Day #221 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Kenya anniversary holiday, seven years ago…

A morning view of our tucked away ocean cottage at The Sands at Nomad in Diani Beach, Kenya.

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2013 while living in Diani Beach, Kenya when we embarked on a mini-vacation to celebrate our one-year anniversary of world travel. Tomorrow is our eight-year anniversary of embarking on our world journey. For more from this date, please click here.

The restaurant has opened in the hotel. If we so chose we may now dine there. As we’ve settled into a comfortable routine, sitting in our comfy chairs in our hotel room, with trays on our laps, I doubt we’ll change our routine. I think this may be the case for the duration, for however long that may be.

Finally, we were able to take photos of the elusive Colobus Monkey. Note the long sideburns. 

Today’s photos bring back many pleasant memories, which during this challenging time, brings a smile to our faces. What a fantastic three-night stay at The Sands at Nomad Resort! They treated us like royalty knowing we’d be documenting our experiences which was entirely unnecessary.

Many times we ask for special pricing for several reasons:

  1. We’ll be promoting the business, not only while we’re on the premises, but also for years to come via our website
  2. In most cases, we’ll be staying longer than most guests
  3. We have acquired a five-star rating as renters from past property owners and property managers
Another Colobus with the long swatches of hair. Not all of them had these particular markings.

As in the case of this above aforementioned short three-night stay, our special pricing included a discount of 30% off the regular room rates. We were happy with that at the time. But, now after researching online, their prices have increased by 40%. Today, their room rates range from a low of US $329, INR 24551, to a high of US $418, INR 31192, per night. Such prices would be beyond our reach if we could return to Kenya anytime soon.

We had such a good time during that three day period and during our three months in Kenya, other than the apprehension we felt for our safety while due to high crime risks, Our favorite restaurant, Sails, which we visited many Saturday nights, was bombed by terrorists a month after we’d left.

After returning from the pool where the umbrellas provided too much shade, Tom did a quick 20 minutes in the sun on one of the chaise lounges in our front yard.

We were ill-advised about renting a car while in Kenya even in the more upscale area of Diani Beach, due to the high risk of carjackings. Instead, our landlord provided us with the name of a reliable local man who drove us everywhere. Based on these facts we didn’t go sightseeing as much as we have in other countries.

Even at the grocery store, the taxi was searched by military staff carrying rifles, and we were searched upon entering the market or the phone store where we purchased data. Military personnel were stationed at every ATM. It was while we were in Kenya that the horrific attack transpired at a shopping mall in Nairobi.

The chaise lounges at our ocean cottage where fresh towels are delivered each day.

Our family members and many friends/readers contacted us to ensure we were ok. But, Diani Beach is an almost 10-hour drive from Nairobi. The fact our house and the owner’s house next door were guarded by two guards in two 12-hour shifts seven days a week provided us with a modicum of peace of mind, especially at night.

We had a red emergency button next to our bed and the windows throughout the house had steel bars on all windows. At night, we had to close the windows due to the mosquitos and other insects when there were no screens on the windows. The house became a hotbox during the night with only a slow-moving ceiling fan over the bed.

Early this morning as we left our cottage for breakfast in the main restaurant.

Why did we go to Kenya? To be able to visit the Maasai Mara for our first safari experiences. But, we are grateful for the time we had in Kenya, which toughened us up. The wonderful local people we met, who were warm and kind, and the rich cultural experiences were presented to us in one way or another, day after day.

Kenya is now open for tourists and occasionally, there are a few odd flights out of Mumbai right now. But, based on the above scenarios, neither of us feels it makes sense to return at this time. We long for the freedom of movement, driving, shopping, and dining out, all of which will be possible when and if we can return to Marloth Park, South Africa.

A sunny view from our veranda to the sea.

Don’t get me wrong, Johannesburg and other cities in South Africa have very high crime rates as shown here:

Countries with the Highest Crime Rates (from this site)

The countries with the ten highest crime rates in the world are:

  1. Venezuela (84.36)
  2. Papua New Guinea (80.04)
  3. South Africa (77.29)
  4. Afghanistan (76.97)
  5. Honduras (76.65)
  6. Trinidad and Tobago (72.43)
  7. Brazil (68.31)
  8. Guyana (68.15)
  9. El Salvador (67.84)
  10. Syria (67.42)

Marloth Park, in itself, a five-hour drive from Johannesburg, has its own share of crime from time to time, mainly burglaries of the bush homes, occupied by both locals or tourists. Let’s face it, many cities in the US are not safe right now either.

This adorable cat came to visit daily as we sat on the veranda of our beach cottage.

The bottom line, “you can run but you can’t hide.” Of course, now with COVID-19, that becomes another consideration for us, as to which countries will accept us and their subsequent restrictions for US citizens and those arriving from India. In time, it will all come to fruition, won’t it?

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, October 30, 2019:

Bartenders performing tricks at the Ice Bar on the ship. For more photos, please click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day #219 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Living large, living small, living in the moment…

 

We could only imagine how beautiful our photos would have been on a sunny day, which had started sunny and clear, turning to rain shortly after we left. That’s life in the tropics. We still had a fabulous day!

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2015 while living in Savusavu, Vanua Levu, Fiji. For more from this date, please click here.

Today’s heading above, “Living large, living small, living in the moment” from this date in 2015 prompted me to use it once again, five years later. Could it ever be more appropriate than now?

Our then home in Savusavu was located approximately 1/3 of the way in from the point in this photo. 

In that post, so long ago, I wrote:

“We try to live in the moment. Overall, we’re good at it. Today, a bright, sunny day with clear blue skies makes it nearly impossible to do otherwise. We’re in Fiji, a place we discussed many times as we planned our travels when tropical island holidays came to mind.

