Eight hour car ride from Shimla to Amritsar…No delusions, rose coloured glasses…

My spectacular dinner made by the thoughtful chef at the Amritsar Ramada where we’ll stay for three nights.

It was quite a day. Our good driver Prince drove perfectly on the treacherous roads as we made our way down the Himalayas. The traffic, the horn honking, the weaving in and out between cars, trucks and motorbikes was quite a sight to see as well as many other stunning scenes along the way.

As we entered Amritsar after an eight-hour car ride.

India is known for its pollution, skinny stray dogs and rundown structures as a part of life in many parts of country.

A herd of sheep moving on down the road.

Sure, we tend to sugarcoat these rampant realities with our often rose colored glasses in an attempt to paint a colorful view of our nonstop world travels. But what shall we do? Whinge about the fact we’ve yet to see a bright blue sky or totally clear day? Hardly.

Historic building as we drove through crowded town after another.

This country of over 1.3 billion people belongs to its people and they are proud and grateful for what they do have as opposed to what they don’t. We are humbled by their acceptance and their kindness, no, not by everyone, but by most.

It’s easy to see how India had 1.3 billion people. They are everywhere and little land is reserved for countryside or farming.

And, what do we gain by exposing ourselves to these challenges? Exactly what we intended seven years and almost four months ago when we left Minnesota to explore the world.

Color is everywhere.

It was never about hedonistic pleasures pumping our veins with luxurious comforts. It was always about filling out hearts and minds with a new appreciation, a new perspective of life outside the box we so freely occupied all of our lives.

Every area, every town is congested with people and “stuff.”

The meaning, the purpose and the scope of our past experiences was limited to a tight circle around us. Today, it’s the world.

Shops are packed with colorful dresses worn by the Hindu women.

Why, “they” may ask? Originally, curiosity. Now, this blissful opportunity has become about sharing this adventure with all of you; for those who traveled, for those who dreamed of travel and for those who continue with their own goals of exploring the world.

People, cars and more shops.

Each and every day we plot, we plan and we share the peculiarities, the nuances, the joys and the challenges we encounter along the way. Not always pretty. Not always heartwarming and enchanting. But always, as real and concise as we can be from this long acquired perspective.

On a rare occasion did we encounter a more modern building.

Yes, in time it will come to a close. In six days I will be 72 years old with a precarious heart condition. Tom, five years younger will only be able to haul the bags for so many years to come.

As we came down the mountains, we encountered snow.

But we’ll carry on, slipping on those rose colored glasses from time to time to soften the blows of the many harsh realities we encounter in the world to share each perspective with all of you.

Dirty snow piled up on the side of the road.

We just returned from a fantastic dinner on Valentine’s night sans alcohol. No alcoholic beverages are served in Amritsar in the close proximity of the golden temple which we’ll see tomorrow morning with our new guide. We don’t mind forgoing happy hour for three nights in order to savor the local treasures of Amritsar.

Town after town became a picturesque view as we wound our way down the mountains.


Tomorrow evening holds quite an adventure, we’ll share the following day.


Thank you dear reader/friends, for your inspiration and your loyalty. You are always with us.


Happy Valentine’s Day to all the lovers out there…

On the road again…Dublin, then Amsterdam, here we come!

Goodbye, Ireland.  Thanks for welcoming us and for being so beautiful!

We’d decided to prepare the post after we arrived in Dublin for the night.  This was a good way to keep the morning free to finish last-minute packing, organizing and putting things back in their place in the house.


Most often, when we move into a new property, we move some of the furniture to suit our needs. We make every effort to move everything back to its original location before we leave, which we did this morning.


Eileen, our thoughtful owner, stopped by to say goodbye.  It was a pleasure working with her for the past three months.  Over the years we’ve been fortunate to have been hosted by excellent property owners and managers and, of course, we’ve made every effort to be good guests.

Currently, we’re in Dublin.  On our way, we stopped in Oughterard for Tom’s teeth cleaning appointment.  Previously, we’d made an appointment for me to do the same but decided to wait a little longer prior to having any dental work.


The total 3½ hour drive was seamless using “Maps” using the SIM card on my phone which got us here without a hitch.  Once we arrived in Dublin there were a lot of turns and roundabouts but somehow we never made an error. I often wonder why “she’ll” suddenly say, “Make a U-turn” when we’re on the freeway and there’s no need for a U-turn.  Go figure.


We’d decided to stay overnight in a lower-cost hotel close to the airport, the Holiday Inn Express Dublin.  The rates were reasonable compared to many other nearby options and after seeing our room, we were satisfied with the amenities and cleanliness including free Wi-Fi and breakfast.


