What type of security have we experienced at hotels as we’ve traveled the world?…A little bird’s story…

This is the lounge on the veranda where the hummingbird landed after flying into the glass wall behind it. See the story below for more photos.

“Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”

The pretty little hummingbird was stunned after hitting the glass wall and landed on the round chaise lounge.

Yesterday, another rainy day, we stayed indoors watching the news with our thoughts constantly on the horrific shootings in Las Vegas.  Heartbreaking, frightening, and beyond belief, the events and stories surrounding the attack continue to wrench one’s heart.

Having family living in Las Vegas, including son Richard and sister Susan and family, and Tom’s nephew John and family coupled with the fact we’re residents of the state of Nevada, made us feel a special affinity as the details rolled out.

We were impressed with how first responders, medical professionals, and private citizens rallied to assist, resulting in many heroic events. No doubt, thousands of lives may have been saved by their selfless, efficient, and fast responses.

Tom noticed the red coloring on their chin.

We discussed security measures at hotels we’ve encountered throughout the day in our world travels that may have been instrumental in preventing this particular type of attack as perpetrated by this heinous human being. 

We concluded that in only one hotel over these past five years of world travel, we have seen security that may have been instrumental in preventing this particular type of attack.  Although, the shooter may have arranged a different location from which to exact this attack.

When we stayed in Denpasar Bali, close to the airport on three separate occasions at the Hilton Garden Inn Bali Ngurah Rai Airport, we were surprised to note that no one was allowed entry into the hotel lobby without going through security, both the walk-through scanner and the scanner for all bags and belongings. 

Spreading their wings to see if flying was possible.

Here’s one of our links from the Bali hotel. The security station is located to the right and not shown in these photos.  (Most security guards don’t allow photos taken of the scanning equipment).

At first, we thought the scanners were a little off-putting, based on the inconvenience, comparable to security at an airport. After discussing it, we realized it would make sense at all hotels and hadn’t given it another thought until the news broke on the events in Las Vegas a few days ago, on October 1st.

Regardless of any potential security measures, there are endless means of bringing harm to others, even excluding the use of weaponry. I won’t go on a rant about “gun control,” one way or another, since we prefer to keep our political views from imposing upon this travel-related site.

Soon, an attempt to fly may be possible.

Questions remain as to the “why” this attack occurred. But, as mentioned in yesterday’s post, the answer may never be found.  We all wait, watching the news hoping an answer comes forward, giving us some sense of relief that it wasn’t premeditated “murder” from what may have been enacted by a “sane” person. But, would a sane person perform such an outrageous act?

Can it be justified by some form of mental illness or a brain tumor?  Or do we long to hear it due to an affiliation with a radical group either inside or outside the US?  As above, most likely, we’ll never know. But if we do, will we discover a sense of relief to know the “why”? Most likely, we won’t. The deed is done. The horror remains.

Shortly after this photo, they flew away so quickly Tom couldn’t get a photo. But, he saw them fly to the nearby tree and then back to the feeder for another “sip” of our homemade nectar.  Whew!

Today, the news reverts to some of the other horrible events globally, including the aftereffects of Hurricane Maria that ravaged Puerto Rico. How will the ravage born by this natural disaster ever reconcile? Lives lost, homes lost, and an entire country reeling, wondering how they’ll ever put their lives back together—sad stories.

Also, today, we share several photos Tom took yesterday afternoon of a precious little hummingbird that had flown into the glass wall after hovering not far from the bird feeder we keep well-stocked with sugar water. The poor little thing was stunned but miraculously survived and flew away a short time later. Great photos, Honey! They brought a smile to my face on an otherwise sad day.

May your day bring you wonders, however small, putting smiles back on your faces!

Photo from one year ago today, October 3, 2016:

The front of the property is located at the end of the road, resulting in no passing traffic. Last year this villa was priced at EU 249,000, US $279,017, IDR 3,616,896,723 CRC 159,388,461. For more details, please click here.

Frightening events in the US including our former home state…Is Bali safe? Not necessarily…

What a nice environment for cattle, green pastures and plenty of shade situated on a beachfront property.
“Sightings on the Beach in Bali”
Family gatherings on the beach amidst the garbage that rolls with the tide with garbage left behind by locals and visitors. Bali has yet to adopt the idea of keeping its island and beaches less littered. However, much of the beach waste is the result of that left at sea by others.

Without English-language television channels in Bali, the only way we could keep up with the world’s news was through the Internet. With the slow WiFi in the region, it was difficult, but we managed to read the main news every day.

Reading about yesterday’s multiple attacks in the US was sickening and disheartening; one in New York; another in New Jersey and a third transpiring in a mall 70 miles from where we’d previously lived. It makes you wonder if it’s safe to shop in malls when so many terrorist attacks occur within their walls.
These cattle seem to be slightly larger in Bali than in many less developed countries.

This morning, while researching online for information about terroristic attacks in Bali to date in 2016, we were shocked to see their was new bomb blast a few nights ago, in two areas in Bali, one at a resort in Kuta, the town where we’ve stayed overnight in a hotel on two previous occasions with one more booking  upcoming on October 29th before flying to Sydney. The second attack occurred on Jimbaran Beach, south of Kuta.

Watch this story here:

It certainly makes us think. But then again, how do we feel about visiting a mall in Minnesota next summer where we’ve planned to go to purchase new clothing to replace the old and fast wearing  clothing we have with us now.

The small town’s business sections are jammed with temples, mosques, restaurants and shops.

In addition, we had considered visiting a shopping center in Australia during our next 33-night cruise when our ship arrives.
port at various cities. We were hoping to buy some articles to get through the next few months. Should we give it a second thought?    Australia has been the victim of a number of terrorist attacks in recent years.

I will not go into the specifics of these attacks.    We have no doubt, if you look at local or global news, you’ve seen the stories repeated over and over again. We believe it is very important to be informed, but fear is only used to avoid the areas most at risk when possible.

We crossed a number of river bridges as shown here.

Having read the American attacks, we are worried about the safety of our family.    Will our adult children listen if we tell them not to go into public places?  No, not at all. Their lives often revolve around visiting crowded places with their families on regular occasions, ball games, parks, zoos, shopping centres, restaurants, theme parks, public buildings and so on.

We wonder whether one of us should temper the quality of our lives by becoming quasi-hermits, avoiding all high-risk places. It’s entirely unrealistic, even for us, where we have considerable control over what we do and what we do.

Although the beaches are often littered with debris, the scenes are still lovely. We never grow weary of the blue waters.

In the process of continuing with our world travels as we fully intend, we surely can’t avoid airports which pose a high risk, although, we’ve made a concerted effort to avoid certain public transportation when possible such as train stations, buses and heavily populated venues in risky areas.

