We didn’t come all this way to leave and not get back in..

Check out Torn Ear’s horns covered in mud. He may have been showing off his digging skills for the females during the rutting season.

Flight schedules are changing rapidly. We watch for information daily noting any changes. A friend in the US, planning on coming to South Africa in a few weeks, found his flight was canceled. Will he be able to rebook another flight? It’s hard to say if these types of scenarios will impact us going forward..

But, we stay well informed of the issues. We’re also aware that wherever we may go, if we have to leave on June 30th for a visa stamp, we may not be able to get back into South Africa. We experienced this when we were in India. It may not be any different in the next almost two months, when on June 30th, we have to hightail out of South Africa for a visa stamp.

We still have a booked flight to the US on June 30th but most likely we’ll change it unless we have no choice but to return due to Covid-19 conditions worldwide.

Handsome male impala.

As we’ve reiterated, we do not want to travel the outrageous distance to the US, with flights and layovers lasting over 24 hours. At this point, with Covid-19 still raging throughout the world, we don’t want to take the risk. It’s possible, but unlikely, we’ll have been able to get the vaccine here in South Africa by June 30th.

But, even so, with the vaccine, it appears there are still risks associated with Covid-19. The question becomes, do we want to take those risks on such a long travel day and then, risk not being able to get back into South Africa?

Two male wildebeest stopped by for pellets.

When we think of and discuss what we went through to get out of India unscathed, for which we are very grateful, based on what’s happening in India now with almost 400,000 new cases a day, we don’t want to be in a similar position once again, filled with a sense of uncertainty coupled with a degree of apprehension and fear.

In general, the uncertainty of travel leaves us in a precarious position. We don’t want to “throw in the towel” and give up this life we’ve become so accustomed to, which has brought us great joy and contentment. Even now that the 10 months in lockdown in India ended almost four months ago, we don’t feel traumatized by that experience. We learned a lot about ourselves, one another and us as a couple, a knowledge we will carry with us into the future.

Another male impala watching the action in the garden.

As we consider that we spent those 10 months in that hotel room in Mumbai, it’s difficult to comprehend that those 10 months constituted 9.9% of the entire time we’ve been traveling the world. However, like all of our experiences, good and bad, we have incorporated them into the realm of our full experience and to date, we have no regrets.

When we embarked on this journey on October 31, 2012, we didn’t consider it would be easy. But anyone can look back at their prior nine years and surely there have been “ups and downs.” That’s the nature of life itself. Some of the hardships and heartbreaks we’ve experienced during this time, would have presented themselves, regardless of where we lived at any given moment.

He stayed around for quite a while looking for pellets.

It’s been no harder, nor any easier for us than for anyone: sorrow, illness, loss of loved ones, and substantial unexpected expenses, Covid-19 hasn’t made it easier for any of us. And yet, we as a race, as humans, strive to make our way through these difficult times with grace, with dignity and with compassion.

And, we can’t forget gratefulness. For those of us who by chance or not, have escaped becoming deathly ill from the virus, gratefulness must remain our state of being, to get us through this next phase, whatever that may be. None of us knows what the future holds. We can only speculate based on historical data, speculation and our personal beliefs.

Tiny and Mrs. Tiny nose to nose, kissing while Lonely Boy is looking on.

Ultimately, we carry on, with love, and hope in our hearts that our family members, friends, and readers stay safe; free from illness, free from harm and free from the many dangers facing us in these precarious times. Upon reflection, sometimes it feels as if we are living in a dystopian movie. At times, none of this seems real. On occasion, we shake our heads in dire wonder if this is really our world today. Sadly, dear readers, it is.

We’d hoped to go to Kruger National Park today but, it was so busy in the garden with dozens of visitors, we decided to wait until another day.

May we all stay strong, healthy and in touch with our surroundings.

Photo from one year ago today, May 4, 2020:

Giraffes in the bush in the neighborhood. For more, please click here.

Frustrating road trip…Rental car pickup, not so much to our liking…

Two oxpeckers on the back of a female kudu ready to start pecking at her coat for insects or injuries.

It’s a long and trying drive to the Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger Airport, several kilometers outside the city. There’s considerable traffic on the N4 Highway with frequent stops for road and now, bridge construction. Trucks often line the two-lane road slowing the flow of traffic.