This hotel doesn’t serve meals other than the included breakfast.  Next door is a Crown Plaza with a decent restaurant according to reviews online.  The main dining room is being renovated.  We’ll dine in the bar.   Tom walked next door and brought back a menu to ensure there would be suitable options for me. There were a few.  


I’ll have plenty of food options once we board the ship on Sunday.  Their chefs are always accommodating my dietary needs with enthusiast and precise care, often making beautiful meals the other guests at our shared table drool over.  


It will be nice to have someone else doing the cooking for a while.  After 15 months of Tom or I cooking and the three months in Ireland, I’m looking forward to the usual good food and service.


Tomorrow morning, we’ll use the hotel’s shuttle to get to the airport.  At the moment, Tom is dropping off the rental car, hoping to get a ride back to the hotel.  Tonight, we’ll walk to the restaurant next door and although my walking is still sketchy, its a relatively short distance.


How am I feeling?  Tapering off the heart medications is taking its toll on me.  It could be several more weeks until I begin to feel the benefit of being off the dangerous drugs with many side effects, which include being on the drugs and… getting off of them.  


But at least for now, I can keep my head up and eyes open during the day.  I’ve gone several days without a nap and have slept through the past three nights, a major improvement.


Like many of us seniors, a good night’s sleep is an elusive thing.  Six good hours without awakening seems to do wonders. Tom sleeps even less, getting up at the crack of dawn and going to bed late.  I don’t know how he does it.


Well, folks, that’s it for our last post from Ireland.  Tomorrow, late afternoon, we’ll write a short post from Amsterdam.  Our hotel room is situated overlooking the canal.  Photos should be good.


Happy day to all!

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Photo from one year ago today, August 8, 2018:

Dad and his offspring posing for a photo we’d taken on a drive in Marloth Park.  For more photos please click here.


Driving in the mountains in Costa Rica…Not for the queasy…

Tom spotted this waterfall and turned around so I could take a photo.

“Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”


Yesterday’s clouds and rain as it made its way toward us.  It proved to be one of the most severe rain storms we’ve had since our arrival.

Yesterday about 15 minutes prior to heading out the door to a popular sightseeing venue where we’d arranged to do an interview and tour for an upcoming story, we received an email from the owner kindly asking if we could visit on Thursday at 2:00 pm when he’d have more time to spend with us while giving us the full tour.

This worn old property is currently occupied.

That was fine with us since we’ll have the little gray rental car until Saturday morning.  Dressed and ready to go (in something besides a swimsuit), we decided to head out anyway and drive through back roads exploring, an activity we both thoroughly enjoy more than any activity.

Exploring on our own without time constraints, crowds, or traffic always gives us a more expansive view of country life than being a part of the crowds in a typical tourist venue.

Further down the road, we encountered a continuation of the creek we’d seen earlier.

Surrounding by mountains, what may appear on “maps” to be a 30-minute drive easily turns into several hours while driving through the winding mountainous roads of Costa Rica.  In many ways, it reminds us of the winding mountain roads in Tuscany Italy which at that time left me white knuckling each road trip in 2013.

Scene along the waterway.

Now, four years later, I’m practically hanging out the window with my camera in hand hoping to take illustrative photos of the steep, winding roads and the resulting exquisite scenery.  There’s nothing comparable to mountains to create some spectacular views.

No longer finding myself car sick or queasy from such unpredictable terrain, I’m able to relax and fully embrace our surroundings.  Tom, good driver that he is, makes me feel especially at ease with his eyes on the road.  Although he’s quick to spot a good photo opportunity in his range of vision, he never hesitates to stop or turn around for a good shot.

So far, all the cattle we’ve seen have been grazing and skinny, usually indicating they’re not fed grains and chemicals.

Yesterday was no exception while we both reveled in the tiny mountain villages we encountered, the homes tucked away in the trees and a first-hand look at how many Costa Ricans live in the mountains under the canopy of vegetation and trees of all types and sizes.

Grass fed cattle’s ribs are easily evident.

The sounds of roosters crowing, cows mooing with rambunctious bulls snorting, along with an occasional sheep or lamb’s warbling baa wafting through the air as music to our ears.  Gosh, we love this part of our travels.

Sure, the popular tourist spots are often worth checking out.  After all, they are the draw for many travelers to this country and others.  In Costa Rica, many of the most popular sites requiring a degree of hiking.  Right now, as I slowly recover from this frustrating gastrointestinal thing, hiking has not been on my radar.

A brown calf among the all white cattle.

Having started a new treatment regime two weeks ago by giving in and taking PPIs which I should have done for a longer period last March, slowly I’m finding some relief.  It could easily take two to three months until I’m feeling totally well again. 

