Time flies…Emotions remain…Visa waiver attorney located…

One year ago today, we continued to have such a fantastic weekend celebrating 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, please click here.

Time flies. It’s mind-boggling when we refer back to an event from one year ago when in actuality, it seems as if it was only yesterday. I often wonder if it felt the same years ago when we were younger. It’s easy to remember events. It’s not always easy to remember how we felt during “ordinary” times.

During periods of sorrow, worry and stress, we can easily recall our feelings many years back. During periods when life was relatively uneventful, we struggle to remember how we felt at the time. It’s ironic. 

It’s no wonder any of us can fall prey to becoming emotionally engaged in less desirable-times-past, carrying them as baggage into the future. This past year will be decorated in my mind for years to come, regardless of how well I’m feeling physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

The only baggage I want to carry with me into the future is our single suitcases filled with clothing and shoes, our third bag of supplies, and three miscellaneous carry-on bags.

No doubt, my level of ease, comfort, and happiness has been tempered. Will I ever return to those carefree days? By no means am I down or depressed? I feel optimistic about the future. There’s so much ahead of us, bringing both of us a powerful sense of anticipation, joy, and contentment.

But, the facts remain. Can we visit some of the highly remote areas we’d considered in the past, far from quality medical care? Are we at risk during month-long cruises or during extended periods in rural areas in countries where medical care is questionable?

We wish we had an easy answer. As we plan the over six months, we have to fill in and around Europe before the cruise ends in Cape Town, South Africa. We considered many facts on December 2, 2020.

Hanging over our heads is the visa waiver issue in South Africa (resulting from overstaying our visas due to my heart surgery in February, requiring us to stay an additional almost three months). 

If this issue isn’t resolved by the time the ship is ready to set sail, we won’t board or. We’d have significant problems at the end of the cruise. Of course, we won’t take that risk.

Instead, in the past 24 hours, we have contacted an immigration attorney in South Africa who is working on our file. The firm has a 98% success rate of resolving immigration issues such as these. The fee for services is ZAR (Rand) 30000, which translates to US $2,101. 

We’ve decided to move forward rather than be banned from South Africa until 2024. Plus, we don’t want an “undesirable” status to be a part of our passport records.

The law firm estimates it will take eight to twelve weeks to get the issue resolved. It will be fantastic to have this behind us. We’ve provided the law firm with all of the necessary documents, and they will send us a contract with a statement for services which we’ll handle this week to proceed with the process.

There’s no such thing as a “free lunch,” as the saying goes. Everything in life has its pluses and minuses, its rewards, and its consequences. But, how we choose to handle the challenges ultimately determines the quality of our lives.

As we move forward into this next phase of our lives, of our world travels, we strive to do so with the determination, the hope, and the joy we so much enjoyed in the past, long before we were faced with these challenges.

In a mere 22 days, we’ll continue on our long and fruitful journey, hopefully with many more years to come.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, January 7, 2019:

Last year on this date, our party of 10 consisted of (from left to right) Kathy, Linda, Tom,  Don, Keith, Ken, Cynthia, Robin and Karen with me taking the photo. For more photos, please click here.

Immigration “wild goose chase”…Frustrating experience…Fun zebra video…

Zebras often stop by to visit but usually with three, four of five. This dazzle 
of 12 zebras was quite exciting.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Two Ms. Bushbucks and the baby, waiting for the pellet delivery.

Nothing could have been more frustrating than yesterday’s trip to Nelspruit for our two appointments at the VFS Immigration office in an effort to extend our visas to February 20, 2019.

All of the required paperwork was in order and collated exactly as dictated by their website. We had our required black pen with us and our two separate batches of papers, one for each of us, were in a plastic bag as stipulated.

Zebra visitors with babies.

We ran into a number of obstacles in getting to the appointments in a timely fashion, although we’d left 2½ in advance of the 11:00 and 11:15 am appointments for the less than a 90-minute drive. Good thing, we left extra early.

The long drive on the N4 Highway was cluttered with semis and other trucks requiring a tremendous amount of passing on the mostly two-lane highway. In South Africa, from what we’ve seen thus far, there is usually a shoulder on the road.  

This zebra tried coming up the steps but the tiles were too slippery for her hooves. Speaking of coming up the steps, this morning there was a mongoose under the table on the veranda looking for eggs.

Most drivers, let’s say 90%, will move onto the shoulder to make way for those desiring to pass, something we haven’t experienced to this degree in other countries. Nice people. Friendly drivers. Also, often we’ll encounter passing lanes every so often providing drivers to pass long rows of vehicles during busy times. This helps.

Since we have no wi-fi on my phone (only calling) we used a printed map of the location from google maps. Well, wouldn’t you know, the directions were all wrong. The road where we needed to exit the highway wasn’t marked and we ended up well past Nelspruit, running into road construction that slowed us down by no less than 20-minutes.

Dad, baby, and mom drinking from the cement pond.  

Once we realized we’d gone too far, we turned around and headed to the area where we saw tall buildings. Surely, the immigration office would be in the center of town near the tall buildings. Plus, we called Louise and she walked us through it while looking at maps on her computer until we recognized where we should be.

You may ask, why don’t we have data on our phones? Simple answer. It disappears every 30 days and we were paying and paying for nothing. We didn’t use it enough to justify the expense when we have great wi-fi in the house.  Yesterday, we wished we had it. But, how often are we driving far from Marloth Park?  When in Kruger National Park, the signal is poor and it wouldn’t do us much good.

