The Panorama Route…Natural wonders one after another along the highway…God’s Window…

Wow! Bourke’s Luck Potholes was definitely our favorite.
The scenery at Bourke’s Luck Potholes was captivating.
The colorful rock formations, coupled with the water from the Blyde and Treur Rivers at Bourke’s Luck Potholes were breathtaking.

Our three days at the Blyde River Canyon Lodge were so busy, we had little time to relax. I guess that’s what being a tourist is all about, being fearful of missing something one will later regret.

The waterfalls were a highlight at Bourke’s Luck Potholes as well as the unreal rock formations.
Bourke’s Luck Potholes are too beautiful for words.
We hiked the rocky trail to this bridge at Bourke’s Luck Potholes, crossed to the opposite side to take this photo.

We often talk about how we aren’t tourists. We’re travelers, temporary residents in a location in which we’ve traveled.  However, from time to time we don’t mind jumping into the tourist mode to see the sites.

Note:  The photos shown here are not necessarily in the order in which they occur along the Panorama Route.

The sun had peeked out when we visited Bourke’s Luck Potholes.
The water was so inviting. Can you imagine the day that Bourke, an unsuccessful gold miner discovered these?  “Essentially, they’re the result of decades of swirling eddies of water where the Treur River meets the Blyde River, the tumult of which has caused extensive water erosion over time. The result is a series of cylindrical rock sculptures that look as though they would be more comfortable on the moon.”
As we made our way out of the Potholes, we were disappointed to leave. But, we needed to get back on the road in order to make the best use of our time.

The crowds, the commercialism, the endless array of hawking vendors, and the waiting behind impatience tourists is definitely annoying. If anything, that’s what may have been instrumental in keeping us away from touristy sites while living in some locations. 

Overcast and hazy when we arrived at God’s Window, we were disappointed that our view would be impeded. This long nicely groomed walkway led to the vantage point. The smell of herbs growing wild in this area was intoxicating. South Africa takes good care of some of its natural resources.
Yes, the haze had an impact on our view from God’s Window.  We could easily imagine it on a totally clear day. 

Luckily, the varied points of interest along South Africa’s Panorama Route were less commercial and crowded than many other tourist locations we’ve visited. With the holiday season over we encountered only a handful of tourists on Friday as we made our way through the various sites.

Darn the haze but, it still was worth seeing God’s Window from several viewing points, this one different from the previous photo.

The vendors had many interesting items, none of which we could justify adding to our baggage load. They weren’t as aggressive as vendors in other countries that we’ve visited

Colorful fabrics are often the focus of vendors in Africa.

At some of the sites, a fee was required to enter. In total, we spent only ZAR $130, US $12.21 which included a few at only ZAR $10, US $.94. Where can one see anything for US $.94 which was the cost to see God’s Window?  Our favorite along the route, Bourke’s Luck Potholes in the main photo and others posted today was the most costly at ZAR $80, US $7.51 for both of us.  It was worth every penny. 

The Three Rondavels viewing point was shrouded in haze which prevented a clear shot. In South Africa, a Rondavel is a traditional beehive-shaped hut built by the indigenous people as their homes.
The river views at the Three Rondavels added to the beauty. 

Several of the sites required strenuous walking on rocks, up and down uneven steps and long hilly walkways.  Although some were wheelchair accessible, we couldn’t imagine how a tourist in a wheelchair could manage the steep incline, for example at Bourke’s Luck Potholes.and, God’s Window.

We’d been warned by many locals that it’s disappointing to visit God’s Window on anything but a perfectly clear day. The day we visited was cloudy, and misty with an occasional breakthrough of the sun. We were grateful that it wasn’t exceedingly hot.

 Berlin Falls, along the Panorama Route, presented an impressive view.

Unable to see all of the sites on the Panorama Route due to time constraints (wanting to get back to the Blyde River Canyon Lodge before dark) we chose those that were grouped together. One could easily spend two full days seeing everything unless starting at 7:00 am and ending at 6:00 pm, a schedule that didn’t appeal to us. 

 This was a wonderful view.  What appears to be smoke is low lying clouds on a hazy day.


Another viewing point from Wonderview.  Although not as astounding as some of the other sites of interest, it was close to the car and easy to access.

Our goal is “stress-free” traveling when we have control over the events of the day. Unfortunately, the day wasn’t quite as stress-free as we’d like when the steep mountains we’d traveled in order to arrive at the Panorama Route. The long drive uphill used so much gas in the little pink car that we were nearing “empty” halfway through the Panorama Route. There wasn’t a single “petrol” station until we reached the town of Graskop where we began our return drive.

 The larger of these two waterfalls, Lisbon Falls was an impressive site.
Lisbon Falls, more exquisite waterfalls in the area.

Over a period of two hours, we anxiously watched the fuel gauge, hoping we’d somehow make it through the sites we wanted to see to avoid the necessity of backtracking. “Safari luck” prevailed and we made it in time with the empty light flashing on the dashboard.  Whew!

Returning to the lodge at 4:00 pm, we had ample time to download our photos and begin writing the next day’s post, all outdoors while enjoying the gorgeous grounds and wildlife visitors playing in the vast expanse of green lawn, running in open spaces.

A lovely couple from South Africa took this photo of us together and we did the same with their camera. We had a great day, minus the low fuel level in the pink car.

With the dense bush here in Marloth Park, we hadn’t had an opportunity to see the Impalas leap through the air or the Zebras running fast as they played together as we dined on the included daily made to order breakfast.

Saturday morning, we checked out of the lodge after yet another chatty visit with the world traveling owner, Vicky, who’d graciously ensured that every aspect of our too-short stay at the Blyde River Canyon Lodge was pleasurable. 

Nearing our lodge the surrounding scenery continued to leave us in awe of the beautiful Blyde River Canyon.
A hazy day, we still had a great time seeing many of these majestic wonders in South Africa.

We’d only wished we’d had more time to relax at the lodge. During the candlelight outdoor dinner each night we were entertained by bushbabies flying about while we had the opportunity to unwind from yet another busy day. It was a heavenly day to say the least. All of it!

Tomorrow, we’ll share the cost of our three-day road trip, photos of the lodge, its lush surroundings, fabulous meals and service, and the wildlife that came to call including a mating zebra couple, a first for us to see. 

