Only a short time until we’re back in the bush…

On our way out of the Nelspruit airport, we spotted the dark brown impala we’d seen during past trips to the airport from last time he was a little calf. Now he’s fast growing to adulthood. There was also a female but we weren’t able to take a good photo of her.

We are seated on the final flight of this long journey from Las Vegas, Nevada, the USA, to Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger. Within the next two hours, we will arrive in Marloth Park. We will be more at ease when done with the 90-minute drive on the dangerous N4 highway, which is rife with car jackings. 

We stayed at the  Tambo Airport City Lodge Hotel in Joburg to avoid driving that road at night. The 15-hour flight from Newark was relatively smooth, with little turbulence over the ocean. 

Gosh, we have crossed the Atlantic Ocean four times in the past two months since we left South Africa two months ago. So much happened in the past two months. We won’t reiterate them here, ad nauseam. We have said enough already.

But even this morning at the airport, we stumbled upon another example of human error when we checked our bags at the Airlink counter. They couldn’t find the information that we paid for our bags in Las Vegas and wanted to charge us again. 

We showed them our all-the-way-through itinerary that included our baggage purchases at the beginning. After a 25-minute delay, they finally figured it out, and they let us go through without additional payment.  We always book the entire trip, including short flights, to avoid extra baggage fees. But it was just “one more thing” we encountered on this trip.

We had a great time in Florida with friends Karen and Rich at their lovely waterfront home in Apollo Beach. Plus, we had an absolute blast during the first eight days of the cruise, and it was downhill from there. On disembarkation day, we found ourselves on the “COVID bus” to our hotel with dozens of other sick passengers.

Last night, after the 15-hour flight, we could finally get to our hotel room. It was so cold in the hotel and our room that we couldn’t warm up, partly due to our exhaustion and the low temps in Joburg.  We didn’t sleep much. My feet were so cold. We went to bed at 9:30, but it was early morning to us. We each dozed about an hour on the plane, certainly not enough to ease the tiredness, and perhaps another two or three hours during the night at the hotel.

We just were informed by the pilot to prepare for landing. We will be on the ground and anxious to be on our way in moments. We’ll pick up yet small, affordable rental car and be on our way.

In a few hours, we will be at our new holiday home in the bush, a colorful, African-themed, unique house with everything we could need or want. Louise never misses a beat in ensuring that the property suits our taste and desires wherever we rent.

Tomorrow, we’ll be back with photos of our house, the garden, and our new animal friends. In no time at all, we’ll be reconnecting with our human friends as well.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, May 24, 2021:

This mongoose must have been injured and lost hers/his lips. Possibly, due to inbreeding, it could have been a congenital disability. But they were as rowdy as the others for some paloney and eggs. For more photos, please click here.

We’re on the move…Travel day#1…Flight got canceled…

This was our limo this morning to the airport from Green Valley Ranch Resort.

We are at the United gate at Las Vegas McCarren Airport, waiting to board our new flight in a few hours. Yesterday afternoon, I got a text on my phone stating that our 7:00 am flight to Newark was canceled, and the new flight would depart at 10:28 am. We got excited about the change, which meant we wouldn’t have to get up at 3:00 am to get to the airport three hours early, as required, by 4:00 am.

The message stated that we’d have to book different seats on the new flight. Immediately, we checked online, only to find two seats left, one a window and another a middle seat in different rows, both of which we don’t like. We both prefer aisle seats and had previously booked our seats across the aisle from one another. But, this leg of our journey is slightly less than five hours, and we can manage this situation.

Unbelievably, United doesn’t credit passengers for their previous seat purchases when flights change. We’d paid extra on the old flight for better seats but had to take the two lousy seats that were available without the possibility of a refund. Go figure. They get you coming and going, duh, literally.

This morning, another text arrived stating the flight would be departing until 10:55 am, a change that didn’t make a difference to us one way or another. We’d already arranged our ride to the airport, and it was too late to change it. We were scheduled to be picked up by the limo at 7:00 am, but then, at 6:25, I received a text from the driver that he had arrived and if we were ready to go.

The interior of the limo.