Baby zebra seeking shelter from the hot sun on a 40C (104F) very hot day.

Rather than designating a specific street name and number on the immigration website, it stated the location was at the corner of Brown St. and Paul Kruger St.  That should have been easy. We parked in a ramp and searched for it on foot.  That was nearly impossible.

The immigration office is located in a convoluted mix of banks, offices, and shops with many ending up down long narrow passageways. An address would have been of no help whatsoever.

The zebras and other wildlife like cold moist, celery tops, and lettuce on hot days.

Finally, with the help of a security guard in one of the bank buildings (there were a few), he pointed us to elevators to go to the fifth floor. The only elevator of four that was working was the freight elevator. We took it.

We arrived at the front door five minutes before our first appointment at 11:00 am. We were wanded by a guard, who checked our papers and used a card to swipe the door look to let us enter. We were told to sit in specific chairs based on our appointment times and told to keep moving to the “next” chair as people were called.

The zebras often fight when having to share pellets but these two were in perfect harmony.

No food, no beverages, no cell phones were allowed. For two full hours, we sat there staring into space, often wondering why people went ahead of us and others, while we all waited.

I won’t go into details about the processing system. In essence, the three-tiered process made sense. The waiting did not. After the two hours, we finally made it to system #1 and sat down to wait again in another grouping of chairs. Thirty minutes later we made it to system #2.  

Big Daddy stopped by for pellets and a drink from the pond.

It was at system #2 that were told, they could not, would not accept our application for processing since we’d arrived weeks too early for an extension all the way to February 20th. We’d have to return and start over. Nothing we’d done that day would count.  

They sent us on our way after writing down a walk-in date and time of 8:00 am on October 24th. There was nothing else we could do. We left frustrated and disappointed with little to say to one another. We’d been given the wrong information. But, then again, as we always say, this is Africa. Perfection is not on the menu.

He likes eating off the edge of the veranda when he doesn’t have to bend down to the ground with that big heavy rack.

Fortunately, the return drive was uneventful. We stopped on at Melalane to shop for a few grocery items and also to shop at the local Click Pharmacy so I could pick up a few cosmetic items which took about 40 minutes. But, we dodged a bullet!  

Once we were on the highway, I asked Tom if we needed fuel. He looked at the gauge and the “empty” light was flashing. When we found the first petrol station, the little car took 30 liters. Good thing we caught it or we’d have had an entirely new “situation!” Whew!

The items I needed in Melalane (or similar thereof) are in the missing box, shipped from the US on May 28th, and had yet to arrive due to a postal strike since resolved but leaving a mess in its wake. Management claims the box is on a shipping container yet to be unloaded. More on that later.

Mom and Baby stopped by as they often do.

We pulled up in the driveway around 1600 hours (4:00 pm), almost eight hours later. We were hot (it was 39C, 102F), dehydrated, and utterly exhausted. We stopped to see Louise and Danie for a bit to explain what had transpired and headed home to eat dinner outdoors, feed a few animals and eventually go to bed early.  

I think I slept for eight hours, although not continuously. Tom was up at 5:30 am feeding wildlife as usual. We’re better today after having accepted the fact we’ll be returning on October 24th and then after that, one more time to find out if we’re approved.  

If not approved, we won’t know until we arrive the third time, when they open a sealed envelope in front of us with our results. Tom said, “It’s like the Academy Awards.”

Mom and Baby happily munching pellets by the steps, where they prefer to dine!

Today, we headed to Komatipoort and Lebombo to shop for food and pellets. All went smoothly. It’s even hotter today at 40C (104F). Currently, I’m finishing today’s post indoors with a fan blowing. It gets sunny on the veranda this time of day and it’s hard to see the laptop screen.  

By 1700 hours (5:00 pm) we’ll set up the veranda for the evening, as usual, pour ourselves a cold beverage, and enjoy yet another night in the bush. How many such nights are remaining, we don’t know at this point. But, we’ll continue to cherish each and every moment.

Have a lovely evening wherever you may be!

Photo from one year ago today, September 6, 2017:

The scenery was pretty while driving in the mountains of Costa Rica. For more photos, please click here.

Results from appointments with Dr. Candy in Atenas…

The clinic has an ambulance, ready to go in an emergency.

“Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”

Once back at the villa, the clouds started rolling in from the mountains.

Yesterday afternoon, with a bit of trepidation, we took a taxi for our appointment with Dr. Candy Midence Noguera, Medico Cirijano Cod, 7620, Consulta Medica – Ninos – Adultos (for children and adults). Phone: 2446-7440 or 2727-6868.

We’re posting the above information if any of our readers visit Atenas and its surrounding areas in the Alajuela Valley, Costa Rica, and need to see a physician. The delightful, bi-lingual Dr. Candy was the perfect choice for our needs. 

The reception desk at Dr. Candy’s office, Linea Vital de CR.

We couldn’t have been more pleased with the quality of service we received from Dr. Candy. She brought both of us (on time) into her office, conducting an exam, and walked through each question on the detailed forms with us. 

The cruise line, Ponant, requires the exam and accompanying documents to be completed anywhere between 40 and 90 days before the cruise date. This worked out perfectly for us when we’re leaving Costa Rica in 19 days. 

The waiting room at the doctor’s office.  A patient came out of an appointment with the doctor with an IV bag attached to her arm.  She sat on this sofa while the IV bag was hung on a small hook attached to the bulletin board.

As of today, we’ll sail on the Antarctica cruise in 82 days. (The upcoming 30-night cruise to South America sails in 21 days, for which we needed no such documentation).

