Camp Olonana Sanctuary Retreat…Our final review…

For interior and exterior photos of our tents, veranda, and the grounds, please see our post from October 10, 2013.
It was hard to say goodbye to the staff at Camp Olonana Sanctuary Retreat after the extraordinary stay and safari.


The lodge was an invited place for us to sit, sip beverages and post our photos and stories.  With no Internet access in the tents but available at no charge in the lodge, we spent most of our limited spare time in here.


The library in the lodge also had a fire going each night creating a warm environment.


The dining room’s ambiance was easy going and welcoming.


The lounge area in the lodge was a short distance from the dining room provided a homey feel, eased us into a relaxed state after a busy day on safari.  Notice the beaded plate decorations, most likely handmade by the local Maasia.


One evening, as we were busy posting after dinner, the staff and guests began dancing around the lodge to celebrate a couple’s anniversary.  It was an intimate group with no more than a 16 guests on site while we were there. (The camp holds a maximum of 28 guests). With a little prodding from the staff, we joined in the line.


 The singing and laughter filled the air as all of the diners stood up to dance.


The tables were always set with the local flair.
 

When the cost to dine in a restaurant, stay in a hotel, resort or, in this case, a safari camp exceeds one’s preferences and budget, there’s an expectation of perfection that is rarely achieved in the finest of establishments.
 
After all, the unexpected is to be expected, whether it’s dust on a window sill, a lack of fresh towels or an inexperienced server fumbling a food order, perfection is unrealistic. 
 Windblown, with hat hair, at dinner each evening we wore our daytime safari clothes, feeling too tired to change.  Also, arriving from safari between 6:30 and 7:00 pm, food was more important than fresh clothing.
 
And yet, us humans lie in wait, with the best of intentions, to observe a wrongdoing that may potentially burst that bubble of expectation.  Then we think or say, “Ah, that wasn’t worth it, for the extra money we paid.”
 
When we began our travels almost one year ago, we mutually agreed that we’d temper our expectations in order to have the best possible outcome without whining, complaining or looking for compensation to offset an infraction, except in the rarest of cases. 
The gift shop had a wide array of souvenirs and gifts, none of which we purchased with no room in our bags as we continue on our world travels.
 
More gifts and souvenirs in the gift shop.


There were jackets, hats and clothing in the shop.

Outside the gift shop was a Maasai shopping area, displaying the many well made and  colorful items typical of the Maasai.
 
For example, when we had little to no running water during our first week in Belize, giving us no alternative but to leave, we did ask and expect a refund for the unused portion of time that we’d paid in advance. It never came.
 
Again in Belize at our new location, a lovely ocean front resort, the steps collapsed under our feet causing us both to fall resulting in injuries taking weeks to heal, we asked for nothing. 
On the second night at camp as we were finishing up yet another safari, Anderson took what appeared to be a new route back over unpaved bush areas.  Bouncing about, we all giggled over the new route wondering why we were taking this route. With the gates to the reserve locking at 6:30 pm, we were late getting out. We’d assumed this new route was a way around going through the gates. Instead, suddenly we saw this campfire, to be surprised by everyone at camp, all guests and most staff were awaiting our arrival that tonight was the ritual “dinner in the bush” a total surprise for the 6 of us.

 The Maasai villagers were in attendance to sing and dance before or dinner as we all sat in a half moon of comfortable chairs, enjoying appetizers and beverages, sharing our various safari stories. 
 
The well built and maintained property had wooden steps to our unit that had deteriorated due to the close proximity to the ocean with the raging heat and humidity, unnoticeable to the eye under normal inspection.  Management was very concerned over our injuries and asked what they could do for us.  We asked only that the steps be repaired immediately, which was completed the next day. 
 
In the US, this may have resulted in an ambulance ride and a potential lawsuit.  In Belize at our remote location, a treacherous four hour car ride to a medical facility prevented us from seeking medical care when we knew we had no broken bones.  We’d decided to wait and see how we felt in a few days.  It wasn’t easy but in time with self care, we healed.
Look at my plate at the “bush dinner!” It was exciting to know that most of the meat and vegetables were within my dietary constraints, all prepared to perfection, seasoned with local spices.  Once again, great job Chef Ambrose!
Taking these experiences with us, confirmed our notion that optimism and a pleasant attitude would serve us well, even if the servers do not. (No pun intended).
 
When booking our expensive ($5000 for two, all inclusive) 3 day stay and safari at Camp Olonana Sanctuary Retreat, once again, we tempered our expectations.  If our tent was clean and comfortable, if the WiFi was working, if the meals complied with my restrictive diet (which information I’d sent in advance by email), if the staff was friendly and helpful and, if we saw most of The Big Five, we’d be happy.
 
After the bush dinner, we posed for a photo, although after a day on safari, I hardly felt photo ready.  Tom’s face was sunburned from the almost 8 hours we spent on safari that day, exposed to the elements, loving every minute.  We couldn’t wait to put our clothing in the dirty laundry hamper to be washed, dried and folded to perfection that were returned to our tent the same evening.  This service was included in the all inclusive pricing.
Little did we know that literally every aspect of this safari experience at Camp Olonana Sanctuary Retreats including activities, meals and accommodations far surpassing even our wildest dreams of perfection. 
 
They had it down to a science to not only include the systematic flow for each guest from event to event, location to location but they excelled by adding a unique personal touch never to be found at any facility of any type thus far in our travels, if not in our lives.
 
In minutes upon our arrival, every staff member knew our names.  Within an hour they knew our preferences, our preferred drinks, our unique needs and special requirements.
My salad at dinner on the second night was drizzled with an olive oil balsamic dressing Chef Ambrose made for me.  It was divine.
Knowing we were writers with considerable electronic equipment, they’d set up a power source in our tent available around the clock, although outlets normally were turned off most of the time, only leaving lights working. This consideration meant the world to us, especially with the necessity of recharging our cameras and computers.
 
The staff seamlessly and discretely observed ours and the other guest’s actions and comments with the hope of discovering a way to further enhance our stay.  This was unique. From William, the booking rep;  Joseph, our tent attendant; Ambrose, the chef;  Conscientious Concierge Christine; restaurant server, Philip. and of course, our guide Anderson, the service was impeccable.
Tom’s appetizer was a creamy mushroom sauce atop a slice of buttery toasted homemade
French bread, topped with an over-medium free range egg.  He moaned while eating it. Yea, I know, an occasional piece of bread crosses his lips when dining out, never at “home.” The next morning at breakfast on our last day, Chef Ambrose explained when making our omelets, that I could top my omelet with this creamy mushroom sauce which was made with real cream, not flour. Then, I knew why Tom was moaning over this appetizer!
With no phones in the luxuriously designed and spacious tents, a personal visit from staff informed us of any events or event changes.  Communication was imminent and well spoken always friendly and warm.
 
