Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Just Nine More Days!

Tomorrow is New Year's Eve! That leaves just nine days till we begin our trek around the world...hard to believe it is so close.

The last couple of weeks have been crazy! You may have noticed a little change in the map. The craziness all started when I got a call from SAA that our flight from Bangkok to Johannesburg had been canceled! It was the only non-stop flight to Johannesburg and it was on Thai Air. The agent said that Thai Air was working on a new route and would get back to us. I already knew from the planning stage that we now had two options, neither that great. One was to back track to Hong Kong then to Johannesburg which was a much longer ordeal and the other was Bangkok to Singapore and onward which only added two hours flying time and a three hour layover. So, I told the agent that we wanted to go through Singapore and she said OK. The next thing I hear is that we are going back to Hong Kong with a long layover and on to Johannesburg! Needless to say, I spent several days burning up the ether with SAA getting the route we want. So now we have added another flight, country and airline to our adventure!

We will leave Bangkok at 19:30 to fly to Singapore on Thai Air getting there at 22:45. Then fly Singapore Air leaving at 02:00 and arriving in Johannesburg at 07:00, in time for our original connection to Victoria Falls. If we survive this marathon without a hitch, I will be amazed! We have time to spread it out by leaving Bangkok early, so that may just happen. Another little glitch happened last Saturday. We were going over the itinerary checking reservations and other details including sending emails to the people doing the private tours in the various cities.

I got an email back late Saturday evening from the company providing our GBR helicopter dive tour. They have a private group booking to their pontoon so they had to cancel our booking! Sorry, he thought he had contacted us! The group booking happens to be the ship’s own GBR tour which is going to the pontoon by a 90 minute boat ride which I don’t really want to do. The pontoon is Marine World on Moore Reef and is a good site. That is why I picked them to begin with!

We may ultimately do this tour with the ship. But, I am talking to Great Adventures about a Helicopter trip to Green Island and then on to their pontoon on Norman Reef which would give us two GBR experiences. Although Green Island is a very popular site, it does have some things of interest. The other option is Down Under and their half day helicopter trip to meet up with their big boat, Osprey V, anchored somewhere on Hastings Reef. All three options offer a semi-submersible ride, snorkeling and diving, just at different sites. Great Adventures offers another island and Down Under’s afternoon trip gives us a chance to maybe do the Kuranda train ride in the morning. I need to decide soon!

The last thing that crawled out of the emails on Sunday was from our guide for Cairo. Originally she didn’t want any money until the tour. She has had some no shows and now wants 20% down. That is no big deal as it is not that much money, but she wants it sent by Western Union. Having never sent money by that method, Dick had a bit of fun, or should I say frustration, trying to send the money today.

The DHL paperwork from Seabourn finally came right before the holidays started. As soon as I get the last of the dry cleaning and meds, I can finish the packing. Things seem to be working out OK. I have decided to take one more small bag with us to start. It will have some things that we will use up before we get to Africa where the luggage is aproblem. That has made things much simpler. It is amazing how heavy medicine is! We can just leave that bag at some point as we use up meds and send travel books back in the shipped luggage. Right now our carry onbags are at 15 pounds each and the extra bag is 12. The bag being shipped to Sydney is 27 pounds and the one to Dubai is 39 pounds.

Christmas was nice. Dick had a long weekend so we had plenty of time for good visits with friends and family. We also got some things done for the trip. We have a New Year's Eve party tomorrow so that will be a fun way to celebrate Dick being officially retired! Friday we go to the Travel Doctor at our clinic for typhoid shots and malaria meds plus what ever else we may need. Some of the time we will not be close to medical services. On Saturday we will go visit Robert's family at their lake house for some fun with the grandkids and some hunting for the guys. Then Robert will check our teeth before we leave on Monday. Tuesday, late, after we close up the house we head to Houston. Wednesday and Thursday are for last minute details there. We fly to San Francisco early Friday morning. When we post again , we should be in New Zealand....!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Counting Down

Five weeks from today at 07:00 we leave for one of our favorite cities, San Fransico, on the first of 21 separate flights on 8 airlines that will take us around the world! Most of the preparations are done. We got our Vietnam visas back in exactly one week in good order. So now all the visas are taken carry of! Dick has made arrangements for all the day to day stuff to be covered while we are gone.