Fortunately, we passed the exams without any issues. Neither of us has any conditions that might prevent a traveler from embarking on such a cruise that travels well outside the scope of air ambulance service while in one of the most remote areas in the world, Antarctica.

As usual, the afternoon sky was cloudy, and rain had begun to fall when we arrived by taxi from the villa. The round trip taxi fare with tip was US $7.03 (CRC 4,000).

Our total doctor bill for both of us was US $120 (CRC 68,297), not covered by our major medical insurance.  Had we been in many other countries, the bill could have been considerably higher. We paid with a credit card and were on our way after big hugs from Dr. Candy.

We now have all the completed documents in hand. Today, we’ll scan and email the medical forms and other forms we had to complete in this time frame, including passport and additional general information. It will be a relief to have this out of the way today, along with all the other “paperwork” we mentioned in yesterday’s post.

Now, during these remaining 20 days in Costa Rica, we only have to scan a pile of receipts, make one more dental appointment for me (something’s wrong with another crown), grocery shop on two more occasions, and of course, pack.

View across the street from the doctor’s office.

We’ve accessed the food on hand and what we’ll need to purchase as we’ve scheduled meals on our calendar for each of the remaining days. After I make tomorrow’s pizza (enough for three nights), we’ll only cook dinners for two more weeks. 

This morning it dawned on me that we won’t be cooking for another long stretch, this time from November 23, 2017 (sail away date) until we arrive in South Africa (on or about February 10, 2018), for a total of 80 days. 

This won’t be the most extended period we haven’t cook. When we left New Zealand on April 15, 2016, and eventually ended in Phuket, Thailand, on July 23, 2016, we didn’t cook a single meal for a total of 100 days.

Cows grazing in our gated neighborhood on the return drive from the doctor.

These long stretches seem to trigger my enthusiasm for cooking once we’re settled in a new location and have begun thinking about some of our favorite meals. Years ago, I loved to cook, but once we left the US, my interest seemed to wane due to the difficulty in finding ingredients we use for our cooking style.

Today, we’re hoping the sun will continue to shine long enough for pool-time, after which I’ll get to work on scanning all the documents and receipts. It will be good to have this task off my mind.
Have a peaceful day.

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

View one of the 70 islands in the Cumberland group as we sailed by early in the morning. This is one of the main reasons we prefer a balcony cabin. For more photos, please click here.

Off we go…Managua Nicaragua, here we come!

The hotel’s exterior photo is the Real InterContinental Managua at Metrocentro Mall, where we’ll stay for two nights, arriving today and departing on Monday.

We’ve arrived at Costa Rica’s San Jose Santamaria International Airport (SJO). We have our boarding passes in hand with a relatively easy transition through immigration and security. With no bags to check, the check-in process is simple. 

In most countries, checking in online 24 hours in advance and printing a boarding pass is pointless. We gave up doing so long ago. Since we usually have bags to check, we receive boarding passes simultaneously as we studied the bags after only presenting our passports. No one ever asks us for printed proof of our tickets.

We’ve located our gate at the end of the long terminal. At the moment, we’re seated in a cafe a short distance from the entrance.  Tom didn’t order anything, and I’m sipping on a Chamomile tea.

The airport in Costa Rica is quite lovely, with good signage in both Spanish and English. The transition was smooth. By the way, the taxi fare from the villa was US $32 (CRC 18,217) with a tip. The taxi driver avoided the toll road, and we arrived 35 minutes later.

In our old lives, the only time we knew much about Managua, Nicaragua was the frequent mention of the city repeatedly in the news in 1986 regarding the Iran Contra affair. We won’t get into that here, but here’s a tidbit of information about the capital city:

“Managua, on the south shore of Lake Managua, is the capital city of Nicaragua. Its cathedral, a shell since a 1972 earthquake, is on the Plaza of the Revolution. Nearby is the tomb of Sandinista leader Carlos Fonseca. The 1935 National Palace of Culture houses the National Museum. Hilltop Parque Histórico Nacional Loma de Tiscapa is known for its crater lake and a huge statue of revolutionary Augusto Sandino.

Area210 mi²
Weather79°F (26°C), Wind SE at 5 mph (8 km/h), 84% Humidity
Local timeFriday 9:36 AM
Population2.206 million (2015)

We’re looking forward to the hotel we selected Real InterContinental Managua at Metrocentro Mall, one of the best in the city, which may be found at this link at Hotels.com on our site. Then, of course, we’ll take photos of the hotel, restaurants, meals, and the places we visit while in Nicaragua. 

Most likely tonight, we’ll celebrate our anniversary at the hotel’s highly rated five-star restaurant, Factory Steak, and Lobster.  Although a bit pricey, it’s for a special occasion well deserving a memorable evening. 

Besides, dining in the hotel’s famous restaurant might ensure an avoidance of foods I can’t typically eat found in Central American restaurants, delicious, I’m sure, but made with grains, sugar, and starchy ingredients. 

I won’t have any trouble ordering a juicy steak (rare, please) and a lobster tail with gobs of butter, a vegetable, and a salad. We’re both looking forward to the meal. I tried making a dinner reservation from Costa Rica to no avail, but we’ll take care of it right away once we arrive.

You can be assured we’ll be returning with many new photos and descriptions of our mini-vacation in Managua, Nicaragua (with the intent of getting our passports stamped, allowing us to stay in Costa Rica for the remaining three-plus weeks and to celebrate our 5th world travel anniversary).

Have a lovely weekend. We’ll be back soon!

