Khaya Umdani…An exquisite opportunity…A respite in another area in Marloth Park…Our temporary new home…

Khaya Umdani is a six bedroom, five bathroom stunning bush home fully embracing the integrity of African culture while providing a luxury environment befitting the expectations of both the seasoned traveler and those less traveled, seeking the comforts of stylish and easy living.

It’s not that we weren’t happy in the other house. We were rather content. But, our fabulous hosts, Louise and Danie suggested we experience a few of their other properties to review and share with our worldwide readership. Over the next several days, we’ll share our experiences as residents of Khaya Umdani.

We couldn’t have been more thrilled and appreciative of this opportunity, especially after we arrived at 10:30 yesterday morning for Louise’s expert tour of this upscale home, most likely one of the most desirable properties in Marloth Park.

This veranda is where we’ll spend our time for easy viewing of the massive grounds, a combination of the dense bush with a few open spaces for wildlife to run. This shot reminds me of a scene in the movie “Out of Africa” which we watched a few months ago while in Kenya.

Nothing was spared in the design and décor of this luxury home with six bedrooms, five of which have en suite bathrooms. Each bedroom is aptly named befitting this unique bush location and in some cases, includes a story surrounding past wildlife experiences on the property which we’ll share soon.

Packing yet again, including clothing, toiletries, food for meals, drinks, snacks, and digital equipment was challenging in yesterday’s heat and humidity apparently typical as South Africa moves into February, comparable to August in the northern hemisphere. Today, it’s cool and pleasant after last night’s rains.

This is the oversized eight-person table where we’re sitting as we write here now, overlooking the ‘double pool” with a shallow and deeper depth suitable for all. Chaise lounges to the left await us as soon as the sun appears after a much needed rainy night. 

Once we were unpacked, securing all of our food supplies from a potential monkey invasion, Danie stopped by to ensure all of our needs and comforts were met, showing us how to use the first gas grill we’ve had access to since leaving the US many moons ago. 

We brought along two frozen uncooked chickens and we were delighted to see an “American” type grill over which we all laughed as Danie removed the cover. The convenient modern kitchen has every possible amenity including a wine cooler, a dishwasher and a wide array of small kitchen appliances, few of which we’ve had in any of our vacation homes outside the US.

To the left is the open braai (fire pit) suitable for cooking or a bonfire with a stone seating area. To the right, is an enclosed wood-burning braai with a stainless steel sink and every possible rack and utensil. The yard is this area is “gently” fenced to keep nosy visitors from occupying this area while preparing meals.

In addition, the cupboards were impeccably stocked with spices, coffee, teas, and every imaginable dish, knife, flatware, bowl, container, and pot befitting the most ambitious cook. 

Tomorrow, we’ll share photos of the well-stocked interior of the cabinets, an unbelievable sight to see.(We’re waiting for the sun to appear for brighter interior photos). Only Louise‘s fine taste and detail orientated demeanor could create such pleasing and useful spaces. 

And for the less savvy braai cooks, here is the “traditional” and delightfully, familiar gas grill on which we’ll cook tonight’s dinner, roasted chickens on the electric spit. 

In South Africa, the wood-fired open braai (fire pit) is a daily means of cooking that for most citizens, is more of a tradition than a necessity, a reason for friends to gather to partake of the local beer and wine, for which South Africa is known. Add a variety of delicious grilled and stewed grass-fed meats, a few starchy side dishes and a South African meal is ready to enjoy.

Khayi Umdani offers features we experienced, in part, during our past two months in Marloth Park, including daily maid service, dishwashing if desired, laundry service, and maintenance. Every possible means of providing relaxation and comfort are afforded by it’s guests. 

The attention to detail in the finest of amenities is reflected in the lovely locally made table on the veranda.

Louise suggested we leave our breakfast or prior night’s dishes for the staff to handle the next morning. We never leave dirty dishes overnight. But, the staff is on hire in any case and prefer to be kept busy than standing around from 7:30 am to 2:30 pm each day as they work about the house attending to every detail. They are unobtrusive, quiet, and respectful, never causing us to feel that they are underfoot.

With Zeff only, coming to the other house twice a week, we were more than satisfied. Knowing how much we’ve liked him, Louise and Danie ensured he’ll be here for us during our time in Khaya Umdani. What service! The quality of service provided by Louise and Danie and their staff fined tuned to perfection, is comparable to that which one would find in the finest of five-star resorts and hotels. That quality of service follows through from our smaller house, all the way to Khaya Umdani and other fine properties owned and managed by Louise and Danie.

The natural stone pool is meticulously maintained daily.  The water is crystal clear.

Already scheduled to dine out when we moved in on Thursday, I had wished we were dining in. The moment we feasted our eyes on the massive dining room table with seating for 10, we knew a home-cooked meal was imminent. Also, the square oversized dining table for eight on the veranda holds an enormous appeal for us, where we’re seated now as we write here. The temperature has cooled and we’re blissfully relaxed.

Today, we’re sharing exterior photos of the house with interior photos following over the next several days.  Tonight, once the beautifully appointed dinnerware is filled with our homemade “grilled chicken,” veggies, and salad, we’ll take photos to share in Saturday’s post along with more photos of this exquisite vacation/holiday home as we experience the endless areas offering the utmost of comfort, style, space, and amenities. 

These sturdy swing chairs are actually very comfortable.

So far, we’ve seen a number of warthog families, tentatively approaching us curious as to our motives. Soon, they’ll see that we respect their environment and that they need not fear our presence.

The private watering hold attracts wildlife from all over the area. During heavy rains, this “creek” is filled with water.

As always, our eyes continue to scan the grounds for even the slightest movement, anticipating full well, that more visitors will arrive in these surroundings. Although we’re only a few miles/meters from the other house, perhaps a few of our favorites will wander our way. One never knows!

Our first warthog visitor with two babies, the mom giving me “the look” that says, “Did you bring any pellets with you?”  “Yes,” I said, “We certainly did,” as I ran to the kitchen for a handful.  Khaya Umdani, heavenly!