Rough lean-to which may have been used for livestock at one time.

Hopefully, by the time we leave Costa Rica in November, I’ll be free of the lingering effects of the formerly diagnosed and vigorously treated Helicobacter Pylori, known to leave its victims with many months required to recover. 

Finally, I’m able to eat without discomfort.  But I still have a way to go to eliminate the frequent bouts of discomfort, during which I never feel up to going on a long hike.  But, we both try to stay active and fit.  I continually keep an eye on my FitBit to ensure I’m moving about enough as I strive to stay close to my daily goal of 10,000 steps.

A bubbling brook in the mountains of Costa Rica.

Soon, we off on another outing to a site of particular interest to Tom.  Back at you soon with more new photos!

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Photo from one year ago today, September 6, 2016:

Offerings are placed in this cubicles for the upcoming Hindu holiday,  as shown in more photos over several days.  Please click here for more.

Southport Tasmania…Australia’s southern most settlement…Getting my act together every morning…



This adorable coffee shop in Southport made us laugh.  It appears to be a diving bell!

Our road trip of a few days ago, left us with dozens of photos we’re excited to share over these next several days.  Having had to opportunity to head south on a sunny day, we later realized it was the perfect day for such an outing when the weather has been windy, rainy and cloudy since then.

Entering Southport we spotted this sign, “Australia’s Southernmost Pub!”  Southport is Australia’s southernmost settlement, closest to Antarctica.

In reviewing a map, Southport doesn’t appear to be the most southerly point of Tasmania as shown in this map below:

However, in researching online, we noticed many comments over and over again, stating that Southport is the most southerly “settlement” or town in Australia.  For a frame of reference, we’re currently living in Forbes Bay, aka Castle Forbes Bay, shown north on the red marked highway.

“Southport, Tasmania (from this site)


Australia’s southernmost town

Southport is known as Australia’s southernmost settlement. It is now little more than a quiet holiday retreat and, looking at the shacks and small shops, it is hard to imagine that in the early 1800’s it was Tasmania’s second largest town and it was proposed as the capital of the colony. It was a bustling and dynamic convict station, whaling station, timber town and international port exporting timber to Europe. The modern appeal of the town lies in its away-from-it-all sleepiness. It is known for its excellent recreational fishing and the journey to Roaring Beach and Lady Bay rewards the traveller with beautiful white sand beaches and bull kelp near the rocky headlands.”



Arriving in Southport, Tasmania we couldn’t believe the brightness of the white sand beaches.

The roads to make it to Southport were paved for easy driving although we observed that driving further may have required the use of some unpaved rock covered roads. 

Driving a rental car while responsible for rock damage, we often make a decision to avoid rock covered roads for any long distances which may have been the case in heading further down to Cockle Creek and/or South East Cape.

With little use of the beaches in this cool part of Australia, the beaches are pristine as they ma have been thousands of years ago.

We’re hoping to head to Bruny Island on the day of my birthday (February 20th),  a portion of which will require a 15 minute ferry ride.  If its a rainy or cloudy day we already have a backup plan for an indoor venue near Hobart.  We’ll get back to you on this.

We apologize for today’s late posting.  Unlike me, I’m simply got out of sync of my familiar routine and fell behind in preparing the post in a timely manner. Oddly,  I never feel stressed or pressured to prepare the day’s post. 

Wherever we drove along the beach the scenes were breathtaking.

Every morning, regardless of where we are in the world I awake with the intent that once I’m showered and dressed for the day, I’ll sit down at my laptop with news on the TV in the background to begin preparing the day’s post.  Most days this transpires seamlessly.

On travel days when we’re leaving early in the morning, I usually prepare the morning’s post the prior day to be automatically uploaded at our usual time, around 11 am (our time).

More spotless white sand beaches.

On occasion, when boarding a cruise ship we won’t post in the morning instead preparing and uploading the post after we’re checked in and settled into our cabin.  In those cases, I’ll post a short notification earlier in the day alerting our readers that the day’s post will be six or more hours later than usual, barring any Wi-Fi issues we may encounter.

Undoubtedly, this is a huge commitment, one we both take seriously.  If it weren’t for our dedicated worldwide readers, this task could be daunting.  Instead, rarely struggling with the prospect of the work required to prepare the post, we take upon the task with joy and our own sense of dedication.

Mountains at a distance.

We can easily watch the ticker for the number of readers we’ve had since the onset of our site, now well over 500,000 as of a few days ago and the activity hour by hour, day by day, month by month.  This has a magical way of spurring us on, knowing somewhere in the world at any given moment, someone is reading our posts.

