Watching the boat being built and providing input to day to day decisions does not take up all our time. We wanted to make sure we took in some of the local culture, so we plan trips (such as our game lodge trip).
Last weekend we traveled to the lovely town of Franschhoek, we stayed in a wonderful B&B with some of the largest rooms we have ever seen in a hotel, anywhere in the world.
We also spent the day being delivered from one farm to the next onboard a Tuk-Tuk, which is a great alternative to driving. Another alternative would be to take the wine tram, but we shied away from this given COVID.
We did wine tastings at five sites, ate some amazing food, purchased 47 bottles of wine (at some of the best prices we have ever seen) and had a great time! You can watch the video we made of the day, and see the impact of the wine throughout the day.
If you find your self in South Africa, anywhere near Cape Town, make an effort to visit Franschhoek, you will not be disappointed.
You may have heard us mention that we are launching a new video channel about our adventures onboard a new 55 foot catamaran that is being built in South Africa. Well, the day has finally arrived and the first video is online now. We will be delivering a new video each week. We hope that you will enjoy the channel and help us spread the word about it. The first video is just over 16 minutes, so grab a glass of something refreshing to drink, get comfortable and don’t forget to subscribe so you won’t miss an episode!
After our extended quarantine in Mexico and a nice house sit in Arizona, it is time for us to move on to our next big adventure!
On Friday November 6th: we are traveling to South Africa where a beautiful new 55 foot catamaran is being built by Knysna Yacht Company. When it is eventually completed, we will move on board and become the live-aboard caretakers for this handsome new yacht.
Right now the boat is still ‘on the hard’ at the builders location. It will go into the water in mid January and we will move on the boat a few days after that.
A bit more about this sailing catamaran: it is being built for, and owned by, our Australian friends Ray and Tania Smith. It has four cabins, each with it’s own shower and toilet. To say that this boat will have all of the modern conveniences would be an understatement; we are definitely looking forward to it.
So what does live aboard caretakers mean? Well in short, we will be on the boat to make sure it is taken care of and delivered to wherever Ray, Tania and their son Eddie want it to be when they get ready to use it. Bonnie will look after the care and feeding of the passengers on board, George will take care of all the regular maintenance and repairs and we both will take our turns sailing the boat during our ‘watch at the helm’ while we’re in transit.
What can you expect from us going forward? We will be producing LOTS of new video blogs; these will include adventure videos, sailing logs and how-to videos on repairs and etc. In short, pretty much everything we do on board will become the subject of a blog story or video.
So whether we are sunning in the Caribbean, lounging in the Med or moving the boat from one location to another, you can track our adventures, learn about the gear we are using and just see what we’re up to on board this new vessel called “Private Island”
As we prepared to (finally!) leave Mexico, our friend Van took us on an excursion to the Agua Termales (hot springs) in Puertecitos about 90 km south of San Felipe. We drove about an hour south from the house, paid the 200 pesos entrance fee and turned into a pretty shabby looking settlement of houses and outbuildings. As we drove up to the springs we had a gorgeous view of the Sea of Cortez.
The springs themselves are a carefully created set of pools, built into the hillside, each slightly higher than the last. The hot springs feed directly into the top spring, bringing the water temp to a scalding level. This scalding water feeds down into the lower pools and finally directly into the ocean.
At low tide each of the pools are isolated from the ocean water and are thus all quite warm. As the tide rises the pools begin to fill with sea water and the thus become cool enough to sit in and enjoy. The trick is to move up the hill to each successive pool thus staying in the balmy water.
As noted, the highest pool which is fed directly from the hot springs and is scalding hot. The only time you can sit in this pool is when the tide is at is peak and washing enough cool water in to make the temperature manageable and it is lovely.
As you might have already guessed, as the tide turns and begins to go out, the top pool gets increasingly hot and eventually you are forced to move back down the hill to more suitable temperatures.
Since it was a full moon, the tides were very dramatic while we were there. We hopped from pool to pool while enjoying a cool beverage and, in general spent a lovely day in the Agua Termales!
Now that the list of house projects has dwindled and the dune buggy is purring, I’ve had some time on my hands (thanks COVID). So I decided to try my hand at creating a time lapse video. All of the images were captured on my GoPro Hero 5 Sessions mini cam.
I did not have a tripod, so I borrowed a floor lamp from the house, clamped the GoPro to it and set it up on the rooftop deck.