 

Flight info from South Africa to Marrakesh, Morocco…29 hours of travel time if no delays…Yikes! We’re moving to a new house for the weekend…details tomorrow…

 

02/28/2014 – Departure   2 stops
Total travel time: 19 h 50 m
custom air icon
Johannesburg
Cairo
8 h 0 m 
JNB  9:45pm
Terminal B
CAI  5:45am
+1 day  
Terminal 3
 
Egyptair 840
Economy/Coach (Q)
| Seat 28K, 28H |
Confirm or change seats with the airline*
Layover: 3 h 25 m
custom air icon
Cairo
Casablanca
6 h 0 m 
CAI  9:10am
Terminal 3
CMN  1:10pm
Terminal 2
 
Egyptair 847
Economy/Coach (Q)
| Seat 24K, 24J |
Confirm or change seats with the airline*
Layover: 1 h 45 m
custom air icon
Casablanca
Marrakech
0 h 40 m 
CMN  2:55pm
Terminal 1
RAK  3:35pm
Terminal 1
(Arrives on
03/01/2014)
 
Royal Air
Maroc 803
Economy/Coach (U)
| Confirm seats with the airline *

 

Price Summary
Traveler
1: Adult
 
$711.70
Flight
 
$468.00
Taxes & Fees
 
$243.70
Traveler
2: Adult
 
$711.70
Flight
 
$468.00
Taxes & Fees
 
$243.70
Expedia Booking
Fee
 
$14.00
Total: US $1,437.40
ZAR $15,305 

In order to begin the above flight for our trip to Marrakesh, Morocco on February 28th, we must also fly from Kruger/Nelspruit Airport to Johannesburg Tambo Airport in South Africa at another cost of ZAR $2036, US $191.21 which we booked yesterday. We’d booked the longer leg of the journey in early December.

Our combined cost for all four flights is ZAR $17,341, US $1,628.60.

With the airport in Nelspruit quite a distance, we plan to have Okee Dokee pick us up at 2:30 pm (14:30). With road construction and Friday afternoon traffic, an early start is necessary.  Plus, there’s a two hour time change from South Africa to Morocco. Our arrival will feel as if it is 5:35 pm (17:35) to us when we finally arrive.

Including picking up our baggage in Marrakesh, going through immigration and customs, and the drive to our rental home, we’re estimating an additional two hours. In total, we’ll be traveling for 29 hours. That is if there are no delays and/or missed flights due to delays. There have been substantial delays on most of our flights thus far. We shall see how it goes.

You may ask, “Why are we going to Cairo, Egypt in order to get to Morocco?”

As you can see, Morocco borders Algeria in the upper left, and yet Egypt is located in the upper right of Africa.

In a perfect world, we’d fly from South Africa at the southern tip of the map, directly to Morocco. Nope. Not possible, unless one charters a private plane, an option definitely out of our budget.

When we began the planning of spending almost a year in Africa, we knew getting to Morocco was challenging.  In every case in our planning, we’ve checked flights in advance of committing to the rental of a property.

The key to making this lengthy travel time bearable will be our ability to sleep for a few hours on the flight during the night, on the eight-hour leg from Johannesburg to Cairo.

Neither of us is good at sleeping sitting up. Neither of us naps during the day, naps in the car, or doze while watching a show or movie. When we’re tired, we go to bed. We can only hope that the flight isn’t crowded (we expect it will be) and we can find a way to sleep. If we don’t, we’ll have a tough next day. But, in the realm of things, a day after we arrive, we’ll be rested and it will all be behind us.

Two and a half months later, when we leave Morocco for Madeira, we’ll have a much shorter flight, under three hours. Madeira is located off the coast of Portugal which is shown on the above map as above and, to the left of Morocco.

On the flights to Morocco, we’ll have to collect our baggage up to four times, going through customs twice. This is a daunting task even with our greatly reduced load. With everything we own in two large suitcases, two medium bags, two laptop bags, and one duffel bag, this isn’t easy. 

Tom does most of the hard work due to my bad shoulder, especially when none of the airports have the “tubes” in which to gain access both on and off the planes. As a result, he ends up hauling a huge amount of the carry on load up the long and steep flights of steps from the tarmac to the plane. He dreads this part. I dread this part for him.

There it is, folks. This nomadic life we live is not always easy. However, once we get through the hard parts, we relax, making a concerted effort not to worry or anticipate problems. Instead, we do everything we possibly can do, over which we have do have control.

The rest, over which we have no control? We have to leave it to chance, hoping and praying for a safe transition, choosing not to worry while we revel in our remaining 29 days in Marloth Park.

The inconveniences? Well, they go with the territory.

Note: Check back tomorrow for photos and stories of the new digs we’re moving into for the weekend, a luxury vacation home! Can’t wait!

A grand solitary visitor…Planning our upcoming departure…A goal of low stress travel…A funny photo…

 

Yesterday morning while writing on the veranda, I heard a “thump, thump” and alerted Tom, to look up, and once again, we had the most exciting visitor, a solitary giraffe. We’d assumed he’d stopped to munch on the treetops enabling us to take some photos. Alas, he dashed out of the yard so fast that we weren’t able to take another photo. It was the third time we’ve had giraffes in our yard. Heavenly.

It’s hard to believe that in 30 days, we’ll be leaving South Africa, heading to Marrakesh, Morocco, where we’ll live for 2½ months. Unquestionably, it won’t be easy to leave Marloth Park, to say goodbye to all of our friends both human and animals. 

These three baby warthogs, our familiar “Three Little Pigs” anxiously needed some liquid sustenance from mom after we shared some pellets with them.  Thirsty, they nursed with the one shown sucking a nipple from behind her butt.  We laughed at this tender sight.

Life in the bush with all of its challenges provided us both with a unique experience, one we’ll treasure forever.  But, “moving on” is the lifestyle choice we’ve made and we do so with excitement and anticipation of that which is yet to come. We have absolutely no regrets. 

On our way out to dinner last night at dusk. Wildebeest and zebra, who often hang out together.

The preparations to move on aren’t overwhelming by any means, but must be accomplished in an orderly and concise manner. Our motto remains forefront in our minds, “Wafting through our worldwide travels with ease, joy, and simplicity.” 

Stringent advance planning results in lower levels of stress, always our objective. Besides, the airlines create enough problems of their own without us adding more due to a lack of careful planning. 

