Our visas expire at the end of October…What will we do?…

As we were driving down a dirt road. we stopped for “traffic.”

In two weeks, we must decide if we will apply for a visa extension at the end of October when our visas expire or, we are prepared to travel to another country in Africa? With countless Covid restrictions in many countries, we must keep checking back for any countries we may choose to visit for new 90-day visa stamps when we re-enter South Africa.

Also, as more and more cases of the variant cripple South Africa, we have to consider if we can re-enter South Africa from another African country. Having been vaccinated helps, and of course, most countries require PCR tests to enter along with the required test to re-enter South Africa.

Broken Horn stopped by this morning after making his way through the dry, dense bush to our garden. He ate pellets and apple peels.

We ask ourselves how many more three-month periods we’re willing to do this back and forth. We’ll have been here almost one year (less the recent four-week visit to the US). The only thing holding us back at this point is the Covid-19 ongoing restrictions throughout the world.

Our dear friends Karen and Rich are getting married on February 11, 2022. We are seriously considering returning to the US for their wedding. We have a series of cruises in and around Japan planned, the first of which embarks on February 27th from Singapore.

A few days before embarking, we could fly from Florida to Singapore for the embarkation. However, at this point, we believe these three cruises will be canceled. We won’t know for a few months. Once we know, we can decide if we’ll go to Florida for the wedding but need to make a plan from that point as to what we’ll do going forward. Again, this will be entirely determined by the status of Covid-19 throughout the world.

He turned while we waited patiently for him to clear the road.

Beyond the three cruises in and around Japan, the only definitive plan we have in place are the two cruises (back-to-back) we recently booked for the Black Sea, a location that’s been on Tom’s mind for quite some time. These are the two cruises we booked while in the US through Costco, which sail out of Istanbul with the second of back to back, ending in Athens, which provides us with many options for where we could spend some time at the end of summer and early fall.

We’re anticipating these July cruises will actually transpire, as opposed to those in February. This is a lot to think about, but, at this point, neither of us is worried about what will and won’t happen in the way of these five cruises over the next 11 months. As always, we’ll figure it all out. We choose not to feel any stress about these future cruises.

Nor are we stressed about the end of October. We feel confident, now that the Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger Airport is open again for flights to Zambia, in the worst case, we’ll fly there for the third time, finding some exciting safari adventures, to spend a week in the country, with Botswana and Zimbabwe as additional possibilities.

Ostrich crossing the road. Again, we wait patiently for her to cross.

At this point, we aren’t interested in flying out of Johannesburg to a distant location and then returning. Those long flights and time changes did a number on both of us this time when we both got sick with some unknown virus shortly after our return. No doubt, our immune systems were lacking due to a lack of sleep for several days.

Tom is almost 100% recovered, and I’m shortly behind him. We both still have a cough but find it less and less each day. What a relief! I no longer need to sleep 10 or more hours each night, nor am I awakening during the night, coughing and sneezing.

Today is actually the official day of National Women’s Day in South Africa. There still are many tourists in Marloth Park, most likely leaving late today or tomorrow. Once they leave, most of our favorite animals will return. Nope. No Tiny yet. Over this long holiday weekend, we’ve seen many bushbucks, Broken Horn, Frank and The Misses and warthogs, Little, Peter, Paul and Mary, and One Tusk. We are looking forward to many more returning in the next few days.

Well, folks, that’s it for today. We’ll keep you updated on our future travel plans as they roll out over the next several months.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today,  August 9, 2020:

This photo is from the year-ago post while in lockdown in Mumbai, India, on day #139. This photo was taken in Paris in 2014 while we were o a luxury diner cruise on the River Seine. As soon as we were seated, we were served these little French pastries and champagne. Tom ate all four of these pastries plus three of the white buns. I didn’t try the buns but took a few sips of the delicious champagne. For more photos, please click here.

Life in the bush continues…It’s never dull…

Young kudu male scratching an itch.

As usual, we’re situated on the veranda. It’s surprisingly cool today, so cool a hoodie might be appropriate. It rained all night and is occasionally sprinkling now with very cloudy skies. We don’t mind a bit. Generally, this weather keeps the visitors away when they hunker down in the parklands undercover, often in large groups of their “own kind.”

The only visitors we’ve had so far this morning has been Frank and Friends, and a single male bushbuck. Apparently, during the night, the thick-tailed bushbaby came by, when one of the chairs at the big table is covered in bushbaby poop, as well as on the floor of the veranda. In bad weather, we don’t leave out any treats for her.

Driving down Rissik St. In Komatipoort, a 20-minute drive from Marloth Park.

It doesn’t appear we’ll be able to take many photos today, although we still have many left from sunny and less-rainy days that we’ll continue to share until warm sunny days return. Based on the weather reports, it could be many days until this stormy period ends.

Last night, when Cyril Ramaphosa spoke during his weekly presidential talk regarding Covid-19, he lessened some restrictions taking South Africa from a Level 3 lockdown to Level 2. As a result of this change, the liquor ban has now been lifted and liquor stores will be open in the next few days while restaurants will be able to serve alcohol to diners. We’ll be heading out to purchase our preferred beverages.

