining month in the country: a protein source, a variety of vegetables, and a salad (and rice for Tom). 
There are acres of orchards on the property.  Over this hill is a garden from which we can pick whatever we’d like that’s remaining from the growing season.
We didn’t return to the Pond Cottage until 4:30 pm, put away the groceries, prepared an excellent dinner, and settled in for a quiet evening. It’s cloudy and rainy again today. Should the sun come out, we’ll get out to further explore the farm to take more photos.
We want to thank our readers for the kind and thoughtful messages we often receive by email from many of you. Rather than use the “comment feature,” many prefer to share their stories via email to maintain a level of anonymity. We never post the contents of any email we receive without the authorization of the sender. We love hearing from YOU!

Have a great week ahead!

Photo from one year ago today, September 23, 2018:

It was hard to believe we captured this scene close to sunset at the Crocodile River. For more photos, please click here.

Cars, friends, a sliver of moonlight and a “dazzle” of zebras….

This morning, in the rain, nine zebras stopped by for a visit and some snacks. It was delightful to see them a second time in our yard, although it wasn’t the same “dazzle” of zebras as the last time.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

After eating many dry pellets, this zebra had the right idea, to lick the rain off the newest little blue car.  (See the story below)

The plan for today’s post had been to tell our peculiar “car story” and a little about last night’s special evening when Louise and Danie came for dinner. After a very much-needed rainy night and morning, we had an extra morsel to share that we’ve added to our story…nine zebras stopping by this morning for “breakfast.”

Big Daddy Kudu was blocking the view of the first little rental car.

Yesterday, when I was cutting up various vegetables to roast them as a side dish for last night’s dinner, I saved all the scraps hoping to share them with any animal visitors who may stop by. 

The nine zebras ate every last morsel this morning, including the carrots shown in Tom’s hands which I hurriedly cut up while he tossed out the pellets.

Tom was tossing out carrot chunks along with the pellets.

Well, then…here’s the little car story. Today is Thursday. On Monday afternoon, I noticed I had a Skype message from a South Africa phone number which was odd. We have a local SIM card in my phone and could receive phone calls, but we can’t even hear it ring for some bizarre reason. Our local friends reach us using “Messenger.”

This was the second little car they brought from Nelspruit, about a 90-minute drive to swap with the first tiny car.

We don’t keep our cell phones handy during the day until bedtime, when we both use them for late-night reading. As a result, we don’t give out the SIM card’s phone number when asked for a local phone number. Thus, the number we provided for the car rental facility in Nelspruit was our Nevada-based Skype number with a 702 area code.

Yesterday morning, they brought this little blue car which we’ll keep until the end of our three-month contract when we start all over again.  This car is the best of the three.  It has power windows and driver-controlled door locks, making it more user-friendly.

When I listened to the message, I was frustrated. They said they’d “sold” the little car, and we were supposed to bring it back to Nelspruit, where they’d give us a different vehicle. There was no way we were interested in driving for three hours (round trip) to accommodate their request.

When this zebra entered the yard at 9:00 am, we suspected others would follow, and our suspicions were correct…eight followed.

We have a contract that reads the car is ours until May 8. This same scenario had happened in 2013 when we were living in Boveglio, Tuscany, Italy. We received a similar call from the car rental facility in Venice, expecting us to drive five hours each way. 

All nine of them clamored by the veranda as we tossed pellets and vegetable scraps we’d been saving for this very purpose.

When we explained how far away we were and there was no way we were willing to drive that far so they could sell the car, they said they’d get back to us. That call never came. We returned the car when the contract ended. See our story about that scenario here.

The baby in this dazzle is shown in the back.

We expressed the same sentiment to Thrifty Car Rental in Nelspruit on Monday. They agreed to deliver the car on Tuesday morning around 9:30 am. At 10:00 am, their driver appeared with new documents in hand and a slightly bigger car. Tom checked the vehicle for dents and dings, signed the paperwork, and the driver took off in the little original vehicle.