This morning, it was one of those days where I was preoccupied, lounging in bed reading news on Tom’s phone (the shipment hasn’t arrived yet with my new phone) until almost 9 am.  Finally, I jumped out of bed, anxious to get the day going. 

Pelican Island Conservation Area off the coast in Southport.

I was planning on making a multi-step meal with several side dishes requiring an excessive amount of chopping, dicing and measuring for a new recipe. I needed to “get the show on the road.”

Failing to sit down until 9:30 am to begin the post after getting some of the chopping out of the way, now after 12 pm, I’ve finally got a good handle on the post. 

Sandbars peeking through the sea at low tide.

Not only must we contemplate a topic somehow related to our travels (in most cases) but I must also go through hundreds of recent photos to select those befitting the day’s post (not always related to the written topic). 

At times, a photo may need a bit of editing, although we make every effort to share them exactly as taken.  However, if the scene is worth it, I may use an editing app to remove power lines or obstructions.

This reminded us of spot where we sunbathed in Kauai, meeting a wonderful couple, Vicki and Jerry with whom we had a great day.  Please click here for details.

Posting 365 days a year is not a chore.  Its a labor of love each and every day as I begin with Tom in close proximity to assist with research, fact checking and final edits (no, we’re not perfect at this nor will we ever be). 

Knowing YOU are out there, reading our often insignificant ramblings over a variety of “this and “that” motivates and fuels us to continue on each step of the way.  Thank you, dear readers.  YOU mean the world to us!

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Photo from one year ago today, February 9, 2016:

Nine baby alpacas, although it appears there are eight.  Can you find the ninth?  For more photos of our glorious time spent in NZ, please click here.

Part 3…Visas…Not a good day for Tom! Visited Proyek Penyu Turtle Hatchery!…Check back tomorrow for my embarrassing cultural experience!



For more information and details on the Proyek Penyu Turtle Hatchery, please click here. The cost to visit the site was a donation of IDR $50,000, US $3.68 for both of us.
Stats were a little outdated but the efforts of the staff appeared dedicated to the project from what we could observe.

“Sightings on the Beach in Bali”
It wasn’t Tom’s favorite day.  As a matter of fact it was his third less than stellar day since we arrived in Bali almost one month ago.  The first was the four hour harrowing drive from the airport in Denpasar to the villa, with the remaining two to Lovina this week (four hour round trips ) for our visa extensions.

We arrived at the Reef Seen Resort, the location for the Proyek Penyu Turtle Hatchery in Pemuteran Village, Gerokgak, Singaraja, North Bali.

As an aggressive driver, albeit a good driver, not being at the wheel for long road trips leaves him with a degree of angst only he and others like him can understand.  Surely, many of our readers can relate to this.

This is the sandbox where the recovered turtle eggs are placed while they mature.  There were 126 eggs maturing in this enclosed area.  Once hatched, they’ll be moved to the pools and later released to the sea.  Turtle meat is a delicacy in Bali.  Fishermen are paid to bring the eggs and baby turtles to the hatchery, more than they’d be paid as “food.”  Although, this hatchery isn’t as natural an environment as we’d like to have seen, the intentions are good and the concept suitable for saving the lives and further preservation of many sea turtles.

With him in the backseat, upon his insistence, allowing me to take photos from the front, I can feel his discomfort especially when the cautious drivers we’ve had drive too slowly or someone darts in front of us, a common occurrence here in Bali. He doesn’t need to say much when the faintest of sounds escape his lips, perhaps only audible to me.

Looking closely at the sand, there was no indication or sign that turtle eggs are incubating here.  Often, dogs, other predators and humans dig up the eggs on the beaches for food.  This is a good alternative for the turtles eventual survival.  The optimum temperature as would be in a natural environment is between 30 and 32 degrees. If the temperature is predominantly 30 degrees, its like the eggs would all be male.  At 32 degrees they’d be female. 

Oddly, his angst doesn’t make me anxious although I do feel badly that he can’t relax and enjoy the drive, regardless of where we’re going.  Of course, the purpose of yesterday’s second trip to Lovina in three days only added to his discomfort of visiting the immigration office for trip two in the three trip five day process. 

There were over 100 baby turtles maturing for future release attracting tourists to the venue.

No doubt, its not a pleasant concept…spending an entire week, out of eight weeks, messing with this process.  Then again, as we sat there with others who’d also chosen to abide by the country’s immigration laws, we both wondered why such a process isn’t observed and respected (by many) throughout the world, let alone in our own USA.  Following the “law of the land” isn’t all that difficult.

Baby turtles that had hatched in the hatchery, not quite old enough for release.  We’d hope to release a few but the weren’t quite ready.