Photo from one year ago today, October 28, 2016:

At the Hilton Garden Inn Ngurah Airport, the hotel chef in Denpasar Bali made a special spicy sauce to go with my chicken skewers. It was delicious! For more photos, please click here.

Immigration news…New photos of us and Bob…

Our kindly and thoughtful landlord, Bob with Tom.
We returned from the Manly Ferry and bus ride back to our holiday home at around noon. It’s a bright sunny day without a cloud in the sky and we’re on CLOUD 9!!!

We’re no longer illegal immigrants!  No words can say how happy we are to have this dreadful, worrisome situation behind us. The staff at the Australian Immigration Office couldn’t have been more helpful. 

In only took about 30 minutes to receive a new Bridging Visa that will last until April 22nd when we’ll board the ship that will hightail us out of Australia and bring us back to North America for our upcoming Alaskan cruise and nine weeks visiting family.

We were happy to have photos of Bob with each of us.

This morning at 7:45 am we met Bob at his door ready to go. He drove us to the Manly Ferry and only five or six minutes later we boarded the ferry to Circular Quay in Sydney, a 30-minute ride.

No doubt, both of us were worried about the outcome of our 10:00 am appointment, but we both attempted to remain upbeat and hopeful. I continued to take photos on what proved to be a sunny day, the first we’d experienced in the past two weeks since our arrival in Sydney by cruise ship.

Once we arrived at Circular Quay we took a taxi to immigration, a traffic-congested 20-minute ride in Monday morning rush hour traffic at a cost of AU $17.50, US $13.33. We arrived with an hour to spare decided to head to a local coffee shop for a cup of tea for me and coffee for Tom.

We sat outdoors at this cafe sipping coffee, tea and chatting with an American couple we met.

The instructions for our appointment clearly stated we were not to arrive any sooner than 15 minutes prior to the scheduled appointment. With comfortable seating at an outdoor cafe, we met a wonderful retired couple from the US and the lively banter began. 

Before we knew it, it was 9:45 and we needed to make the short walk for our appointment. I felt my heart rate increase in worrisome anticipation of a poor outcome. In no time at all, we were seated in a waiting area on the fourth floor where others with similar immigration status were also waiting for the outcome of their situation. 

Our ticket number was 001. Surely the wait wouldn’t be long. Moments later, we heard our number being called to find the kindly rep who’d worked with us the first time we arrived at immigration almost two weeks ago in an attempt to sort this out.

Within 15 minutes, we were told with smiles on their faces that they’d provide us with a new Bridging Visa and within 30 minutes, we were out the door with documents in hand giving us an extension, good until midnight on April 22nd.

Tom and I with Sydney behind us on another cloudy day., taken a few days ago.  Today, finally, we have sunshine!

Thank goodness, the upcoming cruise didn’t include any Australian ports of call. Had that been the case, we may have had an even more serious situation. Luckily, this particular cruise itinerary didn’t include any stops in Australia. We were good to go.

We thanked the rep and her assistant profusely. Tom even put his hands together and bowed as he’d so graciously done time and again in Bali, in gratefulness for a service well provided. We both chuckled over the fact that some habits are hard to break, especially one as special as that bow.

Now, back home after a pleasant outdoor ride on the ferry and a quick bus ride, I began today’s post excited to share our good news. Once I wrap this up, we’ll get back to work on ordering Tom a new laptop we found online with expedited international shipping.

Now, we can go back to thinking about our missing shipment from Nevada that included all of our tax documents, our two new driver’s licenses, my new phone, and a variety of other items we’d included in the package. One thing at a time, please.

Thanks to all of our wonderful readers who sent us good wishes for today’s outcome. Your concern meant so much to both of us! Happy day!

Photo from one year ago today, March 26, 2016:

Taking photos of the two pink cockatoos at the alpaca farm in New Zealand through the narrow chain link fence was tricky.  This unedited photo illustrates the tightness of the fence and the beauty of this pink bird.  For more photos, please click here. 

Working on our immigration issue…Five days and counting….

The sun peeked out for a few hours while we were in Manly making our way to the ferry.

When we left the Australian Immigration office in Sydney nine days ago, we were told to watch for the Bridge Visa we’d received via email by the end of the day.  The officer at immigration had given us a phone number to call if we had questions in the interim.  We had many questions when we’d had a difficult time understanding the vague and complicated instructions given to us by the immigration officer who, with the best of intentions, was unsure as to how to handle our case.

Later in the day the email arrived stating we had another appointment at the same office on March 27th at 10 am. That was clear to us.  Thus, we didn’t call the phone number which we’d left on the kitchen table which continued to nag at me.  Should we call?  Or should we wait until our appointment?

Yesterday morning, we decided to call to see if there was anything additional we could do or prepare for the upcoming appointment on Monday.  After waiting on hold for 20 minutes in the queue, finally a friendly rep came on the line.

Sailing on a windy day.

In reviewing our file, she adamently stated we needed to apply for Visitors Visa #600 before our appointment on Monday.  When we asked this same question to the rep at the immigration office “Should we apply for the visa online?” the she wasn’t sure if we should or not, leaving us confused when we left.

Calling might provide us with an answer.  There was no way we wanted to show up on Monday having failed to do something required in this complicated process.  Yesterday, we were relieved we’d called when we were told we better not show up on Monday without having applied online for Visitors Visa #600, a necessary adjunct to our Bridge Visa which was in place for only two weeks (ending on March 27th).

