Part 1…We’re back to booking future travels!!!…Building a new itinerary…

Yesterday, we not only booked the cruise on the Black Sea but also booked the “back-to-back” (the next cruise, on the day of arrival), which we’ll share in tomorrow’s post. Tomorrow is a travel day for us as we make our way to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to see Tom’s sister, Sister Beth, where we’ll spend two days in a hotel.

I will certainly use the workout facility.

As for the itinerary for this ship, see below:

Azamara

11 Nights – Azamara (Istanbul – Round Trip)

Cruise Line: Azamara

Ship Name: Azamara Onward Not Yet Rated

Cruise Length: 11 Nights

Departure Date: 06/29/2022

Embarkation Port: Istanbul, Turkey

Return Date: 07/10/2022

Disembarkation Port: Istanbul, Turkey

Sailing Itinerary

Date Port of Call Arrival Departure

06/29/2022 Istanbul 06:00 PM

06/30/2022 Varna/Bulgaria 08:00 AM 08:00 PM

07/01/2022 Burgas 08:00 AM 08:00 PM

07/02/2022 Constanta 07:00 AM 08:00 PM

07/03/2022 Odessa/Ukraine 09:30 AM

07/04/2022 Odessa/Ukraine 08:00 PM

07/05/2022 Cruising

07/06/2022 Sochi 08:00 AM 09:00 PM

07/07/2022 Batumi 08:00 AM 05:00 PM

07/08/2022 Cruising

07/09/2022 Istanbul 08:00 AM

07/10/2022 Istanbul

Once we arrive back in Istanbul, Turkey, we’ll move to another cabin on the same deck but on the opposite side of the ship for better viewing for the upcoming itinerary on this ship’s next leg for another ten days, July 10 to July 20, 2022, ending in Athens, Greece. We’ll include our costs for the balcony cabins for both cruises and the second leg’s itinerary in tomorrow’s post.

The theatre for nightly shows.

As for today, our last family day in Minnesota, Tom will be joining his family for the Thursday barbecue at his sister Mary’s home, while tonight, I’m going to a movie with Greg’s family. At 11:00 am this morning, we’re heading to visit our dear friend Sue, former neighbor and widow of our beloved, since deceased friend Chip, who passed away five months before we left in 2012. We hadn’t seen Sue since we were here in 2017 since she spends the winters in Florida. It will be wonderful to see her again.

This morning, Tom took our vaccination certificates to Office Max and had them make copies to be laminated and kept the originals to be amended for boosters in the future if required. Oddly, Office Max didn’t charge to do this. Go figure.

That’s it for today, folks. We’ll be back with more tomorrow, perhaps later in the day, completed after arriving at our hotel in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, July 15, 2020:

Some flowers are continuing to bloom through the summer season, as is the case in this Alstroemeria. For more photos, please click here.

A 44-year ago memory…Great food and ambiance…

Our waiter took the family photo.

We had a fantastic time at Maynard’s in Excelsior on Lake Minnetonka last night with son Greg’s family as we celebrated Camille’s birthday. The three grandchildren were there, and we all sat at a big round table for seven which allowed for easy conversation and laughter.

As was always typical for Maynard’s, the food was great, and the conversations all around were delightful. A few days earlier, Greg and I recalled July 4, 1977, when he and my other son Richard and I took out our first boat on Lake Minnetonka for the holiday experience.

It was fun to be here to celebrate Camille’s birthday with her complimentary ice cream sundae.

It was the first time I’d driven a boat, and the three of us took off from our boat slip in St. Alban’s Bay early in the morning with a plan to make our way across the vast lake, in and out of many bays, to end up at my friend Lynda’s lake house for a 4th of July party.

Our first foray with the boat on the lake that day was to make it the short distance from our slip at the marina to Maynard’s, then called T. Butcherblock’s, so the kids could feed the ducks. It was no later than 9:00 am. Once we arrived at T. Butcherblock’s docks, I somehow managed to dock the boat without banging into the wooden posts and then securely tied it down.

Tom, Miles, and Madighan at the table.

We went inside the restaurant to ask for some stale bread for the ducks that typically swam around the dock, hoping that boaters and diners would toss some food their way. The restaurant staff gave us a bag of old bread, and we meandered back out to the dock to feed the ducks.

