Hello, my Africa…It’s good to be back where we belong…

Today’s photos were taken at dusk resulting in less clear images. We work on improving our photos going forward!

What can I say? How we feel is beyond description. At the moment, we’re seated at the big wooden table on the ground level veranda with nary a railing, overlooking the bush parklands, rife with wildlife. No sooner than we opened the screened (yeah!) sliding door, they were here, albeit tentatively, wondering who we are and what we may have in store for them.

We served up treats from a 40 kg, 88-pound bag of pellets already opened last night for the stream of visitors that arrived only moments after we did. Sitting by the fabulous braai, a South African fire pit, we gasped in awe of the treasures our eyes beheld, one species after another, including seven giraffes at our driveway, several kudus, warthogs, guinea fowl, bushbucks, and more.

Then, this morning, they all returned, perhaps others than those from last night, anxious to see who will be their new neighbors. Besides, this is their land, not ours and in reality, we are the visitors, not them. Ah, the number of times, we’ve said in our posts, “Pinch me, is this real?”

And now, I say this again, with as much, if not more enthusiasm than ever. At times, I wondered if the excitement would be as profound as it was in the prior 18 months we spent in Marloth Park over the past eight-plus years. But, if anything, it was more.

The 10 months in the hotel room in India catapulted us to a new level of appreciation and gratitude, one we thought we could never achieve, after all the exquisite experiences since the onset of our travels in 2012. But, here we are now, reeling with pure joy to be back where we belong.

The familiarity we felt as we drove from Nelspruit after our three full days of travel, was comforting. As we began the long final drive toward Gate 2 in Marloth Park, around 3:00 pm yesterday, where the guards at the gate gave us a one month pass to hang on the rearview mirror with offers for more in months to come. We knew we were “home.”

We drove to Louise and Danie’s beautiful Information Center to be greeted with the enthusiasm we so cherish, with them as such great friends for the past seven years, during which we always stayed in close touch when we were away. We sat at their gorgeous bar, commiserating for a few hours until finally, it was time to come to our new home.

We knew the house was small, a single story with two bedrooms, two en-suite bathrooms, a spacious lounge/living room, a dining room with a  fantastic table and upholstered chairs, and a good-sized modern kitchen with a countertop with bar stools, well-equipped with everything we’ll need.

Louise grocery shopped for us, putting everything away as we would have. She knows us so well after all these years. Soon, we’ll prepare our first meal, steak on the braai. Is it any wonder, we’ll be eating beef for the next several days? We weren’t hungry for breakfast this morning and last night, we didn’t bother with dinner. Instead, we had a small plate of good cheeses to share, along with water and iced tea.

We definitely had good luck during the three travel days, which included the following details Tom compiled this morning::

“Three flights; the first from Mumbai, to Dubai, 2 hours 45 minutes with a 16-hour layover. A second flight from Dubai, to Johannesburg an 8 hour 45-minute flight with a 26-hour layover. The third flight from Johannesburg, to Nelspruit (Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport), 45 minutes.
Then, the rental car drive, from Nelspruit to Marloth Park, 1 hour 30 mins.
3 flights       12 hours 15 minutes
2 layovers   42 hours
1 drive           1 hour 30 minutes
Total travel time from door to door was 59 hours, which included hotel departures, shuttles, waiting at airports, and spending time working on three months of car rentals at the Budget counter in Nelspruit.
If anyone would have asked me a few years ago if we’d be open to 59 hours of travel time to anywhere, we would have said it was too challenging, even for “sturdy us.” But, as we all know, motivation and purpose are powerful drivers and we’re grateful we stuck to our commitment to return to South Africa, instead of “giving up” and returning to the US at this time.
And here we are, sitting together, in touch with each other’s needs, wants, and joys, as always. Nothing, after those 10 trying months has diminished the strength of our love and commitment to one another. We’re still “stuck like glue.”
Again, thanks to everyone for the endless stream of good wishes. There will never be enough time to reply to each and every one of you, but please know we appreciate every single one of you.
Stay safe. Be well. Be happy.
Photo from one year ago today, January 14, 2020:
This hornbill from a photo taken in 2019, decided to look at her reflection in the glass of the little red car, assuming it was another Hornbill, perhaps a possible mate. For more from the year-ago post, please click here.

We made it to Johannesburg…The best laid plans of mice…

May the New Year bring us all together regardless of our spots or stripes…

Today’s photos are from our post on December 31, 2018, while enjoying New Year’s in Marloth Park. These photos are a taste of what is yet to come

Well, folks, we’re almost there. A short time ago, we arrived at the hotel in Johannesburg, showered, and dressed in comfy clothing and we’re staying put for the night, ordering room service for dinner. In the morning, prior to heading back to the Tambo International Airport, we’ll have breakfast in the restaurant before heading out.

Mom and baby. What a sight!

Mask wearing (or not wearing) is worse here in Johannesburg than anywhere we’ve been along the way or, even in India. Apparently, South Africans think that wearing the mask partially over their mouth is sufficient.  President Ramaphosa stated in a new speech last night that people will be arrested, fined, and jailed for failure to wear a mask.

Either the President needs to be more specific about how to wear a mask in his speeches or people just don’t care. Enough about that! I’ve been whining about mask-wearing for months. I am going to try to let it go with “other fish to fry” and certainly plenty of other diversions upcoming by 3:00 pm tomorrow afternoon when we’ll arrive in Marloth Park.