If we didn’t get the Visitors Visa, we’d be in big trouble next Monday when the Bridge Visa expires at midnight.  The phone rep immediately sent us the link to apply for the Visitors Visa. 

An appealing candy kiosk in at the Manly Ferry station.

We each followed the link in the email deciding to complete the form simultaneously on each of our laptops in order to aid one another in ensuring accuracy.  There was no margin for error in this process and lately, as error prone as I had been (you know…wrong day at the opera), following along together made sense.

Before we could even begin the 20 page process, we had to sign up for an online immigration account which required a series of seven or eight security questions. 

Having to deal with answering security questions can be a tricky process.  If an answer is off by only one letter, one number or a single aspect of the answer, it may result in total frustration when trying to recall what was originally intended.  

Manly is a charming beach town with shops, restaurants and water activities.

We didn’t want to make a lengthy handwritten list for each of us.  We’d already written down the complicated passwords including all types of characters, capital and lower case letters and numbers.  You know how that goes.

It ended up taking at least a half hour to getting our individual accounts set up.  As we’ve mentioned, its been very rainy and humid since we arrived.  When we were 10 minutes into this process, I suggested we turn on the air con.  We were both drenched in sweat.  Oh, I don’t like this stuff.

Immediatey Tom turned on the air conditioning.  Besides, we’d done two loads of laundry hanging it indoors on the portable rack making the humidity all the worse in our little apartment. The air con was a welcomed relief.

Yummy looking mounds of interesting flavors of ice cream at the Manly Wharf.

Once we’d established the accounts, we proceeded to begin the 20 page online document.  It was a slow process when we continually received error messages for entering words in unacceptable formats.  We plodded along.

Once we completed page 4 and hit the “continue” button for page 5, we both received an error message, “You cannot continue from this point based on your current status.  Call the immigration office immediately.”  Oh, oh.

We called again, waiting on hold on Skype for another 30 minutes only to be told, when a different rep came on the line after looking up our file, that were not supposed to fill out this form.  We were to wait and see what transpires on Monday. Oh.  She was very kind and apologetic that we were told otherwise.  We asked her to note the conversation in our file which she promptly handled.

After dark this cruise ship headed out to sea from the Sydney Harbour.  Hopefully, that will be us one month from today on April 22nd.

In one way we were relieved to avoid completing the remaining 16 pages but in another way, we were further concerned as to the outcome on Monday.  There was nothing more we could do at this point.

Worse case scenario…we could be told to leave the country immediately and not return for three years, missing our cruise on the April 22nd, forcing us to fly to New Caledonia, book a hotel  for almost a month and wait for the ship to arrive at a port of call three days after the cruise begins and then have to load our bags on a “tender boat.” 

Best case scenario…we’ll get another Bridge Visa, good until April 22nd when we’ll board the ship in Sydney.  There’s another possibility that we’ll have to leave the country, fly to another country and return a day later.  Also, there are possible fines, penalties and circumstances we aren’t aware of at this point which by Monday, we’ll be well informed.

Kookaburra atop the roof of neighboring house.

We’re surprised how we’ve been able to still enjoy our time in Fairlight, Manly and Sydney based on our concern over this situation.  We’ve taken many photos, seen so much and have been out and about reveling in this beautiful area.  Also, we’re still able to laugh and maintain a hopeful and positive perspective. 

After all, the results of this scenario whichever way it goes, won’t cost us more than money, time and inconvenience.  In the realm of things, as we always say, “If we have our health, we’re safe and we have one another, we can handle it.”

So it goes.

May you have good health and be safe with those you love.


Photo from one year ago today, March 22, 2016:

Many farms in New Zealand have ocean views adding another layer of beauty to the scenery.  For more photos, please click here.

Today is our fifth anniversary of posting…Photos of our new home for the next 38 nights…We hope…

We “borrowed” today’s photos from Bob, our landlord here in Fairlight/Manly. Last night, while dark and cloudy we spotted two cruise ships leaving Sydney Harbour heading out to sea.

With our current immigration issues in Australia (see yesterday’s post here for details) we are doing everything we can to maintain our usual optimistic attitude. 

Today, we’re heading back to Sydney, taking the Manly Ferry for more immigration handling and to meet with old friends Linda and Ken, from Marloth Park, South Africa for lunch at a popular pub near the port of Sydney.  We’ll be back with photos tomorrow.

The house from the lower road.  We entered the property from the upper road to facilitate hauling our heavy bags.

Yesterday, the entire day was spent attempting to resolve another unexpected business matter, a technical issue with PayPal which prevents us from being able to send payments to property owners (who don’t accept credit cards) since we don’t have a US phone number that receives texts.

Our phone number with Skype doesn’t allow the use of texts. Without a phone number, we can’t use Skype when their new identity check requires the use of a text to confirm identity. We’ll share more on this in tomorrow’s post when we see what rolls out today after trying for another solution again later today.

The master bedroom is spacious with en suite bath and suitable closet space for our needs.

With space at a premium in this fabulous holiday home and our stuff cluttered about, we decided to use our landlord’s photos which we’re sharing here today. Once we encountered the immigration and PayPal issues we were too busy to clear all of our “stuff” in order to take our own uncluttered photos.

The house is newer and in impeccable condition, a pure delight for our needs.

We couldn’t be more pleased with the “apartment” although it’s not an apartment in the typical sense. It’s a large home, converted to include a separate apartment on the ground floor level which we’re currently occupying.

The upper street level is where our kind and thoughtful landlord Bob lives which also includes a bed and breakfast which he offers to tourists coming and going for long or short periods visiting this beautiful area.