The grounds were spotless, the vegetation prolific.  An eco friendly environment with multiple systems in place to save energy costs and wastefulness, Camp Olonana Sanctuary Retreat had few bugs, few mosquitoes, and no refuse or clutter to attract them. 
On the first night, we both had the same entrée, a grilled sirloin steak atop a medley of sautéed vegetables. Tender, cooked exactly as requested, this steak required only a butter knife to cut it. Neither of us had appetizers or dessert that evening after having had lunch earlier in the day upon arrival.
At night, there were guards to escort us to our tents, a fairly long but refreshing walk from the lodge.  Holding flashlights, they led the way, expressing interest in the quality of our stay.  Never for one moment, did we feel unsafe, not at the camp or on safari.  The utmost of precaution was exercised at all times, leaving enough freedom for creativity and challenge.
 
The food?  As fine as any upscale restaurant but made fresh each meal using produce from their garden, grass fed meats and freshly caught fish.  Nothing was spared in the careful and creative presentation as was in the finest use of local spices to enhance flavors. 
This was Tom’s dinner on the last night, pork chops piled high atop a pile of sautéed vegetables, fresh green beans and baby corn.
Chef Ambrose went overboard in ensuring my meals were safely within the range of my restricted diet while ensuring that I never felt my meal was inferior in any manner to that being served to Tom or other guests.  (He splurges when we’re out, eats as I do when we’re cooking).
 
As for the safari itself, what more can I say that we haven’t already said in these many prior post?  Anderson…a gift from the safari Gods!  If we’d have made a list of a what we’d expect in a perfect safari, we’d have shortchanged ourselves.  We got so much more.
My dinner was a cheese stuffed chicken breast, atop a bed of sautéed vegetables with fresh green beans with a chicken based flourless reduction sauce to die for.  I removed the baby
corn to a separate unused plate. I had forgotten to tell Chef Ambrose that I can’t eat corn, knowing it wouldn’t cause a problem for me having been on the plate to be removed.  Had it been a gluten based item, I would have required a entirely new plate of food.  With a
gluten intolerance, the smallest spec on a plate can result in a serious reaction which Chef Ambrose was well aware. 
From the fluffy pillows and soft blankets on our seats in the Land Cruiser to the ice cold cooler always filled to the brim with our preferred beverages, nothing could have been more to our liking. 
 
To Conscientious Concierge Christine greeting us each time, on time, as we returned from safari, handing each of us an iced cold tightly rolled wash cloth to wipe the dust from our hands and faces,  to Anderson, not only providing a mind blowing safari twice a day but to his obvious joy to take us out one more time.
My nightly dessert of fine cheese and Kenya grown cashews and macadamia nuts. The night of the “bush dinner” Chef Ambrose had remembered to bring these items for my dessert, as the only guest in camp unable to eat the traditional desserts. Wow!
At night the sound of the hippos outside our tent as they languished in the Mara River was music to our ears.  The cool nights at 5000 feet above sea level, left us warmly wrapped in the finest of down comforters encased in high count Egyptian cotton sheets. 
 
The over-sized fluffy bath towels, the robes, and the organic toiletries for our use only added more luxury to our stay.  The  glass bottles of an ample supply of purified water was always at our fingertips.  Joseph delivered fresh coffee to our tent early each morning to also serve as a subtle wake up call for our 6:30 am safari time.

Tom’s homemade brownie dessert topped with a caramel sauce and dollop of real whipped cream. He said it was fabulous!

To simply say that we recommend Camp Olonana Sanctuary Retreat, does a disservice to those seeking this life changing adventure.  For many, a safari is a once in a lifetime experience with memories that will last forever. 

One must not take the risk of choosing anything less than an opportunity to fulfill that dream with the utmost of expectation, the utmost of amenities, the utmost of service and to our surprise, the utmost of perfection.

One last photo as we drove away.  Goodbye Camp Olonana Sanctuary Retreat.
Thank you, Camp Olonana Sanctuary Retreat. Thank you for making this dream a reality.  We still can’t wipe the smile off of our faces.
 
Note:  Tomorrow, we’ll be wrapping up our final safari post with new photos, our return flight in yet a smaller single engine plane and some amazing scenery photos that Tom took using the little camera.
 
In the interim, more photos and stories are backing up as life continues on, while living in Diani Beach, Kenya.  We’re looking forward to sharing these with you beginning on Saturday, October 19, 2013 at which time we’ll have exactly 6 weeks until we pack once again and make our way to Mpumalanga, South Africa.  

Tanzania…To see the tail end of the Great Migration…

 

It was difficult to fathom the massive size of this older male elephant we encountered as we began the drive to Tanzania
Later, we came across this mom and baby, the smallest of the baby elephants we’d seen in any of the prior days.
The drive to Tanzania offered stunning scenery with low lying clouds.

 

Hanging partway out the window of the sturdy Toyota Land Cruiser, I took this shot as Anderson made our way over terrain definitely not suited for road vehicles.
Gradually, the scenery began to change to include the migrating wildebeest, many of whom had yet to make the journey back to the Serengeti.  Anderson explained they will continue on, instinctively finding their way to the large herds of millions.

 

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


Vultures love the Great Migration for the carcasses more readily available with the massive numbers of wildebeests falling prey to illness, attack, or injury in their lengthy migratory journey.

 

The closer we were to the Kenya/Tanzania border, everything changed; the temperature became hotter, more humid with fewer breezes, the flies clustered around us, the dust blew in our faces and eyes and the landscape became more sparse and unfriendly.

 

The wildebeest grazed for the few remaining green patches of vegetation, soon to realize that they must move on to meet up with their herds.

 

Increasing in numbers as we approached the border.

 

Although the sight of the two-plus million wildebeest would have been unbelievable, I began to wonder if doing so was as important to me as it had been in the past. It may sound as if its a rationalization for not having been able to see it but, the flies were a huge deterrent for both of us. They were flying into our noses, mouths, and ears.  It was awful.
Finally, we were able to stand at the marker that separates Kenya from Tanzania, a pose worthy opportunity for all of us.
Wildebeests, not quite as homely as warthogs held less appeal for us.  Warthogs are playful and funny.  Wildebeests, not so much.

Several years ago, as Tom and I were seated on the comfy bar stools at the  island in our kitchen in Minnesota, we watched a National geographic episode with a stunning video of the Great Migration. 

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

As we watched the two-plus million wildebeest and other migratory animals as they traveled from the Serengeti in Tanzania, crossing the winding Mara River several times, to end for the lush vegetation during the rainy season in the Masai Mara in Kenya, it proved to be a profound experience for me with my lifelong dreams of Africa.

(To see the map of Diani Beach to the Masai Mara Kenya and Tanzania, please click here).

As the show ended, I looked in Tom’s eyes and said, “I must see this in my lifetime.”   He smiled and said, “Yeah sure, Sweetie.”

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

At this point, we had yet to conceive of the idea of traveling the world, not even as a distant thought, never as words spoken to one another. In January 2012, as Tom’s retirement was fast approaching in 11 months, in a single day, in a single conversation, we made the decision. 

Our outstanding guide and new friend, Anderson. His exuded pure joy at our delight and enthusiasm to see what he sees every day, never taking it for granted, which surprised us. 

The next day, the wheels were in motion to begin to contemplate the process of liquidating everything we owned: house, cars, furnishings, clothing, winter coats, stuff, stuff, and more stuff, a lifetime of stuff.

The small herds of wildebeest continued as we worked our back on yet another long rough road back to the Masai Mara.