We diligently prepare for the following, none of which is particularly time-consuming or difficult once the flights have been booked:

  • Flight arrangements/baggage restrictions
  • Packing, while complying with all baggage restrictions
  • Airport transportation arrangements at both ends, including the necessity of going to an ATM at the final destination for cash in the local currency
  • Online discussions with the owner/property manager to ensure everything we need upon arrival will be awaiting us: access/keys to the property, bedding, towels, bar soap, toilet paper, and bottled water. We require enough basic “hotel” supplies to get us through the first several days.
  • How do we arrange for meals and snacks as we settle in? Assessing nearby restaurants and grocery stores with a ready means of transportation.
  • Visa requirements. All of our previous visa requirements have been met at immigration upon entry to our final destinations with the exception of Belize, which required renewal every 30 days. Morocco doesn’t require a visa for US citizens entering the country for under 90 days. We’ll be staying for 75 days.   

Having booked our flight from Johannesburg to Morocco, a convoluted red-eye mess of multiple stops and layovers, today we’ll book the short flight from Mpumalanga/Nelspruit to Johannesburg, a portion of the flight that must be booked separately.

Tomorrow, we’ll share the details of the complicated and the only means of getting to Morocco from South Africa. It’s not comparable to the US, Europe, and other parts of the world where one can book a single flight from one big city to another big city.

It’s another scorcher today. We only lasted five hours on the veranda seeing no less the four Warthog families.  Plus, we had about 25 Helmeted Guinea-fowls hanging out with the warthogs. Lots of laughing over all of their playful antics. 

Tonight, we’re off to a birthday party in Marloth Park. Should be fun!

Happy day to all.

“Small Things,” all new…A world of miniature vegetation and willife…All creatures today…Small things in life…

How perfect can nature be to create this symmetrical creature we captured on the sliding glass door at night?

It’s the small things in life that may be among our most dreaded experiences; an unkind word, a lump found on our body, an email with bad news, a wasp sting, a lost piece of jewelry or at times or hearing the simple word “no.”

Impossible to shield ourselves from these seemingly “small” scenarios, most of us live with the intent of accepting these possibilities, not allowing them to immobilize us, keeping us from the joy of living. 

And yes, the “big things” loom heavily in our hearts at times in our lives; a life threatening illness or injury, the loss of a loved one, a divorce or separation, the loss of a job or financial stability and more.

A butterfly catches my eye on the long walk down the driveway.

 

A recent first sighting of a baby tree frog. Could this be a result of an earlier foam nest over the pool? He’s sitting at the end of the hose that we use each day to add more water to the pool which has a leak.

The second showing of this photo for those who may have missed it, when we had dozens of grasshoppers hanging out in our driveway for almost a day.  They were munching on a piece of cabbage we’d left out.

It’s amazing that any of us can function at all with these possibilities facing us at any given moment. But, we do. Some of us with aplomb and a passion for living with nary a care in the world and others with a chronic sense of doom, stripping their lives of meaning and fulfillment.

Then, there’s the rest of us in the middle, gauging when worry and fear are necessary to inspire us to be cautious or occasionally being fearful when a situation is thrown in our faces.

For most of us at times “small things” monopolize our thoughts, more than the possibility of big catastrophes.  Awakening in the middle of the night for no reason at all, my mind wanders to a list I keep in my head of possible small worrisome things, ticking them off one by one.

This centipede has small insects living on it. Double the freakiness.
We discovered this colorful insect in the grass when we toured the Panorama Route a few weeks ago.
We found this bug in the house. We opened a window, sending her on her way.

“Is there a snake on the floor if I get up to go to the bathroom? Will the lightning hit the thatched roof while we fumble for the keys, left on the nightstand next to Tom in order to unlock the gates on every window and door to allow us to get outside? Did I forget to close the drain in the bathroom sink to prevent centipedes from coming in? When will I feel like doing the taxes for 2013?”

It goes on and on. But, somehow I fall back to sleep, awakening in the morning, full of energy, enthusiasm, and gratefulness for the opportunity to live yet another day. Bolting out of bed, I begin the familiar routine of preparing myself for the day all the while filled with a sense of lightness and anticipation. What pleasure and purpose will this new day bring?

The “one day at a time” philosophy adopted by many recovery groups easily applies to all of us, in recovery or not. In reality, we’re all “recovering” from something; a bad childhood, marriage or relationship, the death of a loved one, the loss of a dream or, the personal goals of letting go of anything that isn’t good for our bodies and souls. 

We discovered this insect on the veranda which was approximately 4 inches, 10 cm, long.

We’ve seen many varieties of geckos including this wider version. We ignore them when they’re inside the house. They leave white poop droplets everywhere.

Living one day at a time gives us peace and comfort, leaving behind our failings and mistakes from the past while embracing the possibility that tomorrow will be a better day.

Again today, we share more “small things.” Not insignificant. Not meaningless. It’s all a part of the life cycle that we share with endless generations of evolution, God (or whatever higher power you may believe or, not) and, Mother Nature.

“Small things,” whether in our environment or in our thoughts, are all a part of who we are, our purpose, and ultimately, who we choose to become at the end of the day. 

One morning, I discovered this live bat in the kitchen sink, perhaps injured. Tom scooped it up in the dustpan and let it outside. Bats no longer make me cringe. They eat mosquitoes.

 

“Small Things,” all new, a world of miniature vegetation and willife…More small creatures tomorrow…

It’s hard to believe that this is actually a flower on the Sickle Bush which we found in our garden a month ago. No longer do we see them “blooming” but we were grateful to have seen these two flowers.

Today, we’ll first share the “Small Things” in the vegetation category including some “Small Things” wildlife photos as you scroll down. Tomorrow, we’ll continue the most exciting of the all-new “Small Things,” wildlife photos. Please check back.
At first, I didn’t think these flowers on the Sickle Bush were real!

Since our first “Small Things” post on December 13, 2013, we’ve continued to search for wildlife and vegetation of the minuscule variety. With much excitement, we share these with you today, some beautiful, others frightening, and some merely curious.

After searching through no less than 1000 photos I could not find the name of this flower. If you look closely it appears to have a face toward the upper center. If anyone is aware of the name of this flower, please write.

There’s a miniature world that the human eye cannot see. If only we had access to the necessary equipment to explore that world freely. Perhaps, in time, technology will provide us with affordable digital equipment for the average user to see the smallest forms of life.

