The road trip to Pondicherry…Life for locals in India…

We stopped to see the Shore Temple located on the Bay of Bengal in Mahabalipuram.

The two-hour road trip from Mahabalipuram was enjoyable, with villages cropping up one after another. I explained to Raj that in the US, we might not encounter towns as frequently as is the case in India on such a two-hour road trip in many parts of the country.

The drive between villages may be as little as every five or ten minutes on the road. After all, with 1.3 billion people, it’s not surprising these villages are so close to one another.

A welcome sign to Pondicherry, also known as Puducherry, where a French colony exists today.

India has a population density of 171.9 people per square mile. In comparison, the United States population density is 13.5 people per square mile. This fact is undoubtedly evident everywhere we’ve traveled in the country thus far and most likely will be the case as we continue over the next three weeks.

Women were harvesting peanuts, which are popular for snacking in India and preparing specific dishes.

Here we are whining about some inconveniences in a few hotels along the way, but when we put it into perspective, who are we to complain about hotels failing to meet our standards when so many live so modestly in this country without complaint?

However, it’s all relative to our own lives, and regardless of how much compassion we may feel for others, our standards seem to prevail. Last night, in this moderate corporate-type hotel in Pondicherry, I was bitten by dust mites, leaving me with about 20 annoying itchy spots on my left side, the side I sleep. Much to our surprise, there wasn’t even a mattress pad on the bed.
Harvested fields of sea salt.

This was the first time this happened to me in India, and it hadn’t happened since we stayed at a hotel in Minnesota in 2017 while visiting family and, again, at the holiday home in South Africa in 2018. (Louise and Danie immediately replaced the mattress entirely, which provided me with complete relief).

The town of Mahabalipuram is lined with shops with supplies for locals and also an endless array of tourist trinkets.

I should mention that all used mattresses have dust mites, and most people aren’t affected by their presence. However, a particular faction is allergic to bites that become red and inflamed, precisely my issue.

Everywhere we travel in India, we see Indian tourists. The Indian people take great pride in their country, and those who can afford to travel do so with enthusiasm.

The food at this hotel is mediocre at best, although the staff is always kind and eager to please. The hotel is located in the center of town, leaving us with little opportunity to get out and walk on our own amid the traffic and congestion on the roads. 

Oddly, for the first time, today we had to pay for a bucket of ice, 100 rupees plus tax, not a lot, but the first time we’d ever paid for a bucket of ice, anywhere in the world.
Many of our guides earn commissions if we buy stuff, and thus they “push” us to go to the tourist shopping areas. We’ve attempted to explain we don’t have a home and won’t carry trinkets in our already overweight luggage.

Alas, we’ll be on the move again tomorrow morning with a 5½ road trip ahead of us. We’re looking forward to a two-night stay in the next village at yet another Ideal Resort, which we thoroughly enjoyed in Mahabalipuram. 

In the heat of the day, we admire these hard-working people attempting to earn a few rupees each day. 

Raj is a good driver, speaks good English, and is very helpful. We’re grateful to have him along during this lengthy portion of our journey. The SUV is spotlessly clean, has WiFi (as mentioned), good air-con, and is comfortable. Raj always has fresh water bottles, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and tissues available for our use.

Even young people work to help provide for the family. Surprisingly, even in many poor areas, the locals have cell phones. We suspect this young person is looking at his phone in this photo.

Today, we are touring Pondicherry and will have photos and stories to share in tomorrow’s post. Many temples don’t allow interior photos, especially those that are still in use. We respect this restriction and don’t attempt to “sneak” a photo as we’ve observed some tourists doing.

Raj, our driver, explained that very few pre-teens and teens get into trouble in the villages. High moral expectations are taught in every home as part of Hindu philosophy.
In any case, we are enjoying ourselves. We’ve been away from hot climates for so long. It’s taking a little time to adapt to the heat and humidity. Plus, to be respectful, we’re wearing long pants and full coverage shirts based on our limited wardrobes. It’s often too warm now that we’re in the southern part of India.

Thank you for continuing to stop by! We appreciate every one of YOU!

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

The baby mongooses are not quite sure about the raw scrambled eggs Tom places in the bowl. For more photos, please click here.

Travel day…We’ve arrived in Bandhavgarh National Park…Here we go eight days of safari in India…

“The Khajuraho Group of Monuments is a group of Hindu temples and Jain temples in Chhatarpur district, Madhya Pradesh India, about 175 kilometers southeast of Jhansi. They are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The temples are famous for their nagara-style architectural symbolism and their erotic sculptures.”

These five or six-hour road trips teach us a lot more about India than any other tourist venues we’ve been visiting day after day. Traveling through the countryside of this country with a population of over 1.3 billion is, without a doubt, eye-opening.

Today on our way to the Tiger’s Den Resort in Bandhavgarh National Park, we acquired yet another perspective of life in India away from the big cities we’ve visited date.

We couldn’t have been more thrilled with our private tour guide, Dr. Anand Tiwari, who had a doctor’s degree in Hindu idols. He explained he’d done a tour the previous day with guests on the Maharajas Express! What a coincidence and an honor for us! He can be reached here for tours.

The distance between towns is often as little as two to three kilometers. Then suddenly, we were caught in yet another dilemma of honking horn traffic, tuk-tuks, trucks, motorbikes, bicycles, cows, goats, and dogs in the streets.

Again, vendor lean-tos line every possible surface with impoverished sellers soliciting passersby, mainly tourists like ourselves. The amount of poverty before our eyes is unbelievable, yet these cheerful people seem to take their circumstances in their stride. 

It’s ironic, but we visited this historic site on a particular day, the wedding anniversary of the revered Lord Shiva, as part of an annual festival. This stairway to his temple was packed with visitors coming from all over India to honor him.

Sure, there are apparent homeless beggars in the street, but overall the people seem to be preoccupied with their work and tasks at hand, often with a smile on their faces. We are the “odd-man-out,” and they may look at us in a state of sheer wonder and curiosity. F

The carvings on the temple resulted in many years of work by skilled artists.