My boys, Richard and Greg, then ten and almost eight years old, were thrilled to feed the ducks but not too confident about going back out on the huge lake with their mother, an inexperienced boat driver at the time. I was 29 years old.

Maisie’s Asian salad.

Although I dinged the prop in shallow water, shortly after we left T. Butcherblock’s, we somehow made it to Lynda’s house hours later, albeit slowly with the damaged prop. Once at her house, I arranged to have the prop repaired, and we were soon able to get back out on the lake a few days later. It all worked out, and in those first few days, I learned a lot about boating.

Over the years, I became an experienced boater, upgrading to larger boats as the years passed. My kids spent many summers on the lake with me driving and gained confidence with my skills in time. It was an enjoyable time in our lives.

Tom’s walleye fish and chips. Walleye is a popular fish in the midwest.

Yesterday, being at Maynard’s brought back many memories, especially when Greg recalled that date, 44 years ago, and brought along a bag of stale bread for his kids and us to feed the ducks. After our enjoyable dinner indoors, we headed outside on the pier, packed with partygoers, boaters, and diners to make our way to the water, where numerous ducks and giant carp were awaiting our offerings.

At this point in my life, I wouldn’t normally condone feeding bread to fish and fowl. But, the family tradition was being relived not only for our grandchildren but also for Greg and me. Later, I sent Richard a text to tell him what we’d done, but “tongue in cheek,” he commented, “That wasn’t me.” I reminded him that, indeed, it was him as well. My sons are now 54 and almost 52 years old.

My Cobb salad.

Oh, my gosh…44 years ago. It seems like yesterday. I found myself saying this over and again, “I can’t believe it was 44 years ago!” After we were all done at the dock, we are heading back through the restaurant and out the door to the parking lot, where we all hugged goodbye until we see them again on Thursday evening, our last time together before we depart for Milwaukee and then on to Las Vegas.

Greg, Camille, the kids, and I will all go to the movies together on Thursday evening to see Black Widow. We will have to split up again to say our goodbyes. Tom will return to his sister’s Mary’s home for the usual Thursday night barbecue and catch up with me later in the evening.

Maisie sat next to me as we chatted endlessly.

Today, we made arrangements to see Sister Beth at the nursing home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Saturday and Sunday, after which we’ll head back to Minneapolis, directly to the airport for our flight to Las Vegas, Nevada, to see Richard. We’ll spend five days in Henderson, Nevada, and then on July 24th, we’ll begin the long trek back to South Africa.

As we fed the ducks, huge carp joined in on the action.

May your day be filled with pleasant experiences.

Photo from one year ago today, July 14, 2020:

Gina, our property manager in Madeira, Portugal, explained that the number of cloudy days we’d experienced while there in 2014 was unusual. For more photos, please click here.

Memories from long ago…Boat ride on Lake Minnetonka…

It was wonderful to spend time with my son Greg and daughter-in-law Camille on the dinner cruise on Lake Minnetonka.

However, we decided it would be best to split up, and Tom would go with Tammy, and I’d go with Camille and Greg. It’s the way it is when we visit family in the US. At times, we have to split up to be with our respective family members. Of course, it would have been fantastic for both of us to attend both events. But, with their schedules, doing so doesn’t always work out that way.

Tom dropped me off at 5:15 pm at the Port of Excelsior at the Excelsior Commons, a beautiful park in the town of Excelsior on Lake Minnetonka, our former downtown area, when we lived in the area nine years ago. So many memories flooded my mind as we drove down Water Street in the sleepy, charming lake town. So much had changed and yet, so much was still the same.

Having lived in the area for 26 years and close by, in the city of Minnetonka for the prior 14 years, it was all so familiar. Years spent boating on the lake as a boat owner left me reeling at the thought that it was in 1977 when as a single mom and business owner, I purchased my first boat, later upgrading to larger boats.

Camille’s sister, Penny, joined us on the dinner cruise.

I remember being one of very few women in those days that drove a “twin-screw” (twin engine) boat on huge Lake Minnetonka, able to easily maneuver in and out of tight docks without a problem. In those days, that was unusual. With numerous restaurants located on the lake, my sons and I and often friends spent many weekends over the years on that lake, having the time of our lives.