In this large life, in the large world, each day we strive to live “small,” wrapped up in the trivialities of our everyday, appreciating the call of a mating bird, a determined crowing rooster, an annoyed mooing cow, or the stuttered baa we often hear from a lonely kid goat.

The point, close to the home in Savusavu, from across the bay.

We watch the cruise ships, large and small, waft by each day in our magnificent ocean view. Often at night with their lights bright, we easily imagine the festivities and lively banter occurring on deck, knowing in a little over two months, we’ll be doing the same.

When we think of the future, it’s hard not to speculate, anticipate, and become outrageously excited knowing full well what lies ahead of us. Even after we’ll have visited each continent, there will be so much left to see: the Northern Lights from Norway, a Baltic cruise, the Black Sea, more river cruises, the USA and Canada, and countries throughout the world we’ll have yet to see.”

We passed several small villages while sightseeing.

And now, while here during this ongoing lockdown in Mumbai, India, certainly not as scenic and culturally interesting as Fiji, and yet, there still are moments we find ourselves stopping to treasure a small thing; a bird alighting on our window sill and singing a song; the fireworks on the eve of a Hindu holiday celebration; the kindness of a staff member; and often, the caring and thoughtful messages from our readers from all over the world.

If any of us stopped relishing “living in the moment,” life would have little meaning. As for “living large,” this is just not that time. Perhaps in years to come (if we are so blessed), telling this peculiar story to strangers on a cruise ship, or that we meet somewhere along the way, will find us feeling grateful for this life experience and how it may have changed or enriched us in one way or another.

Cows are always curious and we laughed when this grazing cow picked up her head to check us out.

Each and every day, I stop my mind from spinning to appreciate that as hard as this may be, I am alive, where had I not had emergency open-heart surgery 20 months ago, I may not be here today to tell this story. If at the time, I was offered a choice of life, living in a hotel room for a year with my love and companion Tom or, death, most certainly I’d have chosen the hotel room. There is much to be grateful for.

So, perhaps, this time is all about “living small,” knowing that tonight after eating dinner on our laps, we’ll watch three more episodes of The Walking Dead (we’re now wrapping up season five). Last night, we laughed out loud saying how grateful we are to be stuck in this room and not fighting zombies, due to that type of pandemic.

It was raining when we stopped to take photos of these fish ponds.

A cup of coffee or tea, a meal prepared exactly as expected, a hearty chuckle from a podcast, or the glint in our eyes when we look at one another, knowing full well, someday, this small existence will change and once again we’ll have the opportunity to “live large.”

Stay healthy, dear readers, as we all look forward to the future, while we continue to strive to “live in the moment.”

Photo from one year ago today, October 28, 2019:

The digital 3D presentation on our table and plates at Qsine Restaurant aboard the ship. What a delightful experience. The tabletop is a plain white blank canvas, making such colorful presentations possible. For more photos, please click here.

 

 

 

 

 

Day #217 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Fireworks last night!…Will we ever cruise again?…

 

Rasnesh, our driver, took this photo of us in front of the Vuadomo Waterfall. We were hot and sweaty, but the long trek was worth it!

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2015 while living in Savusavu, Vanua Levu, Fiji a continuation of our past two posts from our visit to the Vuodomo Waterfalls. For more from this date, please click here.

Last night, while watching The Walking Dead, around 10:00 pm we heard a number of loud blasts. Jumping up, Tom looked out the window not expecting to see much from our poor view of an industrial/construction area. But, we were surprised when he saw a distant flash of fireworks.

Vuadomo Waterfall was larger than it appears in these photos.

Indian people, mostly Hindu, celebrate a number of holidays with fireworks. We’re a little surprised fireworks are allowed based on air pollution in India. But the devout Hindu citizens continue to incorporate the light show in celebrating a number of holidays.

Yesterday was Dussera, described as follows:

“Dussehra or Vijayadashami is an important Hindu festival that signifies the victory of good over evil. This annual festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm and fervor by Hindus across the world on the tenth day of the Navratras, which falls on the tenth day of Ashwin or Kartik months as per the Hindu calendar.”

We didn’t see any other tourists walking to or from the falls.

Soon, on November 14, the five-day celebration of Dawali will commence which is one of the most substantial celebrations in the Hindu faith. At that time, we’ll share more information on this sacred celebration. We’ve been living in many countries throughout the world when these holidays have been celebrated and we certainly appreciate the enthusiasm and dedication exhibited by the Hindu devotees during these celebratory periods.

On another note, over the past week, both Tom and I have stumbled across numerous articles about the cruise industry and what to expect for the future. For us, our cruising days may be over when we consider the primary reason we enjoyed cruising so much was the opportunity to socialize.

An orchid growing in the rainforest.

Sure, we enjoyed the ambiance, seeing many ports of call, the festive activities. However, going forward everything will be different which literally eliminates our desire to continue to cruise during times of COVID-19. If and when and if this virus and the extreme precautions are eliminated, we will consider cruising once again.

Yesterday, the CDC issued this warning at this link:

“CDC typically posts travel health notices for countries and other international destinations, not transportation, such as ships. Because of the unprecedented nature of the novel coronavirus pandemic, and the increased risk of transmission of COVID-19 on cruise ships, the US government is advising US travelers to defer all cruise travel.”

The creek on the return walk.