Zebras are good at making eye contact.

We decided to take our usual almost daily drive through the park to see what we could find a short time later. As we drove the bigger car, we noticed that the air conditioning was blowing hot air. At that point, it was 95F (35C) and very humid. The AC wasn’t working. 

Well, we don’t particularly enjoy driving around in that type of heat. It’s one thing to sit on the veranda and manage around the house on such a hot day, but it’s an entirely different scenario, doing so on dusty dirt roads if we don’t have to.

One of the girls was walking up the steps, which were slippery in the rain.  She jumped off quickly when she started to slip and slide.

Yes, we’ve been to many places throughout the world in extreme heat without AC. But, there was no way we’re going to accept a car for which we’ve already paid that included AC.  We drove back to the house, called them again, and reported the facts…no way would we accept a car without AC. 

A little affection was displayed between these two zebras.

We were nice. They were nice. As shown in a few of today’s photos, they brought us the third car yesterday morning, the little blue car. It’s the same or similar low-end vehicle but slightly newer with excellent working AC, power windows, and driver-operated door locks, all of which are quite a treat for us.

We took it for a drive to the river in the afternoon (photos of which we’ll share in a few days) and couldn’t have been more thrilled with the few upgrades. Problem solved. Happy customers.

The baby also tried climbing the slippery steps.

As for last night, spending time with Louise and Danie was, as always, perfectly delightful. Since they are always doting on us, we wouldn’t let them do anything, although Louise had a tough time not carrying in the dishes. Such good company.  Such a good night and a sliver of moon, as shown in the photo below, with promises of what is yet to come in nights down the road.

This morning, when Josiah washed the now very dirty veranda after the rain, the mud was strewn about from our nine rambunctious visitors. We decided to get out of our way to go shopping for Saturday night’s upcoming dinner for six.

Last night’s sliver of moonlight before the cloud cover and rainstorm.

We were back by noon. We put away most of the groceries but soon, once this post is uploaded, I’ll head back into the kitchen to start washing the produce and sorting a new container of vegetable scraps for the next batch of visitors. Who that will be, we can’t guess, but we’ll wait with bated breath for whoever may choose to grace our day.

Happy day to all!

Photo from one year ago today, March 22, 2017:

Bob explained this single red bloom, a type of lily, is growing out of season. For more photos from Fairlight, Australia, please click here.

Sightseeing day…Rental car pick up issues…More museum photos…

These characters were most likely used in parades and local celebration.

“Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”

“The variegated squirrel is a tree squirrel in the genus Sciurus found in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, southern Mexico, Nicaragua, and Panama. Fifteen subspecies are recognized.”  Tom spotted this squirrel in the yard, alerted me and I took this photo through the glass wall to avoid scaring it away.

Yesterday morning at 11:00 am we were scheduled to pick up the five-day rental car at the Mercado Coopeatenas cafe as we’d done a few times over these past weeks.

Miscellaneous antique items.

We called for a taxi at 10:30 which arrived at our gate five minutes later.  By 10:47 am we were seated in the outdoor cafe waiting for Edgar to arrive with the vehicle.  When 11 came and went, we were a little concerned but decided to wait patiently for 30 more minutes after which we’d call Aad to see what happened.

A collection of voice control devices and more toy cars and trucks.

We’d heard on the news that there was traffic stalling protesting occurring in San Jose on Monday which could easily attribute to delays in Edgar getting to us on time. 

Old equipment used by the railroad.

It’s always our intent to be patient and avoid being the “ugly American” and complaining when life often moves at a slower pace than we’d be used to in the US.  Some refer to is as “island time” regardless of whether one is on an island or not.

At 11:30, we called Aad.  Ten minutes later we received a call from the agency to explain the car we’d booked “broke down” and another car would arrive within an hour.  At this point, it was 11:42.  OK.  We would wait the hour.

A piano and variety of electronic devices used in years past.