We figured we’d either be waiting in the hotel lobby or at the airport. That was fine. By 6:40, our bags were loaded, and we were in the limo on the short 12-minute drive to the airport. The cost for the limo with tip was US $100. But, with this big festival going on in Las Vegas, there were no Ubers, Lyfts, or taxis available. We had no choice but to take the limo at four times the cost of a taxi. We felt we were lucky to get a ride at all. We weren’t about to complain about that.

Little did we know the driver would arrive in a black stretch limo. Gosh, I can’t recall the last time I rode in one of those. Riding in a limo has never been important to either of us. But I couldn’t resist taking a few photos. At least I’d have something to add to today’s post when the photo ops were slim. It was a far cry from the small rental car we’ll be driving on the N4 from Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger Airport when we arrive in two days. As long as we have transportation, we don’t give it much thought.

Once we arrived at the airport, we discovered curbside check-in for United. But the rep explained that due to our international connection, we’d have to go to the ticket counter for United, using the kiosk to get our bags checked, receive our boarding passes, scan our passports and show our PCR test.

The kindly reps at the kiosk who assisted passengers were unaware that South Africa doesn’t allow entry from US passengers with only a CDC white vaccination card. When we showed them the comments on entry restrictions on their screen, which clearly stated that PCR or Antigen tests were required and CDC cards alone wouldn’t do, they were shocked. They had no idea. They said many passengers scheduled for flights for South Africa were in for a big surprise.

It was Tom who found this new requirement online. The reps were surprised we found the small print about the change in this requirement. What a nightmare that could have been.

Slot machines at the airport in Las Vegas.

Then, our bags were then whisked away to the check-in counter, where they were weighed. All four of our checked bags, none of which required payment for an international flight, were weighed and none were overweight. We had weighed all of them in our hotel room on our travel scale, which miraculously has lasted for over 9½ years.

We breezed through security and made our way to the gate, where we are still sitting with my phone plugged into the charger on the seat. By the time we get on the plane, my phone and this laptop will be 100% charged. Apparently, based on the new location of our seats on this first flight, there are no plug-ins for devices. Good grief.

With only a two-hour layover in Newark, based on the flight cancellation, we are grateful for, as opposed to the previous six-plus-hour layover, I wouldn’t have had time to do today’s post. Since we arrived at the Las Vegas airport so early, I had ample time to upload a post. There are slot machines about 20 feet from us, but we don’t play.

Tom offered to get me a cup of decaf coffee, but after waiting in line at a Starbucks, he discovered they didn’t sell decaf. That’s weird. I’ll wait and have coffee on the plane in about two hours.

Ah, dear readers, this has been one long and difficult time in the US. We saw son Greg and the three grandchildren in Minneapolis for about 20 minutes while seated in the rental car with masks on while they kept back about 10 feet from the vehicle. We never saw Richard in Las Vegas/Henderson since we were still coughing. We wonder if Covid-19 will ever go away and if the visiting family will be possible.

The next time we write will be when we arrive in Johannesburg on Monday, after the 15 hour red eye where we’ll spend part of the night at the airport hotel, trying to catch up on some sleep.

See you next time.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today. May 22. 2021:

The river is beautiful at sunset. For more photos, please click here.

Vague and confusing rules to re-enter South Africa…Three days and counting…

If I could eat sweets, most likely I’d choose some of these. We wondered what they did with the items that didn’t sell and how many days they stayed in the case.

As it turned out, the two Covid-19 antigen tests we purchased at Walgreens are not suitable for travel. In my state of COVID brain fog, along with a long queue in the pharmacy that day, I failed to ask the question to the pharmacist before I purchased the kits.

We’d used the same brand name kit to enter the US, but apparently, the tests I purchased in the US don’t have the red stripe across the box. It is the brand name, but it didn’t say it couldn’t be used for travel. Upon further investigation online, Tom discovered these test kits wouldn’t work.

These baked goods for sale at the Lucky Penny are much larger than they appear in this photo.

The next point was the confusion over whether South Africa requires a PCR or antigen test. According to several government sites, on March 22, 2022, it was no longer necessary to have a PCR test to enter the country if a person had a valid vaccination card.

