Vegetation abounds in Bali…Recovery continues with hope…

Upon closer inspection, we’ve been thrilled to see the detailed beauty of a red dragonfly that visits each day. More below.

“Sightings on the Beach in Bali”

Bonfire over the river near the beach.

As I wrote today’s heading as shown above, I’m reminded about how “life” and its quality and quantity rules our daily existence…not only our own lives but the beauty and essence of life surrounding us, in creatures big and small and in that which is growing around us.

The endless varieties of “growing things” Mother Nature bestows upon our earth is astounding.

It’s easy to forget to appreciate the exquisite varieties, in numbers beyond our comprehension, of living plants, trees, flowers and creatures we encounter in one form or another every single day when we step outdoors and at times, living amongst us indoors.

Numerous varieties of coconut palms are present worldwide. This is a different variety than we’ve seen in other countries with softer flesh.

Billions of life forms, therefore are infinitesimal that we are unable to see to the naked eye and others so massive, we run in fear for our lives. In every case, they all serve as food in the food chain and to protect the integrity of their race. 

This frog is not unlike the frog visitor, we saw almost every day in South Africa in 2014.    She/he would disappear for several days, only to return to exactly the same place.  See this link at the end of the post for that photo. Even the smallest creatures have their own routine.  As I write here today, she’s sitting in the same spot by the Koi pond as when we took this photo a few days ago. 

None are insignificant, even those we fear, incapable of imagining what purpose they accomplish upon this earth when they so frighten us. The vilest venomous snakes and insects, bushes and thorniest trees all occupy an essential place on this earth.

Plumeria is often used to make leis in Hawai. Here in Bali, they are also used for offerings and decorations as we have shown in our recent station photographs.

I could get into our responsibility in maintaining a status quo of that which thrives and is becoming extinct in this world. But in a way I believe that the comings and goings of certain species (by natural causes only) is part of the “big plan”. 

Its the sorrowful destruction of our wildlife and vegetation perpetrated by humans that leaves us bemoaning the desire for more money, personal comforts and power over this earth and its inhabitants. Much of this is impossible to comprehend. A great deal of that is beyond comprehension. 

From the bougainvillea in Kenya three years ago, to the same here in Bali, we’ve found these pretty flowers throughout the world.

From the bougainvillea of Kenya three years ago, to the same thing here in Bali, we found these lovely flowers around the world. Instead, I choose to embrace that which we have before us at this time in our own lives that has the ability to bring us considerable joy and appreciation in ways we never imagined possible.

In our old lives, before traveling the world, we easily found ourselves stopping to appreciate a bird, a fish jumping in the lake, a coyote hovering near our property seeking a tasty “little dog lunch.”  All of it caught our attention.

The smallest and simplest of flowers can be awe-inspiring.

Now, as we explore our surroundings with camera in hand, able to preserve the memory of life’s treasures, we’ve come to observe each encounter with a more curious eye and an open heart while selfish longing for more.  If we take a photo of one amazing praying mantis, the next day, we look for another, bereft it hasn’t returned.

In the case of the photo below and in today’s main photo of this red dragonfly, we’ve been gifted with an almost daily appearance in the very same spot near the villa’s front entrance. I ask, “Dear Dragonfly, how long will you continue to return to this very same spot? And, what inspires you to return day after day?” 

And what inspires you to come back time and time again?”When we first arrived for our second stay in Bali about one month ago, I noticed this red dragonfly as shown in today’s main photo, fluttering around the two Koi ponds by either side of the front entryway. Much to my delight, it returns almost every day to the exact same location. 

My heart sings each day when I find her/him fluttering near the vegetation in the two Koi ponds on either side of the front steps. The mystery, the uncertainty is intriguing to me and also to Tom, who is equally fascinated by life surrounding us.

And, speaking of life, I’d like to share the quality of my own since we’ve had many readers writing to us inquiring as to how my spine injury from June 1st is healing. I’ve hesitated to say much over these past few weeks, you know, that goofy perception many of us possess that if we say something too soon, we’ll jinx it.

How can leaves be so symmetrical?

I’ve been pain free for three straight days.

It’s not to say I’m no longer aware of the delicate nature of my spine as it’s healed, but I can literally walk, sit and maneuver about my day without giving it much thought. 

This has transpired over the past two weeks when I’ve had an intermittent days of relief during any given week, never two days in a row. Now, with three pain free days in a row, I’m more optimistic than at any time in the past four months since the injury occurred in the pool here in Bali. 

This flower reminds me of zinnias. With the slow Wi-Fi here, it’s difficult to research the names of plants and flowers. We love seeing them none the less.

It’s been a long, tough haul, the worst period of back pain I’ve ever experienced. My fear of it ending our journey was foremost in my mind. Over these past weeks, I’d decided to let the fear waft away and to focus on feeling well and free of worry. Most certainly, fear and worry may have exacerbated and ultimately extended the discomfort of my lengthy painful scenario. 

However, during this entire four months, we’ve continued to enjoy our lives, to laugh, to treasure our surroundings and of course, to take endless photos of the wonders of the world around us.

These remind us of the popular shady area flowers, impatiens, we often planted in Minnesota.

May your days be filled with life’s wonders!

Photo from one year ago today, October 3, 2015:

The marina in Savusavu , Fiji is used by many part-time and year round residents. From our veranda we were often able to see these sailboats heading out to sea. For more details, please click here.

Making it through a “powerless” day…

It appears that breadfruit trees continue to produce fruit all year long.

