"" Writer's Wanderings: August 2020

Monday, August 31, 2020

Reminiscing: The Galapagos Adventure

 [Back in April of 2013 we traveled to the Galapagos Islands with Celebrity Cruise Lines. Our trip began in Quito, Ecuador. I'm going to enjoy looking back on it. Hope you will too.]

The sky was pitch black all around us. Earlier we had seen a red sunset stripe the sky above the clouds below us. I knew we were approaching the Quito airport as we’d been advised to turn off all electronics and my water bottle was slowly collapsing on itself.

I searched below for any sign of a city and saw nothing but eerie grayness punctuated by the flashing of the plane’s wing lights. I reached for a copy of the airline’s magazine thinking I still had time to peruse the pages. All of a sudden we felt a jolt and realized we were on the ground. The first landing strip light flashed by my window. I turned to Bob and his eyes were as wide as mine. Neither of us had even heard the landing gear go down, the last indication that the plane would land. It was as if we’d set down on the landing strip as a helicopter would.
Welcome to Quito, Ecuador!
Since it was 11:30 at night here there were few people other than our plane load to pass through immigration and customs. We did so and immediately upon entering the airport’s main area, were greeted by a cheerful Celebrity hostess who led us and two others to a small mini van for our ride into the city proper. The new Quito airport is about an hour from the main part of the city.
Like in the air plane, there was little to see along the way. Much of the time it was foggy or misty and our eyes too bleary to focus since it was approaching 1 a.m. our time at home and we had been traveling since mid-morning.
Our hotel, the JW Marriott, was a welcome sight. We were checked in by Celebrity Cruise Line already and needed only to pick up our keys and find our room. Our luggage followed us. The room was spectacular, a suite with a sitting room, a bedroom and a bath with tub, shower, and two sinks. Luxury.
It didn’t take long to slip between the smooth cotton sheets and fall asleep. It would be a short night but as we drifted off, we anticipated a wonderful day of sightseeing to come.

Friday, August 28, 2020

A Look Back: Mount Fuji, The Descent

 [A horse is a horse, of course--unless it's a lifesaver!]

The sun was climbing in the sky by 8 AM when the mountain guide and my granddaughter came to collect me from my mountainside hut where I'd spent the night. There was still a slight chill in the air and I had my hooded sweatshirt on. By the time we made it the short distance to where the others were waiting for me, I shed it and at the mountain guide's insistence I put it in my backpack.

The descent trail was loose lava gravel. Some places it was rockier than others and you had to be sure to plant your foot heel first. It was hard to remember sometimes. I think my son counted 33 switchbacks or so on the map he had on his phone before we would get to a more level place.

It didn't take long for me to let my granddaughter handle the backpack again. I felt badly about that but she didn't seem to mind and Bob had said that she'd been worried about me all night, asking if I would be okay. When her dad suggested she trek down to see, she decided I would probably survive.

Somewhere around the 25th switchback my knees were truly ready to scream out loud. Or maybe that was me screaming. I never imagined that the way down would be just as challenging as the way up especially since it was a gravel trail and not rocks to climb down.

With about nine more switchbacks to go, the mountain guide suggested I walk backwards. I'd seen some people doing that but I was afraid I would stumble and fall. He finally turned me around and took one arm. Bob took the other and to my surprise the knees didn't hurt nearly so much walking that way. But now I had a whole new problem. I felt disoriented in that position not to mention the fact that they were moving me more quickly than I wanted. I kept getting dizzy. My son saw what was going on and thanked the guide but took my arm in his place. At least then I could ask for a moment of reprieve every so often to stop my head from spinning. I was finding it easier to breathe though.

We reached a little more level area but were told we still had over an hour to go and it was going to cut it close to the time when our bus would leave at the pace I was going. Around a slight bend we found a couple of horses from the riding stable at Station 5. Apparently I was not the only one who couldn't keep up and they were an enterprising lot who made themselves available. It cost around $150 for a ride to Station 5 from there (close to station 7 I think). I stepped on a large boulder and one of the men took my leg and passed it over the horse where another put my foot in the stirrup. We started on down with a lady leading the horse.

There was still a little downhill section and a few small ups and downs along the way. The horse followed a little different trail until it met up with the main beginning trail that I recognized from the day before. It was not an easy ride. And it was not an easy walk for the horse. It stumbled several times as we hit an area with smooth rocks on a slight slant as the weather turned to a misty rain. Then, as we neared Station 5, the horse almost went down on one knee. I let go a little scream and the lady leading looked at me as if nothing were wrong. What was I screaming for? I patted the neck of the horse and hoped it knew how grateful I was.