Night after night when Tom returned home, we sorted out the details as to how this would all transpire. During the daylight hours, I set the plan in motion. To say I worked on my computer for 8 to 10 hours a day was an understatement; searching, researching, finding, booking, committing. Relentlessly. 

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

There were two things we knew for sure:
1.  Tom wanted to sail by ship through the Panama Canal: Done on January 13, 2013.
2.  I wanted to see the Great Migration: Not completely done. But, completely satisfied for now having been on safari this past week and for having the opportunity to see the tail end of the Great Migration when Anderson drove the six of us to the border of Tanzania to witness the stragglers.

Although we were quite a distance from them, we enjoyed this photo of mom and bay making their way up a steep incline.

Cindy and David, a lovely couple, safari mates, had just returned from the full experience. We’d missed it by a week or more. Anxious to hear their reaction, I pumped them for details. Was I jealous? Not at all.   was excited to glean whatever tidbits they’d share of their glorious experience. And they did.

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

Oddly, they were not disappointed to see a portion of it again when Anderson promised to take us to see the tail end of the Migration on the third day of our safari. 

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

We’d already found the rhinos Cindy and David longed to see earlier that morning, that we had already seen and photographed the previous day when they weren’t with us. Once they had their photos, having also completed their Big 5, they gladly joined us, a feeling we well understood and appreciated.

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

The border of Kenya and Tanzania was an extraordinarily rough hour and a half drive from our location at the time in the Masai Mara.  No words can describe how rough.  The dirt and rock trail was a far cry from a road.  As the crow flies it may have been a half-hour drive. Anderson masterfully maneuvered the Land Cruiser through rock creek beds, water-filled creeks, up steep inclines, and down treacherous rocky hills.

In my old life, you couldn’t have paid me to ride along on such a road. Here I was, that sh_ _ eating grin on my face, bouncing along with the rest of us, occasionally holding Tom’s hand out of pure delight, with the unfathomable knowledge that we were on our way to another country, albeit only the border, having the times of our lives. Besides, we had the dangerous road in Belize and the more frightening road in Tuscany behind us.  We were now seasoned “road warriors.”

The closer we got to Tanzania, the flies were unbelievable. Imagine the dung of over two-plus million animals as they made their way across the same terrain we were traveling. The flies. OMG! 

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

As they attempted to fly into our mouths, our eyes, our nostrils, our ears, I tied my BugsAway hat’s hanging fabric around my face, hoping to offer some protection. For whatever reasons mosquitoes love me, flies love me more. Remember the flies in Tuscany? This was 1000 times worse! I wrapped my hands into the parka I’d worn that morning leaving no exposed skin, except for what remained of my face which you can see in the included photos.

Suddenly, something hit me.  Ah, maybe it was OK we didn’t see the Great Migration in its entirety. With the mind-blowing safari experience these past days, my desire to be in the bush was richly fulfilled, although not ended. Someday, we’ll go back. 

In the end, the flies may deter us from seeing the Great Migration after all.  I feel no disappointment or loss.  Seeing the remaining wildebeest as we neared Tanzania was enriching. Leaving Tanzania to return to the fly-free Maasai Mara was equally enriching. GET ME OUT OF HERE! I didn’t say it, not wanting to be a wimp, but I sure thought it.

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

By the time we headed back on an alternative equally rough dirt and rock road it was already 2:00 in the afternoon when we pulled into Camp Olonana. Having had breakfast the second day in the bush, I was hardly hungry for lunch, knowing we’d be having dinner after our later game drive, which we pushed to 4:30 pm instead of the usual 4:00 pm. After being in the vehicle for 7 1/2 hours, we all welcomed a little break. 

We were covered with dust and dirt.  We didn’t care.  There was no sense in cleaning up to go out on safari again in a few hours. By the time we returned from the 4:30 drive at 7:00 pm, we were exhausted and hungry, ready for dinner. 

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

We made a quick stop at our tent to pick up our laptops to post photos and to brush our teeth to get the dirt and dust out of our mouths. For either of us not to shower and change to have dinner in a restaurant was beyond us. Somehow, we didn’t care.

Another fine safari day ended.  The next day, we’d return to Diani Beach on yet a tinier plane at 1:30 pm, after our visit to the Masai Village for our tour with Chief Richard.  We’ll share that story in a few days with many photos and surprising facts about these interesting tribespeople, living a sparse and primitive life, far removed from our own reality, to become deeply entrenched in our hearts.

But, Tom and I have decided on one extra post we’ll be presenting tomorrow that we’d intended to include with today’s post. However, after careful consideration for not only our young grandchildren and others who are enjoying looking at the animal photos, we’ve decided to present the “Romantic Lion Couple Mating Ritual.” (How did we get so lucky to observe this event?) with a warning that there are graphic mating photos to be posted tomorrow, October 15th. We’re placing a reminder in the heading should you decide to observe it. 
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We appreciate the comments as an opportunity to stay in touch “with the world” but also as an opportunity to respond to questions on the information we may have missed in posting. Feel free to check the prior day’s comment daily (some days, there aren’t any, other days there are several), perhaps inspiring you to comment as well. We don’t care if you misspell or make typos. Good grief, I make my share of typos, writing almost every day! 

 

Baby warthogs in the hole while lions waited…A kill….More photos and stories on safari…

This scene taken at quite a distance is so depicts Africa, the scattered flat-topped acacia trees in the sparse landscape, mountains at a distance, and nature as the focal point. This landscape was in an area used in a scene in the movie “Out of Africa” which I had watched many years ago, dreaming of someday being in these breathtaking surroundings. Visiting the Masai Mara to go on safari with Tom at my side was more than I could ever have imagined occurring in my lifetime. 
Warthogs, rather humorous characters, kneel on their front legs while grazing. 

Some may say that warthogs are not worthy of many photos, but our safari group found them to be interesting, attentive, and totally fearless of us as provided we didn’t make sudden movements.
Early in the morning, we spotted this mother warthog nudging her babies along.  We squealed with delight along with them as they scurried along.  Anderson stopped the vehicle so we could watch, as we noted a few lions in wait in the directions she was headed. At this point, we were quite far away resulting in a less than perfect shot.
Each morning at 6:30 am sharp, we’d pile into the Land Cruiser without a plan, Anderson at the wheel, to go on the search for the next great sighting, the next great photo. With a cooler filled with chilled beverages, including beer, and on two mornings, a picnic basket filled with scrumptious breakfast goodies made fresh only minutes ago, off we went, expectations at peak levels.
Up and over a hill they went, mother warthog yet to see the lions that watched from afar.

We were never disappointed, especially not after seeing that which we’ll continue to share over the next several days including, our warthogs/lions story with photos today.