The tricky part is they won’t accept the CDC white vaccination cards, which we have. They will only accept a vaccination certificate with a QR code.

These baked goods are twice the size of those you’d find in a bakery. Everything in Las Vegas is vast!

Yesterday afternoon, we spent hours finding out where and how we could get such a certificate. If we had weeks to spare, we could request it and get it in the mail at our “home” address. Well, that doesn’t work for us. Our only option is to get a new PCR test at a drive-through at CVS pharmacy. We don’t have a car. We’ll have to pay for a taxi to take us to CVS’s drive-through to get the test.

But that expense is a lot less than having a company come to the hotel to do our tests. After checking with the concierge, we discovered the cost is US $199 per person. Our taxi bill will be a lot less than the US $398.

These macaroons were the size of a man’s fist and stuffed with something creamy.

This is a bit frustrating, especially after all we’ve been through the past four-plus weeks. Our two tests are booked at a nearby CVS for 11:00, and 11:10 am tomorrow. We should have the results by Saturday, which we’ll print at the hotel, along with our rental agreement with Louise, which is required to enter the country for three months.

The next hurdle we had to handle was that we couldn’t find confirmation for the 90-day car rental for the vehicle we’re picking up at Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger Airport (MQP). Indeed the issue was more about Covid brain fog and our lack of ability to locate the booking information easily. This has never been an issue for us. I always enter the booking details on our Cozi travel calendar. There was nothing there.

These massive chocolate cream puffs made my mouth water. The brownies on the far right were at least 4″ squares.

We spent at least two hours figuring out which car rental company we’d used and which company was supplying the car. We went through past credit card statements and finally found three small deposits we’d paid in March. Finally, we figured it out, after calling the company..

This error occurred when we were rushed to book this entire trip to the US, one hotel and flight after another. When we returned to South Africa, the records for that one rental car fell through the cracks when we were swamped booking flights and vehicles for Florida, Minnesota, and Nevada.

Yes, we love bacon, but I’m not sure about chocolate-covered bacon. Thank goodness I can’t have sugar. I’d have been tempted to try it. I encouraged Tom to try one of these fantastic items, but he prefers plain old-fashioned doughnuts, which weren’t available.

Thankfully, all is fine now, and the car will be waiting for us at the airport next Tuesday. However, we weren’t able to secure a straight 90-day booking. Every 30 days, we’ll have to return the car to Nelspruit (a three-hour turnaround) to sign another 30-day contract. However, we will make every effort to convince them to let us send them photos of the car and odometer readings to allow us to keep it the entire time. We shall see how that goes.

Whew! Lots of challenges this time around. Fortunately, with sheer determination, I managed to set up my new laptop completely, finishing early this morning. That’s a relief to have out of the way. In the next few days, we’ll reorganize the contents of our luggage, weighing everything to ensure we comply. Then, at 4:00 am Sunday, we’ll leave the hotel for the airport.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, May 19, 2021:

This photo astounded us. See the post for details of the unusual phenomenon from our trail cam in Marloth Park. For more information, please click here.

Tasks, done and dusted…Setting up my new laptop…

My new laptop. See the specs below.

This morning, we picked up the hotel arranged rental, a new BMW, a lovely car, much more upscale than many we rent while living in different countries. It was an easy process. We arrived at the concierge desk, and within 10 minutes, the car was delivered to the valet area, where we jumped in and were on our way.

Well, I shouldn’t say “jumped in.” I am recovering more slowly. We’re still somewhat weak and lethargic, me more so than Tom. He’s rapidly on the mend, off of all medication, and regaining daily strength and stamina. The headache over my left eye is relentless, making me wonder if I may have developed a sinus infection from having Covid.

I’m not going to a doctor here in Nevada. Once we return to Marloth Park a week from today, I will make an appointment with Dr. Theo, as will Tom, to be checked after the dreadful round of Omicron, lasting a month so far. I can’t wait to feel like my energized self, as I had when we left Marloth Park on March 23, after I’d been vigorously walking 7000 to 8000 steps a day.

We’re getting in about 5000 steps a day in this vast property, but I am exhausted after each walk through the property. This is a typical after-effect of having a more extreme case of Omicron, not significant enough to require hospitalization but dramatic enough to impact the quality of our lives over the past many weeks.