Who identifies what constitutes a high-risk sector?  All the research in the world can’t cover the possible discovery of new locations where horrific incidents continually occur, unanticipated and often considered unlikely.

Private oceanfront property, an excellent lot.

As we have said many times, no place in the world is safe from risk, whether it is terrorist attacks, accidents or natural disasters. We try not to live in fear, as we are certain is the case for most of you who live in seemingly innocuous areas. Essentially, an innocuous area does not exist.

One could live on a remote island in one of the most remote areas of the world and still not be entirely safe. A crazy and unstable individual with any type of weapon could attack the unsuspecting, the unprepared and the defensive evil, ill equipped to defend themselves and those they love.

There are some scattered parks along the oceanfront promenade.

Nature can be the ultimate beast when more lives are lost each year due to horrific weather and natural disasters than terrorist attacks all over the world. Even the state of our personal health is at risk at any time.
moment. Only we have a modicum of control in ensuring our personal safety in that area through living as healthy a lifestyle as possible and proceeding in our daily activities with sensibility.

No, an 80-year-old man who has knee problems should not climb a ladder to change a lightbulb.  Nor should an 65 year old retiree start riding a motorbike in Bali on the harrowing roads when they’ve never done so in the past.

Numerous mosques and temples are easily reachable from Denspasar.

We choose to live on the cautious side with health and safety our first consideration while still striving to fulfill our dreams by witnessing what we’d never imagined possible, by experiencing the nuances of daily life for others in our midst and for embracing the beauty, not the ugly, of the world around us.

Stay safe, living life to the fullest.

Photo from one year ago today, September 19, 2015:

Fiji’s coral reef is second to none in the world and a favorite location for scuba divers. For more details and photos, please click here.

The Hindu holiday continues…Friendly locals greetings us on a walk…A cultural experience…Safety…

This family was busy finishing this morning. The air was hazy from incense burning.

“Sightings on the Beach in Bali”

Fisherman returning from fishing all night and kid on a bike.

The sweet smell of incense permeates the air. The colorfully dressed locals greet us as we walk by. The elaborate decorations in the front yards, the music, the chanting and the non-stop sounds of roosters crowing made for an especially interesting walk this morning.

A lot of effort had gone into decorating homes, not unlike decorating for Christmas in other parts of the world.

There were twice as many festive lanterns and decorated shrines than we’d seen on yesterday’s walk and we could readily sense the celebration of this special holiday was in full bloom.

This religious service area was ready for the evening gathering.

As described in yesterday’s post, this is the holiday the Balinese Hindus, the majority of the population of Bali, are celebrating:

“Ganesh Chaturthi is a ten-day Hindu festival celebrated to honor the elephant-headed God Ganesha’s birthday. He is the younger son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Ganesha is known by 108 different names and is the Lord of arts and sciences and the deva of wisdom.”

These were newly placed last night or this morning.

How fortunate we feel to be here during these festivities. These gentle, kindly, peaceful people remind us of how the world could be, would be, with more citizens like them, with a commitment to honor their faith, their traditions, one another and their families, ensconced in a constant sense of harmony with the world.

When we asked Gede how the Hindu people relate to those of other faiths, he expressed enthusiastic assurance that peace and respect were forefront in their hearts and minds.

As we neared the end of the newly paved road, we saw this new decoration.

This is clearly illustrated to us as we tread upon their turf, strangers in their land, unfamiliar with their ways. Now, during our second two-month stay in Bali, we’re beginning to understand and embrace who these people are and the deep rooted principles that shape their often simple existence.

They are not violent people. It’s sad that in many countries there are those who defy the principles of centuries old philosophies of maintaining a stance of love, beauty and simplicity.

More decorations had been added over the past 24 hours.

We feel safe here. At times, at sunset, we may occasionally spot a shady looking character, meandering on the beach on foot or on a motorbike. We keep our doors locked and also find comfort in the fact that this small grouping of vacation homes has an all-night security guard on the premises who’s number we have readily available.

In Phuket, we noticed military police and security everywhere, even at the grocery store. Here in this remote area one seldom sees a police vehicle or any military presence. Of course, that doesn’t make this location exempt from crime. No place in the world can claim that unlikely status.

The umbrellas, the fabric cloths and hanging decoration create a beautiful scene.

In Denpasar, the capital city, there’s been a history of bombings along with a variety of terrorist attacks, not unlike in most large cities anywhere in the world. 

We’re often asked why we choose to live in remote areas, away from tourist venues, popular restaurants and sightseeing. The answer is simple for us since the beginning of our travels, next month coming up on four years. 

Offerings are placed in this cubicles as will be shown in more photos over the next few days.

We treasure our safety and well being. We prefer the quiet, easy existence of a life far removed from the hustle and bustle of city life. It bring us joy and happiness to live in close proximity to the locals, to learn their ways, wander through their neighborhoods somehow feeling we are a part of it all.

Today, as yesterday, the walk brought us a revered sense of appreciation for the people of Bali, in this quiet beach town, as they celebrate a special holiday.

We pray for the safety and well being of all our reader/friends all over the world.

May peace be with you.

Photo from one year ago today, September 7, 2015:

Pond view at the Cattana Wetlands near Cairns, Australia. Final expenses for our three months in Australia were posted one year ago today, here.

We live in frightening times…Bombings in Phuket…

Not our photo. Police and investigators searched for clues after victims were taken to area hospitals.  See this link for details.

Having relocated to the bedroom to stay cool, as shown in a post of a few days ago, we hadn’t turned on the news in the days with the TV located in the living room. We had no idea about the 11 bomb blasts in Thailand, including several in Patong, Phuket about 30 minutes from us.

Yesterday morning, hours after the blasts, I was busy preparing the post while Tom was researching on his laptop.  Neither of us had checked the online news. By 11:00 am, we were out the door on our way to a sightseeing venue, details of which we’ll share in tomorrow’s post.

After taking over 100 photos, we headed back down the highway toward the Makro store where we’ve been grocery shopping these past several weeks.  Being out like this for several hours is hard for me at this point, especially when riding so low in the seat  and on bumpy roads in the less-than-stellar rental car. But I don’t complain, especially when Tom is always at my side to help in any way he can.

With the grocery list on the app on my phone within 45 minutes we were on our way out the door, loaded with enough groceries to last at least for the next week. 

Based on our departure in 19 days, most likely we’ll only shop two more times if we carefully plan upcoming meals, as we always do, to avoid running back to the store for forgotten ingredients. 

Once we returned “home” Tom carried everything indoors while I put away all the items that didn’t require bending while he put away the remainder. In no time at all, we were settled in for the evening, content with our sightseeing outing and shopping.

As we both sat down to begin some research for future travel, almost simultaneously, we discovered the news regarding 11 bombing incidents in Thailand, many in Phuket, some not too far from us. 

