We’re in Johannesburg at the airport…So far so good…Three more flights to go…

Our last sunset in South Africa taken through the scratched glass on the window of the plane

Much to our surprise, it’s been seamless so far; the trip from Marloth to Mpumalanga; flight to Johannesburg; immigration; two security checks so far. Palming a tip into a handshake enabled us to avoid excess baggage fees. Apparently, we were over more than we’d expected. 

In an hour, at 9:00 pm, we’ll board the red-eye to Cairo, then another flight to Casablanca, then on to the final flight to Marrakesh, Morocco. Then a drive from the airport to our new home, Riad Dar Aicha.

And then, the sun peeked out a little more a few seconds later. There’s something special about sunsets in Africa.

No doubt, we’ll be exhausted but a safe arrival is foremost in our minds. Cairo is not the safest. place in the world at this time and we’ll be there for almost four hours.

At the moment we’re in a pleasant restaurant at the airport not too far from our gate. Omelets were the most sensible meal considering we’ll be sitting on the plane for eight hours.

It’s almost time to board our flight. We requested an upgrade to business class but it was full. We’re on a waitlist with two ahead of us. Unlikely will be upgraded, but it was worth a try.

We’ll be back when we arrive in Cairo as soon as we find an Internet café. (Our remaining South Africa data will be useless once we leave the country).

Stay tuned, folks!

Almost ready to go…The final expenses for our time in South Africa…Many visitors came to say goodbye!…

Yesterday afternoon, two Kudus came to call.  Standing by the braai, he nibbled on the leaves of a tree.

All we have left to do is to pack the clothing we’re wearing now and close our bags. Our boarding passes are printed. 

Such a handsome guy.
Then there were two after we’d placed a few of our dwindling pellets on the stone.

The flight from Mpumalanga/Nelspruit to Johannesburg, South Africa has tighter luggage restrictions than our remaining flights but, we are close to complying for all of the flights. 

On the way to the Crocodile River, we saw this baby zebra nursing from its mom.  It looks as if the mom is pregnant again. Hum…does this dispel the thought that nursing moms can’t become pregnant?  Or was this a surrogate mom?

Yesterday was a very special day.  Two Mrs. Warthogs and babies visited us at the African Reunion House. Mr. Tree Frog left us last night, returning this morning. And, in the early afternoon, two male kudus came to call as shown in these precious photos.

Okee Dokee picked us up for one final visit to the Crocodile River. On the way, she stopped to speak to a passing motorist. In Afrikaans, he told her there were many Elephants on the river and to hurry. She translated for us and off we went. Safari luck. 

As we approached the Crocodile River lookout, we spotted only a few of the elephants we saw a moment later when we moved to a better viewing spot.
The Elephants were on the move when something startled them and when they spotted the Rhino on a mad run heading toward them.

Arriving at the river, my breath caught in my throat when we saw dozens of elephants and babies in a large herd. It was hard to believe. As I began taking photos, Okee Dokee spotted a rhino running at full speed toward the elephants. In a matter of seconds, the elephants made a mad dash up the hill of the riverbank leaving dust in their wake.  

There were many more than is shown here, off to the sides.

Rhinos and elephants have little risk from predators but on a rare occasion, they may get into a scuffle.  Something frightened all of them and they ran for their lives. We’ll never know what transpired. But, getting these photos was pure luck, safari luck. In a matter of minutes, they were gone with the exception of a few stranglers at a distance. 

If we’d arrived five minutes later, we’d never have seen them running.

After our last delicious dinner at Jabula Lodge while hanging out with Dawn and Leon, we returned home to find the five zebras standing at the railing waiting for us. How long had they been there? Would we have missed them if we’d stayed out 15 minutes longer or where they bound and determined to wait until we returned? We’ll never know.

They left dust in their wake as they ran to safety.

Feeding them our remaining supply of pellets from our hands, my heart did a flip flop, aching when they finally wandered off. This morning our favorite walking bird, the francolin, padded around the veranda within feet of us. We’ll miss them all.

The zebra family was back waiting for us!

As for our total living expenses in South Africa, including rent, groceries, entertainment, pellets, dining out, tips, airfare, transportation (including the rental car we had for one month), and SIM card and data fees, for a grand total of US $13,120.11, ZAR $146,713 which translates to US $4373.37, ZAR $48,904 for each of the three months we’ve spent in South Africa. 

It was wonderful to see them one more time.

With only a few hours until we walk out the door to begin the long drive to the airport, we’re as well prepared as we can be. Its time to “let go.” Having “let go” of so much in our lives over this past year and a half, this a familiar feeling, one we know we’ll conquer in time.

We happily tossed a few of the remaining pellets their way.

Hopefully, during the upcoming 29 hours of travel time, we’ll have access to an electrical source to charge our equipment, making it possible to document this lengthy journey along the way. 

So, we say goodbye and thank you to Marloth Park, to South Africa, to our friends, human and animal, only hoping that someday we’ll return. A special thank you to Louise and Danie who’s kindness, consideration, generosity, and love added so much to our comfort and enjoyment.

Over the coming years, as we continue on our worldwide journey, on many occasions we’ll tell the story of our glorious experiences in South Africa, bringing tears to our eyes and gratitude to our hearts. 

But, for today, we continue on…

Thank you, Mr. Tree Frog for serving as the mascot for all the “small things” that brought us so much pleasure during our time in Marloth Park. Even you will be remembered.