Tom’s new Samsonite suitcase.

The thought of heading out shopping for a new laptop for me and a large suitcase for Tom intimidated me. How would I feel walking around Costco feeling as weak as I do? But, somehow, once inside the giant store, with the prospect of buying a new laptop, a burst of adrenaline and enthusiasm got me through selecting a computer that would serve my heavy use needs.

I selected a Lenovo Ideapad Flex 5 with an Intel i7 processor, a lighted keyboard, and a touchscreen with Windows 11, including these specs:

Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 15IIL05 81X3000VUS (Intel i7-1065G7 4-Core, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, Intel Iris Plus, 15.6″ Touch Full HD (1920×1080), Fingerprint, Win 11 Home) Graphite Grey Convertible Laptop

This same laptop is for sale on Amazon for US $999. The Costco price was US $799, but we had a shop card from Costco for US $310 plus a $80 credit from our prior use of our Costco Premium membership. We only had to pay the difference with tax. We feel comfortable that we got a good deal.

It was nice to ride in an excellent car like this BMW that we rented through the hotel for US $79 a day. We’ll turn it back in tomorrow morning.

I am still typing on my old Chromebook with the bad letter “L.” As it turned out, this cheap HP Chromebook wasn’t sophisticated enough for my heavy use. This new computer has a larger monitor, better for our regular streaming of various services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. The screen’s better resolution will be a big bonus as well.

Two of my favorite features are the built-in card reader for my camera and the lighted keyboard. Although I don’t type much in the dark, I’ve always loved a lighted keyboard and haven’t been able to get this feature on my last few laptops. I am thrilled to have this now.

I encouraged Tom to get a new one like mine, but his Chromebook still works well, and he has no interest in replacing it right now. By tomorrow morning, I will have everything set up on the new machine and be able to post using it. We will keep this old laptop for streaming news broadcasts, sports, and other background shows while working on our regular laptops.

After the trip to Costco, where Tom had no luck finding a new large suitcase, we headed to TJ Maxx and within minutes found Tom a fantastic black Samsonite bag, easy to identify with two tan stripes running down the black surface. He’s already moved his clothes into the new bag and is content with his purchase.

The car has an elaborate console.

Then, we stopped at Walgreens Pharmacy to pick up a few Covid-19 antigen test kits we’ll use the day we depart for South Africa on Sunday.

That’s it for today, folks. I am anxious to wrap this up to continue setting up my new laptop. Switching from Chromebook to Windows 11 will be time-consuming, but I am looking forward to working on it. I won’t be carrying over all the junk files from the past by doing a manual update so that I can start with a clean slate. All of my old files are on Google Drive, which I will easily be able to access on this new device.

It may take me weeks to get everything set up to my liking since I’m not feeling 100%, but I have all the time in the world.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, May 17, 2021:

Kudus stopped by for pellets at sundowner time. While watching wildlife, it will be fun to be back in the bush, feeling better and sipping on an adult beverage, such as my favorite Skinny (ow alcohol) red wine. We haven’t had a drink in almost a month. For more photos, please click here.

On the move again…We’re off to Las Vegas…

The pool at the Green Valley Ranch Resort and Spa where we’ll arrive later today.

The thought of the upcoming trip to Las Vegas is a bit intimidating. Neither of us is feeling as well as we’d like to be able to travel. Knowing that in one week from today, the two travel days to Marloth Park are even more intimidating, but hopefully, we’ll have recovered all the more by then.

Tom is still coughing, considerably more than me, but I have the fierce Covid headache that comes and goes along with a lesser cough and lots of congestion. We are not our usual “travel-ready” selves. We have no idea how the airplane’s cabin pressure will feel right now.

But, it was only two weeks ago that we flew the long distance from the UK to Minnesota when our symptoms were worse (we tested negative), and the journey was over 12 hours from airport to airport. I barely remember that trip except for the several movies we watched during the flight.

There are rarely entertainment screens on these shorter US domestic flights, so the 3½ hours will drag on. There’s no point in upgrading to business class for this short flight. We’ll check into upgrading when we fly back to South Africa a week from today. Gosh, that’s coming up quickly.