For tomorrow’s third and final trip, we’re waiting to hear from Gede that a driver will go to Lovina to pick up the final documents with a letter from us in hand authorizing him to do so.  The immigration officer explained this is acceptable for this third trip only.

There were three mature turtles on display (not the parents of the baby turtles) which we’d preferred were instead out to sea but were used as mascots to inspire donations for the baby turtle release program.

Luckily, we were photographed, fingerprinted and out the door within about an hour before lunchtime began, after paying the required IDR $710,000, US $52.14 in fees for the two visas. 

The other two confined turtles used as mascots to promote the hatchery.

We’d planned to visit two points of interest on the return drive but I was willing to forgo that idea if Tom would have preferred we immediately begin the drive back to the villa (considering another two hours on the road).  He insisted we continue with our original plans to visit the Monkey Temple (shown in tomorrow’s post) and the Proyek Penyu Turtle Hatchery, both on the return drive to the villa.

The hatchery is located on the beautiful grounds of the Reef Seen resort, known for its scuba diving and snorkeling.

It was an hour’s drive from Lovina to both venues within minutes of each another.  Over the next several days, we’ll continue to post the many photos we’ve taken this week, still leaving us with dozens more we’ve yet to share.  There’s certainly been no shortage of photo ops in Bali.

Religious statues on display at the resort.

Today, we’re blissfully staying put.  The weather isn’t as humid as usual, the sky is clear and the crystal clear pool awaits us.  We have a bit of “work” to accomplish for future planning that we’ll tackle in the afternoon while sitting in the cabana after our exercise and fun in the pool. 

There’s a variety of flowers blooming at the Reef Seen Resort.

We started our day as usual in the chaise lounges at 6:45 am savoring Tom’s perfectly brewed French press coffee, watching activity on the beach and the sea including dogs howling and playing, passing boats and barges and who knows what else may come our way today?

The road we drove to the Reef Seen Turtle Hatchery,

Tomorrow, I’m sharing an embarrassing culturally motivated event that occurred to me yesterday, one I hesitate to mention but, let’s face it, life’s not always a “walk in the park.”  Sharing such experiences are all a part of the reality of traveling the world which isn’t always pleasant.

May your day be pleasant wherever you may be in the world!

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Photo from one year ago today, May 26, 2015:

One year ago today, we boarded Royal Caribbean Legend of the Seas in Honolulu on its way to Sydney, Australia with 1400 Australians on board for one of the most fun cruises we’d experienced. Here’s our balcony cabin before we messed it up with our stuff!  For more photos, please click here.

Part 2…A cultural day…A mixed bag of pleasure and red tape..





While shopping at the Carrefour market, I couldn’t resist stopping to admire these colorful Dragon Fruit.
 

“Sightings on the Beach in Bali”

In yesterday’s post, we shared a photo of two buffalos wandering by during dinner and here are four buffalos on a hike from the river.

Upon returning to the immigration office for the second time in one day, again we took a number and waited our turn.  We’d arrived about five minutes prior to the end of lunchtime at 1 pm hoping to have a short wait. 

Alas, “island time” prevails as the various officers mulled around behind the service desk until close to 1:30 pm although the posted sign clearly stated they’d be open for business at 1 pm.  Again, we waited patiently with nary a comment about the time. The next number up was 025.  Our number was 027.  Certainly, we wouldn’t have to wait too long.


A room was offered for rent at this property for IDR $150,000, US $10.97!
At 2 pm we were called to the desk.  With our copies, passports and documents in hand, we were fully prepared.  Fifteen minutes later we were out the door with a receipt for our passports.  We won’t get them back back until Trip 3 on Friday.


And again this morning, we’re heading back to Lovina for Trip 2 (two hours each way) for fingerprinting and photos.  We’re not looking forward to the four or more hours on the same road. 

If time allows, we’ll stop for a few sights after we’re done at the immigration office.  Again, we’ll wear long pants as required to enter government buildings bringing shorts along for any sightseeing stops we may make on the return drive.


As we drove past this decorative wall, I asked Gede to stop for a close up photo as shown below.

On Monday, after the second visit to the immigration office we stopped at the largest supermarket in Lovina.  For the first time since our arrival in Bali we found a few grocery items we hadn’t been able to locate during other outings.  These included a ball of gouda cheese, cheddar cheese and two little bottles of baking soda.

We’d hoped to find baking soda, an important ingredient in making homemade toothpaste since last night we’d run out of the organic non fluoride toothpaste we’d purchased at the health food store in NZ. 

So beautiful.

We’d already used the entire batch we’d made while in NZ. When we ran out of baking soda shortly before we left we purchased the organic toothpaste as a backup from the store. Unless kept cold, the toothpaste is runny and could make quite a mess in our luggage thus, it doesn’t travel well.