Farmers offering their produce at an open market.

There are day and time restrictions that will remain in place in regard to alcohol, such as liquor stores can only be open from Monday to Thursday and restaurants will have to stop serving alcohol after 8:00 pm. That doesn’t necessarily make sense, but who’s to say what makes sense during times of Covid-19?

In addition, Cyril announced that millions of doses of the vaccine will arrive over the next several months. It appears we may be able to get the jab at some point within the next six to nine months. In the interim, we’ll continue to exercise caution when so few people are wearing masks, wearing masks properly as shown in the photo below, or making any effort to social distance.

There are numerous lower-cost markets in Komatipoort that many locals frequent. Note the typical mask-wearer with the mask below their nose.

With February here, it’s time for us to start thinking about where we’ll go when it’s time to leave South Africa for our visa stamps, allowing us another 90 days. At this point, we have to leave by April 9, 2021, a few days short of 90 days. The reason we won’t be staying a full 90 days is the fact that the car rental places in Nelspruit at the airport are closed on the weekends.

Subsequently, we’ll have to arrange our comings and goings accordingly, never arriving at the NespruitMpumalanga/Kruger airport on a weekend. With our target departure date of April 9th, we seriously need to start booking our plans to depart. In reviewing options only certain countries that will accept us arriving from South Africa, with its variant Covid-19 strains,

A young kudu male wondering what’s on the menu today.

Numerous countries have restrictions that won’t work for us. Thus, we’ve decided traveling to Tanzania on a non-stop from Johannesburg might be our best bet. All that is required is that we have a negative Covid-19 PCR test within 72 hours of our arrival. This is doable.

Handsome young face.

As for where in Tanzania we’ll go, what we’ll do, and where we’ll stay, we are looking into our options now. Tanzania has numerous options that appeal to us. Once we pin something down, we’ll certainly share it here.

Female kudu checking on what we’re doing that might impact her.

This morning when Zef came to clean the house, we headed out to pick up bananas for the wildlife. A local woman at a lovely house on the river has piles of bananas delivered from the banana farms, at no cost, and freely shares them with locals interested in feeding the wildlife. Tomorrow, we’ll report with photos of who stopped by to partake in our bananas.

A forkl of kudus including a few young males and several females, one of whom may be his mother.

Happy day!

Photo from one year ago today, February 2, 2020:

One of the two dining cars on the Maharajas Express Train which we boarded one year ago today. For more, please click here.

Time flies…Emotions remain…Visa waiver attorney located…

One year ago today, we continued to have such a fantastic weekend celebrating Don’s birthday while staying at their gorgeous home in Pretoria. This photo was taken at a Mexican restaurant with 10 of us in attendance, again celebrating Don’s birthday. For more photos, please click here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be well.

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

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

Next trip planned for visa 90-day visa stamp…Off to Kruger to see old friends…

Mongooses stay close to one another, often seen grooming and cuddling one another.

“Sighting of the Day in The Bush”

We love all the wildlife in Marloth and Kruger Parks, but baboons are our least favorite. They are intelligent and destructive, as are the Vervet monkeys mentioned in yesterday’s post that entered our house. Baboons are much more robust and larger than Vervet monkeys.

Today’s post will be done quickly! At 9:00 am, we’re taking off for Kruger National Park to meet up with friends Cathi and Rick from Kauai, Hawaii. This will be the first time we’ll see them since early 2015 when we spent four months on the island making new friends over the extended period, many of whom we’ve stayed in close touch with.

Waterbucks are often found along the Crocodile River, frequently accompanied by a cattle egret who feeds off their “leftovers.”

Our original plan was to meet Cathi and Rick in Lower Sabie at noon, but we received a message last night asking if we could make it by 11:00 am instead. As usual, getting up early, I felt determined to get today’s post done and uploaded before leaving at 9:00 am. 

As of this writing, I have about one hour to rush through and get it done. If you spot errors, please bear with us. We’ll correct them upon our return later in the day. 

One of our most frequent visitors is the bushbuck, more often females than males. The females, without antlers, are gentle and graceful. It has been reported that male bushbucks can attack hunters when provoked and cause severe injury or death.

One may ask, “Why not do the post when we return?” This makes sense, but we don’t expect to return until 4:00 pm or so, and at that point, we’ll have to make dinner and set up the veranda for  our usual “night-time watching.” 

Neither of us likes to rush. We’re always the early birds. Our friends Kathy and Don asked, “Why are you always the first ones to arrive?”

Male bushbucks are cautious around humans and seldom relax in our presence.  This particular male feels comfortable that we aren’t seen as a threat and often lounges in the yard.

The answer to this question easily falls into our continuing plan of avoiding stress in our lives of world travel. Rushing last minute creates stress. As a result, we make every effort, regardless of the circumstances, to either being right on time or a few minutes early, when possible.

Often, we arrive at airports a half-hour before necessary, which is an environment that can be wrought with stress and frustration. We’d rather quietly wait for an event to begin than be rushing, under stress, to get out the door. We’d instead grab a beverage at a Wi-Fi restaurant and relax waiting for our flight than staring at the clock, worrying we won’t be on time.