Unusual sunset over the Crocodile River…A cape buffalo herd on the move and more…

This doesn’t appear to be a sunset. But, it was, exactly as it appeared at 6:33 pm behind this odd opening in a cloudy sky as we sat outside Ngwenya Lodge on Thursday night. It was hard to believe what we were seeing. The following are a few photos leading up to this view. 

Tom was watching the sunset from the deck at Ngwenya Lodge, alerting me when to take a photo, as I perused the Kruger Park side of the river for wildlife.  Together, we got these shots.

Sunsets are exquisite everywhere in the world. Unfortunately, in some of the locations in which we’ve lived, we had to leave the house in order to take sunset photos with the proximity of the house inadequate for good views.

This view was taken at 6:04 pm.
We took this photo at 6:15 pm from the deck at Ngwenya Lodge overlooking the Crocodile River.

Here in Marloth Park, there are a few tall trees blocking the view, even from the second story veranda. This fact doesn’t deter us from jumping in the car and head to the Crocodile when it appears there will be a great sunset.

This photo was taken at 6:31 pm as the peculiar formation began to take shape

The magic of heading to the river for sunset views is enhanced by the possibility of sighting wildlife along the river. Thursday night, we tried a new restaurant outside of Marloth Park, Ngwenya Lodge, a huge resort a short 20 minute drive from our house.

 This appeared to be a river of lava, but was in fact it was a break in the clouds during the sunset, occurring at 6:32 pm, Thursday evening. This photo is different from the above photo, taken one minute earlier.

Most often, we drive only five minutes to the public park and campground located on the Crocodile River with the best views of the river that we’ve found thus far. Today’s photos are a combination of two visits to the river on Thursday, the nearby location, and at Ngwenya Lodge, both of which proved to be very rewarding.

A small herd of Cape Buffaloes, “Retired Generals” were resting on the Crocodile River close to sunset.

Our Sony Cyber-shot Exmor camera has several limitations when taking photos of wildlife across the Crocodile River. As I’ve mentioned in the past, my bad right shoulder prevents me from using a camera with a large lens and subsequently, more weight. It’s a limitation I’ve tried to overcome as much as possible. 

A crocodile was swimming in the river at sunset most likely on the lookout for a meal.

Using a tripod is impossible based on taking photos on the move from vantage point to the vantage point. Wildlife doesn’t stand still for our use of a tripod, in most cases. Hauling a tripod has as little appeal, adding more weight to our problematic baggage issues.

With the sun rapidly setting, the cape buffaloes began the trek back to land for safety. In the past, we’ve noticed that they don’t stay near the water at night, preferring to stay out of sight of predators.

Thus, we work with what we have to the best of our ability. In addition, a spot has appeared on the interior of the camera’s lens, which is evident in certain shots, not in others. We believe it’s a result of the gross amount of humidity in Kenya or dust from all of our treks in dusty locations.

Part of their trek requiring a short period in the river.

At this point, we’re terrified of attempting to repair it for fear of damaging the camera. With little time to receive a package here, we’d be lost. We’ve decided to wait and purchase a new camera in the future, either outside the US over the next several months or, back in the US when we arrive in Hawaii in October.

Far from us and after the sun had fully set, we saw them make their way to the safety of the bush in Kruger National Park, where they reside.

Yes, we do have a photo editing software that can remove the spot. However, as I now spend half of each day working on this site and uploading the many photos, I have little interest in spending more time editing photos, instead preferring to spend the remainder of our day searching for more photo ops. 

A White Fronted Plover couple taking a dip in the river, eyes peeled for predators.

This morning as soon as we opened the door at 7:00 am, we quickly realized that we had visitors, impalas in the rear yard, and a mom and four baby warthogs, one of our usual families. Today may prove to be a good day. 

Holding the camera steady using maximum zoom for this far away shot, required a steady hand, not easy for me to accomplish. The sacrifice is clarity, as seen in this shot. I believe this is a Saddle Billed Stork, we’ve often seen at a distance on the Crocodile River.

Cooler and cloudy, we’re outside on the veranda, dealing with the flies, once again excitedly awaiting our next round of visitors.  

Now that the tourist crowds have dissipated, some of the local restaurants are closed on Mondays, leaving us to fend for ourselves for tonight’s dinner which we always enjoy as much as dining out.

A male, on the left, female on the right, White Fronted  Plover, common to the river as also shown above.

Tomorrow, we’ll pack for our road trip on Wednesday. The prospect of driving through Kruger Park on our way is as exciting as the upcoming three nights in Blyde River Canyon. Ah, life is good, as long as no snakes make an appearance or any scorpions or any centipedes.

Yellow-billed storks resting on the bank of the river.

Impalas…70 to 80 in our yard… We observed quietly and still… Closeup video and photos…

Even the little ones, learn to stand watch.

Please click here for interesting facts about Impalas.

Check out these touching photos of a lioness adopting an orphaned baby Impala…

Impalas are everywhere. Preferring open spaces, even at night, we saw them in huge numbers while on safari in the Masai Mara, Kenya, and now in both Marloth Park and Kruger National Park, next door to one another.

This is the most common antelope of the bushveld regions of South Africa. A very graceful, rufous-fawn antelope, with white underparts, measuring approximately 900mm at the shoulders. Rams weigh around 132 pounds, 60 Kg, and ewes, 88 pounds, 40 Kg. A black stripe extends from the top of the rump down the back of each thigh. The lower hind legs have glands beneath tufts of black hair. Only the rams have horns which are lyre-shaped, and reach a length of 27.56 inches, 700mm.”

Here’s our impala video that was taken on Friday, January 3, 2014.
With the numbers of them readily available it’s easy to take them for granted paying little attention when passing by. Very shy and cautious, they leap into the air, taking shelter, if humans or other wildlife approaches.
We had no alternative but to take the photos and video while seated on the veranda to avoid scaring off the Impalas.

Oddly, on the same day the giraffes visited on Friday for which we posted yesterday’s story, photos, and videos, the impalas arrived on the same day, just as the giraffes were wandering off.  

Our attention was torn between the two until we realized it wasn’t 10 or 15 impalas standing in front of our veranda across the driveway in the bush, it was 70 to 80 (we lost count). We couldn’t have been more excited. However, the reality of their skittishness made us whisper as to how we’d go about taking photos. We could easily determine which were assigned “watch duty.”

After we took these obstructed photos, we switched to taking the included video.