Here is a list of some of the precautions cruise lines will strictly adhere to on future cruises from this site:

  • Passengers to be tested for COVID-19 between five days and 24 hours before sailing. Those testing positive would not be allowed to cruise.  OK, this makes sense.
  • Passengers to wear cloth face coverings or masks on ships in accordance with CDC recommendations. This would require passengers to be wearing masks at all times during the cruise. The thought of wearing a mask non-stop for one or two weeks or longer, other than in our cabin, is totally unappealing.
  • Cruise lines to only allow indoor excursions during port stops if physical distancing, use of masks, and other recommended protective measures can be implemented. What about the cramped vans and buses transporting passengers from the ship to a point of interest? From what we’ve read so far, self-arranged tours will no longer be allowed, only those outrageously expensive tours offered through the ship will be possible. If a passenger goes off on their own, they won’t be allowed to return to the ship and will forfeit the balance of the cruise.
  • Cruise lines to modify onboard facilities so passengers can remain socially distanced in accordance with CDC recommendations (at least six feet separation). This includes during dining and during priority club free drink periods, which was our primary means of socializing.
  • Daily temperature checks for all passengers. Fine, we don’t mind this.
  • Tima and Rasnesh, long time friends, after many hikes with tourists to the waterfall.

As you can see, these requirements totally eliminate all of our reasons for cruising. Instead, we’ll continue to enjoy possible future holiday homes in locations we find desirable; on or near the ocean, and in cultural and wildlife-rich areas. Only time will tell when we can pick up where we left off, with the thought in mind that cruising may not be a part of our means of transportation from one part of the world to another or a means of meeting new people along the way. Disappointing, for sure.

Stay healthy.

Photo from one year ago today, October 25, 2019:

There was no post one year ago on this date due to a poor WiFi signal on the ship.

 

 

Day #212 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Losing weight after lockdown???…

No, this was not a creature that we found in our bathroom during the night. It was my delectable entrée, delicate grill calamari with an octopus topper at dinner a week ago Saturday at the divine The Sands at Nomad.

Note: Due to WiFi issues in Kenya at the time, some of the captions for the photos, couldn’t be added when I carried over the photos. Subsequently, I’ve left out a few captions in today’s photos. 

Today’s food photos are from the post on this date in 2013 while living in Diana Beach, Kenya. For more from this date, please click here.

My dinner plate in its entirety, seven skewered grilled garlic buttered calamari atop a plentiful portion of grilled non-starchy vegetables. I didn’t try the sauce, fearing it may contain sugar. 

How exciting it is today to see these dining-out photos from seven years ago today at The Sands at Nomad restaurant and resort. However, after acquiring a long-lasting stomach bug from eating too many baby octopus on Christmas Day in Fiji in 2015, I’ve yet to eat a meal such as this again.

Tom’s pork chop dinner that same evening with fried potato wedges and sautéed vegetables.

As good as this looks to me in its concept, minus the octopus topper, right now we’re both craving a huge juicy steak, such as a rib-eye or T-bone. I can’t imagine how tasty that would be. It’s been nine months since we’ve had any beef, which isn’t served in India due to the sacred nature of cows.

Tom was looking forward to dining with the cool ocean breezes washing over us.

We appreciate and respect their religious beliefs, but never imagined we wouldn’t be able to eat any beef or pork (other than bacon) for such an extended period. Uncertain, as to the source of fish here in India, and considering the polluted oceans, I tend to avoid fish as much as possible.

One of the many lounge areas in The Sands at Nomad, not only a resort and restaurant, but a welcoming stopping point for thirsty visitors seeking a spot to relax and unwind either inside the bar or at the tables on the beach where food is also served.

The only fish options in this hotel are salmon and prawns, both of which are tiny portions. Sure, I could place a double order for an average-sized portion of either of these. But I’m not willing to pay US $36, INR 2643, for a fish or seafood when I don’t know the source. When I asked the chef these questions regarding fish and seafood, the answers were vague and unclear. So, chicken is it, night after night.

This morning I ordered a cheese plate with a few hard-boiled eggs. The cheese plate was so huge, (again, inconsistency) that tonight I may take a break and not order dinner at all, finishing the remaining egg and cheese.

That Saturday night, the 19th, after the complimentary taxi ride, we walked the short distance to the restaurant. We were enthused to see the property in daylight. Although shortly after 6:00 pm, we’d still have an opportunity to see a few of the suites and peruse the remainder of the property while still light.

Tom has stopped ordering dinner altogether. It was either swimming in butter or too dry. We’ve both reviewed the menu over and over and there is literally nothing else to order that I can eat or that Tom’s is willing to eat.

There are some takeaway menus online that could be ordered and delivered to the hotel, but mostly, it consists of deep-fried, starchy, sugary options, none of which appeal to either of us. In any case, both of us are losing weight, which we both needed to do after all this time in lockdown.

I am only 7 pounds, 3.19 kg away from my goal, my lowest weight in the past eight years, where all of my remaining clothing in my luggage will fit me. While in the US last winter, I’d bought a number of items my sister Susan and I always referred to as “Heidi” clothes which we called clothing that attempted to “hide” excess weight.

Felix, the host for our tour of the suites, took us along a path parallel to the ocean to see the interesting and appealing grounds, a part of which included these private cottages. It was only two weeks later that we booked a three-night stay here to celebrate our travel anniversary on October 31, 2014.

Getting rid of all of those four-sizes-larger clothing (which we’ll donate before leaving India) will help reduce our luggage weight, that within the next month will result in a total loss of 25 pounds, 11.3 kg, for me. After I had open-heart surgery in February 2019 in South Africa and was relatively immobile for so long while also taking those awful medications, I gained weight and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t lose it. 

It was only in the past few months, that I bit the bullet and resumed eating a very low carb/keto diet to reduce the pain in my legs, that I found I started losing weight, about 3 pounds, 1.4 kg a week. The pain in my legs has improved about 75% coupled with the weight loss. So, I guess there’s a benefit to the food situation here after all.

The executive cottages were exquisite.

Now that Tom’s stopped ordering dinner and eats a big breakfast instead, he’s also losing what he’d gained during lockdown from eating that dish of chicken pasta every night with a side of roasted potatoes. He continues to walk and do the stairs daily.