A wildebeest is a rare visitor to our yard. 

Speaking of airports, on Friday, we paid for and booked our next trip out of South Africa on August 16th, the last day of our 90-day visa, which we’ll need to renew to stay in South Africa.

As explained in prior posts, South Africa doesn’t allow foreigners to visit any surrounding countries to re-enter for a new visa stamp. It’s vague in the law if even leaving for a non-bordering country entitles a visitor to re-enter for a unique 90-day visa (for some passports, not all). 

The recent full moon.

A few weeks ago, we found we were able to re-enter immigration at the airport in Nelspruit for a new 90-day visa when we’d gone to Zambia for multiple tours (Victoria Falls, Chobe, Zambezi River) for a period of one week.

If we’d gone to another country requiring going through immigration in Johannesburg, we might not have been allowed to re-enter. Our best bet was the small airport in Nelspruit, which only has one direct international route to Zambia…was our best bet. 

Hornbills spend considerable time visiting especially when they love spending time feeding on our bird feeder. It appears she has a seed in her mouth.

Based on our particular circumstances, we decided we’d have no choice but to return to Zambia to fly out of and back into Nelspruit Mpumalanga Kruger Airport. We’ve accepted this reality along with the cost necessary for yet another similar trip.

We’re leaving on August 16th and returning on August 23rd. We got a  great deal on a package with Expedia on our site for a total cost of the roundtrip flight for both of us, including a week-long stay at the same hotel (which we found to be quite good) for a total of ZAR 21,946 (US $1680), less than we paid last time.

What will we do again in Zambia? More tours. When we only spent the morning in Chobe National Park, we were sorely disappointed when the safari ended. We longed to see more. This will be our opportunity to return to this special place which over 30,000 elephants make their home.

The mating season continues.  Warthogs hang around with females and their offspring with high hopes.  The males make a train-like sound when they feel particularly amorous.

We’ll have no shortage of ways to stay busy when four countries come together at the Zambezi River in Zambia. We’ll plan everything once we arrive.

For now, we can sit back and relax and continue to enjoy our next few months until we have to figure this out one more time in November. In February, after the next 90 days, we’ll be off to Kenya, not needing a visa extension again.

With time moving on here, I need to wrap this up. Hopefully, tomorrow, we’ll have plenty of great photos to share from today’s self-drive through Kruger. Once again, we feel the anticipation and excitement of going into Kruger, especially when we have the opportunity to see old friends.

Have a fantastic day! 

Photo from one year ago today, June 10, 2017:

One year ago, tonight was Minnesota, “Meet & Greet,” where we had an opportunity to meet some of our Minnesota readers and other friends. It was a great night.  For that post: “Marie and Bill started following us at the beginning of our posts which started in March 2012. It was Marie who inspired the fabulous idea of the “Meet & Greet.” Thanks, Marie and Bill!  It was wonderful to meet you in person at long last and fun to meet another couple who are “glued at the hip” like us!” For more photos from the event, please click here.

Two days and counting…Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana…Here we come!…

An ostrich by himself walking along the road near the river.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

There’s a round, fenced-in area in the driveway filled with a variety of vegetation. The intent was to keep the monkeys out, but they always find a way inside.  It’s fall now in this part of the world. Leaves rapidly fall from the tree, and only a few forms of vegetation change color, such as this palm frond.

In two days, we’ll make the 90-minute drive to Nelspruit to the airport to fly to Livingstone, Zambia, for our one-week getaway. We see Victoria Falls has always been our goal since our first visit to Africa over four years ago.

When we were here in 2013-2014, we’d hoped to see the falls, but once we became entrenched in life in Marloth Park, we couldn’t bring ourselves to leave when we loved it so much.

It’s always such a joy to see elephants on our local drives.

Now, with our 90-day visas ready to expire in a few days, it was time to make this important trip which includes a stay in a hotel near the falls, and embark on a variety of tours we’ve already booked for the week away. We’ll be returning on May 18th.

The elephant’s trunk is comparable to a human’s hand in its dexterity.

I wish I could say we’re excited about leaving, and I’m certain once we arrive in Livingstone, we’ll be thrilled to be there. But, this blissful routine we’ve established in Marloth Park isn’t all that easy to leave.

Only this morning, we’ve had kudu, bushbuck, Frank, and a band of mongoose, and who knows what the remainder of the day will bring our way? Oddly, we haven’t seen Scar-Face in several days, and I’m concerned something has happened to him.

Taking a drink.

Last night, we stayed outdoors extra late while several other warthogs came to call but not Scar Face. The mating season is stirring up many interesting behavior patterns between the males and females, which we’re especially enjoying but without Scar Face, it just isn’t quite the same. Hopefully, he’ll appear in the next two days before we have to leave.

Another elephant was heading down to the Crocodile River.

Yesterday afternoon, we made our usual every-other-day drive through the park. The quiet and the lack of other vehicles were noticeable. We may have encountered only three or four other cars as we drove along the Crocodile River, checking out the action.

