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

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

 “Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”

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

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

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


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

Tom noticed the red coloring on her/his chin.

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

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

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

Spreading her/his wings to see if flying was possible.

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

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

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

Soon, an attempt to fly may be possible.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



What a pleasant environment for cattle, lush green pastures and plenty of shade located on a oceanfront property.
“Sightings on the Beach in Bali”



Family gatherings on the beach amid the trash that rolls in with the tide along with trash left behind by locals and visitors.  Bali hasn’t yet embraced the concept of keeping their island and beaches less cluttered with garbage.  However, a large portion of the beach trash is a result of that left at sea by others.

With no English speaking TV stations in Bali, the only way we’ve been able to stay on top of world news has been through the Internet.  With the slow Wi-Fi in the area its been challenging but we’ve managed to read the major news each day.

Reading about yesterday’s multiple attacks in the US was sickening and disheartening; one in New York; another in New Jersey and a third transpiring in a mall 70 miles from where we’d previously lived.  It makes one wonder if its safe to shop at malls when so many terroristic attacks transpire within their walls.

These cattle appear to be a little fatter in Bali than we’ve seen in many less developed countries.


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

See this news story here:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-364053/Several-dead-new-Bali-bomb-blasts.html

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

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

Also, we’d considered visiting a mall in Australia during our upcoming 33 night cruise when our ship arrives in 
port at various cities.  We hoped to purchase a few items to get us through the next
several months.  Do we think twice about that too?  Australia has fallen prey to
numerous terroristic attacks over these past years.

I won’t go into details about these attacks.  We have no doubt, if you watch
any local or world news, you’ve seen the stories repeated over and over again. 
We find being informed is so important but being frightened only serves a
purpose in avoiding the most high risk areas when possible.

We’ve crossed many river bridges such as shown here.

After reading about the US attacks, we’re concerned for the safety of our
family.  Will our adult children listen to us if we warned them to avoid public
venues?  No, not at all. Their lives often revolve around visiting crowded venues
with their families on regular occasions; ballgames; parks; zoos; malls;
restaurants; amusement parks; public buildings and on and on.

We wonder if any of us should temper the quality of our lives by becoming
quasi-hermits, avoiding all high risk locations.  Its entirely unrealistic, even
for us, where we ultimately have considerable control over where we go and what
we do. 

Although beaches are often cluttered with debris, the scenes are still pretty.  We never tire of looking at the blue waters.

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

Who’s to determine what is a high risk area?  All the research in the world
can’t cover the possible discovery of new locations where horrific incidents
continually occur, unanticipated and often considered unlikely.

Private oceanfront property, an excellent lot.

As we stated on numerous occasions, no place on the earth is exempt from risk
whether terror attacks, accidents, or natural disasters.  We try not to live in
fear, as we’re certain is the case for most of you living in seeming innocuous
areas.  In essence, there is no such thing as an innocuous area.

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

There are a few parks scattered along the ocean drive.

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

No, an 80 year old with knee problems shouldn’t climb a ladder to change a
light bulb.  Nor should an 65 year old retiree start riding a motorbike in Bali
on the harrowing roads when they’ve never done so in the past. 

Numerous mosques and temples are easy to access on the highway from Denspasar.

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

Stay safe, living life to the fullest.

___________________________________________

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

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

We live in frightening times…Bombings in Phuket…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay safe.

_________________________________________


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

The dark green areas are where the Rainforests are located
One year ago today we posted this map of rainforests throughout the world which are marked in the dark areas, as noted where we were living the northeast portion of Australia in Queensland.  For more details, please click here.
 

Is worldwide travel safe at this time?

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

___________________________________________


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Over the upcoming 75 days, we’ll continue to post daily with more house photos (today we’ve included the main floor only) and many photos of our exploration of this lovely island. Stay tuned.
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Photo from one year ago today, May 17, 2013:

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look at that blue sky!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The cop grumbled, “No receipt!” 

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

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

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

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

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

We wished we could see over the tall wall.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Monday to all. Have a good day!

                                              ______________________________________

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

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

The story we posted one year ago today:

http://www.chanvillager.com/news/world-travelers-living-the-dream/article_8dbde70d-1b61-5488-b13f-7077dc4251b6.html#user-comment-area

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kenya…It’s people…It’s differences…

 

The recent rain has resulted in the new blooms in our yard.