Our intention had been to get the car and explore a little, then return to the market to do our main weekly grocery shopping, avoiding keeping perishables in the car in the warm weather. 

Decorative representation of the railway.

With an hour left to wait for the car, I suggested we should forgo the plans to explore and grocery shop during the hour we had to wait.  Instead, we’d head out on Tuesday morning after I’d uploaded today’s post.

Display of toy cars and trucks.

Thus, today, I’m rushing a bit to get done and off we go, free as birds to see our next chosen spot to tour.  We’ve mapped out a location and will share photos and details in days to come.

A clock in the design of a watch.

At 12:50 pm, with our grocery cart filled with the week’s purchases, Edgar arrived having no knowledge of our almost two-hour wait.  We asked him what had happened and he hesitated unsure of the reasons for the almost two-hour delay. 

What could we do?  This is the best car rental deal in town and we weren’t willing to make a fuss and ruin the opportunity to rent a car again.  We smiled while Tom filled out the paperwork, paid our US $1250 (CRC 720,494) and inspected the car with Edgar for any dents or dings.

Syringes used for medical treatment.  Ouch!

Edgar was proud he’d brought us an upgraded vehicle, a Corolla as opposed to a cheaper Yaris.  We were thrilled the car had automatic door locks which in manly cases is a luxury upgrade.  Humm…

Tom is interactive in the museum operating a high stand switch.

By 1:30 we were back at the villa spending the majority of the afternoon putting everything away, taking care of the produce and making dinner.  The time flew by and at 5:00 pm, we were ready for dinner.

Old computers on display.  Brings back memories, don’t they?

Since we only eat one meal each day with an occasional low carb snack, the early dining time seems best, especially for me, allowing plenty of time for the meal to digest considering my ongoing gastrointestinal issues which continue to improve in baby steps.  By eating early, my meal has more time to digest before going to bed.

Juan Ramon was proud of everything in the museum showing off a few of his favorites, in this case a whistle.

So, I’m wrapping it up earlier today hoping I haven’t made any errors we’ve missed.  The sun is out and we want to get on the road before the afternoon rains and thunderstorms begin.

Have a fabulous sunny day!


Photo from one year ago today, September 19, 2016:

Collecting coconuts on the beach in Bali.  For more photos, please cllick here.

After five years of experience…Even we can be fooled!…Car rental warnings….More Atenas Farmers Market photos…Stunning sighting from the veranda…

A farmer with several coolers of homemade sausage cooked us a sampling of his Italian sausage, which we have trouble finding in many countries. After tasting the delicious, perfectly seasoned sausages, we purchased six packages to use for our next batch of low-carb pizza.

“Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”

From this website: “The owl butterflies, the genus Caligo, are known for their huge eyespots, which resemble owls‘ eyes. They are found in the rain forests and secondary forests of MexicoCentral and South America. Owl butterflies are enormous, 65–200 mm (2.6–7.9 in), and fly only a few meters at a time, so avian predators have little difficulty in following them to their settling place. However, the butterflies preferentially fly at dusk, when few avian predators are around. Therefore, the Latin name may refer to their active periods; caligo means darkness.”   
This morning’s sighting of this Owl Butterfly sent us both to the moon with sheer delight! Can you imagine the magic of this amazing creature with spots that appear to be eyes resembling an owl to keep predators away? Wow!
After tasting the above Italian Sausages, as shown above, we purchased six packages from the farmer.

When we spotted this butterfly on the front veranda this morning, I couldn’t grab the camera quickly enough. Tom witnessed it flying, but by the time I grabbed the camera, it had landed in this spot by the sliding glass door.

The small but fun-filled Atenas Farmers Market.

We’ll be sharing more photos of butterflies over these upcoming months in Costa Rica due to the fact we’ve seen more butterflies here than in any other part of the world. So please check back for future stories.

There are plants for sale along with produce and handmade goods.