After a bit of setup, I got the cam to take 1 high resolution image every 5 seconds, so ended up with 1,300 photos at 1.2 meg each. I imported all of the images into the Luma Fusion video editor and merged them into a video. From there, I color corrected (Bonnie said I got a little too much purple in the sky). At this point the video was still more than 20 minutes long, so I had to shorten the length of time each image was shown until I got the length down to about 1 minute 30 seconds.
I needed to add some music, so I searched around in the library of license free music on YouTube until I found an audio clip I liked, imported the audio into LUMA fusion, shorted the clip and tailed off the audio at the end of the movie.
Finally I produced the video, as a high resolution file and saved it. I must say that the high resolution file looks much more impressive than the one with all the compression that happened when I loaded it to YouTube, but it still looks pretty cool….
When we planned a quick visit the the states to visit family and friends between house-sits COVID was still just something happening in China. As we got on the plane in Liberia, Costa Rica, the virus had starting spreading and by the time we reached Washington DC we realized that we needed to make some major adjustments to our schedule. We cancelled visits to family who were considered at risk and headed south. After short stops in Shelbyville and Atlanta we landed in St. Pete Beach where we spent several weeks quarantining with our friends Leslie and Becky. Our next house-sit in Costa Rica cancelled, but we decided follow through with our planned trip to San Felipe, Mexico and headed to San Diego.
After a quick conversation with Christopher and Van about where we were heading and how COVID was affecting our plans, they generously offered the San Felipe house to us for as long as we needed. Two and half months later, we’re still here….
So about San Felipe: we are staying in an amazing home on the beach called Casa Aramara, it is in a quiet gated community about 25 minutes south along the coast from the actual town of San Felipe. The “house” consists of a main house with two bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms. Out front is a courtyard bordered by 3 guest rooms and 2 more bathrooms. Beyond that is a three car garage that houses a dune buggy and other toys such as a collection of four wheelers. The community is gated with a 24/7 guard, has two pools, a hot tub and tennis courts. Our backyard is the beach with the Sea of Cortez as the backdrop.
While we are here, George has keeping himself busy puttering around the house working on this and that. Bonnie has been experimenting with new recipes. The increasing heat during the day has slowed us both down. Daily highs of more than 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 C) have encouraged us to adopt the slightly slower pace typical of this region.
We can’t begin to express our gratitude to Christopher and Van and Connie and Mark for allowing us to quarantine/shelter in their beautiful home. It has been a spot of tranquillity during the craziness that has been occurring in the world – while it seems like the world is on fire, we’ve landed in paradise….how surreal.
One thing we have learned in our travels is that none of our house sits are ever the same. This is very true of our last couple of sits in the enclave of Sanctuary Cove in Northern Australia when compared to the one we are on now. For the last three weeks we have been looking after a beautiful home in the Northern Highlands of Costa Rica. The house is in the very small mountain town of Tronandora. It is located on a high hill with amazing views of the local lake.
Lake Arenal is now the largest lake in Costa Rica. We say now, because previously the town of Arenal was situated in a lovely valley, the town was moved to higher ground so that the local power company (I.C.E) could flood the valley and create a lake to power it’s hydro-electric plant. The lake covers just over 89 square kilometers (33 square miles) and varies from 60-80 meters deep (200 – 250 feet) deep depending on the season. It sits at bout 2,200 feet above sea level. At the east end of the lake is an active conical volcano that is 5,480 foot high.
We are living in a very modern farm house, on a large section of very hilly property. We wake to the sounds of cows mooing and wind chimes. Given the elevation, the weather is lovely and cool, it is also extremely windy here. In addition to the two domestic dogs, the owners advised us expect visits from monkeys, armadillos, iguanas and hedgehogs. We have seen a white faced monkey and George is planning on strapping on his headlamp one evening and going in search of a hedgehog. He has been trying to find one ever since we visited Portrush, Northern Ireland.
Our charges are Emma, an 8 year old golden retriever and Mae a 5 year old foxhound. Each day we load them up in the car and set off into the hills. Once we find a convenient spot to pull off the trail (calling it a road would be a misnomer) we let the dogs out and enjoy a lovely hike. Emma wastes no time finding a suitable stick and for the whole walk, we throw and she fetches. Mae waste no time with stick fetching and would rather romp in the high grass in the fields. Worth nothing that Mae’s unusual name is a Costa Rican slang word which is equivalent to the west coast word “dude”. Emma and Mae’s humans are on a safari in Africa and have been sending us texts with wonderful photos.