We would have flown back to South Africa from the UK two weeks ago in a perfect world. But, we’d already paid for all of our flights and hotels in advance and wouldn’t get refunds, only credits which we may or may not be able to use in the future with time restrictions on them. We assumed we’d feel better at some point and be able to continue with our plans to see family, but it just didn’t work out that way.

As it turned out, yesterday afternoon, we drove out to son Greg’s house and saw the three grandkids and Greg, who greeted us outside while we stayed in the car wearing masks. Miles had yet to get a negative Covid test, and we couldn’t take any chances. That’s not to say we won’t have risks flying on an airplane when the US doesn’t require Covid tests to fly on domestic flights. Ah, you can run, but you can’t hide from this pandemic. It’s everywhere.

It was wonderful to see the sweet smiling faces, all wearing braces, of the three teenagers and Greg. Camille wasn’t feeling well and was sick in bed, so we didn’t see her. It was only for a few minutes with no hugs and kisses, but we were glad we saw them.

  • It didn’t work out to see Tom’s family members. We can only look forward to the next time we visit the USA when that is up for grabs. We don’t have a clue when we will return. When we can start booking again, we’ll have a better idea.

We asked for and received a late check out from our hotel today. We’ll head out around 1:00 pm, drop off the rental car, and head to the gate to wait for the flight. Last night, Tom checked us in for the Delta flight and paid for our bags, US $140 for all of our checked bags. We had more bags this time due to the extra dressy clothes for the Cunard Queen Mary 2 cruise, on which we never sailed due to contracting Covid-19 on the last two days on the Celebrity Silhouette cruise.

Ah, this wasn’t the ideal travel experience we usually encounter. But, this could have happened to anyone, anywhere, at any time. No one is exempt from this virus regardless of how hard we’ve tried to stay safe over the past few years.

We’ll make the best of this last week in the US and then be on our way back to the safe haven we’ve found in the bush. The thought of being back in Marloth Park by May 24th is comforting.

Next time we write, we’ll be doing so from the comfort of our lovely hotel room at the Green Valley Ranch Resort and Spa in Henderson, Nevada.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, May 15, 2021:

He ate pellets, left, walked around the house, and returned to the garden, thinking we might assume he’s someone new and offer more pellets. The warthogs and bushbucks are good at this maneuver. For more photos, please click here.

We’re on the move…USA, here we come…

A children’s play area in the Azores during the cruise.

Whew! It’s been a tough last ten days since we first tested positive for Covid-19. It’s been quite an ordeal. After testing negative two days in a row, we’re ready to be on our way. We are still experiencing symptoms of the virus with severe coughing and my red, bloodshot eyes, but we are hopeful that we will continue to improve as each day passes.

We didn’t intend to whine so much in our posts, but we’ve always promised to “tell it like it is” rather than paint a fluffy picture with an exaggerated version of optimism. Sure, it could have been worse. But, as they say, “everything is relative” to our situation at any given time.

Certainly, this hasn’t been the worst health challenge we’ve faced in the past 9½ years. But, it plays a close second considering the uncertainty of where this dreadful virus would take us. We could barely get out of bed for a few days with worsening symptoms. But by the seventh day, we became hopeful, as the worst of it felt as if it was over.

The added symptom of my grossly irritated eyes was a setback. But today, it’s better, and I am confident this symptom will dissipate before too long. Tomorrow morning, we’ll be able to go to a pharmacy in Minnesota to get Nyquil cough medicine, cough drops, and eye drops, all of which should help us feel better.

We can’t wait to get situated in the hotel in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, close to many restaurants and markets with items we need and want. Hopefully, the two weeks we’ll spend there will allow us to fully recover before we head to Nevada two weeks from today.

Before we headed to breakfast in the hotel, we packed everything, weighed our bags, and prepped for the shuttle leaving for Gatwick Airport at 9:52 am, a half-hour from now.  Thus, today’s post is short and to the point.