Speaking of our remaining 85 days in Costa Rica, yesterday’s experience at the car rental facility in San Jose will be emblazoned in our minds forever. Never once in the past five years of world travel, having rented cars for approximately 50% of the time, have we ever had such an outrageously awful experience.

Sure, we anticipated the US $9 (CRC 5,169) a day rate (included all taxes) would never end up at that rate when we went to pick up the car. In addition, we anticipated add-on charges for our age which were listed at US $5 (CRC 2,871) per day, per person. But even at the US $19 (CRC 10,912), we could live with that with both of us able to drive. 

We were impressed with the elaborate displays.

In many countries, we’ve rented cars for around US $600 (CRC 344,574) to $700 (402,003) for a monthly rate which we’ve always felt has been fair. But, the discovery we made after our taxi ride from Atenas to the Europcar facility (franchise owned) next door to the Walmart store in San Jose, where we planned to pick up a few items after getting the car, threw us for a loop.

Huge bananas picked in giant bunches caught the eye of many shoppers.

It all started fine when the rep behind the counter began processing our booked rental, asking for our passports, driver’s licenses, US address, etc. Of course, we’d brought along the printed documents with our confirmation number and pertinent information to ensure nothing would infringe upon our getting the decent rate we’d derived online at our usual rentalcars.com, a reputable company.

Belts, wallets, and other leather goods.

And, we’ve used Europcar at least 10 times over these years, expecting they’d honor the online pricing without gouging us. But, after finding they were franchise operations and subject to any peculiar laws in a country (so they say), we were shocked over the “bait and switch” tactic we were presented.

Local farmers and butchers have a wide array of beef, pork, and poultry for sale.

Aad has warned us about “bait and switch” type rental situations frequently occurring in Costa Rica, the reason why we’d chosen to do the five-day rental through his regular guy from “Thrifty.” Having used Europcar many times over these past years, we didn’t anticipate any problems.

Refrigerated cases with traditional and uncommon cuts of meat.

Here’s the prices we’d have had to pay, had we taken the tiny car yesterday:

1. the US $9 daily rate, plus the US $5 (CRC 2,871) for one driver over 64 years old (Tom) PLUS…an additional US $44.95 (CRC 25,814) per day for insurance (we already have insurance through our credit cards and a separate liability policy) for a total of US $58.95 per day (CRC 33,854) for a total for US $5,070 (CRC 2,911,444) for our remaining days in Costa Rica.
2.  Plus, they wanted a letter from our bank stating we have sufficient funds to pay for the car in the event of an accident (what the heck was the US $44.95 (CRC 25,814) per day supposed to be for?
3.  Plus, they required a US $9,000 (CRC 5,168,610) deposit!!!

Specialty flavored sea salts.  We purchased a similar item in Tasmania, smokey Himalayan salt which we continue to use and enjoy.

Why in the world would we pay any of this? But, of course, none of these above three would send us walking out the door in a huff, which I did, this time, not so much Tom. Yep, I was the “overly grumpy” traveler this time, appalled by this unbelievable trickery. 

I couldn’t resist buying one of these containers of two dozen quail eggs.

Sure, if someone were renting a car for a one-week holiday, it wouldn’t seem so bad, but still, they’d required the outrageous deposit! Who’d be willing to put a US $9,000 (CRC 5,168,610) deposit on a credit card?  Not us!

Over a period of a few days, I boiled these tiny quail eggs and had them in my taco salad. They’re tiny and fun to pop in one’s mouth for a tasty treat.

We left…no car…as frustrated as I’ve ever been in our years of world travel.  We walked across the road to the Walmart store, our yellow Costco bag in hand with a shortlist of items we needed to find, some of which we did find and others we did not.

For illustration purposes, I placed one large regular chicken egg atop the boiled, peeled quail eggs. About four quail eggs are comparable to one chicken egg.  I ate all 24 of them over a period of three days. Tom didn’t care for them, although they taste almost identical to a regular egg.