Within moments, we each spotted numerous email messages (and a few comments on our site) from friends and family inquiring as to our safety. Appreciative of all the thoughtful inquiries, we quickly responded to let everyone know we were OK, we searched multiple news sources to fill us in on the details.

Thailand has been entrenched in political unrest for many years as described here from this site where the story continues:

HAVING launched more than a dozen coups in the past 80 years, Thailand’s generals were not friends of democracy. So it has been jarring to watch the country’s ruling junta praise Thais for approving an army-backed constitution in a heavily-controlled “referendum”, which took place on August 7th. Prayuth Chan-Ocha, an irascible former army chief who became prime minister after a military takeover in 2014, insists the new charter will end a decade of political instability and allow for fresh elections next year. In fact, it will not heal Thailand’s deep divisions, but make them worse. 

The constitution, Thailand’s twentieth, will keep soldiers in charge for years to come. New election rules will produce weak coalition governments that can be bossed around by bodies stacked with the junta’s friends. The generals will hand pick a 250-member senate, tasked with ensuring governments do not deviate from a 20-year program of “reforms”. They will need to convince only a quarter of the legislators in the lower house to back their choice of prime minister, who need not be an MP. Barriers to amending the constitution are prohibitive.”

The 11 bombings are described in this news story. At this point, officials aren’t certain as to the motivation of the terror attacks other than the fact that tourists were targeted. We’ll continue to watch the news for updates.

Not our photo.  Hospitals were filled with bombing victims in Thailand. See this link for details.

In the interim, we’ve decided, we won’t be heading out to any popular tourist attractions in our remaining time in Phuket. Often nightclubs and disco type bars are targeted in terror attacks, which, of course, we old-timers tend to avoid. 

But, that doesn’t negate the possibility of danger in other areas tourists may visit. Certainly now, the US Department of State will issue a travel warning to citizens considering travel to Thailand, at least for the time being. Then again, other countries have issued travel warnings to their citizens planning to visit the US.

Are we frightened? Probably no more than in any other country we’ve visited in our world travels.  In 2013, there was a terror attack at a mall in Nairobi, Kenya while we were living in Diani Beach. 

Many of our families, friends and readers contacted us regarding our safety.  We were quite a distance from Nairobi at the time, although we had a layover at the airport a short time later. Of course, we thought about the potential risk of being at the airport, especially when airports are often targeted. Click here for our comments regarding this terror attack here at this link.

After leaving Kenya, a favorite restaurant at a local resort where we dined on many occasions was bombed a month after we’d left for South Africa. Oh, the list could go on and on with attacks in Turkey, Egypt, Jordan and many other countries we’ve visited.

And now, only months away from returning to the US for a family visit, we sadly think of the loss of lives in many US states as a result of terrorist attacks, political unrest and racially motivated attacks. The list goes on and on.

Yes, traveling the world increases these risks. But, no place on this earth is free from tragedy, natural disasters and attacks motivated for a variety of reasons. We can choose to live our lives to the fullest or we can hold back with fear and apprehension.

Based on the current attacks here in Thailand, we choose to be cautious and avoid public venues as much as we can.  In only 19 days, we’ll be on our way back to Bali for another 60 days, where many terror attacks have occurred over these past years. 

We can’t live our lives in constant fear, none of us can. We sadly mourn the loss of lives and pray for the well being of tourists and citizens who’ve fallen prey in the hands of radicals. And, we continue on with hope and prayers for the safety of those we love, for ourselves and the people of the lands we visit in our worldwide journey.

Our heartfelt thanks to everyone who inquired as to our safety. Your concern means the world to us both.

Stay safe.

Photo from one year ago today,  August 12, 2015:

This parasitic plant appears to be a face looking up to the sky with leaves in its mouth and throat. For more photos, please click here.

Is worldwide travel safe at this time?

Flowers blooming in the yard here in the Korovesi neighborhood, here in Savusavu.

After yesterday’s warnings from the US State Department, and today’s world news, we carefully consider where we’re traveling over the next few years.  This travel warning was issued on November 24, 2015 includes the following:

“The State Department alerts U.S. citizens to possible risks of travel due to increased terrorist threats. Current information suggests that ISIL (aka Da’esh), al-Qa’ida, Boko Haram, and other terrorist groups continue to plan terrorist attacks in multiple regions.  These attacks may employ a wide variety of tactics, using conventional and non-conventional weapons and targeting both official and private interests.  This Travel Alert expires on February 24, 2016.

Authorities believe the likelihood of terror attacks will continue as members of ISIL/Da’esh return from Syria and Iraq.  Additionally, there is a continuing threat from unaffiliated persons planning attacks inspired by major terrorist organizations but conducted on an individual basis.  Extremists have targeted large sporting events, theatres, open markets, and aviation services.  In the past year, there have been multiple attacks in France, Nigeria, Denmark, Turkey, and Mali.  ISIL/Da’esh has claimed responsibility for the bombing of a Russian airliner in Egypt. 
U.S. citizens should exercise vigilance when in public places or using transportation.  Be aware of immediate surroundings and avoid large crowds or crowded places.  Exercise particular caution during the holiday season and at holiday festivals or events.  U.S. citizens should monitor media and local information sources and factor updated information into personal travel plans and activities.  Persons with specific safety concerns should contact local law enforcement authorities who are responsible for the safety and security of all visitors to their host country.  U.S. citizens should:
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities.  Monitor media and local information sources and factor updated information into personal travel plans and activities.  
  • Be prepared for additional security screening and unexpected disruptions.
  • Stay in touch with your family members and ensure they know how to reach you in the event of an emergency.
  • Register in our Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).”

As we’ve mentioned in the past, we don’t take these warnings lightly.  If we were simply on a two week vacation/holiday traveling to a less vulnerable location, it could be of less concerning.  With the world in front of us, we can’t help but proceed with caution.

As we consider countries we visited a mere two years ago:  Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Kenya, the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, UAE, we realize had conditions been as they are now, we may never have visited those countries or sailed along these seas.

Looking back, we’re grateful for the experiences, knowing the likelihood of us ever returning is slim to none.  As we waited for six and a half hours at the airport in Istanbul, sitting in crowded areas, we couldn’t help but consider the risks may be high in such a busy area. 

The night before our ship docked in Izmir Turkey on June 12th and 13th, 2013, we’d found this letter sitting on our bed upon returning to our cabin after dinner:

The letter we discovered on the bed in our cabin on June 11, 2013.

As we rode on the packed tour bus in Turkey on the long drive to visit the ruins of Ephesus in Turkey we couldn’t avoid feeling aware that the risks existed in this country, along with others in the upcoming itinerary. 