If we had a home of our own and, if the power was out for eight hours, we could easily busy ourselves if we didn’t have a generator (which we did in our old lives). We could go to a movie, out for lunch or visit family or friends. We could go for a walk in the neighborhood. 

We could wash windows, clean the gutters, or mow the lawn. We could make a trip to Home Depot, Walgreens, and the mall to purchase the items on the list we’d been accumulating. This time of year, we could have gone Christmas shopping and by the time we returned home, the power could be back on.

But here in Fiji, we can’t go for a walk on the impossibly steep, deeply rutted dirt road or, work around the house or, go to a movie. There’s no movie theatre here. Plus, the power was down in the entire town. There was nothing to do. 

We began the day OK. I finished and uploaded the post before the power had gone out, just to be safe. Good thing. The dongle wouldn’t work with the power out in the village when Vodafone had also been shut down. We had no Internet connection.

We hadn’t seen these pretty flowers until this morning.

I couldn’t cook as I often do when it made no sense to open the fridge. As a matter of fact, we never opened the refrigerator or freezer once during the outage after placing a huge bag of ice in a bowl in the refrigerated section to keep the items cold. It worked. Everything was still cold eight hours later, including the items in the freezer all of which were still frozen.

We’d used two insulated bags, one within the other, to keep ice handy for our iced tea and kept our iced tea pitcher on the counter all day. It was a good plan.

We’d arranged for Rasnesh to pick us up for a drive but it rained and we weren’t able to see across the bay. It wasn’t a good day for photos. We canceled by 10:00 am to free him for other customers. 

Luckily, it wasn’t quite as hot as it had been over the past week. We did fine without the two fans. By late afternoon, the heat escalated and we sighed with relief as the power returned.

The ferry passing this morning.

For some odd reason, neither of us was in the mood for reading books on our phones. Getting up so early to ensure we could post before the outage, by 10 am, it felt as if it was midday. We decided to watch two movies on my laptop which has a good battery that can last through three full length movies without a charge.

With many windows in the house and the need to keep the curtains opened for a possible breeze, it was hard to see the screen on the laptop especially since I’d turned down the brightness level down to less than 40% to save on battery life. 

We managed to watch Transporter Refueled (mediocre), Edge (also mediocre), and an episode of Grey’s Anatomy.  Using approximately four hours of battery life, I was surprised to find 50% power remaining after watching the shows. 

Once it hit 2 pm, we began to play games on our phones, play Gin (Tom won but I’m ahead one game in the Fiji tally) and the time moved more quickly.  At 4:33 pm the power returned as we quickly plugged everything back in. 

These colorful plants continue to thrive.

Tom busily prepared to watch the Minnesota Vikings football game on his laptop while I began to put together the various dishes for dinner. With everyone in the area online as soon as the power returned, the signal was poor taking him extra time to get through the game. 

By 7:15 we sat down to dinner which would have been earlier but we couldn’t get the portable oven to work.  Tom worked on the plugs for a while and finally, it fired up. He wasn’t finished watching the game but, had decided to wait until I went to bed to read at 9:30 pm, to finished the last quarter. They lost. He was disappointed.

Surprisingly, for a very inactive day, we slept well. Cooling strong winds and rains washed over the area all night and sleeping was easier than ever. Both of us up and ready to start the day by 6:00 am this morning, again, we’ll stay in on another rainy day. 

Happy to have power again and with all of the kitchen appliances working well, we’re good. Hope all of you are the same as those of our readers in the US prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Photo from one year ago today, November 24, 2014:

Golfing is a huge sport for tourists in the Hawaii Islands with many award-winning golf courses available on the four largest islands; Oahu, Maui, Big Island (Hawai’i), and Kauai. For more golf course photos in Maui, please click here.

Part 3…A tour into a garden of paradise…Princeville Botanical Gardens…The chocolate making and tasting class and more

The Jackfruit is known for its health benefits. See this link for nutritional details.

The next stop along the way during the final hour of the three-hour tour of the Princeville Botanical Gardens was to the sheltered chocolate tasting presentation.

An Anthurium, gone wild.

We all sighed with relief to finally be able to sit down away from the heat of the sun, sip the lemon-flavored water Mary Lou offered, and ogle over the several containers of chocolate she had placed on the table in front of her.

The Cacao Tree.

She told us the story of how the cacao pods are harvested, the seeds are removed, processed, fermented, and dried for a final product that owner Lucy uses to place into her chocolate-making machine, an at-home use sized melangeur

The huge cacao tree pods are fascinating.
These pods provide a perspective as to the size of the pods.

These final beans are called “nibs” which I use in making my Low Carb High Fat Protein Bars, a recipe I recently posted here. Nibs are chocolate in its purest form without any added sugar or ingredients. Nibs may contain as much as 53% cocoa butter, depending on the species.

This Banana Tree flower is in the beginning stages as we’d seen in Madeira almost a year ago. Please click here for our post about the morphology of the banana plant. The small bananas produced on this particular tree are decorative only.

After drying, the beans are then placed into the melangeur. Lucy, the owner, makes only a small amount of chocolate, enough for the garden tour guests to try and for her and husband Bill’s personal use.

Touring the Princeville Botanical Gardens was a fabulous experience for which we wrote a positive review on TripAdvisor. Click here to read our review.

For details of the chocolate-making process, please click here for an article comparable to the description Mary Lou provided us during the demonstration of the various types of chocolates available throughout the world, allowing each guest to try the different flavors. The final taste was Lucy’s which everyone seemed to enjoy.

Pink Grapesplant with interesting flowers.