Until tomorrow, folks, when we share the story of what transpired at the pharmacy at Walmart that left me with a dilemma for which there’s no logical solution. However, by the time we paid for our few items, we were both in a better state of mind, and we found a taxi outside the store that drove us back to Atenas. 

Since Tom’s been eating fruit, we purchased this watermelon which he hadn’t eaten since we left Minnesota. So today, I used this cauliflower as an ingredient in my favorite meal; Chicken Sausage and Cauliflower Bake. Could you email me this amazing recipe?

Round trip taxi fares from Atenas to San Jose?  The total came to US $54.83 (CRC 31,485), which actually wasn’t as much as we’d expected. That was one pricey trip t0 Walmart!

We used these small purple onions in taco salad over these past few days.

No one ever said it was ever easy. So we’ll be back with more.

Photo from one year ago today, August 29, 2016:

Final photos of Chalong Beach in Phuket, Thailand, are preparing to depart on September 1, 2016. For more final photos, please click here.

We rented a car for the remaining period in Costa Rica…Until November 22, 2017…

I’ve been anxious to get photos of unusual frogs in Costa Rica, especially the colorful species. But that will have to wait until we get out soon. We’ve yet to see a colorful frog at the villa. But, this plain frog attached to Henry’s left rear bumper satisfied me for now. Check out those toes!

“Sightings from the Veranda In Costa Rica”

The clouds that roll in each day create many gorgeous scenes.

We awoke this morning to one of those special days with the most perfect weather we’ve experienced in a very long time. The sky is clear, scattered with a few white pillowy clouds. Most likely by early afternoon, it will cloud over and rain as always.

There’s a balmy breeze rustling through the rainforest of over 100 species of indigenous trees. The temperature hovers close to 75F, 24C. Although the humidity is a high 86% right now, the comfort factor is not only bearable, it’s enticing and pleasurable. 

“They,” say that Costa Rica has the most perfect weather in the world and today, more than any day since we arrived over two weeks ago, further exemplifies this fact. It couldn’t be more to our liking.

The only aspect of our stay thus far that has been disappointing has been feeling a being a bit stranded with only a taxi driver at our disposal. At anywhere from US $15 (CRC 8665) to US $20 (CRC 11,553) each time we go to the village (a 10-minute drive plus the cost of waiting time for the driver), we found ourselves avoiding any long distances knowing the price would be pretty high. 

It’s always tricky taking photos from a moving car, especially when we’re sensitive about opening the window while we’re in air-conditioned comfort. 

This puts a damper on our desire of getting out to explore and taking photos while being able to stop at our leisure or quickly turn around when an ideal photo op is in sight. Tom’s is the best driver in accommodating my photo taking.

Besides, it doesn’t make sense to pay US $15 (CRC 8655) each time we realize we need a single item we forgot to purchase or a recipe pops into mind that requires a return to the market for ingredients. 

In many parts of the world, such a taxi ride might be only a few dollars making those single item outings worthwhile. In Australia, we had easy public transportation which isn’t as prevalent here.

But, adding a premium of US $15 (CRC 8655) or more to every few items purchased significantly throws off our food budget. So, we knew we needed to make a change and proceed to rent a vehicle for our remaining time in Costa Rica.

Typical shop along the road into the village.

No doubt we’ve become a bit spoiled after the nine weeks in the US with the red SUV in Minnesota and the little white car in Nevada, able to head out at any time we chose. Taxi fares in either state would have been prohibitive as they were in Australia.

At times, while in Minnesota, we wished we’d had a second vehicle but the cost of renting two cars was impractical. So for a short period, we borrowed a truck belonging to son Greg’s that helped in a pinch but we knew he needed to use and we didn’t keep it long. 

While in Nevada, Tom was content to stay at son Richard’s home in air-conditioned comfort while I flitted around to shop, visit sister Susan and even embark on a few sightseeing missions on my own.  It worked well.