Tom was seated in his favorite Adirondack chair, somewhat behind me, without me blocking his view and I was seated at the table with a partially blocked view due to the protective railing on the veranda. It was impossible to stand, even with the least possible movement, or in a few seconds, they’d be gone.

Impalas have a keen eye, quick to spot a potential predator and to them, that may as well be us. Always keeping the camera within reach, requiring the least amount of movement, I gingerly managed to pick it up and take photos from my chair, albeit through the spaces in between the thick wood western-style railing.

The stripes on their rumps make it easy to determine they are impalas. Other species in the Antelope family look similar without the stripes.

As most of you photographers know, zooming in to a subject creates a ton of jittery action. With my unsteady bad, right shoulder, and no tripod, this is quite a challenge. They are moving constantly so I was at a disadvantage. The video was the only option. 

If I could zoom in enough to get between the railing, steadying my elbows on the table, with the least amount of movement, I could possibly get the video. Keep in mind, I am a neophyte with photography, having only made an effort to get good photos over the past eight months ago.  

We’d ordered the new camera, arriving in a box of supplies that we received at a UPS store on April 13, 2013, when our ship docked in Florida for one day. We were on a back-to-back cruise, taking a taxi to pick up the box. Once we opened the box for the camera, we put everything back inside, saying “We’ll do this later.” 

A single Duiker stopped by while the Impalas were here.

I was intimidated with all the instructions (I never read instructions) and parts and didn’t want to spoil the second part of the cruise caught up in technology. As it turned out, it wasn’t until May 2013 that I finally opened the box and inquired within, foregoing the use of the tiny Samsung Camera that had sufficed up to that point.

Intimidated as I was by cameras when we first left the US, we had foolishly believed that we could take photos using our new high tech Smartphones. Little did we know at the time how our readership would grow and how interested, we’d become in preserving our experiences.  

At a port of call in Mexico in early January, while still on our first cruise through the Panama Canal, we got off the ship to purchase the cheap pink Samsung camera (pink was all they had, like the pink car we have now) at a Walmart store walking distance from the pier.  

Even then, we thought the little camera would fulfill our needs. Ha! But only a few months later, as our interest peaked at taking photos (finally!) we knew it was time to upgrade.  

Any jittery aspects to my video taking are my own issue, the painful unsteady right shoulder (I’m right-handed) that tires quickly and painfully when holding up the camera. How we ever took 600 photos at the Masai Mara escapes me. I had to fashion a sling for my arm to wear for days after that glorious experience. “Safari luck” served us well when the shoulder didn’t become immobilized until we got back to our home in Diani Beach days later.  

While taking today’s included video of the Impalas, I held up until the last few seconds when I could no longer hold up the arm. Thus, the jittery end. In any case, we’re pleased to have been able to get what we did, seated, between the railing and free of any movement that could scare them off. 

They lingered for a half hour or so as we sat mesmerized by their gracefulness and beauty. In a flash, a distant sound startled them and they quickly began the trek through the yard, down the same worn path that most visitors seem to prefer when they decide they’re on their way to greener pastures.  

This path allows us one more distant peek at the visitors, as they wander single-file along the path. Finally, we stood up, un-kinking our stiff joints, all the while shaking our heads and reveling in yet another extraordinary day; giraffes, impalas, three videos (see yesterday’s post); over a period of only a few hours.

Having dined out many times in the past few weeks, we decided to prepare our meals over the weekend, but not without a trip to the Crocodile River for more, and more and more.

Tomorrow, we’ll share our itinerary for the upcoming 500+ days and details of a three-day trip we’ve booked from January 15th to January 18th to explore another amazing area in South Africa, touted as a “must-do” by those who live here.  

It will be hard to leave. But, we know it’s time to expand our horizons while living in this vast country of South Africa, which has proven to have much to offer.  

An exciting trip to Komatipoort…A usual day in the neighborhood…Mind blowing…

Can you imagine coming home after a busy workday to find a giraffe in your driveway? This is  everyday life in Marloth Park.

Yesterday morning at 11:00 am, Okee Dokee arrived to take us the 25 minutes drive to the border town of Komatipoort, South Africa, which less than 5 km, 3.1 miles from the country of Mozambique (which we hope to visit during our time here).  

As we rounded the corner from our house, we encountered this wildebeest.  Enormous, it was taller than a horse, much larger than any of the wildebeest we’d seen at the tail end of the Great Migration at the border of Kenya and Tanzania.

Needing to purchase a few groceries, SIM data cards for the MiFi’s and liquor for Tom, we were blown away that a shopping trip to a strip mall in a small town could be such an adventure. When is a trip to grocery shop eventful?  Never in our old lives.

Sorry for the blur, but we took this shot while we were moving at a good clip.  This is a leopard turtle known for the leopard-like spots. Notice he/she is carrying something in her mouth.

No more than turning onto the main road from our driveway, the fun began. The wildlife was standing along the road as if to welcome us to the neighborhood. Flitting back and forth across the seats in the van, I couldn’t snap photos quickly enough, often missing good shots while busy with another.

Down the road another block, there were a number of giraffes hanging around outside one of the houses in Marloth Park. This giraffe was eating, which accounts for the chubby cheeks. The food slides down her throat in a big lump as shown.

Okee Dokee, after living in this unique area for over five years, also shared our enthusiasm. As we’ve found from speaking with residents of Marloth Park, one never tires of the sight of any animal, large or small, going about their business of daily living in the bush. 

The gracefulness of these ungainly animals is a rare treasure to behold. Had we been on a short walk, we’d have been standing right beside it. 

This is not a busy “human” place. The animals definitely are wild, many extremely shy, others wary and cautious of our intrusion into their habitat.

We tread quietly with respect for the gift they offer us of viewing their lives, their habits, and their young.

Zebras are everywhere, seemingly oblivious to vehicles traveling along the narrow road.

It’s always interesting to grocery shop in new locations. The varying types of foods, the pricing, the common-items-to-us that we can’t find, and the quality of the items. 

On a shopping trip, not a game drive we didn’t want to ask our driver to slow down every time we saw an animal. None the less, I kept clicking, in the hopes of getting a few good photos. If only these impalas would have turned around. 

We were thrilled to be able to find some items we’d hadn’t been able to buy in either Italy or Kenya, for example, Cremora, which Tom uses in his coffee, (I use real cream) and large heads of lettuce, a treat for salads and wraps. The cost of food compared to Kenya, is comparable, although the selections are greater.