As we have a car on this sit, we are able to explore the surrounding area. We have found several local restaurants including a local microbrewery, appropriately named Lake Arenal Brewery L.A.B. We have heard mixed reviews about the attached hotel, but we can report that there beer in the brewery was well made, the food delicious and the staff and customers extremely friendly. A big should out to crew members Gabby, Dennia and Jason.
This will not be a our only house sit in Costa Rica. Once we leave here we will be heading to the USA and then Mexico for about 3 weeks visiting family and friends. Afterward, we head to the beach town of Tamarindo Costa Rica where we will spend 8 weeks looking after a dog and two cats.
Holy cow, how is it almost March already! We’ve been much busier then you’d think, considering we’re retired now and have “nothing” to do.
In December, while house sitting in some lovely homes with adorable pets, we spent Christmas and New Years in Sydney, Australia. George and I haven’t been here together since we left after our expat assignment in 1994. We were thrilled to be able to catch up with so many friends. We had Xmas dinner with Tom and Ya, spent time with Sally and Bryan (who we haven’t seen in about 25 years) and New Years Tom and Ya’s place in Potts Point with Jade (2 years in a row, now).
In mid-January we flew up to the Gold Coast for two more housesits. We started out in Ray and Tania’s newly remodeled manse. This is where we started our retirement and housesitting career in December of 2018. It was great to be back!
Our second sit in sanctuary Cove was with friends we met last Dec while sitting for Ray and Tania.
We moved the their place in early February and had a thoroughly enjoyable two weeks hanging out with Dougal and Ralphie, and spending time with Tania, Ray and Eddie.
With our Ozzie “vacay” over we headed off for our next housesit in Costa Rica. Let me tell you, it’s a long way from here to there! We left the Gold Coast on Feb 20 and out flights went like this:
Gold Coast > Sydney > Honolulu > Los Angeles > Minneapolis > Liberia (the city in Costa Rica, not the country in Africa). Along the way we lost a day and all track of time.
We decided to take a day out and recover from the 30 hour journey at a mountain spa. It was a lovely place, but honestly, we hardly even had a chance to explore it – we slept for 13 of the 20 hours we spent there ??♀️. We’re now settling in with Emma and Mae (pronounced My) in a beautiful home in a very small town in north western Costa Rica. The coffee is great and innovative views are amazing!!
It’s hard to believe it has been a whole year since we (Bonnie and George) sold our home in Southern California (along with almost everything we owned) and hit the road. Since then we have traveled to 13 countries (some more than once) slept/stayed in 28 different cities and logged more than 50,000 air miles.
During that time, we have learned a few tips and tricks that we are happy to share with others. Hopefully they will come in handy whether you are a road warrior or just an occasional traveler. If you have other tips, or tricks, you’d like to share, please add them in the comments below.
Take only what you will use or can’t get easily at your destination: Now more than ever, travel cost is affected by the number of bags you take and the weight of those bags. We have our global travel kit honed down to a total of six items. Each of us has a 20 kilo roller bag that can double as a backpack, a small backpack to carry or for day trips, and an instrument case.
We both carry a “luxury item” in our roller bags. For Bonnie it is a rolled canvas set of kitchen tools including chef’s knives, a whisk, spatula etc. Bonnie cooks nearly everywhere we go, and there is nothing more frustrating for her than a dull kitchen knife. For George it is a small foldable 120 piece tool set, with extras like duct tape and zip ties. In the last year he has rewired small appliances, replaced a kitchen faucet, repaired locks and tightened countless handles of pots and pans.
There are some travel days when we question the value of lugging our instruments in their hard travel cases, but there has never been a week during the year we have not played music. The instruments provide us with a sense of constancy in an otherwise turbulent world. We also know from previous travel experience if George went to long with out a guitar, he would go out and buy one locally.
On the other hand; there are things we have purged along with way, like shoes, both of us are down to one pair of Suavs, everyday shoes which can be thrown in the washing machine when they need it, a pair of flip flops and a pair of beach shoes (many of the beaches around the world are made up of sharp rocks/shells or blazing hot sand). Pro Tip: Put dryer sheets in your shoes when they are not being worn to keep them fresh
In short: if you are not positive you will use it… leave it at home.