We’re committed to a five-day car rental starting on Monday, August 21st, which Aad the property manager arranged for us. At 10:00 am we’ll take the taxi into Atenas to pick up the car at the cafe at SuperMercado Coopeatena and then head out of town to our dentist appointment at 1:00 pm. We’ll have plenty of time for sightseeing and photo taking along the way.

Typical house in the gated neighborhood.

Last night after 10:00 pm, while a bit bleary-eyed and tired, I decided to check prices one more time for rental cars from our favorite site, rentalcars.com which we’ve used since the onset of our travel. 

I was shocked when I saw the low prices which included all of the taxes and fees, to discover we could rent a car beginning on Monday, August 28th for US $783 (CRC 440,762) for the remaining 87 days in Costa Rica (at that point) which totaled US $9.10 (CRC 5257) a day. I had checked pricing a few days earlier and it was twice this amount. I asked Tom to verify the details with me. Was I too tired to access this carefully? He was wide awake and concurred with the pricing, dates, and conditions.

We quickly booked the car and paid the fee. The rental car company, Europcar, is one we’ve used approximately 60% of the times we’ve rented cars and never had any type of issues. This time, as always, we read all the terms and conditions of the rental.

Europcar require a US $1,500 (CRC 866,505) deposit which might be off-putting to some renters and, included in the above price is a surcharge of US $150 (CRC 86,651), for drivers over 64 years of age, at US $5 (CRC 2888) per day for a maximum of the US $150 (CRC 86,651), for the entire period). 

We couldn’t tell if this is a house or a business based on the sign on the front wall. 

We’re OK with these conditions, especially when the contract stipulates that all other fees and taxes are included in the base rate of US $633 (CRC 365,665). The surcharge for the senior factor might also be off-putting to some renters but for us, the grand total most appealing and, the fact that we’ll be getting a car with AC and automatic transmission ideal for driving on all the hills and mountains in Costa Rica.

We’ve been warned about “bait and switch” type car rentals in Costa Rica but with this familiar website and Europcar which we’ve used so often, we feel safe. In the worst case, if we discover we’ve been defrauded or misrepresented in some manner, we won’t take the car and/or take it up with the credit card company. We shall see what transpires and report back here.

We’re both excited at the prospect of being able to get around on our own for the weekdays next week and from there on, from August 28th until November 22nd.

Today, we’re staying in again working on financial stuff.  But now, with a solution on the horizon enabling us to explore our surroundings and take many photos we can share, we’re content to wait it out until Monday morning when we’ll once again have wheels and “be on the road.”

Happy day to all!

Photo from one year ago today, August 16, 2016:

These are 400 million-year-old fossils seen at the Phuket Seashell Museum. For more photos, please click here.

Limitations…Living within our means…Not always easy…

View from the chaise lounges of the pool, the Jacuzzi to the left, and beyond it, the cold plunge pool. Nice.

“Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica” 

Even the entrance to this property is stunning, as taken from the veranda on a cloudy day.

It’s been raining almost every day. We knew when we booked this property during the rainy season, but we decided with as much “work” as we had to do while here, it wouldn’t matter to us so much.

Besides, the likelihood of finding a reputable rental car facility was iffy from what we’d read online and heard from our landlord Aad. Hence, we decided to rent a car periodically (via Aad’s contacts), which we’ll be doing one week from tomorrow for five days.  We’re waiting for the quote and will post it here.

We realized that if we’d paid the premium prices for a decent car for over three months, it would be sitting in the driveway most days due to the rainy days. So it wouldn’t make sense to go sightseeing on these mountainous roads during rainstorms which occur by noon almost every day.

We noticed the times it starts raining since we attempt to use the pool each day, but often I don’t get done uploading the post until almost noon, and by then, the sun is gone with thunderstorms and lightning surrounding us, not a good time to go into the water.