Adorable giraffe at rest.

In the interim, I have to confess, I am not following through on a promise I made about posting our final expenses for the 10 months in lockdown in Mumbai, India before we’d get situated in South Africa. In the past two nights, according to my Fitbit, which is pretty accurate, I’ve slept a total of six hours. I just don’t have it in me to work on the numbers with my foggy brain.

However, I will post those figures in the first weeks that we’re in Marloth Park when we’ll be relaxing outdoors, well-rested, and enjoying our wildlife visitors, moment by moment. Also, we received more well wishes for safe travels than we can ever respond to. But, we read every single one and tried to respond to as many as possible. If we missed replying to you, please accept our apologies and know that we appreciate each and every comment and email.

There were dozens of zebras playfully carrying on in the parkland.

Also, based on my current lackluster state, I wasn’t very creative in choosing photos for today’s post, just grabbing a date and going with it. These photos are a taste of what’s to come over the next months, as we make every effort to keep our photos relevant, fresh, and interesting.

As for this last flight of eight hours from Dubai to Johannesburg? Well, we weren’t able to get an upgrade to business class for Tom so I enjoyed the extra room and totally lay-down seat with a big soft blanket, pillow, and even a thin mattress pad that the flight attendant added early on to all of our seats in that section.

Although at quite a distance, it was delightful to see so many giraffes and zebras together in the open field.

Although everything was relatively comfortable, I just couldn’t sleep. During the eight hour flight, I watched four movies, my favorite of which was the recent Harrison Ford, Call of the Wild. Weak and exhausted, I cried real tears, although I was well aware that the adorable and endearing dog, Buck was computer-generated (CGI). I suppose it’s no different than getting emotional watching an animated movie with sweet characters.

During the four movies, I dozed a few times, never more than 30 minutes at a time, but not at all during the last movie, The Call of the Wild. It’s a wonderful family movie for mushy animal lovers like me.

Playfully interacting with one another.

I was offered champagne in the middle of the night, or wine or cocktails but I declined. I didn’t want my first taste of wine to be on an empty stomach on an airplane. As mentioned, alcohol is currently banned in South Africa so we may have to wait a while to have “sundowners” with our friends.

OK, friends, I’m wrapping it up here. I need to order something to eat after not having a morsel in the past 24 hours. I don’t care to eat in the middle of the night or at 5:00 am in the morning when food was served on the plane. Plus, the options for me were limited, as they are on the room service menu at this Protea by Marriott hotel. But, I’m more needing to eat than feeling hungry.

Ostriches don’t seem to mind what’s going on in the park. They are happily doing their own thing. 

Somehow, amid our very busy day tomorrow, we’ll post a short blurb and possibly a few new photos when we fly and drive to our new home in the bush.

Have a pleasant day and evening wherever you are and thanks for being our friends! Whew!

Photo from one year ago today, January 12, 2020:

On this date in 2015, in Kauai, Hawaii here is another of Tom’s exquisite sunrise photos. For the year-ago story, please click here.

We made it to Dubai…Harrowing experience…

I look like a scary insect while seated on the flight to Dubai.

Where do we begin to describe this harrowing day that started at 7:00 am this morning when we began the drive to the Mumbai International Airport through crazy Monday morning traffic at this early hour? It was quite a daunting experience.

But, before we get to that, I’d like to mention that the Courtyard by Marriott, Mumbai International Airport made our departure extra special when they “comped our dinner” and sent an exquisite chocolate cake up and a beautiful handmade card filled with signatures from the staff, to our room last night. Since I don’t eat cake, I could only admire it and take a photo as shown below. We’d just finished dinner and Tom ate a small piece, leaving the rest behind.

We settled the final bill last night, making checkout this morning quick and easy. We arranged for a wake-up call at 6:00 am but neither of us slept a wink. My Fitbit said I slept 4 hours 44 minutes, but the majority of that was me lying still and trying to fall asleep most of the night, causing my heart rate to become slow enough, that Fitbit “thought” I was sleeping.

Check out the look in Tom’s eyes! I howled!

In our past travels, especially during the first few years, we had trouble sleeping the night before a travel day. As time marched on, we combated this issue and were able to sleep. However, after these past 10 months, we lost some of the familiarity of being on the move once again.

We arrived at the airport with over three hours until departure, plenty of time to do what had to be done, all of which we dreaded. Our baggage sailed through without any excess baggage fees only after I reminded the Emirates rep at the counter that the website allowed a total of 40 kg, 88 pounds, per person and I’d be happy to show her that fact on the Emirates app on my phone when she tried to tell us the maximum was 23 kg. The excess fees would have been more than the airfare. She relented and our bags went through at no additional cost.

That bullet dodged, we made our way through the airport toward the security check-in and immigration each of which took no less than 30 minutes to get through the queues. In each case, we had to produce copies of our endless documents. In each case, they seemed to have no idea how to process the paperwork. Somehow, we made it through.

The airport in Mumbai, quiet in some areas, but a madhouse in others.

Throughout this process, we were stunned by the number of passengers not wearing their face masks properly or only covering their mouths and not their noses. I’m not exaggerating when saying no less than 40% of passengers that we encountered weren’t following masking and social distancing protocol.

Finally, we reached our gate to sit in chairs and begin a horrendous wait including while in the “tube” where the poorly masked passengers were huddled in close proximity to one another. We desperately tried to avoid facing anyone directly, but it wasn’t easy.