It was a gorgeous sunny day, as most have been these past few weeks now that the fall season is upon us. As is the case most mornings now, this morning, we have to add extra layers of clothing to stay comfortable outdoors. By 9:00 or 10:00 am, it begins to warm up to ideal conditions suitable for shorts and tee shirts.

“Elephants may spend 12-18 hours a day feeding. Adult elephants can eat between 200-600 pounds of food a day. As herbivores, elephants consume grasses, tree foliage, bark, twigs, and other vegetation daily. Elephants can also drink up to 50 gallons of water a day about as much as a standard bathtub holds.”

As chilly as it may be in the mornings and evenings, we’re thrilled with the coolness and are grateful we kept a few warmer items to wear during these cooler periods.

Yesterday Josiah, our pool, veranda, and yard maintenance man, spent a few hours raking the leaves that have accumulated in the dirt (no lawn here) that had fallen from the trees. This way, when we feed the wildlife, they don’t have to dig through piles of leaves to find the pellets and vegetables.

Little Wart Face was sniffing one of the two moms who come by each day with their two fast-growing piglets. He was making the train-like noise while sniffing, but she had nothing to do with him. Mating season is upon us.

Now, as we sit here on the veranda on this perfect day, the leaves are falling in big swooshes as each gust of balmy wind wafts through the yard. The bush is a mixture of green and brown and, in itself, isn’t particularly pretty. Few flowers or colorful blooms are visible this time of year.

The often “raining” leaves create a scene that is enchanting in its way as we anticipate the coming of winter in this part of the world, never cold enough for snow although we can see our breath some mornings.

Young male visit stopped by in the dark to see what we had for him. We complied with pellets, apples, carrots, and lettuce.

It’s hard for us to believe three months have passed since we arrived on February 11th, most definitely some of the most pleasurable months in our world travels.

Coming off the trip to Antarctica could have been a big letdown. As Tom always says, we went from seeing elephant seals to seeing elephants in less than one week. What more could we ask for?

Today, I’ll pack for the trip. Tom lifts and carries the bags for me. Tom prefers to wait until the day before leaving. We each have our preferred packing routine, with neither of us putting on any pressure for the other to do it any differently. The only thing I help Tom with is folding his shirts. It works.

Such handsome animals.  We welcome them almost every day.

We won’t be posting any final expenses for South Africa since we’ll be coming back.  At the end of the upcoming week, we’ll post the costs for the trip. We hear the WiFi at the hotel is good, and we’re hoping to post each day, although we have a few all-day safaris and excursions that may prevent us from doing so on those days. In any case, we’ll let you know.

The next few days until we depart, we’ll be staying in, getting things done, packing, making excellent meals before we leave, and then by this time in two days, we’ll already be at the tiny Mpumalanga Nelspruit Kruger International Airport, getting ready to board the non-stop flight to Zambia.

Stay tuned, folks. Lots more is yet to come. 

Have a pleasant day!

Photo from one year ago today, May 9, 2017:

A view of Honolulu from the ship as we made our way back to mainland USA. For more details, please click here.

Immigration status resolved…We’re flying out of the country…Check out our year ago photo!!!

This mom and her calf are our neighbors in this gated community of Roco Verde.

“Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”

Great Kiskadees visit each day.

We knew we’d have an immigration issue to resolve once we’d decided to stay in Costa Rica until we fly to Miami, where we’ll spend one night to then board a 30-night cruise to South America on Thanksgiving Day, November 23, 2017. 

Costa Rica allows US citizens 90 days in their country. The best solution for us based on the strict requirements for a visa extension, leaving the country and coming back in seemed like the best solution. However, we’d research other options while in the country.

Thus, we had to decide which country to visit for two nights, staying in a hotel not too far from the airport and yet in an excellent location to ensure we’d take advantage of the situation and have a great time.

Rooster in the neighborhood with several hens and chicks.

With October 31st, our fifth anniversary of traveling the world on the horizon, this short two-night “get-away” could easily be considered an opportunity to celebrate this special date. This won’t be the first time we booked a few nights away for our annual event.

When we flew from Nevada to Costa Rica on August 1st, immigration requires an exiting flight within 90 days. So at that time, we picked a “cheap” flying on the 89th day to Managua, Nicaragua, never sure we’d use it if we found other immigration options where we’d be able to extend the 90 days.

After considerable research, our best option was to use that flight we’d already booked to Managua, book a two-night stay in a hotel in Managua, and return to Atenas.

Last Saturday, there was a carnival at Supermercado Coopeatenas.

In addition, it was time to book the flight to Miami on November 22nd. Unfortunately, with all that’s tragically transpired in Florida this past week, it could be difficult, if not impossible, to book a flight to Miami the day before Thanksgiving.

We got to work. We research all our options using the links for Expedia and Hotels.com on our site simultaneously on each of our computers. We often find varying prices for flights and hotels when researching using our laptops, based on cookies that may have been set on previous searches. (Sometimes it pays to delete the cookies, and other times it does not).