Living in the US all of our lives and now in Africa for almost three months, we aren’t surprised by the differences in lifestyles. Africa, as we all know is a huge continent with numerous countries, each comparable to the uniqueness of each of the “states” in the US, each possessing their own customs, dialects, traditions, and persona.

From what we’ve learned in this relatively short time in Kenya (spelled Kenia by locals), the country many qualities we find refreshing and appealing. With 18 days remaining until we leave Kenya, we’ve certainly spent more time here than most tourists visiting during a typical two week holiday. (The word vacation is rarely used in many parts of the world, instead referred to as a “holiday”).

Green and lush vegetation surround us.

Life moves at a slower pace, as is typical in most parts of the world, as opposed to the frenzied pace in the US.  One can sit at a table in a restaurant awaiting a cocktail for 10 or 15 minutes. In most cases, the bill (the check) doesn’t magically appear at the end of the meal when our plates are clean and we’ve turned down dessert and after-dinner drinks, coffee, or tea. One must ask for it. Then it may not arrive for another 10 or 15 minutes.

Patience.  It’s a must.  We learned this early on in our travels. Kindness. Also a must. Annoyance and irritation must not be evident. In time, one doesn’t feel it. On occasion, it may be difficult to hide. 

These delicate flowers are as thin as tissue paper.

Locals in Kenya are friendly, much more than we’ve seen in other parts of the world. People walking past us as we walk along the road, always say, “hujambo” or “jambo” as a greeting. We reply in kind. 

There’s an expectation here of a gentle request for assistance. There’s a look of shock on the face of a local if a customer is not satisfied. We’ve learned that it’s not worth squabbling over a small error on a bill. Of course, they’d make the correction but the confrontation is unbearable for them. 

We’ve chosen not to address an error unless it is for a considerable amount which as of yet has never happened. Most often, it’s accurate, more so than we’d seen in our old lives. 

Buds are bursting now after the rain. Hopefully, we’ll see the flowers in full bloom before we leave in 18 days.

They cooperate. They want to please. They are humble. They work hard. Their work ethic is profound. They help one another and outsiders alike. They smile revealing the brightest straightest white teeth, we’ve ever seen. 

Yes, it’s can be dangerous here. It’s evidenced by the tight security which has been beefed up recently after the horrifying attacks at the mall in Nairobi. We have a guard exclusively for these two houses, ours and Hans’ and Jeri’s from sunset to sunrise, seven days a week. Hesborn is here around the clock, a strong, conscientious employee of Hans’ for 14 years. 

There are guards 24-hours a day at the locked entrance gates to this neighborhood for the perhaps 10 private homes, each of which is gated in itself as well. Everywhere we go, there are security guards; at the entrance to the strip mall where we shop, at the ATM machine at Barclay’s Bank, where we get cash, at the entrance to the Safaricom store where we purchase “scratch-offs” to top off our data SIM cards.

Pretty little flowers, many I’ve never seen.

It’s an oxymoron. Safe and not safe, making it easy for one to get careless. But, not us. Carelessness is not for us.

And then, there’s the taxi situation which is unique in itself. We’ve learned not to call Alfred until a half-hour prior to the time we’d like a ride. Otherwise, he’ll always appear way too early in an attempt to please. On only a few occasions another driver appeared in his place when he was too far away to get to us on time.

Most often, after dropping us off the restaurant, he waits in his car while we dine, his choice, not our request.  As soon as we realized this after we first arrived, we decided not to let his waiting us affect our dinner or the time we may choose to spend before or after. 

The variety of colors are appealing to the eye.

We call him when we’re ready to go.  If he gets another call while waiting for us, surely he can go.  If he’s far away when we call to say we’re ready to leave we’ll gladly wait.  Most often the wait is less than 15 minutes.

Once he was late to take us grocery shopping. After waiting for over 30 minutes, we called. He’d fallen asleep in his car. It was OK. We weren’t bothered in the least. If it had been a dinner reservation, we still wouldn’t have been bothered. No one would mind if we were late for our reservation. They’d kindly seat us anyway, making no mention of our tardiness or the possible loss of our table. 

The most unusual aspect of our taxi experience, that surely would annoy most patrons, is the fact if we take a long time having dinner, Alfred calls us (on the local phone Hans loaned us for our time here) asking when we’ll be ready to go.  We always laugh when this happens. If we’ve had our dinner, we ask for the bill and move along to accommodate Alfred. It’s cooperation, a common aspect of life in Kenya.