Saying goodbye to all of our friends, human and animal…Saying goodbye to Marloth Park and South Africa…

Tangled necks!  Love it!
Yesterday, as we approached the 13 giraffes, we were all excited!
As they began to gather…


As they began to untangle…

By far, this is the most difficult of all of the goodbyes since leaving the US many moons ago. Tonight will be our last night’s dinner at Jabula Lodge. Okee Dokee will join us as our guest trying to squeeze out every last moment with her. Saying goodbye to her, to Zeff today, to Dawn and Leon tonight and to Louise and Danie tomorrow, won’t be easy. 

Giraffes hogging the road. We happily waited for them to move.
“Oh, oh, I’d better get out of the way!”

At 4:00 pm today, Okee Dokee will pick us up to head to the Crocodile River one last time to say goodbye to the wildlife in Kruger National Park. 

Mr. Tree Frog sits on his perch in the rafters, returning for the sixth time in these past few weeks at the African Reunion House, staring at us most of the day, occasionally closing his eyes for a nap. 

Clive, our friendly neighborhood Ostrich, was hanging out in the driveway of the same house where we’d first met him, almost three months ago. He also visited us at the little house.
Life is simple for Clive as he wanders about, visiting houses, foraging for vegetation with a “bird’s eye view” of the world.

At 4:00 am I awoke to the sound of him wildly croaking, simply being a frog. If anything, my attachment to him is as if he were a representative for all the “small things” that have brought us so much joy in Marloth Park, let alone the “big things.”

Our resident tree frog continues to watch us most days. He ventures off this ledge in the ceiling of the veranda every few days for food and water, returning to this exact spot. We’ve counted six return visits thus far. How does one find it difficult to say goodbye to a frog? With the same childlike wonder, we all possessed at one time, that freely come to the surface when living in this wonderland.

Mrs. Warthog and babies stopped by several times yesterday as if she knows we’re leaving soon. We hope to see them one more time.

Giraffe at sunset.

The photos we’re posting today were taken yesterday morning when Louise and Danie picked us up at the tented lodge. Only a few blocks from the African Reunion House, we were “gifted” with a few joy-filled sightings; 13 giraffes near the road, “Clive,” the ostrich, and later in the day, two giraffes walking through the yard on a mission. 

These two were more interested in this tasty bush than us taking photos with flash as night fell.

I was on a Skype call with my sister and didn’t take photos, instead, describing every detail to her as they raced through the yard. (We don’t always use video on Skype to keep data use under control when talking to grownups).

Packed? Almost done. Yesterday, I tossed out no less than 10 pounds, 4.5 kg of old worn clothing. I think the weight of my bags will be OK. It’s funny how I now have little interest in clothing, shoes, and accessories, only needing enough until the next wash cycle.

A few minutes ago, Tom asked me if I feel sad about leaving. I do. I know that once the guy meets us at the taxi stand (no cars allowed in the Medina) with the little wooden cart to wheel our luggage the 10-minute walk to our new home, Dar Aicha, in Marrakesh, Morocco, where we’ll reside for the next two and a half months, I’ll be smiling and once again taking photos.

See if you can find five giraffe heads popping up in the bush!

But, the memories of Marloth Park, Kruger Park, and South Africa will linger in our hearts and minds forever, eternally grateful for the experience. We’ve changed in many ways from our time in South Africa, and again in Kenya. How we’ve changed has not been easy to describe.

We’ve become more tolerant of discomfort, more attune to our surroundings, more appreciative of the perfection that God created (or whatever or whomever you may believe as our maker) when He created us, His creatures, and His vegetation, all which is magical in the manner in which it relates to our universe.

For only a second, he picked up his head out from this bush.

We’ve come to understand that the oldest human remains found on this planet were found in Africa, known as the “Cradle of Mankind.”  The science and history are clear. It’s no wonder to me that I’ve felt a powerful sensation of being “home” while in Africa. Perhaps, that infinitesimal aspect of our DNA explains this phenomenon for me.

I’ve come to better understand my way of eating while in Africa while watching the animals forage for what their bodies need. Man/woman was intended to eat the available food in their environment, the hunter-gatherer concept; meat and vegetation, the core of my daily diet. 

It’s all here in Africa, the vast array of nuts growing wild and farmed, the free-range chickens and resulting eggs, the grass-fed meat, and a plethora of vegetation befitting human consumption, easily grown in the chemical-free fertile soil in a land that overall, abhors chemicals in food. 

Thus, dear readers, we continue on…on to our unknown future, less fearful, more accepting, more at peace than ever before. We hope and pray for safe travel, however long and discomfited, to bring us to our next location, eyes wide open, full of wonder, and grateful to be alive.

Note: Tomorrow, before leaving for the airport in the early afternoon, we’ll post the total of final expenses for the three months we’ve spent in South Africa. As we travel to Morocco, we’ll be posting at varying times, in real-time, as to the progress on our 29-hour journey, while on four separate flights as we transverse the continent of Africa.

Close to our house, this giraffe was checking us out.  Unless a lion or leopard sneaks into Marloth Park (which happened a few times during our stay) there is little danger for most of the wildlife which primarily is herbivores. Their natural instinct keeps them constantly on the lookout for predators.  Lions and leopards can take down a giraffe.