Our India travel agency and rep Rajiv didn’t let us down. Upon arrival at the beautiful upscale safari camp, Tiger’s Den Resort, we were escorted to our beautifully appointed “luxury accommodation” (as they described our room) to find it to be perfect. 

It’s not a tent. It’s a series of rooms, each with its small veranda connected as duplexes might be by a common wall, each with direct access to the outdoors. The furnishes remind us of India in the 1920’s such as the former retail shop in the US, Bombay Trading Company.

The various temples are breathtaking.

As soon as we arrived and explained my special diet, our reception host brought my food list to the chef, who met with me to discuss options. I made it easy for him. Prepare chicken or fish in butter (not harmful oils) with a side of steamed vegetables without starch. Add two hard-boiled eggs at breakfast and lunch, not dinner. Easy peasy.

Visitors climbed these steep, uneven steps, but we opted to observe rather than rise.

We had a nice lunch in the nearby dining room, and now we’re situated in our room or outdoors on the veranda until dinner at 7:30 pm. Perhaps we’ll order a glass of wine for me and a beer for Tom to enjoy on the veranda. Humm…sound familiar…just like South Africa.

Tomorrow at 6:00 am, we’ll experience the first of six safaris we’re scheduled for during our four days at this camp. Our travel agent booked us for “private” safaris each time, with a driver and a naturalist on board in the vehicle. We didn’t expect this but are delighted. It was included in our package. 

We’re posting only two Kamasutra photos etched into the temples here, but they are a part of the history and needed to be represented.

Unfortunately, there’s no WiFi in the rooms, so at the moment, I’m using my Google World phone as a hotspot, and although the signal isn’t great in this area, it’s working. It will cost us quite a lot for the data we expect to use, but sometimes, we have to bear such expenses.

Most likely, when we head to our next location on the 26th, there will be more of the same. The only expenses we’ll incur at either of these safari camps will be tips and beverages. Three meals a day are included in the package. A picnic breakfast will be provided when we go on safari in the morning. Nice.

Another hand-carved representation of Kamasutra as it was practiced centuries ago. It is no longer accepted based on the polyamory (multiple partners) premise frowned upon by the Hindu people.

So now, I must get to the photos of the fantastic tour we had yesterday in Khajuraho to some of the most stunning temples we’ve seen to date. Again, we don’t have much time until dinner, so I need to wrap this up quickly.

This is a goddess surrounded by servants and admirers.

Gosh, I’m excited to be here. It reminds me of Africa, and nothing warms my heart more than that! Will we see a tiger? Maybe, maybe not. But whatever we see, we’ll share here with all of you.
Happy day.

More than we expected…Costa Rica dream property…Already unpacked and settled in…

Tom is as content as he could be at La Perla de Atenas

Last night around 9:30 pm, we arrived at La Perla de Atenas (The Pearl of Atenas), our vacation home for the next 3½  months. Our mouths were agape in sheer wonder. 

The bed and bedding in the master bedroom are very comfortable. More interior photos are coming soon.

How did we get so lucky to have landed this exquisite home after making friends with owners Bev and Sam in Kauai?  We met the lovely couple at a Full Moon Party and who later invited us to their stunning property in Kauai for dinner and again for their monthly “movie nights.” 

In most cases, we stay in vacation homes with water views. But, the valley and mountain views in Atenas are all we need right now.  

As it turned out, Bev and Sam were in the process of purchasing this Costa Rica property while we were there, later spending enormous time and funds to update it to its currently blissful state of being. 

The massive grounds are landscaped and maintained to perfection.

At the time, we had no intentions of revisiting Central America when we’d already spent 2½ months living in Belize and visiting Costa Rica, Panama, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Guatemala via three cruises in 2013. With so much world left to see, none of these countries struck us as high on our list at this point.

However, when we booked the Antarctica cruise upcoming in January, everything changed.  We needed to work our way toward South America. A stop along the way in Costa Rica might be perfect. And, from our perspective thus far, we were right.

We’ll be spending many hours bird watching from this location, and at the National Park, we’ll soon visit.

Yesterday’s two flights were relatively easy, including immigration and customs, when we arrived in Costa Rica. The layover in Houston was short. The only delay was getting onto the flight when United’s (duh!) cleaning people had to vacuum the plane’s interior a second time when the supervisor wasn’t happy with how it had been done after the last flight. We waited in line no less than 30 minutes in the hot, steamy tube.

Lush vegetation and greenery on the grounds surround us in the mountains, hills, and valleys. We’re located at an elevation of approximately 4000 feet (1219 meters).

Finally, we were on our way and the three hours whizzed by.  After we’d collected our luggage, our property manager Aad was waiting for us, holding a sign with our names. It took 35 minutes from Juan Santamaría International Airport to La Perla.  

Although it was only a 13-hour travel day from Las Vegas, Nevada to Atenas, Costa Rica, no doubt we were a little pooped.  Even today, after a decent six hours of sleep in the very comfortable bed, we’re still a little sluggish.

It looks like we won’t have trouble finding grass-fed beef in Costa Rica if these skinny cattle are any indication. The meat from grass-fed cows is tough but so much healthier. We’re less inclined to purchase steaks instead of focusing on ground beef and slowing cooking cuts.

This morning after perusing the stunning views and reveling in the sounds of birds, roosters, and cows, we unpacked everything, hanging our clothes in the two walk-in closets and ample drawer space in the master suite.

Our suitcases are now tucked away in one of the other bedrooms. The only other task on today’s agenda is a trip to the phone store to purchase a SIM card and the local market, which Aad pointed out last night as being behind the gas station. 

With thick cushions to use for these chairs, we’ll undoubtedly get our daily dose of Vitamin D.

Once we become more familiar with local markets, we have no doubt we’ll find most of which we’ll need to enjoy cooking in the modern kitchen. For today, we might go for “easy” and buy some already roasted chickens if they’re available.

We’ll be taking many photos of our breathtaking surroundings and share them tomorrow. Enjoy your day!

