|On the last night of the Maharajas Express, we were all assisted in dressing in traditional Indian attire.|
The single most important thing we can do right now is to stay calm by reminding ourselves that being safe is of the utmost importance and that being uncomfortable and inconvenienced is of little significance in the realm of things.
We’re bracing ourselves for the next several days. It won’t be easy. This we know for sure. This experience is not foddering an excellent story to post or adding interest to our 7½ year world journey. All of us are facing challenges during these difficult times.
|We never imagined we’d see the Taj Mahal. And yet, that morning in the haze and pollution, it lay before our eyes in its entire splendor.|
Whether it’s being cooped up in one’s home for weeks (or more) to come wondering how to get groceries when many market shelves are bare in the US and other countries or, wondering if there are “germs” on the snail mail, the newspaper, or even the paltry foodstuffs one has managed to acquire.
No, this isn’t easy for anyone. Nor is being confined to one’s home accessible in itself, even if all necessary supplies are on hand, sufficient for weeks to come. The news on TV is disheartening (we don’t watch), and the worldwide information on our devices is also frightening and worrisome.
|Exquisite decor in ancient palaces and temples.|
We know many who’ve lost their jobs. Many small businesses will fail in the weeks to come. Many are fast losing the value of their savings, their retirement funds, and other assets.
Thus, as we share our tale over these next several days until hopefully we reach South Africa, never for one moment do we imply this dreadful scenario is any harder for us than for all of you. We are all in this together, although it may manifest differently based on one’s circumstances.
|The locals are doing their laundry in Lake Pichola, but no laundry soaps are allowed. Nor are fishing and private boats permitted on the lake.|
We’ve decided to share the details of the challenges we’re facing, moment by moment, day by day, as they occur. We may upload more than one post in a day or none if we have no access to WiFi somewhere along the journey, which easily could happen during these times. Please check back.
Whether we attempted to return to the US or travel to any other country, we’d be facing these challenges. Many flights are being canceled and changed, as has been the case for us. Chaos at airports is rampant, and we’ll witness that first-hand today and again in two days when we can hopefully leave India for South Africa.
|Several castles are located in or near the artificial lakes in Udaipur.|
We’ve been cooped up in hotels for about a week, having suspended any more tours in India. It’s certainly not surprising we lost interest in sightseeing a week ago when our cruise from Mumbai was canceled in light of what was going on. We knew at that point that everything was about to change and, it has.
Taking the risk of visiting crowded temples and other sightseeing venues was foolhardy. We informed our driver Raj, who waits for us in the vehicle in the parking lot of a hotel, that the tours were done.
|A snake charmer, an expected site to see in India.|
Imagine him sleeping in the van, wondering how his family is doing in Chennai, anxious to return home. Tonight after he drops us off at the Madurai airport, he can begin the long journey home.
Our flight from Madurai was scheduled to depart at 4:00 pm today. A short time ago, we received a call from the agency that the flight had been canceled, and we are re-booked on a flight leaving Madurai at 8:00 pm tonight.
|There are numerous stunning places in Udaipur.|
They arranged a 4:00 pm checkout at this hotel. They suggested we wait in the lobby to leave for the airport at 5:00 pm. The lobby isn’t air-conditioned, and it will be hot in with the temperature expected to be 99F (37C).
We’ve decided to have Raj take us to the airport early. We’d rather wait there in air-conditioned comfort than sweat it out in the lobby. Plus, going early allows him to begin the 8-hour drive back to his home in Chennai.
|We visited countless numbers of forts while in Rajasthan.|
Last night, before going to dinner (we were the only guests in the restaurant), we received a text and email from Kenya Airways that the second leg of the three-leg journey to South Africa had been canceled.
However, they moved us to a later flight requiring a 12-hour layover in Nairobi, which will result in a red-eye beginning at 12:30 am (to us). At that point, we’ll have been up for 21 hours. If all goes well, we should arrive in Nelspruit sometime in the morning.
|The fantastic chef on the train, John Stone, assured me all my meals would be perfect.|
We canceled the overnight stay in Nelspruit while waiting for the rental car agencies to open in the morning. In the tiny airport, they don’t open until 7:00 am.
Where we’ll encounter the most challenging part of this long journey will most likely be in Johannesburg, South Africa, when we go through immigration. It’s there that our entry will be accepted or denied. So far, India is not on the “high-risk” list, which looks good for us, as long as that doesn’t change in the next 48 hours.
|Dancers at the dunes in the desert as we lounged enjoying beverages, snacks, and the show on an outing from the Maharajas Express.|
So far, India has 138 cases. Adding to South Africa’s high-risk category today (no entry allowed), France has over 1200 cases. We hold our breath to see how this rolls out in the next few days.
If the number of India cases increases exponentially while we’re traveling, we’ll be turned away at Johannesburg to fly somewhere else on our dime. We have no choice but to discuss some options.
|We were situated on the comfy seating in the sand as we watched the entertainment at the dunes.|
If we ever needed “safari luck,” it’s now. It takes on an entirely new meaning during this crisis. At this point, we’re uncertain as to where we’ll be a week from now. If we’re able to make it into Marloth Park, we’ll be very grateful. But, if we don’t… As always, we’ll figure it out from there.
Be well. Be safe. All of you, travel with us in heart and spirit! Thank you for all your well wishes.
Photo from one year ago today, March 18, 2019:
|Wildebeest Willie often makes eye contact, often with only one eye, as indicated in this photo. Wildebeest’s eyes are far apart on either side of his head. He loves for me to talk to him. How do I know this? He won’t begin eating a single pellet until I’ve finished talking to him. For more photos, please click here.|