The cooks at the grill were friendly and helpful in assisting us to make our decisions.

That’s it for today, folks. It’s time for me to head back out into the corridor after having completed half of my daily 5 miles, 8 km, walk in the corridors. 

Have a healthy day!

Photo from one year ago today, October 21, 2019:

Tom’s Italian chicken pasta lunch in Wales. Little did Tom know that he’d been eating chicken pasta in Mumbai, India for over 200 nights! For more, please click here.

 

 

 

Day #210 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Nothing has changed…

This is what I heard flying around in the empty second story of the house in Diani Beach, Kenya, which proved to be an owl, 

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2013 after returning from safari to Diani Beach, Kenya. For more from this date, please click here.

Nothing has changed. We’re still in this hotel room, attempting to make the best of it each and every day. This morning, Tom’s omelet was overcooked and his bacon was undercooked. He called the restaurant and asked for “crispy bacon,” a seemingly difficult food item for Indian cooks to get right who really don’t eat bacon. We try to be patient. They sent up a new batch.

The moon is a crescent on the bottom portion when this close to the equator. Who would have ever thought of this? No, we didn’t watch the toilet flush in the opposite direction as it does in the US. 

Each day, each evening the same items we’ve ordered, are different than the day before. Tom finally gave up ordering dinner. Instead, he eats a big breakfast.  I haven’t been having much in the way of breakfast after becoming tired of the same things, day after day. I focus on my dinner of grilled chicken parts, broccoli, and sauteed mushrooms, changing up the vegetables periodically for variety.

From time to time, I’ll order the grilled salmon, but the portion is so small I end up hungry after the meal, often ordering two hard-boiled eggs to round it out. We never realized how eating for pleasure was so important until this situation. We both long for variety to no avail. 

Diners at Madafoo, in Diani Beach, as well as most other resort properties are welcomed to sit outside, near the beach, and in some cases by their pool. 

This morning, I felt out-of-steam walking my first mile. Maybe today, I need to take a day off, the first time since I began in March. I slept well last night, but wonder if the repetitive nature of this same old, same old, walking path in the corridors, hour after hour, may finally be getting to me. I’ll continue on tomorrow, but need a change of pace today.

Often, I’m tempted to say this is comparable to being in prison, but I don’t, realizing prison would be much worse. The bed here is divinely comfortable and we have a private bath. We have a flat-screen TV and can stream shows, although they stop every seven or eight minutes for a few minutes, to the spinning red wheel, when the signal is poor.

While we sat near the ocean at Madafoo’s a few vendors approached us, relentlessly trying to encourage us to make a purchase. Watching the windsurfers was fun but seemed more befitting the younger crowd. We only observed one person possibly over 40 partaking in this activity.

Two days ago, I forgot to mention that when I left to get cash from an ATM for the package, it was the first time I’d been outside the hotel in seven months, except for a few occasions I stepped out the main door to collect an item from Amazon India when we’ve ordered basic toiletries and pharmacy items. Since that time, I’ve asked the hotel staff to please collect our packages and bring them up to our room. 

The sunbathers left as the sun began to set and we moved to the restaurant for dinner,

I would never have imagined not going to a market, a pharmacy, or any store for over seven months. How peculiar that is. During our last foray in the US, I stopped at a Walgreens at least once a week for an item or two. Now, not at all. Amazon India has many items but different quality, prices, and actual products. Also, each item is shipped individually, resulting in lots of monkeying around including:

  1. Sending me a text with an OPT (one-time password)
  2. The driver waits for me to respond and if I don’t respond immediately they cancel the shipment
  3. If I do respond immediately, I have to enter the OPT.
  4. Then, the package is left with the guard at the distant gate who calls the front desk staff to collect it
  5. Then, the front desk calls our room phone to inform us the package has arrived, asking if we want to get it or have it delivered to our room. We always request, “Deliver to our room, please.
  6. Within 30 minutes the item arrives at the room after the doorbell is rung. I get up to answer the door and take the package.
    This adorable guy, a part-time resort resident belonging to one of the windsurfing trainers, hung around with us during our dinner looking for morsels.  Once we gave him several bites and he saw our plates were clean, he moved over to the table of other diners with full plates.

Yesterday, my single bottle of TUMS antacids didn’t arrive, falling short at item #3 above. I didn’t see the text until it was too late. The item was canceled and now I have to reorder. Shucks! The nature of the beast. 

Ah, I don’t mean to sound down or morose. But, regardless of how busy we stay, how much we get done, how many shows we stream, and how many podcasts we listen to, this is not easy. Yes, it’s better than prison and for this we are grateful.

The moon at Madafoo’s second night we visited upon returning from the safari, then on October 15th, was almost full.

Ultimately, we are grateful to avoid becoming infected with the virus which is rampant here in India, especially in Mumbai. In no time at all, India will surpass the US in the number of cases, and probably already has, with the poverty here and the thousands, if not millions, of unreported cases and deaths.

We remain safe in this cocoon and for that, dear friends, we are grateful. Nothing has changed.

Thank you for being at our side, continually offering so much love and support which means the world to us. 

Stay healthy and hopeful.

Photo from one year ago today, October 19, 2019:

Ken and Linda set up our camera timers for this photo of the four of us in front of Raglan Castle in Wales. For more photos, please click here.

 

 

Day #209 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Package delivery from hell…

Moments before it rained in the Maasai Mara, Tom captured the clouds rolling in at precisely the right moment. Wow, Tom!

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2013 while returning from safari to Diani Beach, Kenya. For more on this date, please click here.

It all began in July when we’d ordered necessary supplies from the US to be sent from our mailing service in Las Vegas, Nevada to our hotel in Mumbai, India. Included in that box is our new second passports, which we’d applied for while in the US last November.