Later, in 1991, when I met Tom, he, too, was a boater. As of 1986, I owned a house and lived on another nearby lake, Lake Minnewashta, where he and I enjoyed many years boating on the smaller lake, again enjoying every moment. Those days are long behind us.

There are countless estates on Lake Minnetonka, often valued in the tens of millions.

When we “boat” now, it’s on massive cruise ships. We’ve been on 27 cruises since the onset of our world travels in 2012 and have dearly missed being on the water during the past 18 months or so due to Covid-19. Hopefully, we’ll get our “sea-legs” once again soon when we can cruise again.

On a newer-looking, well-maintained houseboat, yesterday’s boat ride brought back memories from that life long ago. But, as we always say, we have no regrets. We chose to implement our lives on an entirely different path over the past almost nine years, and we’ve never looked back and regretted our choices or wondered “why” we did such a crazy thing.

It was fun chatting with Greg, Camille, and Penny, Camille’s sister (who took Tom’s place), during the two-hour dinner cruise. As expected, the food was mediocre, but the experience was pleasant and worthwhile and filled with memories as we sailed past houses I’d sold on the lake many moons ago and houses that had been re-built into massive mansions.

We were busy chatting, and I failed to make an effort to take many photos through the boat’s windows.

Close to 8:00 pm, I called Tom to see if he could pick me up at Greg and Camille’s house when he was done with dinner with Tammy and Tracy. As it turned out, they were wrapping up their get-together. We visited with Camille, Greg, and the kids for a little while, and then we were on our way back to our hotel for what proved to be a good night’s sleep.

Today, we’re heading to Tom’s sister Patty’s home to play “dice” and stay for dinner. However, Tom will drive me to a local pub and drop me off to see my dear old friend and business partner, Theresa. I’ll spend a few hours with her, and Tom will pick me up later when I call him at Patty’s. With our busy schedule, we have to double up on a few events to see some of our friends and the family.

There are many stunning properties on lakes in Minnesota.

We’ll then head back to Patty’s and finish the evening with his siblings, spouses, and other family members. No doubt, it will be another good day, filled with fun interactions with people we love and have missed over the years we’ve been gone.

Tomorrow, we’ll be back with more when we have another action-packed day as we celebrate Camille’s birthday at a favorite restaurant from our past.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, July 12, 2020:

In Queensland, Australia, Double Island made us curious about what it would be like to visit. Here are the details of visiting Double Island. We posted this photo on Day #111 in lockdown in Mumbai, India. For more photos, please click here.

Day #4…We’re “back in the USA!”…

Mongoose and kudus in the side garden,  munching on treats we tossed their way.

The lyrics to the song written by Chuck Berry, “Back in the USA,” (see the link here), are as follows and rings true today in many ways;  “Chuck Berry first issued the song on Chess Records in 1959 as a single which reached number 37 in the Billboard Hot 100. The song’s lyrics were supposedly written based upon Berry returning to the United States following a trip to Australia and witnessing the living standards of Australian Aborigines.”

Lyrics
“I woke up to a bitter storm (bitter year)
And Noah’s Ark came washed up on the shore
The riot gear has lined the dawn (bitter year)
Like dogs that shit on your neighbor’s lawn
Let freedom ring with all the crazies on parade
Let them eat poison, and it tastes like lemonade
Back in the USA for a small town serenade
With fireworks on display
Tonight, it’s a hero’s welcome home
And there’s no place to go
And I’m taking it to the grave
Back in the USA
The saddest story ever told (bitter year)
Is feeling safe in our suburban homes
Like soldiers of an endless war (bitter year)
And every church can have a liquor store
Let freedom ring with all the crazies on parade
Let them eat poison, and it tastes like lemonade
Back in the USA for a small town serenade
With fireworks on display
Tonight, it’s a hero’s welcome home
And there’s no place to go
And I’m taking it to the grave
Back in the USA”
Many of these words remind me of the trials and challenges most of us faced during the past 18 months of the pandemic. The music to this song is an “earworm” playing over and over again in my head, as we both deal with a severe lack of sleep since Tuesday night, In total, we each may have slept only  10 to 12 hours, and we’re both feeling the brunt of the long journey.
I knew that preparing a post today wasn’t going to be easy. So, on the last leg from Chicago to Minneapolis, I wrote the following on my phone when I had a sudden burst of energy. Doing so made the short 55-minute flight fly by quickly and read as follows:

“I wrote today’s post while on the flight yesterday afternoon from Chicago to Minneapolis. Packed like sardines on the United Airlines Airbus with nary an empty seat, we should be landing in MSP in less than 90 minutes.