The day after we visited the Pyramids in Egypt, the State Department issued a warning for American citizens traveling to Egypt.  Luckily, during our tour of the Pyramid, our trusty armed guard, Mohamed, who’d traveled with us on the bus, stay close at our side as shown in this photo below:

Mohammed, who carried a foldable Uzi in holster under his black suit.  Oddly, he took a liking to us and stayed close to us during our tour of the Pyramids.

By reading world news daily, we feel we’re abreast of areas of concern worldwide as we continue to book locations far into the future.  Long ago we followed warnings from the US Department of State, realizing that no where on earth is exempt from risk. 

It was only 15 months ago we spent two weeks living in Paris, often walking the city streets for hours each day. Parisian citizens and tourists are now wrought with worry and fear over recent horrific attacks.

We remain mindful and on alert as we continue on our journey, hoping and praying for safety and good fortune to continue to travel along with us.


Photo from one year ago today, November 25, 2014:

One year ago today, we posted this photo of Spam options available at the Kihei, Maui grocery store where we shopped each week.  For more details, please click here.

At long last, we have sunshine…Transportation…Safety…All new photos…

This morning’s sunny day.

Yesterday, we called Ratnesh to pick us up tomorrow at 11 am for a dual purpose; sightseeing earlier in the day, shopping after sightseeing. We’re excited to be getting out.

We’d hoped to get out on Tuesday, but on Monday, he called and canceled when he had a long-distance fare to Labasa, where another airport is located, a two hour drive each way from Savusavu.

When we first arrived, we offered to request his services for specific dates, and at times when it was most convenient for him with our schedule wide open. If he has a fare where he’ll make more than with us to various sites and the villages, we’ve encouraged him to take it.

View from our veranda to the three-unit vacation home as a part of this four-unit resort. The lawn guy is here today, mowing and trimming.

We hadn’t negotiated special rates with him when we arrived when the amounts he charges for trips to the village or for an hourly rate for sightseeing is so reasonable. As we’ve mentioned in the past, here are the costs of his services:

  • FJD $20, USD $9.39: Round trip to the village for shopping, dropping us off and picking us up when we call.  We add an additional FJD $10, USD $4.70 when he helps us carry our purchases to the house.
  • FJD $30, USD $14.09: Cost per hour for sightseeing. 

We’ve noticed when we do both, sightseeing and shopping on the same day, we’re charging for the trip to the village, plus the hourly travel rate. Ah, who’s to complain at these reasonable prices? If we’re gone for four hours at FJD $120, USD $56.35, it’s a very fair fare (no pun intended)!

When we recall paying for taxi fare in London in August 2014, when we visited the highly rated pub (Andover Arms) on two occasions, the round trip taxi fare was USD $50, GBP $32, FJD $106. In Fiji, that amount would give us almost four hours on the road!  

Colorful ocean view from our area.

Although four hours on the roads in Vanua Levu may sound exciting, on this remote island, it would be four hours of bumpy roads, dense greenery, and occasional ocean views, all of which we love and easily experience on shorter trips to specific destinations. We prefer aimlessly driving when we have a rental car, stopping as often as we’d like for photos and restroom breaks.

With the sun shining, we’re excited to get out more often, subject to the availability of the only driver in this village willing to tackle the steep road in this resort area. It would be impossible for us to walk down the long mountainous road. For mountain climbers and seriously fit hikers, it may not be a problem.

How easily we could feel trapped. But, long ago we decided, after realizing we’d need drivers in various countries, we accepted that there would be days we’d want to get out and weren’t able to do so, based on our driver’s availability. Sticking to the same driver or their designated co-driver has been important to us, particularly when safety has been an issue in several countries.

The bright blue of the bay is breathtaking from this elevation.

Upcoming in 46 days, when we fly to the next Fijian Island of Viti Levi, the larger main island, where we’ll stay for one more month, we’ll be renting a car at the Nadi Airport and driving two hours to our new location, again a private house. 

With high crime rates in the downtown Nadi area, when we booked Fiji long ago, we’d decided to stay in another more, remote location where the likelihood of crime is greatly reduced.

Many tourists stay in the Nadi area in resorts and hotels, generally insulated from criminal activities when on site. The risks for tourists escalates when out on the streets in the busy city, as we’ve been warned by the locals here who often travel to Nadi to visit family. Muggings, pickpocketing, and carjacking are not unusual.

Another ocean view from our area.

With our preferred choice of vacation homes as opposed to staying in hotels, we usually don’t have the safety net of on-site security as is often available in most hotels. Generally, one can feel relatively safe from crime in a hotel, although there are isolated exceptions.

Currently, we’re living in a resort but, in the only stand, alone vacation rental house on the property. Further up the hill behind us is a separate building with three apartments, including one penthouse type upscale unit on the top floor. Mario and Tayana’s private residence is off to the side as shown.

When Ratnesh picks us up, he pulls into the driveway of the three-unit building in this resort. The driveway near the steps down to our house below is too steep for stopping the vehicle, making getting in and out nearly impossible.

Junior is around during the day and Mario is on-site in his separate house to our left as we face the ocean. We feel totally safe and protected in this ideal location.

Criminal activity on this island of Vanua Levu is almost non-existent. When we’ve driven by the courthouse on several occasions, located on the edge of town, there are no cars in the parking lot. Most likely, they only open when they have a case. From what we hear, it’s a rare occasion.

Oceanfront view of Mario and Tatyana’s house, much larger than it appears in the photos.  We took this photo from the steep road.

The fact that we prefer living in smaller towns and villages in our travels has more to do with our lack of interest in crowds and the fact that we don’t shop other than for food and supplies as needed. We love the quaint charm and nature of small villages and the friendly, less harried lifestyle of their people. 

For the average tourist, staying in a more populous area in most countries provides endless opportunities to find that special item to bring back home, for oneself, and for gifts for family and friends. Also, easy access to restaurants is an important factor for tourists whereas, for us, it’s irrelevant.

Side view of Mario and Tatyana’s recently built house.

We don’t send our grandchildren trinkets from all over the world. Instead, we send gift cards or gifts that they’d like, not what we think they’d like from a foreign country. If we did, at this point, their bedrooms would be filled with useless touristy type items, eventually to be tossed away. 

Maybe we’re too practical in the minds of others. Then again, how practical is having no home, no stuff other than what fits into three suitcases, a duffel bag and a laptop bag and, changing countries and homes every few months or less?

Have a beautiful and meaningful day!

Photo from one year ago today, October 21, 2014:

We were entranced by this colorful Gold Dust Day Gecko, commonly seen in the Hawaiian Islands, particularly in Maui where we were living one year ago.  This gecko was located on the wall by the pool but, from time to time, we spotted them inside the condo, certainly no big deal. Generally, geckos are harmless if not annoying, leaving droplets of white poop and making peculiar noises. In Fiji, we see new gecko poop in the house every few days. For more details, please click here.

Contentment in our new home…One year ago today…Adventures at high seas….