 Arriving at the landing strip, this tiny plane was the only one in sight.  Then I knew this was Edwin’s plane and we’d be flying in it once again.

Note: On Monday, for those of our readers finally receiving the daily posts, we are in the process of changing the look of these emails to be more consistent with the look of our site and reducing the number of posts in each email from five to one, as we had in the past when using Blogger as opposed to WordPress which we’re using now. It is only through your kind comments and support that we are able to make our site as user friendly and appealing as possible. Thank you for this, and of course, for continuing to share in our daily updates.

OK. Here goes. Another package from hell story and folks, as I’ve promised Tom, our last. We will no longer be ordering favorite items we need from the US, not now and not in our future travels, providing someday we can get out of here. The most recent and LAST package was sent from our mailing service on July 28, sent FedEx Express. 

Edwin prepared for takeoff while I was sitting behind the empty co-pilot’s seat. For the first leg of the flight, it was just Tom and me on the plane with Edwin. Tom sat behind me so he too could look out the window.

Since we had a number of items in the box of varying values, I insured the package for INR 73,443, US $1000, probably more than the value of its contents but I rounded it off. If it was lost, at least we could recover the INR 29377, US $400, shipping fees plus the contents. That was my second mistake, the first being sending the package in itself. I shouldn’t have insured it at all, which I will explain going forward.

FedEx in India is not like the dependable, efficient FedEx in the US and perhaps some other countries. Here, you can call for help and be on hold for hours, never to reach a human being. I am sure part of this was due to COVID-19 but from what we’ve discovered as businesses have now opened up here, the process for receiving a package is horrendous.

Approaching the landing strip to pick up seven more passengers, most complaining they hadn’t seen the Big Five. We kept our mouths shut when we’d seen the Big 5 in the first 10 hours on safari.

It was only about three weeks ago, after sending dozens of email messages, that we were informed we needed to submit a number of documents, including passport bio and back pages, a letter from the hotel, and our visa documents. Why all this to receive a package? It’s obvious, they certainly went through the box to view the contents. Why all this?

Then, while still in Delhi after 2½ months, it finally went through customs to determine a customs duty. Regardless of the contents, they assessed the contents for the insured US $1000, with a duty tax of INR 71364, US $974, including some arbitrary COVID-19 processing fee. In other words, we had to pay this horrific amount in order to receive the box based on my declaration of the insured contents. My faux pas, entirely.

         Control panel of the single-engine plane.

Then, on top of that, there was virtually nowhere online that we could pay this amount in advance. The only way to pay was to do a bank transfer. While sitting in the lobby yesterday, with the help of the wonderful hotel manager, Umesh, I was on the phone with our bank in the US trying to do the transfer but, FedEx India’s SWIFT number wouldn’t work through a US bank account. 

Oh, good grief, I was sitting down there for over an hour with no air con in the open lobby, temperature around 90F, 32C, wearing a mask and gloves and sweating up a storm while the FedEx guy had the package in his truck and wouldn’t deliver it until we paid.

 A breathtaking view from the plane.

Our amazing hotel manager offered to pay out of his bank account for which I could pay him, but that didn’t work either due to the SWIFT account issue. Frustrated, we both racked our brains. Basically, we needed INR 71364, US $974, in cash. Who carries that many rupees in their possession? Not us. That’s a lot of bills.

Finally, after multiple sweaty attempts to figure this out, I told Umesh we had no choice but to go to ATMs to get the cash. When we first arrived in India and tried to get cash, we had to go to several ATMs when, in India, they only dispense INR 10000 maximum per transaction. We have two debit cards and this would mean four different ATMs.

 As we flew over Diani Beach the smoke from fires burning, clouded the view. In Kenya, there’s no ban on burning often resulting in noxious fumes filling the air.

Plus, when we got here many moons ago, we tried five or six ATMs on a weekend and all of them were out of cash. I imagined yesterday, Saturday, we’d run into the same problem. Umesh and I took off in the hotel’s van heading to the closest bank ATM expecting more luck at an indoor bank facility and they were out of cash!!!

We drove to another bank ATM, five minutes away in dense, noisy, traffic. The walk up to the second bank’s ATM room was treacherous with uneven clumps of cement in an undefined walkway. I hung onto Umesh for dear life.

The miracle of all miracles, the two machines in that tiny room, allowed me to make eight transactions, each at a cost of INR 200, US $2.72. I used both mine and Tom’s debit cards four times each. With the Africa bag in my possession, including a plastic bag to hold the huge number of bills, a sense of relief washed over me as we made our way back to the hotel.

A final view of the King of Jungle. We were never disappointed, continually offering an opportunity for a close-up and the opportunity to observe his/her playful antics and instinctual behaviors. Thank you, lions.

Umesh called the FedEx guy to return to the hotel with the package at which point, I met him in the lobby while he counted out the money, gave me a receipt, and placed the 8.62 kg, 19-pound box onto the hotel luggage trolley. One of the staff members brought the package up to our room.

We’ve yet to open the box, after waiting 48 hours to handle it. If there is COVID-19 on the outside of the box or on the interior contents from inspection, a sufficient amount of time would have passed.

Enough about that! We won’t be writing any more posts about delayed packages in the future. We’re done ordering stuff from the US. 

Well, anyway, we’re emotionally recovered from that debacle and can now go back to the debacle on hand!

Be well!

Photo from one year ago today, October 18, 2019:

In this case in Chepstow Castle ruins, the presence of vines created such a pleasing effect that it remained in place over the centuries.For more photos, please click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day #208 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…A review of an exquisite first safari experience…Firsts!…

It was hard to say goodbye to the staff at Camp Olonana Sanctuary Retreat after the extraordinary stay and safari.

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2013 while on safari, staying at Camp Olonana in the Maasai Mara, Kenya. For more on this date, please click here.