Our long journey, albeit tiring, was moving along seamlessly until we arrived in Chicago. Several things went wrong, and honestly, aside from the loss of Tom’s suitcase, it’s not worth getting into each one of the other issues.
Facing time constraints with our upcoming Covid-19 vaccines scheduled for 5:45 at the MSP airport, the inconvenience of filing a claim for the lost luggage put us in a severe time crunch.  Maneuvering back and forth to the vaccine center in the terminal and baggage claim area will keep us busy.
The 5:45 pm vaccine times for both of us is a priority over filing the claim. We’ll have to juggle picking up my one bag, making the lost luggage claim, and keeping the vaccine appointments. On an average day, this would be no big deal. After traveling for three days with only a few hour’s sleep, we’re both raggedy and out of sorts.
I haven’t eaten anything all day, and Tom ate high-carb, primarily junk food. We need a shower, good food, clean clothes, and sleep. (Oh yeah, Tom doesn’t have any clothes other than what he’s worn since Tuesday morning when we left Marloth Park).
We’ll see how all of that goes. Now, if we can get the vaccine without incident, I won’t complain too loudly. Tom, sitting across the aisle from me in the “sardine can,” reminded me, “Eight years, eight months, and we never lost a bag!”
I laughed! We have been pretty lucky, haven’t we?
Ah, after a good night’s sleep and food, our attitudes will change exponentially. We’ll report back as to how all of this evolved in tomorrow’s post. Please check back for the update.”
We’re at “tomorrow,” and we wanted to update our readers on our receiving the J & J vaccine, surprisingly in the airport upon arrival. Before heading to the luggage area, since we didn’t have enough time to do both, we made our way with our two carry-on bags to see if we could be vaccinated a few minutes earlier than the 5:45 appointment time.
The two very professional nurses were delighted to have some vaccine recipients. They mentioned, ” business has been slow with few passengers interested in getting the vaccine. In the early part of June, when they first started offering the jabs, they were busy. But, in the entire 45 minutes, we were with them, including a 30 minutes waiting period after the jab, not another patient appeared.
As it turned out, we chatted with them during our waiting period, and the time flew by. It didn’t allow us to be concerned or worry about possible side effects. Neither of us experienced a thing. Even today, as tired as we are, we have not had a single twinge of any reaction or side effect.
When done, we headed to the baggage area, picked up my bag, and filed a claim for Tom’s. They have no idea when his bag will arrive. Today, he has to buy some clothes, after wearing the same things since Tuesday. I couldn’t get my clothes off fast enough to sit on the bed and eat my Chipotle bowl. Oh, what a treat that was! Tom did Wendy’s.
Dining around here will be easy. We’re in an area where there are tons of takeaway and eat-in restaurants. Plus, we’re across the road from Eden Prairie Shopping Mall, making it easy for any shopping we need to do, particularly the clothes Tom needs to buy today until his suitcase arrives if it does at all.
That’s it for today. We’ll be back tomorrow with some unusual details about our hotel. Please check back.
Photo from one year ago today, June 2, 2020:
This flock of ostriches is often found in a particular area near the river we often visit when on daily drives. Note the chick on the far left. For more photos, please click here.

Day #3…We’re on the move…A tolerable “red eye”…In Frankfurt now…

Elephants we recently spotted in Kruger National Park.

It’s 8:00 am Frankfurt time, at the same time zone as South Africa. Our Lufthansa flight landed at 5:45 am. Our next flight to Chicago takes off at 10:45 am. We’re inching our way to Minnesota with only two more flights to go, with two behind us since we left Marloth Park on Tuesday morning. In 16 hours, we’ll land in Minneapolis/St. Paul and be making our way to the vaccination center at the airport. Whew! What a daunting travel experience.

The letter “n” on my keyboard isn’t working again. I have to pound very hard to use it. Also, spell check doesn’t seem to catch everything I type. So please be aware that a few “n’s” may be missing in today’s post. Once we get settled in Minnesota, I’ll get back to work on this. Otherwise, I may have to purchase a new device while in the US.