They’d provided us with face shields and we were wearing the extra heavy-duty N-99 masks we’d purchased in the US over a year ago to protect from the smog in India, long before the mention of Covid-19. Apparently, N-99 masks are one step safer than the coveted N-95. Regardless, we were nervous over the close proximity of all of those people.

Boarding the plane was like it was in the “old” days, people packed tightly together, talking loudly, spewing spittle, with little regard for the virus. We cringed in our seats as they passed by. A young girl around 10 years old, sat next to me while I was on the aisle seat in the grouping of four center seats.

The beautiful card the staff at the Marriott made and signed for us.

During the entire flight, I had to ask her to put her mask back on, while her arms were continually flailing my way. It was awful. We never ate the offered food, a spicy Indian dish which didn’t work for me and Tom wouldn’t like. As of this moment, we’ve yet to eat a morsel today. Soon, we’ll order very pricey room service, but we need to eat before the long night ahead. Tom’s having a burger and fries and I ordered the Caesar salad, no croutons, with a salmon add-on. Had I ordered a burger it wouldn’t have been a sufficient portion of 200 grams, with no bun, no fries.

Everything was smoother when we arrived at the relatively quiet Dubai airport. We had plenty of help from staff and the reps at the Emirates desk. We asked for an upgrade to Business Class but they could only accommodate one seat for the additional US $650 plus tax. Tom insisted I take it. If they get a no-show or cancellation, Tom will join me “up-front.” I hope that works out. I feel a little guilty.

In order for us to leave the airport and return only hours later for the next flight, we had to have a complimentary Covid PCR test since we were leaving the terminal due to UAE regulations. This was no big deal. Shortly after, the hotel shuttle was waiting in a nearby parking lot outside of Terminal 3 and we made our way to this bargain hotel which is quite fine for resting for these few hours.

Our dinner, without drinks, (we have plenty of bottled water), will cost more than the hotel room with the taxes and fees. So it goes. Here again, we aren’t allowed to leave the hotel, but we had no intention of doing so anyway. We’re content we don’t have to spend the next several hours with lots of people until 1:30 am when we have to return to the airport and go through immigration and security one more time.

The chocolate cake the chef made for us.

I know I’m rambling a bit from the poor night’s sleep so I’m signing off soon and will return again, providing all goes well, once we’re in the hotel in Johannesburg. That layover would have been 21 hours so once again, it made sense to stay in a hotel and await our next flight on Wednesday.

Most likely we won’t sleep tonight since we have to leave this hotel by 1:00 or 1:30 am. By the time we get to the hotel in Joburg, we’ll be ready and hopefully able to get a full night’s sleep. Our flight the next day to Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger will only require that we get to the airport around 10:00 am for our 12;30 pm, 45-minute flight. We hope to be in Marloth Park by around 3:00 pm.

As I mentioned to many well-wishing family, friends, and readers, we won’t totally relax until the 14-day quarantine period ends in Marloth Park and we feel confident we didn’t get the virus.

Stay safe, stay healthy, and breathe the fresh air. We certainly did that today!

Photo from one year ago today, January 11, 2020:

Saturnalia, a Sculptural group by Italian artist Ernesto Biondi at the botanical garden Buenos Aires in 2018. For the year-ago story, please click here.

Day #289 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…3 days and counting…Are we worried about exposure while traveling?…

Beautiful statue at the beach in Pondicherry.

Today’s photos are a continuation of those we posted during our first few months in India on tour, in today’s case on March 27, 2020, See the post here. We’ll continue on this path, sharing more tour photos until it’s time for us to hopefully depart on January 11, 2021. From there, God willing, it will be an entirely new world!

We can’t believe we’re three days from departure and still, our flight remains in place. We can’t totally relax at this point, after our experience of being turned away at the airport on March 20, 2020, to then begin this awfully long lockdown in a hotel room in Mumbai, India.

A church we visited in Pondicherry. 

Peace of mind will only come once we’re in the air on the flight from Dubai to Johannesburg on January 12th. From there, an overnight stay in Joburg and then on to our flight to the Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger Airport, where we’ll pick up our rental car, to commence the one hour drive in daylight hours to Marloth Park.

The journey will consist of considerable exposure to people, at airports, hotels, and planes. Are we worried about the added exposure to Covid-19 compared to minimal exposure all these months in the hotel in Mumbai? We’d be foolish to say we’re not concerned.

The stunning interior of Our Lady of Angels Catholic Church in Pondicherry.

No doubt, Emirates Airlines have instituted extensive measures to protect its passengers while flying. We have less concern about being on the plane, other than if we have to use the restroom. We plan to be careful with our fluid consumption while traveling. Of course, we won’t partake in their complimentary cocktails during the two flights, only drinking minimal amounts of water as needed.

Our bigger concern is for safety at the airports, waiting in queues, and at the two hotels where we’ll be staying along the way, one in Dubai, the next in Joburg. At this point, we have no idea as to where and when we will eat along the way. Most likely, I won’t eat anything on the flights since they won’t have anything suitable for me.

Entrance to the cemetery in the French Quarter in Pondicherry.

Our current hotel chef stated he’d have breakfast delivered to our room on departure morning. We need to allow three hours at the airport for our 10:25 am flight, which is only a 3¼ hour flight until we reach Dubai. We won’t need to eat again until we’re at the hotel in Dubai near the airport. I looked up the menu and they have beef!