We only have 11 hours of travel time to arrive in the US, which is nothing compared to other fights we experience from time to time. By the time we arrive, it will be midnight for us but only 6:30 pm Minnesota time. In our usual attempt to maintain a schedule commensurate with our location at the time, most likely, we’ll check in to the hotel, drop off our bags and head out to dinner if we’re hungry.

We’ll be back with you tomorrow! Thanks for all the supportive comments from so many readers, including Janet, who wrote with assurances about Icelandair. We’re good to go.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, May 1, 2021:

This female arrived in the bush in our garden, sitting a short distance away, an example of a subtle and gentle approach to the rutting season. For more photos, please click here.

Test results…Covid is insidious…On the move in 24 hours…

This was where I stood waiting for my dinner delivery. The hotel doesn’t allow drivers to enter the parking lot. I waited outside for 30 minutes in the cold when the driver was late.

I am sitting on the bed propped up with pillows. I’m showered and dressed, but I am somewhat surprised I got that far considering how I feel. Yesterday, we both tested negative, but the virus is not over for us by far.

By the way, the letter “L” on my keyboard isn’t working, and each time I type a word with an “L,” I have to bang the key as hard as possible. It has been a task these past many days since we tested positive, and our strength was severely impacted. I’ve tried using words that don’t contain an “L,” but thinking of those words is more of an effort than banging on the key. It’s having other issues as well. Once we get to the US, I will be getting a new aptop, (oops, laptop).

I purchased this HP Chromebook from Amazon India when we were in Udaipur, India in 2020, while on a private tour staying in a hotel. It arrived in one day, so I didn’t complain when everything wasn’t perfect, although it was supposedly new. I’ve been doing workarounds for the past two-plus years, and I am ready to start anew,

So, yesterday afternoon, the PCR tests were negative, although we both have many lingering symptoms, mainly weakness, a lack of energy, and a relentless cough. Yesterday afternoon, I noticed an irritation in my eyes which, as a contact lens wearer, can happen when the pollen count is high, which right now in London is at its highest.

My eyes have never been so red, swollen, and oozing. I took out my contacts, used Visine, and applied warm compresses throughout the evening, including every few hours during the night. I’ve been taking Benadryl, but I’d never experienced anything like this. At one point, I read that Covid can cause eye irritation, and it was impossible not to attribute it to that. This morning, it was a little better but still scary-looking. I look like a zombie. Hopefully, by tomorrow when we leave the UK, it will be better.

We made a plan to get out of here tomorrow. Today, we’ll take the final two PCR tests we have left to use for flying. The US requires negative tests to enter the country, regardless of where we are coming from. We chose an oddball airline, Iceland Air, to get us to Minnesota. It was the only airline that could get us there in the shortest time…11 hours and, at the best price we found of US $1470 for the two of us.

Tom did extensive research and found this flight which flies to Reykjavik, Iceland, where we’ll transfer to another flight heading to Minneapolis. Many flight options consisted of 30 to 40 hours of travel time, priced at US $4800 for two! This peculiar route saves us hours on layovers since Minnesota is so far north near Canada.

The only tricky part of this route will be when we reach Iceland, we’ll have to collect our bags and go through immigration and security to make the next flight 90 minutes later. This was a risky decision, but we preferred the risk of spending 30 to 40 hours getting to the US, considering our present condition.

If all goes as planned, we’ll arrive in Minneapolis by about 6:30 pm, get our rental car, and head to our hotel. We can’t wait until all of this is over, and we’re situated in the hotel with a kitchen where we can make breakfast and keep our ice tea cold. We won’t miss a night’s sleep, which was essential to us.

Since we’ve been in a hotel room the past ten days, with no fridge, we relied on hotel food and Deliveroo, which delivered peri-peri chicken and broccoli to me the past few nights, while Tom walked the short distance to a McDonald’s to get some things for himself. It will be great to have more options and be able to eat healthier meals.

We’ll be back with a post before we leave for the airport tomorrow and then, yeah, from our hotel in Minnesota on Monday.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, April 30, 2021:

The previous night’s trail cam photos picked up this porcupine! We are so excited to see this! The prospect of getting this photo prompted us to purchase the trail cam. For more photos, please click here.