Unfortunately, all of the chocolates offered for tasting contained sugar so I gracefully declined as I’d also declined the earlier fruit tasting. 

This is the Tree of Sorrow.  Click here for information.

Knowing that after dinner I could enjoy chunks of nibs in my Low Carb High Fat Protein Bar, (recipe is on this post) I didn’t mind a bit and thoroughly enjoyed the smells and the smiles on the faces of the others as they tasted each morsel. Tom would have enjoyed this part of the tour.

It appeared that birds had feasted on the sweet juicy seeds of this pomegranate.

I never knew much about chocolate although on occasion I’d savor a taste or more in the days before I had to forgo sugar in my life, almost four years ago. Tom, with his picky taste buds never cared for dark chocolate, preferring milk chocolate instead. 

The Noni Fruit, known as one of the world’s most nutrient-rich fruit. See here for details.
This is a tiny avocado, no larger than the size of a chestnut.

I had no idea, as Mary Lou explained that milk chocolate has powdered milk in its ingredient list to make it lighter and also more sugar than the dark chocolates to make it more enjoyable for those more particular taste buds.

Mary Lou held this flower from a Lychee Tree.

If chocolate is stated as 80% cacao it merely means that 20% of its labeled ingredients are those other than chocolate such as fillers, sugar, flavorings, etc. The nibs alone are 100% cacao. 

Mary Lou was busy setting up the chocolate presentation while we rested in the chairs.
For the tasting, she presented six different chocolate, the one closest to her, made by owner Lucy utilizing the cacao plants growing in the gardens.

Over the past several years, I’d paid little attention to all the news in the media of the health benefits of chocolate when every bar had sugar listed in its ingredients. Now, I better understand the significance of the percentages.

Many varieties of orchids are grown throughout the gardens.

The chocolate class lasted 30 minutes and once again we were on our way to another fabulous part of the tour, near the river, across the footbridge over the creek, and up and down some steep but beautiful areas.

Hong Kong Orchid Tree.

After stopping to take more photos, suddenly I heard a familiar voice and turned to find Tom. When he arrived early to pick me up, Harold took him on the quick tour via a golf cart, dropping him off the complete the final leg of the tour with me. 

A Breadfruit Tree.

I couldn’t have been more thrilled to see him. I introduced him to our small group, grabbed his hand and we were on our way. It was especially enjoyable to be able to share this final area with him, as he too was in awe of the beauty of the Princeville Botanical Gardens

We all loved the name of this tree, the Teddy Bear Redneck Palm.

Chatting on endlessly as to what we’d already seen and done, I looked forward to showing him the photos when we returned homes as we walked and continued to take more photos during the remaining 20 minutes of the tour.

When we reached the end, we wandered to the shop and check-in area to thank Harold and Mary Lou (leaving her a tip) and say our final goodbyes. It couldn’t have been a better day.

As we neared the end of the tour, we crossed this easy-to-navigate footbridge.
The creek below the footbridge.
At this point, Tom had met up with me and we crossed this footbridge together.

Although I didn’t have an opportunity to meet Lucy and spent only a minute with Bill, I want to thank them and their staff as well for the love and care they’ve given to this magical place, the Princeville Botanical Gardens.

Another Anthurium, gone wild.

If you’re ever on the island of Kauai, make sure not to miss this five-star event. I have no doubt it will prove to be as memorable for you as it’s been for me and hopefully, for our worldwide readers as we share our photos over these past three days.

As we walked over these stones it reminded me of “Alice in Wonderland.”
The varying shades of green and lush plants, flowers, and trees added to the exquisite beauty of the Princeville Botanical Gardens.

Today, we’re staying in to watch the final of the Master’s Golf Tournament, a usual pastime for us in this life we live. From time to time, it’s good to try something new.

At the end of the tour, we took a photo of another couple and they took this photo of us. It was a wonderful day, I’ll always remember.

                                             Photo from one year ago today, April 12, 2014:

Although we were back home in Marrakech, we continued sharing photos of our short-lived mini vacation. For details on why we ended it early, please click here.

Part 2…A tour into a garden of paradise…Princeville Botanical Gardens…

 I squealed when I spotted these gorgeous Rhododendron at the Princeville Botanical Gardens.

The tour of the Princeville Botanical Gardens continued over a period of three hours and ten minutes up and down hills, following paved and unpaved trails and at times, up and down uneven stone steps.

The rich green leaves were a sight to behold.

Our group of eight managed well and we easily kept up with energetic Mary Lou, our guide who was as familiar and surefooted over these trails with the ease one would entertain in their own backyard.

In a shady area, we encountered these tiny mushrooms growing on the rocks.

The group was of various ages, ranging from 18 to me, most likely the oldest in the group, although there was one or two close behind me. Usually, Tom is with me on such treks and he takes special care to ensure the path ahead while I mindlessly peruse the surroundings for photo ops.

For details on this plant/tree, please click here. The seeds may be used in making body paint, cosmetics, and lipsticks.

On this occasion, I was on my own, having to watch my step over the often rocky path and yet, stay totally in tune with my surroundings. I managed to do both seamlessly and with a watchful eye and don’t feel I missed anything that I would’ve wanted to see.

We’re waiting to hear back from the staff at the gardens to assist with the identification of this tree. With the Princeville Botanical Gardens only open to the public for reserved tours on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Friday, I may not hear back until next week. 

Mary Lou was good at pointing out highlights but, on a few occasions, I found myself hollering out to the others to “Come see this!” when my newly discovered eagle eye went into play.