Along the way we had passed several others from our original tour group easily recognizable by the orange and white ribbons we had tied on our shoes at the start. The mountain guide had let them all go on their own. I guess he figured we'd be the last ones down and if there were a problem with anyone else he'd eventually find out. Several made it to just past Station 6 where there was a horse pulling a wagon and opted to take the wagon to the finish.

Getting off the horse was precarious at the least. A two step platform was easy enough to reach as I slid off but I worried my legs would not support me. They did long enough though to get the change from the money my son and Bob had given me and to make my way to the nearest boulder that decorated the center staging area for tour groups. I sat and immediately felt my thighs begin to spasm. Between the slight chill from the rain and the pulling of muscles not used to being on the back of a horse I sat and shivered and watched the spasms come and go.

The tour guide who had probably arrived first came over to me to assure me my family was only about 15 minutes behind me. That was just fine. I wasn't moving for a while anyway.

Sure enough the rest of them showed up right on time. We collected clothes from the locker and boarded the bus when it arrived. Part of the tour also included a stop at a public bath, onsen. While I was desperate for a shower after sweating for two days and not having any water to even wash my face, I was almost tempted to take part. My granddaughter really wanted me to and couldn't understand why I wouldn't.

Me: Can I just take a shower and no bath?
Her: No
Me: Can I wear the towel in?
Her: No
Me: Sorry. Can't do it.

We did get a small washcloth and towel and I went into the women's side thinking that I would be able to at least wash my face at the sinks she said would be there. One look at all the twenty-somethings running around in the buff, sitting down putting on makeup, and drying hair, etc. confirmed my decision. I didn't need to expose a 60-something body amidst all that. Since the sinks were all busy, I let my granddaughter go on in and I found a restroom with no one in it where I could at least wash my face. It was a start.

Our trip home seemed really long and a few ladies were obviously offended when I sat next to them on the train ride from Tokyo station to where my son's apartment is. They pulled out their little hankies and put them to their noses.

We hit the shower directly and then enjoyed a wonderful salad and pizza that our daughter-in-law had prepared. I was grateful we didn't have to go out again. It was going to take a while to work out the aches and pains.

The only one who was sure he might go back and do it again was my son. I knew there was something strange about that child. Even his kids said never again but then they are young and there's lots of time to change their mind. As for Bob and me it's a been-there-done-that-don't-need-to-do-it-again thing with lots of great memories--many of which are painful.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

A Look Back: Sunrise On Mount Fuji

 [While I didn't make it to the very top (I was actually closer than I realized) I did get to enjoy the sunrise.]

Dots of lights in foreground are climbers.
As I lay in my sleeping bag trying to get a little more rest, I could hear the plod of climbers as they made their way past our hut. The sound of feet hitting the wooden deck told me that we must be getting closer to sunrise.

I crawled out once again from the bunk, donned my trekking boots (didn't want to break the rule for slippers) and watched the head lamps of climbers as they made their way over the rocky part of the climb. I couldn't imagine doing that in the dark with only a light at your feet shining from your forehead.

From my viewpoint at the hut just above Station 8 the sky began to lighten around 4:30 AM. By 4:35 there was some pink tinging the smaller clouds that floated above the thicker layer below me as I looked down the mountainside. I wondered how the climb to the top had been for my family who had gone ahead of me and stayed nearer the top.

My view from Station 8 hut.

What I would learn later was that the climb between where I stayed and their hut was not as bad as the two sections of rock climbing we'd done just before I quit. I still don't think I would have made it. There were steps and that never ending incline.

They reached their hut about 7:30 PM an hour after I was fast asleep. Dinner was waiting for them and consisted of (according to Bob) some sort of hamburger like meat with gravy over rice, a side of some sort of curry, and some sort of vegetable along with a bottle of water to drink.

Their sleeping quarters were much like mine but didn't have the pillow. Bob felt a little uncomfortable sleeping next to a stranger but on the other side of him was one of the kids.

The hardy climbers awaiting sunrise.
They were awake at 1 AM to get breakfast which was a covered plastic dish of rice with a little packet of meat and some other things that he decided he would just stick in his backpack in case he got hungry later. (On the way down our granddaughter would polish off his breakfast.)

At 1:30 they were making the last climb to the top. The good thing about staying in the last hut near the top was that the climb was not as long. The mountain guide took them on an easier path than the climb up the rocks on the last of the Yashida trail would have been. It was actually the descent trail they would discover.