After a huge storm last night, our pool was filled with dead insects. This morning, Tom fished out this scorpion. Now, my centipede fear has some competition.  Carefully, we tread.

Our next trip was to the liquor store where Tom purchased two bottles of E & J brandy and two of the large-sized bottles of Sprite Zero for a total of ZAR $227, US $22.50 which we thought was a bargain. The more expensive brands were disproportionately higher.

Then, we stopped back at the Vodacom store to pick up the two SIM cards we’d requested with 10 gigs each for the MiFis. When purchasing SIM cards they must be registered with the country. The system was down preventing us from buying the cards. 

Luckily, while we were shopping, the rep was able to register the cards enabling us to pick them up and be on our way. Preferring to pay with a credit card as opposed to using our cash (ZAE-Rands), we handed the rep a card, only to have her quickly respond that the credit card system was down.  This is a common occurrence we’ve discovered in many parts of the world, systems down or, in some cases businesses trying to avoid bearing the 2-3% cost for processing credit cards. We’ve had to learn to accept these situations as we’ve traveled.

The closer we got back to our house in Marloth Park, the more awe-inspiring the wildlife was as illustrated in these photos. 

Tomorrow, we’ll include the story and photos of our first sunset game drive with Leon, the owner of the popular Jabula Lodge where we ended up for a fabulous dinner and met a wonderful local couple.

Upon returning to Marloth Park after the shopping trip, we were waved on by the guards at the security/entrance checkpoint, who know Okee Dokee, never hesitating to let us proceed.

Sunday afternoon, we’re attending a game drive in Kruger Park, a dinner in the bush with three other couples, coincidentally including Leon and his wife and the lovely couple we met last night. Ah, a social life, at long last!

Out on the town…A feast to be had…

Although most of the items on the menu were seafood related, most of which Tom doesn’t enjoy, he was thrilled to find some options that would be pleasing to his limited palate.

When asking locals as to best the restaurants in an area to try, thoughtfully they will suggest their familiar haunts, in their preferred price range and with the food that satisfies their own palate.  Although, we take suggestions to heart, we have our limitations to consider; my food restrictions and Tom’s somewhat limited taste buds.

For me, the menu was purely delightful.  It was difficult to decide when not a single option would be undesirable for me.

As a result, we have to be more creative.  With Tom’s mindset that he likes “all-American food” with minimal spices, he never ceases to amaze me when he tries new items when dining out or in the past, aboard ship.

In Kenya and as is typical all over Africa, many of the meals are heavily seasoned, fried, barbecued and with ingredients unsuitable for either of us.  Thus, being a little more creative, researching local restaurants and their often posted menus gives us a better idea to avoid disappointment.

This photo, from the Almanara Resort’s website is the lounge area adjoining the dining area.  Our photo didn’t turn out so well in the dark.  This area was emptywhen we arrived but full by the time we left a few hours later.

Of course, there’s a higher cost to more “continental cuisine,” an expense we are willing to bear in order to be able to enjoy a night out.  After the glorious experience of Saturday night, we’ve officially decided on Saturday nights as our official date night to try the suitable restaurants in the area. 

Many of the establishments are within walking distance. However, as the sun goes down by 6:30, the dangers of walking on the highway in the dark are many. A local cab driver, Chris, picked us up at 7:00, waiting for the restaurant to call him for our return, picking us up later in the evening. The cost for the round trip cab ride was KES $1100, US $12.59 which includes the tip. Not too bad.

This complimentary appetizers presented by the chef was out of the question for me. It was fried seaweed and stuff puff pastries, all made with flour.  However, much to my surprise, Tom ate all of it, finding it very tasty.  I think his limited taste buds “song and dance” is purely psychological when I see him enjoy new items.

With no phone we could use Skype to call the cab.  But as we inquired to our nighttime security guard, Jeremiah, he immediately called a programmed number in his phone and shortly later cab driver Chris arrived to take us to Sails Restaurant at the Almanara Resort.  

Both Chris and Jeremiah seemed excited that we wanted to go to the Almanara Resort when recently, the Kenyan president stayed in one of their luxurious suites. After dining at their own Sails Restaurant we understood why. The property was exquisite, the food amazing, the service impeccable and the security, over the top.

After Tom ate the seaweed, he didn’t want to spoil his dinner with another appetizer.  I ordered this salad, gluten free and the chef made the sauce without flour using a homemade mayonnaise base. There were no less than 8 large prawns in this salad.  In reality, this could easily have been my entire meal and I’d have been satisfied.  Look below for the huge entrée I also consumed in it entirety.  Piglet.

As Chris drove up to the massive gates at the Almanara Resort, we were impressed by the crisp uniforms, muscular build and confidence of the guards. Approaching the cab, he asked our names and nature of our visit.  Having luckily made a reservation online for 7:00 PM, he carefully reviewed his list of reservations and waved us through, opening the massive gates by hand.

Once we entered the property, another guard approached and directed Chris where to stop to drop us off. Chris had begun to walk us toward the restaurant area, only to be dismissed by the new guard to stay put, while he would escort us to the restaurant, a short two minute walk, on a well lit but uneven road. Thank goodness, I was wearing flat sandals. 

This amazing array of seafood was all grilled and seasoned to perfection. It contained lobster, prawns, octopus, squid, snapper and a few  chewy wormy looking items I didn’t recognize but ate anyway.  Need I say that I cleaned this plate as well?

Based on the road, neither of us was expecting much.  In the dark with the soft lighting surrounding the resort, we could only see lush vegetation and the outline of several substantial bungalows. Apparently, their rentals are “house sized suites” at varying costs of $1000’s per night. 

If the water stops running here, as it did in our first house in Belize, we won’t be moving to Almanara Resort as we did to LaruBeya where we stayed for over two months (see posts from end of February, 2013 to April 9, 2013 for photos and details).

Once seated, at this exact table as depicted in the daylight photo below from their website, we couldn’t have been more content, as shown by our lavish plates of epicurean delights.

 Tom’s dinner consisted of Fillet Mignon, fries, grilled vegetables.  He kept insisting that I try a taste of his steak, finally taking a bite of tender well seasoned meat.  He also, ate every morsel.

A few hours later, stuffed “to the gills,” we were ready to head back to our home to watch a movie on my laptop in bed under the mosquito netting. 

Apparently, we were told, our cab driver Chris waited for us in his original parking spot during our entire dinner. We tipped him well appreciating the great service for this short cab ride.