I’m certain Tom will order a burger and fries. I’ll order two beef patties without the bun with lettuce and cheese. Most likely, we won’t dine in the restaurant which may be packed with travelers and may be less safe than dining in our room. We’ll play that by ear. But, all of these factors are important to consider.

This morning, we packed and weighed our bags. We are within 2 kg of the maximum weight of 40 kg each. With Emirates Airlines, the total weight is the issue, not the number of bags. We have three checked bags between us and one carry-on we’d like to check, leaving us with the laptop bag for Tom and the yellow Costco bag and handbag for me.

A shrine on the interior of a temple in Pondicherry.

If for some reason, we are over on the weight, we’ll take the small purple bag with us as an additional carry-on which contains our heavy jeans, pants, and shorts. All we have left to do is pack the clothes we’re wearing, the laptops, cords, adapters, power strips, and the final batch of the few toiletries we’ll be using over the next few days and a few odds and ends.

I wish I could say we’re excited at this point, but until we get to Marloth Park and enough time passes when we’re at ease that we didn’t contract the virus during our two travel days, it’s only then we can fully relax and embrace our glorious surroundings in the bush.

Thank you to so many of you who continue to write and send well wishes for our departure and safety. It means the world to us, as all of you do as well.

Stay safe.

Photo from one year ago today, January 8, 2020:

This was the photo we posted, one year ago today. When we visited friends Kathy and Don in Pretoria, South Africa, two years ago, we visited this monument, the Voortrekker Monument, which is an unusual-looking structure located in Pretoria, South Africa. At the time I walked up all these steps (not all steps we tackled are shown in the photo) without getting out of breath or having any health issues. It was a little over a month later, I had open-heart surgery with three main arteries 100% blocked. Who knew? For more photos from this date, one year ago, please click here.

Day #288 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…4 days and counting…

When I originally took this photo of Tom’s dinner early on in our India travels, he said, “Don’t post that. It looks disgusting.” Now, it’s starting to look appetizing to both of us.

Today’s photos are a continuation of those we posted during our first few months in India on tour, in today’s case on March 26, 2020, See the post here. We’ll continue on this path, sharing more tour photos until it’s time for us to hopefully depart on January 11, 2021. From there, God willing, it will be an entirely new world!

There were messages all over Facebook, Google News, and numerous other news outlets that South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa was going to speak last night or today to impose a higher level of lockdown that would prevent travel between provinces.

This building was shown in a scene from the movie, Life of Pi, filmed in Chennai, India.

If that were the case, we’d be stuck in Johannesburg until a more stringent lockdown would eventually be lifted. Johannesburg is in Gauteng Province and Marloth is in Mpumalanga. It would be very frustrating for us to spend weeks or months in Johannesburg in a strict lockdown, certainly no better than what we’re facing now. At least here, we know what to expect.

It would be too risky to attempt to drive from Johannesburg when police will be stopping drivers on the highways imposing fines and jail time, a result of violating travel bans. As it is, even in “normal” times, it’s best to avoid being stopped by police as we experienced in 2013, when Tom was stopped for “allegedly speeding,” resulting in a “cash ” payment in order to be allowed to continue on the road. We learned quite a lesson from that event.

The two gold statues of a revered couple who were highly instrumental in doing good works for the Indian people.

As it turned out it was all speculation. Cyril won’t be speaking after his Covid-19 council met on Wednesday to discuss additional lockdown measures, based on increased cases of the virus and changes in various strains. It’s not rocket science to understand why cases would increase after the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

In South Africa, (80% of the population are Christian), as is the case in many countries throughout the world,  cases have spiked since the holidays. When many gatherings of family, workers, and friends, with few wearing face masks or social distancing, continued to congregate to celebrate, more and more cases resulted from these types of events.

This woman, on the side of the road, was shaking seeds out of a basket to be used in making vegetable oil.

So, with four days remaining until we head to the Mumbai International Airport for our flight on January 11th, we are still on pins and needles hoping nothing will change that will have an impact on our reaching Marloth Park, after two days of travel, on January 13, 2021.

I know the repetition of our discussions on getting out of here may be boring and redundant. But, as our long term readers know, we “tell it like it is,” including what’s most prevalent on our minds at any given time. No doubt, the next four days will consist of a similar dialog.

Once we’re on the move, we’ll stay in close touch, since we’ll have ample time in Dubai, and again in Johannesburg to provide all of our readers with updates on our experiences. Also, for those who have yet to travel during the pandemic, we’ll include information as to how Covid-19 is being handled at various airports and on the flights.

Another of Tom’s meals while touring India in February and March 2020.

After all, we’ll be at four airports during our two days of travel: Mumbai, Dubai, Johannesburg, and Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger. As it turns out, if plane travel is relatively safe and airports are clean with appropriate precautions, picking this time in history may actually prove to be good for fulfilling one’s own dreams of safari.

There aren’t huge crowds while on safari, which usually consist of only six to eight tourists and one guide, in an open-sided vehicle (bus or van tours should be avoided during the pandemic). Most likely, these types of fee-based safari tours will provide social distancing for passengers as well.

Another great point about Kruger National Park is its massive size as follows:

“Kruger National Park is one of the largest national parks in the world, with an area of 19,485 km2 (7,523 sq mi). The park is approximately 360 km (220 mi) long, and has an average width of 65 km (40 mi).”