Sunrise at the summit.
Arriving at the summit, they had time to enjoy something to drink (there is actually a small snack operation at the top as well as some restroom facilities) and take pictures as the sun rose. Their view was a little different than mine but not by much as I look at the pictures. The difference is that they could brag that they made the summit--well all of them except our nine year old grandson who was completely worn out and opted to sleep in until they would return for him.

The guide had told me that they would pick me up around 8 AM on the way down the mountain. I spent the morning watching others make the trek up and getting on Facebook a few times. Oh yes, there was WiFi. We had to keep turning off our phones though between usage as the batteries wear out faster at higher altitudes. It must be true for all batteries because at my hut they also sold various sized batteries for cameras--mostly AAs. I managed to message my son and found they were about five minutes from picking me up.

The caldera of the volcano.
Sure enough I saw them at the switchback near our hut and watched as the mountain guide brought my granddaughter with him on a side trail to get me. If I had known, I would have met them there and saved their extra trek.

"Shall we go?" His eyes twinkled.

Oh yes. I was ready.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

A Look Back: Sleeping With Strangers And A Toilet Challenge

 [Ah yes. This was what I feared most for our trip to Mount Fuji. Not the strangers, the toilet.]

Just inside the sliding glass door of the overnight hut a few meters above Station 8 the entry way was where you needed to take your boots/shoes off. Around it the floor of the small building was built up about eight to ten inches. I inwardly groaned as I realized I was going to have to sit down to take my boots off and then, horrors, I would have to stand again. When my one boot just didn't seem like it was going to come off one of the attendants actually pulled it off for me. I guessed my feet were swollen but I wasn't worrying about that right at the moment.

The English speaking attendant explained the procedure for my stay. It cost about $70 for the sleeping space and $5 dollars for each meal I wanted. I saw people with several bowls of food in front of them for dinner who were sitting Japanese style around a table that was only about eighteen inches high. It looked like way more than I wanted to eat coupled with getting on the floor and up again and since there was also a snack place available I decided to just get breakfast. I paid the attendant and he brought my change and began to explain the rules of the house.

Main room of hut.
No smoking inside. No eating in the sleeping area. Slippers (actually crocs) were available for use to go to the bathroom which was located across the walkway outside. You were not to wear them for star gazing. (This made me wonder since the only place to star gaze was outside between the hut and the bathroom.) No screaming. No setting an alarm to wake by. He would wake me at a time I wanted. Silence cell phones. Check out time was 6 AM.

I managed to get to my feet as gracefully as I could and tried not to scream at the pain. The attendant led me into the sleeping area which was off the main room and had a heavy drape covering the doorway. It was a narrow room with what I can only describe as two long bunks that stretched the length of the room along both walls. About four feet of walking space down the middle. There was padding on the bunks covered with a soft blanket-like material and along the back of each wall were sleeping bags rolled up with a small pillow in plastic accompanying each. I didn't think to count them but since I was assigned the fourth bag from the right and was only about a third of the way down the wall, I'd guess there were a dozen down each bunk, top and bottom, making sleeping space for 48 in that small room.

Most stops had western style toilets. Not this one.
Once the sleeping bags were rolled out there was about eight or ten inches between them. Several people were already asleep a few bags down from me. I sat on the edge of the bunk for a moment to catch my breath and think about what I was going to do. It didn't take long to decide. I was bone tired.

First a trip to the bathroom was in order. I padded in my stocking feet to the crocs, slipped a pair on and crossed over to the bathrooms. I searched the door to see if there was any indication of where the men's and where the women's bathroom might be only to realize they were one and the same. One wall held three urinals and the other three stalls. Okay, I thought, I can do this. I was the only one in there at the time. I opened the first stall and discovered a squat toilet. Second stall, the same. When I opened the third I realized there was no hope left.

Without being too indelicate here let me just say the first trip to the bathroom was not a welcoming experience. There is no way for a Westerner to do that when she's in good shape let alone when all of her joints and muscles are screaming in pain. I did get creative later which included a more successful trip using a leftover cup with a hole in the bottom of it. Think funnel. It worked fairly well. While there was a small flush mechanism on the toilet, there was no sink to wash hands, just a small hanging tank outside the door that you could push up to dispense a little water for your hands. I thought it might be disinfectant but it had no smell so I'm sure it was just water. All of this luxury was at a cost of 200 yen a visit (about $2).