These flowers appear rather complicated with their many different shapes and sizes.

Both Tom and I are allergic to bees. Harold and Mary Lou made a special point of making me aware that certain areas contained more bees than others. Mostly, they were honey bees that are less inclined to sting but, have been known to attack in swarms.

The Floss Silk Tree. As Mary Lou stated, “No monkeys will be climbing up this tree!” Beautiful flowers are yet to bloom.

When we approached the dense area of the bees, I rolled down my BugsAway sleeves, tightened the ties around my ankles, and dug right into the area, relatively fearless but cautious non-the-less. 

We were surprised to note that many plants and trees were native to Africa, brought over to Hawaii centuries ago.

Seeing the many bees in this particular area was fascinating and although I ventured closer than I should have, I discovered something we’d have missed if I hadn’t gone that far. 

This is Heliconia Spectabilis.  For details on this plant, please click here.

I yelled out to Mary Lou and the group to come to see something amazing as shown in these two photos today.  Mary Lou hollers back, “Oh, we weren’t going to go that close to the bee area.” 

With many bees in this area, I chose not to move the green leaves for a better view of this exquisite bloom which was the size of a soccer ball. All of us on the tour were in awe of this exquisite flower.
Tucked away inside a mass of various greenery was this exquisite bloom, located in the area of the bees. I proceeded with caution to get a better view.

Having gone 10 feet further than the tour plan allowed me to be able to spot this magical soccer sized ball of an unidentifiable ball of orange fluff growing amid the dense greenery. 

Confederate Rose Hibiscus plant, currently not in bloom.

Our mouths were all agape as many cameras inched in for photos. I stood back awaiting my opportunity in the short time available as Mary Lou rushed us along to continue in order to stay on track on the tour. She too was enthralled with the find unsure as to what it could be.

More pretty flowers in varying shades of orange.

Later in the day, we encountered Bill, the owner (along with his wife Lucy) of the Princeville Botanical Gardens, whom I was thrilled to meet to thank for the opportunity to tour the gardens and write our story. 

This mishmash of colors, wood, and greenery caught my eye.

He, too, was pleased with us providing our worldwide readers with an opportunity to see that which he and Lucy have spent years developing with a love and passion for nature, well evidenced in the surroundings. 

A few of the couples with us were from Canada. With a similar climate and an abundance of trees in Minnesota (from whence we came), coleus such as this was a common plant used to fill in gardens since they thrive in shady areas.

I showed Bill the photo of the gorgeous “ball of orange” and he too was baffled. That’s the wonder of nature, continually growing and changing offering us “in awe observers” the chance to behold the treasures upon which we’ve been blissfully bestowed.

At every turn, there were exquisite flowers blooming on plants and trees.

At times, I found my heart pounding, not from the occasional climb, but from a particular find of a flower, plant, or tree that left me entranced by the uniqueness and beauty. Isn’t that what admiring nature is about anyway?

Many flowers appeared out of a tree or bush with few other blooms.

Whether it’s a wild animal, a bird, a frog, an unusual insect, or a flower, it’s all life and it’s all magical. As Mary Lou explained, something I often find myself saying in conversation…there isn’t anything in nature that doesn’t have a purpose; not an appendage, not a blossom, not an antler, not a fang, nor in the case in this tour at the Princeville Botanical Gardens, not a single step we took to one more sighting of a piece of Heaven after another.

African Nutmeg tree.

Tomorrow, we’ll be back with our final photos of the gardens including the chocolate tour and presentation and more scenic views. Again, we apologize for those items we aren’t able to identify, many of which weren’t mentioned on the tour and others I may have missed as my eyes wandered about.  

Some of the trees and plants had signs such as this. However, I found myself fascinated with the hundreds of flowering plants tucked away in plants and trees that had no apparent name available.

In a way, I felt comparable to a kid in a candy store with a pocket full of money. Who cares what the candy is called? It’s the luscious visual, the divine smells that send us reeling!

Oh, would that a simple coleus present such a stunning expression.

Happy Saturday, everyone! Last night we had a fabulous evening out with Alice and Travis and tonight, we’ll visit the home of Cathi and Rick for dinner. Life is good!

                                               Photo from one year ago today, April 11, 2014:

A village in the Atlas Mountains. We ended up cutting our three-day trip short the reasons which are explained in this post. Please click here for details.

Part 1, A tour into a garden of paradise…Princeville Botanical Gardens…

The road on the way to the Princeville Botanical Gardens is in itself a breathtaking experience.

Finally, the skies cleared and it was time to tour the Princeville Botanical Gardens on a gorgeous sunny day. I couldn’t have been more excited to be able to attend after postponing Tuesday’s planned tour due to rain.

Upon entering the waiting area for the tour, I was impressed by the quality of the merchandise offered for sale.

Wearing my BugsAway clothing imbedded with insect repellent I was definitely overdressed in the warm weather in a long sleeve shirt, long pants, a hat, and carrying the requisite EpiPen in the event of a bee sting. I was ready to go with the camera draped over my shoulder, my pockets filled with extra camera batteries and a water bottle in my waistband, leaving me with no bag to carry and my hands-free for taking photos. 

Much to my surprise, this was an excellent location for purchasing locally made tee shirts and merchandise to bring home, all of which were reasonably priced.

Tom had decided to stay behind to complete some final work with our Nevada accountant for the upcoming tax day (on April 15th in the US), so for the first time that I can recall, I was off on a tour on my own. At 1:30 pm, he dropped me off at the entrance to the gardens where the shop and check-in area were located to prepare for the 2:00 pm three-hour tour.  