Alfred grocery shops at Nakumatt also. He has a plastic card that provides him with points in order to get money off future grocery purchases. On our second trip to Nakumatt, he handed us his blue card, asking us to give him the points for our purchases. We did. Now, we ask him for the card each time if he’s distracted by security when he drops us off at the store. He waits for us there also, parking across the street, waiting for our call. 

All of these flowers are in abundance in the area, thriving in the heat, humidity, and soaking rains.

He has a newer car with AC.  He never turns the AC on.  We don’t ask.  We open the windows, although it results in extremely hot air blowing in our faces. Early on, we negotiated with Alfred for KES $1000, US $11.72 round trip wherever we may go in Diani Beach, as much as a 20-minute drive one way and other times only a drive of one or two minutes. We pay the same amount wherever we go.

Taxi drivers in Kenya don’t usually receive tips, as explained to us by Jeri who is from Nairobi. But, we give him tips, varying from KES $100 to $500 depending on how long the drive. He’s appreciative.

These pods have continued to dry out. 

Aside from the many great experiences we’ve had in Kenya, we’ll always remember the simple lifestyle and its people. Although we’re never sad to leave one location to travel to another, we treasure the memories we’ll carry in our hearts and minds forever. Thank you people of Kenya. Asante.

Booking for the future…Safari in four days!…

 

Views from our upcoming hotel, Club Intrawest Condo Hotel in Vancouver. British Columbia.

Wouldn’t life be simple if we decided to travel to a popular destination and at the last minute we could book reasonable airfare and hotels?

Unfortunately, if one is determined to get “the best, for the least” we’ve found, after almost two years of planning, waiting until the last minute leaves fewer options from which to choose. Sure, there may be a few “bargain basement” or “last-minute” prices. But, when all is said and done, you get exactly what you pay for.

When it comes to hotels we prefer four-star customer ratings with free WiFi in convenient locations where we won’t need a car. We prefer flights, where we don’t have to go to the airport at 5:00 am or earlier. These simple choices cost more which we’re willing to pay. Other travelers have different preferences.

A sleek newer building has a certain appeal after staying in older properties.

Thus, we decided that we’d better get on the ball and begin the search for a hotel in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada from September 17 to September 23, 2014, less than a year away. Were we ever right to do this early! 

As we searched several of the major hotel booking resources online, many list how many rooms are left at a particularly lower price than would be posted on the hotel’s website. 

Upon entering the dates we’ll be in Vancouver, many hotels were completely booked and, many had listed only 2 or 3 rooms left at the best pricing. Vancouver must be a popular tourist spot in September.

Although not huge, the condo provides us with all the amenities we prefer when staying in hotels.  This is located in the heart of downtown Vancouver, convenient to restaurants and local attractions. 

Why are we going to Vancouver? As mentioned in prior posts of two weeks ago, we’ll be working our way across the Atlantic Ocean toward the US to spend Christmas with our kids in 2014. To maneuver in that direction, we’ll sail from London to Boston, spending a few days with family, and then fly from Boston to Vancouver to stay for the six nights, after which we’ll board another cruise heading to Hawaii.

We’ll arrive in Hawaii on October 5, 2014, for which we’re now looking for a place to stay until we take our pre-booked house in December on the Big Island until January 15, 2015, when we move to our pre-booked property in Kauai.

We realized that we must book the following over the next few months:
1.  Hotel for three nights in Boston
2.  Flight from Boston to Vancouver (oddly, under $300 each!)
3.  Hotel for six nights in Vancouver
4.  Condo in Hawaii from October 5, 2014, to December 1, 2014
5.  Flight from Honolulu to Big Island on December 1, 2014 (not necessary to book until we’re actually in Hawaii.

So far, after considerable searching, we’ve booked the Vancouver Hotel. However, our criteria was beefed up.  We’d just come across the ocean for 14 days, later spending three days in Boston. A reality we have to deal with is our laundry. 

There’s no way with our limited clothing supply that we can go 14 days without having laundry done. As in the past, it will be necessary to utilize the ship’s laundry service usually costing from $80 to $100 for a 15 to 18 item load. We’ll hand wash the smaller items as we’ve done in the past. 

(A few cruise lines have coin-operated washers and dryers, mostly Carnival, which overall doesn’t fulfill our expectations).

Thus, our goal for Vancouver, having accumulated many days of laundry, was to find a “suite hotel” with coin-operated laundry facilities either in our suite or available in the building. Mission accomplished.