Photo from one year ago today, August 2, 2016:

Although we were in Phuket this time last year, we were nearly finished posting the final photos of our Vietnam and Cambodia tour via the Mekong River. Camera in my hand while Tom carried our little insulated bag with chilled bottled water as we exited the boat for a time. For more photos, please click here.

Cruise final expenses including shopping at port and extras…Finalizing details…Favorite photos…

Mystery Island scene.

Rather than wait until we disembark the ship tomorrow, I decided to post the final expenses and favorite photos today. 

Tomorrow, when we disembark by 8:30 am with a 9:00 am shuttle pickup at the Port of Seattle, we’ll have time to post until after we arrive in Vancouver later in the day.

The sun was shining on the sea.

Once we’re settled in our hotel, we’ll prepare and upload a post with scenic photos of the three-plus-hour drive from Seattle to Vancouver, which we expect will be stunning. Neither of us has ever driven this route by car. It should be interesting.

At 11:30 am now with another time change occurring at noon, we decided to pack earlier than usual and get it all behind us. Tonight, the staff will collect all of our checked bags, leaving the newer duffel bag and computer backpack behind for us to keep in our possession during the disembarking process.

Mystery Island, Vanuatu beach.

Once we’re off the ship, we’ll find the remainder of our luggage in the cruise terminal and make our way to the pickup area, where an SUV driver will be waiting for us for the US $550 AU 744.95 drive over the US border into Canada.

We hedged at this high cost for transportation but after careful consideration decided this was the least stressful means of travel. We always keep in mind that keeping stress at a minimum has always been our goal and our motto.

A reminder of cannibalism in the South Pacific.

It always falls upon the fact that we can only control what “we know” in our world travels, not which “we don’t know,” which would include unforeseen circumstances over which we do not influence our diligent planning.

Sometimes, that includes paying a little more, planning ahead and leaving ourselves free and unencumbered to relish in our surroundings and experiences along the way.

Situated in the Diamond Club lounge for the last morning of this 24-night cruise, we can relax knowing everything is in place: we’re fully packed with clothing left out for tonight and tomorrow. 

King Neptune poolside celebration after crossing the Equator.

We’ve calculated our total expenses for the cruise, as shown below entering the figures into our main spreadsheet; we’ve reviewed our cruise bill for accuracy, handling any necessary adjustments; we’ve paid cash tips to our fabulous restaurant manager Belic who oversaw meticulous handling of my special meals and, over-the-top cabin steward Mira, the best we’ve ever experienced after 18 cruises.

Here are the final expenses for this 24-night cruise aboard Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas from Sydney to Seattle:

 Expense   US Dollar   Australian Dollar 
 Cruise Fare – 24 nights   $              5,955.26  $                    8,068.18
 Cabin credit   $                (280.00)  $                        379.28
 Airfare    $                                 $                                     
 Taxi    $                    50.20  $                          68.00
 Laundry aboard ship   $                    49.98  $                          67.70
 Ship Shop Purchases   $                    94.78  $                        124.38
 Tips not inc. in fare   $                   188.17  $                        254.87
 Lahaina Gap purchases   $                   106.00  $                        143.57
 Total   $              6,164.39  $                     8,349.44
 Average Daily Cost    $                  256.85  $                        347.89

We’re please with these totals. The daily calculations are slightly higher than our usual average daily costs. Using this cruise for transportation back to the US actually saved us money when the airfare alone would have been around US $2,000, AU 2,708.93.

During the 24-day period we would have been paying for a vacation home, groceries, transportation, etc. Adding the pure joy of spending this extended period of time with other passengers, it’s definitely money well spent.  Also, we avoided a horrendously long 14-hour flight from these distant locations.

We’ve made many new friends on this cruise and look forward to hearing from them in the future. Who knows?  Our paths may cross again sometime in the future.

Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii.

As we enter North America by early tomorrow morning, we’ll no longer include Australian money exchange rates for our expenses. All expenses during our time in North America will be posted in US dollars only. For our Australian readers, as you know for one US dollar, it is $1.35 for Australian dollar.

We won’t be posted a foreign exchange rate until August 1st when we enter Costa Rica as we continue on our world journey.

Thanks, dear readers, for your continued love and support during this lengthy cruise. We’ll continue to post daily during the Alaska cruise beginning in three days when we’ll be visiting many ports of call for a hopefully good signal which has been lacking during this cruise.

Goodbye, Australia, New Zealand, and islands in the South Pacific for the gifts you bestowed upon us in this exquisite and fascinating part of the world.  We’ll remain eternally grateful for the experiences.

Happy Mother’s Day to Moms all over the world! May your day be as unique as YOU!

Photo from one year ago today, May 14, 2016:

This dog walked up to our villa in Bali and wandered around the pool. We stayed seated and didn’t say a word. Soon, he wandered away. For more photos, please click here.

Tricky transportation from Seattle, Washington to Vancouver, British Columbia…Photos from a walk in the park…

Bob donated this park bench to Ron, who passed away in 2010 after their 50 years together.

It had been nagging that it was time to book a means of transportation for May 15th when our ship arrives in Seattle.  After arriving in North America, the next cruise sails two days later to Alaska from Vancouver, British Columbia.

MSW means Manly Scenic Walk to the Spit, a local bridge.

Our choices were clear; either spend the two days in Seattle and figure out how to quickly make the 230 km, 143-mile drive to Vancouver to board the ship or figure a way to get to Vancouver as soon as the ship arrives in Seattle.

Rocky shoreline.

It made no sense to spend one night in each location, so we decided to head directly to Vancouver. This was our second sailing from this port when we sailed to Hawaii in September 2014. Last time we flew into Vancouver, and didn’t have these transportation concerns.

While walking on the Manly Scenic Walk, we enjoyed an excellent view of North Harbour Reef Bay boats.

We easily recall the long waiting period to board the ship in 2014 and hope we don’t encounter the same delays. We’re hoping this time, with the priority boarding we receive as Diamond Club members, the boarding process will be less time-consuming and cumbersome.  We shall see.

An exceptional home on North Harbour Reef Bay owned by a successful business owner.