An artfully designed temple built over 1000 years ago in Chennai.

This extensive area which includes hundreds of budget, moderate, and luxury camps/resort accommodations, is the perfect vacation/holiday for individuals, couples, and families. What is particularly fantastic about Kruger National Park is the option for visitors to “self-drive” only requiring a daily entrance fee as shown below:

Daily Conservation Fees for 1 November 2020 to 31 October 2021
South African Citizens and Residents (with ID) R105 per adult, per day R52 per child, per day
SADC Nationals (with passport) R210 per adult, per day R105 per child, per day
Standard Conservation Fee  (foreigners) R424 per adult, per day R212 per child, per day

As for the comparison to USD to Rand/ZAR, R424 as described above for foreign nationals, the entrance fee is USD $28.20, INR 2062, per person, per day. Of course, with our intent to visit many times during a hopefully longer stay, we’ll purchase an annual pass, referred to as a Wild Card, with access to 80 national parks in South Africa. Details are found here.

That’s all for today, folk. Please continue on this journey with us. We’ll be back with daily updates.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, January 7, 2020:

The photo we posted one year ago, which was taken in 2019, as we continued to have such a fantastic weekend celebrating friend Don’s birthday while staying at their gorgeous home in Pretoria. This photo was taken at a Mexican restaurant with 10 of us in attendance, again celebrating Don’s birthday. For more photos,  from one year ago, please click here.

Day #286 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…6 days and counting…Complicated paperwork…

Often, cows and bulls are depicted in Hindu temples.

Today’s photos are a continuation of those we posted during our first few months in India on tour, in today’s case on March 20, 2020, when we included some favorite photos. See the post here. We’ll continue on this path, sharing more tour photos until it’s time for us to leave on January 11, 2021. From there, God willing, it will be an entirely new world!

The number of steps required to get out of here far exceeds the necessity of organizing our stuff and packing our bags. That’s the easy part. With all the Covid-19 restrictions, South Africa  and UAE requirements, Emirates Airlines requirements, visa extension documents, we’re bombarded with tasks each and every day as the time nears.

“Kapaleeshwarar Temple: Dedicated to one of the forms of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati that is Arulmigu Kapleeswar and Karpagambal respectively, the temple should be on the top position of your list of temples to visit.

With only six days until we fly out of India, we have the front desk staff running back and forth to our room with more and more copies of what we need. Here are a few of the items required:

  1. Letter from the hotel with the dates we stayed here – Done
  2. Letter from Louise with the rental agreement details for South Africa – Will be done today
  3. Copies of all the Indian visa extension documents, in the event we aren’t approved in time and provided with the extension document which we’ll have to print – Will wait until Friday to see if we’re approved with a single document each
  4. Copies of our approval to re-enter South Africa when we overstayed in 2019 – Done
  5. Installation of the South Africa Covid Alert app on our phones – Done
  6. Pack and weigh our bags befitting Emirates baggage restrictions in ample time to pay for our excess online (lower cost of doing so). We have one extra (third) checked bag.
  7. Printed Covid-19 negative PCR test
  8. Health questionnaire for South Africa
    This hall at the temple site is used for weddings, arranged marriage meetings, relaxation, and prayer.

We have yet to complete the health questionnaire which we’ll complete today. The form wasn’t editable online so Tom will complete both of ours. My handwriting is illegible.

Need I say, all of this is cumbersome and frustrating when many of the forms to be completed online on various websites don’t work correctly. We tried for days to enter Tom’s passport information into the Emirate’s website and finally today it accepted his information. I can only imagine how challenging this stuff would be for those folks with a limited online experience and/or lack of patience.

A moonlit evening at the beach.

Today, we found out, after reading and reading various rules and restrictions that UAE, where we’ll layover for 16 hours, will only accept Covid-19 PCR test results from certain labs in India. The hotel arranged this for us and now we’re waiting to see if that lab is approved or we have to change to a different company.

If we aren’t able to get on the upcoming flight, we’ll have to start this entire process all over again, since the dates represented in the forms will have changed. Oh, our fingers continue to be crossed along with those of many of our readers who have so generously supported our ability to leave India at long last.

St. Thomas Church in Chennai. “There are over 19.9 million Catholics in India, which represents around 1.55% of the total population and the Catholic Church is the largest Christian Church in India. There are 174 dioceses in India organized into 29 provinces.”

So that’s the latest, dear readers. We spend the better half of each day engaged in the prep to leave here and easily roll back into our usual routine when the day’s tasks are completed. We walk, we write, we make lists and notes, and when free of all that, we escape into another few episodes of Shark Tank and our new binge-watch-worthy series, A Million Little Things – quite entertaining and good mindless drivel in which to escape for a few hours. Go ahead, give it a try.

Stay safe and healthy!

Photo from one year ago today, January 5, 2020:

On this date in 2016, we were in Sydney, Australia, preparing to board our ship for a 14-night cruise to Auckland, New Zealand. For more about the year-ago post, please click here

Day #279 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Yikes!…Our flight got canceled!…

Simple, yet lovely.

There are no photos from a prior post to share today other than the above from this date in 2016 while in Penguin, Tasmania, Australia due to other “fish to fry” today as you’ll see below. Please click here for the post.

