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

Often, cows and bulls are depicted in Hindu temples.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

St. Thomas Church in Chennai.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On pins and needles…Are we going to be able to get out of India and enter South Africa in 4 days?

  • This dinner and fireworks at Hanwant Mahal located in the Umaid Palace, also known as the Khaas Bagh, were extra special in Jodhpur while touring during the Maharajas Express.

    Over these past weeks, we’ve mentioned our concerns over Covid-19 and why a few days ago, we had to change our travel plans when the 29-night cruise from Mumbai, India to Greenwich, England, was canceled.

    Subsequently, we booked a flight to South Africa, where there are fewer cases (total of 51 so far as of today, with a population of 59 million) and 110 cases in India (with a population of 1.3 billion), as opposed to the almost 3000 cases in the US (with a population of 329 million). There’s a travel ban for anyone entering South Africa from the US, not from India.

    We spotted five tigers while on safari in two national parks, Bandvargarh and Kanha.

    Will that have an impact on us? We’ll have been in India for 11 days short of two months. So far, there’s no ban for travelers coming into South Africa from India. But, we don’t know what will happen when we get to immigration at the airport in Johannesburg on March 20th, only four days from today. 

    Will we be allowed entry into the country, be quarantined, or, worst-case scenario, be forced to leave? We are going on blind faith. As a result of the risk of this worst-case scenario, we’ve had to discuss some options as to where we could go to “wait it out” and yet continue to live our lives as usual as possible.

    A pair of “owlets” (as referred to by our safari guide) captured our hearts.

    There are several African countries with no virus cases, such as Namibia and Madagascar, and others, all countries we’d consider visiting, if necessary.

    As for waiting it out? Is that a possibility? Or is this pandemic going to continue for months to come? None of us know the answer.

    You may ask, why don’t we go back to the US? For a few reasons:

    1. We don’t have adequate US health insurance, but we do have excellent international insurance
    2. Risks are high if we have to travel through hectic US airports
    3. Cost of living is high in the US as opposed to African nations (two times higher based on our experience)
    4. I am at high risk due to having cardiovascular disease, asthma, and my age. For me, getting this virus could be fatal.
    5. Apparently, the US is the only country globally with all five strains of the virus.

    Spotted deer in India are as prevalent as impalas in Africa.

    Staying away from countries with vast numbers of cases makes the most sense to us both. Yes, it’s possible. Should we be able to land in South Africa, the virus will continue to spread in vast numbers, as in the US. In that case, we’d hightail out of there to yet another country. 

    I never imagined that if such a virus would manifest in the world that we’d have the flexibility to travel as much as we do, as much as we can. Most likely, we can’t outrun it, but if we can, we will.

    No doubt, this isn’t very comforting, for all of you, for us. None of us are exempt from the fear and concern for ourselves, our loved ones, and our friends.  The frenzy over food and paper products in the US baffles us. The frenzy, in general, provides no benefit for anyone. We don’t want to be around it if we can avoid it.

    Another favorite tiger photo.

    We’ll see how all of this rolls out in the next four days. A lot can happen in four days. In two days, we’ll leave Madurai to fly to Mumbai. We can only look at one step at a time as this process continues.

    In the interim, we are avoiding any future tours in India, preferring to avoid crowded areas. Driving around in the traffic attempting to take photos is fruitless as well, and honestly, we’ve lost our enthusiasm for sightseeing at this point. 

    A nighttime view of the restaurant where we dined in Udaipur on several occasions.

    We’re safely cooped up in the Regency Hotel in Madurai, where they checked our temperatures when we checked in. We appreciated it, but they need to check guests’ temperatures daily since they’ve been transmitting the virus for a day by the time one has a temperature.

    Thank you to our readers for such positive reinforcement, prayers, and well wishes. We offer the same to every one of you. Stay safe! Stay healthy!

    Photo from one year ago today, March 16, 2019:

    Little came up on the veranda looking for me, already positioned on his knees for some treats.
    For more photos, please click here. (It was one year ago, my legs were severely infected from the grafts taken for the bypass surgery. I hadn’t been outdoors much, and Little came looking for me once again).