I had no idea that orchids grow on trees as shown in the first tree discussed along the tour. See this link on how to grow orchids on trees, if one is living in an orchid growing climate.

With a plan for Tom to return around 4:45 pm to pick me up, I waved goodbye, giggling over the ridiculousness of us rarely being apart these past 30 months as we’ve traveled the world. I felt confident and at ease being on my own on the tour but, I knew I’d miss his eagle eye for photo ops.

Everywhere we walked, the scenery was breathtaking. Unlike many botanical gardens, the owners chose to leave some areas open with expansive green lawns, adding to its beauty.

Harold, our kindly, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic host acquainted me and the other seven guests as to general information about the exquisite gardens and by 1:50 the tour was on its way with all registered guests in attendance with our tour guide Mary Lou.

Lucy’s vegetable and herb garden was protected by a fence to keep the pigs and chickens out.

On previous tours there have been as many as 20 guests, but, with the recent pouring rain and slippery conditions as of yesterday, this small group was ideal for my soon to be obsessive photo-taking and diligent observations on the tour. Reservations for the tour are available online at this link.

There were numerous Papaya Trees on the property. Mary Lou presented a container filled with luscious sections of the tender papaya flesh for the group to taste. 

Here’s a quote from Princeville Botanical Gardens well-done website, which I couldn’t have described better:

“Princeville Botanical Gardens began as a personal hobby of Bill and Lucinda Robertson in 2001, only to expand in scope and surpass all expectations when they moved to Kauai full time in 2004.

Hidden away in the jungle valleys of Princeville on Kauai’s North Shore, dramatic topography, natural landscaping, and tender cultivation have culminated into a sacred garden paradise.

Previously cattle land, centuries of introduced plants had strangled out the native flora throughout the Anini Stream valley. After fighting back the jungle, the Robertsons continue to protect the land from constantly encroaching invasive species. Supplementing the tired soil with organic fertilizers and homemade compost, organic and sustainable practices are a priority in the gardens. With the help of passionate gardeners, enthusiastic friends and neighbors, and painstaking physical labor, the land has slowly been transformed.”

The views continue in each of the seven areas of the gardens.

Rather than retell the information about the development and growth of the Princeville Botanical Gardens as so well described on their website, I prefer to share my experience from the perspective of an enthusiastic tourist over the next few days.

The terraced areas of the gardens required a massive number of boulders to be brought in by semi-trucks, which occurred over a period of years to complete the terracing. The Princeville Botanical Gardens although appearing to be complete, based on the tour, is a work in progress requiring tremendous care and future development which Bill and Lucy continue with a passion.

For those, such as me, who happen to find tremendous joy in perusing unique and often astounding vegetation I was in awe over that which Bill and Lucy have so exquisitely incorporated into their gardens. This intimate and informative tour exceeded all of my expectations. 

This red fruit caught my eye although I was unsure as to its identity.

Not only was the sequence of the tour presented in an ideal flow as the grounds continually changed and progressed, but each area also became more exciting than the next. There was never once during the three-hour tour of the seven unique gardens that my attention or interest waned for even a moment.

Although Hawaii may not be the perfect climate for cactus to proliferate, many varieties of cactus seem to thrive as this has that I spotted on the tour.

I should mention that although the tour is generally easy to navigate, it wouldn’t work for those with wheelchairs, walkers, or who had difficultly walking or managing steep terrain. 

The Miracle Tree possessing leaves that have multiple medicinal and health-improving benefits.

Although a few spots we maneuvered were fairly steep and a few others required careful stepping on uneven stones and steps, it was considerably less of a trek than many other venues in Kauai. This tour wouldn’t be suitable for strollers or young children.

Poinsettias are an emotion-provoking flower reminiscent of Christmas’s past for those who observe.

As we wandered through the seven areas, there were only a few occasions where mosquitoes were biting (Mary Lou had repellent to share) and only a short distance where bees were prevalent. 

Kava plant, a known mood-altering plant used by enthusiasts all over the world for its sedative and anesthetic properties.

I had previously sprayed my ankles and arms but was otherwise protected by my long sleeves and pants.  I wasn’t bitten once. I wore comfortable walking shoes but noticed several others wearing flip flops, a common occurrence we’ve observed on many tours in the islands. We’re always surprised by the lack of surefootedness in such flimsy footwear. 

Baobab tree.  We’d seen many of these in Kenya.

When one of the other guests mentioned they were heading to Queen’s Bath in a few days, I suggested they wear sport or walking shoes with some traction as opposed to flip flops. Safety should always be the first consideration when touring any of the often steep and uneven terrains in Kauai.

Many trees and plants produce beautiful flowers such as this Justicia Aube.

Mary Lou’s warm and friendly demeanor made the tour feel as if it was being presented by a passionate and enthusiastic friend proudly sharing the stories and history of the growth and development of the gardens I couldn’t have felt more at ease. She had a magical way of knowing exactly when to continue on, allowing me and the others to take our photos and gawk at the wonder before our eyes.

These Angel Trumpets are known to be hallucinogenic and abused by some who partake in its effects. We’d seen these flowers in Madeira, Portugal, and had no idea as to their drug-like properties.

Bear with me today and over the next few days as I share many photos some of which I may not be able to identify. Having seen hundreds if not thousands of various plants, flowers, and trees growing in the gardens, it was impossible to recall the names and details of each one. Early on in the tour, Mary Lou explained she wouldn’t have time in the three-hour tour to describe each and every botanical.