Our bill for dinner? Much less than one would pay in the US and other countries for fine food and service. Tom had a US $10 marguerite and a giant bottle of Pilsner beer while I had two bottles of fizzy mineral water. Add my appetizer and our two lavish entrees, the total bill was KES $5400, US $61.80, included VAT tax and 18% service charge (built in tip). 

We borrowed this daylight photo from the resort’s website.  It was dark as we were seated at this table.  Our photo didn’t do it justice.

Based on the quality of the service and Tom’s lack of change, we gave the waiter an additional KES $1000, US $11.44. Dinner, cab fare, tax and tips totaled KES $7500, US $85.83.  Having budgeted US $100 per week for dining out, we were on target. If, we find other restaurants at a lower cost, we’ll use the difference to offset the extra SIM cards we must purchase to be able to download our TV shows.

It was adult son’s birthday prompting us to call him on Skype. The cost for the call is free but the data use is huge which now is monitored. He and the grandkids were in their pool in their yard.  Daughter-in-law Camille turned on the speakerphone enabling us to speak with both of them and the 3 grandkids.  

Of course, we miss all four of our children, their significant others and our six precious grandchildren. In fifteen months, we’ll all be together again. 

Daughter Tammy’s birthday was Sunday but we were unable to reach her last night and will try again soon. 

Later watching Ironman 3, we drifted off to sleep, safely tucked away in our comfy bed with the secure mosquito netting, the fan at full speed above the bed for yet another restorative night’s sleep to arm us for the next day at home, batting off the mosquito.

We’d intended to write about the restaurant experience on Saturday night for Sunday’s post.  When the monkeys ran through the yard, we couldn’t wait one day to share that story so we flip flopped them. Makes sense, right

Supplies needed to carry on…More sacrifices…Happy 4th of July everyone in the US!…

Sorry folks, no photos today except this one I’d failed to post when we visited Petra, Jordan in May 2013. 

Staying inside all day today due to rainy weather, we felt lazy, as one may feel on a holiday, watching downloaded movies. Tomorrow, with sunshine predicted, we’ll have more to share.  We hope that our readers in the US have enjoyed the 4th of July. 

Last week I found this photo from when we walked to Petra in May. I’d saved in the wrong location realizing it was never posted (to the best of my knowledge). These steps were much steeper than appearing in this photo.  To see this horse gingerly tackle them in the scorching heat was both heartbreaking and awe inspiring. 

Planning ahead is never far from our thoughts. 

Prescriptions, medical supplies, toiletries, office supplies, batteries for digital equipment, copies of travel documents must be replaced along with any other items that pop into our heads as we continue to use what we have on hand.

Many expat travelers such as ourselves choose to live in large cities with easy access to most of these items.  For us, having chosen to live in more remote areas, we must plan in advance. 

With less than two months until we leave for Africa, we’ve begun to evaluate what we may need for the nine months we’ll live between Kenya, South Africa and Morocco.

Early this morning, I found myself counting malaria pills to determine if we are short.  While still in the US, I’d ordered enough to last for our almost six-month while in Kenya and South Africa. While in Belize, we ended up booking almost three more months in Morocco. 

Today, looking online at the CDC’s website it appears there’s no known risk of malaria in Morocco, leaving us with the correct number of pills we’ll need for Kenya and South Africa, one per day for each of us for the almost six months.

However, with our current prescriptions scheduled to run out in October, we find it necessary to order enough for another year. Receiving mail in Africa in the remote areas we’ll reside in Kenya and South Africa is sketchy at best. 

Early next week, we’ll place our order online hoping to receive the package well in advance of leaving here.  Although, now not covered by insurance, the prices for our prescriptions are reasonable.

While in Dubai, I had no alternative but to use one of the two Z-Pak antibiotic prescriptions we had on hand while I was ill with a raging sinus infection as a result of an awful flu we both contracted on the Middle East cruise from Barcelona to Dubai.  Hoping to replace the used prescription, I am requesting one five day dose online. 

The weight of our bags, at this point continues to be a major concern. Learning from experience these past eight months, overstocking in a poor strategy.  But remaining mindful of crucial items we know we’ll need is a vital part of our everyday lives.

So far in our travels, we hauled a supply of Crystal Light ice tea, our daily  beverage of choice. Although the pitcher sized packets are lightweight, including a 100 packet three month supply adds an extra two to three pounds. Plus, with the product unavailable in Italy, we’d have no alternative but to have it shipped, incurring international shipping fees.

A few days ago, we both made a commitment to give up Crystal Light ice tea entirely, unless by chance we find it to be available at any local grocery stores where we’re living at any given time, purchasing only enough to use, not to carry.

Giving up the insulated mug of ice tea that I’ve carried everywhere for years, will not be easy.  Is it an addiction? I suppose there are some who may feel that anything we “have to have” may be construed as an addiction. 

With the ice tea 99% caffeine free, surely it must be more of a habit than an addiction. It doesn’t matter what we call it.  We have to stop drinking it.  The weaning process began a few days ago, diluting it by 30% until our current supply is gone in the next few weeks.

Tom’s powdered creamer is another item we’ve been unable to find. We recently considered buying it online, but there again it would result in more to pack.   While shopping last week, we purchased three possible alternatives, three liquid creamers used for latte here in Italy, a very common beverage.   

Much to our surprise, the liquid creamer had an acceptable taste, a product we will no doubt be able to find at our future destinations. I prefer real cream, but with few preservatives used in Italy (and many other countries) it tends to spoil in about five days. 

Interestingly, many foods spoil quickly here, including deli meats and cheeses, again made without nitrates and other preservatives. This fact is pleasing for one’s health, but requires rethinking storage of these perishable items. The freezer, although small, serves that purpose for most products.

Surprisingly, vegetables also spoil quickly here leaving us to wonder what spray chemical products, the local Italian farmers are NOT using on their produce. 

Shopping for two weeks in advance as we’ve done here thus far, requires we eat all the fresh produce as quickly as possible. Soon, the vegetables in the gardens in our yard will be ready to pick, eliminating a portion of this issue over the summer.

All of our luggage is currently atop a bed in a  guest room, except for the items we’d placed in cupboards and drawers. Each day, I peruse through the items, considering which items I am willing to let go. 

