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Just to Let You All Know . . .

Hello dear friends and family members. We just want you to know

that Carolyn and Mary Jane have arrived back to South Carolina

on Tuesday, January 21, about 11:30 PM.  We are sorry we were

unable to take you on an exciting journey around South America,

but sometimes things are just not meant to be.  Mary Jane had

hoped to catch up with the ship in Santiago, but plane schedules

and ship schedules did not mesh together to make it feasible.

We want to thank you all for your uplifting comments and best wishes

during our difficult ordeal in Panama. We met some very amazing people

along the way. And it will always be our Unforgettable Adventure.

 

Unforgettable Journey (part 3)

We have reached a new milestone. The doctors allowed Carolyn to be discharged from the hospital; however, she must stay near by in the hotel until Monday the 20th when she will meet one more time with the pulmonologist for his final okay to resume our trek homeward.

Carolyn has been told to rest and to stay on her blood thinning regime. Though it is hard to stay focused and engaged, she is reading her Kindle, playing Sudoku, as well as walking around the hotel room counting her steps. I have kept busy talking with the insurance company, updating our older sister back in Michigan, running errands to the pharmacy to get medical supplies and prescriptions filled for our journey home, and trying to keep the doctors on track filling out the status reports that have to be filed with the insurance company on Carolyn’s progress. I find the doctors hate to fill out the questionnaires.

Carolyn misses her little dog Eddie terribly. We keep in touch with Abby Bird (who is caring for Eddie during the trip) asking for pictures of him that will make her smile. She is just supposed to rest.  She never thought of resting as boring, but she says it definitely can be!!! 

 

The hotel across the street from the hospital is quite nice and they offer families with members in the hospital to stay for just $90 per night. From the looks of the hotel from the outside I thought the rate would be closer to $300 per night so the special rate accommodations were a wonderful surprise. 

The hotel is a high-rise with up to 28 floors. Thankfully we are only on the 17th floor and even that floor gives us some moments of pause when it feels like we are swaying with the ocean’s waves when we walk across the room.

Our room overlooks the banking district in Panama City and the sky scrapers are unique in design and covered with ornamental lighting which presents a colorful array as the sun goes down.

This hotel is a true 5 star hotel when it comes to the service and food. We have enjoyed some Panamanian inspired cuisine which has been creative and delicious.

We especially appreciate the included morning breakfast buffets which include many bowls of fresh grapes, pineapple, melons, papayas not to mention every flavor of fruit juice you can imagine.  All the artisan breads are made at the hotel as well as the unique miniature dessert cakes.  Omelets and waffles are made to order in any flavor you desire.

Unforgettable Journey (part 2)

Panama City is a major metropolis with many streets and avenues winding their way through parks and major banking regions. There are many man made humps in the streets that control the speed at which the cars may travel. Thus our slow travel time from the port to the hospital.

The emergency room staff got Carolyn situated in a curtained area of the treatment hall. The nurses stripped off her clothes, then re-clothed her with the usual backless hospital gown. Then they inserted a port in the left wrist (ignoring the port already placed by the ship’s medical staff in the right wrist) to draw vials of blood and to facilitate, if need be, the injection of contrast for her CAT scan. She was then left alone with screaming children on the right side of her, a snoring man on the left, and operating theater lighting overhead on maximum. There were monitors loudly beeping every 40 seconds which were driving Carolyn crazy. Finally they moved her into the walled gynecology room where she was able to rest a little. Thank goodness no one showed up to deliver a baby.

At last, the hospital doctor reviewed the records that had come with Carolyn from the ship and it was determined she needed a CAT scan to establish a treatment plan. We were informed that the scan would cost $900 and we needed to pay up front. This is about 9:30 in the evening. I told the staff that we had to get approval from the travel insurance company first before we could authorize the scan. However the hospital was unable to get the the insurance company on the phone for me. Time was getting tight for me to make the payment before I had to leave to catch the last tender back to the ship which was scheduled for midnight, so we took a chance and and put the cost of the scan on her credit card. The scan was scheduled for about 11:30 PM though I would not be there as I was scurrying back to the ship.

