Getting more done..

Photo from the post from five years ago today on this date. Although we aren’t big fans of baboons, we got a kick out of this photo of mom and baby walking down the road in Kruger National Park. See the link here.

This morning, I booked transportation with Groome Transport from our holiday home to Orlando International Airport, which is over a one-hour drive (during rush hour). Our flight on July 28 isn’t until 10:30 pm, but they suggest they pick us up around 5:30 pm. We’ll most likely arrive at the airport at 7:00 pm, giving us more time than we’ll need to be processed for our international flight. We’re flying to Edinburgh, Scotland, on Virgin Atlantic.

The cost for the transportation, including a 15% tip, was $92. We used this same company when we arrived here at the end of April and were happy with the ride and the service. Thus, we saw no reason to shop around for this for a slightly better price. It may have been a little less with Uber, but the large van and the friendly local driver worked out well when we arrived.

Unfortunately, it’s often another red eye when we fly long distances, but no other options worked time-wise. The flight arrives at 11:30 am Scotland time. When we get from the airport to our hotel, we likely won’t check in until around 1:00 or 1:30 pm. As VIP members of Expedia, we are provided with early check-in and late check-out.

We’ll have breakfast on the flight and won’t eat again until that evening. We try not to sleep other than a short 20-minute nap after being awake all night. Otherwise, we could be subject to jet lag. Immediately upon arrival in different time zones, we adapt to the new time zone, including sleeping and eating. This has worked well for us.

The time difference between Florida and Scotland is five hours later, so this will be relatively easy. Due to being tired, we’ll most likely dine at the restaurant at The Bay Hotel. There’s a restaurant in the hotel, and after checking out their menu, we won’t have trouble finding something for each of us.

I noticed they have Chicken Penne Pasta on the dinner menu. Tom hasn’t had this since we spent ten months in lockdown in the hotel in Mumbai. He ate it for dinner every night except for the last two months when he’d gained 22 pounds and was sick of it. We shall see if he’s ready to give it another try. I noticed several grilled items that will work for me.

Of course, curries are very popular in the UK, as we’ve observed with our British friends worldwide. Often, when we were invited to the homes of British friends in Marloth Park, they’d make curry. I love the taste, but often, it is made with flour to thicken the sauce. If flour is used, I can’t eat it. Plus, I don’t eat rice, and curry is often served over a bed of rice.

While dining at friends’ homes, I didn’t say anything and picked out a few pieces of chicken and vegetables, discreetly scraping off as much of the sauce as possible. No one ever noticed. On the other hand, Tom despises the taste of curry but somehow manages to get through it without comment.

Britain colonized India from 1858 to 1947. As a result of the Indian influence, curries became popular with the British, but even earlier than those dates. See below from this site:

“The British Curry
by Debabrata Mukherjee
The UK now celebrates National Curry Week every October. Although curry is an Indian dish modified for British tastes, it’s so popular that it contributes more than £5bn to the British economy. Hence it was hardly surprising when in 2001, Britain’s foreign secretary Robin Cook referred to Chicken Tikka Masala as a “true British national dish.”

If Britain taught India how to play cricket, India perhaps returned the favour by teaching the British how to enjoy a hot Indian curry. By the 18th century, East India Company men (popularly called ‘nabobs’, an English corruption of the Indian word ‘nawab’ meaning governors or viceroys) returning home wanted to recreate a slice of their time spent in India.

Those who couldn’t afford to bring back their Indian cooks satisfied their appetite at coffee houses. As early as 1733, curry was served in the Norris Street Coffee House in Haymarket. By 1784, curry and rice had become specialties in some popular restaurants in the area around London’s Piccadilly.

The first British cookery book containing an Indian recipe was ‘The Art of Cookery Made Plain & Easy’ by Hannah Glasse. The first edition, published in 1747, had three recipes of Indian pilau. Later editions included recipes for fowl or rabbit curry and Indian pickles.”

If you are a fan of curry, you may enjoy reading the balance of this site.

We had a glitch on this site this morning, and I lost everything I wrote. But my web guy, Mitali, in India, stepped in and resolved the issue. As a result, I am a little behind in getting today’s post uploaded since I had to do it all over again. I couldn’t remember everything I wrote, but I did my best.