A fantastic aspect of driving on South Africa’s highways is the fact that drivers, including truck drivers, move to the far left to allow drivers behind them to pass. We’d never seen this thoughtful driving behavior anywhere else in the world. Also, fairly often there are passing lanes marked on the road, also adding to the flow of traffic.

Another kudu with three oxpeckers on her back and neck. See the warthog checking out the action for the photo.  They often manage to photobomb our shots.

Tom is a great driver and although I usually feel at ease as a passenger, this particular highway, amid these benefits, still can be a nail-biter at times. It took no less than 90 minutes each way plus another hour at the airport returning one car with Budget and collecting another car with Thrifty. That was our big mistake. We shouldn’t have booked with Thrifty had we known what we’d encounter.

However, with the pricing 33% less than Budget (prices change daily) it was irresistible to use them. Upon our arrival at the Thrifty counter, we were informed we must return the car every 30 days to have it inspected, although our confirmed contract was for 79 days. Of course, we didn’t know this when we booked the car. Next time, we’ll call and ask about their policy, which we’ve never had to do in the past eight-plus years.

On her neck.

Could Covid-19 have been responsible for them changing their policies? Who knows?  So much has changed in regards to travel in the past 14 months since this pandemic nightmare began, it has become necessary to check and recheck all terms and conditions in regard to any aspect of travel.

We plan to research to see if there’s an alternative and if we can cancel that contract without a penalty and return to Budget when they post lower pricing from time to time. We’re both frustrated about having to spend no less than four hours every 30 days to return the car for inspection.

Oxpeckers jump around the animal’s body quickly. They seem to particularly like kudus.

As I was writing this post, I stopped for a few minutes to check with rentalcars.com. No refunds are allowed once the car is picked up. We are stuck with this car that is old with over 40,000 km, smaller, and more difficult to maneuver on the bumpy roads in Marloth Park and Kruger National Park.  Herein lies the reality, “You get what you pay for” especially when it comes to car rentals.

As it turned out, we didn’t return to the house until almost 3:00 pm, 1500 hours, having left the house at 10:30 am. In essence, this process resulted in almost a full day away from enjoying precious time in the bush. On the return drive, we decided against the planned shopping in Malalane, after all, and headed straight back to Marloth Park. We’d already shopped in Komati on Monday and we’d be fine until next week when we return.

It was great to see an oxpecker partaking in our birdbath. Tom makes sure it has fresh water each day.

As world travelers who continue to use a wide array of travel services, even during the pandemic, we learn something new almost every day. No doubt, it’s more work now to plan ahead, than ever in the past. At this point, we’ll be waiting until the last minute to see what we’ll need to do to get our visas stamped by June 30, 2021.

The world is still in flux and will be so for years to come. Also, right now, we’re relieved we didn’t go to Minneapolis this week as previously planned. We’d be there now during enhanced rioting, carjacking, and shootings. Many members of Tom’s family live near some of the areas included in this challenging time for the city and its people. We pray for the safety of our family members, friends, and residents of the city and suburbs impacted by this strife.

We’ve seen bushbuck, Torn Ear, three days in a row.

Today, sunny and warm, we’ll stay put outdoors on the veranda, cherishing each visitor that stops by. So far, this morning, we’ve had mongoose, kudus, bushbucks, warthogs, and of course, as always, Frank and The Misses. Surely, more will come by before day’s end.

Happy day!

Photos from one year ago today, April 13, 2020:

Jackfruit is known for its health benefits.  See this link for nutritional details. This photo was posted at this link on April 13, 2015. For the year-ago post, please click here.

How do we perceive the current situation?…Returning to the US…Nine days and counting…

Last night, we had another visit from the thick-tailed bushbaby.

It’s somewhat of a weird feeling, knowing we’re leaving for the US in a mere nine days. In the past, we knew well in advance, that we were returning to our home country for a visit, often many months or even a year before our pending arrival. Those periods of time gave us an opportunity to plan our re-entry and mentally prepare ourselves for the temporary return to our former way of life.

Everyday life in a big city has been absent in our lives for over a year when we left for India in January, 2020 and ended up in a lockdown. Spending those 10 months in the hotel in India left us free of the day-to-day annoyances when we were so isolated. Returning to the US now will be an entirely different scenario in light of Covid-19. We don’t quite know what to expect.