From research online, I believe this is a variety of the Aloe plant.

All of the photos we’ve posted here today were taken in our garden. Had I been brave enough to venture further into the dense bush without a trail, I’m certain I’d have found many more “Small Things” of interest. These were found in a short distance into the bush.
 Although I looked at hundreds of blue wildflowers growing in South Africa, here again, I wasn’t able to find the name of this wildflower.
As I take this walk often several times a day, my first consideration is to keep a watchful eye for snakes that may slither across the road. Once I feel assured that there are no snakes in the immediate area, I am able to stop to head into the tall grass to take photos.
These lilac puffs are gone now as of a month ago when summer arrived.  Now, that the heat of summer is here there are few flowers.
These past days, we had a considerable amount of much needed rain. This morning as we sit on the veranda, the sun peeked out shooting up the temperature in a dense layer of humidity.

 The simplest wild daisy stands out in the bush.

The heat from the single mug of coffee I have each morning, makes me feel all the hotter. But, at the moment we’re inclined to stay outside. Our current visitors consist of a mom and three fast-growing baby warthogs, a flock of 12 Helmeted Guinea-Fowl, another mom and four baby warthogs, all regulars. They co-exist rather well, as we often giggle over their innocuous interactions.

 This small aloe plant intrigued us with it’s “eye” in the center.

In the pouring rain on Sunday, the Helmeted Guinea-Fowl stopped by much to our surprise. Most of the wildlife stay undercover during severe weather. Their dripping wet blue faces and matted feathers elicited a sad moan from me. 

 Ms. Turtle scooting across the edge of the driveway. We’ve spotted her in the same general area of the garden on several occasions.

We humans are fortunate that we have the brain size to have overcome a life of living in the bush like animals. How we’ve evolved! Sadly, in the process of our evolution we’ve managed to reduce the available habitat for wildlife to continue to thrive. I could easily get out my soapbox on that topic but for today, I’ll remain quiet.

 Yikes!  What in the world is this?  We saw it while on the upstairs veranda on a nearby tree.
Watching it for several days without change, one day it was gone. Notice the tufts of hair growing
along some of the edges.

Today is an unusual day. At noon, Okee Dokee will pick me up for the almost half-hour drive to Komatipoort to purchase more data and a few odds and ends at the grocery store. This will be the longest time Tom and I have been apart since we left Minnesota almost fifteen months ago.

Gee…what will he do while I’m away?

Oh, what a night!…Way too much fun!…Tom’s South Africa haircut…at last! A rare visitor…a great dinner…

 

“We’re not moving! We’re waiting on the others!” We didn’t mind a bit. We’d have gladly waited for any amount of time.

There are times I say to myself, “Oh, please, this is too much fun!” Then again, I realize that both of us are easily entertained. Really. 

An interesting insect or sighting of a turtle walking across the garden has the ability to captivate us to the point of squealing with delight once we can let out our breath.

“We’re coming! We need a few more bites before we join the others!”

We were always like this. Only then, we didn’t have access to this degree of almost constant stimulation.  Whether it’s the sound of Lions roaring, the pleasant bubbly sound of hippos as we lie in bed at night, or the shuffling sound of a creature atop the roof, the pleasure only seems to stop when we’re sleeping.

“Hold onto your shorts!”

It’s ironic that this constant state of being “on the alert” and the sheer engagement when we discover yet another wonder, by 10:00 to 10:30 pm, I’m practically falling on my face. Tom is not far behind.

And still, the others had yet to join them while they anxiously looked their way. At this point, traffic was backed up and as soon as there was an opening, we were on our way, our faces hurting from smiling.

Yesterday and last night, one of many days and nights, we had a particularly delightful time. The heat was unbearable as a storm brewed, the air was thick was visible humidity. We lasted outdoors for five hours finally throwing in the towel, heading indoors to the loft with AC.

Yet to visit our yard, a mom and baby Wildebeest watched us drive by.

Due to the excessive heat, the AC wasn’t able to keep up. The lines frequently clog with insects, caused water to start dripping into the house. When this occurred, we had no option but it turn it off. With AC in both bedrooms, I decided it was a good time to go into our bedroom, turn on the AC and read my book. That didn’t last long.

Definitely not pretty animals, but, all of them are cute to us.  Although it’s been very hot here in the summer months, we’re grateful we’ve come during the birthing season, seeing many babies.

Fearful of missing something, a short time later I turned off the AC, shut the door, and looked outside for visitors. What if we missed something else? We’d had a great morning as shown in yesterday’s post.

We were so excited to get this shot of one of the two monitor lizards living in our yard.  This photo was taken at the hottest point in the day.  Louise and Danie told us that they’ll swim in the pool from time to time. We’d have loved to see that!

Having left prawn shells (shrimp) and a raw egg for the mongoose (they eat snakes), I was thrilled to see the monitor lizard eating the last of the prawn shells and then taking the raw egg with her to the hole in which we occasionally see her and her mate slither in and out.

The monitor lizard, a rare visitor, headed to the ground on the opposite side of the pool to check out the eggs that she laid a few weeks ago. As mentioned recently, it may take up to 300 days for the eggs to hatch depending upon conditions such as weather and attacks by other animals.
This occurred so quickly that I had no time to get the camera. A half-hour later we found the monitor lizard contemplating a swim in the pool, the long tongue darting in and out of the water. As a result, we captured these photos from inside the house. These Lizards are very skittish. If they’d seen us they’d be gone in a few seconds. They move quickly.
Tom, outside the salon where he got a haircut on Thursday.

At 6:30 pm, as the sun began to set, Okee Dokee picked us up to take us to Jabula Lodge, our favorite restaurant in the area. Not only is the food fantastic, but Dawn and Leon, the owners, present every time we arrive, make our dining experience comparable to a party each time. The chatting and laughing between tasty bites adds a playful element that drives us back, time, and again for more.

Tom, awaiting his turn at the salon for his haircut appointment.

On the way to Jabula Lodge, we stopped many times to take these photos. Although not as clear as I’d like since taking photos from a moving vehicle at dusk is challenging with our type of camera. However, we couldn’t resist sharing these today. 