Have a great day, and be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, July 12, 2013:

Tom was getting his haircut in Tuscany on this date ten years ago. For more photos, please click here.

We are on the move…London, here we come…

More artwork from the cruise ship.

Neither of us feels like embarking on a 90-minute drive to Gatwick in London. It’s a “bank holiday” weekend, and the traffic will be fierce, although we may be going in the opposite direction of the holidaymakers heading out of town and hopefully will miss some of it.

How are we feeling? We are both still coughing a lot and are tired and out of sorts. But, we have no doubt we are no longer contagious since it’s been ten days since the onset of our first symptoms.

Later today, we’ll arrive at the Courtyard by Marriott close to the Gatwick Airport, where we’ll stay until we test negative and feel safe to book a flight to Minneapolis.

Ironically, when we were in lockdown in India for ten months in 2020, we stayed at a Courtyard by Marriott. We’ve been in this hotel in Southampton for one week as of today. It’s beginning to feel like that time in lockdown when we dine in our room.

But, this time, we’ve been sick with no long walks in the corridors or marching up and down steps for exercise.

It seems that Covid-19 requires an enormous amount of time resting regardless of the variant. We have had no desire to get out and exercise. Although, Tom has gone out three times; once to go to the ship to report we wouldn’t be embarking, and twice to the chemist; once for cough medicine and cough drops, and the second time to buy more Covid-19 tests.

We have nine tests, four we’d purchased on the ship using up our remaining cabin credit that can be used for travel, and five more in one pack Tom bought yesterday for our personal use. We’ll test with the five-pack first, and once we get a negative result, we’ll test with the travel-ready kits for use for the flights.

It will be nice to get to another hotel. We’ve had the same dinner the past six nights in a row, and something different will be great. The options on the menu here have been limited for my way of eating and especially limited for what Tom will eat. Many of the items on the menu are vegetarian, which doesn’t work for either of us, or are high in carbs which don’t work for me.

Even during times of illness, I still stick to my way of eating with the utmost care. I wouldn’t want to increase inflammation by eating high inflammatory foods such as sugar, grains, and starches. Overall, neither of us has had much of an appetite, so the past few days, we’ve only had dinner.

We’re heading down to the lobby with our bags and checking out while we wait for our driver, who’s supposed to arrive in 30 minutes. Hopefully, he’ll arrive as planned so we can be on our way.

Next time we write, which will be tomorrow, we’ll be posting from London and our new location.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, April 28, 2021:

We’ve named this male bushbuck Thick Neck when we observed his neck is considerably more significant than the other males. For more photos, please click here.

We have a plan…Two days and counting, on the move…

Yummy-looking treats were left in our cabin during the cruise. Of course, I didn’t eat them, but surprisingly neither did Tom.

It’s exhausting whatever we do right now: bending over to pick up and put on my shoes, going downstairs to order our dinner, or waiting in the lobby while the housekeeper cleans our room. This morning we both hand-washed some of our clothes while taking a shower. It took everything we had to wring out the wet items and hang them up.

Sure, we could use the laundry service, but my pair of pajamas that I hand washed would have cost the following for the two pieces: GBP 12.00, US $15.26. I think I paid less than that amount for those PJs when Old Navy had a sale years ago. A single tee-shirt is GBP 5.95, US $7.57. Again, we didn’t pay a lot more for our tee shirts.

Recently, I purchased about ten tee shirts of excellent quality from Amazon for US $17.99 each that most likely will last me for years. It makes no sense to have them laundered and dried in a too-hot clothes dryer by the hotel’s laundry service. We rarely dry our clothes in a dryer as we travel the world. Hanging them makes them last twice as long.

It reminded us of those ten long months we spent in lockdown in India when we hand-washed our clothes. We each only wore three outfits and recycled them over and over again. It was a wise decision at the time, and we’re finding it to be a smart one now.

In the past 24 hours, we devised a plan to allow us to see family as planned and avoid losing much on booked airfare and hotels. With this plan, the only fight we’ll lose is the one we booked from New York to Minneapolis when the Queen Mary 2, the sailing we missed due to having Covid, disembarks on May 1.