She was a little tentative about jumping down to the floor of the veranda. The lure of the treat was irresistible.

I suppose that’s been the case for people all over the world during the past year of the pandemic and subsequent lockdown in many countries. Many have totally isolated themselves from the day-to-day commotion associated with “normal” life as opposed to the lives we’ve all experienced during the pandemic. Will we ever live those lives again? It’s hard to say.

While we were in India, we flatly refused to return to the US. No matter what, we were going to stick it out. There were too many cases of the virus and an obvious lack of precautions by many who believed they were exempt from its wrath. Now, here we are returning, contrary to our former beliefs.

We put a little bit of sour cream down for her and she loved it.

What drives us to change our minds at this point? One simple reason…the vaccine. We need to get it done if we intend to continue to travel as opposed to isolating ourselves in a lifestyle we aren’t interested in experiencing  Sure, we’re looking forward to seeing our family members. That’s a given.

In any case, we’d planned to be back in the US in May, 2022, a little over a year from now, when we would have been entering the US via cruise ship to Seattle, Washington. Now, that’s totally up-in-the-air. Who knows if any of our booked four cruises while actually transpire beginning on November 30, 2021 and ending on May 7, 2022? None of these may actually sail.

Ms Bossy, who’s pregnant, which doesn’t show in this photo, is so “in-our-faces. She’s outrageously persistent. But, we thoroughly enjoy her daily visits.

However, if any of these cruises do, in fact, sail as planned, there is no doubt in our minds that we’ll need to be vaccinated in order to board any or all of them. That’s the way traveling into the future is rolling out, whether we like it or not. We realize the vaccine is not a 100% guarantee we’ll be safe or if we’ll need boosters down the road. Science has yet to determine how long the vaccines will last.

In any case, whatever transpires, we’ll continue to stay well informed to ensure we know exactly what we need to do to carry on. Often family and friends write to us with news about Covid-19, in a thoughtful way, assuming we don’t have access to the latest news and science. But, we do, as readily and as frequently as any of you in any countries throughout the world, including in the USA.

We always say to the pigs, “Don’t eat the seeds.” Some listen, others do not.

We’ve learned, as many of you have, how to filter out “fake news” and controversies that have continually surrounded this seeming politicized pandemic. To us, good science, often difficult to decipher, is all we have to go on. Of course, we consider sources of information above all, when making any decisions for our lives. We avoid politically charged sources of information, preferring to lean toward solid science from sources we’ve come to trust.

We don’t consider Facebook and other social media as reliable sources of medical information. So much of that can be manipulated as scare tactics to appeal to certain groups. If we read an article that peaks our interest in Facebook, we immediately search for reliable studies and information which is generally available to the public.

We each have the option to choose how we receive and decipher that which we read online, including all of you when reading our posts. We make every effort to provide clear and concise information here in each day’s post But, we too, aren’t exempt from making an error or misstating something we’ve discovered. It’s up to each one of us to do our own research to bring us to a point of feeling well-informed and educated. It’s a work in progress, potentially imperfect.

Ms. Bossy and Mary, of Peter, Paul and Mary, are getting along as they share the pellets.

This morning we headed to Komatipoort for our last shopping trip and to purchase our last bag of pellets. We purchased very few groceries, after taking a careful inventory of what we have on hand. We’ll be dining one last time at Jabula Lodge & Restaurant on Friday night, leaving us with only seven meals ahead of us that we’ll prepare. Tonight, we have it covered with bacon wrapped fillet mignon. We have one more big hunk of delicious tenderloin in the freezer that will get us through two more nights. We don’t mind a bit.

If we get low on something we can always run to the local meat market to pick something up. In the interim, we’re focused on eating everything we have on hand with no perishable food remaining when we leave on April 8th.

All is good. We have peace of mind and don’t feel stressed at all. Of course, once we’ve accomplished the long journey and receive our vaccines, we’ll have even more peace of mind.

Be well. Continue to be safe.

Photo from one year ago today, March 30, 2020:

The wonderful staff serving us at the Courtyard by Marriott Mumbai International Airport. They couldn’t have been more attentive and concerned about our needs and those of the other stranded foreign nationals staying at the hotel during this difficult time. Thank you, dear staff members, for taking such good care of us, including taking everyone’s temperature this morning. For more, please click here.