The flight from Joburg to Frankfurt wasn’t too bad. We were able to purchase an upgrade to Business Class at the check-in counter for both of us for ZAR 16400, US $1152, which was well worth the added expense. We had the two seats in the center section with tons of leg and elbow room. The seats lay down to a comfortable bed with a fluffy sanitized pillow and an amply sized blanket.

My Fitbit says I only slept 1 hour and 53 minutes, but I know I slept another hour before midnight. Tom did about the same. A passenger passed away on the flight. The back and forth down the aisle by staff kept us light sleepers awake, along with the frequent interruptions by staff over the intercom, requesting assistance from a medical professional. We don’t believe anyone responded. The plane was only about 50% full, and thus less likely a doctor or nurse was on board. How sad.

The flight attendant didn’t wait to leave South Africa to offer alcoholic beverages, considering the current alcohol ban as of a few days ago. So in no time at all, I was served a nice glass of Australian red wine, and Tom had a cocktail. We settled in to watch a movie while we perused the printed menu for the three-course dinner options.

The food was good, fresh, and hot. Tom got to eat more bread, and I stayed true to my low-carb way of eating. There were several suitable options for me. Unfortunately, since Lufthansa is a German airline, there was a shortage of movies to watch that we either hadn’t seen or were in English.

By the time we dined and each watched a second, we both tried to drift off, although doing so, as mentioned above, wasn’t accessible amid all the commotion. A good night’s sleep in Minnesota will do us both good. The flight on the huge 747-8 two-story new plane was seamless. We never felt any turbulence, and take-off and landing were smooth. We’d definitely fly Business Class on this airline again in the future.

With little sleep, I don’t have a lot of steam to keep writing. So the next time you see us here will be tomorrow from our hotel in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. On Friday, we have a busy day meeting son Greg and family for lunch and Tom’s siblings for happy hour and dinner.

Thanks, dear readers, for following along with us! We appreciate every one of YOU!

Photo from one year ago today, July 1, 2020:

While in Trinity Beach, Australia, we stopped at a fish shop by the beach. We’d never seen scallops in the shell. We can imagine a plate of six of these covered in an almond flour and Parmesan-crusted buttery topping. Tom likes scallops so this will be a no brainer. For more photos, please click here.

Day #1…We’re on the move…USA, here we come!…

Mom and baby. We’ll miss you all.

No doubt it’s a long journey to the US. Soon, we’ll make the 90-minute drive to the airport in Nelspruit (MQP), over the treacherous N4, the highway I’m not particularly eager to travel. Unfortunately, there’s been a lot of traffic and road construction, so we’re leaving hours earlier than usual, figuring we could easily be delayed.

Most likely we’ll arrive at the airport two to three hours earlier than our flight if traffic isn’t as bad as expected. Unfortunately, due to the Level 4 lockdown a few days ago, the restaurant in the airport will be closed, and we’ll have to wait on benches in the corridor of the small airport. There are no “gates,” so to speak, at this airport, so we’ll have to hover while waiting for our 1:50 pm, 1350 hrs, flight to Joburg.

Once we arrive in Joburg, we’ll stay overnight in a hotel since our flight to Germany isn’t until the following day. From Joburg, we’ll have over 32 hours of travel time, including layovers. Then, we’ll repeat a similar journey on our return flight four weeks later.

The excitement of seeing everyone is tempered by the long travel time. Once we’ve had our Covid-19 vaccines at the airport in Minneapolis, picked up our luggage, the rental car, and arrived at our hotel, we’ll feel more relaxed and able to enjoy seeing our family and friends over the 16 days. I’m sure a good night’s sleep will be our first concern, especially since we’re arriving in the evening.

Over the years, we’ve experienced several long hauls such as this. In each case, the exhaustion was palpable, but a good sleep usually set us right the next day. Hopefully, it won’t be any different this time. The time difference is only seven hours between South Africa and Minnesota. This small difference doesn’t usually result in any jet lag for either of us.

Our Covid-19 tests arrived in my inbox this morning with both negative as expected. We’ll stop at Louise’s Info Center to pick up our copies on our way to the airport. We have all other documents in order as required by the airlines. No special consideration is required for US citizens returning to the US from South Africa other than a recent (72) negative Covid-19 test.