A night sleeping in a tent on the exciting Crocodile River…An unexpected sojourn…”safari luck” prevails once again…Six day old baby elephant!…

Sunset over the Crocodile River in Kruger National Park. The power lines have become a necessary addition to the tremendous amount of security and tourism, a mainstay of survival of this massive wildlife area. This photo was taken from the veranda of our pleasing accommodations at the Crocodile Bridge Safari Camp where we slept in a tent last night.

Wow! This unbelievable ray of light captured our attention. Sunsets in Africa have been out of this world!

The clouds opened after the rain and presented this view.

The thought of spending a night away from the African Reunion House so close to leaving for Morocco, with the packing hanging over our heads, didn’t appeal to us at first. But, when Louise and Danie had taken the time to arrange this complimentary overnight stay for us in a tent at the Crocodile Bridge Safari Lodge, we could hardly refuse.

Although the walls of our accommodations had tent material  on three sides, it was made to appear as a cottage. The veranda is on the opposite side within feet of the electrified fence to Kruger National Park, keeping tourists safe from the big game. Allen and Scott showed us a video of elephants that had come directly up to the fence. 
We were impressed with this bed and quality sheets and covers. A long night’s sleep would have been possible if we weren’t so anxious to go back outside early in the morning. (The white line running vertically through Tom is actually a pull string for the overhead light).
The communal dining, bar and entertainment areas. Bed and breakfast options were available for a small additional fee. We had perfect mushroom and onion omelets with “streaky” bacon this morning, a real treat!
In the first 15 minutes after unpacking our duffel bag, computer bag, and a cloth bag filled with power cords, we knew we’d made the right decision. Spending one of our three remaining nights in South Africa, situated on the shore of the wildlife-rich Crocodile River while viewing the action in Kruger National Park is hard to beat. 
See the entire African Tulip Tree with more of these blossoms below.


Beautiful vegetation is abundant along the banks of the Crocodile River, some, natural to the area, others imported over the years by foreign property owners.

Perhaps, in a way, our 19 hours at the camp is a perfect way to wind down our time in South Africa while sleeping in a tent with AC (which we didn’t need to use), with a comfortable bed and an almost-outdoor shower. Add the divine pleasure of listening to the sounds of one of the largest natural bird sanctuaries in the world and the bubbling hum of the hippos only enhanced the richness of our experience.

Scott explained that last Tuesday over an extended period they heard the cries of this mother elephant as she gave birth. Over the next few days, they saw this baby. By far, this was the tiniest baby elephant we’ve seen in all of our travels. 
Our camera doesn’t have a powerful enough zoom for a clearer photo from this range with its 20X Zoom. In the next few weeks, we’ll be purchasing a new camera after testing Allen’s  powerful and lightweight 50x Zoom. Most likely, we’ll make the purchase and have it shipped to us while we’re in Morocco.

Louise dropped us off at the Crocodile Bridge Safari Lodge late yesterday afternoon, on the absolute hottest day we’ve experienced in South Africa. The sky was rapidly shifting as ominous-looking clouds wafted in. We needed rain and we needed it fast to defray the scorching heat and uncomfortable humidity. 

So sweet.
The baby nursing. Check out the gigantic size of the matriarch of this family in comparison to the younger females. She may be the grandmother of the baby. Females only give birth once every five years with a gestation period of 22 months. The calf begins to nurse at birth and may continue to nurse for up to two years.

As shown there were two larger babies in the herd of six elephants.

Allen and Scott, the co-owners warmly greeted us and helped us get situated in the clean, comfortable tent which is more like a cabin than a tent with it own veranda situated well above the ground providing expansive views of the riverbank.

The varied bird species could keep an bird enthusiast busy for many days.
This appears to be the same bird as above with more fluffy gray feathers. Note the elephant in the background of this photo. 

There were four of these colorful birds hanging out on the electrified fence, obviously not triggered by their light weight. This is the White Fronted Bee Eater.

Although I was anxious to start taking photos, I was so hot and sweaty that I didn’t know what to do with myself. The thought of turning on the AC and sitting in the tent was hardly appealing. After chatting with Allen and Scott, I put on my bathing suit and Tom stripped off his shirt which seemed to help as we sat at the table and chairs on the veranda and diligently began to scan the river for signs of life.
Cape buffalo from afar.

Then, “safari luck” kicked in, as it often does as we spent the next few hours with our eyes glued to the river bank as evidenced in these photos. In no time at all the wind picked up and with it came a cool breeze and rain. Relief.  t only rained for a short period, leaving behind a cool evening which we spent at the communal lounge/kitchen area, a short walk from our tent with both owners and their lovely wives, Caron and Michelle.

The Crocodile Bridge Safari Lodge is intended to be self-catered, but, last night as their dinner guests they prepared a well rounded and delicious meal, paying special attention to my dietary needs. 

The evening flew by as the eight of us, including another South Africa couple, Amy and Dudley, engaged in lively and animated conversation well into the evening. What’s with South African people being so kind and such fun?  We’re grateful to have encountered this amazing level of warmth and hospitality over these past three months.

Hippos lined the river frequently making their pleasing sounds.

Awakening after a comfortable, albeit, short night’s sleep, to the sound of the hippos at 5:30 am, we could hardly wait to get outside. The morning in Kruger National Park had begun. As light filtered through the clouds, we could see the Crocodile Bridge at a short distance, where we had entered the park on numerous occasions over the past three months.