Lipstick bamboo.  Look at these colors!

If any of our readers are curious as to more details of a specific plant please contact me and I’ll contact Harold for a further description and update the post accordingly.  

Shrimp plant also known as Yellow Candles.

Tomorrow, we’ll be back with more photos, the chocolate tasting event including chocolate made by Lucy utilizing the cacao beans grown on the property, the walk across the footbridge over the river, and the progression of the tour as it continued through the enjoyable three hour period.

Happy a fabulous weekend! We have social activities planned for both tonight and tomorrow night, details of which we’ll share once we complete the Princeville Botanical Gardens series.

                                              Photo from one year ago today, April 10, 2014:

It was a year ago today, that we began and long and arduous drive through the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. This scene is of a soccer team playing in the desert as we made our way up the mountains, at points as much as 14,000 feet above sea level. For more details, please click here.

Planning on a tour today…Raining in buckets at the moment and the sun’s shining…What about Versailles?

This is our favorite chick, now named “Joy” who usually sits facing the wall.  She was practicing clacking when we stopped by last week, although we were at least 15 feet from her. On this particular day, she wasn’t facing the wall, as she often does, as did her parents. Yesterday, she was gone from the nest and we were worried about contacting Cathy for an update.

When we lived in South Africa having the time of our lives, albeit, with bugs, snakes, and more, our dear friend Okee Dokee told us of an Afrikaans expression commonly used when it rains when the sun is shining, a so called “sun shower.”

Could this chick be any cuter?

Although we’ve been able to memorize various words and even sentences in other languages, for some odd reason, I can’t seem to recall that expression. It makes us laugh when it slips my mind time and again and, it really makes Okee Dokee laugh when I email her and ask for it one more time. When the three of us were together continually laughed, often to the point of tears, over the silliest things.

Here’s a video we made of a chick swallowing the food his parent had fed him, regurgitated from a recent trip out to sea, often not returning for days at which point the chicks are very hungry.
 I’d saved that expression on my computer last December but, it died and the expression died along with it. So, this morning I wrote to Okee Dokee, for the zillionth time, asking for it one more time. Ah, here it is:  “Jakkals trou met wolf se vrou,” meaning “the fox marries the wolf’s wife” or in other words, it’s raining and the sun is shining.Thanks, Okee Dokee. We love you!

It’s hard to believe that these fluffy balls will eventually grow into the beautiful pristine white and grey feathers of the adults.

Anyway, we’re scheduled for a five star rated tour today at 1:30, hoping to take many photos to share for days to come. With the rain pelting as we’ve never seen in Kauai, we may have to reschedule for Thursday, our next option for this tour.

Neither of us minds getting wet. After all, we stood outside at Versailles in France (link to our Versailles post, Part 1) last summer in the pouring rain for 90 minutes, with no umbrella, getting soaked to the gills, with nary a peep of complaint from either of us. It’s the camera and equipment we want to protect.

A Brown Gecko is hanging out in this plant with sharp thorns, a safe hiding spot for sure.

We’ll wait and see how it goes. As I sit here writing now, we have three hours until we have to walk out the door. In Kauai, the weather can change on a dime. In a few hours, the sky could become totally clear without a cloud in sight.

Yesterday afternoon, we stopped by the neighborhood to see the albatross chicks and parents to find that things have begun to change. Chicks and parents have begun to move about. It appeared that the parents whose eggs never hatched were long gone. 

There are many beautiful plants and shrubs growing in the neighborhood where the albatross nest. The homes are exquisite and meticulously maintained.

Many of our chick photos have been of one in particular who’s parents always sat on the nest facing the wall of a house with their back to us. 

When the chick was born in early February, soon growing too large to sit under the parent, it too, began facing the wall. How sweet that the chick followed the pattern of the parents. Each time we’ve stopped by, at least twice per week, the chick was facing the wall, growing fatter each day.

Chickens and roosters wander about the neighborhood, cohabitating well with the Laysan Albatross.

Yesterday, we were shocked to find that chick was gone. We looked everywhere and couldn’t find it. “Oh no,” we thought, “Did something happen to it?”

Immediately upon returning home, we wrote to Cathy, docent, and caregiver to the Laysan Albatross in the neighborhood, making notes on their health, activity, growth, and well being on two-hour walks, twice a day.  We thought if anyone knew what had happened to the chick, it would be Cathy.

This peculiar tree is growing in the neighborhood of the albatross.

This morning when I turned on my laptop, I spotted a message from her that warmed our hearts. We both sighed in relief reading her message.

Here’s what Cathy wrote in her words about the missing chick and more:

“After spending most of his days at or next to his nest, he is suddenly moving around.  He is often around the corner now.  This afternoon he was back near his nest, trying out his wings.  I was wondering when he would leave the security of his nest.  You probably noticed that the one at the house catty-corner has moved closer to the street.  I have a big orange traffic cone that I often have to put in front of chicks when they venture too close to the street, and the Princeville Patrol officers carry cones in their car for the same reason.  The main street worries me a bit because the trucks working at the house at the end sometimes drive too fast.  The chicks do get to a point where they venture out into the street and sometimes have to be coaxed back to safety. This is officially known as “hazing” an albatross when you walk slowly towards them so they walk away from you and from a dangerous situation.  

By the way, when you see adults with a chick at this time of year, you can’t assume it’s the parents.  The chick you are talking about had several visitors one-day last week.  Mom just happened to arrive then, and she snapped at all of them until they left!