Yesterday, afternoon, while settling in for our lazy second half of the day, I noticed an email from Emirates Airlines. Our flight scheduled for January 12, 2021, has been canceled. No explanation. No refund included. Just canceled. We spent the remainder of the afternoon searching for and booking another flight.

Fortunately, we were able to book another flight on Emirates Airlines one day earlier. However, this new flight, on January 11th, not the 12th, includes a 16-hour layover in Dubai. There were no other shorter-flight options. Frustrated and fearing this will happen again, last night I stayed up late to listen to Cyril Ramphosa, president of South Africa, speech about re-instituted Level 3 lockdown measures.

Much to our relief, at this point, South Africa’s borders won’t be closing, hopefully, not over the next few weeks anyway. However, this doesn’t mean this new flight won’t also get canceled. Based on fewer tourists and business flyers traveling at this time, these airlines will cancel flights if they aren’t full enough.

While booking the January 11th flight, we noticed that the business class was sold out. This might be a good sign that this flight may be more fully occupied, increasing the odds that it will stay in place. We’d considered upgrading to business class at one point, but the extra cost of US $2000, INR 146741, per person wasn’t worth it.

The only good part of this flight is that we won’t have to leave this hotel in the middle of the night. By 7:00 am, we’ll head for the nearby Mumbai Airport for the 10:30 am flight. The hotel has rescheduled our COVID-19 test for January 9th since it takes a full 24-hours for the results. We couldn’t risk having the test on the 10th for this reason.

Based on the new flight details, our overnight stay in Johannesburg still works out along with the flight on January 13th from Johannesburg Tambo Airport to Nelspruit/Mpumulanga/Kruger Airport and the booking for our pre-arranged rental car. All said and done, we’ll arrive in Marloth Park on the same day and time on January 13th, after a two-day travel period.

Thank goodness, we’ll have the overnight in Johannesburg and be able to catch up on some sleep and food. But, alas, much to our dismay, President Ramaphosa banned all alcohol sales in South Africa until January 14th or perhaps longer. “No, worries,” says dear friend Louise last night amid the madness. She’s got wine and brandy for the night we arrive. That’s our Louise and Danie!!!

We aren’t “lushes” by any means, having had no problem going without drinks the past 10 months, but settling in with a big steak and a glass of red wine for me and brandy for Tom was definitely in our minds as part of our arrival festivities. In more news today’s, I’ve been reading that the alcohol ban may be overturned since it severely impacts South Africa’s economy and jobs. We shall see how that goes.

To top it off, we took a peek at India’s visa status and the previous statement that all foreign travelers visas would automatically be provided with an extension if they leave within 30 days of the re-opening of all International flights has been reversed. Well, that went away and now, much to our chagrin, we have to apply for an extension after all.

You wouldn’t believe how complicated this process is! That’s why I haven’t included more photos today and am wrapping up this post as quickly as possible. There’s a 14-day window to accomplish this and when our flight changed from the 12th to the 11th, this places us on the 13th day today. As soon as I wrap this up, we’ll start the process which, most likely will take the remainder of the day.

Needless to say, I won’t be finishing my walks today and will be sitting at my computer filling out forms for the remainder of the day. Lots of small-sized documents have to be attached so I will have to make adjustments accordingly. Oh, good grief. Kind of stressful.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, December 29, 2019:

We often encountered beautiful flowers when we walked the neighborhood in Pacific Harbor, Fiji on this date in 2015. For more on the year-ago post, please click here.

Day #253 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Apprehension follows enthusiasm…

The bright sun creates a sparkling sea, which we’ve cherished every day that we’d been in Maui. There had only been one totally overcast and rainy day in the six weeks we spent on the island, although it rained for short periods for many days, to later become sunny.

Today’s photos are from this date in 2014 while wrapping up our six-week stay in Maui, Hawaii. For more on that day’s story, including our final expenses for the stay, please click here.

We’d be foolhardy to assume we’ll actually be able to board that flight to South Africa without incident. When we arrived at the Mumbai Airport on March 20, at 1:00 am while waiting in a queue for hours, four days before the official lockdown, we were turned away for the flight to South Africa, as they were slowly closing their borders in a highly inconsistent manner.

All these photos shown today were taken on a sunny Sunday early afternoon.

We ended up having to return to our original hotel in Mumbai which informed us they were closing the next day. For that full story, please click here. It was a nightmare, to say the least. We haven’t forgotten a minute of those first few days until we eventually settled in this hotel.

Over the next few weeks and months, we were worried this hotel would be forced to close as well, often asking the reception staff for a status update. Miracle of all miracles, when almost every hotel in Mumbai had closed, the Courtyard by Marriott Mumbai Airport remained open. For this, we are very grateful.

Hibiscus bloom year-round in the islands.

In yesterday’s post, I whinged, whined, and complained over issues we encounter each day, mainly with other guests not wearing masks and social distancing. Later in the day, I felt bad for perhaps sounding ungrateful. The hotel staff has been excellent, albeit inconsistent at times, and the hotel itself is very fine. To see yesterday’s whiny post, please click here.

Please don’t write and beat me up. I’ve done it enough to myself already. We are grateful to have been able to live in this safe, clean, air-conditioned hotel room for the past eight months, precisely 253 days to be exact, as shown above in the heading. We’re grateful for the kindness of the staff, the food, although limited due to our own design, the comfortable bed, and the good WiFi. We’re grateful we’ve been able to afford living here for what will prove to be 10 months by the time we leave, hopefully on January 12, 2021.