We got our documents for the Tahitian Princes last Friday. The documents for Seabourn Spirit will be waiting for us in Dubai. I have reserved the ship’s DMZ tour for Inchon. We have private tour arrangements in the ports for Cains, Shanghai, Luxor, Petra and Cairo. The other ports we will get a taxi or maybe rent a car when we arrive and tour on our own.

All the rental cars and hotels are reserved for the land portions in New Zealand, Australia, Asia and Africa. A car is reserved for Europe, but no hotels, we plan to just wing it! We have our reservations for the famous Australian trains, the India Pacific (Sydney to Perth) and the Ghan (Darwin to Adelaide). The ferry from the North Island to South Island of New Zealand and the round trip ferry from Cape Jervis to Kangaroo Island, South Australia are also set. The final arrangements are in place for the three African safaris. However, I am sure there are details that we have over looked, but going with the flow and working things out on the fly are part of the adventure that is traveling!

The fact that traveling can be more of an adventure than expected was brought home very forcefully with the world unrest Thanksgiving week! Fortunately, Dick talked me out of including India in this trip. But we love Bangkok so we have 6 days there! We do not plan to change that at this point, but will definitely keep a watchful eye on the situation. If there is a problem we might have to fly from Hanoi direct to Siem Reap then to Singapore and then on to Johannesburg cutting out Bangkok, but I hope not! The Seabourn Spirit just completed her trip East bound trip through the Gulf of Aden in a French military convoy. They are taking no chances! That is good as we will be on the Spirit as she heads back through that area in April.

I have packed a 6 ½ pound rolling carry-on for each of us with the clothes we will need for the first segment, about 5 weeks in New Zealand and Australia. This will be our basic wardrobe for the whole trip. I have the bags at 15 pounds each plus a small case for the laptop, accessories and pair of binoculars for Dick to carry and a camera bag for our three cameras and accessories me to carry. Actually once we are through security we can put the small bags into the carry-ons since they are no where near full! We are restricted to only a 15 pound bag each, period, on several of the Africa flights so this has been a real challenge. Fortunately I found a travel vest with many pockets we can stuff with meds and other small needs. Dick has one already and I ordered me one.

This fall, we went to a National Geographic photography workshop in Santa Fe NM and had to take all our camera gear and two laptops plus all the accessories for both. Since our first big trip with seven pieces of big luggage, I have been trying to reduce the luggage to only a carry-on each! In the fall we traveled with two 8 pound standard carry-ons with clothes for the week and our laptops weighing in at 18 pounds each plus the fully loaded camera case. Dick carried lots of little miscellaneous stuff in the pockets of the travel vest. The vest is definitely not a fashion statement, but is a sure fired way to get a bit more precious weight allowance in the carry-on!

We have had the DHL paper work for the luggage we are shipping to the Tahitian Princess for two weeks. I am still waiting for the same paper work for the luggage we are sending to the Spirit. Seabourn kepts promising it will be here in two more days! The forth "two more days" came from this morning's phone call.

A piece of luggage is being sent to our cabin on the Tahitian Princess with the formal clothes we will need for the Sydney to Hong Kong cruise leg and the bug repellant safari type clothes for the Cambodia and African segment. It will be picked up on January 28th from the attorney’s office. This bag will then be sent home when we get to Hong Kong with the few cold weather things needed for the first part of the trip instead of the safari clothes. Another bag with cruise clothes and some replacements for the by then "well worn" travel clothes and safari clothes will be picked up at the office in late March and catch up with us on the Spirit in Dubai. I have packed and repacked these bags as they also have weight restrictions though more generous. I think I am happy with what I have put together for us. Dick has not shown as much interest as I would have liked...he will just have to wear what I brought! We can always add to while we are traveling and just give things away if we get too much.

We will visit the doctor after Christmas for the "medicine chest" we will need for 5 months. All the shots needed for the trip have been done. The last big one, Yellow Fever, was done for our trip to South America earlier this year. Meds are one thing that will go in the vest as they have to be available when we go through security.

Now I plan to sit back and enjoy the Christmas season. It is my favorite time of year. The good thing this year is that in trying to get ready for the trip, I got the shopping and the decorating done by last week! It is time now to enjoy the anticipation of our great adventure. I am sure both of us will send time mentally reviewing our check lists and travel plans to make sure we don't forget anything! But, of course, we will forget something.....It will be interesting to see what it is!