We were in fact amidst the wild animals lurking along the river’s edge protected by an electrified fence as is common in areas where humans and wildlife intermingle.  South Africa and the park boards are diligent about avoiding life threatening injuries or death from attacks to humans from predatory animals in the wild. 

Tom’s good eye spotted this large crocodile lounging on a sandbar.

The accommodations were more appealing than one might expect from a moderately priced tented camp.  All of the common hotel amenities were in place:  soaps, bottled water, ample fluffy white towels, quality bedding, a power strip for electronics, and soft lighting for night reading. 

It is an ideal location for nature lovers, interested in river viewing, safari walks, bush braais, and game drives in Kruger National Park.  The close proximity to grocery shopping and restaurants made this an easy location. 

View to the pool from the communal dining area.

The singing of numerous bird species was practically ear splitting at times, causing us to laugh. Nature at its finest. We couldn’t have enjoyed it more.

After our hosts served us a delicious hot breakfast, and after engaging in more interesting travel conversations (South Africans are well traveled), we were ready to return to the African Reunion House to begin the looming task of packing for the next leg of our journey.

Our hosts explained that this little bird or one similar hangs out in this area on the grounds of the lodge on a regular basis.

Two days until we depart. Two days remaining in what has been a heavenly experience. Two days until another chapter in the lives of two crazy seniors who left everything behind to see the world. Two days, then on to the rest of our lives, that after only 16 months, has only just begun…

Goodbye Braai…Both human and animal visitors in attendance…An overnight adventure on the Crocodile River starting today…Back tomorrow to pack…

“Hey, you guys, come on!  They’re serving pellets for breakfast!”
This morning, zebra mom was scolding her baby about fighting for the pellets.

The seven of us and coincidentally, seven zebra visitors had a night we’ll always remember. Even Mr. Tree Frog returned to his perch in the rafters after a 36 hour absence. 

Check out those interesting suction type toes.  Mother Nature certainly provides the appropriate body parts to aid in functioning in life.  Mr. Tree Frog came down from his usual perch to show off for our guests, later returning to his usual spot in the veranda rafters this morning.

Later in the evening, while the festivities were in full bloom, he made a rare appearance on the wall in the veranda enabling me to take this close up of him. This morning he was back on his usual perch, in the exact spot, in the rafters. 

From left to right, Okee Dokee, Louise, and Dawn.
Tom with his hands flying as he talks! In the middle is Danie with Leon on the right.
The table was set and we were ready for our feast.
The zebras visited, hanging around most of the evening. On the left is Dawn and Leon, our friends and owners of Jabula Lodge, as Tom tosses the pellets.
As soon as we ran out of the carrot chunks they looked at us for more. 
Although zebras are herbivores, they enjoyed the fire and the smell of the meat.

How does one become attached to a frog? In reality, it’s no different than the excitement we feel when any visitors come to the yard. They are God’s creatures with their own unique story and purpose in our world. 

Feeding the zebras by hand using a flat palm. 

The party? Stupendous! The food worked out well. It was fun to share an American type meal with our South African friends and they enjoyed it. But, most of all, the companionship, conversation, and laughter was as delightful as it could have been. 

Finally, at 9:00 pm, we were ready to dine. With starters earlier, none of us minded the late meal. 

Danie managed the braai, making a roaring fire to cook the sweet corn and steaks with Tom at his side.  Once the fire was at a full roar, the zebras appeared, gathering around the braai, two together and another five together shortly after the two departed. 

This morning, the family of five was back including one mom and baby, one pregnant mom and two young males.
“See, I can reach up there for a few pellets.”

What is it about the noise that attracts the zebras? Simple. They associate “partying” humans with treats. Makes sense. Last night, we went through an entire bag of carrots.

Last night, this baby spit out the chunk of carrot. Today, she’s anxious for more pellets.

This morning, we’re busy packing for an overnight stay at a safari camp directly on the Crocodile River that we’ve been invited to by the owners, orchestrated by Louise and Danie. We’ll be sleeping in a tent with AC, a bed, and a bathroom. Sounds good to us.

Mom and baby cuddling.  Zebras are very affectionate with one another.

Our minds, preoccupied with packing to leave in three days, make packing for an overnight trip a challenge. But, we’ve been graciously invited and we accepted. If necessary, we could pack everything in one day. 

Happily sticking out her tongue at the prospect of more treats while making eye contact. 

We leave for the lodge at 2:30 today, returning less than 24 hours later. Once back at the African Reunion House, on Wednesday, we’ll start folding, sorting, and packing. The diversion may prove to be good for us with our minds wrapped around our departure on Friday. 

We’ll be back tomorrow with photos from a day and night spent living on the shore of the Crocodile River, meeting new people, and tonight’s bush braai at the campsite. Crocs, anyone? 

Okee Dokee displaying this beetle we found inside the house during the party.

We’re having a braai “goodbye”party tonight…Here’s the menu…Wildlife continues on…

Male kudu, visited on Saturday, lounging in the shade. It was the first time, we’d seen a kudu lying down.

Yesterday morning, we went to the little house to pack all of our stuff to bring it here to do our final packing.  Finally, we have everything we own in one house, although we’ve lived in three houses in Marloth Park;  677 Hornbill Ave., Khaya Umdani, and now the African Reunion House

Taking photos of male kudus in tricky when their antlers are so tall.  He looks as if he’s ready to say something.