Neither of us cares to go sightseeing in the rain when we can avoid it. Thus, when we have the rental car next week, we’ll try to get out in the mornings, and a few of our posts may be uploaded later in the day. We’ll let you know when and if this occurs.

On Monday, the 21st, the first day we’ll have the car Aad will have arranged for us. In addition, we both have dentist appointments at a distant location at 1:00 pm, giving us ample time to post before heading out.

Pretty plants and trees are scattered throughout the grounds, which Ulysses keeps perfectly maintained.

This past Friday, we’d intended to go to the weekly Farmers Market in the village at 1:00 pm based on times stated in an online ad we’d seen that said it started at 6:00 am and ended at 6:00 pm. 

Well, as it turned out, Marian, Aad’s wife, informed us that the Farmers Market closes at 1:00 pm. So thus, we canceled the taxi driver with a plan to go next Friday, the 25th, when we could go on our own in the rental car, taking our time to mosey around and take plenty of photos.

Many tourists rent cars in Costa Rica without incident. But, there’s a big difference in renting a car for a week or two instead of three and a half months. The agencies tend to give us the least desirable vehicles based on the extended period and the reasonable prices we’ve received online.  Generally, this is fine with us when we’re saving vast sums of money over extended periods. 

In this case, it just didn’t work out, so we’re somewhat stranded in the interim. However, we always strive to live within our means, especially with the pricey Antarctica cruise in five months which we’ll pay off in full by October 16th, in a mere two months.

Our “belts are tightened” during this period to prepare for this significant outlay of cash. Recently, we had a cost of almost US $10,000 (CRC 5,761,850) for our extended stay here in Costa Rica for this fine property. With a strict budget to follow and much upcoming in the future, we live as modestly as we can. 

A careless world traveler could efficiently run through money so fast they’d quickly put an end to their travels. So for us, we carefully manage every dollar we spend to ensure we can continue until we physically can’t go on any longer, not when we “run out of money.” 

The driveway pavers are laid to perfection.

We live off of our fixed monthly income comparable to that of most retirees. Yet, living as comfortably as we often do (with a few exceptions here and there), we must continue to be frugal. That means few expensive professional tours, dining out at a minimum (my diet dictates this more than money), no needless shopping, planning and cooking our meals, and above all, not being wasteful. 

A huge benefit of spending 2018 and part of 2019 in Africa is that it enables us to recover from the high expenses of the three upcoming cruises, all occurring by January 23, 2018. 

When we leave Costa Rica on November 22nd, we’ll fly to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for one night, after which we’ll be embarking on a 30-night back-to-back cruise to South America, finally ending in Buenos Aires, where we’ll stay 31 plus one night, as mentioned in a post of a few days ago, as shown here.

In a 78-night period beginning on November 23, 2017 (Thanksgiving Day in the US) and ending on February 8, 2018, we’ll be cruising for 47-nights.  The remaining nights we’ll be living in Buenos Aires as mentioned above.  Here again, we’ll have a long stretch where we won’t cook a single meal or make a bed.

Once we arrive in South Africa on or about February 9, 2018, we’ll begin to “lick our wounds” and once again be shopping, cooking, and taking care of our day-to-day lives on our own. A cleaner will come once or twice weekly while living in Marloth Park, comparable to here in Costa Rica, the delightful Isabel.

Gorgeous blooming plants.

That’s not to say we won’t have some significant expenses while in Africa with all we plan to do while there, leaving South Africa every three months (visa requirement) for one type of expedition or another that we’ll book once we arrive and settle in.

We’re in a constant state of flux, a state of being we both find exciting and adventurous, definitely not for everyone. However, most humans tend to find great comfort in gaining familiarity with their surroundings and creating a place to call home. 

Perhaps we nomadic humans in this world are more like the wildlife. We tend to go where the going is fruitful, where the going is exciting, continually on the move for the next adventure. So stay tuned, fellow travelers, fellow readers. Much more is yet to come.