This young male lion lay in wait as he kept his eye on the warthog babies, a more manageable meal than the adult warthog.
The air was cool and crisp at 5000 feet above sea level this early in the day.  We’d brought along jackets, putting them on only minutes into the drive as the cool wind whipped in our faces as we bounced along the rough roads. 
Anderson explained that the female lions do most of the hunting to later have their kill taken over by a nearby awaiting male. Fortunately, when no male is within sight, she can keep the kill for herself and her cubs. The male lion after mating leaves the female to continue his life, although he may hover in the area of his family in order to partake of her kills.
I wore a BugsAway hat while on safari for a few reasons, one to keep my hair from obstructing my view and two, to keep insects away from my face and neck. The entire time in the Masai Mara both Tom and I wore our BugAway clothing
day and evening.
Difficult to see all the action, the mother warthog pushed her babies into a hole in the area of these bushes, often left by aardvarks. Mother warthog couldn’t also fit in the hole, thus she stood back a distance from her secured babies.
Complimentary laundry service was provided by Camp Olonana allowing us to wear fresh clothing each day.  Covered with dirt and dust by the day’s end there was no way to wear the same pants and shirt more than once. Freshening up before dinner each night wasn’t an option when we returned to camp around 7:00 pm. We just stayed in our dusty clothes from the safari, wearing fresh the next day.
Mother warthog stood back a safe distance from the lions, hoping her little ones would be spared if the lions were eventually distracted by a more meaty opportunity. Anderson explained we could wait all day to see what would transpire. Note the two other safari vehicles in the background, its occupants also entranced by this worrisome event. Both Tom and I had accepted that we may see an actual kill in the wild, which we eventually did realize it’s all a part of the life cycle.
Dressing up for dinner wasn’t important to us.  All we wanted was to be on safari, eat when necessary, sleep enough to refresh us, post what we could get online, and revel in our surroundings every single moment.  That’s exactly what we did.
” I’m getting bored sitting here waiting for these mere appetizers. Let’s move onto something bigger and juicier,” lion says.
The female lion scans the area as she waits for the baby warthogs to reappear.
 
The male lion continues his wait for the warthog babies to appear.
 The female lion never loses interest in the possible kill while the male languishes appearing bored and disinterested until there’s some “real action.”
Many others hadn’t been out for as many hours as we had. Anderson was determined to give us the time of our lives.  Most visitors went on a three-hour morning drive and a two-hour late afternoon drive. 
“I’ve had it,” the male lion says. “You’re on your own, Misses.”
This schedule left the guests time for lounging by the pool, sitting on their verandas overlooking the river, and dining on three meals a day of fabulous food. We barely had two meals a day and, the entire time at Camp Olonana, we rested on our veranda for less than one hour total. We didn’t care.
We never failed to be excited to see an elephant, their massive size and majesty continuing to astound us.
Elephant family on the move. Mom is holding up the rear, keeping a watchful eye on her offspring.
For us, it was almost eight hours each day on safari, a rare treat, appreciated by our safari mates, of which there were two on one day and four on the other days.  None of us couldn’t get enough. 
  Male lion taking a break from his zebra meal.We shot this photo within 25 to 30 feet.
We were the only pair in our group never missing a game drive, except for the commitment we’d made to visit the Masai Village at 10:30 in the morning on the day we flew back to Diani Beach. 
An extraordinary experience in itself, we’re grateful we didn’t miss the visit with Chief Richard and his extended family. (We’ll share photos and the story of the Maasai’s sparse lifestyle in the next few days, for which I wrote notes on my smartphone while flying back on the tiny plane to ensure I didn’t forget a tidbit).
  He opened his eyes, giving us a toothy grin. He didn’t seem concerned, we were close, but we were quiet and nonthreatening.
The story of the warthogs and lions will be told in the captions in the photos included here. 
 Zebras are common in the bush. We’ll have plenty of Zebra photos when we live in South Africa in less than two months, where they’ll visit almost every day.
 We often saw giraffes hanging out in groups.
 
Occasionally, we noticed a lone giraffe, perhaps hoping to find the others in her group.
Another cape buffalo, a Retired General, abandoned by the herd when he didn’t win the battle for dominance, left to his own devices. These lost souls, all bachelors, hang out in numbers for safety from lions.

 

A male impala based on the black striped on its hind end, a graceful animal, one of many in the deer/antelope family. There were many varieties, often hard to distinguish one from another.

Later in the day,  from a distance, we spotted a pride of lions, a mother, and her cubs lounging under the shade of a tree. Little did we know until Anderson drove us within 20 feet, that they had a kill they were voraciously working over. 

Mom growled in seeming happiness over her successful hunting day, without a single male in view to confiscate their meal.
We must have stayed in that spot for an hour, quietly savoring every moment of the manner in which they shared their meal, the way the mother tended over her cubs with her own needs secondary as well as the playful demeanor they exhibited when taking a break.
Life is good.

 

The cubs took a break to relax.

 

Moments later they were back at their meal again.

 

The cubs enjoyed the meal while mom stayed back keeping an eye out for danger.
“Eating is exhausting.  I think I’ll rest for a minute or two.”
Finally, mom steps in for a bite.

 

Is someone coming to steal the kill? Mom constantly stays on the lookout.
Cubs sharing.

 

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

 

Noisy night…Packing for a safari…Two days until safari…

The noises at night are rather entertaining, sounds we’ve never heard in our lives, hard to pinpoint, persistent, and seemingly unwieldy. They’re not gentle sounds. 

One sound is eerie that I mentioned in a past post. It sounds like the music from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Click here for the scene from the movie with the five-note sound.

We don’t hear it every night, only two or three times a week. No one knows what it is nor do they question it. When I first heard it the second night here, I couldn’t help but wonder what it was. It continued until dawn. 

It began last night it began at dusk, finally stopping when I awoke at 6:00 am. Oddly, at this point, I almost welcome the peculiar familiarity of this sound among the many other sounds of the night.  

Perhaps, these sounds are in preparation for the new (to us) sounds that we’ll be hearing outside our tent beginning on Saturday night.  How exciting!

The packing has begun for our safari. Most would think, throw some khaki pants, shirts and boots in a duffel bag and we’ve got it covered. Not so quick!

There’s more to it for us.  Here’s our list:

  • Epipens for possible bee sting
  • Tylenol PM (just in case)
  • Malaria pills
  • Business cards
  • BugsAway pants, shirt, hats
  • Underwear & tee shirts
  • Pills cases for everyday pills
  • Bug lotion
  • Boots
  • Socks
  • Shoes to wear when not on safari (boots too heavy)
  • Sunglasses
  • 2 cameras + cords
  • 2 laptops
  • Chargers: laptops, cameras, phone, MiFi, Hotspot
  • MiFi and Hotspot
  • Smartphones (for books to read)
  • Toiletries (bare minimum)
  • Clothes to change into at night if dining in the dining room during bad weather.  If dining in the bush, we’ll wear BugsAway clothing
  • Plugs and adapters for 220 (which we use everyday)
  • Binoculars
  • Waterproof parkas
  • Passports, Kenya visa, ID

There isn’t one item on the above list that we can exclude. Plus, it won’t be as if we’re at a hotel where we can buy supplies in the gift shop. We’ll be in a tent with a nearby lodge.

All the above does not fit in our one duffel bag. We’ve added two cloth bags for overflow We were instructed not to bring any suitcase-shaped bags, even if soft sided. In the small plane there’s no overhead compartments and everything needs to be neatly tucked away.

Tomorrow, we’ll take a photo of our packed bags to share here. Hesborn will return our dry laundry tomorrow with a few items to top off the bags. 