There are no bug screens here but there are few insects. Bob said we won’t see the dreaded Funnel Web Spider in this area of Sydney. Few mozzies and flies enter during the day with the door fully open as shown.

We’ve never rented a bed and breakfast space when we prefer not to share living quarters with others, whether it’s a landlord or other guests. In this lovely lower floor unit, we have total privacy and all the necessary amenities and more; great WiFi, flat-screen TV with HDMI plug-in, washing machine with a portable hanging rack, full kitchen and en suite bath with spacious shower, and more.

Please click here for more details on this special property which we highly recommend for either short or long-term travelers. For those comfortable with a bed and breakfast, this link will also direct you to that option by contacting Bob Reed, the kindly owner. How did we get so lucky to have yet another amazing property owner determined to provide us with an outstanding experience?

A comfortable Italian leather sectional and coffee table is located at the end of this room, beyond the table and chairs, all the space we’ll need during this relatively short stay, should we be allowed to remain in the country.

Today is the fifth year anniversary of our first post on March 15, 2012. Please click here for our first post on this date. We can hardly believe it’s been so long. By next week, we’ll hit our 1700th post which is comparable to writing 1700 chapters in a book with photos.

Seeming to be a daunting task, for us, it continues to be a labor of love. Even today, with so much on our minds, we’re happy and grateful for the opportunity to share our journey with our many worldwide readers, whose numbers continue to grow each and every day.

With Bob living upstairs, he’s happy to supply any kitchen items or anything else we may need while here. 

We continue to maintain the philosophy that as long as we’re safe and healthy, challenges we encounter along the way such as the current immigration issue, always have a solution one way or another. 

Sure, the solution may be costly or inconvenient but we’ve planned for such potentially unexpected scenarios. If we end up having to leave the country, lose money for this rental, pay for a new rental and airfare to another country and miss a portion of the upcoming cruise from Sydney since we can’t stay in Australia to board the ship, we’ll survive, won’t we?

Only stepping outdoors from the kitchen to the lawn we’re provided this amazing view and private yard.

We never fail to be grateful for one another, our loved ones, good health, and the ability to fulfill our dreams of world travel. Please continue to follow along with us as the story continues to unfold.

Happy day!

Photo from one year ago today, March 15, 2016:

The beautiful tree clusters created a pleasing scene for our photos at sunset in New Plymouth, New Zealand. For more photos, please click here.

Facing the biggest challenge of our travels to date…Telling it like it is…Arrived in Sydney to a fabulous vacation home…

View from the veranda of our new holiday home in Fairlight/Manly, a suburb of Sydney.

As we discussed in prior posts, we never fail to “tell it like it is,” although, at times, we may wait to post a troublesome situation after we know more about it. This was the case when, on March 6th, while already onboard the cruise for six days when Tom received an email from Australian Immigration stating that he violated immigration laws. Oddly, this didn’t include me at that point.

When we met with immigration upon boarding the ship, an issue came up at that time in regard to Tom’s visa, here again not mine. They let us board saying we could deal with it later. Perhaps it was some glitch, one we could deal with after we disembarked the ship on March 13th.

The sky’s been overcast since our arrival yesterday morning. 

We never gave it another thought until the email came through on the 6th. The email requested documentation of our travels in Australia, particularly recent cruises to which Tom quickly responded, providing appropriate documentation.

On March 9th, four days prior to the end of the cruise, the ship’s immigration officer called us in the cabin stating they were putting a call through from the immigration department in Sydney regarding “both” of our immigration violations.

When the rep came on the line, it sounded as if we were in serious trouble. Apparently, according to their records, we’d violated the maximum 90 day period we’re allowed to stay in Australia, thus canceling our one-year visas entirely (our second in these past two years). 

Reef Bay, our views from the veranda.

According to their records, we’re currently in this country illegally. Ouch. Rather than spend paragraph after paragraph trying to explain the immigration laws of Australia, we’ll simplify how this happened, as we’ve now discovered may be entirely our fault from misunderstanding the immigration laws in this country.

As meticulous as we’ve been over these past years to maintain the highest level of compliance for all laws, rules, and regulations, we’re stunned to find ourselves in this predicament.

Bob, our amazing landlord and new friend came running to tell us the Kookarburros were on his veranda. We couldn’t believe our eyes for this up-close view of these huge beautiful birds.

Here’s what transpired in a nutshell. First, we’d assumed (yes, we know the word “assumed” shouldn’t be in our vocabulary) that sailing in and out of various countries during a cruise would restart the 90 days we can stay in Australia. 

How wrong we were. In Australia when sailing from and ending up in the country, its referred to as a “closed-loop,” with none of the countries we’ve visited counting toward restarting the 90 day ticker of time allowed in Australia.

On the phone call with immigration on March 9th, we were instructed to show up immediately at the immigration building in Sydney upon our arrival without stop or delay.

The size of these beautiful birds is astounding when up close and personal. We’d seen them in Trinity Beach in 2015 but never this close. They didn’t fly off when we approached, but they certainly checked us out.

As much as we wanted to comply, it was impossible to bring our three heavy bags and two carry-on bags into the building with us. Surely, security would have had to go through everything in the government building. 

Instead, after disembarking the ship, we decided to take a taxi to the vacation rental (30-minute ride), drop off the bags, and immediately return to Sydney’s center to the Australian Immigration Building. 