In searching online, we found many suggestions from travelers on how to make the four-hour drive. Firstly, rental cars aren’t allowed to enter Canada from the US to be dropped off at a facility. So, that idea was out.

Historical plaque.

Our only remaining options were as follows:
1. Fly –  A flight from Seattle to Vancouver would have required the usual international flight commotion, getting to the airport two hours early, paying taxi fares on both ends, paying baggage fees, and considerable waiting time for the short flight. (Continued below).

Many homes were originally one story but later renovated to include a second level.

2. Bus – It seemed like an easy option, but it wasn’t for us when we’d read about having to get to the bus, which may or may not arrive at the port when the ship arrived, handling our luggage, and paying for taxi fares upon arriving in Vancouver. Plus, at the US and Canada border, we’d have had to remove all of our luggage from the bus’s luggage compartment and reload the luggage after inspected by customs, and unload the luggage on our own when we arrived in Vancouver. In addition, some buses charge check baggage fees—too much commotion.
3. Train – Taxi fares to and from the train station. Trains only traveled this route twice a day, with multiple stops, too early in the morning for disembarking the ship or too late in the evening.  (Continued below).

Interesting older home with character located on the bay.  Lots are small in most city and suburban areas.

4.  Group shuttle – We didn’t like the idea of having to find other people with whom we could split the fare and wait for the shuttle to pick up and drop off others at various locations on either end.
5.  Private shuttle – These options were few. A regular-sized taxi doesn’t work with our three checked bags and two carry-on bags.  Instead, we could pay a little more, have a private luxury SUV pick us up at the port on May 15th to drive us the 230 km, 143-mile ride from Seattle to Vancouver, dropping us directly to our pre-booked hotel in Vancouver.  It was a no-brainer.

Can you determine what this is?  If you carefully check the above photo, it will reveal a close-up of the tile roof.

Surprisingly, we didn’t flinch over the AU $732.92, US $550 cost knowing how stress-reducing #5 above would be. After all, we strive always to maintain our goal as stated at the top of our webpage: “Wafting Through Our Worldwide Travels with Ease, Joy, and Simplicity.”

More boats moored in the bay.

It’s this philosophy we’ve diligently maintained that has kept us treasuring the quality of our lives, inspiring us to continue for years to come. However, if one only chose the least costly option every time, it could become easy to lose interest and find the moving about tiresome and monotonous.

Buds growing on Moreton Fig Tree.

As we’ve mentioned over these past several weeks in the Sydney area, we’ve happily used low-cost and at times “free” public transportation. However, we’ve enjoyed the process of finding it easy and convenient.

Historical marker at the park.
In our travels, we’re constantly making decisions, often with a cost at the top of the list for consideration. We throw caution to the wind from time to time, sacrificing something else to accommodate the added cost of making alternate decisions. It’s all a part of the ebb and flow of this peculiar life we live.
Tom and Bob began the walkway to North Harbor Reserve park.

Having paid the deposit for the cost of the trip (after reading many positive reviews), our minds are at ease. Today, we paid the balance of the special hotel rate we negotiated for our upcoming six-week stay in Minnesota.  

For the moment, we have no large expenditures on the immediate horizon until mid-summer.  

I hope you find your mind at ease today and always!

Photo from one year ago today, April 11, 2016:

Most afternoons, many of the alpacas rested in the shade at the side of our house. So it was delightful when they’d watch me through the window while I prepared meals, pressing their noses on the glass. For more photos, please click here.

Tasmania…Breathtaking beauty…We’re still on the road…Most perfect travel day yet!

View from the veranda of the Pelican Point Sanctuary in St. Helens, Tasmania.

It was a perfect travel day. We disembarked the ship with ease, found a porter to assist with our awaiting luggage, breezed through immigration, picked up our confiscated power strips and were on our way to the airport, all within 30 minutes.

As we’d expected, we arrived a little too early at the domestic airport, even having to wait for 30 minutes to check our bags. Jetstar has a requirement that bags can’t be checked any sooner than two hours before departure. 

The bed and duvet in the suite were comfortable and warm. The room had a kitchen, spacious bath and large entry room.

The 30 minutes breezed by as well as the waiting period for boarding. In row 4 on the plane, we were comfortably situated in our seats in no time at all. The 90 minute flight was routine and seamless.

Seated area near the large flat screen TV.  Free Wi-Fi was included.

The small domestic airport in Hobart appeared to have only one baggage conveyer. Within 15 minutes we were on our way down the road with the bags on a trolley and anxious to get on the road.

The exterior of the highly rated Mohr and Smith restaurant in St. Helens.

The goal was to make it to our new vacation home in Penguin, Tasmania by yesterday afternoon. Once we began the four hour drive in the new well equipped rental car from the Hobart Airport, which was the fastest rental car process we’d ever experienced, our plan changed.

The atmosphere was trendy and inviting.

With a full sized map book in hand, given to us by the friendly rep at the counter, we made the decision to forgo the shortest route across the island and take the scenic route along the ocean. Doing so, doubled the time required to get to Penguin.

By 5:00 pm, stopping many times for exquisite photos, we decided to spend the night in St. Helens, an ocean/lake town.  We were hungry and tired from the long travel day, having disembarked the ship by 7:15 am, flown from Sydney to Hobart, hauled our bags to the rental car facility, and drove for four hours, we were ready to pack it in for the night.

After 33 nights of complimentary cocktails and wine at the Diamond Club on the ship, neither of us had any interest in drinking alcohol. Most likely, we won’t drink again until the next cruise in three months.

With another four hours of driving ahead of us, we used our Australian hotspot, got online in the car and booked one of three hotels available in the area. We choose the Pelican Point Sanctuary, the highest rated (four stars) in the area at US $156, AU 209, a night (with tax) and couldn’t have been more pleased.

Locally caught thick white fish atop a bed of asparagus and a sautéed zucchini patty. It was delicious and worthy of a five star review on TripAdvisor. 

The quaint resort was surrounded by lake, mountain and ocean views with cattle in the backyard, ducks and geese on various ponds and frogs chirping through the night. We couldn’t have been more at home for the night.