Here’s what we found and subsequently booked (includes fares for both of us):

October 28, 2017 – US $128.70 (CRC 74,358) – Flight (nonstop) from San Jose Costa Rica to Managua Nicaragua
October 28, 2017 – US $199.84 (CRC 115,460) – Hotel – (Two nights including complimentary breakfast)) – Real Intercontinental Hotel Managua at MetroCenter Mall
October 30, 2017 – US $179.42 (CRC 103,662) Flight (nonstop) from Managua Nicaragua to San Jose Costa Rica
November 22, 2017 – US $246.42 (CRC 142,372) – Flight (nonstop) from San Jose Costa Rica to Miami, Florida (We’d already booked the hotel in Miami for one night some time ago).

Adults and kids were having a good time at the carnival.

We’re thrilled with the hotel and its pricing for this five-star property in Managua and also the fact it’s located in a popular upscale mall. Undoubtedly, there will be plenty of great restaurants and enough to see over the two-night stay. 

We are equally pleased with the pricing on the flight to Miami in November, primarily based on the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, which often results in pumped-up airline pricing. 

Sure, meeting the immigration requirement of leaving Costa Rica will cost us a total of US $507.96 (CRC 293,479) plus meals and taxis estimated at another US $200 (CRC 115,552), but we’re OK with this. It was better than the alternative and provided us with a mini-vacation for our fifth anniversary in yet another country.

Baskets of food were being raffled for charity.

Suppose we hadn’t extended our stay in Costa Rica to accommodate the upcoming 30-night cruise on November 23rd. In that case, we’d have had to spend 25 extra days in Florida, which would have cost us a lot more than we’re paying for this outstanding villa and the two flights and hotel in Nicaragua. 

Today, a very cloudy and overcast day, we’re staying in, making a great dinner with enough for three nights while we’ll continue to research plans. The hummingbirds are going nuts over the sugar water, and we’re as content as we could be.

May your day bring you contentment as well.

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

Big Buffalo was not happy to see Tom again, coming out of the water to show his displeasure. (He’d quickly went out of the water when he saw Tom standing up by the cabana at our villa). As soon as Tom sat back down, he backed up into the water and sat back down. This occurred several times. We have more photos here!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reef Bay, our views from the veranda.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be well.

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

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

Tripping up a trip…Staying calm and cool…

An elaborate Hindu temple at the beach.

“Sightings on the Beach in Bali”

Yesterday’s walk on the beach.

A year ago while living in Trinity Beach, Australia we booked a Viking Mekong River Cruise for July 8th upcoming in a little over one month. Over these past years with 13 cruises behind us and with 10 more pending, we’ve had tremendous success and satisfaction with Vacations to Go.  

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to go through our regular cruise rep when river cruises are handled by another department. The river rep we received didn’t seem as knowledgeable as our regular cruise rep, but we didn’t complain and forged ahead.

Tourists walk along the beach area to shop at the many reasonably priced shops.

Cruise documents from Viking are not sent by email whereby other cruise lines readily make all necessary documents available online. As we’ve mentioned in the past, we haven’t been bringing paper documents to check in on cruises for the past few years when we discovered that only our passports and the reservation number are required to check-in at the port. 

When we discovered the river cruise rep has been out on medical leave off and on over these past few months, with nothing specific required until now, we hadn’t requested another rep. Now, only one month from the sail date, a new rep has taken over handling our booking.

Motorbikes line every road and highway, mostly owned by locals with some rented by tourists.

We’d asked many times via email and phone that the cruise documents NOT be snail-mailed to us to our mailing service in Nevada, USA. Alas, based on a Skype call we received from VTC during the night, the documents have been mailed to us in Nevada. What will we do with them? Pay to have them shipped overnight internationally for huge fees? That makes no sense.

Actually, the only reason we wanted the documents sent to us via email was for the confirmation for one flight included in the cruise fare. We’ll need proof of an airline ticket for the Vietnam flight when we apply for the visa in Singapore when we arrive in 24 days. Most immigration offices require proof that the visitor has a prepaid “way out of their country.” 

These little umbrellas are often used in decorating worship areas. Here, they are, outside a little restaurant at the beach.

Today, with a new contact person at VTC, we hope we’re on track to receive a document we can use when applying for the Vietnam visa. Once we have this, we’ll rest easy. In the worst case, we can have the mailing service scan and email copies of the itinerary but there again, we’ll have to pay for the scans as required by the mailing service.

Yesterday, we completed the documents for the three visas for which we’ll apply in Singapore.  Today, we’ll apply online for Cambodia which doesn’t require that we mail in our passports.

Hamburger night!  Tom had homemade burgers with cheese, fries, veggies, coleslaw while I had everything minus the fries. We’ve noticed he coughs from acid reflux at night after eating fries. No fries? No cough. Humm…what does that tell him?

This may all seem very confusing and we apologize to our readers for the redundancy and perhaps unclear representation. If you find yourself in such a pickle, please feel free to email us with questions. We’ll do our best to answer them clearly based on our experience and/or point you in the right direction for assistance.

Dolphin statue at the beach.