We’d never seen a flowers only farmer’s market.  Flowers are commonly used as offerings to the Hindu temples and at many of the resorts and villas.

Yesterday afternoon, I made the new batch of toothpaste, enough to last during our remaining weeks in Bali.  Here’s the link with ingredients, photos and instructions for making the toothpaste if you’re so inclined.


Simply lovely.  I could smell them from across the street where I stood taking these few photos.

On Monday, we didn’t return to the villa until 5 pm. Gede stopped at a few worthwhile points of interest which greatly attributed the 100 photos we took that day.  Also, he asked if we could stop so he could eat his lunch. 

Goofy us!  We may not eat breakfast or lunch but most people do.  We encouraged him to stop anywhere he’d like for as long as he’d like.  As it turned out, he stopped at the beach where we were able to get out, walk and take photos, one of the highlights of the day.

When we entered the villa, two Kataks were busy in the kitchen preparing dinner.  By 5:45 we were seated at the big table for eight, facing the sea, both of us starving after the busy day with lots of walking and riding in the car.

We stopped at the curb on the outskirts of the village so I could take a photo of the flower market.  Instantly, we were approached by  “traffic cop” asking for money for parking and two others asking for money, unrelated to the traffic.

Today, providing we’re done with time to spare before “rush hour” in Lovina we’ll make several stops hoping to see a few sights that Gede had suggested and particularly appeal to us. 

We crossed a modern bridge in Lovina.  Many bridges and overpasses are marked by Hindu statues although this newer bridge was not.

Again, our goal is to return to the villa around 5 pm so the “girls” (as they’re so called by other staff) can get home to their families at a reasonable time.  Most tourists dine at 6 pm but we’ve chosen to dine at 5 pm to allow them to be done with the cooking and cleanup and out the door by 6.

Tomorrow, we’ll be back with the update on today’s Trip 2 journey to immigration in Lovina and…we’ll see how plans for Trip 3 roll out for Friday.

We hope our US friends/readers have safe and meaningful plans for the upcoming long Memorial Day weekend. And also, safety and well being for all of our friends/readers worldwide. 

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Photo from one year ago today, May 24, 2015:

When we were back in Honolulu, we took the Ala Moana bus to the mall to purchase a pair of white jeans for me.  Before dark, we arrived at our favorite restaurant in Honolulu, Cheeseburger in Paradise, for another great meal; burger, fries and onion rings for Tom and fabulous Cobb Salad for me.  For more details from that enjoyable day before we sailed on the cruise to Australia, please click here.
 

A few “getting settled’ hiccups…Then, wonderful!

 
Although far and few between, we stopped at a few scenic overlooks in the rain.

We’ve decided to get the negatives out of the way first before tackling all the many wonderful aspect of our new location in the countryside close to New Plymouth, New Zealand:

No wifi: This is a “biggie” for us, a prerequisite that determines whether we’ll select a vacation home or not.  When the owner explained via email on several occasions there would be a good signal working when we arrived, we were surprised when we couldn’t get online to notify our family of our safe arrival. 
They’d ordered a new satellite dish for this house during the holiday season and service has yet to be installed.  They offered us their house and service until its installed in the next 10 days.

As we drove away from Auckland, NZ, we spotted this airport with older style planes.

This won’t work for us when as multi taskers we like to get up and down during the time we’re online getting coffee, iced tea, chopping and dicing for dinner, doing laundry and other household tasks.  Sitting in a chair online for hours at a time isn’t likely for either of us.

This morning I prepared part of this post offline uploading it when we returned in the afternoon after a trip to town to purchase a New Zealand hot spot along with a very pricey data plan.  Once the house has working wifi, we’ll use our device for extra large downloads and the house wifi for general daily use.

Auckland is a major port in NZ.

Sandflies:  Wearing shorts when we arrived I fell prey to more than 20 sandfly bites on my bare lower legs while checking out the amazing alpacas and standing outdoors talking to the owners who’s house is down the road (not visible from our house). 

Sandflies produce wildly itching welts often lasting for five or six days which are particularly annoying at night.  Last night, the itching kept me awake most of the night.  Today, we purchased more repellent. Tom hasn’t received one bite when the sandflies were having more fun feasting on me (as always).

By 10:30 am we were on our way toward Hamilton, NZ which wasn’t quite the halfway point to New Plymouth.

No screens on any of the windows (or ceiling or stand fans):  We don’t quite understand why houses all over the world don’t have screens when insects are flocking around doors and window in hopes of entering indoors to feast off its residents.  Its summer in New Zealand and although it doesn’t get very hot, fresh air is something we both appreciate.  On a hotter day, a breeze is welcme both during the day and at night.  We’ll ask the owner for a fan for the bedroom once we’re back online, something we’ve had in every home we’ve rented throughout the world.