And yet a few new blooms magically appear in the tropical climate.

We always promised to tell our readers “like it is” and sometimes that isn’t “pretty,” The reality remains, we could be turned away at the airport again on January 12th. With COVID-19, everything can change on a dime. In the next 42 days, South Africa could again lock down their borders if cases escalate and if coincidentally it falls on the date we’re leaving. Also, India could prevent international flights from entering its borders.

At least, if we knew we couldn’t fly a few days earlier, we could redo our mindset and come up with an alternate plan, hopefully unlike the fiasco we encountered as mentioned above on March 20, 2020, in the middle of the night while exhausted and frustrated.

The shoreline from our condo’s beachfront.

Over the next few days, we’ll come up with a Plan B, should we be turned away at the airport once again. Once we make that decision, we’ll share it with you here. In the interim, we’ve both decided to temper our enthusiasm with a bit of trepidation and uncertainty.

To be able to arrive in Marloth Park, Mpumalanga, South Africa in the late afternoon of January 13, 2021, is, at this point, is a lofty dream. Pulling this off may prove to be a challenge. Thus, at this point, we’ll continue to take the necessary steps to proceed with those three flights, safely and without incident.

The blooming season in Hawaii has long since passed for some flowering plants and trees.

Even so, one can easily worry about contracting COVID-19 while riding in taxis, at the airports, or while on airplanes. None of this is easy. None of this is fun. But, we cannot stay any longer in strict confinement when on January 12th, it will have been almost 10 months.

We can only maintain a glimmer of hope, that all will transpire as planned and that we’ll arrive at our blissful destination, full of hope, joyful anticipation, and plenty of excitement.

The bananas in the yard grow bigger each day, soon ready for picking.

A heartfelt thanks to so many of our family/friends/readers for all of the encouragement and support we received on social media, through email, and comments on our site. We appreciate each and every one of YOU!!!

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, December 1, 2019:

One year ago, we arrived in Nevada to visit family. Son, Richard is definitely a Vegas Golden Knight’s superfan when he had this mural painted on a wall in his backyard pool area. We’re looking forward to attending a game with him on December 8th. For more, please click here.

Sorry folks, no pig photo, no safari luck…Favorite photos continue…

Often, cows and bulls are depicted in Hindu temples.

I really don’t know where to begin. After all these years of travel and our share of trials and tribulations, these past days have presented a series of events, unusual from anything we’ve ever experienced in the past.


First of all, we are safe. Frustrated, but safe. Currently, at noon on Friday, March 20, 2020, we are back from the Mumbai Airport at the hotel with a view of the Arabian Sea, from our modern and nicely appointed hotel room with great air-con, reasonable WiFi (off and on at the moment) and excellent customer service.
“Kapaleeshwarar Temple: Dedicated to one of the forms of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati that is Arulmigu Kapleeswar and Karpagambal respectively, the temple should be on the top position of your list of temples to visit.

We’re safe, basically quarantined by choice. With few guests in the hotel along with us, our risks of infection are relatively low, especially now that India is banning all international flights, incoming and outgoing beginning in the next 24 hours.


This morning South Africa refused to let us in when we were at check-in at the airport in Mumbai. The reps called South Africa’s immigration to verify if we could, in fact, enter the country before we were allowed to board the flight. No one, not just us, that is traveling from any country with a single case of Covid-19 is allowed to enter South Africa as of today.
This hall at the temple site is used for weddings, arranged marriage meetings, relaxation, and prayer.

With most countries banning foreign nationals to cross their borders, there was no country that we could escape to. They suggested we return “home.” That doesn’t work for us based on our circumstances… We don’t have a home. 


Nor did we want to travel to any airports in the US when as of five hours ago, there were over 13,900 cases in the US, many of them as a result of travel. Based on my high-risk status, entering at one of those airports made no sense to us.
A moonlit evening on the beach.

Within moments of hearing this final result, we stopped for a few minutes to discuss our options. They were few. Staying in Mumbai, for now, made the most sense when no countries would accept us, except for the US where we didn’t want to go. We began to make our way, with the loaded trolley, a long distance to a taxi stand, and then, the worst part of the morning ensued. 


We had to prepay at a kiosk for a taxi, asking for a van. A small car doesn’t work for us. We took our prepaid ticket to door #1, to find a miniature van, and I mean miniature, that was somehow supposed to be able to fit our luggage.
A variety of trinkets for sale.


Miraculously, the determined driver loaded the heavy bags atop the vehicle onto a luggage rack. Now, we’d hope and pray nothing would fall off onto the roadway. The seat belts and air-con didn’t work and mosquitos were flying around our heads. I was bitten several times.


Then, in our exhausted state as a result of little sleep from getting up at 2:00 am, the driver got lost and couldn’t find our hotel. He spoke no English and when he stopped several times to ask his taxi cronies where the hotel was located, they shook their heads. They didn’t have a clue either.

St. Thomas Church in Chennai.

With the mosquito bites, our clothes sticking to us, being jerked around in the rickety vehicle, we had to focus on staying calm. I brought up “Maps” on my phone and attempted to teach the driver two words, “right” and “left.” After a highly stressful hour, we finally made it back to the hotel, hot, sweaty, bitten and tired.


It was close to 6:00. When the hotel manager arrived, we made a “deal” with him on the price of the room (we moved to a pool/ocean view room), a discount on dinners and of course, with breakfast included.
It was a cloudy day but we still enjoyed seeing the colorful sculptures.