Back in the hut, I rolled out my sleeping bag, grabbed my drier pants out of my backpack and slipped inside my bag to change into them. I figured I could take my shirt to the bathroom with me but I didn't want to change pants there and drag them through whatever might be on the floor. It was later I discovered that there was a changing area just at the back of our room that my attendant had neglected to tell me about.

The view from my bunk spot.
It was only a little after 6 PM but I decided I was too tired to even eat. I really wasn't hungry so I took out my contact lenses, wished for water and a sink to brush my teeth and then crawled into my bag. I went out quickly, woke a bit later as my neighbor lady crept into her bag and then fell sound asleep again. I slept until a little after 11 when nature called again. I inwardly groaned as I imagined the crawl out of the bunk and the toilet facility that awaited me. I made the trip pausing to stare at the stars for a moment.

I hadn't left a wake up call but I didn't want to miss the sunrise. I was awake again at 2:30 and thankful no one had taken the sleeping bags on the one side of me. It was easier to climb in and out and the lady next to me had encroached a little. I checked outside for a hint of a sunrise. Not yet. I thought I might eat my breakfast since it was supposed to be ready at 9 PM and I could have it whenever I wanted. I asked for it but then decided I would wait a bit. It was two buns shaped like croissants and a packet of warm rice with a bottle of water to drink.

I laid down for another hour but was too awake to fall asleep. I took my breakfast outside and bought a cup of coffee that was surprisingly good albeit expensive at $4 for a very small cup. The two buns were good but the rice did not have a very good flavor. I ate a few forkfuls and put the rest away. I figured I could eat one of the protein bars we'd brought along if I was still hungry later.

It was getting a bit chilly even with my thick hooded sweatshirt on so I went inside to the hut and sat next to the little pit where pieces of coal were kept burning in order to heat the branding iron that is used to burn a design into the wooden souvenir walking sticks you could purchase at Station 5 and collect designs at each station or hut--for a fee of course.

When I saw the promise of the sunrise in the morning sky, I went back outside with my phone to take pictures. I wondered what the rest of my family was doing farther up the mountain.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

A Look Back: Mount Fuji, Rock Climbing at 9,000 Feet

 [I say it again. I can't believe I did this. And for sure, once was enough.]

Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse on our climb, it did. We hit a spot where it was all rock and while not straight up, it required hand over hand maneuvering for any progress. How in the world would anyone make this climb with anything other than trekking boots?

At this point we were probably around 2800 meters (about 9,000 feet) up since Station 8 is at 3100 meters. The air was getting thinner and thinner. While I didn't feel any altitude sickness I did find it increasingly harder to breath and now we were exerting even more energy by hoisting ourselves up and over rocky protrusions sometimes with little to place your feet on firmly.

And then it began to rain.

My heart sunk. I could not imagine how much more difficult it was going to be if these rocks got wet and slippery. Thankfully it did not seem to get too bad. I think the fact that much of the loose rock was lava and the more solid rock did not have moss on it made the rain water just wet the surface and not become a sloshy mess.

Station 7
Note to anyone planning this climb or any other where rain gear may be needed: Do not rely on a rain poncho. We had bought ponchos instead of rain jackets and pants. We thought they would be easier to get on while we were climbing. They were but then any slight wind billowed them out and it was impossible to see where you were planting your feet. It would have been fine on the graveled trail but climbing the rock was a real challenge with plastic flowing out and around you.

Sometime in here when we took a short break my English speaking friend who had given me the oxygen tablets mentioned that Station 8 was not our destination. Our hut was actually the last one on the trail and was another hour and a half of climbing past the Station 8 hut. As I sat there trying to catch my breath and gauging the strength I had left (my legs were turning to jello and beginning to spasm) I made the decision to stop. I was not going to be able to do this for another hour and a half.

Our youngest climber was looking a little tired.
We called the guides over and asked about whether I could stay at the hut we were resting in front of for the night and join the group as they descended from the top the following day. Our friendly Japanese guide didn't try terribly hard to convince me to continue although I'm sure he would have enjoyed looking me in the eye again and saying, "Shall we go?"

The arrangements were made and my son and husband pooled their cash so that I could spend the night. They continued on and I was relieved to find an English speaking attendant at the hut who would explain the procedure for my stay. I began to relax for the first time all day.

Monday, August 24, 2020

A Look Back: Setting The Pace For Climbing Mount Fuji

 [I'll say it again. This is the most physically challenging travel excursion I've ever done. In all fairness though I was climbing with knees that were going bad and I was pushing 70.]