We have researched how long after testing positive and being sick with Covid, we might expect a negative test. It can be as little as five days or as long as months. Instead, we will book a flight out of Gatwick directly to Minneapolis once we test negative.

If we can’t get a negative test after we’ve recovered, the airlines will accept a doctor’s letter stating we are no longer contagious and are safe to travel. This letter will be in lieu of a negative test. Of course, we don’t want to be stuck in England for weeks or months if one or both of us can’t produce a negative test, which can happen.

That being said, we are hopeful we’ll both test negative by May 1, a mere five days from today. Are we still sick? Yep. Coughing and exhaustion are the significant symptoms right now. But, a lot can happen in five days. Five days ago, we were isolated on the ship, first testing positive and feeling awful. We’re greatly improved from that point.

This Thursday, a driver will pick us up at this hotel at 11:00 am and transport us from Southampton to London to a Courtyard by Marriott near the Gatwick airport. It’s a 90-minute drive. The cost of this private transport is GBP 200, UD $254.31, pricey by any standards. But, based on how we were feeling, the thought of going by train and dealing with our bags was unbearable. We’d rather spend money on this than on laundry.

We hoped to arrive in Minneapolis on May 1, but a few days longer won’t be a problem. This weekend is a “bank holiday” in England, and the airport could be chaotic. We won’t book a flight until we both test negative or get a doctor’s letter. Of course, neither of us cares to fly until we feel a little better, so staying a few days longer won’t be an issue.

The only time constraint facing us during this period in the US is our booked flight and hotel to Las Vegas/Henderson on May 15. Surely, we’ll make that fight and our booked fight back to South Africa on May 22. One way or another, it will all work out.

There it is, folks, a solution to our current dilemma, albeit with a few twists and turns along the way.

Your comments and best wishes mean the world to us! Thanks to so many of our readers who wrote with tips for Covid and suggestions on making this exit work for us. We figured out a solution that works for us in due time in our usual way.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, April 26, 2021:

This is our boy, Torn Ear. Enlarge the photo to see his left ear is torn. For more photos, please click here.

Hanging in…Hanging on…

Unusual artwork that was for sale on the ship.

No, this is not easy. But whoever said being long-term nomads would be easy? Who would have known when the concept of permanent home-free world travel only came into the limelight in the past decade? No one could have anticipated a worldwide pandemic that has changed everything for people like us.

Stuck in this hotel room in Southampton, England, with the exact room configuration in the hotel in Mumbai, India, where we spent ten months in lockdown in 2020, gives us the creeps. But, what can we do? It’s the way it is, and we’ve chosen to make the best of it.

We’re busy determining what we’ll do if we get negative Covid tests by Thursday. Can we make the fight scheduled from New York to Minneapolis on May 1? Can we get a flight from London to New York to catch that flight? In our research, it appears we’ll have to fly from London to New York one day earlier, spend the night in a hotel, and fly from New York to Minneapolis on May 1 as originally planned.

However, as Tom is conducting research online as I write here, it may be best to forfeit that flight from New York and book an entirely new flight to Minneapolis from London. If that’s the case, regardless of how we test, we could leave for London on Thursday when our reservation at this hotel ends.

Once we test negative, we can book a last-minute flight and be on our way to Minneapolis, perhaps even making it there on our initially planned date of May 1. The rates at this hotel are doubling this weekend because it is a “bank holiday.” We’d be better off paying for a hotel in London close to the airport.

Of course, everything will remain up in the air until we take those two Covid tests on Thursday. We are both feeling a little better today, although we are coughing a lot. The headache and body aches are gone, but I still have a sore throat. I have the feeling I won’t test negative until the sore throat is gone. It’s 50% better than when I was first tested as positive and getting better each day.

In any case, we’d like to leave this hotel by Thursday. It makes sense to get closer to London, near the airport, than to wait here. We are 90 minutes by car from London. We’ll arrange a private shuttle.

Hopefully, we will be feeling well enough to manage the long drive and handle our bags as necessary by Thursday. We are both optimistic in this regard.

As for today, we’ll continue to research our options but based on the progress we’ve made thus far today; we’ll have a plan in place by tomorrow’s post.

Have an excellent day. We’ll be back with you soon.

Photo from one year ago today, April 25, 2021:

Two duikers at night. For more photos, please click here.

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.