A dear friend wrote to me a few days ago saying, “most people would give up with all of the challenges you often face n continuing to travel the world.” That may be true for some. But, for us and perhaps others, it’s better than mowing the lawn, raking leaves, or shoveling the snow in the winter.

The beach in Lovina.

Our attention, our interest, and our enthusiasm remain constant as long as we have each other, good health, and the love and support of those who follow us along the way.  Thanks to all of you for that!

Photo from one year ago today, June 4, 2015:
“The International Date Line (IDL) explained:
The International Date Line (IDL) is an imaginary line of longitude on the Earth’s surface located at about 180 degrees east (or west) of the Greenwich Meridian.

Illustration image
One year ago, as we crossed the International dateline, we posted this map illustrating where this imaginary line is located.  For more details as we made the crossing, please click here.

Planning for the future…Back to work…

Houses along the river in the village of Malaya.

“Sightings on the Beach in Bali”

Low tide at the beach on a cloudy day.

Today, we need to get “back to work.” Enough of this lazy lifestyle we’ve had this past month in Bali. With all of our record keeping and expenses logged and up to date, including the cost of last night’s dinner, it’s now time to look toward the future.

With the necessity of getting three visas while in Singapore for Vietnam, Thailand and Bali’s second visit in September, we have some paperwork to prepare before we arrive. After all, our one week in Singapore begins in 27 days. We’d better get moving.

A small shop next door to the ATM we use in the nearest village.

Each of these country’s visa applications requires proof of airline or cruise tickets showing our departure dates.  These countries want to ensure we high tail out as planned. No lingering illegals allowed.

Luckily, there’s an old printer here (soon running out of ink) that I’ve been able to use with my laptop. I can’t recall the last time we needed to print something other than the documents for last week’s visa extension, now completed.

Watermelon growing in a field, covered to protect it from the heat of the sun.

Travelers often perceive they need paper copies of tickets, boarding passes and cruise documents. We no longer keep any of these in our possession, instead keeping copies on my phone of online documents we’ve either scanned or photographed. 

Ensuring the photos include clear and easy-to-read reservation numbers, we’ve never had a problem with this. On a few isolated  occasions we’ve been asked for paper copies to which we shrug explaining we haven’t had access to a printer which in most cases, we haven’t. This is only the second vacation property where we’ve had access to a printer.

Muddy river we crossed in Malaya.

Isn’t printing becoming somewhat obsolete these days? Isn’t it mostly lawyers who continue to shuffle around hundreds of pages of documents in front of their clients? Oh, yes, and government agencies throughout the world always require paper as we’ve experienced thus far, many still using obsolete operating systems.

This is the reason we’ll need to bring printed papers with us to Singapore when we visit three embassies during our short stay. For each location for which we require a visa, we have an email with a list of the required documents. Ugh, this reminds me of my old working life, always bogged down with paperwork. We’ll be happy when we’re done.

As old as much of the architecture is in Bali, it maintains a style befitting its rich Hindu history.

Also, we need to begin looking for an RV to rent for next summer’s (2017) visit to the US. We’re hoping to pin down a suitable vehicle in Seattle, driving it across the northern part of the US to Minnesota. 

Having an RV prevents us from imposing on family members during the extended visit to Minnesota. Our kid’s bedrooms are full in their homes and with all of our luggage it would be a huge inconvenience to stay with others for six weeks. 

Tiny bananas for sale at a local farmers market.

Nor would we want to impose upon any of Tom’s siblings or our friends who may have available space. Six weeks is a long time. My way of eating, in itself, would be a gross inconvenience for which we’d never expect anyone to prepare. 

Nor would I want to be shopping and cooking meals trying to figure out how to cook for everyone since as a house guest, I wouldn’t feel right cooking only for ourselves. (I’m an awful house guest, feeling as if I need to “earn my keep” by cooking and cleaning. As a result, its more work for me to be a house guest than one can imagine, all by my own design, of course).

We spotted these sardines in the early morning for sale at the local farmers market that most likely had been caught that morning. They weren’t on ice and could spoil quickly in the heat.

We’ll be eating lots of gluten-free cooked chickens from Costco, preparing basic meals in the RV and dining out a few times a week. We’d considered a vacation home or hotel in the metro area but prices were beyond the cost of an RV.  With a small RV we’ll be mobile, can see everyone, go camping with the family and park wherever we can find a suitable spot. 

We plan to keep the RV during the six weeks in Minnesota, dropping it off before flying to Nevada for the last two weeks of our US visit before heading to Costa Rica and then…back to our world journey.

Minnows for sale at the farmers market.

Yesterday afternoon and last night it rained for hours. Surprisingly, the flies aren’t as prevalent today as they’ve been after other periods of rain. I’m trying not to use the repellent as often as during this past month which doesn’t seem to keep the flies off of me anyway. 

We’re feeling well, feeling grateful and ready to get to work. We hope you’re feeling well and grateful, too!

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

This is the interior of a lifeboat which tendered us to the pier in Moorea, one year ago today. For more photos and details, please click here.