Tom’s meal consisted of Chicken Kiev atop a bed of garlic mashed potatoes, pea puree and roasted carrots.

The manager arranged a dinner reservation for us at 6:15 at the popular restaurant, Mohr and Smith, a short drive from the resort, where we had a perfectly prepared gourmet meal for US $53, AU 72. We were so thrilled with the meal, we wrote a review on TripAdvisor as soon as we returned to the resort. By 9:30, I was asleep, Tom shortly thereafter.

Tom ordered fries as a side while I had a crunchy salad of mixed greens and sprouts.

It’s 6:45 am now as I prepare today’s quick post.We’re anxious to get back on the road to take more photos during one of the most beautiful drives we’ve ever taken in our four years of world travel. Tasmania doesn’t disappoint.

Cattle in the back yard of the resort.

By 8 am, we plan to be on the road to head to Binalong Bay and then, back on the scenic route along the coast to Penguin.  Once we’re unpacked and situated in the house, we’ll grocery shop with a plan to make our first meal in over three months. 

Last night’s waning sun from the resort.

For the first time in months, we slept without air con, bundled under a fluffy duvet. Although it’s almost summer in Tasmania (starts on December 21st) we have no doubt it will be cool over our three months on the island.

There was a pond outside our room with three ducks.

We’ll be back tomorrow with many fabulous scenic photos and the ongoing story of our getting settled into yet another home in our world travels. Stay tuned, dear readers, it will quite a show at this special location!

Photo from one year ago today, December 4, 2015:

Savusavu Bay and Nawi Island, in Fiji, a site atop a hill in the village. For more photos, please click here.

Day 13…Circumnavigating the Australian continent….Best international pricing for rental cars…One last tip for Elaine…

Colorful parasails in Bali.

“Sightings on the Ship in Australia”

View of the ceiling and elevators in the Centrum area.

When our loyal reader Elaine wrote explaining she and her husband had sold their home and stored many of their belongings to begin a two year world travel adventure, we wrote back and asked if we could share her questions with all of our readers worldwide.

When she graciously agreed, the past two days, we posted both her questions and our answers which can be found at these two links, if you haven’t seen them as yet:
Post #1:
Post #2:

Tender boats taking passengers ashore in Bali yesterday.

Today, we’re adding information about what we’ve chosen to do about renting cars while we travel the world which has encompassed the following questions for us along the way:
1.  Will we need a car? Can we use taxis for tours, shopping and various outings? 
Answer:  Not every area is suitable for calling taxis. For example, in Madeira, Portugal, we’d researched to discover that in the area in which we lived, Campanario, few taxis were available which could result in high costs and long waits when ordering a taxi.  In the remote location of Pacific Harbour, Fiji, a popular tourist area on the island of Viti Levu,  taxis were readily available with very low rates to most locations, usually under US $5, AU $6.63. With the high costs of rental cars in that location, it made more sense to use taxis. We selected a reputable company online that serviced all of our needs.

2.  What is the cost of using taxis or drivers in any particular area in which we may be living?
Answer:  As stated above taxis fares vary greatly all over the world.  When a driver option is available through the owners of a vacation/holiday home, it’s important to ask rates long before arrival to be able to make a determination as to whether the driver, a separate taxi company or a rental car would be most suitable and affordable. If you’re the type of traveler to go out on long drives, day after day, a rental car is usually the best option. For us, who ventures out about three times a week, we’ve always conducted a cost analysis in order to decide our best route. Long ago, we were willing to forgo a feeling of being trapped without a car in the driveway. Now, it doesn’t bother us at all, especially when a quick call or email brings a taxi to our door within minutes or when we can pre-arrange longer outings as desired.

Passengers parasailing in Bali.  Photos taken from our veranda.

3.  Is driving a rental car safe in some high risk areas? 
Answer: In some countries using a regular driver was a safer option than renting a car, for example in Kenya, where carjacking is a common occurrence even in the most upscale resort areas.  One must consider the crime rates in the area/country before deciding to rent a car. This information is readily available online with a few minutes of research.

4.  What is the cost to rent a car which must be large enough to fit our three large bags, three carry on  bags leaving us comfortable seating?
Answer:  Rental car rates are either affordable in an area or not. In Belize it was US $3,000, AU $3,977 or more for a month. If we’d used a taxi every single day it never would have been one fourth of that rate. We opted for selecting one regular driver with whom we felt most comfortable, tipping him generously at the end of our stay.

This looked like fun, for some.  I must admit, it doesn’t appeal to me, but Tom would like it.

5.  Will both of us be able to drive the car?  Is there an extra charge to add me to the contract?
Answer: In many cases its as much as additional US $10, AU $13.26 per day to add a second driver to the contract. It’s not worth it to us to spend the extra sum when the only time I’d go off on my own would be to grocery shop. As a result, Tom drives me to the market and either joins in on the shopping or reads a book on his phone while waiting in the car. It works for us and we save considerable sums each year. In some cases, such as in Hawaii, there was no additional cost for a second driver. It’s important to verify this information in advance if it’s necessary for two or more drivers to drive the vehicle.

6.  What about liability and car insurance, especially when we don’t own a car of our own? How do we handle the insurance?
Answer: Some credit cards provide insurance for the vehicle if the rental included using the credit card to pay for the rental. This is the case for all of our rentals. Please check with your credit card company as to its particular provisions and rules. Also, our “renter’s insurance” which covers our personal belongings (luggage) includes liability insurance.

Towel penguin on the bed last night.

7.  How does one decide on which rental car company to use?

What site(s) do we use that offer the best pricing, guidelines and customer service? 
Answer: During the first year of our travels we conducted considerable research in order to settle on to an online resource we found best served our needs. This was a time consuming process.  We landed on which ultimately proved to provide the best pricing, cars and service, especially when it comes to long term rentals such as ours. However, this international service can fulfill and often beat pricing over many other online rental sites.  We usually end up using which were directed through a search through If we’d contacted directly, we’d pay a higher price. This is important. Don’t be tempted to go directly to the company for pricing. You’ll rarely be offered a better price. The exception to this will only occur while picking up the car and they offer an additional promo for an upgrade which we’ve accepted on a few occasions. In some cases, we’ve been offered a less costly car than we originally selected, at an even lower price when they see the extended period of the rental. Undoubtedly, over time, one becomes more experienced in this process, ultimately saving money and time.