The lodge was an invited place for us to sit, sip beverages and post our photos and stories. With no Internet access in the tents but available at no charge in the lodge, we spent most of our limited spare time in here.

Seven years ago today, we wrote a comprehensive review of Camp Olonana Sanctuary Retreat in the Maasai Mara in Kenya where we had the privilege to experience our first safari in Africa, forever emblazoned in our hearts and minds.

The dining room’s ambiance was easy going and welcoming.

There’s a lot to be said for “firsts” and without a doubt in our minds, that particular first left us reeling with sheer wonder and delight. Throughout our world travels, over and over again, we’ve had the opportunity to experience a wide array of firsts, that above all, stand out in our minds years later.

One evening, as we were busy posting after dinner, the staff and guests began dancing around the lodge to celebrate a couple’s anniversary. It was an intimate group with no more than 16 guests on-site while we were there. (The camp holds a maximum of 28 guests). With a little prodding from the staff, we joined in the line.

Whether it was our first transiting of the Panama Canal, the first in-person view of the Eiffel Tower, the first sighting of The Treasury in the hidden city of Petra, the first visit from a warthog in our garden in Marloth Park or our first cruise, they all hold special meaning with us.

 Windblown, with hat hair, at dinner each evening we wore our daytime safari clothes, feeling too tired to change. Also, arriving from safari between 6:30 and 7:00 pm, food was more important than fresh clothing.

Frequently coming up in conversations between us and others, firsts litter our itinerary, year after year, combined with the easy memories of the events surrounding such events. Isn’t it ironic how we all remember such times as our first date, our first kiss, our first airplane ride, our first bicycle, our first car, our first pet, and our first job?

The gift shop had a wide array of souvenirs and gifts, none of which we purchased with no room in our bags as we continue on our world travels.

Traveling the world the past has provided us, old-timers, with a wealth of firsts we never imagined in our dreams, and yet, here we are, universally, worldwide, all experiencing our first pandemic, our first months in lockdown and our first times wearing face masks, as non-medical professionals.

On the second night at camp as we were finishing up yet another safari, Anderson took what appeared to be a new route back over unpaved bush areas.  Bouncing about, we all giggled over the new route wondering why we were taking this route. With the gates to the reserve locking at 6:30 pm, we were late getting out. We’d assumed this new route was a way around going through the gates. Instead, suddenly we saw this campfire, to be surprised by everyone at camp, all guests and most staff were awaiting our arrival that tonight was the ritual “dinner in the bush” was a total surprise for the six of us.

Firsts are not always pleasant, as in the case of COVID-19, and many of us may prefer to have this event excised from our minds, which does nothing more than elicit painful thoughts and memories we wish had never happened. In our attempts at positivity, many of us strive to find meaning in even the most sorrowful of experiences to guide us through our lives, adding to our purpose and depth of character. 

The Maasai villagers were in attendance to sing and dance before or dinner as we all sat in a half-moon of comfortable chairs, enjoying appetizers and beverages, sharing our various safari stories. 

This period of COVID-19 still leaves me wondering what we’re supposed to learn from this. Each day, during the past seven months, as I walk the corridors, earbuds in my ears, listening to some informational podcasts, my mind wanders away from the voices I’m listening to that same question. “What am I supposed to learn from this “first?”

Look at my plate at the “bush dinner!” It was exciting to know that most of the meat and vegetables were within my dietary constraints, all prepared to perfection, seasoned with local spices. Once again, great job Chef Ambrose!

Was it resilience? Patience? Tolerance? We both already feel we’ve had these bases covered after living without a home for the past almost eight years, amid many stressful and challenging situations. We’ve often mentioned the need and commitment we’ve made to adaptability as, scenario after scenario, we were tested as to our ability to adapt. We not only managed but most often, somehow, we thrived.

After the bush dinner, we posed for a photo, although after a day on safari, I hardly felt photo-ready. Tom’s face was sunburned from the almost 8 hours we spent on safari that day, exposed to the elements, loving every minute. We couldn’t wait to put our clothing in the dirty laundry hamper to be washed, dried, and folded to perfection that was returned to our tent that same evening. This service was included in the all-inclusive pricing.

I suppose time will tell. Perhaps this query to ourselves on this topic will present itself somewhere in the times to come, once we’re blissfully removed from this confinement-type existence, purely predicated by an invisible toxin wafting through the world at a ravaging pace.

Ah, the naysayers who espouse this virus is a hoax! Those who have lost loved ones, young or old, don’t call this a hoax. 

On the first night, we both had the same entrée, a grilled sirloin steak atop a medley of sautéed vegetables. Tender, cooked exactly as requested, this steak required only a butter knife to cut it. Neither of us had appetizers or dessert that evening after having had lunch earlier in the day upon arrival.

As for today’s photos, they are a pleasant reminder of a “first” that we can easily determine its purpose, in its impact on our lives, the changes we’ve made, the adaptation we’ve embraced and the awe and appreciation we gleaned from such a glorious and memorable experience.

My nightly dessert of fine cheese and Kenya is grown cashews and macadamia nuts. The night of the “bush dinner” Chef Ambrose had remembered to bring these items for my dessert, as the only guest in camp unable to eat the traditional desserts. Wow!

Enjoy these photos with us, knowing our comments from the past event, seven years ago today, were heartfelt and passionate.

Enjoy your day!

Photo from one year ago today, October 17, 2019:

Coat of arms on shields at the entrance gate to Chepstow Castle in Wales. For more photos, please click here.

 

 

 

Day #203 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…More exciting safari photos from Kenya into Tanzania…

Breakfast in the savanna, wild animals surrounding us. Presented by our guide Anderson, there were croissants, cold cereal, pancakes, eggs, sausage, and a wide array of fruit. Although I could only eat the eggs and sausage, I was content.