Tom with his new haircut getting ready to eat that huge vertical stick of beef known as Espetada. I wasn’t thrilled about him eating the chips (as they call fries in Africa). But, I kept my mouth shut and didn’t comment, as usual. He said the meat was delicious. I had perfectly prepared grilled chicken, veggies, and Greek salad (sans dressing).

After the laugh-fest at Jabula Lodge, we headed home, watched a few shows on my broken-monitor laptop, and headed to bed. The worst of the storm had passed, the temperature had dropped considerably and a good night’s sleep was imminent. Another good day.

 

An interesting frequent visitor..Too hot to handle…Kevin came to call…

 

Fairly frequent visitors, the Helmeted Guinea-fowl family stopped by yesterday afternoon. Check out the “fluff” around the neck. What a gorgeous shade of blue, not often seen in nature.

Perhaps, it’s the heat of summer. This is comparable to July above the equator. The heat and humidity are unbearable, especially in the afternoon. The flies are equally annoying. Our visitor population is down considerably in the heat when wildlife tends to stay undercover during the day hiding in the bush to stay cool.

On either side of the face are two hanging red-tipped hanging pieces of skin. When the Helmeted Guinea-fowl moves about, these swing around as would a pair of dangling earrings.

It’s early morning now. Our hot cup of coffee adds to the sweating, causing our skin to glisten with perspiration.  Having lathered myself with repellent each morning after a shower, I notice the accumulation of the white lotion and sweat in the crook of my arms no more than 10 minutes after getting situated on the veranda.

The adorable chicks are growing fast, but won’t exhibit signs of the blue skin on the heads for many more months to come. They run very fast, following the parents when they leave, who mate for life, unlike many of the animals.

This morning there will be no long walk down our driveway to the road, leaving a trail of pellets. The heat of the sun is more than I can handle this morning, especially when the flies swarm me as I walk down the path. I don’t think we’ll last long outside today. 

Yesterday morning we left out shrimp skin and tails for the carnivorous monitor lizard along with a raw egg.  This Helmeted Guinea-fowl checked them out but had no interest. Later in the day, I peeked out the door to find the monitor lizard eating the last of our offerings. But, she rapidly slithered away before I could get the camera. We’d seen her digging in the dirt by the braai as we were leaving for our road trip. Most likely, she was making a hole for her eggs, which won’t hatch for up to 300 days after fertilization.

As for inside, there is only one room, beside the two-bedroom that has AC where we can cool off, the upstairs loft. With the high vaulted thatched ceiling, it never cools down much.  But, it does cool down enough to make it bearable.

We counted eight adults and three babies Helmeted Guinea-fowl, two of which weren’t visible in this photo. We can’t freely move around when they visit since they will run off, and I mean RUN! They are fast on their feet! 

On days such as these, I remind myself of Kenya with no AC in the bedrooms, no living room to escape to, in order to cool off. I clamp my mouth shut and as always, we don’t complain. What’s the point?

This morning, I looked up to see Kevin, the largest kudu in Marloth Park, named by its residents, staring at us while standing by the braai. We couldn’t have been more thrilled. Not easily intimidated, we were able to freely move around the veranda to watch him and take photos. 

We still love it here. But, if we come back someday, it will be in their winter when it’s cool, almost every day. In the winter with no leaves on the trees, it’s easier to see the wildlife through the now dense bush. During that period the animals live off of the roots, digging into the hard soil for morsels of vegetation. I’m sure that the pellets are more appreciated during that time, than now, when their natural habitat is lush with food.

Kevin showed no interest in the mineral lick after a warthog rubbed himself all over it, as shown in the video we posted yesterday.

As we sit outside writing here, a welcome breeze wafts our way from time to time, sometimes hot, others cool.  But the stillness predominates. And, we sweat.

Kevin moved so close, to the railing on the veranda we had to back up to avoid being hit with his massive antlers.

On days such as today, we usually last outdoors until noon or later, packing up our laptops, power cords, pellet containers, repellent, mugs, phone  and camera. We can’t leave anything outdoors due to the monkeys. 

Kudus seem to seek out good photo opportunities.

In our old lives, we never sat outdoors on a 100F day, 38 C. Life is different now. We’re more tolerant, curious, and in awe of our surroundings. How we’ve changed!

Kevin is taller than the roof of the carport which lowest point is considerably taller than Tom’s reach.

So, of all things, just now, Kevin, the largest of the Kudus in Marloth Park, whom we’ve longed to visit us, has appeared in our garden. Lumbering his long legs through the braai (barbecue) area, stepping on the hose Tom has filling the pool, and cutting off the water supply momentarily, he makes his way toward us, totally fearless of our presence. Wow! Kevin!  

He stayed around us for 20 minutes or so and then wandered off.  A moment later a shy duiker appeared, one then two, now three.

One last pose before heading on his way.

Taking photos, enjoying their presence, makes our hearts sing. So what if we’re sweating. It’s all worth it!

Although we had three duikers in the garden, we were unable to get a shot of them together. They’re extremely shy requiring us to stay seated on the veranda.

Oh, oh. One of our regular warthog families of four has arrived. I’d better go say “hi” and get some pellets.

 

OMG!…I dropped my laptop and broke it!!…What now?…Plus, a funny video!…Photos from the river at dusk…

Sunset at dinner on the Crocodile River. Notice the Crocodile swimming across the river in the lower left. We watched for a considerable time, hoping he’d exit the river. Instead, he languished in the water, eyes revealed while waiting for his dinner.

Wednesday afternoon, while carrying my laptop from the first floor to the second-floor loft which we use as a living room on hot days, (it has AC), for no reason at all, the laptop fell from my hands dropping onto the stone floor.

This lower-right corner of my laptop broke when I dropped it, disabling the touchscreen feature. There are numerous hairline cracks throughout the remainder of the screen.

Horrified, I bent down to pick it up, as shards of glass skittered about the floor. Oh, oh. I felt sick to my stomach as it set it down to see how severe the damage and if it would still work.

The sky over the Crocodile River manages to be more beautiful than many other areas.

Immediately turning it on, I was amazed to find it working. The damage was to the touchscreen which no longer works and there are cracks across the screen affecting the viewing of the screen. It was clear that I’d need a replacement.

As the night fell, with the distance across the crocodile, it was tough to get clear shots. This was the first time we’d seen more than one waterbuck at a time.