In the past several days, I’ve eliminated no less than five pounds.  Minus the ice tea, we’ll be down approximately eight pounds. This process must continue. We’re highly motivated to board our upcoming flight to Africa on September 2nd without paying any excess baggage fees.

Saying goodbye to stuff?  For us, it’s been a process. After a lifetime of stuff, surrounded by stuff, replacing stuff, trips to Costco, stockpiling stuff and surrounding ourselves with stuff we like, love and treasure, it definitely has been a challenge. 

At this point, it’s only practicality and function that drives our sense of attachment to an item(s). No longer do I look at an item of clothing with a smile, looking forward to wearing it again. Those days are long gone.

Above all, its the sacrifices we’ve chosen to make for the opportunity to travel the world are many. We find ourselves instead, loving the views of Mother Nature’s rich treasures, the smells that freely represent a culture, the tastes of the local foods, the sounds of the languages unfamiliar to our ears, the music so passionately represented by its citizens and most of all the people, none of which we’ll be required to place in our bags. 

These, we’ll carry in our hearts and minds forever.

Feeling a little guilty…Though not too much…More photos tomorrow…

Today, on an exploring and invigorating walk, we found ourselves closer to the larger of the two clock towers, for a better view of the cemetery on the grounds of the church.

Sunday started out cool and sunny.  As the day progressed a warmth blanketed the area finally making it possible for us to lounge on the veranda without wearing excess clothing.  It’s been a week of cool, cloudy weather.

At noon, while outside preparing to make another video of the second clock tower, the one outside our bedroom window, Lisa, Luca and a friend appeared precisely at the moment as the tower was to begin its rhythmic 12 clangs, which we’d hope to catch for the video.  Their appearance interrupted the 12 clangs occurring only once during daylight hours (or not).

Our enchanting neighborhood, far removed from neighborhoods in the US and many other countries.  Our temporary home is next door to the clock tower in the upper right.  It was fun to see it from this vantage point.

Our goal was to post it yesterday, as we ultimately did unfortunately with less clangs, along with the louder and church bell tower that we’d first posted. 

After a series of several gracious “buon giourno” (good day) and a few fleeting “come stai?” (how are you?), they explained in Italian that they were here for the day to work on the gardens and the expansive yard.  We smiled, vigorously nodding in understanding.

This is no easy job.  With most of the yard consisting of a series of steep terraces, mowing and trimming is quite the daunting task.  Our rental contract clearly stated, we wouldn’t be responsible for any tasks other than cleaning up after ourselves on the interior of the house, sorting the garbage for recycling and doing our own sheets and laundry.

This view of the yard is from our kitchen window. When we arrived, this plant holder was filled with blooming flowers attracting tons of bees.  Both of us allergic to bees, plus with no screens on the windows as a safety precaution Tom moved the window box to the patio where the herb garden is located.  This allows us to enjoy having the kitchen window open, weather providing, although a few horse flies and bees made an appearance.

The stone floors stay clean with a sweeping every few days; the kitchen and bathrooms, we clean as we go; and soon, we’ll dust everything in sight which surprisingly collects minimal dust. We wash the limited supply of bath and kitchen towels every three days; sheets, once a week and our clothing as needed. That’s it. 

There’s no fixing, no repairing, no hardware store to visit returning with an array of little plastic bags filled with items we may never use that remain in the basement on a shelf to be discovered years later. Without any guilt-inducing tasks to be accomplished, nagging in one’s mind, life has taken on a new meaning. 

We don’t walk by the dotted paint spill on the stone floor and think, “Oh, when will we ever get that cleaned up?” Or, “When will we replace the broken lock on the guest room door?” How about never?

On Sunday, as we lounged on the veranda overlooking the gorgeous yard, the occasional sound of the weed whacker whirring, the shuffling of the broom as it swept at the hands of the ambitious homeowners, for a moment, only a moment, a wave of guilt washed over me. “Shouldn’t we be helping?”

Another view of the manicured grounds that extend far down the hill toward the road near the church.

No, we shouldn’t. It’s the way of our lives now. OPM, often referred to in business, as “other people’s money” now refers to “other people’s maintenance” in our lives. We like that. We like that a lot.

By 5:00 pm on Sunday, the three of them left, the grounds trim and deftly manicured to maintain the lush and green foliage enhanced by the recent rains.

The birds were singing their harmonious songs, the bells clanged periodically in their inconsistent manner while we had only to contemplate the preparation of yet another pleasant homemade dinner, most of which was already chopped and diced earlier this morning.  Washing dishes follow, to be left to dry overnight. 

More than the scenery. More than the historic buildings. More than the upfront experience of seeing that which we only read about in history books. More than the anticipation of the next adventure, s the simplicity.

The simplicity of these days, this summer, this place, this life.

A walk around the hilly neighborhood…My new form of exercise…Maintaining health while in Tuscany…The simple things…

Lisa and Luca presented us with this basket of cherries from the tree growing in our yard, after they’d seen us admiring the tree.  Lisa, speaking no English and us, no Italian, it was impossible to explain my restrictive diet that forbids any fruit sugars. Tom, fortunately, may have a few each day, while I’ve merely enjoyed their beauty.We thanked them profusely, impressed by the thoughtfulness they have shown each day since we’ve arrived.  For more information on Lisa and Luca and their properties, visit them at their Facebook page:
It appeared that this house may be occupied, one of few dilapidated entrances in the area.

Without a health club within an hour’s drive from Boveglio and certainly not carrying any exercise equipment in our limited space for packing, I was in a quandary arriving here 10 days ago.

This hill is much steeper in person than it appears here.
Many individual houses are attached, a common occurrence we’ve observed in certain areas of the world, such as Dubrovnik and Mykonos.

Having worked out most of my adult life, the thought of not having access to a facility and equipment for my twice-weekly High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) worried me. Some time ago, I changed my workout routine, as I’ve mentioned here in the past to concur with the research presented in Jonathan Bailor’s Smarter Science of Slim, a profound life-changing book of both healthful diet and exercise.

Rushing by this flowering plant to avoid the hovering bees, I caught a whiff of pure heaven.
Obviously, no cars fit between these narrow pathways to the houses. Its no wonder that the Italian people appear slim and fit.  The parking area, as for us, is a bit of a hike from the house.  Add the hills to the walk and it becomes quite a workout on a regular basis.

With a medical condition that has since been resolved after almost two years of a strict adherence to my diet, combined with exercise, not being able to do so, is a big deal to me. After days of becoming familiar with our house and the neighborhood, a solution to this dilemma presented itself. 