At this point, we haven’t decided if we’re going out today or even out to dinner tonight. We have produce to use before we go (waste not, want not) and plenty of steaks on hand if we decide to dine in. I have accounting work to update today and will be content to sit in our outdoor living room, ice tea in hand, my guy only steps away and something exciting to anticipate.

The power just went out again. I’d better hurry and post this or my laptop will run out of juice. That’s life in Kenya.

 

X-Ray views of our travel jackets…

It would be no exaggeration to say that I have spent no less than 20 hours searching online for travel jackets for both Tom and me.  Our goals were simple: functional, all weather, comfortable, affordable and attractive. 

After the first 10 hours, I threw “affordable” and possibly “attractive” out the window.  When buying coats and jackets for us over the years, I’ve always relished in the search for the $500 jacket on sale for $195, throwing a 20% coupon in the mix for a great jacket purchased for a grand total of $156. 
With no sales tax on clothing in Minnesota, we’d be thrilled with the total acquisition cost, wearing the jacket over several years.  As a good “laundress” I’d be able to wash and dry them each year in order for them to look like new for the following year.  

Tiring of our jacket years later, long before they’d wear out, we’d donate them pleased to know that the recipient could enjoy many more years of wear. On occasion, a treasured well-fitting, good looking jacket would remain in the closet for years to come. We struggled to let it go. Would we ever wear it again? Probably not. But the attachment remained.

In frigid Minnesota, one becomes particularly attracted to warm, comfortable, functional jackets that when donned, provide us with a feeling of who we really are, or in some cases, who we’d really like to be.  Funny how an article of clothing, an inanimate object, can do that.
When the search for jackets began months ago, I took it quite seriously.  Tom poo pooed jacket after jacket that I had sent to his inbox.  At night after work, as he’d peruse upwards of 100 email jokes that had filtered in throughout the day, he’d see a subject line from me, reading, “Honey, I found your jacket! Look at this one!”

My heart sank each time he shook his head saying, “Naw, not this one.”  After awhile, I gave up asking why he didn’t like my most recent find. His answer never brought me one step closer to finding what he would like.  

I suppose it’s not unlike falling in love we just do. It’s the way that wispy chunk of silky hair falls over their right eye, the flash of white teeth in a winsome smile, or the laugh, so frequent, so sincere, that makes us fall in love. Over time, the wisp of hair becomes dull and gray, the teeth yellowed but that laugh endures, and we stay in love. I speak from experience.

Finding him a jacket he’d love “matters” to me, as he “matters” to me. Patiently the search continued.  Somehow I felt that once I found a jacket for Tom, one for me would naturally follow.   
Early on in the search, I discovered Scottevest, a travel wear company dedicated to quality and function, offering jackets with “zillions” of hidden pockets.  This concept appealed to both of us, especially during the times we have no alternative but to fly. 

With multiple pockets suited to technological gear, there are hidden plackets for headsets, chargers and devices. Very interesting!
Tom didn’t like the “look” of the available lightweight options for him, although I was drawn to The Molly in black. From time to time I’d send him information about the Standard Jacket to no response. 

Signing up at the Scottevest website to receive daily email on discounted items, last month he reluctantly agreed to the Windbreaker. I purchased a size large for him in olive along with a size small for me in blue.  With the then 20% off discount, these unisex 17 pocket jackets would serve us well most of the time, at only $60 each.  

Folding inside themselves for easy packing was an appealing feature that unfortunately requires an engineering degree. At this point we haven’t taken the time to figure this out.  Other fish to fry.  
Thus remained the task of finding a slightly heavier jacket for those cool days at sea and chilly mornings in Africa on safari.

As the search continued off and on, often days in between, an email popped into my inbox last week, offering a number of jackets at 40% off. (If interested in this sale click this link which was extended until midnight tonight but doesn’t allow for returns. BTW, we have nothing to do with the promotion or marketing of this company or their products).

And wouldn’t you know, The Molly and the Standard Jacket were both included in the sale. At last, Tom relented, finally realizing that the look may not be perfect, but the function of this 20 pocket jacket would serve him well in many ways. I ordered black for both of us in each of our chosen styles.  

Fearful they wouldn’t fit, resulting in having to resell them on eBay, I anxiously awaited their arrival.  Two days later, the package arrived.  Tom, exhausted from work and distracted, didn’t try his on until Friday night when I did the same. His recent weight loss made the size consideration tricky as this was a more fitted jacket than the Windbreaker that we had previously purchased.

Alas!  We were both thrilled with the perfect fit in each of our jackets and at last, Tom seemed content with this decision, partially due to price, partly due to practicality, partly due to the 20 pockets and perhaps, a tiny piece, to end my relentless search freeing me to attend to other tasks, only one month and six days from departure.

Boots, illness updates and…figuring out our insurance needs…

Oh, the Clark’s boots!  I wanted to keep them so badly that I took them to a long established boot and shoe repair company in Wayzata, Minnesota, Bob’s Shoe Repair.  

Brian, a young, although highly skilled leather craftsmen at Bob’s was confident he could cut out three inches out of the calf of the boot, put them back together leaving me satisfied with the comfort, look and fit.  He succeeded.  Thanks Brian!

I picked them up yesterday and couldn’t be happier. The cost for the repairs: $100.  Total investment in the boots including repairs: $249.   With the promise of a great rating online, I offered the seller of the boots a five star rating, if he’d credit me the $14.95 I paid for shipping.  He immediately posted the credit to my PayPal account.

Why did I deserve a credit for the shipping? The online description of the boots indicated a 14″ calf circumference when in fact, it was 16″ resulting in the necessity of the repair. I would have been satisfied with 14″ circumference. (My outrageously skinny calves measures 12.5″).  Now, I’m beautifully repaired, I’m content.

The sinus infection I reported on two days ago is improving without seeing the doctor or taking antibiotics. The pulsating headache would have driven me to seek help had it not begun to dissipate later in the day yesterday. Today, I awakened with only a slight headache for the first time in eight days. It’s on its way out.  
Thanks, Neti Pot, Aleve, Tylenol PM at night (with acetaminophen and Benedryl), lots of water, less dairy and light activity, coupled with periods of rest, good food and the loving support and comfort from my hubby.  Now, I know I will most likely survive a sinus infection without antibiotics.

In the beginning stages of figuring out our insurance needs, I spent a few hours yesterday with our long time highly competent broker/owner of our local State Farm Insurance office, Chad Babcock.  Having worked with  State Farm for the past 40 years, we have never had a problem.  

Before we begin traveling we must address these three major insurance concerns:
1.  How will we insure our luggage, computers and equipment without the security of homeowners insurance or a permanent home?
2.  Will we be able to buy a policy to avoid the high cost of insurance when renting a car abroad, which may be as high as $30 a day in certain locations?
3.  Medicare doesn’t cover seniors traveling out of the US and its territories. What type of policy will cover me, turning 65 in six months, while out of the country?  