Here’s the hotel we booked for 6 nights in Vancouver, Club Intrawest which is a condo-hotel with amenities that are perfect for us, including free WiFi, laundry facilities, added space, a kitchenette, walking distance to restaurants, and an easy bus ride to many of the renowned sites in the city. The price at US $188 a night plus taxes brought our total to $1300.44. 

We’ll most likely eat dinner out each night, adding approximately another $600 to our expenses, plus an approximate $300 in expenses for entertainment.  Our combined cost per day will be $366.74, comparable to our cost per day while cruising. 

Cruising every day is not economical for us but when added to the great rental rates we’ve been able to book when staying put for 2 to 3 months, it balances out to an acceptable monthly level. Again, it’s all about trade-offs.

This morning, cab driver Alfred drove us to Nakumatt Grocery Store for our weekly errands: grocery shopping, more SIM card date scratch-offs (Tom does this while I shop), and a trip across the street to the ATM for more Kenya Shillings. We don’t carry much cash for security reasons usually getting more every other week as needed. 

When Tom didn’t return to the grocery store as quickly as I’d expected I began to worry.  Usually, he finds me while I’m still shopping. Standing near the front entrance with my grocery cart, a million thoughts ran through my head. 

A little comforting was the fact that we saw numerous armed guards stationed at the intersection and at the entrance to the small strip mall. Our taxi is always inspected when we arrive. For Tom to get to the bank, he only had to cross twice at the intersection to get to the ATM. 

After waiting 15 minutes for him to return, I let out a sigh of relief when I saw him enter the door of the Nakumatt, sweat pouring off of him in today’s’ humid heat. Finding me quickly, he explained that the beefed-up security slowed his time at the Safaricom phone store to purchase more data and at the bank. Plus, the stores were more crowded than we’ve seen.

As we began the checkout grocery checkout process, we were further detained when their computer system was down, unable to read credit card transactions. We waited patiently while they manually processed our total bill of Kenya Shillings $20,568, US $235.39, a typical weekly amount including taxes. 

Today, its really hot and humid, raining off and on, beginning last night. If the rain continues through tomorrow, we’ll have to postpone our planned weekly trip to Madafoo’s for a day of sun, free WiFi, and an early dinner.

We’re excitedly counting the days until we leave for our photo safari in the Masai Mara.

Back at you soon!

Part 1…The surf, the sand, walking the beach along of the Indian Ocean…

 

The sea, the clouds and the mystery of ominous clouds rolling in, left us in awe with our mouths agape.

Wherever we may travel, visiting the ocean has an appeal that leaves us breathless.  However, we’ve hesitated to take the mile long walk from our house to the ocean after we’d discovered upon arrival, that it’s much further than we’d anticipated.

As we approached the exit gate from our neighborhood, Nancy, the daytime guard greeted us both with a warm hug. At night the security is beefed up when more security risks are prevalent.

With numerous warnings about dangers for tourists walking the beaches in Kenya we’ve hesitated to explore these past three weeks.  Approximately, one third of a mile from the entrance gate to our community, is a beach access sign leading to a long rough walking path.  Off we went this morning.

Carrying only a camera, bottled water and a small amount of money, we began the long never-seeming-to-end walk toward the sea.

On the walk to the beach access, these two women were carrying what appeared to be heavy loads atop their heads, a common site in Kenya.

After no less than 15 minutes of carefully maneuvering over rocks, pots holes, tall grass and uneven ground, we suddenly felt a cooler breeze wash over us in the scorching heat while hearing the roaring sound of the sea.  It was 5 1/2 months ago that we walked the beach in Belize.

Reaching the beginning of the beach access, it was impossible to see how far we’d have to walk to reach the sea. This lonely stretch would be dangerous to travel at night, which of course, we won’t do, always taking a cab to dine at any of the restaurants along the coast.

My breath caught in my throat as my eyes beheld the beauty, pristine, uncluttered with debris, a vast landscape of pure beauty.  Thankfully, the tide was low. We’d forgotten to check online having heard that walking on the beach was impossible at high tide as the water rose to the walls protecting the various hotels, resorts and private properties.

In places, the path to the beach was filled with flowers.

Unfortunately, clouds rolled in minutes after our feet hit the sand. Neither of us concerned about being rained on, we trekked on, determined to take advantage of the time and effort it took to arrive.  We weren’t disappointed.

 Bougainvillea flourish with little water and no care.  They are everywhere including the narrow path to the beach.