Of course, we’ll consider our potential exposure when visiting family and friends based on the fact we’ll only have had the one-dose J & J vaccine on July 1st. We will always proceed with caution.

Thank you to so many who’ve written, wishing us a safe journey. We plan to post again tomorrow from Joburg since our first flight doesn’t depart until 5:00 pm, 1700 hrs. So we’ll have plenty of time.

Little and Tiny are both here now. I hope this isn’t our last goodbye. The warthog culling takes place in mid-July when 500 will be taken out.

Be well. Be safe, and we’ll be back soon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be well. Continue to be safe.

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

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

The countdown has begun…10 days and we’re off on our big change of plans…

An oxpecker on the back of a young male kudu, eating the bugs and debris off his body.

Yesterday was a highly accomplished day for a Sunday. Then again, any day of the week is a day that may require us to “pull up our bootstraps” to figure out a solution to an imminent situation, such as we encountered regarding the new lockdown in Kenya, which started on Friday, preventing us from going on our planned and paid trip to Little Governor’s Camp in the Maasai Mara.

If you missed yesterday’s post with the details, here is the link.

It was quite a daunting task, undoing all the bookings for Kenya and creating new bookings for the USA. But now we feel at ease that we’ve got a handle on it.  Now, we wait for refunds and credits to be applied to our credit card. In all, we discovered we’ll lose a total of US $400, ZAR 6007 from the Kenya online Kenyan visa, and cancellation fees of US $100, ZAR 1502 per traveler for canceling the flight with Kenya Airways.

Mr. Young Kuda staring at himself in the glass window to the second bedroom.

Many of the credits will take 30 days to process. At this point, we have the cash layout for the expensive Kenya trip and the upcoming trip to the US. We look forward to all of the credits coming through soon.

This morning we visited Louise to explain our situation. Since it makes no sense to pay for two holiday rentals simultaneously, we have no choice but to totally clear out of this house, leaving it available for Louise to rent it to other potential tourists, while we’re away, especially when our return date is uncertain at this point.

Overall, we anticipate we will return in approximately six weeks from our arrival on April 10, 2021, which would take us to the end of May at the latest. We can only speculate at this point. As soon as we know more, we’ll let Louise know what date we’ll be returning.

More kudus with oxpeckers on their backs.

Last night we informed our kids and grandchildren that we’ll be coming and they, along with us, are enthused for our return. It will be wonderful to see all of them once again after the long haul in India. It will be around 18 months since we were in the US to see everyone, so the timing is perfect.

Next week, we’ll start packing. We’ll only bring a minimal amount of clothing and supplies with us, especially since we’ll need room in our luggage for the items we’ll be picking up at our mailing service in Las Vegas. We’re certainly grateful, we didn’t pay the huge fees to send that package to us plus the associated hassle with insurance and customs fees.

We’ve decided to go to Nevada at the end of our US stay so we won’t have to haul around the extra 20 pounds, 9 kg, paying for overweight luggage while flying in the US. We’ll fly back to South Africa from Las Vegas, when at that point, it will be an international flight, allowing more weight in our bags.

Medium Daddy waits while Tom refills the pellet container.

The packing will be challenging, separating what we’ll need for the US with varying weather conditions in each location and what we’ll leave behind in South Africa. But, as always, we’ll figure it out. Most likely, while in the US we’ll purchase some new clothing for both of us. We each need a number of items which we can only find there.

For now, we’ll continue to enjoy our bush home and the dozen or so warthogs, kudus, bushbucks, and wildebeest who’ve become very familiar to us and us to them. Mostly, I’m concerned about Frank and The Misses who’ve really enjoyed eating the seeds we’ve offered several times a day.

Surely, none of them will starve without our constant supply of pellets and seeds. The vegetation is lush and green and most likely they’ll visit other houses for treats such as those we offer. Once we return, within a few weeks, they’ll all be back. For Frank and The Misses, they find berries, seeds, and bugs readily available in the park. Hopefully, they’ll remain in this territory while we’re gone.

We’ve done an inventory of how much food we have left. If we head to Komati tomorrow for a few odds and ends, we won’t need to purchase any more groceries before we depart. Louise will give us a plastic tote to store our non-perishable food items and of course, they will store that along with the baggage we’re leaving behind when we depart Marloth Park in 10 days to head to Nelspruit for an overnight stay for the next day’s long journey ahead.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, March 29, 2020:

The casual dining room where we had breakfast and dinner the first few weeks in the hotel in Mumbai, India. A few weeks later they closed the restaurant and started serving us room service only. It was a long 10 months. For more, please click here.