Thanks to Louise and Danie, we’ve had an opportunity to experience these three homes, enjoying each for its unique qualities. The Hornbill house, although acceptable to us, wasn’t comparable to the upscale aspects and, the quality of the other two in which we’ve lived since January 29th.

Collecting our remaining clothing and supplies wasn’t intended to complete our packing. With only one-quarter of our stuff here during this period, we definitely need to consolidate everything and pack properly using our portable vacuum to suck the space bags, enabling everything to fit. On Tuesday we’ll begin the process.

Another shot of this handsome Kudu.

In the interim, our top priority is hosting today’s “goodbye party” inviting those friends in Marloth Park that remain after many had left to return to their other homes in distant areas. As a result, there will be only seven of us, an easy number to manage for a sit-down dinner.

I’d suggested we make a traditional Minnesota/American dinner since we’d had several opportunities to try the delicious South African foods made by our guests for us on different occasions. But, of course, we’d include the braai, which Danie and Tom will oversee.

The Helmeted Guinea Fowls and chicks were having a good time by the braai.

The biggest challenge for us is the lack of availability of many ingredients typically used in American cooking.  As always, we discovered ways to improvise.

Although there will be foods that I will be able to eat, we are not making a meal befitting my restrictive way of eating for my health: gluten-free, grain-free, starch-free, sugar-free, low carb. Not everyone would enjoy such a meal. I decided to ignore my food restrictions when it came to our guests, picking and choosing what I can eat from the array of offerings.

This guinea hen decided it was time to stand atop the braai.

Only one of the items, the cornbread recipe, on the menu, requires a recipe that I had to “lookup” in the 3000 or so recipes I have in Dropbox. The rest is in my head, making the preparation much easier. Isn’t it funny how those old favorites come to mind when entertaining guests?  Isn’t it true that not having to follow a recipe, makes the preparation much easier? 

Many of you will agree. Have I missed cooking for company? Not since I changed the way I eat. Actually, I have little interest in cooking at all these days, although I was a major “foodie” in my old life. 

This one followed suit and also jumped atop the braai.

But, the friends coming today at 5:00 pm make me feel excited about making them a meal which will turn out well with substituted ingredients for those I was unable to find. I’ve never felt anxious or nervous about having company, nor do I now, although it’s been a since December 2012 when we last had a dinner party for more than two guests. 

It was Christmas and three of Tom’s sisters and two spouses stayed with us for four days in a vacation/holiday rental we’d booked in Henderson, Nevada for the holidays. 

Chicks are getting big but, no blue heads yet.

Tom’s birthday, on December 23rd, turned into a party for 20 when adding my son Richard who lives in Henderson, sister Julie from Los Angeles, three cousins from LA and Boston, and a few old friends who happened to be in Las Vegas. We’d all gathered to celebrate the holidays, Tom’s birthday, and our upcoming world journey, leaving the US only a week later.

The menu, a plethora of old standbys, makes the preparation easy, keeping me out of the kitchen once our guests arrive other than to make the potato dish which shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes, with diligent prep earlier in the day.

The francolin, a common bird in Kruger National Park, often seen walking on the road, walked onto the veranda for a short visit. Tossing a few pellets her way, she was content to peck at them.

Making a dessert was too challenging when many of our favorite dessert recipes required ingredients not available at any nearby location. After this meal, I doubt anyone will have room for a dessert.

Here’s the menu. I’m not posting recipes, due to a lack of time today. However, if you are interested, please request it from this link and I will email it to you as soon as possible.

Then, Mrs. Warthog and four babies had a good time at the braai after we tossed them a few handfuls of pellets. Notice them on their knees.

Appetizers (referred to as Starters in Africa)

  • Brie Cheese En Croute with Apricot Chutney & Slivered Almonds
  • Coconut Encrusted Chicken Tenders with Sweet Dipping Sauce
  • Medley of Crackers and Cheese
  • Nuts


  • Broccoli Salad with Raisins, Nuts, and Bacon (referred to as “Streaky Bacon” in South Africa)
  • Par 30 Salad with Fresh Greens, Cauliflower, Nuts, Bacon and Tangy Dressing

Entrée & Sides

  • Grilled Marinated Tenderloin Steaks (Filet Mignon) on the Braai (outdoor wood fire) with Sauteed Fresh Mushrooms 
  • Gianni’s Famous Cheesy Hash Brown Potatoes
  • Seasoned Foil Wrapped Sweet Corn on the Braai
  • Made from scratch Cornbread, an old family favorite

This entire meal will be prepared today, although yesterday, I cut and washed some of the vegetables (using purified water). Having written most of today’s post late yesterday, I was able to hit the “publish” button at 10:00 am, leaving plenty of time to prepare before our guests arrive at 5:00 pm.

When the pellet pickens’ thinned out, Mrs. Warthog gave us “the look.” How could we resist? Look at her ribs!

Actually, planning this meal has been a great diversion for both of us, to take our minds off of our upcoming departure in four days, the construction delays on the road to the Mpumalanga/Nelspruit Airport, the 29 hours of travel time, the multiple times we’ll be required to collect our bags in order to go through customs, the expectation that our bags aren’t overweight, the hopes that the flights will be on time and the safe arrival in Marrakesh Morocco in a mere six days. Yep. A party was in order!