P.S.We don’t know the sexes of the chicks, but the owners of the house where the chick you asked about lives have named him/her Joy.”
I wrote back to Cathy thanking her for putting our minds at ease. Although we’ve never been closer than 15 feet from the albatross, in a funny way, we’ve become attached to them. We’ll be long gone when the parents finally leave the chick who’ll eventually fledge out to sea to begin his/her own life. 
The chicks began preening themselves at an early age.
Most likely, this event occurs in a matter of minutes and the likelihood of ever seeing the chicks fledge would require an around the clock vigil, not at all practical. 
Please bear with us on our frequent mention of the albatross. Living so close to the albatross families has been comparable for us, to when we were living in Marloth Park, a game reserve with wildlife at our doorstep for a full three months. Yes, I know, I became particularly attached to the warthogs and warthog babies and, I realize, I must have bored our readers to no end with my frequent mention and photos.
Here’s another vocal chick.  Now that they are less fearful, they’ve begun practicing typical adult behavior in preparation for days to come.
Here again, you are stuck with my passion for the wildlife of any kind and honestly, Tom doesn’t fall far behind.  Yesterday, his brow was frowned, as he drove around and around the neighborhood looking for the chick. This morning, he smiled from ear to ear as I read Cathy’s message aloud.
As the chicks have grown they appear to be spending more time alert and awake perusing their surroundings.  of course, now as Cathy stated, they’ve begun to wander away from the nest, occasionally being “hazed” by humans to stay away from the road and oncoming traffic.
We continually confirm in our hearts and minds that our love of nature is the basis of our travels which includes wildlife, vegetation, and scenery. As for old buildings and places like Versailles, they must hold some interest for us or we wouldn’t have stood in the rain last August, soaked through and through, touring the beautiful gardens. Then again, it was a garden. We love those. 
More to come.
                                                 Photo from one year ago today, April 7, 2014:
In our post one year ago, we discussed the difference between safety measures in other countries as opposed to those in the US, Europe, and other countries. For details from that post, please click here.

Vegetation in Hawaii…The interesting Milo tree…

The trimmed Milo tree that we held with little regard until manager Mike told me its story.

Yesterday morning, as I wandered the area looking for interesting vegetation, I was particularly curious as to the trees that often appear in our photos when we take shots of the ocean from our lanai.

Originally, their recently trimmed appearance was somewhat of an eyesore in our photos. More than once, I maneuvered the camera in such a way to ensure they weren’t included in the photo.

Another trimmed Milo tree on the grounds.

Now, I feel a little foolish after meeting Mike, the property manager here at Milowai, our condo complex, explained this building was named after these interesting trees,  “Milo,” after the Milo tree, with the “wai” meaning “water,” tree by the water.

Mike explained they are a hearty tree with a major significance to the Hawaiian people as indicated in this quote below from this website.

“There are those who say that the beautifully grained milo wood utensils, furnishings, and jewelry were only for the chiefs of ancient Hawai`i. It is told that the Waikiki home of Kamehameha I was surrounded by milo trees.

Although rare today, in old Hawai`i milo was a commonly found tree, cultivated as a shade plant around homes near sunny coastal areas with loose soil. It does not grow in the high inland forests.
Brought to these islands by early Polynesian settlers who carried the seeds, this fast-growing evergreen tree was planted around the temples in Tahiti, as it was said to be spiritually connected to the chant and to prayer. It is a widespread species throughout Polynesia and Micronesia, as well as in tropical Africa.
Milo’s scientific name is Thespesia populnea, and it is also known as a portia tree. A member of the Hibiscus family, the malvacceae, it is a close relative of hau, `ilima, and ma`o, Hawai`i cotton.
The bark of milo was used for cordage fiber, similarly to hau, but it is inferior in quality to hau and to olona. The tree also yields tannin, dye, oil, medicine and gum, from various parts of the plant. The milo wood was skillfully crafted into poi bowls called `umeke `ai, and into plates, too. Calabashes/bowls of kou wood were more highly prized than those of milo, and were more often used.
`Umeke `ai is an honored implement in a Hawai`i home, for, through the ceremony of eating poi one at a time from the bowl at the center, the traditions and protocol of Kanaka Maoli is maintained. The `umeke `ai filled with kalo (taro) is considered the means of survival of the people of Hawai`i Nei.
`Umeke la`au is the Hawai`i name for these containers or calabashes of wood, which were used for the storage, transport and serving of food in various stages of preparation. Milo wood is flavorless since it is lacking in any unpleasant-tasting sap that could contaminate stored food.
The milo tree is a small to medium-sized one, growing to less than 40 feet high. The trunk can be 2 feet in diameter at full maturity. The bark is corrugated, with scaly twigs. The branches are widely spread and usually horizontal, making for an ideal shade tree. The glossy heart-shaped leaves are 3-5 inches across.
Young leaves are edible. Bell-shaped pale yellow flowers with maroon or purple centers turn purplish-pink as they within their short one-day hibiscus life. Following the flowering stage, the one-inch diameter seeds grow in globular 5-celled woody cases that have downy hairs on their surface. These remain on the plant for some time and ripen only in areas of dry climate.
Milo wood has an attractive grain that takes to a high polish and, in addition to food utensils and containers, was fashioned into paddles and other carved objects, as well as for an occasional canoe, although koa was considered to be the most popular material for canoes.”
Mike further explained that the Milo tree produces flowers as shown in this borrowed photo below (flowers aren’t blooming at this time) that are messy on the pristine lawn. As a result, they are trimmed once a year which occurred shortly before our arrival a month ago.
Beautiful flowers that bloom on the Milo tree. (Not our photo).
For more scientific information on this exquisite tree, please click here.
The flowers only last for one day, closing into and becoming a seed pod of sorts as shown in this photo below, none of which we’ve seen on the trimmed trees.
The flowers as shown above bloom only for one day, later becoming these seed pods from which eight seeds are eventually released. (Not our photo).