Before Carolyn received the results from her scan, she was visited by two women who wanted her to pay a deposit on her hospital bill in the amount of $8,000. Before I had left Carolyn there on her own, I warned her not to sign or agree to anything until I got back the next day.  And the next day, when I returned from the ship, I was asked to pay a $15,000 deposit. Because the women earlier had only asked for $8,000 we figured we had some wiggle room here. So the negotiations began. We went round and round for quite some time bargaining back and forth. In the end we got the limit to be

$8,000 which included an upgrade to a single room in the main part of the hospital.

About 4:00 AM the doctor visited Carolyn with  shocking news: She had a large blood clot in her right lung. The next day the pulmonary specialist told Carolyn that many people in her situation would have died. He also said that the quick diagnosis and activation of a treatment plan by the ship’s physician saved her life.

UPDATE ON CAROLYN

Carolyn is feeling much better. She continues to be on blood thinners and will continue for about 6 months. She has started some physical therapy and will be discharged from the hospital on Wednesday January 15th. At least that is the plan for now. She will stay in the high-rise hotel that is across the street from the hospital and then have her final followup visit with the Pulmonologist on Monday January 21st.

When we will arrive back in South Carolina I am uncertain as it depends on flights, necessity for oxygen, and immigration issues with Panama.

Carolyn is very thankful for all the people who have worked so hard to make her well. All the prayers and best wishes from our friends makes times such as these easier to bear, knowing you are there for her.

We wanted to go back to the ship, but we thought it best to concentrate on getting Carolyn home safely. Our extra luggage is finishing the cruise for us in our stateroom and will be sent back to SC when the ship arrives in Manaus Brazil.

Love to you all ~

Mary Jane and Carolyn

Unforgettable Journey (part 1)

All of our preplanning for this trip did not prepare us for our newest adventure . . .

When we got off the tender in George Town in the Cayman Islands, Carolyn suddenly had a great deal of trouble breathing. But after 5 minutes of rest she was ready to visit the shops, checking off our To Do List.

People we met in the Caymans were very friendly and we enjoyed our walkabout in the harbor area. We tendered back to the ship and enjoyed the evening with our gregarious table mates, LuAnn and Mack from Mississippi.

After breakfast the next morning, we walked from the elevator to the lecture auditorium to hear the talk on the operation of the Panama Canal lock system. Just before entering the hall, Carolyn again experienced very serious issues with breathing. There was a chair nearby  where she sat until she could get her breathing under control.

We enjoyed the lecture, but as we left the auditorium, we decided Carolyn should visit the ship’s infirmary. The nurse was quick to take Carolyn’s vitals. The only abnormality was her pulse-oximeter reading was  very low at 81.

The ship’s infirmary is set up as a complete Intensive Care Unit with 3 beds. The physician began running other tests and Carolyn was passing every test with flying colors except for one of the blood tests that measured the coagulation factor in the blood. That test was a disaster! We do not know all the technical jargon, but the reading for someone Carolyn’s age should be around 700, but her reading was above 4,600 – – – In other words she was in real trouble! She was immediately hooked up to an oxygen tank and given blood thinners as well as antibiotics.

The ship’s doctor was quick to say that Carolyn needed to be in a hospital; however, the ship was scheduled to navigate the Panama Canal lock system during the next day so we would have to wait until 8 PM Friday night when the ship would be at anchor off the Panama City port.

We suddenly realized we had many decisions to make and each one had its own ramifications.

Friday night arrived. We met at the ship’s infirmary as there was a second passenger who also needed evacuation. His problem was a broken hip. Masterfully the ship’s crew managed to get both patients safely onto the tender along with family members and miscellaneous pieces of luggage. When the tender reached the dock, there were two ambulances waiting to transport each passenger to the hospital. It took us over an hour to reach the hospital because of the traffic congestion even at that time of night.