Tom and I have each had our own computers since 1992, when we decided that sharing was not an option when we both enjoyed being online simultaneously, frequently talking, laughing, and sharing tidbits of information we gleaned in the process. 

Sorry for the blur. These photos were taken from a vast distance near dark.

Now, 22 years later, we are online at about the same time, ensuring neither of us is ever annoyed when the other is spending extended periods online. Currently spending a half a day, each day, writing here and posting photos, and, later working on photos for the next day, there’s absolutely no way we would or could share.

Luckily, this funny video intended to offset some of my angst over dropping my laptop on the stone floor, breaking the touchscreen monitor. 
Wednesday, when my 14-month-old Acer Windows 8, 15.6″ Touchscreen laptop hit the floor, the thought of having to share with Tom in order to continue writing our story, was the first thought in my mind. 

If it was completely destroyed, all of my files were backed up to the free cloud, Dropbox, leaving me with no worries about losing the 1000’s of photos and documents relative to our travels and financial matters.

View from the veranda of the Serene Oasis Restaurant as we watched the Crocodile cross the river from the Marloth Park side to the Kruger National Park side.

For Tom, as a part-time researcher and proofreader for our site, having to share his computer would result in our world becoming upside down until we could figure out a replacement. Looking online I panicked when a comparable replacement with fast international shipping would be well over US $1000, ZAR $10,921. 

A waterbuck and white bird hanging out on the river bank.

Our laptops serve as not only a source of writing about our world travels, but also as a means of staying in touch with family and friends, banking, financial matters, tracking our expenses, and current and future planning.  Plus, without watching TV, it’s a significant source of entertainment when we’re not out and about.

When one only cooks dinner four times per week, has the house cleaned by others twice a week, has all the laundry washed, dried, and folded by others twice a week, one must have a source of distraction for several hours each day rather than staring into space. These services were all included in our rental.

A pair of waterbucks, posing from afar.

Our primary source of entertainment each day since arriving in Marloth Park on December 1st has been the glorious experience of sitting outside on the veranda, waiting for wildlife to visit. Although much of our time is spent scanning the bush, we still have ample hours to peruse online while we wait.

Yes, we do go out no less than three or four days/nights each week, loving every moment. We all have some downtime to fill. Perhaps for us, with no household chores to tackle, no lawn to mow, no garden to weed, no snow to shovel, we have more free time than most. I’m not complaining. We love it!

Five waterbucks walked across this shallow area of the Crocodile River to visit this island.

We discovered that purchasing a comparable laptop online, presented its own share of issues: international shipping and customs fees, add as much as 25% to the price. Also, a mailed computer could easily get stuck in customs upon entering South Africa, never arriving before we leave in five weeks.

If anything were to go wrong with the replacement, dealing with it from afar would be cumbersome when Skype is our only means of making phone calls. 

After all this time, I still haven’t had the broken screen on my smartphone repaired after I dropped it on the cement by the pool in Belize last March. With the inconvenience of arranging for service from outside the US, it wasn’t worth the trouble. Yeah, I know. I’m clumsy, breaking both a phone and a laptop in one 12 month period.  Tom says I’m “a bull in a China shop.”

Finally, darkness fell and we went indoors for dinner.

Bless his heart, Tom didn’t say a negative word.He knew I was torturing myself enough for both of us.He offered to swap laptops with me, but I refused. Why should he have to deal with this? 

We contacted Louise, our lovely property manager, asking if there was a nearby computer store. Alas, we were in luck. She told us that there was a quality store in Komatipoort and to ask for her friend Jorge. We were heading there for groceries anyway, so this was perfect. 

Off we went at noon with Okee Dokee. She knew exactly where the computer store was located, tucked away down a long alley in the back of other stores. If we’d still had a rental car, we’d have had a heck of a time finding it.

Meeting with Jorge, I explained all the specs I wanted, basically a newer model replacement of my touchscreen computer which sells online in the US for around US $700, ZAR $7705.39. Jorge, a very kind man, said he’d call or text later in the day when he got a quote for the replacement.

A few hours later, Jorge sent a text with the price for the replacement, which proved to be twice our original cost, twice the current price online in the US. His price was US $1350, ZAR $14,860, all-inclusive. I flinched.  Yes, this would avoid shipping and some customs fees. And, we may have considered it, if it had been any other brand name than offered, not worthy of a bashing mention here.

Later, back at home, I decided to make a serious assessment to determine if I could live with the damaged computer. Last night, we watched a movie after returning home from dinner. After a while, we got used to the cracks in the center of the screen.

I can still use the computer using keystrokes to maneuver, as opposed to the ease of using the former touchscreen. I can get past the cracks and the continuous dropping of small shards of glass. I can make it work until we get to Boston in less than eight months where we’ll make a new purchase if it holds up until then.

At least it wasn’t a snake bite. Or, a centipede sting! In the realm of things, having to pay for a replacement laptop is merely an annoyance and unexpected expense. By the time we get to Boston, our laptops will be two years old anyway and we both may be due for a replacement. 

We’ve been very blessed in our travels these past 15 months. Who’s to complain? Not I!

 

Transportation issues..Llttle pink car is no more…A driving video…Scroll down for the first posting of an elephant video we took in Kruer National Park…

 

A segment of our return drive from Blyde River Canyon on our way back to Marloth Park.

Renting a car for a one, two-week, or even a 30 day holiday is no big deal. Trying to rent a car for over 30 days is difficult unless one is willing to pay considerably more disproportionately. We’re not.

Wildflowers growing at the overlook on the Crocodile River.

Using online booking sites, including the major rental car company’s sites, while searching for the best rates we’ve found that any requested rental over 30 days, dramatically changes everything. 

Creek on the Panorama Route.

The rental car companies posted rates for under 30 days are fair. However, they have no interest in renting cars for those same great rates for longer than 30 days which presents an issue for us. The rate jumps exponentially once the 30 day period is over, often doubling.

We rented the little pink car for 30 days for US $519, ZAR $5526. To extend that rate was unappealing.  Extending the rental period resulted in daily rates in excess of US $30, ZAR $319. Many days, we don’t go out.

This Hyena peeked out of his den to check us out at the Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. Hyenas chew on the bones of animals distributing small shreds to their offspring for the nutrients. When he went back inside we could easily hear the unnerving sounds of bone-crunching.