Station 6
One of the videos I had watched on YouTube was titled Climbing Mt. Fuji: 8 Hours of Hell. It was done by some twenty-somethings and it was obvious that they were not prepared properly. His regular athletic shoes fell apart and for some reason he didn't expect it to get cooler as he got higher or rain (actually most of the moisture is just climbing through cloud cover).

Our climb started with cloudy skies which was fine by us since the sun could have been merciless had it poked through. It was still very warm and humid and with all the energy I was exerting I was drenched in sweat. Now I know, women are supposed to glisten not sweat. Sorry this was a sweat drenching. My hair was dripping wet and my light weight shirt was sticking to my back under my pack.

When I got promoted to the front of the line I knew it was for a reason. I would be setting the pace and the mountain guide would be pressing me on to keep from lagging behind. One other lady who happened to speak English from living in the States for a while was promoted as well although she was in much better shape than me. On one short break she asked if I wanted some oxygen tablets and some liquid oxygen in my water. She smiled and said the guide had told her that if she thought the tablets and liquid made her feel better to go ahead and take them. She touched her head and said, "So even if it's up here at least it might make us feel better." I took them. A little while later, all in my head or not, I did feel a little better.

Taking a short break.
About this time, the guide looked at my granddaughter and told her in Japanese to carry my backpack. She took it without a protest. She didn't have a backpack. Her dad was carrying all their stuff on his back. I felt so bad giving it to her but she is as tall as I am and certainly much younger. After a while, seeing she handled it pretty well (she was even hopping over some of the steps in our path) I felt a little relieved and certainly began moving a little better without it but it wasn't long before I began wearing out again.

I think we took a few more breaks but they were a little shorter. It was nice being in front because then I got a little more rest waiting for the rest of the group to get to our rest spot. Soon we settled into a little ritual. When it was time to start up again the Japanese mountain guide would come to me look me in the eye, smile, and say, "Shall we go?" "Shall" would be drawn out a little slowly and then the "we go?" was a bit staccato. I realized later that it was the cadence of the Japanese language coming through.

His question and his smile didn't bother me but there was this twinkle in his eye when he said it that made me wonder. Was he amused? Or was he trying to kill me on this mountain?

Friday, August 21, 2020

A Look Back: Beginning the Mount Fuji Climb

 [If my Florida grandson had known we were visiting another active volcano, he would have lost sleep over it. We didn't tell him. He had lectured us when we visited Mt. Etna on how dangerous it was. We didn't tell him until we got home.]

Mount Fuji is a volcano. Yes, an active volcano. There are notices that if an alarm should go off you should immediately change direction and descend. This gave my granddaughter pause for a moment but actually bothered my young Florida grandson thousands of miles away even more. He had lots of warnings for us the last time we were visiting a volcano and his dad said he was worried when he found out about the Mount Fuji climb.

Standing in the center of the plaza at Station 5 on Mount Fuji we listened to our tour guide introduce our mountain guide, an older gentleman who began by telling us several things that seemed contrary to what I had learned previously about higher altitudes. Don't drink too much water and don't use the oxygen that we had purchased in the event of altitude sickness.

Our mountain guide.
A few days previous to our climb we had visited a sports shop in Tokyo and purchased oxygen in a can that resembles an air horn only doesn't make more noise than a hiss when you hold it to your nose and press the release button. The use of that oxygen, our guide said, would fool your lungs into thinking you were at a lower altitude and you would not breathe as deeply as necessary. I took his word for it but thought that at least if we really felt bad, we would use it.

The water issue was hard to believe though and I wondered if something had gotten lost in translation. I'm a big water baby. I drink a lot normally. And when we visited Quito, Ecuador, we'd been advised that we should drink an ample amount of fluid, mainly water, to fend off the effects of altitude. All the preparation lists had said to take plenty of water or be prepared to buy it along the way at the huts. I figured we'd see how it went but I wasn't backing off my water.

It was expected that we would climb for six hours. Wait! Six hours? What I had read and saw on YouTube said it was only a two hour climb to Station eight. So I figured we must be going very slowly. Good news for me. I knew I'd be slow.

We started down. Yes, that's right. Down. The first part of the trail actually went down for a spell before starting it's incline. Once we started climbing there was no more level ground except around the stations and huts. It wasn't long before I was huffing and puffing and falling behind. The trail wasn't bad and had some steps in spots but it was unrelenting in its incline.
This was the easy part.