As three of the babies wandered off, she stood firm for more pellets, although she’s never aggressive or hostile. From all the interactions we’ve had with numerous warthogs over these past three months, both female and male, the only aggression we’ve witnessed have been when two families are in the same area. The babies don’t seem to mind, but the moms are very protective, chasing off males or other families. The locals find amusement and enjoyment from the warthogs, as we have almost every day.

Is running out of new photos an issue?…What do we do in the event this occurs?…A trip to the local dump proved to be interesting…

At the Marloth Park dump, we found these Marabou Storks everywhere.  If photo ops don’t come to us, we’ll go to them.

Writing every day is challenging at times, especially when we’re kicking back and relaxing. Would one have photos and stories to share in their everyday lives? Hardly.

In our old lives, weeks could go by without a single thought of taking a photo. Also, we’d never learned to take photos. Life was too busy to take on another hobby. As a result, we only used a camera on special occasions, neither of us showing a propensity toward any skill. 

For me, no skill? No interest. That’s how perfectionist-types operate. That’s why I don’t play golf. For that matter, Tom, good at most sports, hasn’t played much golf either, getting easily frustrated when he doesn’t play well enough by his own standards.

From afar, these birds look pretty. Up close, not so cute in the face. These birds are carnivorous eating other birds, carrion scraps, small rodents and have a propensity for human garbage and can digest rotten animal matter.

Now, back to posting daily and it’s challenging…

Yesterday morning, after posting, today’s post was fast approaching as being one of those days that writing this blog left me stymied. I had no new photos to post. I could run around the yard to look for small things or interesting vegetation or even, if necessary, stand in the road waiting for a photo-worthy event.

The height of a Marabou Stork is approximately 152 cm, 60 inches; weight is 9 kg, 20 pounds; the wingspan is 3.7 m, 12 feet. They have the largest wingspan of any bird. The Marloth Park dump is thoroughly cleaned out every few weeks. It is where many of the locals bring their garbage with only a small percentage having pickup service. We haven’t observed any recycling in Kenya or South Africa.

To prepare for our upcoming dinner party on Monday, Okee Dokee picked me up at 11:00 am Saturday morning to go to Komatipoort for groceries. Having created a menu and a grocery list I was ready to tackle the weekend crowds at the strip mall. 

While waiting in line at the grocery store, I mentioned to Okee Dokee that in the past 16 months since leaving Minnesota I’d yet to purchase any underwear. Add the fact that we’d unloaded so many clothing items along the way, my inventory was sparse and worn to the point of ridiculousness. I’d never gone so long without purchasing undergarments or clothing for that matter. 

The Marabou Stork will eat anything it can swallow, including shoes, clothing, and tin cans. They can become aggressive if fed by humans when they are refused food. Although not vultures, their behavior exceeds the traits of vultures whose diet consists of animal remains.

Having whipped through the grocery store quickly, she led me to a local clothing shop. I was pleasantly surprised when we entered the store. Although a small shop, there was clothing for women, men, and children of all ages. We promptly headed to the women’s underwear department where, upon approaching, I squealed with delight. They had rather modern items and styles, all reasonably priced and of decent quality. I’d have to toss the old stuff, avoiding increasing our luggage weight.

Ten minutes later, a bra and eight pairs of panties were being rung up for a grand total of US $23.16, ZAR $259. What? In the US, I would easily have spent US $75, ZAR $838.67 for this type of quality. What’s wrong with this picture?

After making the purchase we headed to the ATM area with two machines, neither of which was working, prompting us to head back to the ATM at the Marloth Park Bush Center which once again worked with ease. 

This injured zebra was near the road when we drove by. It wasn’t enclosed in a fenced area. This fence happened to be on the edge of a property. This injury could easily have been a result of a kick from another zebra. The distended belly of a zebra is common. Their intestinal tract is such that they become bloated with gas from eating massive amounts of vegetation each day. They are prolific at passing gas, as we’ve heard fro time to time. Hopefully, this injury heals on its own.

Afterward, we drove down one of the two only paved roads in the park. Okee Dokee, aware of my photo dilemma quickly made a sharp left turn into the local dump. (As yet, we hadn’t seen any wildlife). Wouldn’t you know, the dump was not only littered with garbage (which is entirely removed every few weeks), but was also littered with what I’d originally thought were beautiful Marabou Storks. 

Thus, the photos we’re showing today are the storks we found at the dump. Leave it to Okee Dokee! As we slowly meandered down the road toward African Reunion House I chuckled. I don’t recall ever taking a camera to the grocery store in my old life.

This morning at 6:30 am while contemplating getting up I heard animal sounds outside. Quietly and slowly I exited to the bedroom to look out the full wall of glass to the garden. Scattered among the bush were no less than 50 impalas, 25 Helmeted Guinea-Fowls with chicks, and one large lone male warthog.

Male impalas along the side of the main road in Marloth Park on our return drive from grocery shopping.

Quickly I awoke Tom, and together as quietly as possible, we opened the door to the veranda, camera in hand.  Alas, the impalas scattered, but the warthog and the “guinea hens,” as Tom calls them, stayed behind. 

Mr.Warthog was very shy, as we’ve noticed in the lone males. He meandered about the garden for a half-hour finally checking out the pellets, deciding to partake. The guinea hens and chicks had a blast picking away at the large pellets, easily knocking them into smaller pieces. Even they are fun to watch.