Itinerary for 77 Days Around South America on ms Volendam

 

Just a quick post for you to see graphically how this trip looks as a map. As you see we still have a long way to go.

Thanks to all of you who are following the blog. Please feel free to comment as we sail along.

Mary Jane and Carolyn

77-day itinerary

Ships Descend on Cayman Island

Tendering to George Town Cayman Island

On Tuesday, along with 5 other cruise ships, we descended upon George Town in the Cayman Islands.  Our ship, ms Volendam, carries approximately 1,400 passengers whereas the other 5 ships carry far more.  Our shore excursion director made the statement that morning there would be so many travelers/tourists on the Island that day that we would outnumber the residents.

We took a tender to shore for a walk around the water front shops and to pick up some small items we had on our list. I needed a hat and finally found one in a local shop. As I was speaking with the proprietor, we got on to the subject of the effect of so many cruise ships visiting this small island community.

There seems to be an underlying “rumble” among the locals due to the fact that they feel they are losing control. One of the major cruise lines wants to build a port in George Town, making it exclusive to their cruise line which, is logical if they are paying for the construction. 

However, the effects on the George Town small businesses would be dramatic. In essence, the cruise line would control the type of goods sold, based on the budgets of arriving passengers. With the emphasis on the budget level consumer, high end products (i.e., designer jewelry and clothing, Cuban cigars, and professional skincare products) would be incompatible with the demographic offered by the cruise line passengers, hence the retailers would have lower profit margins and would not be able to meet their monthly operating expenses. There is talk of a referendum being held to determine who controls this beautiful island’s future.

 

Obidos ~ The Town of the Queens

The Travel-in-Portugal.com website tells us about Obidos’s romantic history that makes it even more endearing: “Perched on a hill rising out of an agricultural plain, Óbidos is one of Portugal’s picturesque gems. From its lofty center, one gazes upon expanses of vineyards speckled with whirling windmills and terracotta-roofed homesteads. Nearer, narrow cobbled streets, lined typically with whitewashed, bougainvillea-draped houses, wind up to the walled interior.

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First remarked upon for its beauty by the 13th century Queen Isabel de Aragon, Óbidos was presented to her as a gift by her romantically inclined husband, King Dinis. Henceforth, princes have offered it down through the ages to their brides.

The castle crowns the town and now houses guests in its luxurious rooms. In past times, however, this was a formidable medieval fortification. It was won back from the Moors in 1148 by the king and his men, apparently disguised as cherry trees, and lovingly restored after extensive damage in the 1755 earthquake.

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 Equally interesting history is attached to the renaissance church, the Church of Santa Maria, where Prince Alfonso V married, in August of 1441, his cousin aged ten and eight respectively.

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The ramparts are traversed through an ornately tiled gateway and few vehicles bother negotiating the ancient streets, making it ideal for mooching around the higgledy piggledy houses and walkways that in spring come alive with a cascading array of brightly colored flowers.

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Local crafts, delicacies and liqueurs abound in the traditional shops that line the main street, including the famed local tipple Ginginha, a sweet brandy liqueur made with local cherries.”

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Taroudant Morocco Souks and Medina

Capturing the essence of life centuries ago in Taroudant requires no imagination as not much has changed there in a very long time under many dynasties. Taroudant developed as an agricultural center far from the crowded cities. In this area they grow cotton, rice fruit, vegetables and sugar cane. The distinctive essence of this quiet town is found in its souks (markets) located in the Old Town medina area – among the most colorful in Morocco 

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 The first place we stopped was a shop where they showed us how they made Argon oil by getting the seeds out of a fruit and hand grinding them to make oil. The oil was then flavored with herbs and scents and sold as cosmetics for the hair and skin, as well as to use in place of olive oil in salads and cooking, or to consume as an elixir that could cure or help you with just about every medical challenge you might have.