Heights, falling in the sea?  Not for me, thanks.

Hopefully, this information may be found to be helpful for some of our traveling friends, especially those considering longer trips or extended periods of world travel.

Please don’t hesitate to comment at the end of this or any post if you have questions or concerns. We’re always happy to assist.

We continue to hang out with our wonderful group of new friends each evening for happy hour in the Diamond Club and later for dinner. These past few nights, after dinner when they’ve wandered off to their cabins for the evening, Tom and I have headed to the self leveling pool tables to play. As competitive as we are and as lousy a pool player as I am, somehow I’m ahead. Go figure. 

Happy day!

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

In Fiji one year ago, our single house was located in the far right of this photo, down from the house above that has three rentals, a huge upper floor and two good sized lower apartments. For more details, please click here.

New ship photos…Managing travel days…

A beautiful sunset as we passed the tip of Australia.

This morning at 7:00 am we crossed the equator.  There have been several time changes over these past several days, including two separate 30 minute time changes, a first for us. Now, we’re back on the hour as we continue toward Southeast Asia.

Time is moving quickly as our cruise winds down. With only three days until we disembark the ship to make our way to the Singapore International Airport to fly to Bali, we realized it was time to book transportation from the port to airport.

An elephant made from towels left on our bed at night during turn down service. (My reading specs).

Most often we aren’t able to get off the ship until 8:00 am or so. This time we made special arrangements to disembark earlier at around 7:30 am with the driver arriving to pick us up at the port at 8:00 am. 

The Flowrider, a fun activity for those who can participate.

Hopefully, this should leave us plenty of time to get through customs and immigration making it in plenty of time for our 10:45 am flight to Bali. Sure, its a tight schedule for our liking and Tom is a little worried. But, as always my rationale remains the same;  get there safely and in good health and the rest is incidental.

The miniature golf course.

Missing a flight is not something we’ve experienced as yet and of course, we hope we’ll never will be in that situation. The reality is, as inconvenient as it may be to miss a flight, we’d figure it out. It may cost time and money but as mentioned above, safety and good health always supersede all else.

At a distance, the rock climbing wall next to the sports court.

We’ll be anxious to get as far away from Denpasar Airport as quickly as possible. Listed as a high risk location, with attacks in Bali over these past few years, the further away we get from the big city, the more at ease we will be.

Once the pre-arranged driver in Bali picks us up at the airport, we’ll be on our way on a four hour drive to the house on the southern coast. If all goes as planned, we should arrive at the house around 6:00 pm with the household staff holding dinner for us.

Close up of the rock climbing wall.

We requested an easy dinner for our arrival; chicken, cheese, and veggies. Once situated we’ll be able to review our food restrictions, shopping list and future menu options with the cook and staff. 

As always, we looking forward to being unpacked, organized and checking out the quality of the wifi.  If the wifi proves to be problematic, we have a backup plan to rent an unlimited hotspot from a company that is located two hours from the house that charges a small fee to deliver it to us at the house. We’ll report the fees if this proves to be necessary.

View from upper deck of the hot tubs by the pool.

As I write today’s post, once again we’re sitting in the Promenade Café. So far over the past two hours new friends of Tom’s have stopped by to sit with us over a cup of coffee. 

As I continue to write, one ear is directed to their lively conversation as they make every effort to include me in the idle and pleasant chatter. Gosh, this is almost too much fun, interacting with people hour after hour.

I suppose we’ve handed out no less than 150 business cards to ensure our new friends can easily reach us after the cruise, reading our posts old and new, and be able to contact us and we them, when we return to Australia and eventually Tasmania. How fortunate we’ve been to meet so many wonderful people!

May someone new cross your path today and bring you joy!

Photo from one year ago today, April 27, 2015:
Due to a poor internet signal, we’re unable to post the one-year-ago photo.

Power outage…Christmas Day in the South Pacific…Dining out midday…Merry Christmas to all..

Another boat heading down the Qaraniqio River.

Oh, another power outage…on Christmas Day. Wonder when it will come back on. 

In yesterday’s post we failed to mention the cost of the fine dinner at Seduce Restaurant at the Pearl Resort on the evening of Tom’s birthday. Including the meal, the gratuities and the bar bill for his Margarita and my bubbly water, the grand total was FJD $256, USD $106. 

Had we been dining in many other countries such an evening could easily have cost well over USD $200, $FJD $427. As the Fiji dollar changes daily as is the case for currencies worldwide, our round trip taxi fare was FJD $4.68, USD $10 including a 20% tip. When we leave Fiji in 10 days, we’ll give Alfaan a more substantial tip as we often do when we have an opportunity to work with one special driver.

The pebbly road for part of our walk later turned into a paved road.

Yesterday afternoon, when the rain stopped for a period, we ventured out on an ambitious walk through the neighborhood. A dog living two doors from us, followed us during the entire almost hour-long walk, making every turn we made continually watching us for our next move.

A house in the area with a commonly seen stucco-type exterior and tin roof.

It reminded me of our old lives when walking our two dogs (Tom didn’t walk in those days) on a vigorous walk in the neighborhood often every day, including the cold winters unless it the temperature was too cold for their little paws walking in the winter’s snow and ice. There was more than one occasion during which I had to carry one or both of our little dogs home when the tiny pads on their feet were too cold to continue on. 

The walk, in addition to working out almost daily at the local fitness club provided me with ample exercise.  Now, with pelting rain most days and no access to a fitness center, a good walk as often as possible brings considerable energy and a sense of well being. 

A vacant lot in the neighborhood collecting debris from an adjoining building site.

In a mere 12 days I’ll be working out on the ship in an attempt to rebuild my fitness level after this lengthy hiatus without much exercise. I haven’t belonged to a fitness center since living in Trinity Beach, Austalia from June to September, 2015.