The baby warthogs are getting huge. When the mom is ready to mate again, she’ll leave the babies to fen for themselves as their own maturing life cycle begins. This particular mom has been a favorite of mine.  She has no fear of me, makes eye contact that is endearing, and is such a good mom, holding back while the babies eat the pellets first. I always make a point of tossing several in front of her and only then does she eat them. Warthogs eat on their front knees which have tough pads from the day they’re born.

As for the rest of today, this morning after posting, we’re heading to the little house to pack all of our stuff to bring it here for packing. Originally, we’d planned to do it on Tuesday, the morning after the dinner party. But, we decided to get it done and off of our minds. 

We’ll put everything in the main floor guest room, shutting the door until Tuesday when we’re ready to begin the dreadful task of sorting and packing everything we own into two large suitcases, two overnight bags, one duffel bag, and two computer bags. Everything we own. More dwindling down. Letting go of more stuff due to increased weight restrictions over prior flights.

Busy day…One more trip to Komatipoort, after all..Six days and counting…A little whining is in order…

Baby warthog, standing by the braai. “What’s on the menu?” he inquires. “Pellets, I hope!”

One week from today, at 5:45 am, after a full night of flying, we’ll be getting off the plane in Cairo, Egypt for a three and a half hour layover until we board another plane to Casablanca, Morocco for another six-hour flight with almost a two-hour layover. Then another flight to Marrakesh, arriving at 3:35 pm.”

I can only hope we’ll have managed to get enough sleep during the eight-hour red-eye to avoid feeling awful. Oh, we can’t stay up all night as well as we were able when younger.

Tom is fussing as the time to depart nears, today only six days away; the 29 hours from leaving this house to arriving in Marrakesh; waiting times at the various airports; handling our luggage at every layover at least three times; the actual time on the flights, the longest eight hours, next six hours, and two for shorter periods.

Mom and four babies eating the pellets we left for the zebra, whom we hope will soon reappear. We’d left a few carrots for him also, but this group had no interest in the carrots.

Whether I’m Clive, the Ostrich, with my head in the sand, I prefer not to worry, my only concern being a safe arrival. Between us, we have all the possible worries covered. Good grief. We don’t like this part.

As a matter of fact, this upcoming week is the hardest part of our travels. This time, we have the added element of going to the little house to pack everything still there to bring here to the African Reunion House to begin the painful process of packing it all together.

With our upcoming “goodbye party” on Monday at 5:00 pm, we’ve postponed the dreadful job of clearing our stuff from the little house until Tuesday morning. If we picked it all up now, we’d have our stuff strewn all over the main floor, not a pretty sight for a dinner party. Tuesday, it will be. 

Good thing I no longer drink alcohol (due to the high sugar content) or I may have been agonizing with a hangover, a common occurrence in my old days even after only a few glasses of red wine. Tom, on the other hand, never suffers after a party if he imbibes in a few too many, a rare occurrence in itself.

I told Tom that if warthogs had been our only visitors in the three months in Marloth Park, I’d have been happy.  As a young child, I had an imaginary character with me at all times, “Piggy.” At five years old, as we drove across the US from California to Boston, Massachusetts to visit my beloved grandmother, my mother made my father stop on the highway in Sweetwater, Texas, to let “Piggy” out of the car. It was time for me to grow up. I cried all the way to Boston. This memory, emblazoned in mind 60 years later, left me fascinated with pigs. 

In a perfect world, we’d take all of this in our stride. But, let’s face it. We’ve taken quite a lot in our stride and this isn’t it. If Tom wasn’t feeling angst-ridden, I’d be fine. No matter what I say or do, I can’t seem to help lessen his frustration that there was no such thing as a direct flight from Johannesburg to Marrakesh.

So there it is. Our temporary, albeit, frustrating state of being over the next week, a price we pay for choosing this otherwise glorious life. There’s no “free lunch.” We can only find comfort in the reality that a week from tonight, we’ll be situated (most likely not totally unpacked) in our new home, called Dar Aicha, with Madame Zahra preparing and serving us our first meal.

I find comfort in recalling our painstaking over 24 hours travel time to Kenya from Italy, arriving in Mombasa at 6:00 am then boarding a rickety van to cross the river on a ferry and drive over an hour to Diani Beach to our awaiting home. We rested for a few hours, later heading out to the grocery shop. 

I remember how tired, but excited we were, defraying the feelings of exhaustion. Hopefully, these 29 hours won’t be much different and, after a good night’s sleep, the next day we’ll head to a grocery store for snacks. It should be easier that we don’t have to shop and cook when we arrive.

Late yesterday afternoon we discovered this insect which is over 4 inches, 10.6 cm long.

Now, getting back to the moment, my goal over the next several days is to stay calm while savoring our last days in Marloth Park. With the pelting rain over the last few days, the only visitors we’ve had is the skinny warthog mom with four fast-maturing babies. The larger animals stay under cover during the heavy rains. 

Last night, before dinner, we were driven indoors when it was too wet on the veranda to stay outside. We hunkered down in the cooled-down bedroom, watched a weird, yet the well-acted movie, “Her,” with the last third left to finish tonight. 

Overall, we’re good, with the enthusiastic anticipation of our upcoming dinner party on Monday night and a quiet weekend at home in the African Reunion House, a blessing until we leave.  Perhaps, more visitors will come by now that the rain has stopped. 