But now, situated in this lovely hotel on the ocean in Mumbai, we’ve resigned ourselves to a self-imposed quarantine and have decided to make the best of it. Pools and bars aren’t allowed to be open in India right now, nor can one swim in the dangerous waters of the Arabian Sea.


Instead, we’ll make ourselves comfortable, doing what everyone else is doing; reading books on our phones, watching movies and tv series, and in our case, and on the cooler days, walking on the beach. It’s hot here now.

Although it wasn’t very crowded, there are always many visitors to the famous Chennai temples.

I called Louise and sadly explained we won’t be arriving tomorrow. But, when things change and restrictions are removed, we hope to head to South Africa. Hopefully, at that time, we’ll have a pig photo to post and the dreaded virus will long have run its course.


No “final expenses” for India will be posted at this time. Expenses are not final yet and based on current circumstances will continue to accrue.


Take care, my friends.

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Photo from one year ago today, March 20, 2019:

The helmeted guinea-fowls have been gone a few months.  Yesterday, they returned with many chicks in tow, teaching them how to “steal” pellets from warthogs.  As annoying as they can be, it was delightful to see their offspring. For more photos, please click here.

We made it to Mumbai…13 hours until we return to the airport…Broken suitcase dilemma…

While traveling on the historic Toy Train through the foothills of the Himalaya Mountains, the train stopped for a food break at this quaint station.

It’s Thursday, March 19th. In 14 hours, at 3:00 am, we’ll be picked up by a driver to return to the Mumbai Airport, which we left only hours ago. We barely slept last night after the late arrival at our hotel and tonight after dinner, we’ll try to get some sleep before the 2:15 am wake-up call.


When we’d originally arrived in Mumbai, security at the airport has broken the zipper on our third checked bag. With no way to repair it, we left it behind crammed with “stuff” for the hotel to hold for us until we returned. 

We couldn’t purchase a new bag until after we arrived in Mumbai since we’d have to pay excess baggage fees to bring it with us. We’ve had no choice but to go out today to purchase a new bag. 
The first palace we visited on a tour from the Maharajas Express was the City Palace, also known as the Shiv Niwas Palace.


The hotel manager told us some luggage shops are still open in the area in light of the Covid-19 fears and soon we’ll get a tuk-tuk to take us to a few nearby luggage shops.


We’d make an effort to unload most of our rupees but now, if they don’t accept a credit card, we’ll also have to go to an ATM to pay for the bag. But first, we’ll see if we can locate a bag and the cost. We don’t want to be left with rupees when we soon depart.

What an unusual seat!

The two flights from Madurai to Mumbai (via Chennai) were packed with face-masked travelers. For the first time, we both wore masks throughout the flights although we realize its not a 100% guarantee of safety from the virus.


We wiped down the armrests, tray table, and seat belt buckles with the Clorox wipes I’ve been carrying in a plastic bag. They sure have come in handy. Every hour or so, we used hand sanitizer and a few times, went to the bathroom and washed our hands with soap and water. What more could we have done?
View of the city from the palace in Udaipur.

Basically, once we have the new bag, we’ll need to repack to distribute the weight properly to comply with Kenya Airways baggage restrictions. They allow two-23 kg (50 pounds) bags each which we can manage easily once we have the new bag.


I can’t wait to have this new bag thing over with to allow a little time to relax before tonight and tomorrow’s big travel challenge. We’re still uncertain if we’ll be able to get into South Africa, let alone change planes in Nairobi, before we even arrive in SA.
Gold was often used in creating artifacts in palaces.

Update:  It’s now almost 2:00 pm and we recently returned from a 20-minute tuk-tuk ride through traffic to a Luggage World store (go figure). We easily found a “Swiss (army knife people) 26” bag in bright yellow for IDR 7000, US $93.25. We prefer unusual colors in bags making them easier to spot on the carousel. They accepted a credit card and we didn’t have to go to an ATM.


We took everything out of the old supply bag, throwing out a number of items and packed the new bag which now meets baggage regulations. Our other bags are packed for leaving in the middle of the night tonight after leaving out comfortable clothes and shoes for the long journey. 
At the nightly closing of the border ceremony between India and Pakistan, the Border Security Force members were aligned and ready to perform.

Whew! That was labor-intensive after only a few hours of sleep! The rest of the day, we can chill, avoiding any naps so we’ll be able to fall asleep after dinner. I’d intended to do the final expenses for our time in India, but I think I’ll save it for the 12-hour layover in Kenya, during which I’ll prepare and upload tomorrow’s post. 


Well, folks, the next time you hear from us, (tomorrow) hopefully, will be from the Jomo Kenyatta Airport in Nairobi, Kenya. And after that, may safari luck be with us, from Marloth Park, South Africa. If you first see a pig as the main photo on March 22nd, you’ll know we’ve arrived!!!

The 108 foot Lord Hanuman at the Jakhoo Temple, in Shimla.

Stay safe. Wash your hands. Don’t touch surfaces. Stay far away from others, if you can. And somehow, enjoy this quiet time doing things you may have wanted to do for a long time but never had the time.


Thanks, again for all of the well wishes. We’ll be thinking of all of you!

________________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, March 19, 2019:

Mom and three babies.  The fourth baby who’d been missing for several days never reappeared. For more photos, please click here.