Yesterday’s post heading stated, “Everything could change.”…Everything did change!!!…What’s next?…

The seed solution for Frank and The Misses. Now they both eat out of the little container. Once they’re done, we take away the container.

In an attempt to stay calm, bit by bit, we’re piecing together what our plans will be going forward now that it’s confirmed by Little Governor’s Camp that they will be closed during the new Kenyan 60 day lockdown. This morning we received an email from the rep to inform us of the news.

Now the process of planning our next move begins today. We’ve definitely decided we’ll be returning to the US to see family and get our Covid-19 vaccines, preferably, the one jab, so we can carry on with our plans. Since we don’t know the exact dates we’ll be able to get the one jab, we’re not booking any flights beyond getting to Minnesota where we’ll be vaccinated. South Africa won’t have a sufficient supply of the vaccine for us as non-citizens to eventually be vaccinated.

From there, we’ll head to Nevada, where we’ll spend another week or two visiting son Richard, take care of any necessary business tasks, and then carry on. We’ll return to South Africa in about four to six weeks. At this point, we are ok not knowing the date we’ll return when it is entirely based on the dates and type of vaccine we’ll be able to get.

This warthog has blood coming from his left eye.

I’d like to emphatically state at this point: We are not stopping our world travels by returning to the US for the vaccines and family visits. This was the most logical way to get a new 90-day visa stamp for South Africa, see family, and also get the vaccines, a multi-purpose trip now that we cannot go to Kenya due to their new Covid-19 lockdown.

Also, while we are in the US, we will continue to post daily, as we always have, hopefully adding photos along the way. Before we know it, we’ll be back in Marloth Park, hopefully to this same house in the bush, and once again, seeing our favorite wildlife and human friends.

A pile of mongooses after enjoying nap time after eating the treats we’d offered, eggs and meat.

As of this moment, we have canceled all the hotels we had booked except the one near the Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger Airport. Also, we’ll still take the same flight we’d already booked to Johannesburg, But won’t be making the return flight from Johannesburg on April 14th. We’ll try for a refund for the return portion of the flight, but doubt we’ll get that.

Bushbucks eating pellets in the bush. Tom tossed them far out to them so the warthogs wouldn’t scare them away.

I already spent 30 minutes on hold with Kenya Airways to cancel our flight to Kenya and back, due to the Kenyan lockdown. Their website isn’t user-friendly and there are 404 messages on the refund page. We’ll try calling again later today and continue to work on attempting to get a refund.

If Kenya Airways doesn’t provide the refund, we’ll have no choice but to contact our credit card company who will assist in processing the refund. We had to do this in 2019 and they were very helpful, providing us with the refund promptly, especially now in light of Covid-19.

Kudu in the bush watching for the pellet situation.

As of this moment, we have canceled two hotel bookings, Little Governor’s Camp and the car rental we’d booked for April 14th when we were scheduled to return to South Africa. We’ll have lost the cost we paid for our Kenya visas for which paid over US $200, ZAR 3005. There is nothing we can do about that. If that is all the losses we incur due to the cancellation of the trip to Kenya, we can accept that.

Male bushbuck in the garden.

Today, we’ll book the hotel in Minneapolis but wait to book a hotel in Las Vegas until we know what date we can leave Minnesota to head to Nevada. Right now, we are working on booking the flight, which is all over the place with pricing and hidden charges, extra charges for basic seats, and baggage in some cases.

Tom just finished booking the flights which comprised of three flights with a 28 hour travel time. We’ll have to wait at the airport in Johannesburg for almost 8 hours before the first leg takes off, resulting in a 36 hour travel time with nowhere to sleep in between. We’ve done this before.

The pigs eat the seeds we put out for Frank and The Misses. We had to come up with another plan.

Tomorrow morning, we’ll visit Louise and Danie to tell them what’s happening and that we may not be back until May. No doubt, all of this is disappointing, but it’s the way it is, especially in times of Covid-19. We are both doing ok and we’ll be relieved when all the bookings and refunds are resolved.

Whew! Life goes on.

Be well!

Photo from one year ago today, March 28, 2020:

One year ago today, we posted this photo from 2018 taken in Kruger National Park. For more details, please click here.

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