The view of the Atlantic Ocean from our veranda. (Borrowed photo. Hazy today).
In our last post, I’d planned to tell the rental car story. Not enough for a full post, I’ll include the story in tomorrow’s post with photos of the car, all the fees, and more house photos. 

Where do we begin? We’re living in a beautiful house in the Campanario area of Ribeira Brava, Madeira, Portugal about 30 minutes from the pier and the airport. The house is overlooking the Atlantic ocean with every modern convenience; a microwave, high-speed Internet, a soaking tub (heavenly), a dishwasher, and oh my, a newer front loading washer (our first load is on now).

This is where we’re sitting now as I write this. We covered the glass coffee table with a black throw enabling us to put our feet up with our shoes on.  The sofa and pillows are very comfortable much to our delight.

There’s no clothes dryer, but instead one of those racks we used in Dubai and Italy. I can’t wait to hang the clothes outside on the veranda using colorful clothespins. Ah, how we’ve come to appreciate the simple things in life. 

Still tired today after yesterday’s exhausting unpacking, grocery shopping and totally settling in, today, I’m still a bit sluggish and slow-moving even after sleeping seven hours last night, not quite enough. 

Last night’s dinner wasn’t the feast we’d anticipated when we were too pooped to make anything other than cheese and sautéed onion scrambled eggs topped with Greek yogurt with a side of Portuguese sausage. That’s all we could muster. Tonight will be better.

Our new clothes dryer. At 70F, 21C it was pleasant hanging our first load of wash outdoors. The darks are in the washer now. I left room on the rack for the second load soon to be hung. 

Later in the evening, I had a plate of small bites of some of the finest cheeses Portugal has to offer, reminiscent of the cheeses in Italy. What a treat! Tom had microwave popcorn and this morning donuts with his coffee. (Darn, my guy won’t give up the junk food)! He hasn’t had a donut in a year. 

The view from the floor to ceiling glass windows and doors is breathtaking. Unfortunately, it’s been a bit hazy these past two mornings and I haven’t been able to get any clear shots of the ocean. As soon as it clears, you’ll see them here. 

See Tom’s donuts on the right in our new kitchen. Ugh!

I borrowed the above veranda photo from Gina, who visited this morning and will answer all of our questions via email. We met her a year ago when our ship docked at the pier in Funchal for the day. She picked us up from the pier showing us the island and the house. We adored her, the house, and the island.

Granite countertops, microwave, dishwasher, great gas stove and oven, and views of the mountains and the ocean when washing dishes. Once the haze lifts we’ll include more photos of views from inside the house.

Yesterday’s grocery shopping was a challenge which we’ll explain further in the days to come. Surely, in time, we’ll figure it all out. It’s all about the layout of the store, the unfamiliarity of products, reading labels, and the fact that they don’t carry some items we use. We did find unsweetened coconut flour, but not coconut oil or avocados. We’ll keep looking.

My view into the dining room while sitting on the sofa in the living room.

The bed isn’t as comfortable as the bed at Dar Aicha. It’s a reality we must accept living in other people’s houses. In time, we’ll adapt to the thinner harder mattress. 

The wood-burning fireplace in the living room. Its cool here now and warming up each day I doubt we’ll use it.

Otherwise, the house is comfortable including the leather sofa in the living room with plenty of soft and fluffy throw pillows and a coffee table which we moved closer to the sofa for our feet when lounging. 

The second living room upstairs holds less appeal for us when we love the views on the main floor. There are TVs in each living room with a few English speaking channels, mostly news. That’s fine.

The dining room where we’ll have all of our meals. Tom reset the table this morning after emptying the dishwasher.

Last night we dined at the dining room table; placemats, nice flatware, and plates. For the first time in two and a half months, we watched the show Shark Tank on my laptop while we dined. It was delightful to be back to some of our familiar routines.

We’ve made a list of errands we’ll tackle next week; a trip to a computer store (Tom needs a special screw for his laptop), a store where we can purchase a needle and thread, (Tom ripped his Travel Smith shirt pocket when we were at the airport. With the right color of thread, I can easily sew it).  

Also, we need to find a health food store and a health club for me. It appears all of this may be possible in Madeira. There are numerous shopping malls.

In time, we’ll visit some of the popular tourist spots; the farmer’s market, the shops along the sea, the mountains, mainly revolving around amazing scenery. 

The view from the opposite side of the dining room toward the sea.

The island is breathtaking with us situated at a prime location to enjoy the views. Although not isolated, we are within 30 minutes of anything we’d like to see, restaurants and shopping. The people are friendly and oddly, the communication is not as difficult as I’d thought it might be. The Portuguese language has similarities to Spanish which I understand well enough to manage. 

The problem I experienced at the grocery store yesterday as tired as I was, I kept saying “grazie” (Italian), “merci” (French) and “obrigada” (for thank you, one of few words I know so far in Portuguese) with a little English throw in.  It was confusing when my brain wasn’t working well anyway due to the exhaustion. 

Tom’s view from his spot on the sectional sofa. Once it warms up a little, we’ll surely spend time sitting on these lawn chairs.

It takes time to fully embrace a new country and find our way around especially when Gina told us not to bother to use “navigation.” It doesn’t work well on the island of Madeira as we’ve already observed when Google maps aren’t able to readily pinpoint locations. We’ll figure it out. We always do with Tom’s amazing sense of direction.

Over the upcoming 75 days, we’ll continue to post daily with more house photos (today we’ve included the main floor only) and many photos of our exploration of this lovely island. Stay tuned.

Photo from one year ago today, May 17, 2013:

As the mercenaries boarded the ship one year ago today carrying the “package” in order to protect us in the event that pirates attempted to board.  Over a period of days, we had several “pirate drills” to prepare passengers in case of an “event.” Last year a movie with Tom Hanks, Captain Philips, was a true story of just such an incident in the Gulf of Aden.  Pirating in this area has continued as recently as January 2014. Many passengers said they wouldn’t have gone on the cruise had they known of the risk. For us, it added to the experience and we felt safe. Miles out at sea, we were surrounded and protected by several military ships escorting us through the dangerous Gulf of Aden.For details of the story, please click here.

Two days ago, on May 15, 2014, the US State Department issued a warning to US citizens and others not to travel to Kenya, mentioning Diani Beach, the area in which we lived for three months, from September 2, 2013 to November 30, 2013. We chose to live in Kenya for the opportunity to go to the Maasai Mara on safari which was number one on my bucket list. 

Thank God, mission accomplished, as the most treasured experience in our travels, along with the next three months we spent living in Marloth Park, South Africa. 

Thursday, we left Africa after living in three countries for almost nine months: Kenya, South Africa, and Morocco. We are grateful for the experiences and for our continued safety during the entire period. When traveling to high-risk countries, one must seriously weigh the benefits and the risks and carefully consider and ensure that security measures will be implemented during the entire visit. 