With Chad’s help and a few phone calls later at home, we came up with the following scenarios:
1.  Baggage Insurance:  Once we acquire our Nevada residency and address, we will be able to purchase “renter’s insurance” covering the value of our belongings traveling with us, attaching a “rider” for our computers and digital equipment.  
2. Car Rental Insurance:  Many have the perception that one’s own auto insurance will cover a vehicle and liability while traveling in a foreign country. Not the case!  Plus…we won’t be owning a car here in the US, if it did.  We’ll bite the bullet on this one  We’ll pay the insurance at the time of renting the vehicles throughout the world.
3.  Health Insurance:  Without Medicare, a senior cannot purchase a supplemental policy which usually covers most of the costs Medicare doesn’t pay. Thus, I will be required to apply for Medicare (Tom will have five years until he is 65), pay the monthly fees out of my monthly Social Security in order to receive the supplement.  
Plan A:  The cost of the supplement is $185 a  month at this time along with the required Medicare payment for a monthly total of approximately $285.  The hitch:  traveling out of the country allows a total lifetime benefit of $50,000, rather skimpy.  Our insurance guy gave us a quote for me for $432 a month for full coverage, with no limits but add the approximate $99 a month for Medicare, we’d be paying $531 a month, a huge chunk. Tom, obviously younger than me by five years, will be covered up to 94% with the policy offered to him by his employer plus the necessary supplement until he turns 65.  His total cost (for the next five years), $207 a month.   GRAND TOTAL FOR BOTH:  $738  (Yikes! I hadn’t budgeted for this amount)!

As of this writing, I had a light bulb moment!  Duh??? This is not rocket science!
Let’s look at the realities. Tom with better health than I (as hard as I have fought to win over my genes), rarely visits the doctor.  Would the 80/20 (OK out of the country) company provided policy be sufficient for him, saving us $207 a month on the supplement?  

Plan B:  The only difference is 14% (based on the 80/20 coverage without the supplement, as opposed to 94% coverage with the supplement). Then, we purchase the “big guns” policy for me with a $1000 max-a-year out-of-pocket policy with no limits?  GRAND TOTAL FOR BOTH: $531 a month!! 

The financial risk for me?? None! The financial risk for Tom? We’d have to pay a maximum of 20%. Sure, I did the math, the savings of $207 a month over let’s imagine five years, is $12,420.  If he had a $60,000 medical bill, we’d be even.

For now, until we get our feet wet on this adventure, its worth the risk.  In the meantime, this pays for the insurance on the rental cars.  (If a traveler has an accident in certain foreign countries and doesn’t have insurance, they can be detained until the bill is paid in full.

Tom just returned home.  We discussed the above options A and B and we choose B, freeing up the $207 a month to cover the insurance on the rental vehicles.  (We don’t plan to have a rental car more than half of each month to keep costs down, vital all month in some locations and seldom needed at all in others). 
Of course, all of this could be a moot point when Obamacare kicks in. Not intending to get into politics on this site, this uncertainty faces all of us income earning citizens.  Where will Medicare be in the next few years?  None of us know at this time and, probably won’t be able to figure it out in the future.

Hum….
 

He liked his shoes!…He liked my shoes!…

Buying gifts for Tom has always been a dilemma.  His hobby is ancestry.  What does one buy for a person obsessed with their ancestry?  He recently purchased another year of his annual dues for Ancestry.com.  Only a week ago, he purchased his DNA test from Ancestry.com to discover yet more about his roots. 

I could have presented him with a trip to Ireland to look for his ancestors, but duh, our travel plans are set for the next three years or more and, he’s already traveled to Ireland twice, BJ (before Jess).  

In the past, I have presented him with books, tools, electronic gadgets and household “fix-it” paraphernalia and, every other year, swim shorts with matching, colorful tee-shirts. This year I was at a loss. I couldn’t buy him anything other than that which he could put into his suitcases.

In an effort to ensure he had a nicely wrapped gift to open for Father’s Day, I reviewed the remaining items he needed for our adventure, deciding on the double duty aspect of giving him gifts while fine tuning his packing. Ah!

Yesterday morning after a breakfast of low carb, gluten free coconut flour pancakes, eggs and meaty bacon, I presented him with his gift, neatly wrapped in one big box with Happy Birthday paper (have to use that up) adorned with a matching black “guy” bow.  We were celebrating the last Father’s Day we’ll spend in our Minnesota home.

For Father’s Day I purchased three swim short sets for our travels.

When Tom left for a few hours yesterday morning for a traditional Father’s Day activity with some of our kids and grandchildren, I decided to do the unthinkable;  go to a mall!! His enthusiasm over his water shoes piqued my interest while I had visions of fancy high heels floating around my head for the many formal nights on the seven (so far) cruises we have booked.  

Tom has always loved seeing me wear high heels, mainly pumps, no toes showing. Over the years, I have worn them less and less, fearful of falling and injuring myself.  As the fashion trend to wear high heels (over 3″) has escalated (no pun intended) these past several years, I kept convincing myself that wearing high heeled shoes is bad. 

One pair “water” shoes on left, dress sandals on the right and “insect guard” long sleeve shirt and, what Tom refers to as the “French Foreign Legion” type hat with a neck protector that also has been treated with insect guard” 

Generally speaking, high heels aren’t comfortable. They pinch. They cause blisters. They cause corns and bunions neither of which I surprisingly don’t have, after years of wearing heels in the 70’s and 80’s. 

Adventuresome spirit possessing me lately (zip line still a maybe), I decided to do whatever I could to find a few comfortable pairs of three or four inch heels to wear with my dressy dresses on the formal nights aboard ship.  Comfortable heels? Oxymoron?

I decided to put my shoe size vanity aside (81/2) and buy a wider width of my otherwise normal width feet to see if this would reduce the discomfort.  Don’t get me wrong, I can easily walk in high heels after much experience, but comfort seems to be more of a need than a want once a person hits their 60’s.

While at the shoe store, I only grabbed the 81/2 W.  Amazing!  I found these two pairs of perfect styled shoes, albeit not the pumps Tom prefers, that will be divine matches for two of my three fancy dresses, but I had to order the third pair when they didn’t have them in stock.  Not only were they comfortable, I could almost jog in these heels.

Rather pleased with myself after the successful trip to the mall, I reveled in spending a grand total of only $73 for the four comfortable pairs of shoes.

Note that my new “water” shoes on the right are almost identical to Tom’s (although mine were less than 1/2 the price of his)!  Imagine, we’ll match!

Returning home in the early afternoon, I began preparing his choice of dinner, a repeat from only two weeks ago: low carb, gluten free, sugar free, wheat free, grain free homemade pizza. 

When Tom arrived home, I rushed him off to the bedroom to see the shoes.  He giggled that the water shoes matched his and he liked the bargain price of $73. But his eyes narrowed as he contemplated the strappy high heels sitting on the bed, as opposed to a closed, no-toes-showing, pump.  

One solution to those narrowed eyes; I put on the most strappy of the two pairs and began prancing around the room awaiting a reaction. He waited for me to wobble.  I didn’t.  He breathed a little sigh of relief.

And then, that appealing toothy smile came across his face along with the crinkling of the little lines around his blue eyes.  He liked the shoes.  

Clothes, clothes, and more clothes…

We take our clothes for granted. 

They hang in our closets patiently waiting to be selected as a means of covering our bodies for purposes of modesty or warmth while defining our personalities and our mood for the day.