Our plan was to return the pink car last Saturday to Budget at the Mpumalanga/Nelspruit Airport on our return trip from Blyde River Canyon. We intended to pick up another car that we’d booked at another company also located at the airport, paying roughly US $1100, ZAR $11,713 for our remaining 41 days  (at that time) in Marloth Park. 

While heading out to dinner around 7:00 pm on Saturday after returning from Blyde River Canyon, Okee Dokee spotted this baby giraffe and mother.Notice the size differential in the mom on the right and the baby. The photo was taken in the dark resulting in the lack of clarity.

The original daily rate for the pink car was US $17.50, ZAR $186.34. The remaining 41-day contract for which we paid online was US $26.83, ZAR $285.68 per day. By paying this 65% increase we could avoid having to make another long trip back and forth to the airport when 30 additional days had passed. We’d decided to bite the bullet and pay it.

On Friday evening after dinner, our last night at the Blyde River Canyon Lodge, we received an email informing us that, although we’d already paid the entire balance in full, they were canceling our contract and refunding our money. They didn’t want the car “out that long.” Actually, they didn’t want the car “out that long at that price.” 

This close up is of a baby Warthog, less than two months old, illustrating how the warts have already grown on the face. Males have four warts on the face, females have two.  Notice the extra set of warts near his eyes indicating that this is a male.

There we were leaving in the morning for the long drive to the airport returning the pink car and receiving a message that we had no car for the return trip to Marloth Park from the airport, an hour and a half drive.

This young male, less than two months old, has already grown his tucks.

With our intention to stay calm, while figuring out solutions for any problems that arise, we tossed around a few options:

1. Re-rent the pink car at almost double the rate we’d originally paid keeping it until we returned to the airport to depart on February 28th.
2. Re-rent another car for another 30 days and pay the fees to extend it at the higher rates for the remaining 11 days.
3.  Re-rent another car for 30 days, returning it to the airport, get our past driver, Okee Dokee, to pick us up at the airport and drive us back to Marloth Park with no rental car for the remaining 11 days
4.  Don’t re-rent any car and have Okee Dokee pick us up at the airport, driving us several times a week for all of our outings over our remaining time in this area.

This young female has grown these feelers bristles to aid in burrowing into holes that warthogs use for protection by stealing holes from other animals.  The baby warthogs enter the holes head first.  A mature warthog, including moms with babies, enter the hole butt first allowing them to be prepared to attack if any potential predators try to enter.

The answer was readily available in the “math.” We calculated the cost of the driver three to four times a week, based on mileage rates and it proved to be 50% of what we’d pay for the rental car. For us, it was a no-brainer.

Do we feel trapped without a car?  Not at all. We can go anywhere we’d like easily contacting Okee Dokee by text. As a lifelong resident of this area, she too loves wildlife, readily stopping for photos. Plus, we thoroughly enjoy her companionship.

Tree frog hanging on the edge of the pool checking us out.  Look at those functional toes! Could this be a baby from the nests hanging over the pool?

She suggested we keep track of our outings and pay her in one fell swoop, at the end. I created a nifty page in Excel with her rates, dates, and locations that we choose to visit keeping track of the accumulating balance.  We’ll generously tip her excellent service at the end.

This car rental challenge would not be an issue if the rental facilities were nearby. We’d simply rent three cars for three 30-day periods at the best possible rates, dropping off the car and picking up another. That would have been easy.

The “Three Little Pigs” are getting big. Mom is standing off to the side while they all wait for us to throw out a few pellets. Of course, we complied. 

There was no way that we were interested in going back and forth to the airport many times when its a three-hour round trip, including the time it takes to process the rental. That’s three half days wasted. With the pleasure we experience daily, surrounded by wildlife while sitting on the veranda at our vacation home, every single day is precious.

With only 36 days remaining of our time in Marloth Park, we’re content with our decision. On February 28th, Okee Dokee will drive us to the Mpumalanga airport to begin the lengthy flight to Morocco. Last night, she dropped us off for dinner at the Serene Oasis restaurant located on the Crocodile River, picking us up a few hours later. With her, there’s no pressure to hurry, and no sense of feeling rushed.

The “Three Little Pigs” chased off this shy male warthog.  He decided to hide by the pool until they left to see if there would be any pellets left for him. He looked very worried.  Yes, we tossed him a batch once the “family” had departed.

Shortly, she’ll pick us up at noon to take us to Komatipoort for grocery shopping and Tom’s 12:30 haircut appointment while she patiently waits for us. Tom hasn’t had a haircut in three months which was halfway through our 89-day stay in Diani Beach, Kenya. 

This won’t be the first time we’ve been without “wheels” and surely won’t be the last. With special arrangements we’ve made with excellent drivers in Belize, Dubai, Kenya, South Africa, and more, we’ve managed to function well paying reasonable rates.

With the money we’ll have saved on car rentals in South Africa, factoring in our costs for a driver, it more than paid the entire cost of the three days we spent in Blyde River Canyon last week. 

  To see the detailed past story of this lone elephant that we encountered in Kruger Park last Wednesday, please click here.

It’s all in the planning, the adaptation, and the acceptance that our lives aren’t always as convenient as in our old lives. But, the adventure, the joy, and the fulfillment make it all worthwhile.

 

Wrapping up our trip to Blyde River Canyon Lodge…A treasured memory…

 

The exquisite view from our room at the Blyde River Canyon Lodge, Hoedspruit, South Africa, where we stayed for three nights while we toured the many sites in the area.

It wasn’t an easy decision to leave Marloth Park for three days. One, we’re already paying for one home and to leave it empty to pay for another place to stay, makes us think twice. Two, I was afraid we’d miss visitors while we were away. (Tom didn’t quite feel the same – a guy thing).

The veranda and casual dining area in the Blyde River Canyon Lodge overlooks the pool and the expansive grounds.

However, if we had a permanent home, we’d occasionally take a three or more day trip out of town and the costs associated with owning the home would continue in our absence.

The door to our first floor guest room was conveniently located near the lounge, veranda and dining area.

What if the giraffes came to visit while we were away, maybe 12 of them as in the first time they wandered into our yard on a sunny morning in December? What if the wildebeests visited for the mineral lick, yet to occur in these almost past two months that we’ve been here?  What if Clive, our favorite Ostrich, lumbered down the driveway, proud and determined, while we were away?