We made it to Placencia Belize, bumpy road and all…

The “tenders” that took excursion passengers from the Celebrity Equinox and other ships that were anchored in the bay due to shallow waters at the pier.  We took this photo from our tender which was much larger with a double deck and steep steps to the 2nd level where we sat during the 30 minute ride.
One of six single lane bridges we encountered on the Hummingbird Highway, the almost four hour drive from Belize City to Placencia, a narrow peninsula on the Caribbean Sea
The beach at our cottage on the Caribbean Sea.
A banana plantation along the Hummingbird Highway.  The blue plastic bags are used to protect the banana from insects instead of pesticides.

A few years ago, I had trouble going to a Minnesota Twins ballgame, the ride in the car, sitting in the bleachers, the stairs up and down.  I was falling apart.  Now, less than two years later, I’m hauling my share of carry on bags, up the steep steps to the second level of the tender for a 30 minute bouncy boat ride in choppy waters from where the Celebrity Equinox anchored out at sea, too large to dock at the pier.

Thank goodness for discovering that food played a huge role in my chronic pain syndrome, now all but gone, making it possible for me to be a participating partner in our upcoming years of world travel.  For this, I am very grateful.

However, my newer state of being doesn’t diminish my persistence in getting things done and getting them done right.  This morning, still on the Equinox, with all of our bags packed and ready to go down to deck two to await our departure on a tender, we waited to hear from the Celebrity’s Immigration Officer, Jennie.

Her objectives, after my careful instructions were to accomplish a few things:
1.  Acquire visas for us for at least the one month Belize offers with the availability of applying for the remainder of our stay.
2.  Get us and our bags safely off the ship on time to meet our private shuttle driver Abraham at our prearranged 12:30 PM at ship terminal #2 who’d be waiting for us holding a sign with our name, to begin the four hour drive to Placencia to our awaiting little beach house.
3.  Avoid us standing in a lengthy line behind all the passengers who were going on excursions in Belize City and avoid all the passengers waiting for us to get our luggage loaded on the tender.  Passengers didn’t have luggage, just purses and bags to carry the loot they’ll purchase on shore. 

We each had heavy computer bags, Tom’s two-liter duty free bottles of booze, bottles of water for the road trip, my overloaded handbag and a heavy bag with all of our prescriptions and preventive medicines that I always keep in my possession.

While I was at the guest services awaiting our stamped passports Tom was upstairs in our cabin on Deck 10 lining up the luggage for the soon-to-arrive porter with a cart to take it to the tender boarding area.

If timing went as we’d planned, we’d be at Terminal 2 in Belize City to meet driver Abraham promptly at 12:30, head directly to the Fed Ex office to return the XCOM Global MiFi to San Diego and begin the long drive to Placencia.

At 11:30,  Jennie frantically arrived at the desk to tell me our passports were approved by the Belizean Immigration Officer who had come aboard at 10:30 and we were set to go.  She handed over our two passports, wished us well and dashed off. 

Still standing at the desk, I knew I’d better check the passports. The visas in both of our passports read:  6/2/2013.  In US speak that means, June 2, 2013. In Belizean speak that means, February 6, 2013. He’d only approved one week!!! Now what? I took a deep breath.  Stay calm, I hollered at myself in my head.  Summoning a guest service rep to go find Jennie again, I waited impatiently another 10 minutes. 

Showing her the dates on the passports, she became embarrassed and flustered, mumbling something about the Belizean Immigration Officer having gone to eat at the ship’s buffet.  In a firm but diplomatic voice, I asked her to please go interrupt his breakfast kindly asking him to extend the visa to 30 days, giving us ample time to apply for an extension by mail while in Placencia. 

Aware of the clock ticking, Tom appeared at my side, ready to head down to Deck 2 to our awaiting bags and to board the tender.  Moments later, Jennie appeared again with the passports in hand, showing us that she had in fact, interrupted his breakfast as he gave us the 30-days visas.  Off we went down to the gangplank and boarding area to about 100 passengers in line waiting to board the next boat. 

Asking Tom to get out our two “Priority Tender Passes” only to discover moments later that most passengers in line also had a “Priority Tender Pass.”  Oh, how I had thought we were special!  Ha!

By now, it was noon. Surprisingly, the line moved quickly as passengers swiped their “SeaPass” ID cards into the slot.  As we moved up the line, I started asking staff personnel about our luggage. “Where did they put our luggage?”  No one answered until we reached the point of swiping our cards in the machine. 

A loud siren started blaring as soon as my card was read.  The same happened to Tom.  We were immediately whisked aside to curious onlookers who were trying to assess our “crime” only to discover that they were being alerted to the fact that we were getting off the ship and not coming back.  Steps away from boarding the tender we were approved to depart after a phone call was made.  

I continued to ask about our luggage.  “Where is it?”  I harped again trying to sound friendly.  Tom had already reminded me about my persistent manner to avoid coming across as “the ugly American” making endless demands.

A uniformed man appearing to be a police officer for the ship stated with raised brows, “Your luggage went on an earlier tender.  Its at the pier waiting for you.
“Is someone watching it?” I asked.