By 10:45 am, we were waiting in a queue to speak with someone who’d hopefully help us figure out the best solution to our dilemma.  Our options were few:

1.  Leave the country for good: We’d lose the money for the vacation rental for 40 nights plus a portion of the cruise fare for our return to the US on April 22nd, having to board the ship during a port of call in another country.
2.  Apply for a “bridge visa” only good for a short period while we attempt to find a solution while working with immigration.
3.  Fly out of the country with a “bridge visa” in place and also apply for a new one year visa hoping it would be approved (but not guaranteed) for our return to board the cruise.”

The Kookaburras were squawking at Bob for a treat. He complied while we watched in wonder.

Fortunately, the kindly rep we met with was willing to help us put some of the above options in action. She directed us to apply online for the “bridge visa” and scheduled an appointment for us to return to immigration on March 27th, the last day the “bridge visa” will be valid. 

Yesterday afternoon, after returning to the vacation rental, we spent hours applying for the bridging visa, which was approved later in the day when we received the online confirmation. Unfortunately, this doesn’t warrant or guaranty in any manner that we can stay until the cruise on April 22nd. 

At this point, we have no idea what will transpire on March 27th. We can only be patient and wait and see. In the interim, we’re making every effort to stay upbeat and positive, neither of which will impact the outcome, both of which will aid us in maintaining our sanity in the process.

Last night’s cloudy view in the shopping and dining area of Manly Beach.

As for the property in Manly…its outstanding, as is our fun, funny, thoughtful, and generous property owner with whom we dined out last night and have already spent considerable time hanging out together. Both the property and owner are exceptional.

Tomorrow, we’ll share more photos and details on the fabulous accommodations and surroundings in this very special beach town of Fairlight/Manly. We’ll keep you updated on our immigration status as we learn more over these next weeks.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, March 14, 2016:

We never figured out the source of smoke in these photos but the scene was gorgeous none the less. For more photos, please click here.

March 7th…Our 22nd wedding anniversary…History of New Caledonia…Two fun photos from one year ago…

Do you see the rainbow in the background in this shot of New Caledonia?
Today is a sea day.  The Wi-Fi signal is marginal due to the number of passengers on their phones, tablets, and laptops. I attempted to speak to my sister on Skype, but I could not hear anything on this end, although she could hear me. 

Having ended the antibiotics last night while increasing the dose of the PPI, which I’ll continue to take for two months, I’ve definitely had a good result. 
I’d been suffering from Helicobactor Pylori for the past 15 months. Still a little sluggish from the meds, I’m not missing a beat of the varied activities we enjoy aboard ship, often hanging out with our new friends.

We inquired as to the cost of renting one of these little vehicles in Noumea, New Caledonia, the capital city.  At AU 132, the US $100 per hour, we decided to walk, which certainly was more beneficial.

Speaking of not “missing a beat,” last night, we danced the night away. Tom was doing his usual “dancing to the music” for a solid two hours standing by me while occasionally I had to sit down to recover. 

The boat harbor in Noumea.

After lounging for many months to get well, my energy level wasn’t my usual 100%. On the other hand, Tom never ceases to amaze me with his relentless enthusiasm and high energy when it comes to any activity.  For a guy that likes to lounge, he sure can kick it up a beat when needed.

Tomorrow, we’ll share a video on the post, including photos and stories of an exceptional night we’ll always remember, spent with many of the new friends we’ve made during this cruise.

Freighter in the port in New Caledonia.

Today is our 22nd wedding anniversary. In actuality, we’ve been together almost 26 years. What a fabulous way to celebrate…on a ship with my renewed health as I continue to build back my strength more each day.   Happy anniversary to my lively, energetic hubby, who never fails to make me laugh, smile, and feel in awe of our great relationship.

Local catamaran.

With a one-hour time change last night (loss), little sleep from staying out late, we’re glad to have a sea day. We missed breakfast in the dining room but will soon head in for a light lunch. Now that I can eat a little more, having two meals a day is appealing, especially while on the ship with someone else preparing it.

Last night, the pastry chef made me a dessert..an almond sponge cake made with eggs, almond flour, vanilla, cream, and chopped nuts. It was absolutely unbelievable.  It was the first time in over five years I had a “cake feel” in my mouth with ingredients acceptable to my way of eating. I wonder if I can get the recipe from him.

Our ship, Celebrity Solstice, after we returned from walking through the small town.

Tonight, I’ll bring the camera to dinner to take photos of our meals and my dessert. Alfredo, a restaurant manager, has gone over the top to ensure I’m happy with my meals, typically salmon or chicken, prawns, spinach, and mashed cauliflower. 

Views out to sea from Noumea.

I’ve avoided beef and salads while recovering to keep the volume of food and digestibility under control. Perhaps soon I’ll be able to add a small green salad with a steak.

Below, we’ve included some information about New Calendonia and photos we’d taken both on and off the ship for our history buffs in cyberspace. As always, thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you again tomorrow with our fun video and photo of us on anniversary night.

New Caledonia consists of several islands in the archipelago.

Happy day to all!
New Caledonia (French: Nouvelle-Calédonie) is a special collectivity of France located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, 1,210 km (750 mi) east of Australia and 16,136 km (10,026 mi) east of Metropolitan France. The archipelago, part of the Melanesia subregion, includes the main island of Grande Terre, the Loyalty Islands, the Chesterfield Islands, the Belep archipelago, the Isle of Pines, and a few remote islets. The Chesterfield Islands are in the Coral Sea. Locals refer to Grande Terre as Le Caillou (“the pebble”).