We’d hope for time to use the pool, but our busy schedule made it difficult.

If any of these events occurred in our absence, we’d have never known. Yes, I did wander up and down our long driveway after returning on Saturday checking for animal tracks and piles of poop. There was plenty of both. 

The manicured grounds were a change after living in the bush these past almost two months.

Leaving Marloth Park wasn’t easy. The only way I could lessen my apprehension was to stay in an extraordinary place surrounded by nature. Blyde River Canyon Lodge filled the bill. We couldn’t have been more pleased. Need I say that we researched our option for several days?

On the grounds at the Blyde River Canyon Lodge, as a part of the lodge, is a separate luxury two-story guest cottage with a full kitchen, two bedrooms, large living area and inviting décor.

Based on recommendations from the wonderful locals, we met, especially our friends Piet and Hettie, the Panorama Route was the thing to see, not too far away, a pleasant mountain drive with incredible scenery.

The lounge in the lodge was tastefully decorated with the finest furnishings and accessories.

 

Alternate view of the lounge area. There’s a small bar to the far left of this area where a wide array of drinks and mixes are available. 

With an abundance of attractions in the area we chose those most appealing to us as shown here over the past several days: the Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, the Blyde River Canyon boat ride and a visit to the Elephant Sanctuary, and finally, the Panorama Route, leaving us busy and out and about each of the three days that we stayed at the Blyde River Canyon Lodge.

This was our table for all of our meals, breakfast (included) and dinner at the end of each of our three nights at the lodge. We had no issue with insects in the morning or evening. Notice the zebras visitors who stopped by daily. It was fun to see them racing through the huge expanse of lawn as shown in the background.

Another day to stay at the lodge would have been ideal. But, we had to return the little pink car on the return trip to Marloth Park via the airport in Nelspruit. (More on that frustrating story later). 

This was a young Vervet Monkey (photo from afar) that we’d see playing together at dusk.

We had little time to enjoy the beauty of the lodge’s surroundings. Much to our pleasure, there were visitors stopping by early in the morning and again late in the day, the few times that we were able to be at the lodge, savoring every moment.

The huge gnarly trees created the perfect amount of shade for lounging comfortably outdoors on hot sunny days. 

As for the Blyde River Canyon Lodge, we found it to be the perfect choice for us, conveniently located to everything we wanted to see, affordable, and most of all, absolutely enchanting.

Who needs a lawnmower when Zebras cleanly dine on the grass?

The service was “over-the-top” by every staff member. The attention we received from the owner Vicky and her assistant Portia was appreciated and unexpected. 

A zebra was scratching on the tree while impalas leaped through the air with the ample open spaces.

This was the first time we’d seen zebras mating when all that have visited us in Marloth Park have been males. The zebras courtship rituals resulted in animated playfulness that we found entertaining as they chased and ran through the open spaces on the grounds.

The food at both the included breakfast and reasonably priced dinner served outdoors, couldn’t have been more suitable for my way of eating and to our mutual liking, freshly prepared with the finest of ingredients. The chef didn’t hesitate to meet with me to discuss my dietary restrictions in order to prepare my food accordingly.

At each meal, the table was set utilizing a new color scheme.  We never saw the same place setting twice during our six meals at the lodge.

 

At each dinner, a starter, an entrée, and a dessert were served. The chef made this special starter for me when the starter for the evening wasn’t conducive to my restrictive diet. It was so delicious I asked for it the second night to which they complied.

Tom splurged and enjoyed this delicious Berry Compote Panna Cotta. We were having such a fabulous time at dinner, I failed to take photos of our entrees, all of which were wonderful.

Tom usually doesn’t care for cheesecake, but he managed to get this down! I must admit, this one was hard for me to resist which I did without even a taste.

Our room, although a basic hotel room, was situated on the ground floor, close to the lounge area and outdoor seating, was spotless and in excellent condition with no signs of wear and tear. The bed and covers were comfortable with the air conditioning working perfectly for a good night’s sleep. The shower had excellent water pressure, something we recall from a life long ago.

As the Vervet Monkeys played on the lawn and in the trees, this young impala stood back, occasionally joining in the play.

Unfortunately, I didn’t sleep well while at the lodge. I was so excited to get outdoors, awaking each day at 4:00 am waiting for the sun to rise. Also, with a slow WiFi signal, typical for the area with the surrounding mountains, I was chomping at the bit to post our stories and photos which had to be accomplished in the early morning and finished in the evening.

The Vervet Monkey on the right was no larger than the size of a small cat. The smaller, on the left, could easily have fit into the palm of one’s hand. 

Typical for me on our “side holidays,” I slept poorly, fearful of missing something. Yes, I know. It’s a flaw of mine, one of many, driven by a brain that just won’t shut off when I’m having fun. It’s during the quiet, less stimulating times that I can sleep for seven hours.

The simplest of naturally occurring vegetation, growing next to a piece of driftwood, created a pleasant scene.

Our total cost for three-night stay at the Blyde River Canyon Lodge including dinners, drinks, and tips was US $582.27, ZAR $6200. The total cost of the lodge and the cost of the fees for the stated activities was US $886.42, ZAR $9438.50, also including gas/petrol to and from the area.

More natural vegetation highlighted the grounds.

Although this side trip wasn’t a bargain, we definitely felt that the quality of the experience was well worth the cost.  In our old lives, if we’d gone to Duluth, Minnesota, USA for three nights, we’d certainly have spent a comparable amount if including the cost of a four-star hotel, several attractions, meals, drinks, and gas/petrol.

Although a quaint, intimate facility, the Blyde River Canyon Lodge, with seven guest rooms plus the private luxury cottage, was offering the utmost amenities, service, and food, commensurate with a much larger high-end resort.

The private stand alone cottage was charming and well appointed.

The spacious living area and kitchen in the private cottage.

The master bedroom in the private cottage.

The second bedroom in the private cottage.

The master bath in the private cottage.

The view from the private cottage from the living room.

Tomorrow, we’ll share the frustrating story of the pink rental car which, by the way, we no longer have in our possession, or any vehicle for that matter and… What we’re doing for transportation over the remaining 38 days we’re living in Marloth Park. Plus, we have more new unseen photos to share.

Please stop back.