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2013 while on safari, staying at Camp Olonana in the Maasai Mara, Kenya. For more on this date, please click here.

A cool morning in the bush.

Today’s old post from this date in 2013, made me swoon with delight. Memories of our glorious experience in the Maasai Mara continued which, as shown in today’s photos, a stop for breakfast in the savanna, topped off the adventure in an indescribable manner.

A cool guy in the bush.

To be outdoors in the crisp morning air, in plain sight of lions, cheetahs, elephants, and more, while we both, and our safari-mates were in awe of this exquisite event, simple in its concept, magnificent in its enactment. The thought of being so exposed to nature, most of which were always on the hunt for the next morsel of food, there we were dining on human food befitting a fine Sunday brunch with its many choices.

As we left the area of Camp Olonana, cows were in abundance. In the Maasai, Mara. Cows serve as food for the Maasai tribes. (A story follows soon about their lifestyle and their low carb, grain-free, starch-free, sugar -free diet)!

Of course, my way of eating was considered in the chef’s preparation of breakfast with a few items I could eat, including scrambled eggs,  sausages, and real cream for our coffee. Seated on cloth camping stools, we all savored every morsel of our meal while sipping on the still-hot perfectly brewed coffee.

Hot air balloon rides are common in the Maasai Mara. We’d considered this option but decided we’d rather spend the time on the ground with better up-close photo opportunities with the wildlife.

Our surroundings were blissful, as we relaxed in the cool morning, knowing full-well that later in the day, the baking of the sun would heat the air along with the vegetation spewed humidity to accompany the heat, for yet another day of scorching temperatures.

The eland antelope, fairly common in the Maasai Mara, posed for us in the morning sun.

The six of us, determined adventurers, never complained about the outrageously bumpy rides across the savanna when Anderson spotted a point of interest at distance to race across the uneven terrain, crossing over rocks, potholes, and bushes of all heights and sizes. At the end of each day, we were surprised we weren’t achy and in pain having literally exercised rarely used muscles as we bounced about, on the morning and afternoon hours-long safaris each day, except for a lunch break back at the camp midday.

Mom and baby eland.

Later in the day, we made an exceptionally bumpy two-hour drive to Tanzania to hopefully see the tail-end of the Great Migration, as Anderson described, which presented some interesting challenges and surprises we’ll share in tomorrow’s post.

Anderson busied himself setting up our breakfast only allowing any of us to set up the camp stools. Notice his well-equipped picnic basket. The stainless steel containers were filled with our still-warm breakfast, thoughtfully prepared by Ambrose, the chef, very early in the morning.

As I write here now, Tom is watching yesterday’s Minnesota Vikings game on NFL GamePass, the service he pays for each year to stream the games from any location in the world providing we have a decent WiFi signal. The game actually transpires during the night while we’re sleeping so each Monday morning, he’s excited to hook up his laptop to the TV using the HDMI. I do the post, looking at the game’s highlights as I prepare the post, while he’s glued to the screen.

Anderson took this next photo of us, a little blurry but worth keeping, the only shot we had of our group of safari mates.

He makes a point of avoiding the news and Facebook on Sunday nights since he doesn’t like to know the final score in advance of watching the game. It would take away the anticipation and excitement.

This hyena was curious as to our intentions.

Yesterday, I finished the fifth and final 2000 word post which ended up at over 3600 words. It was an article about how to travel long term with or without medical issues, insurance concerns, prescription refills, emergency solutions, and seeking medical care while abroad. It’s a comprehensive post, centered around our personal experiences after all these years. It will be available tomorrow or the following day.

Cheetah blocking the road.

Now I can get back to editing old posts which easily will take many more months. It’s become a part of my daily routine which honestly I don’t look forward to, but do nonetheless.

Such a relaxing day, lounging with the family!

As for the package, this morning I received an email from FedEx stating the package will be delivered by Wednesday. We’ll see if that will actually transpire.

Most likely a mom and a maturing baby, butt to butt, in quiet repose.

Have a great day!

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Photo from one year ago today, October 12, 2019:

We walked in the pouring rain under the Chepstow Town Gate in Chepstow Wales to a restaurant for lunch. We stayed for 11 nights in a holiday home in the nearby village of Shirenewton. For more photos, please click here.

 

 

 

 

Day #202 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Lovely lions…

Mom growled over her successful hunting day, without a single male in view, confiscating her kill.

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2013 while on safari, staying at Camp Olonana in the Maasai Mara, Kenya. For more on this date, please click here.

Seeing lions in the wild will always be magical for us. Having the opportunity to take photos of these majestic animals in their natural habitat only exemplifies this blissful sensation. Some of the most exciting moments while on safari over the past seven years, since our first safari in 2013, left us reeling with excitement with a divine sense of satisfaction.

Life is good for this female.

After all, isn’t the safari enthusiast, especially in Africa, on the hunt for that specific opportunity? This is not intended to negate the exquisite joy in watching a herd of elephants cross the road in the wild or a pair of rhinos lounging under the shade of a tree on a hot sultry summer day.

It all matters. It all elicits a rush of endorphins that few sightings in nature are capable of providing. Right now as I write here we have NatGeo playing Destination Wild in the background with penguins in CapeTown, South Africa, and I can’t help but stop to look, that same rush of enthusiasm washing over me.

The cubs took a break to relax.

Thoughts of Antarctica flood my mind every time I see or hear anything about penguins, elephant seals, killer whales, and seals, reminiscent of our stunning experiences in 2018, never to be forgotten. But, observing lions, more readily accessible in Africa will always remain an objective when we return to Africa, hopefully sometime in the near future.

The lion photos we share today, each of which were taken and posted in one day on this same date seven years ago. Each shot is easily recalled, my arms tired from holding up the camera for hours at a time, and my enthusiasm tempered to avoid making any sounds of excitement that could easily distract our subjects.