That’s it, folks, all the negatives.  The rest?  Astounding!

We stopped for a break at a park in a small town to find this view.

At this point, we won’t get into the alpacas, saving that for a future post.   Its raining off and on today making it challenging to get good photos.  All I can say, it that we love being in this hilly, lush green, flowery farm community, living on an alpaca farm in a beautiful two bedroom, two story house with every amenity one could desire except for the above lack of screens and wifi.

We’d heard the North Island wasn’t scenic compared to the South Island but we found the countryside breathtaking with its lush green rolling hills and fields of sheep and cattle, dotting the scenery.

As for yesterday’s arrival, disembarking the ship was relatively easy.  The port of Auckland was organized and efficient.  From the time we went through security and picked up our confiscated power strip we were able to collect our bags using a trolley (most ports don’t have trolleys for bags) to make our way to the taxi line where we waited for over 40 minutes for a ride to the car rental facility.  Happy to have a trolley, we didn’t mind the wait.


We’d hoped for sunshine but as typical in the South Pacific, skies are unpredictable.

Once in the taxi was loaded with our stuff, the longish ride was enhanced by a wonderful driver from India with a strong New Zealand accent with whom we chatted during the entire 45 minute ride.  The taxi fare was US $63,50, NZ $92 (with tip).

On many occasions we were slowed down for long stretches due to narrow roads, no passing lanes and slower moving trucks.

Once we arrived at Ace Rental Cars near the airport, we encountered yet another delightful service person, a young man from South Africa (again with a strong NZ accent) and we exchanged hysterical Afrikaans expressions we’d learned from Okee Dokee while we lived in SA two years ago.  We never expected picking up a rental could be so much fun!

Happy with our older (5 years) white Nissan that says something in Japanese each time we enter, we soon were on our way for the five plus hour drive through countryside, mountains and ocean using the easy directions our property owner Trish had provided. 

It wasn’t easy taking photos of the countryside as we zoomed along the two lane highway, often stuck behind slower moving trucks.

As we often experience, taking photos on the shoulder-less highway with few available overlooks, it was impossible to take as many photos as we’d have liked. A portion of the drive was sunny with puffy billowy white clouds against a bright blue sky later changing to dense fog and clouds as we continued on.

We traveled through mountains with steep winding roads not unlike those in Tuscany, Italy with occasional mirrored signs used at the particularly dangerous curves.  Tom, an excellent driver, maneuvered the tricky areas with ease and from many such past experiences, I didn’t give it a thought. 

This was part of a rock formation referred to as Three Sisters.

Once we arrived in the town of New Plymouth, we followed Trish’s great directions and found the New World market.  It was the size of any huge Cub Foods or Safeway markets one could find anywhere in the US with prices about 25% less.  

Yesterday, a bit tired after the early morning wake up and long day, we’d decided to only shop for some basics with enough food to last for two days.  By 5:30 pm, we arrived at the farm, gasping with joy when we entered the house. 

Inlet at low tide.

Only a short time earlier, I’d told Tom I wasn’t expecting much assuming the aspect of it being an alpaca farm in the countryside with exquisite privacy and views was going to be the highlight.  There are always trade-offs of one sort or another, right?

Upon driving up the long private tree lined driveway, I further anticipated the “cottage” would be average or slightly less.  Entering the house, using the door’s access code, we gasped in total shock over the beautiful house and its myriad amenities we’d never anticipated or expected.  Over the next many days, we’ll share many of these. 

More unusual rock formations.

Just to give our readers an idea of the magnitude of these amenities;  there a “drawer dishwasher” in the modern well appointed kitchen along with other high quality brand name stainless steel appliances.  

There’s a refrigerator in a “bar” in the master suite with a special faucet that makes hot water on demand for making coffee and tea while still upstairs in the bedroom.  There’s are heated towel racks in both the ensuite master bath and the guest bath!  Its truly luxurious which although not expected, is actually fun and appreciated.


Zooming in as much as possible, we captured these kids checking out the rock formations at low tide.

Once we resolve the wifi issues and further settle in we’ll wait for a sunny days outdoors (less biting flies in sunshine) to spend time with the alpacas and to begin to explore this exquisite country.

We apologize for the delay in uploaded today’s post.  Photos of the house, grounds, and  adorable alpacas are coming soon!

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Photo from one year ago, January 20, 2015:

The view from our veranda in Kauai never ceased to amaze us.  For more photos and details, please click here.