Some days they fit tightly based on the size of last night’s scrumptious dinner or mind blowing dessert.  Some days they fit loosely after 24-hour bout with the flu, only to become tight again after a new day’s meals.  Some days they fit just fine.  

Our blue jeans are particularly vulnerable to this phenomenon which at times, require us to lay on the bed to zip them using a mighty pelvis thrust followed by a hefty hike or two while we’re dancing on our toes trying to stuff in very last bit.

We all have favorite clothes.  Favorites make us look good, remind us of a sentimental occasion with their worn and comfortable feeling seemingly timeless. 

We save some of our clothes for decades, neatly tucked away in the attic, hoping they will come back in style. Ironically, when they do, there is a distinct trendy update, rendering them subject to stares from strangers and criticism from those we love, who refuse to allow us to embarrass them in public.

Some of us have no interest in their clothes, grabbing them mindlessly off the hanger with little regard for color, coordinating an outfit or the current style. Others of us are filled with angst, painstakingly trying on item after item in a futile effort to achieve that perfect combination that will magically make us look and feel good. 

Lately, I have been thinking about our clothes.  Honestly, in the past, I seldom “thought” about my clothes other than their purchase (usually online), their washing (frequently after one wearing), their  necessity of being ironed (love to iron!), then deciding on what to wear and the occasional annoyance of a “wardrobe malfunction.”

Thinking about clothes has become a necessary element of traveling about the world for the next three years or more, with two suitcases and one carry-on each.  We have read numerous websites with packing suggestions.  No, not much help there when most suggestions are for vacations, not carrying everything owned at the time, never going “home” to repack. 

I’ve always rotated my clothing not only for variety, but to take advantage of what fashionable items I had at the time.

Tom tends to wear the same clothes day after day. I currently do laundry every day. Whatever he wore today will be back in his drawer within a few hours of his taking them off being “first up” to be worn again the next day, rather than rummaging through the drawers to find something different. 

This past weekend, when we started accessing his wardrobe needs, the top two or three items in each drawer were old and worn.  Everything underneath these items, was nearly new.  We found 20 short sleeve button down shirts in his closet that he had never worn, from either lack of looking through them or from them not fitting him until now with him 25 pounds lighter from his recent diet, low carb, wheat free, grain free, starch free and sugar free.  With his 20 shirts neatly folded and ready for packing, we are purchasing the following items to round out his wardrobe:

  • 16 pairs of shorts:  khaki, taupe, brown, white, bluejeans, navy, beige
  • 2 pairs dress pants: khaki, black
  • 1 sport coat (for dressy cruise nights)
  • 2 dress shirts + 3 ties (for dressy cruise nights)
  • 3 pairs jeans
  • 1 pair lightweight sweatpants & hoodie
  • 20 button down shirts:  solids, checks, Hawaiian print (Tommy Bahama)
  • 16 tee shirts: all solids
  • 4 swim trunks
  • 1 lightweight robe
  • 20 pair briefs (to avoid paying for laundry service on cruises)
  • 20 pairs white socks
  • 3 pair dress socks
  • 1 pair tennis shoes
  • 1 pair heavy duty sports shoes
  • 1 pair casual sandals
  • 1 pair dress shoes
  • 2 belts
  • 1 lightweight rain jacket
  • BugsAway clothing: 2 pair pants (pants to shorts via zipper), 2 long sleeve shirts, 2 tee shirts, 4 pairs socks, 1 baseball cap, 1 full coverage hat all treated with Permethrin, effective through 70 washings against, mosquitoes, ticks, ants, flies, chiggers and midges.
Yes, 127 items seem overwhelming. However, they will fit into his two suitcases. We may have to pay for additional or overweight baggage.  But, Tom will have enough clothing to accommodate our longest cruises without paying for laundry service fees instead, waiting until we arrive at our next location at which time we will be able to do our own laundry for the cost of laundry soap.  

Based on Royal Caribbean’s attached laundry fee schedule, we would easily spend a combined $400 on laundry fees on each cruise.  With seven cruises booked thus far while awaiting four more to post, we could be looking at about $2800 in laundry fees.

After considerable research, it appears that most international flights will accept two bags each or may charge additional fees. At this point, we will take our chances and bring plenty of clothes, hand washing a few items as necessary along the way.

Our next post on Saturday, June 2 will be the dilemma of the other half of this packing equation: the clothing of a color coordinated freak, overly picky, somewhat fashion conscientious, moderately trendy, shoe loving, variety seeking individual who refuses to ever wear the same clothing two days in a row: ME!

Tire of traveling?…BugsAway clothing?…

The topic of tiring of traveling may become a frequent point of discussion, particularly once we are “on the road.”  We’ve frequently been asked this question by friends and family members.

Traveling for years, as opposed to the usual one or two weeks or, for a retired few, a month or more, may become tiresome after a while. With 949 days booked out from this upcoming Halloween, it is difficult to draw upon any prior experience to use as a reference as to how we will physically and emotionally handle moving from location to location all over the world.

Tom and I often discuss this topic, invariably easing our minds by this simple fact:  We will rarely stay in one location (except for the one week in Las Vegas next December) for less than one month, most often staying for two to three months or more.

After one month or more, we will have had the fine opportunity to become familiar with the area, made friends, forgotten about the burden of our bags (our biggest nemesis) and be excited to move on.  As we peruse our itinerary we can visualize a certain ease we will acquire as we anticipate an upcoming location with enthusiasm and childlike wonder, lessening the burden of packing up and moving on.

There are a few travel burdens that hover in my mind; the required three airplane trips to three of our locations:  Kenya (for three months), South Africa (for three months) and later, the island of Madeira, Portugal (for two and a half months).

We aren’t afraid of flying.  We simply have little tolerance for the commotion at an airport; the waiting, the crowds, the security check and most of all, the baggage restrictions.  
The cruise lines have minimal restrictions on the number of bags that a passenger may bring aboard.  Thus, we can take everything we need for the 949 days and then barely enough to get by, in the above referenced locations when we have no alternative but to fly: one checked bag and one carry-on each.  We are considering some storage options for these ten months to avoid the expense of excess baggage fees which can run upwards of $1000 extra per person, per bag.

Tiring of travel, while living in vacation homes is highly unlikely.  If we do give up along the way, it would most likely be a result of illness, the painstaking process of packing and hauling our bags, or the necessity of more air travel than we’d prefer which may be the final “deal killer.”   Of course, whatever happens, we will post it here.

Tom always reassures me by saying, “We won’t be on vacation. We’ll simply be living life, in a variety of locations.  What will we do if we tire of it?  Take a break for three months and relax??  We will be staying for three months in many locations, sometimes longer, with ample time to regroup and relax, preparing us for the next adventure.  

This morning, with little piles of mostly newly purchased clothes on my bed, I made an assessment of any additional items I may need. We had decided to bear the expense of purchasing new clothing for both of us.  Over the past several months, Tom has lost 25 pounds from our gluten free, sugar free, grain free, starch free and wheat free diet. Nothing fits him.  
There seemed little point in packing older, overly worn and overly washed items, knowing we’d be gone for this extended period. Since these may be the only items I will be wearing over the next three years, plus a few purchases along the way, puts an entirely different spin on  packing.
As an accomplished bargain hunter with little interest in shopping at large malls or strip mall stores, we make 90% of our purchases online, all brand names, quality clothing befitting our travels.  