Pleasant drive to London Gatwick…Finger crossed, hoping to head to the US in 48 hours…

I forgot to post this photo of Tom sunning by the pool at friends Karen and Rich’s home in Apollo Beach, Florida while we wait for our cruise to Southampton.

Yesterday morning, promptly at 11:00 am, the driver, AJ Shafik from Aero Taxis, arrived at our Southampton Hotel. I was dreading the long drive based on how we were still feeling, But our driver was a delightful, conversationalist, and competent that the 90 minutes flew by in a blur.

If you are coming to Southampton, London, or anywhere in between, this is the person/company to call. He can be reached at:
Aero Taxis Southampton Ltd iPhone
Mr. AJ Shafik
Company Director
Phone: 44 02380 010203, Email:
aj.shafik@aerotaxis.co.uk

We are always delighted to share information regarding service providers we encounter throughout the world, and this was no exception.

Once we arrived at the Marriott Hotel, around 12:45 pm, we’d anticipated we’d have to wait a while to be provided access to our room. It was quite a relief when our room was ready as Tom hauled our bags up one level to our room. We only had to access a few of our bags for toiletries and clothes to get us through the next few days.

Immediately, Tom made a batch of our Crystal Lite Iced Tea and filled our mugs with ice. The cold drink was so refreshing after the long drive, and in minutes we settled down to relax. Still exhausted and coughing, there was no way either of us could see our way through making this a “fun” hotel stay, but we did our best to stay upbeat and hopeful that we’ll be able to fly to Minnesota as initially planned on May 1.

Since we’d already booked a rental car and hotel in Minnesota, it would be so much easier if we could get there as planned, avoiding the necessity of changing our reservation. The only reservation we have to change, which we’ll do today, is to cancel the flight from New York to Minneapolis since we couldn’t sail on the Queen Mary 2 as hoped before we got sick.

I just went into the Expedia.com site and canceled the flight. We will receive full credit of US $737.20 for the airfare from New York to MSP that we must use by March 2023. We’ll probably get some future credit from American Airlines for the canceled flight, but there’s no guarantee. Plus, it’s a rare occasion that we’d fly on a route used by American Airlines.

This flight was intended as our means of getting to Minneapolis after sailing on the Queen Mary 2 from Southampton, which, as you know, we had to cancel on the day of embarkation due to both of us contracting Covid-19 while on the ship. Now  11 days after our first symptoms, we’ll take the certified tests we bought on the Celebrity Cruise to determine if we’ll be able to fly out.

As for this Marriott hotel near the Gatwick Airport, it’s nowhere near as pleasant as the Marriott where we spent ten months in lockdown in India in 2020. But, it’s clean, a decent Engish breakfast is included in our room rate, and we get points on Hotels.com for the bookings for three nights. Every ten nights we book with Hotels.com on our website, we get one night free of a similar value. For us, this is a huge benefit.

We’d returned from breakfast over 90 minutes ago, and our room hadn’t been cleaned while we were in the restaurant. We asked the housekeeper to clean our room while waiting downstairs in the lobby. We waited 50 minutes only to discover when we walked back to our room. It still wasn’t done. Under normal circumstances, this would be no big deal.

But now, when we both need to lie down so badly from sheer exhaustion as lingering effects of the virus and lack of sleep from non-stop coughing all night, it’s’ taking everything I have to keep my head up. It’s hard to imagine being on an airplane for hours in a few days, walking through airports, changing planes, collecting our luggage at the layover, etc.

We’ll be very relieved when we make it to Minnesota and get situated in our room. Of course, we’ll have been tested negative on two consecutive days, so there is no chance of us infecting our family members when we see them. It’s unlikely we’d get Covid again for several months since, in most cases, the immunity, coupled with vaccination and boosters, will provide added immunity for at least a while.

Many people have stated that Omicron had been comparable to a bad cold. For them, this may have been the case. But, for us, it’s been worse than any cold we’ve had in the past. We will get through this. We always do!

It’s time to take the Covid test now. We’ll be back with the results in tomorrow’s post.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, April 29, 2021:

Two hungry hornbills were pecking at the kitchen window, hoping for some seeds. We complied. For more photos, please click here.

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

More artwork from the cruise ship.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be well.

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

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