Photo from one year ago today, August 13, 2016:

In the 1980’s I stayed in Phuket, Thailand, for a few weeks (before Tom, whom I met in 1991), splitting the time between two gorgeous resorts on the beach. Living in a vacation home in a resort town proved to be an entirely different experience when the front yards of many homes looked like this in the neighborhood of the lovely house we rented. This is the life of world travel, not always dreamy and gorgeous. For more details, please click here.

Oh, oh, stuff happens… I dinged the rental car!… See below for damage… Seven days and counting…

This is the separation of the fender that transpired from the “ding.”

I’ve never claimed to be a good driver. Overall, I’m OK on the highway, paying strict attention to my driving. But, I’m a nightmare in a parking lot, parking ramp, or other such areas where there are posts or obstacles of any type.

In my 50 plus years of driving, I’ve probably caused a dozen or more “dings” in parking lots, some more serious than others. Why?  I don’t know. Perhaps my judgment as to how close I am to obstacles is impeded in some manner by my depth perception.

There’s no doubt that at some point, I’ll give up driving may be earlier than some seniors. But, in countries where we have a rental car, it’s been nice to give Tom a break from sitting in the car waiting for me while I shop. He despises shopping, but he’s an excellent driver.

Also, it’s good to give him time alone while I head out to shop for groceries. I can easily spend a few hours dawdling in a larger market when I’m not familiar with the inventory placement.  Learning a grocery store each time we move can take several trips.

The little white rental car after I’d caused the ding in the left front bumper.

In the smaller markets such as Belize, Kenya, Fiji, and others, I’d be done shopping in less than 10 minutes with only three or four aisles. We anticipate more of these types of markets in the future.

But it wasn’t at a market that I dinged the white rental car yesterday. I entered a parking spot at an assisted living facility not far from where my sister Susan currently lives. I was investigating the prospect of her moving into such a facility sometime in the near future.

As I pulled into a shaded parking spot, I thought I was paying attention. However, a square post was located at the end of the space defining the position of two spaces and acting as a support for the shaded overhead canopy. I barely tapped the post.

I tapped it so lightly; I wasn’t even going to look at it, figuring I hadn’t done a thing to the vehicle. When I decided I’d better take a look, with the utmost angst, I realized I had displaced a portion of the left front bumper which appears to have become disconnected from its joining points. 

The pea-sized bit of paint came off the car.

I tried to push it back in place with my hands to no avail. It needed a rubber mallet or some other type of device to put it back in place.  When I arrived at Susan’s an hour later, I couldn’t get my fender bender out of my mind. How could I be so careless?

I also wondered how the bumper could feel so soft and more like tin or plastic than the metal on cars made years ago. I had no idea it was so soft and pliable, seemingly responding to even the slightest ding.

Today, I’ll call the credit card company on which we charged the rental car. We have rental car insurance that covers such incidents. Hopefully, that will work out, or we’ll be paying for the repairs out of pocket, and there’s no doubt the rental car company will gouge us. Once we know what transpires, we’ll report back here.

So it goes…stuff happens. In the realm of things, it’s a minor incident. As we always say, if we have our health and we’re safe, we have no reason to complain. 

It doesn’t appear to be that much damage, but who knows how it will go.

When I returned to Henderson around 4:00 pm, I was a little apprehensive about telling Tom what I’d done. The minute I walked in the door, he asked me what was wrong based on the look on my face.

In his usual style, he wasn’t angry at me for my carelessness and reassured me not to stress about it. At no time, we were our usual cheerful selves, enjoying the evening with a good meal shared with Richard as we began to wind down our final week in the USA.

By the way, right now, after 10:00 am, it’s overcast and rainy at a cool 75F (24C). Go figure.

May you have a stress-free day!

Photo from one year ago today, July 25, 2016:

Kong, our fabulous tour guide with Viking Cruise Line, took this photo of Tom and a tarantula served at dinner.  He didn’t eat it. I would have tried it, but it was batter fried.  For more photos, please click here.