Moments later they were back at their meal again.

As time goes by, we both learned more and more about taking advantage of the opportune moments for taking good photos. As explained in our recent 2000+ word post of a few days ago, found here. No, we aren’t technologically advanced and expert photographers but we did learn to capture shots that appealed to us as shown here today.

For any of our new readers, we must emphasize that we DO NOT go on “hunting” safaris where wild animals are brutally murdered for “trophies.” I have no problem with hunting for food especially when animals need to be culled to save the remaining population. But, hunting and killing endangered animals is far beyond my comprehension.

The cubs enjoyed the meal while mom stayed back keeping an eye out for danger.

In Africa, there are countless such safaris for “trophy” hunters and many so-called “farms” that breed wildlife for this very purpose. Who are these people that get a thrill from these killings? Who would want to shoot and kill an elephant, a giraffe, or a lion? Honestly, I couldn’t befriend such a person, especially after all of our joyful photo safaris over the years.

While here in India, we had the opportunity to see tigers in the wild while on safari. Of course, this was thrilling and fulfilling. But, somehow lions remain in our hearts as one of our favorite sightings and subsequent photos, perhaps due to the fact that they will be more readily available for our viewing in times to come.

Tom, on safari, drinking a beer in the late afternoon, in awe of what we’ve experienced, having never expected it to be so rewarding and fulfilling in many aspects.

We won’t be returning to India in our future travels. During the first seven weeks that we were here, we scoured important sites throughout the country, satisfying our desire to learn as much as possible in a short time, only cut short by COVID-19. Had we been able to continue on, we would have had an additional almost three weeks which we forfeited when lockdown began.

This morning, I received an email from FedEx stating our package cleared customs and will be on the move. We’ll see how that rolls out.

Be well.

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Photo from one year ago today, October 11, 2019:

While in Torquay, England we spotted this impressive design being made by a skilled sand sculptor. For more photos, please click here.

 

 

 

Day #199 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Has it really been 199 days?…

 

Tom nudged me to turn around when I had the camera pointed in the opposite direction. I gasped when I saw this, a gift from the heavens. Thank you, Kenya.

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2013 while on our first safari experiences in the Maasai Mara, Kenya. For more on this date, please click here.

As I wrote the heading for today’s post, “Day #199 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel,” I flinched. Has it really been 199 days that we’ve lived in this one room? Has it really been 199 days since we’ve gone for a walk in the fresh air, free to wander at our discretion, window shopping, stopping for a beverage at an outdoor cafe, or even wandering into a restaurant for a meal?

Has it really been 199 days since we prepared a meal, opened a refrigerator for a snack, or even sat at a table to comfortably consume a delicious homemade meal? Has it really been 199 days since we had a steak, a hamburger, or a pork chop? Or, yet a glass of wine or cocktail?

This female lion, like all animals in the wild, is constantly on the lookout for the next meal to feed her cubs, who were also lying under this tree as shown in the photo below.

In actuality, it’s been more than 199 days since we did any of the above. We left the US for India on January 29, 2020, a full 253 days ago. But, for our purposes here today, we’ll discount the first period of time up until lockdown in India on March 24, 2020, when those prior days were spent sightseeing in India as a part of our previously glorious world travels.

Has it really been 199 days since we began handwashing all of our clothing in order to save US $400, INR 29319, a month in laundry fees if the hotel washed and dried all of our clothing?

And now, that liquor is served in the rooms as of a few days ago, we’ve decided to further abstain since neither of us enjoys drinking in a hotel room. But more so, the cost of the average glass of wine or cocktail with 38% in taxes will cost around US $15, INR 1099. If we each had one drink per night, one month later, we’ll have spent an additional US $900, INR 65968. It’s just not worth it to us, not even for the cost of an occasional drink. We’ve waited this long…

The female lion is at leisure with her cubs under the shade of a tree.

And then, I ask myself, are the same meals we’re eating day after day made with healthy ingredients? Are the eggs free- range? Is the chicken we’re consuming every single day free-range or laden with antibiotics and chemicals? Are the ample portions of vegetables I consume night after night, pesticide-free? We have no idea and, asking such questions, with the language barrier, makes answers impossible. Long ago, I gave up asking questions about quality and food sources.

Most travelers stay in a hotel for a few nights, a week at most. None of these issues are a concern for one night or one week. However, 199 days later, these concerns are unavoidable, even in a nice hotel, like this. Of course, they are always considering cutting costs. It’s the nature of business especially for a huge conglomerate like Marriott.

The three guys in our safari vehicle laughed when us girls said that hippos are cute. They are actually responsible for the most deaths of humans than any other animal in the wild.

Yes, we are safe in cool comfort with great WiFi, a comfortable bed and bedding, and two quality chairs we sit on day after day. Yes, we can stream popular TV shows and movies from a variety of streaming services. In total desperation, we start watching in the late afternoon until bedtime, when there is literally nothing else to do. (I walk the hallways, starting first thing in the morning, every hour, and then between shows in the afternoon. I’m finished by dinnertime having accomplished my goal of 10,000 steps per day, roughly 5 miles, 8 km). Tom walks and does the stairs in the morning.

Has it really been 199 days that somehow, we’ve both maintained our sanity, continued to be able to laugh, get along with one another with nary a blip, and stay motivated to continue to write here each and every day? Yes, it has really been 199 days.

The acacia tree, usually flat on the top is a common tree in Kenya.

The question we ask ourselves is, “Can we take another 199 days?” That remains to be seen.

Be well.

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Photo from one year ago today, October 8, 2019:

High Street in Torquay, Cornwall, England, many towns and villages have banners flying indicating the main shopping area. For more photos, please click here.