Sensitive to the risks along the beach, we engaged in the friendly Swahili greeting, “jambo” with the local peddlers who approached us on several occasions. We politely declined their vigorous enticements to get us to purchase their locally crafted wares.  We have neither use nor inclination toward trinkets being added to our already heavy bags.

At points, the path felt like any walkway in any neighborhood in the US where flowers grow in abundance.

Most of the peddlers were members of the Maasi tribe, a friendly group of people, dressed in elaborate colorful garb that is appealing to the eye.  Of course, I’d have liked to take a photo of their tribal dress. But we knew that doing so would require payment, make us appear as more potential prey and give off a signal of “Hey, we’re tourists.”

The variations in color always catch our attention.

After walking on the beach for 15 minutes, we reached the area where the hotels and resorts are located with each of their own groups of guards, appropriately dressed in military-type uniforms, diligently guarding the beachfront access, protecting both inside and potential outside guests.

At long last, we reached the end of the path.  We were thrilled to have the sea in front of us once again.  We didn’t take time to take photos of each other.  Pouring sweat in the outrageous humidity and heat, neither of us were “photo ready.”

Recently, we’d read online about a restaurant and resort, Madafoo’s that has free wifi to anyone that makes a purchase at their outdoor restaurant and bar. Checking it out for future reference proved to be ideal. Welcomed heartily as we entered the guarded gates, we felt determined to make a weekly visit a part of our plans.

As we exited the path to the beach this was our first view to the right of us. Continuing on we chose to go to the left where we knew we’d find the numerous resorts and hotels.
Miles of sandy beach stretched in front of us.  The white sand was the softest sand we’d ever walked, our feet sinking in several inches with each step.  As a result, walking was laborious, especially in the heat and humidity.  This didn’t deter us.  We forged ahead.

We enthusiastically talked that starting next Wednesday and every Wednesday going forward, we could arrange for a taxi ride to Madafoo’s, carrying our laptops and plug ins in a bag in order to spend several hours dining for either breakfast or lunch, using the free Internet and partaking of their comfortable padded chaise lounges, positioned to face the sea. 

Numerous fisherman were attempting the “catch of the day” to later be sold to the resorts  and restaurants along the Diani Beach coastline.

 

It appeared that a few of the small boats were unattended with traps set.

 

Bigger than the largest dog’s footprint, we were baffled as to the origin of this massive print. Any ideas out there?

Upon inquiring, the staff explained that we are welcomed to use the chaise lounges, the plug ins and their free wifi should we dine in their restaurant at any time. For Kenya Shillings $3100, US $35.47, we can dine on any item on the menu, pay for cab fare both ways, including tax and tips. 

A young Maasi member walked in front of us on the beach, surely weighing  no more than 80-90 pounds left this huge indentations in the sand.

Increasing our outings away from our house adds greatly to the enjoyment of our remaining time in Kenya.  Thus, with dining out on Saturday nights experiencing a new restaurant each week, grocery shopping on Tuesdays mornings and now a trip to Madafoo’s each Wednesday (either morning or afternoon), we find ourselves with more planned activities to anticipate. This is good.

The first private residence we encountered on the walk along the beach.

With ample dollars factored into our budget for dining out, its unnecessary to make any changes to the overall budget. Plus, we’d budgeted US $1000 for cab rides during our three month stay which would translate into taking a cab six out of seven days a week, highly unnecessary and unlikely. 

The savings at three times a week more than pays for the cost of the food, tax and tips at Madafoo’s on all Wednesdays going forward.

As we sat at a comfortable table drinking a beverage, engaged in the pleasing views while perusing their various menus items, we were content that this place is ideal for us. Hopefully, while visiting Madafoo’s  in the future, we’ll be able to download a few of our data hogging shows, further reducing the cost of the scratch off SIM cards. 

This hut was located at The Sails Restaurant, part of the Almanara Resort where we dined almost four weeks ago, still #1 on our favorites list.

Walking back a few hours later, we stopped at the local produce stand purchasing four eggplants and a bag of carrots at a total cost of US $1.14. Sweaty but invigorated from our walk, we were both happy to return to remove our sand filled shoes, to make a fresh glass of something cold and to continue our daily power lounging in our outdoor living room.

The waves were generally this size but occasionally, we saw a surfing worthy wave.

Bathers tentatively wading out into the sea, appearing mindful of the undertow and possible jellyfish and stingrays, less common here than on the beaches of Belize.

That’s it for today folks. With more photos than we can post in one day, we’ll return tomorrow with Part 2.