Mike also explained that the Milo tree does well growing near the sea and is unaffected by the salt from the sea which is very close to the Milo trees on the grounds here at Milowai.

I was also curious as to the type of grass on the lawn here. It is so perfect, it almost appears as if it isn’t real.  But, it is real. It’s called South Coast from which a fake turf is actually named. It too, like the Milo tree, suffers no ill effects from its close proximity to the salt from the ocean.

The carpet-like lawn at Milowai.

It’s ironic how we’ve dismissed this odd-looking trimmed tree to discover that in fact, it has its own story to tell, profound in the history of the Hawaiian Islands and its people. Now, we look at it with new eyes and interest.  Going forward, we’ll make no effort to exclude it from our photos.

Sorry, Milo.

                                         Photo from one year ago today, November 15, 2013:

This was the tiny freezer in Kenya. On this date a year ago, when we were leaving on December 1st, we assessed our food on hand to use in the remaining 16 days until we left for South Africa. And here we are now, assessing the food we have left for our departure date once again on December 1st before we leave for the Big Island. For details from that date, please click here.

The morphology of the banana plant…Observed and photographed on walks up the steep hill…

This was our first photo taken over two months ago on our first walk up the steep hill. We were fascinated by this peculiar looking pod which is called the inflorescence.

Please excuse formatting issues on this page due to the slow WiFi signal at the time of posting.

In a perfect world, I would have learned all of the intrinsic factors on the growth of banana trees in Madeira, Portugal, and also in many other countries where we’ve observed banana plants/trees flourishing.

When we first spotted the tree, these bananas already growing referred to as the bunch. This photo was taken in May 2014.

A commonly exported crop we’d often observed growing in Africa and Belize, we were fascinated by the massive banana plantations on this island where the weather is cooler than in most countries where they’re typically grown as a vital part of the agricultural economy.

The “inflorescence” continued to grow to change before our eyes.

Shortly after we arrived and settled in our home in Campanario, Madeira over the past almost two and a half months, I began walking up the extremely steep hill outside our door. My intent was first, for the exercise, and secondly, to take photos of flowers, vegetation, and local scenery.

“The inflorescence is a complex structure that includes the flowers that will develop into fruits.” The hanging pink and yellowish protrusions are the flowers.

Please click here for the scientific explanation of the morphology of the banana tree, described in beautiful detail.

As days turned into weeks, the inflorescence changed dramatically.

On the first walk which Tom shared with me, we were immediately taken aback by a peculiar pod-like structure hanging from a banana tree in the yard of the house next door.

“The rachis is the stalk of the inflorescence from the first fruit to the male bud. It can be bare or covered with persistent bracts. The scars on the rachis indicate where the bracts were attached. They are called nodes.”

Immediately, I started taking photos mesmerized by the odd hanging pod, especially as it progressed over a period of time as I continued the walks on my own.

When driving on the island we spotted another banana tree that had a much different looking progression of the inflorescence, perhaps at an earlier point that we’d missed occurring before our arrival in May.

As the pod morphed, the bananas grew to a hearty bunch and Antonio, Gina’s dad, cut them down. We saw him driving away with the huge bunch of bananas in the trunk of his car.

Back to our inflorescence, morphing as days passed.

In a way, I was sad to see them go. Where he took them, we’ll never know. He speaks no English. Perhaps, there is a place where property owners bring their bananas to sell for a Euro or two. Or, he may take them to a relative or friend that uses them to make banana bread. Who knows? 

It rained for a few days and I didn’t walk.  When  I began walking again on the next sunny day, more flowers appeared as the leaf lifts to bring in the sunlight.

The steep walk up the hill became a frequent activity for me as I watched a smaller unripe batch as it continued to grow. First thing this morning, I bolted out the door camera in hand, knowing my last banana tree photo was imminent to be posted here today.

The bunch continued to flourish. And then, one day, the bulk of them were gone, riding away in Antonio’s car, leaving a smaller unripe bunch behind.

In a funny way, I feel a sense of loss, the same loss I’ve felt when the roses ceased to bloom in their regal manner as the many other flowers of spring and early summer no longer presented their exquisite buds stretching for the sun and occasional droplets of water. 

And then, a few more days passed and there were flowers again.
This morning I noticed that the stalk, the rachis, had dropped partially out of view behind a withering leaf.
The small bunch remains as it’s nourished from the remainder of the tree and its amazing elements. Not a horticulturist or biologist, I don’t understand it all. But, it’s easy to revel in how complex and interesting Life is all around us.

Life. In any form, it’s magical. How blessed we are to live on a planet rich in life forms from the most infinitesimal microbe in a petri dish, to the plankton in the sea for the sustenance for many oceanic life forms, to an animal in the wild, to the human on two legs walking the earth and to the banana tree in Madeira, Portugal where we have lived these past months, enjoying Life.

Photo from one year ago today, July 22, 2013:
No photos were posted on this date one year ago. Instead, we wrote about the problems we’re experiencing with biting flies and insects. With no screens on any of the windows, no AC in the heat of summer in Italy, we had no choice but to leave the windows open, inviting many flying and biting insects indoors. For details of the story from that date, please click here.