Often, I will find items at the major retailers and then proceed to make the actual purchases at eBay, all new with tags, at less than half the price.  Whether bidding on items or purchasing with BUY IT NOW, the process is fun and rewarding. Tom and I are both easy to fit, making it a rarity to return an item.  

Most sellers are very willing to handle returns.  Reading the reviews and rankings from past purchasers is a good clue as to how the seller will handle any issues.  We tend to avoid sellers with less than a 95% satisfaction rating, clearly visible on the site.

Another website we have used for years is Amazon.com. In the past week, we purchased a replacement bulb for our LCD TV (wouldn’t you know?), retailing for $125 in local stores, $85 at most websites.  It was only $40 at Amazon with free SUPERSAVER shipping.  They stand behind all purchases offering an easy return policy.  The bulb arrived in two days.
Today it took two large rubber bins to hold my clothes until we actually begin the packing.  This will translate into two large suitcases. This is frightening. It’s time to get to work on Tom’s wardrobe next, an easier proposition.  

While writing this post, I heard a knock at the door.  The UPS driver handed me a large box from Sierra Trading Post. I placed an order with them last Thursday for the following items shown that arrived in the box: two BugsAway baseball caps, four pair BugsAway socks, one pair men’s BugsAway convertible pants (unzips to shorts) and one long (roll-up) sleeve BugsAway men’s shirt, all retailing for a total of $299.  

As shown in the receipt below, I paid $130.25 for everything!  That’s why it pays to search for great prices online.  Sierra Trading Post  included a 20% off coupon for my next purchase. That’s some fun online shopping!  

A start on Tom’s BugsAway clothing for Africa with 2 pairs of socks and a cap for me!
Receipt for $130.25 for all the above clothing, retailing for $299!
Next “buggie” night, Tom and I will put on our BugsAway caps, socks, pants and shirts and see if the mosquitoes will dine elsewhere.  Otherwise, back in the box with the included return shipping label!

 

Fine tuning the itinerary, continued…

When I finished the post on Friday, Tom and I discussed our options for the ten-day gap in Belize (two on the front end, eight on the back end). We decided to contact the owner of the little beach house in Placencia asking her if we can extend our stay from 2/1/2013 to 3/31/2013, changing to 1/29/2013-4/8/2013.

When we originally discussed this with her, she suggested we’d most likely want to explore the country for those ten-days to see the many tourist areas.  If this were a typical vacation for us, most likely we would have been attracted to this prospect.  

After all, sitting outside the little beach house in beach chairs, overlooking the sea, will get boring after two months. Ha! Are you kidding me? We will happily want an additional ten days!

Those suitcases!  Our nemesis!  Yes, they will inhibit us from freely moving from location to location on a whim. We accept this reality.  We are not the adventuresome twenty-year-olds who bravely travel the world with a single backpack they haul, hunched over, with no reservations, no cruises, no fear, and a willingness to sleep in a tiny tent in a bug-infested jungle. Yeah for them!  Not us!

We’ll stay in air-conditioned comfort (most of the time), take $5 a day malaria pills (so we don’t have side effects), wear Exofficio Bugs Away Clothing, drink purified water, watch movies and TV online at our leisure and keep an otherwise very tight budget to make such these seeming luxuries possible.  

We patiently await hearing back from the owner of the cute little beach house in Belize, hoping to spend the additional ten days at the rental. If she is unable to accommodate these dates, we will have no alternative than to find hotels on either end.  We will write back about the outcome.

We have another itinerary change.  Yesterday we added Cruise #7 with Joaquin at Vacationstogo.com.  On 4/9/2013, this cruise, previously booked that picks us on and brings us back to Miami.

7 nights departing April 6, 2013 on
Carnival’s Carnival Liberty
Brochure Inside $1,669
Our Inside $429
You Save 74%
Brochure Oceanview $1,969
Our Oceanview $539
You Save 73%
Brochure Balcony $2,194
Our Balcony $719
You Save 67%
Brochure Suite $2,669
Our Suite $1,039
You Save 61%
The prices shown are US dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. They include port charges but do not include airfare or (where applicable) airport or government taxes or fees.
ITINERARY
DAY DATE PORT ARRIVE   DEPART
Sat Apr 6 Miami, FL 4:00pm
Sun Apr 7 At Sea
Mon Apr 8 Cozumel, Mexico 7:00 am 5:00 pm
Tue Apr 9 Belize City, Belize 8:00 am 5:00 pm
Wed Apr 10 Roatan, Honduras 7:00 am 3:00 pm
Thu Apr 11 Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands 10:00 am 6:00 pm
Fri Apr 12 At Sea
Sat Apr 13 Miami, FL 8:00 am

 

Now listen to this crazy plan!  As you can see, we will arrive in Miami on 4/13/2013 at 8 am with a seven day lag in Miami, awaiting our cruise to Barcelona on 4/20/2013. During this lag we can stay in a mid range hotel, rent a car and dine in restaurants for all meals for an estimated cost of $2800 or pester friends, living in Miami to stay with them.  

We are the worst house guests in the world when by feeling overly grateful to stay with friends that we tend to go overboard cooking, cleaning, shopping, buying wine, and gifts. The cost in time, money, and effort becomes greater than a relaxing time in a hotel. Dear friends, please forgive us for this peculiarity!  
Thus, we have decided to stay on the above ship, the Carnival Liberty,  in the same Balcony Cabin, on the same day and continue on its seven-day cruise to the Caribbean which leaves at 4 PM, not only enjoying another cruise but as you can see from the Balcony Cabin price, save ourselves about $1200.
7 nights departing April 13, 2013, on
Carnival’s Carnival Liberty
Brochure Inside $1,669
Our Inside $479
You Save 71%
Brochure Oceanview $1,969
Our Oceanview $599
You Save 70%
Brochure Balcony $2,194
Our Balcony $814
You Save 63%
Brochure Suite $2,669
Our Suite $1,139
You Save 57%
The prices shown are US dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. They include port charges but do not include airfare or (where applicable) airport or government taxes or fees.
ITINERARY
DAY DATE PORT ARRIVE   DEPART
Sat Apr 13 Miami, FL 4:00 pm
Sun Apr 14 Half Moon Cay, Bahamas 9:00a m 5:00 pm
Mon Apr 15 At Sea
Tue Apr 16 St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands 9:00 am 6:00 pm
Wed Apr 17 San Juan, Puerto Rico 7:00a m 3:30 pm
Thu Apr 18 Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos Islands 11:00am 5:30 pm
Fri Apr 19 At Sea
Sat Apr 20 Miami, FL 8:00 am


This cruise arrives at the Port of Miami at 8 am on 4/20/2013.  Our next cruise, the Norwegian Epic, departs on the same exact day, at the same exact Port of Miami at exactly 5:00 pm.  In time, as more information is posted, we will know how far we will have to maneuver those dreaded bags to get over to the pier where the Norwegian Epic is docked, to begin our eleven-night journey across the sea to Barcelona Spain.  

In total this leg of our journey is 22 days at sea. Who’s complaining?