New Caledonia has a land area of 18,576 km (7,172 sq mi). Its population of 268,767 (Aug. 2014 census) consists of a mix of Kanak people (the original inhabitants of New Caledonia), people of European descent (Caldoches and Metropolitan French), Polynesian people (mostly Wallisians), and Southeast Asian people, as well as a few people of Pied-Noir and Maghreban descent. The capital of the territory is Nouméa.


The earliest traces of human presence in New Caledonia date back to the Lapita period. The Lapita were highly skilled navigators and agriculturists with influence over a large area of the Pacific.

Two Kanak warriors posing with penis gourds and spears around 1880. Duh, not our photo.

British explorer Captain James Cook was the first European to sight New Caledonia, on 4 September 1774, during his second voyage. He named it “New Caledonia,” as the northeast of the island reminded him of Scotland. The west coast of Grande Terre was approached by Jean-François de Galaup, Comte de Lapérouse, in 1788, shortly before his disappearance, and the Loyalty Islands were first visited in 1796. However, from then until 1840, only a few sporadic contacts with the archipelago were recorded.[ Contacts became more frequent after 1840 because of the interest in sandalwood from New Caledonia.
As trade in sandalwood declined, it was replaced by a new form of trade, “blackbirding,” a euphemism for enslaving people from New Caledonia, the Loyalty Islands, New Hebrides, New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands to work in sugarcane plantations in Fiji and Queensland. The trade ceased at the start of the 20th century. The victims of this trade were called “Kanakas,” like all the Oceanian people, after the Hawaiian word for “man.”

The first missionaries from the London Missionary Society and the Marist Brothers arrived in the 1840s. In 1849, the crew of the American ship Cutter was killed and eaten by the Pouma clan. After that, cannibalism was widespread throughout New Caledonia.”

For more historical information, please click here.

Photo from one year ago today, March 7, 2016:

Tom was holding a gold Oscar statue look-alike at Everybody’s Theatre in Opunake, New Zealand. Click here for the story and more photos of this quaint movie theatre.
Sitting in the “photo booth” on our first visit.  Shortly after our first visit, we returned for a second visit on a special movie night with photos we’ll share shortly as the one-year-ago post approaches.

Harrowing drive completed…Grateful to be back at the villa…The old rat race or gerbil on the wheel…How did this happen to us?

Giant abalone shell sinks on the grounds of Puri Bagus Lovina.

“Sightings on the Beach in Bali

Tom spotted a local woman with straw on her head after we went back to Sumbersari.

What a unique feeling it was, returning to the villa, after a five day stay in Lovina that we completed the visa extension process. It was like coming home. At 2:00 we picked up our stamped passports for a departure from Indonesia on October 30. Four weeks from today we’ll be heading to Kuta to board the red eye flight to Sydney after midnight on the 30th.

In four weeks, we’re going to Kuta to board the Red Eye flight to Sydney after midnight on the 30th.Boats on the waterfront.

In our old lives, after a short vacation/vacation, it was easy to fear the return to reality; its piles of mail, messages and back-to-work responsibilities. Then there were the piles of laundry, the old food to throw in the refrigerator, the need to quickly get to a grocery store and fill the car with fuel. 

Statue with a lei of fresh blooms on the lawn.

Sunday nights were particularly difficult as memories of time away would waft from our minds and the painstaking process of getting up and ready for work to face yet another day of the necessary grind most of us have experienced in our daily lives.

Flowers by the sea.

Of course, there are those of you who love your work and feel no anguish at the return of a journey. For the rest of us, it was only after several hours back into the groove that we could finally relax accepting our 40, 50 hours or more of the weekly “rat race.” 

Small lily pond.

The rhythm of life in this period escapes me almost now after all these years free of such responsibilities and constraints. Returning from the resort yesterday we experienced none of the above frustrations. 

The infinity edge of the pool at Puri Bagus Lovina.

We loaded the laundry hamper with our dirty clothes that the two Ketuts will make on Monday. Our dinner was prepped and ready for us once we unpacked and changed into our bathing suits.    There was no snail mail, messages we had not already processed, no need to go grocery shopping or fill the tank with fuel.

Boat and tower in the bay. Gede, the resort manager at Puri Bagus Lovina suggested patrons don’t go into the ocean due to poisonous coral.

“How did this happen to us?” We’ve often asked ourselves this question. At dinner over these past nights at the resort, we often discussed how we remain in awe of our lives, affordable with a strict budget, freeing in ways we never imagined and filled with endless experiences far exceeding any expectations we may have had in our lives and ultimately in our travels. 

Statue in the garden.

Yesterday, with a late 1:45 pm checkout in order to get to immigration by 2:00 pm, I spent the morning in the bar preparing the post. On several occasions, a variety of resort managers stopped by to thank us for our posts and for highlighting the resort.

A father, a son and a nephew serenading diners during dinner.

As we were leaving, they all were present to wish us well. Gede, the general manager, asked to take a photo with us for his own keepsake. We were flattered by their appreciation as we were appreciative of their kindness and attentiveness.

Heart shaped flower arrangement left on our bed in the resort.

Today our own Gede, visited to ensure we’d enjoyed his recommendation of the resort in Lovina located in his home town where he’d grown up and his parents and siblings are still living. We couldn’t thank him enough for the fabulous recommendation.

Tangle of trees along the shore.

Today? Easy day. Sunshine. Happiness. How did this happen to us? May it happen for you as well!

Photo from one year ago today, October 1, 2015:

This was actually a dine in restaurant in a small strip mall in Savusavu, Fiji, with two tiny tables for diners and minimal cooking space for the cook.  For more details, please click here.