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

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

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

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

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

This warthog has blood coming from his left eye.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kudu in the bush watching for the pellet situation.

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

Male bushbuck in the garden.

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

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

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

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

Whew! Life goes on.

Be well!

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

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

Final expenses for 82 days in the USA!…We’re off for India today!…

At lunch, that day, two years ago, one of the chefs on our Antarctica cruise, on Ponant Le’Boreal, was preparing a beef and vegetable stir-fry outdoors. We all partook of the delicious offering but decided to dine indoors. It was a little too cold to eat outside for our liking. For more photos, please click here.

Last night, we played our final round of buck euchre with Gene and Eugene. As always, it was pretty enjoyable. Tom and I speculated over how fun it would be to find players in our future travels.

However, that’s highly unlikely. That particular card game is popular in the Midwest and is seldom played in other parts of the world. When we return to the US in about two years, we’ll play cards again with his family.

Tom’s sisters and brothers-in-law only spend their winters in Apache Junction, Arizona, and Minnesota’s balance of the year. Most likely, next time we visit Minnesota, it won’t be during the cold winter months, and we’ll see his family and our kids and grandchildren in Minnesota, once again.

This morning, as I sit here preparing today’s post, I’m feeling at ease. Most of our packing is complete, and all I have left to do is restock my 28-day pill case and empty the food in the refrigerator. 

We’re bringing all the remaining non-perishables and perishables over to the sisters to see if they can use anything. If not, their friend Margie (another Margie) will bring everything to the local Food Shelf where she volunteers. 

We’ve weighed all of our bags except for the supplies bag, which is always questionable in meeting the weight restrictions, in this case, 50 pounds (23 kg) per bag.

Assuming we won’t have easy access to a pharmacy for toiletries, I’ve had to pack enough to last for three months; two months in India and 29-days on the following cruise from Mumbai to London. Once we arrive in the UK, and then Europe, we’ll easily find the products we use.

Last night’s six hours of sleep was filled with crazy dreams and frequent periods of wakefulness. Tom experienced the same. But this morning, upon awakening, I felt fine and ready to tackle the remaining tasks for the day.

Our new friend, Jodi, kindly volunteered to take us to the airport. This is so appreciated, especially since we must leave during rush hour at 5:30 pm. With the traffic, we should arrive by 6:15 pm with our first flight departing at 8:40 PM.

We’ll fly all night for 10 hours, and as mentioned, we’ll spend 8 of the daytime hours at busy Heathrow Airport. We’ll attempt to find a place to plug in our equipment and busy ourselves online.

Here are our combined final expenses for our 82 days in the USA, beginning on November 8, 2019 and ending today:

Final Expenses USA  US Dollar 
Vacation Home  AZ   $ 3,626.00
Gifts & Misc.   $    325.00
Airfare    $    872.00
Rental Car  $    996.78
Groceries  $ 4,100.32
Dining Out   $ 2,082.00
Supplies & Pharmacy   $ 1,674.05
Total Cost (82 days)   $13,675.83
Average Daily Cost (82 days)   $    166.78

We did not include the cost of new digital equipment and clothing, but we did have the cost of supplies we purchased for the next three months.

Also, we paid no rent while staying with friends Karen and Rich for three weeks in Minnesota, nor did we pay rent during the 11 nights we spent with son Richard in Nevada. Of course, we hosted several dinners out in sincere thanks for their hospitality.

Here in Arizona, we paid the rent as mentioned above from 12/09/2019 to 1/31/2020. The property manager gave us a discount to compensate for our early departure, today on January 29th.

Most likely, we’ll upload a post tomorrow during our 8-hour layover, providing we have access to wifi and a place to plug in our equipment. If not, sit tight. As soon as we get settled in the hotel in a few days, we’ll prepare a new post.

Thanks for all the warm wishes from many of our loyal readers/friends. We so appreciate your kindness and words of encouragement.

We’ll be back at you soon! Take care and be well!

Photos from one year ago today, January 29, 2019:

We could only guess why this particular lioness hadn’t been hunting and eating. For more photos, please click here.