“Yes, madame, it’s in the hands of Celebrity personnel.” he reassured us.  We boarded the tender hauling our multiple carry on bags to that second story when we barely found two seats next to one another. 

Squeezed between several passengers, a lively conversation ensued with the passengers around us, fascinated that we were getting off the ship to stay in Belize for over two months.  I appreciated their enthusiasm but my mind was on the luggage.

Finally I relaxed to enjoy a lovely woman sitting next to me, a world traveler from Germany, an archaeologist.  The 30 minute ride flew by, wind and sea spray splashing around us in the open air boat as we chatted on about science, paleontology and the caveman.  Quite interesting!  I could easily have spent hours with her. 

Exchanging business cards, we promised to stay in touch via email as she was very interested in reading our blog as I was interested in hearing more about her family winery in Bordeaux, France.  As she dashed away, she threw her head back to shout to me, “Come to visit us at our winery in Bordeaux.”  Whether said flippantly or sincerely, I momentarily relished in the prospect of spending time at her family owned winery.

Moments later, we were being herded off the tender all the while looking for our multiple orange bags.  After a lengthy walk on the dock, we discovered a Celebrity “tent” with cups of water accompanying the goodbyes from the uniformed staff.  Our luggage was no where to be found.  The Celebrity staff member who was dressed in a uniform was apparently a police officer who led the way for us to follow him. 

Madly searching for our bags in the crowded terminal, we also had an eye out for Abraham and his sign with our name.  There he was.  No luggage.  A row of van drivers were desperately trying to move through traffic and get their loaded vehicles on their way. 

In what was a wild flurry of activity, as Abraham joined us in the search for our bags, there were two vans in front of ours, all blocking traffic.  Suddenly, we saw ORANGE!!!  Our bags were in a van we had not requested, not Abraham’s van!  The doors were being shut and it was ready to drive away.  We both yelled, “Stop!! Those are our bags!”  Stop that van!  The van stopped and minutes later, a load of about 25 bags in the rear of a huge van were being unloaded to get to our bags which of course were on the bottom of the pile.

The other awaiting van in front of the van with our bags took off with passengers and luggage, on their way to the airport. After unloading the “wrong van” we discovered were missing three large bags, two orange, one black and they were on their way to the airport.

It was sunny, humid and 90 degrees.  Pushy, pushy, pushy.  But, nice, nice, nice.  We managed to convinced the other van driver to contact the airport van to turn around in crazy traffic and road construction and come back with our three bags.  Yes, our bags ended up in two separate vans, neither of which we had requested or desired.

After what seemed like an eternity, we had all of our bags in Abraham’s van and we were on our way to FED EX, arriving a good 20 minutes after leaving the ship terminal through bumpy dusty unpaved roads in some of the poorest areas of Belize City.  Oh, oh, FED EX had moved.  They are now within a block of the ship terminal.  We’d have to turn around and go back. 

“Oh, no,” I persisted, “is there a UPS or any other shipping company near us now?” 

Abraham quickly answers, “Yes!  How about DHL?” 

“Yes!” I chimed in, “DHL it is!”  Minutes later we were standing at the DHL desk watching the rep look up rates in an old fashioned book as opposed to a computer.  Thirty minutes and $72 US later, we were out the door, insuring the package for $800.

And so began the almost four hour drive down the Hummingbird Highway.  We went through six, yes six, one car width bridges.  We encountered washed out roads, cracked broken pavement, scary single lane passing, slow semi trucks up the steep winding hills, slow drivers, crazy drivers, winding and mountainous roads.

We encountered cows in the road, cows in the pasture eating real grass, roaming free, chickens wandering in fields, pecking at natures little tidbits, soft billowy clouds over the sea, endless rows of banana trees and more orange groves than I’d ever seen growing up in California.  Endless coconut trees lined the hills and valleys, a lush forest of Mother Nature’s untarnished bounty of its fruits of the land.

Shortly before we arrived at the cottage, we asked Abraham to stop at a grocery store to get us through the first few days until we figure out transportation.  He gladly obliged while we dashed into the little store.  Shocked by the prices and knowing there was another bigger grocer a mile from the cottage, we opted to purchase bare necessities, food for breakfast and dinner.

Much to my delight, the steaks were local grass fed, from the farm where I had observed the cows grazing, the brown eggs were organic, free range and cage free at $2 a dozen.  The produce, although limited in its selection was fresh and had that “just picked from the field” look. 

When the cashier rung up our groceries, it totaled $114.  I was sadly disappointed this small amount had cost so much.  Tom nudged me when he saw the look on my face, ‘That’s Belizean dollars.  Its actually about half of that!”

At 5 pm, we arrived a the Little Cottage with the good directions provided by the owner. We were tired, hungry and anxious to see the beach house and get situated. 

We weren’t disappointed.   The house, situated on the owner’s property only requires walking the length of the small ocean front lot to the Caribbean Sea. 

Today, we’ll do laundry, in piles from the most recent eight day cruise which must be dried on a clothes line (no dryer), unpack only what we need, figure out transportation and spend as much time outside enjoying the ocean breezes, the breathtaking scenery and the unfamiliar sounds from birds of unknown origin.