Another vacant lot behind this neighboring house.

Soon, living in Taranaki, New Zealand with several nearby fitness centers (within 20 minutes), I’ll be back at it again for another three months. At this point, I have no idea what I’ll do once we arrive in a remote area in Bali, there again, perhaps unable to find a fitness center which has been the case in Fiji.

Today is Christmas Day here in the South Pacific. After a delicious dinner and  movie last night, we wandered off to bed, content for another good day. Sure, it doesn’t feel like Christmas without all the festivities associated with the holiday celebrations we experienced in our old lives. 

Finally, we reach the paved road making walking easier.

There are no twinkling lights on the houses in the neighborhood, no front lawns littered with lighted snowmen, reindeer and Santas and few Christmas trees visible through living room windows. We’ve become used to the lack of hoopla, decorations and festivities as a normal part of our life, without disappointment or a sense of loss. 

A fairway on the Pacific Harbour/Pearl Resort golf course only steps from our house.

Instead, we revel in the spiritual aspect of Christmas easily appreciating life, our good health and the health and well being of those we love and the many blessings we’ve been given.

At 2:00 am this morning, we were startled out of bed by outrageously loud fireworks in the neighborhood. Fijians sure love their fireworks, day and night. Wide awake after the heart racing awakening, I decided to listen to a podcast on my phone to lull me back to sleep which often works better than reading.

We’ve often seen these boats heading to scuba diving on the reefs.

Yeah, yeah, yeah…I know about “sleep hygiene” that bespeaks reading and listening in bed impedes quality sleep. I tried over and over again to break the habit, often spending night after night lying in bed wide awake unable to fall back to sleep. Ultimately, the total combined amount of sleep seems to suffice to keep me alert all day.

There are many homes in the area with Qaraniqio River frontage property, docks, and boats.

When I couldn’t connect to the house wifi to download a podcast, I got out of bed to reset the router, necessary every four or five days. Once back in bed I was able to get download a few podcasts and listen to two 40-minute broadcasts. Finally, I fell back to sleep awakening at 6:30 anxious to get the day underway.

With solar power here and no sun in well over a week (its raining now as I write), its not unusual for the shower to be cool in the morning. Susan, the owner, explained there’s a switch on the wall in the master bedroom to turn on the electricity to heat the water heater. We often turn it on for an hour in the late afternoon when the water is cold for Tom’s shower and for washing dinner dishes. 

The bridge over Qaraniqio River we cross on our walk.

Preferring to shower upon awakening and not wanting to waste power overnight, my showers are often cooler than I’d like. So it goes. I guess its part of life living in the tropics, including the near-constant rain often preventing us from daily walks.

As many walks as we’ve taken since our arrival almost three weeks ago, we’ve yet to experience a single walk on a sunny day, as shown in our cloudy day photos.

A scuba diving boat heading out to sea via the Qaraniqio River in Pacific Harbour.

With today’s upcoming buffet lunch at the Pearl at 1:00 pm, we hesitated about making tonight’s dinner. I rarely eat during the day and most likely won’t feel like eating again later in the day. This low carb way has a tendency kill the appetite, only feeling hungry every 24 hours or so.

Tom, back at the carbs again during today’s buffet and perhaps after eight more slices of bread or bread-like items, most likely will be hungry by 7:00 pm. With this in mind, I’m making a few items just in case. By 1:00 pm, when Alfaan picks us up, I’ll have everything prepped and ready to complete later in the day when we return from the Christmas lunch.

Hibiscus, prolific year-round are the most commonly seen flowers in tropical climates.

Its a good day, this Christmas Day 2015. The love we feel from family and friends from afar, the love with share with one another, and the joy we experience each and everyday, making this day as special and as meaningful as all the rest.

May all of our readers and their family and friends have a joyous Christmas Eve and Christmas Day filled with love and wonder. We feel all of you with us, each and everyday. We appreciate each and every one of you for sharing this life with us. Have a beautiful Christmas!

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

I wish we’d taken more family photos last Christmas when family was visiting. When I was preoccupied with everyone being there, I just didn’t take many photos of “people” always one of my photo-taking downfalls. We all spent Christmas Day at a picnic at a beach park in Hilo, Hawai’i, on yet another cloudy day. For more details, please click here.

Part 2…Road trip…Tour of Suva, the capital city…

TappooCity, the four story mall in Suva surprised us with its familiar brands.

Suva, the capital city of Fiji with its over 330 islands has population stats as follows:

  • Capital City: Suva (88,271 pop.)
    (175,399 metro)
  • Fiji Population: 849,000 (2010 est.)

Driving through the countryside as we made our way to Suva in an hour (each way) reminded us of many tropical climate countries we visited over these past years with an abundance of banana, palm, and coconut trees, the lush green hills, fields, and mountains with one pasture after another of cows and horses grazing off the land. Beautifully familiar, but always pleasant to see.

Driving in hired car with vehicles behind us, with no shoulder or spot to stop for photos, I’ve given up attempting to take good photos from the moving vehicle. It just doesn’t work. 

Many popular brands of flat-screen TVs. Many residents, including many in the lower-income ranges, have TVs and satellite dishes.

When we have a rental car, Tom is masterful at anticipating when to stop before the words, even leave my lips when we spot a good photo op. He manages to find an appropriate stopping point and turns around if necessary to ensure I’m able to take the shot.  He never ceases to amaze me.

A hired driver? Not so much the case when they don’t know our preferences for photos. Well, perhaps Okee Dokee in South Africa knew, who stopped at each photo-worthy scenes long before we even spotted them. 

How many times I’ve wished we could have packed her up and taken her with us. We’re happy for her when last Saturday she was a beautiful bride marrying the man of her dreams. Thank goodness for Facebook and email for keeping us informed about special people we’ve come to adore in our travels.

Furnishings and housewares of every type is available.

Once we entered the city limits of Suva, the city streets were jammed with cars honking as they maneuvered a mishmash bottleneck of many streets joining at most intersections. Jaywalkers were everywhere making a driver’s attention intense in an attempt to avoid hitting a pedestrian. There was hardly an opportunity to stop for photos.