We are grateful for the opportunities we’ve had and wouldn’t change a thing, even our most recent time in Marrakech, all of which round out our continually growing collection of amazing experiences.

An unreal story we never told from our time in South Africa….Newspaper story we posted one year ago today…

Still wanting to post photos after our “staying in” weekend, we walked the steep steps to the rooftop for the following shots. That’s our laundry on the clothesline which Madame washes every few days.

We hope all of our Easter observing readers had a wonderful day.  Staying indoors due to the crowds, we enjoyed another excellent Madame Zahra made Moroccan dinner minus the spices. After dinner we watched another good good movie, “The Railway Man,” worth viewing.

Hopefully today, the spring break and Easter weekend crowds will thin out and we’ll head out to the souk and Big Square for a hearty much-needed walk and dinner at one of our few favorite restaurants. We’ve exhausted all our dining options in the Medina serving non-spicy foods that Tom will eat, although I continue to order an occasional spicy tagine.

The newer model washer is located in a closet on the rooftop which we hadn’t noticed until yesterday.

As for the story we never told of a situation that occurred in South Africa, it’s not an uncommon story in certain parts of the world. Why didn’t we tell the story at that time? I suppose, we didn’t feel comfortable sharing anything negative about a country we love in so many ways while we were living there.

As time has passed, we’ve come to realize that it’s important to share this story for other travelers should they encounter similar circumstances along the way. Please understand, the telling of this story in no way diminishes our views of the wonders of South Africa or its people. 

Of the dozens of countries we’ve visited thus far, South Africa will remain in our hearts forever, which we long to visit again someday in our travels. This story is not a reflection of the people of South Africa in general, only a fraction of its society that angers and frustrates its countrymen as it did us. Here we go!

It was a beautiful day yesterday, although so windy that the plants inside the courtyard two floors below were moving in the wind.

It was January 18, 2014.  We were driving a rental car, returning from our delightful three-day stay at the Blyde River Canyon Lodge in the Blyde River area of Limpopo, South Africa. We’d had a glorious three days, but we were equally excited to return to Marloth Park to see the animals and our friends.  What a fabulous feeling, leaving one amazing place to return to an even more amazing place. We were on Cloud 9 to say the least. 

First, we were on our way to the airport in Nelspruit to return the rental car after one month’s use when the rental car company refused to extend our contract for the same rate they had charged for the first month. 

Look at that blue sky!

As a result, we decided, rather than sign up for a similar deal at another rental car company, we’d to have Okee Dokee drive us around for our remaining time in Marloth Park.  She’d captured our hearts and we decided that we’d rather put money in her pocket than a rental car company with its outrageous fees. 

We’d coordinated the trip to Blyde River to coincide with the date we were required to return the rental car. We began the drive down the mountain to make our way to the airport where Okee Dokee would meet us for the 90 minute drive back to Marloth Park. 

The household staff regularly water to plants on the rooftop as well as in the courtyard.

About an hour out of Blyde River Canyon, Tom was moving along the well-paved roads at a good clip, when suddenly a policeman stepped out onto the road signaling us to stop.

What could possibly be wrong? The first thought that entered my mind was the possibility of a customary passport check. Tom thought otherwise, suspicious that we were being stopped at the foot of a long hill where many lowering speed limit signs were posted in rapid succession.

Tom was hanging out with me on the rooftop as I shot these photos.

Tom immediately handed him our passports, waiting to see what he wanted. The cop kept asking, “When is your flight?” The reason for this question, Tom surmised, was to determine how desperate we were, the shorter the time to our flight, the more it was going to “cost us.”

Tom explained we didn’t have to fly anywhere that day and we were staying in South Africa until February 28th. Again, the cop asked, “What time is your flight?” 

Holding the camera over the high wall of the rooftop (over my head) I shot this photo of the sheltered roof of a riad next door.

When again, Tom explained that we had no flight to catch, he cop said we were being “ticketed” for speeding without providing any specifics. He had no ticket book in hand.

He proceed to explain that we’d have to go back to the nearest town to the police station to pay the fine. Still, no ticket was presented. The drive back to that town was 45 minutes each way and there was no way in the world we were going back there. 

A man in his gazebo on the roof of an adjoining house.

Okee Dokee was already on her way from Marloth Park to pick us up at the airport. Even if she hadn’t been, there was still no way we were going to drive an extra 90 minutes, spending what may have proved to been several hours in order to pay an arbitrary fine.

But, we also knew there was no way were we taking the risk of getting into a verbal altercation with the cop which could potentially get us arrested.

The little grill Madame uses when she cooks the grilled chicken on the roof.  We seldom request it since we don’t want her to have to go up there to cook.

Diplomatically, I interjected, “What would it take to avoid us going back to the police station in Hoedspruit?”

The cop paused for only a second, making a feeble attempt to make it appear as if he had no plan in mind, “Four hundred Rand,” he blurts out.

I nudged Tom whispering, “Give him the 400 Rand and let’s get out of here!”

Tom pulled out the bills while I asked facetiously, “Can we have a receipt to prove we’ve paid?”

We also discovered the water storage tanks which are hooked up to the city water supply.  We use bottled water for drinking and brushing our teeth.

The cop grumbled, “No receipt!” 

Tom was furious. It wasn’t the amount of money at US $38.09 that frosted him. It was the fact that it was a bribe. Plain and simple. 

Slowly, he pulled out back onto the road as I watched the cop put the money in his pocket his eye on us  as we drive away, perhaps looking for another “supposed” infraction.

The hot water heater is also located in a closet on the rooftop level.

When we retold this story to our Marloth Park friends, they said we should have negotiated the 400 rand down to 200 rand. But, under the circumstances, being our first “bribery” experience, we’d decided to not push our luck and be done with it. 

With this experience behind us, would we act any differently if this happened again? I don’t think so. The possibility of being arrested in a foreign county is frightening enough. 

We wished we could see over the tall wall.

Was Tom speeding?  Possibly, a small amount over the speed limit as a result of coming down the steep road.  Is that an excuse? Not at all. Were we handed a paper ticket to pay on the spot, we’d have put our tail between our legs and paid, lesson learned. 

None of us know what situations we’ll encounter when traveling outside our home country or at times, in our home country. There are many risks that we both take seriously every time we walk out the door. 

This decorator item is on the wall in the landing of the third floor.

I no longer carry a purse or wallet, keeping only a lipstick in my pocket. Tom secures his wallet with little cash in zipped and hard to reach pockets.  We each have our own credit cards should one of us be ripped off, we’d still have credit cards we can use while others were being replaced.

Each time we head out, we’re on alert for potential situations such as this. We realize and suspect that had Tom not been speeding, we could easily have been stopped anyway when no evidence of speeding was presented to us.