CarSoup and security…I’ll take a bowl of that!…

 

It may be going a little overboard!  For $34 at Amazon.com we purchased these three items putting my mind at ease.

Months ago, Tom and I easily came to the conclusion that owning a car in the US while traveling the world was both foolish and costly. As we’d mentioned in a recent post, it will be peculiar not to own a car which took us a few days to accept.  With only a few calculations, we knew it was the right decision.

Tom’s car, only two years old, still has a remaining balance on a loan. My car also has a loan, a small remaining balance after having bought out the lease a few years ago when offered an irresistible deal for a below market price, certification and an extended warranty. 

Our combined payments are $1048 a month. Add in the auto insurance at $152 a month (me, fender benders!), maintenance at $100 month (my warranty ran out), gas at $300 a month (estimated after retirement for both cars) for a monthly total of $1600.

Keeping a car in the US would have resulted in the continuation of most of these expenses with the $300 a month intended for gas instead going to the cost of storage. Ridiculous!  We had no difficulty making the decision to sell both cars. Most certainly, we can rent cars for considerably less than this amount anywhere we may be in the world

Selling my car in October presents a dilemma: I will be without a car for a few weeks at most.  I can manage by working out and grocery shopping when Tom is home after work and on the few remaining weekends.  

Most of my time these last weeks will be spent completing the packing, cleaning and organizing. Family and friends will visit me here for the next three and a half weeks, until we move to our friend’s home for the remaining week, October 24th to October 31st, our departure date.  We’ll be out of the way during the estate sale. 

Yesterday, I listed my car for the seven day free trial at CarSoup.  If it doesn’t sell in a week, I’ll re-list it committed to the minimum one month contract for $9.95.  What if it doesn’t sell?  

The Cadillac dealer from whom I purchased my car new, most likely will buy it. A few months ago, I’d received a letter from them, inquiring as to my interest in selling them my car. Their used car inventory was low.  Serendipity.  Of course, the price will be much lower than my possible private sale, but at that point, I’ll have no alternative.

Here’s my ad on CarSoup, in case you know of anyone that may be interested. Hopefully soon, gone, gone, gone.

As for Tom’s car, we’ve made a carefully analyzed decision to drive his 2010 SUV to Scottsdale, Arizona for our last 60 days in the US. With its great gas mileage, space for all of our luggage, navigation system and a great security system we’ll be at ease with our decision.  We’ll also drive the SUV to Henderson, Nevada for Christmas with family and friends, finally driving ourselves to the pier in San Diego, for our first cruise. 

We are offering our prospective buyer a good price (a person well known to us), to fly to San Diego and pick up the SUV at the pier, where we’ll have left it on January 3, 2013.  We’ll have financial matters completed prior to this time and have sent him a set of keys.  Easy peasy.  If anything falls through (we always have to have a Plan B), we’ll engage the same practice as for my car, sell the car to a dealer, taking the hit. Whoosh!  $1600 a month, gone!

My next auto related concern: all of our luggage in the back of Tom’s SUV while we make the leisurely four day drive from Minnesota to Arizona.  Our condo in Scottsdale won’t be available until November 4th.  We thought it would be great to take our time during Tom’s first four days of retirement having fun along the way.  A road trip is a great way to start our year’s long adventure!

So again, me worrying.  What if the SUV is vandalized or stolen and our bags, all six of them, are ripped off?  Of course, we’ll be insured. But suddenly, all of our worldly possessions would be gone. Everything. Nada. All of the hundreds  of hours spent researching and buying just the right clothing and products, for at least the first three years of our travels, gone. Scary!  What would we do?  

We’ve discussed this possibility.  We’d continue on to Scottsdale, clothes on our backs with 60 days to find and replace everything we would have lost. Stressful, yes. Frustrating, of course. Doable, yes.

A solution, although not a guarantee, was to amp up his SUV’s security. First, we tested the functionality of his factory installed car alarm.  Next, we made a conscious decision to only stay in motels whereby the SUV will be parked outside our room door.  Also, we’ll be signing up for OnStar for the 60 day period at $18.95 a month.  If the car is stolen, it can be tracked by GPS, immediately reporting to the police.  

With highly sensitive hearing and as a very light sleeper, I’ll sleep with the key fob in my hand (I’ve slept with the TV remote in my hand all night. Why not the fob?).  If I hear a sound, I’ll set off the alarm long before the car alarm goes off, hopefully scaring away a possible thief.  

We are subject to many variables in regard to our two vehicles over the next 90 days.  We have accepted these somewhat painstaking scenarios are part of the process in order to be able to eventually lounge in a lawn chair, overlooking the ocean, knowing this “vacation” may never have to end.  

I’ll tell you how that feels when it happens.