The tour guide who was bringing up the rear of our group to be sure no one was left behind came up to me with all the enthusiasm of the college-aged kid he was and asked if he could carry my backpack for me. I declined. I know. I'm stubborn but I hated to put my burden on someone else. I persevered.

And I drank more water.

And then I was promoted -- to the front of the line.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

A Look Back: Climbing Mount Fuji

[ The most challenging travel adventure I can remember was climbing the iconic Mount Fuji. While it is not a steep grade (except for maybe one small area, it is a constant grade ever upward. The whole object is to get to the top by nightfall, stay in one of the lodges and then watch the sunrise. Of course then it's all downhill which no one told me would be even more physically challenging. I did it with two bad knees that weren't any better after all of this. Still it was with our son and grandchildren and I wouldn't trade the experience for anything. Here's the first post from then.]

Some time ago when we were planning our trip to Japan to visit our son and his family, we casually threw out the suggestion that we should all climb Mt. Fuji. The idea grew and so we packed clothes we thought appropriate for the climb and bought trekking boots and a walking stick for me and our son and his wife looked into booking the trip.

Thankfully they planned the climb for several days after our arrival because we were going to need all the energy we could muster. The youngest granddaughter stayed home with mom but our nine year old grandson and twelve year old granddaughter thought they could make it so the five of us woke up early Thursday morning and set off with our backpacks for our rendezvous with the tour bus.

Station 5 - The starting point
We took the train to the Tokyo Station to meet with our tour group. We checked in with them and then were taken to a staging area where people were divided into more groups and assigned buses for the trip to the mountain. Our tour guide tried to talk to us in English and was doing fairly well but was totally relieved to discover that our granddaughter spoke Japanese and would translate. (Our son speaks fairly good Japanese but relies on her for the correct forms to be polite.) The guide led us to the "orange" bus (which he said clearly) and we got into our assigned seats.

Already in the clouds.
The bus trip was a little over three hours with an interesting stop at a rest stop along the way. It was a huge place, lots of cars, trucks, and buses. There was a large restroom with a board at the entrance that lit up to show which stalls were open and which were occupied. There had to be at least 40 or more stalls. But of course there was a line for the ladies. Our granddaughter discovered that one whole corridor of stalls was closed for cleaning and that was what had made the line.

Supplied with a few snack purchases from the mercantile, we boarded the bus again for the rest of the trip out into the countryside and up the mountain. The land was so beautiful outside the city. Lakes and water and lots of trees. The ascent by bus to the starting point of our climb, Station 5, began and our experienced driver took us up the switchbacks with ease.

The expedition crew (my son took the picture)
We arrived at Station 5 around 11:30 or so and checked the bags of clothes into a locker for changing after the trip (something I'd neglected to plan on). At the restaurant, we had lunch. Mine was a delicious miso soup with nice chunks of vegetables in it. Soon we were taking a deep breath (we were already at about 2400 meters--around 6,000 feet) but the altitude didn't bother us too much--until we started climbing.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

What To Write About When All Trips Are Cancelled?

 So okay, this is supposed to be a travel themed blog. I've often stretched the point to include life's journey and other related travel ideas. I'm running out of inspiration. The Cleveland Metro Zoo has been the biggest travel adventure the last month and I didn't know if anyone would really be interested in more pictures of zoo animals. Let me tell you though, traipsing through the zoo in the middle of summer with a mask on is quite a physical challenge for this "elderly and vulnerable" person. 

This COVID thing had better end soon. I have finished up most of my unfinished projects, managed to start and finish a few more and I'm running out of closets to clean. Bob is worried I might start on his "man radio cave." I've read a 32 book series of historical mysteries and then some. I don't think I've ever read this many books by this time of year even when we did our World Cruise. I wish I could say I've been productive writing my own but for some reason I've found it difficult to concentrate enough and find the thread I need to finish my work-in-progress.

It has been interesting though to see how some of the cruise lines have tried to keep their clientele interested. Many of them have come up with virtual cruises and enlisted their signature chefs in videos of creating their signature dishes. On the other hand, there are a lot of groups/forums complaining about getting their refunds from cancelled trips. Who knows when or how the cruise lines will be able to start up again. There is a lot of speculation on what kind of changes may be coming to try to prevent any virus scourges. 

Well, if you're still with me here, I'm going to resort to reposting some of my favorite trips. For me, it will be fun to look back again. I hope my readers will enjoy the look back as well. Tomorrow: some of my favorite posts from Japan.

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