An occasional crosswalk brought fewer walkers across the road than other non-marked areas. It could have been a busy intersection anywhere in the world. Our eyes dashed back and forth at the endless shops, office buildings (not skyscrapers), restaurants and markets and numerous cell/data stores each packed with many locals and tourists seeking the best possible deals of the day.

There are rows upon rows of exquisite colorful Hindu gowns worn by Indo-Fijian women on special occasions. 

Our goal while downtown was simple; visit the Suva Municipal Market (a huge farmers market) and drive-by various points of interest to take photos of the more popular tourist attractions in the center of the city. 

Keeping in mind, I was feeling awful from a poor prior night’s sleep with hardly enough energy to open the heavy door of the SUV, I knew getting out of the vehicle more often than we had to, was not on the agenda.

Typical kitchen appliances in familiar brands were offered for sale. Pricing on these items was a bit higher than in larger countries. The tea pots listed at FJD $119, are USD $55.

Tom, who’s interest in big cities has waned more than mine over time, was content to do only as much as I felt up to. In all of our travels, he has never insisted we see anymore than is on my radar on any sightseeing tour.  Overall sightseeing is not necessarily on Tom’s radar, unless its something really big like safari, historic and military sites and outrageous scenery. I get this and we adjust accordingly. 

Busy cities and shops are definitely outside his realm of interest, although he’ll always come along if its of interest to me. Fodder for posting each day falls into my wheelhouse leaving me open to seeing anything of interest locally that may inspire a story.

I was fascinated with the gorgeous women’s Indo-Fijian gowns.  Surprisingly reasonably prices they were elaborate costumes with many layers of colorful silky fabrics. 

After the awe-inspiring trip to the farmers market, where for awhile I almost forgot feeling tired, our driver was waiting for us outside the parking ramp.  With a need for a quick restroom break, Alfaan directed us to the fourth floor of the building in front of us, the popular giant, multilevel mall, TappooCity which attracts tourists and locals alike.

It was surprising that a trip to the restroom necessitated making our way through this enormous mall, searching for escalators on each level. (The few elevators were jammed). This allowed us to see how many foreign brands monopolized each level of the mall with familiar brand merchandise we haven’t seen since Hawaii. 

Had I felt better, I’d have enjoyed perusing the racks.

Even while in Australia for three months, we never recognized as many brand names of clothing, shoes, appliances, housewares with an endless array of cosmetics and accessories, a shopping enthusiast paradise. 

Prices were reasonable for the merchandise when on several occasions I stopped to peruse price tags, my mind performing quick calculations from FJD to USD. I’ll still hold firm to my assessment that its cheap to live in Fiji, as long as one knows where to go to shop.  Suva definitely fulfills the needs and expectations of any buyer from around the globe. 

The food court appeared typical for malls although we didn’t recognize many of the vendors.

Finally, we were back in the car, ready to move along. At that point, I advised Alfaan and Tom I was  fast running out of steam and asked if we could head toward the area of the grocery stores.  I was determined I could eek out a little energy to shop and be done for the day. In any case, we didn’t return home until almost 4 pm ample time to wash the produce, put away the groceries and prepare what I hadn’t yet prepped for dinner.

As mentioned yesterday, Cost-U-Less was comparable to a less well-stocked Sam’s Club or Costco, carrying many of the same brands in bulk sizes. None of this worked for us with our short remaining time in Pacific Harbour. After an exhaustive search through the big warehouse, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. 

We found three escalators are various areas in the mall to get us to the fourth floor for the restrooms.

Oddly, Tom lingered in Cost-U-Less, curious to the items they carried particularly the candy and snacks, none of which he’s had in many months.  Although he was tempted he didn’t purchase anything as I kept my mouth shut. From there we headed to IGA New World market where we found some, not all, of the items remaining on our list.

Over these past few years he’d gained back 25 of the 40 pounds, 11 of the 18 kg, he’d originally lost in 2011 when he joined me in this way of eating.  It wasn’t necessarily from eating junk food which he only does on cruises and when dining in restaurants, but more due to eating too much low carb food having breakfast and a lunch snack day after day. There’s no way of eating that one can consume vast amounts of food and never gain an ounce.

Many departments in the massive store consisted of a wide array of merchandise.

Over the past few months, he’s cut back on the number of meals per day and is now back to his original weight loss of 40 pounds, 18 kg, easily fitting into all of his pants and shirts minus the big belly pulling tight on the buttons. I’m thrilled for the improvement in his health having rid himself of the dangerous disease producing belly fat. (Link is to the Mayo Clinic on the dangers of belly fat).

Sure, in a little over two weeks we’ll be on a 14 night cruise. Once we settle in New Zealand for three months after the cruise with more readily available food products, in no time at all, he’ll drop whatever 10 pounds, 4.5 kg he may gain on the cruise, typical for most cruise passengers. We don’t eat lunch or snacks on cruises which if we indulged further he may gain 15 pounds, 6.8 kg, or more.

Speaking of food, last night we had dinner with Samantha and Danny at Oasis in the Arts Village. In tomorrow’s post we’ll share a photo taken of the four of us by the taxi driver, food photos and some of the remaining photos from the visit to Suva. Plus, we’ll be sharing a cultural story of life for locals in Fiji.

A less busy side street in downtown Suva.

Paeta is here today cleaning the house.  Another glorious sunny day will take us out to the pool for a cooling swim in this heat as soon as the pool guy, her brother, is done cleaning the pool. 

Tomorrow evening, Saturday, we’ll be heading back to the Arts Village to try yet another restaurant. Gee…this dining out thing is fun, affordable and easy here!

For those preparing for the busy holiday season, we wish every one of our readers safe and meaningful experiences. We continue to treasure your readership which for us, that along with good health are the greatest gifts we can possibly receive. A heartfelt thanks to each and every one of you for being beside us during this unusual life we live.

Photo from one year ago today, December 18, 2014:

Tom got a kick out of the fact that we visited the Lyman Museum with the family one year ago in Hilo on the Big Island. For more photos, please click here.