Travel Electronics: Electronics these days are small light and powerful. We have compiled a set of sites and apps that allow us to read books, watch movies/TV, do our banking, blog and stay in touch. at the core of our gear is an iPhone and iPad each. We also carry the obligatory chargers, earphones and cable accessories. One of the best things we have found and use constantly now is an adapter that goes from lightening to HDMI. This little goodie allows us to stream music and videos from our apple devices to any monitor that has a HDMI adapter. We streamed The Rocky Horror Picture show to a large wall-mounted TV in Transylvania, we showed karaoke style music lyrics for a sing along in England and we have watched all seven seasons of the great British Baking Show on screens around the globe.
One more hint, most travel sized devices are powered and/or charged via USB. Invest in a USB hub and you won’t need to worry about multiple power adapters for every country you are in, just one for the hub.
Low Priced Flights are Not Always Cheaper in the Long Run We previously mentioned that we have a total of 6 bags, only two of which are typical carry-ons. In many cases we find that it can be cheaper overall to pay more for a larger carrier airline that includes a baggage allowance (usually either 20 or 23 kilos per person). But, in some cases, the cheap flights plus the extra fees for baggage are a better deal as long as you book your extra baggage online prior to arriving at the airport. Speaking of which, if you are traveling with a discount airline, always print your boarding pass and bring it with you, believe it or not, will charge for printing your pass, and many airlines charge a much higher premium for bags not booked in advance.
Credit Cards and Airline Point Programs We cancelled all our other credit cards and got a single VISA card (many places around the world do not take American Express). We chose our Visa card very carefully to make sure it included excellent services for travelers, we use the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. It costs about $400 per year, but each year we get an annual $300 travel bonus (we get an immediate credit for the first $300 of travel related expenses). They also have an amazing point system that awards triple points for all travel related expenses, no foreign transaction fees and no ATM fees (if we are charged one anywhere in the world, Chase credits it back). It goes without saying that it is best to pay the total balance every month and avoid any finance charges or interest fees.
By having only one card and using it for everything we can (we try never to pay cash if we can help it) we rack up thousands of points each month. These can be used to book discounted flights, hotels and other services through the Chase travel program. The same holds true for Airline points programs. Leverage airline alliances to combine points whenever possible.
Be Nice to The Airline Staff It has always boggled us to see people get huffy or be rude to the people at airline check in desks, especially given that these people have the ability impact your trip. A cheery smile, a kind word or a sympathetic comment about someone who was not nice to the attendant goes a long way. During our year, a polite rapport with airline check-in staff has saved us hundreds of dollars. Little things add up, a bag that weight just a little bit over the 20 kilo limit can be ignored. The guitar in the hard case can be checked into the hold or gate checked at no extra cost. Seat upgrades, being booked into a three seat with no one in the middle, exit row aisles or just being able to sit together are all at the discretion of the check in person or gate agent. Be nice to them, and (almost every time) they will be nice to you.
One of our other tricks is to purchase a nice box of chocolates to be presented to the member of the flight crew that greets you as you board the plane. Flight attendants work hard, get lots of hassle and very little recognition. A box of chocolates and a kind word (both of which can cost you less than ten dollars) can put a smile on the entire flight teams faces. Over the year we have really enjoyed thanks, smiles and sometime extra perks awarded to us by the flight teams
When Booking a Room, Look at Detail Whether you are booking a hotel room, Airbnb or something else, check the details. If it is a hot area, does the place have air conditioning? Is it on the ground floor, is there an elevator (or lift as they say in England). What area of town is the place in, will you feel safe? How were the reviews from previous travelers? Does the quoted price include all extras like water, power and internet? Each one of these questions are based on lessons we learned the hard way this year.
Research Your Travel in Advance There are so many fiddly little rules that can catch you by surprise. Just a few examples include: groups of countries and that band together and limit the amount of days you can spend in them in total (a great example is the Schengen region of Western Europe). If you want to stay more that 90 days in Thailand, you must organize a visa from within your home country. When you travel into Malaysia, you need to have proof that you have booked your tickets out of the country. If you fly to Australia to have to apply for a tourist visa online prior to your travel date.
House Sitting Works Great House sitting is an amazing way to live like a local, get a pet fix and save a lot of money. We have been using Trusted House Sitters and are really pleased with them. We already have more than 140 nights of free stays booked in Australia, Costa Rica and Mexico for next year. That adds up to thousands of dollars in savings. Pro tip, the better your reviews, the more bookings you get. Be a great house sitter, rack up good reviews and watch how much easier it becomes to snag the choice opportunities. I know this sounds like a no-brainer but we have heard some real horror stories from home owners.
We are still ‘learning as we go’ but after a full year of travel we are feeling confident that we can handle pretty much anything the road has to throw at us.