More blooming flowers.  In a few days, the many lavender bushes in our yard begin to bloom.  Photos to follow.  I wish we could do online “scratch and sniff” for the sweet smells in Tuscany.

HIIT required excruciating workouts at the maximum possible energy expenditure for 10 minutes twice a week, utilizing as many muscles as possible, working to the point of exhaustion. This has been easily accomplished at a health club by performing a series of specific exercises, working for the major muscle groups. 

Ah, a flat stretch on which I can catch my breath.

In conjunction with HIIT’s strenuous short bursts of exercise is combined with a commitment to expending approximately 10,000 steps per day, one can maintain an excellent level of fitness.  The steps per day, in part, are accomplished by walking in this lengthy house along with going up and down the many flights of steps indoors and outside all day.  

Add a daily walk in the steepest neighborhood I’ve ever seen, walking briskly up the hills, twice a week, while on a more normal walk the remaining days and I’ll almost be where I need to be. 

This is my favorite hill (yea, right!)

I recently found two identical weight logs for the fireplace in the wood pile which I’m using for my twice-weekly HIIT arm exercises. And, I’ve instituted the dreaded lunges twice a week.

The weight lifting logs, the perfect weight, considering my bum shoulder which seems to be improving.
Maintaining a sure footing on this walk is more important than the exercise factor.  The stone walkways are rugged and uneven inspiring me to keep my eyes down as much as possible.

The hills? The most difficult of my routine. Walking down is easy. It’s the trip back up that pushes me to my limit, exactly what I need.  Tom prefers to lounge at home while I’m on this twice-weekly mission. But, he will walk with me on the less strenuous days. 

Good grief. He’s walking, something he swore he’d never do. I’m thrilled about that! He’s now back down to his 45-pound weight loss after dining-at-will on each of our eight cruises and now eating mostly what I do for the past 10 days.

Nothing like stopping for a sniff along the way.

Yesterday afternoon, alone on my strenuous day walk, I took these photos on the way down, many of which don’t fully illustrate the intensity of the walkways. On the way back up I stay focused and stop only for a moment to catch my breath if necessary.  My goal is to be able to make it back up without a single breath-catching stop which I should be able to accomplish within a week or two. 

Tom quit smoking for hopefully the final time shortly before we left Minnesota in October. He now walks several times a week, mostly when we are exploring. He’s rid of 45 pounds of belly fat. He’s relaxed and relatively stress-free (except for hauling luggage on moving days) and most of all, like me, happy. 

This old tracker and trailer occupies a spot in the shared parking area.

Perhaps, we’ll be lucky that all of this attention to health will ultimately pay off with long and healthy lives. All of our efforts are, by no means, a guarantee that we’ll avoid illness or injury, not for us, not for anyone. But, somehow, it may prove to be instrumental in our continued enjoyment of the quality of our lives into our old (older) age.

An inviting doorway.  Wonder what’s on the other side?

Also, when a basket of cherries can offer so much joy, even if they are “to look,” not “to touch,” it must have a positive effect on our well being. It’s the simple things in life, isn’t it?

Soon, I’ll climb up to our “terrazzo” on the dangerous steps over the stone stairway, hang a batch of laundry that is currently in the washer and pick a big batch of basil for tonight’s dinner of boneless chicken breasts topped with the finest locally made mozzarella cheese and my own homemade pesto, a huge side salad with homemade dressing and a platter of steamed veggies.  Yes, it is, the simple things…

Monday’s road trip to Bagni di Lucca…lots of photos…

This was the first bridge we drove across to arrive in the center of the town.

The view as we approached Bagni di Lucca, not the same town as Lucca, itself, which we’ll  also visit in the near future.

Notice the “no honking” sign. 
The vegetation was so thick as we drove along the Lima River while entering Bagni di Lucca, this was the best shot we could get until we arrived closer to the town.

Awakening early Monday morning, Tom suggested, “Let’s hit the road!”

Anxious to begin touring the many towns of Tuscany, an hour later, after a hearty breakfast, we were on our way, choosing the historic village of Bagni di Lucca for a few reasons; one, its river and bridges and two, its relatively close proximity…as the crow flies.

The last portion of the road as we began the descent into Bagni di Lucca.
The street is so narrow it only allows for one way traffic at a time at the upcoming “T”.  As a result, we sat at this light for no less than 7 minutes.

If we thought the drive to Boveglio to Benabbbio or Bovelgio to Collodi was winding and treacherous, we were kidding ourselves!  Never, in either of our lives, have we seen or experienced more hairpin turns, winding, hilly roads than along the drive today. 

Many of these building appear newer, although less interesting from the exterior. But many of them are hundreds of years old, built to last with simple exterior design, common in different times.

Tom, good driver that he is, and considerate of my tentativeness and, duh, our lives, drove carefully putting my mind at ease.  The scenery along the road warranted photos but with literally nowhere to stop, we missed many good shots.

Hairpin turns, every few minutes.

Historic ruins along the banks of the river remain a part of the properties (circa 1900’s) built over the centuries.

With little rain recently, the river bed was sparse of water in parts, the snows having melted some time ago.
Former Minnesota fishing enthusiasts, we couldn’t resist this fish as it swam in the Lima River, as we watched from the shore.
Outdoor cafes never cease to delight us, a novelty from whence we came.

Of course, once we arrived in Bagni di Lucca, we stopped many times visiting the historic sites, walking on narrow foot bridges across rivers, walking along the boulevards, all the while “ooh-ing” and ahh-ing” over one thrilling moment after another. 

How could any region be as breathtaking as Tuscany?

Over and over, I find myself saying, “How could we have lived our lives without seeing Tuscany?”  Its unique lush mountainous greenery caresses one charming Tuscan building after another.  Even the old dilapidated buildings are awe inspiring. 

It wasn’t easy to walk past this bakery.  The smell of fresh baked pastries wafted through the air.

Everywhere we walked, the sweet smell of blooming flowers filled our nostrils as we sucked in the heady perfume of Mother Nature.  Add the meticulous loving care the people of Toscana exercise to maintain its centuries old demeanor and style and you have one of the most enticing areas in the world. 

The sprawling Lima River seems to provide a backdrop for most of the interesting and historical buildings.