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 There is a quirky side to the Argon oil story. The Argania tree itself has rough, thorny bark and crooked branches. According to the articles from the Internet, “the tree produces an annual fruit crop and it is this delicious morsel that attracts legions of local goats that hop up into the branches to pick the fruit and nuts. The animals stand on the impossibly precarious branches and get down to their seasonal feast. Far from just a single ambitious goat climbing a single tree, the animals tend to swarm into the branches in number.”

 Our bus did not go to see this phenomenon, but other buses did, so we wanted you to see what it looks like to have goats in a tree, so here is a glimpse of life that you will see only in this area of Morocco.

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PIX Copyright Viralnova.com

 

Back to our visit in Taroudant . . .

 The streets in the medina were narrow and shared by pedestrians, horses, donkeys, bicycles, pushcarts, and motorcycles.

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On the way to the souks we were fascinated by the pushcart hardware store. Seems he had everything there, but you just have to dig to uncover it.

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 Also many blankets laid on the side of the streets with very odd assortments of “treasures” that were hawked to the passersby. 

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 We reached the village square to find the snake charmer was there, drumming up business for his snake-handling act. His unwilling participants were three or four cobras and a couple of rattlesnakes, none of which were friendly. We “stole” a couple of snapshots and went into the nearby souk.

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The souks are not laid out on a grid pattern and you wander from one building to another and turn down aisles that are not straight at all. The sales people aggressively promote their goods and promise each and every one of us that “he” would give you the best deal if you just bought from him.

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 We left the souks with a few purchases, and worked our way back to the buses, encountering a number of interesting faces along the way.

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 We next stopped at one of the city’s ancient palaces, now transformed into a luxury hotel, where we relaxed for a few minutes and enjoyed a cup of delicious mint tea with honey before our drive back to the port city of Agadir.

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Before reaching the port we made a quick detour up to the Kasbah high above the city that also overlooked our ship in the harbor.

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Historic Windows and Doors of Las Palmas

The last two Canary Islands we visited are Gran Canaria and Lanzarote. Each is similar to the others, but also different. Nearly half of those who live in the Canary Islands reside in Las Palmas on Gran Canaria, making this city the fifth most populous in Spain.

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Las Palmas enjoys a mild climate year round, making this destination pleasant to both live in and visit, attracting millions of tourists each year. One of the sights we enjoyed seeing was the Cathedral of Santa Ana. Gothic, Renaissance, and Neoclassic architectural styles are all present in the current design.

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  The church is located in the historic district that provided us with many opportunities to photograph the different details of the historic buildings.

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La Laguna to Lunar Landscapes

Leaving the port of Santa Cruz on Tenerife Island in the Canaries, we walked fifteen minutes along the tree-lined promenade to catch the tram that whisked us up the mountain to the historic city of La Laguna. The city dates from 1500 and its original layout has remained intact since its construction and it has been a model for many cities in the New World.

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Iglesia de Concepcion tower across from tram station.

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We found the old city to be a picturesque locale to spend a Sunday afternoon exploring.

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Museum of the Arts that features beautiful architectural details

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La Laguna City Hall

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Tree clothes for winter

Steeple bells

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Neighborhood streets

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Our view of the port as we returned to the ship.

Barb opted to visit the countryside.Tenerife is the largest of the seven islands in the Canaries, drawing about five million tourists each year. The island was created volcanically, and is home to the world’s third largest volcano, El Teide, which is 12,270 feet high. This volcano’s most recent eruption was in 1909.

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The foothills of Mt. Teide contain areas covered by pine trees.

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The terrain in other areas appeared as lunarscapes 

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As well as rocks and valleys

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Much of the volcanic rock we saw was surprisingly colorful: black lava, red, and green rocks of various sizes and textures, through which the road was cut.

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An extensive multi-national research facility, located near the top of Mount Teide, is used to study volcanoes and volcanic activity in this area and elsewhere. Through the use of electronic equipment and satellites, researchers have learned to predict volcano eruptions by measuring temperature changes and seismic activity.