The steps on this brick stairway from the third to the second floor, are uneven with many of them very deep.  It surprises us how Madame Zahra easily navigates them several times each day when I gingerly make my way down.

From that point on we observed similar police “setups” at the foot of every hill, wondering who’d be their next target. Not us. We crawled the rest of the way.

So, there’s our first bribery story. It may not be our last. We carry on with the hope that we can avoid these types of situations in the future. Although, we accept the fact that nothing we can ever do or plan will make us exempt from experiencing situations such as this.

Happy Monday to all. Have a good day!


Photo from one year ago today, April 21, 2013:

All these prior photos were taken with the inexpensive Samsung camera resulting in less than ideal photos. This was the view overlooking one of the dining areas on the Norwegian Epic a few days before the storm. For details of the story from that date, please click here.

The story we posted one year ago today:


A rewarding final game drive in Kruger National Park…Tomorrow, we’ll share the most romantic bush braai ever…Photos and more photos…

Yesterday, while waiting outside the African Reunion House for our ride to the Crocodile Bridge Gate for the upcoming game drive and bush braai, we spotted this Golden Orb Spider and her web which is gold in the sunlight. The colors in the background are the designs painted on the outside of the house.  Moments after taking this photo, Tom accidentally walked into the web, taking over half of it down. I was sorry for the spider but couldn’t help but laugh as he was flailing his arms to get the web off of him. Today, she’s still hanging onto her web, although, it’s considerably smaller. 

Error correction from yesterday’s post:  With the assistance of local friends, the photo I referred to as a Duiker was actually a Bushbuck. In addition, we’ve added the names of all the bird photos in the post, three of which we didn’t know. Thanks to Lynne and Mick once again!  Please check yesterday’s post which has since been amended, by scrolling down on today’s post if you’re curious about the bird names.

Spotting wildlife, such as this wildebeest in Kruger National Park is different from the Masai Mara where we could literally drive across the bush to get up close and personal. Kruger is a combination of paved and dirt roads. Off-road driving is forbidden often preventing closeup photos unless the animals are close to or on the road. Many visitors to Kruger are able to see the Big Five close to the road at times. We did the best we could from afar. But, we were having so much fun, we weren’t disappointed. 

We’ve decided that “safari luck” presents itself in many ways. It no longer revolves around seeing the Big Five on a game drive. For us, it extends to many areas of our lives:  a good time, safe travels, avoiding snakes and other poisonous creatures, meeting new people negotiating a good price on a future vacation home, or simply having a fulfilling day.

These two hippos popped up their heads as we drove across the bridge.

It may sound as if I’m rationalizing the fact that we didn’t see any lions on last night’s game drive. Perhaps I am. But, we had a great time beginning with the moment the driver picked us up at 3:30 pm for the drive to Crocodile Gate, the entrance to Kruger National Park, when we rode along with a delightful couple from Australia, Tiffany, and John, with whom we spent most of the evening.

This baby impala was no more than a few weeks old. It was alone, lost from its mother. We watched for quite a while, hoping the mom would return, only to be saddened when she didn’t. Hopefully, another mom would adopt her which often occurs.
This baby impala, only a few weeks old, starting approaching our vehicle and Excellent shooed her off, to avoid her learning that the road was safe.

Returning home close to midnight, we were shocked at how late it was after never asking Tom the time, indicating a fabulous experience was in process. As they say, “time flies when you’re having fun.” And fun, we had. That was “safari luck.”

From a considerable distance, we spotted this Goliath Heron.

A total of eight guests loaded into the game vehicle once we arrived in the park, all the rest of whom were residents of Marloth Park who definitely know how to have a good time. 

This muddy cape buffalo watched us approach.

Annoyed by our presence, he and a few other Retired Generals moseyed on down the road, taking their time.

Endless comments and laughter ensued in the vehicle during the three and a half hours of the drive. Our guide and driver, Excellent (yep, that’s his name) was not only informative but very entertaining. At times, we were all singing “oldies.

This giraffe’s cheeks were filled with vegetation she’d gathered from the treetops. What appears to be horns at the top of a giraffe’s head is called ossicones which are hairy at the ends in the female and bald at the ends in the male. The males use the ossicones in fighting during the mating season, which wears off the hairs.

Nope, we didn’t see lions or leopards, two of the Big Five. But, we did see three of the Big 5: rhinos (at too far of a distance for photos), elephants, and cape buffaloes, as shown in the photos here today. We were content with that. 

 Often birds sit atop high bare branches on the lookout for food.
Later, we’ll post the names of these birds after doing some research. 
 Although we enjoy taking photos of birds, we seldom know what they are which is frustrating. Our guide Excellent, pointed out many varieties. We’ve found it difficult to remember the names of each of the birds to match with our photos. Many bird enthusiasts keep paper and pen handy.

At around 7:30, we drove into the bush braai area for the one-day-late-due-to-rain romantic Valentine’s Day Bush Braai, hosted by Louise and Danie, an event we’ll always remember. 

As the sun began to set, we spotted these elephants and a baby.
In many areas in Kruger National Park, many of the trees have been taken down by the elephants. However, they leave the Marula tree intact since it bears fruit that they eat. In South Africa, a popular after-dinner liqueur is Amarula (the letter a is added to the beginning of the word to connote the liqueur, not the fruit) which was served last after the romantic bush braai. Laden with sugar, once again, I had to pass on this drink. Tom thoroughly enjoyed both of ours.

Tomorrow, we’ll post photos of what we’d imagine being the most extraordinary bush braai ever held in South Africa; the food, the décor, the guests, and the experience of being surrounded by lions, hippos, elephants and more, while “‘Lucky,” a military guard with a rifle and spotlight, continually scanned the perimeter to ensure our safety.

The vultures, checking for dinner at the end of the day.

A safe evening in the dark with wild animals all around us in itself is “safari luck” which surely we experienced on this special day!

This was only the beginning as the sun began to set giving all of us the opportunity to take photos of the most amazing sunset that we’ve seen in our almost three months in South Africa, all of which we’ll share tomorrow along with photos of the romantic bush braai. Amazing!

Scary incident while out last night….Four guys, a driver and us…

Tom likes Tusker beer, a local brew, usually at KES $300, US $3.52, per liter when ordered at a bar or in a restaurant. What’s with that look on his face?

Dining out on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays have been an excellent balance for us. Overall, the food has been good, the service consistently good and the ambiance in most cases, ideal with most resorts located on the Indian Ocean.

The cool ocean breezes with fewer mosquitoes with the strong breezes (in most cases) and with someone else doing the cooking and cleanup dining out has been a welcomed relief, spaced out for these specific days of the week.

Last night, before the power, went out at The Cave.