With much world ahead of us yet to see, we have no doubt that the memories we’ll gather from our short two and a half months in Tuscany will remain with us forever. 

Pretty mountain village, a mixture of old and newer buildings.

The following well written story Tom found online about Bagni di Lucca was taken from a real estate website, Casa Tuscany, that we found describes it best.  We borrowed these two photos.  All of the other photos are our own.

“One of the oldest and most famous towns in the province of Lucca, Bagni di Lucca is easily reached off the SS12, just past the Devil’s Bridge. This once-grand spa town has always been known for its curing waters, appreciated even in Roman times. 

Bagni di Lucca was frequented for centuries by noblemen and famous people and became known as the land of princes and poets. It became extremely fashionable during the 19th century when it became the meeting place for such distinguished people as the poets Byron, Shelley, Browning, Lever, Giusti, Monti, Carducci, Pascoli, Montale, writers such as Dumas, musicians such as Strauss, Listz, Paganini, Puccini, Mascagni and politicians, saints and popes. Heine described it as “a true and proper sylvan paradise. I have never found a valley more enchanting, even the mountains are nobly formed and not bizarre and Gothic like those in Germany.”

The English came to know Bagni di Lucca as the ‘Switzerland of Tuscany’ and its prestige at that time led to the construction of an Anglican church, an important suspension bridge, the Ponte delle Catene, a neo-classical temple and the Villa Demidoff, the casino, where roulette was invented in 1837, the Circolo dei Forestieri, the foreigners club, now an upmarket river-front restaurant and numerous important villas immersed in greenery. 

Also characteristic are the feudal and medieval structures of the mountain villages, rich in history, traditions, legends, and some with Romanesque parish churches, such as Vico Pancellorum and Pieve di Controne.”


Now, with a plan to continue to reach out to more villages in Tuscany, week by week, we find ourselves considering that we may not choose to drive the huge distances to the tourist packed areas in Italy, perhaps focusing our attention around Florence and Tuscany.  After all, our plan all along has been to do “what feels right to us” as opposed to “what others think we should do.”

Walking across this foot bridge we commented about its sturdy feel. Looking online, we found this story about the “New Stress Ribbon Pedestrian Bridge.”

Yes, we’re happy we had the opportunity to experience Venice.  But, the crowds were such a damper to our visit with tourists at one’s elbow at every step.  A gondola ride, once savored as a “must do” became dull and uninteresting in the massive “traffic jams” we witnessed on the canals.

Danita Delimont Bridge was built in the 1700’s.  Walking across we were impressed by its strength and stability. 
This old bridge couldn’t have been more well preserved while maintaining the significance of its historical design.

Google Translate wouldn’t translate this for us.  Anyone want to assist?

Here in Boveglio, there are few tourists, no crowds, no waiting in line.  We may be two of a handful of tourists.  There are a few B & B’s in the general area.  We’ve yet to speak to one English speaking tourist or resident.  For us, this adds to our experience. 

The only spot where we saw rapids on the Lima River.

Without a doubt, we’ve loved all of the fun and interesting people  that we’ve met on our eight cruises, many of whom we will remain in touch with by email and our blog. However, in one’s everyday life, one doesn’t necessarily make new friends every few months. 

This riverfront property, although appearing newer, could well have been 200 years old.

Many friends we know and love, seldom entertain or socialize beyond an occasional get together, often as infrequently as once or twice a year.  In most cases, this is the norm for middle aged and older people instead spending more time with family.

The footbridge lead to the past behind me, where we wandered around.
As we stepped off the footbridge, we noticed this rushing water channel alongside the river.

Social butterflies that we are, we fully enjoyed the interactions on the cruises, but are quite content just being together, day after day, in our own little world, that, in essence with readers all over the world may not be so small after all.  We don’t feel isolated.  

Tom, at the park by the river.  One of our readers made a comment that his white tennis shoes are a dead ringer for a tourist. Apparently, Europeans wear darker colored shoes. Although, we’re not ashamed to be tourists, spending money and savoring every moment in the current country in our journey.

Of course, we miss our family and friends and always will, staying in touch by Skype and email as much as possible.  Someday, we will settle down, where we don’t know at this point nor do we worry about that eventuality.  Most likely, our staying put, wherever that may be, will add to our accessibility to our family members and hopefully our friends.

We called this a “camouflage” tree, based on the coloration and pattern of the bark.

For now, we continue on, with our new plan to further explore Tuscany upon awakening any morning, knowing today is the day to go, grab a map, load up in our iced tea, my tube of lipstick (no purse), our camera and Tom’s excellent driving skills to venture out on more of these crazy roads. 

Building a park around a historical structure is common from what we’ve seen of the world thus far.  Hard to read signs prevented us from determining the origin of this structure.

That, my friends, is what being retirement is all about…doing exactly what we choose each and every day, health providing, funds well-managed, rental car gassed up, and an easy spirit in our hearts to live life to the fullest, for as long as we can.

Sign near exit to footbridge.

Thank you, Bagni di Lucca, for yet another memorable day.

The humid valley as we drove back.  Later in the day it rained with thunder and lightening, the first time since we arrived.  The humidity is high each day due to the vegetation although not uncomfortable.  The fresh smog free air makes taking a deep breath refreshing and energizing.
Returning in the afternoon, we immediately ran around securing all the windows as a sudden deluge of thunder, lightening and rain ensued.  The cozy feeling was not lost on us as travelers intent on following the sun. 
Off we go, back to the hairpin turns and our carefully executed return drive to Boveglio, our new home.
The gardens were watered, the flowers soaked up the much needed moisture and the stone patios, streets and walkways were cleansed of their dust and soil.
This morning sunshine prevailed as it shone on the lush greenery surrounding us, maybe one shade greener than the prior day, if that’s at all possible.

Ship taking a detour today…Sick passenger being dropped off in Bermuda, plus rough seas…

Our ship, the Norwegian Epic is taking a detour today to drop off an ill passenger in Bermuda. 

This morning, the captain made this announcement as well as warning us we will be approaching rough waters today. He said, “Hang on, folks. You paid for this in your ticket.” Oh.

Plus, our Internet connection is really awful. We will write here with updates but will be unable to post any photos today for this reason.

The weather is very windy and cool. It doesn’t appear we’ll be enjoying any poolside lounging as we sail across the ocean. 

Last night, we had a one hour time change and will experience several more the closer we get to Europe.

Back in touch with updates throughout the day.

Be well.