Yesterday, we’d decided to give Ali Barbour’s The Cave Restaurant another try after a first mediocre meal in September, shortly after we’d arrived at Diani Beach. Last night’s meal was hardly disappointing, pleasantly surprising both of us with well seasoned, beautifully presented, and delicious meals. 

My dinner ranked in the top three on my list of favorite meals in Kenya. Tom, “Mr. Meat and Potatoes” was also pleased with his meal. Definitely requiring one more return to The Cave in our remaining 17 days before leaving on November 30th. 

The Cave, after the power went out which came back on promptly after the generators were started.

True to our expectations as described in yesterday’s post, we didn’t receive our drinks until 15 minutes after being seated and we waited no less than 30 minutes after requesting our bill. The restaurant was busy. We waited patiently. 

The power had gone out twice during our dinner to be restored within a few minutes by the use of a generator. It’s not unusual for the power to go out in Kenya. We didn’t flinch.

Our bill after tipping the server came to a total of KES $4600, US $54.51 with a remaining tip to pay for the shuttle driver that had picked us up (20 minutes earlier than planned) and would be returning us home.

The fresh flowers at the base of the lantern at our table.

Walking up the uneven stone steps to the reception area, we found four other patrons awaiting a ride, a group of male 20 somethings who’d apparently had a good time based on their loud banter and pushy behavior. 

Speaking in a language we didn’t understand, it was obvious they were annoyed with having to wait for a few minutes for the shuttle driver to return from another drop-off. Tom and I had seen these four guys only minutes earlier in the dining area. They couldn’t have been waiting for more than five minutes.

Sitting in the living-room-like reception area, all facing one another, Tom and I were prepared for a wait. The Maasai restaurant greeter also sat in this area trying to appease the four impatient guests as they obviously grumbled over a potentially short wait. 

Tom’s dinner of Beef Stroganoff (no noodles), fries, and ketchup.  Yep, he ate the bread in the basket to which I made no comment or facial expression.

Within two minutes of sitting down, they instructed the Maasai greeter to call them a taxi. He made the call explaining the taxi would arrive in five minutes Apparently, they spoke English. They had chosen to forgo the complimentary shuttle to bring them back to their hotel.

We both thought, “Oh, good. When the driver returns, he can take us.” In less than a minute, the shuttle driver returned and the Maasai greeter explained in Swahili that the four guys had requested a taxi. The shuttle driver motioned to us to get into the awaiting van, as he opened the sliding door. We complied.

Bolting out of the parking lot in an obvious hurry, we flew down the long bumpy road from the ocean to the highway, as we heard the driver talking on his cell phone. Almost at the highway on the narrow road, with no place to turn around, the driver, not saying a word to us, began driving backward to return to the restaurant. 

This is the protein portion of my dinner, a shrimp cocktail on a bed of crisp cabbage. It was the best shrimp cocktail I’ve had in years.  The veggie portion of my dinner is in the below photo.

I must admit, he drove well going backward such a long distance on the bumpy narrow road.  Had it been me in such a hurry, I’d have been all over the road driving backward. Tom would have done as well as him.

We assumed that the driver was called to return to the restaurant to pick up other guests when, in fact, the four guys had decided they didn’t want to wait a couple more minutes for the “already on its way” taxi. This obviously infuriated the driver, who began apologizing to us to which we both said, “hakuna matata” which translates to “no problem or no worry” in English.

The four guys piled into the van requiring Tom to get out to let them in the back seats. I stayed put, suddenly feeling a need to put my seat belt on. The driver was speaking to the four guys in both Swahili and English explaining that “you can’t cancel a taxi after it’s on its way. You still have to pay.”

This grilled veggie platter was heavenly, cooked to perfection, seasoned with local spice, and grilled with a light glaze of olive oil and butter.  The white rectangles are slices of imported Parmesan cheese.  What a meal!  I ate every morsel of both dishes.

The four guys didn’t respond well to his comments as the driver continued to explain that they’d still have to pay the taxi, giving him the money to bring back to the taxi driver in the amount of KES $500, US $5.86. They refused. They all became very irritated.

At this point the driver turned around, as he’s driving down the unlit main road at a high speed, asking us if it was OK if he dropped the four guys off first and then head to our house. Again, we said, “hakuna matata.”  Again, he thanked us profusely.

The chatter back and forth escalated during the 10-minute drive to the hostel (not hotel) where the four guys were staying. Once arriving at the hostel, the van driver insisted they pay the 500 schillings, and again, they refused, saying they’d pay KES $300, US $3.52. They exited the van, loudly grumbling with tempers flaring. 

The van driver explained that he’d have to pay the taxi driver for him taking his fare by van, instead of using the ordered taxi. We didn’t blame him for his frustration. What a bunch of jerks!

This is Tom’s foot next to the largest semi-poisonous millipede we’ve seen since arriving in Kenya. Tom with his frequent verbal slips continually refers to these common creatures as “minipedes.” Not so mini, Tom Lyman. He scooped it into the dustpan placing it back into the yard. It will be back. Can you imagine stepping on that in bare feet during the night? Is it any wonder that I put my moccasins in the bed with me?

During this period, with the multiple language barriers and Tom’s hard of hearing issues (after 42 years on the railroad), he had a hard time determining what was transpiring, other than the visual on the angry driver and the four guys. 

It was clear enough to me. My concern escalated along with their tempers. Was a fight about to break out? Was someone going to pull a knife or a gun? We were trapped in the vehicle. I recalled that after we’d arrived at the restaurant, that the door to the van could only be opened from the outside after we tried to open it several times from the inside. 

Again, in a flash, the driver turned to us apologizing. This time, we didn’t say “hakuna matata.”  Instead, Tom said, “Let’s go,” in a non-threatening manner. Hesitating for a moment, the driver weighed his options, either stay and turn this into a nightmare or, leave. We waited for his decision. He looked from the guys, to us in the back seat and made a decision. 

He left, speeding crazily down the bumpy dirt road back to the main road.

Sighing a sigh of relief, we were ecstatic to be on our way, although his angry driving made us wonder if we’d make it back in one piece. Again, a sigh of relief, escaped my breath, as we approached our first security gate and then our second where Jeremiah, our guard, waited for us unlocking the gate and letting us in.

Finally back in our outdoor living room at 10:00 pm, Jessie and Gucci at our sides, I decided to go to bed. With the days of rain last week, the mosquito population was over the top and I hardly felt like changing into my BugsAway clothing. Then, Tom spotted this giant “minipede” (actually a millipede), scooping it up, placing it back in the yard. (See above photo).

The comfort and safety of the mosquito netting around the bed, the overhead fan, and a new book downloaded to my smartphone, I was content to call it a day. Tom, on the other hand, quickly changed into his BugsAway clothing, grabbed his laptop to stay outside for another hour.

My last thought before tucking my phone and my flashlight under my pillow and nodding off, “Whew!