In the meanwhile, we wait for Mr. Tree Frog to return for a fifth time to his favorite perch on the rafters of the veranda. I heard some croaking in our immediate area on the veranda as I write this, wondering if it’s him.

I realize that all the photos of Mr. Tree Frog look-alike. But this was taken at 6:00 pm yesterday after his fourth return after leaving for 12 to 24 hours over the past week. His continued return visits have been a source of curiosity for us.

Soon, Okee Dokee will arrive to take me to Komatipoort for groceries for the upcoming party. Had we not arranged the party, we’d have had plenty of food to get us through the next several days while dining out a few times. But, an opportunity to say “thank you” to more of our local friends supersedes our desire for “easy.”

It’s the simple things that have made life in Marloth Park amazing and memorable and we hope to continue to embrace every moment of our remaining time in its midst.

A birthday to remember!…Safari luck..People luck!…A photo to remember! …Elephants! Bushbuck! Waterbuck! Cape Buffalo and more!

Nomsa and Zeff singing happy birthday to me in Zulu.  The sign behind Zeff’s head says, “Take risks. If you win you will be happy. If you lose you will be wise.” So true.

Perhaps we should add, “People Luck” to our repertoire of pet (no pun intended) phrases we regularly use.  Yesterday, my birthday, was a combination of both.

Bushbuck we spotted on the way to the Crocodile River. 

The day started with birthday wishes from my hubby beginning at midnight extending throughout the day.  Then, upon checking my computer, came email, Facebook wishes and Skype calls. 

The sun, behind the rumbling clouds, created this reflection on the Crocodile River when we arrived to check for wildlife along the shores.

I love birthdays without the obligatory gifts and surprise parties. With expectations out the window, one receives words, songs, thoughtful gestures, and messages from the heart. Yesterday, I had them all.

This first animal we spotted was this cape buffalo attempting to stay cool in the river of a very hot day.
First, we saw these two elephants and moments later, two more.

My day started early when Zeff and Nomsa sang Happy Birthday to me in Zulu, melting my heart as I took the above photo. Louise, having arranged this tender gesture stood off to the side as they sang, obviously proud of her loyal workers whom she and Danie adore and treat with kindness and love.

At quite a distance, we watched this waterbuck keeping a safe distance from the elephants.
What a magnificent animal!
The Cape Buffalo mid-river keeping cool as a bit of sun peeked through the clouds for a moment.

African Reunion House was soon sparkling clean by their diligent efforts, leaving me literally nothing to do but enjoy the day. The heat and humidity were at a peak, 94F, 34.4C as we dripped in sweat while on the veranda all day. We didn’t care. Throwing on a bathing suit early in the day, it was easy to cool off in the pool staying cool wearing a wet bathing suit all day.

Elephant reflection in the river as she approached for a drink.

With Okee Dokee picking us up at 5:45 pm to head to the Crocodile River for sunset and to hopefully spot wildlife, the day went quickly. The plan was to head to Jabula Lodge for dinner at dark, have her join us for dinner with Louise and Danie stopping by for a drink. Not hungry after a day of cooking for guests, they refused our offer of dinner, much to our dismay. These generous people all have a hard time accepting tokens of appreciation, an aspect we recall from our past lives.

Walking along the shore trying to keep up with the herd of four.

What can I say? It was a perfect day and night. At precisely 5:45 Okee Dokee appeared at our door, gifts in hand. Knowing we had no room in our luggage she’d brought me two bags of my favorite nuts, macadamias, grown here in South Africa, raw, delicious, and the following wallet-sized photo which she’d encased in sealed plastic so it could easily travel with us. 

This is the first photo of us when we arrived in Marloth Park on December 1, 2013.  Okee Dokee took this photo which, for my birthday she’d made into a plastic sealed wallet size. What a thoughtful gift! Some of our Facebook friends and family members had commented that it looked as if I was wearing a giraffe hat.

How thoughtful! I was in awe of her clever gifts, one as a reminder of our time in Marloth Park and another to be consumed before we leave one week from today. As stated above, she had taken this photo the day we arrived in Marloth Park when she’d picked us up in Mpumalanga/Nelspruit airport. Within minutes of arriving in the park, we spotted Giraffes and she took this photo of Tom and me with the giraffe in the background. 

These two young male elephants were playing, their trunks entwined!
Their playfulness was quite a sight to see! But, it was getting darker by the moment.

We were in total shock, unable to believe this was happening. How is this possible, animals walking around in the streets and in the gardens of the well-scattered homes in Marloth Park? We knew we were coming to a place where animals roamed free but, it was hard to believe until we actually saw it. It’s still hard to believe. Locals have told us, after living here for years, that they still don’t believe it.

I missed the shot where the elephant on the left grabbed the tail of the one on the right with his trunk.

After an emotional exchange of considerable appreciation of her kindness and thoughtfulness, knowing how much we’ll miss her as well, we headed to the Crocodile River with hopes of seeing wildlife along its shores. We weren’t disappointed as the three of us gawked in awe of the activity in front of us. More “safari luck,” for sure.

The four elephants were finally close enough for this shot. 

Keep in mind, by the time we arrived at the river, the sun was shrouded in clouds providing us with little light for our photos. Like many amateur photographers, as I’ve realized, taking photos in waning light or darkness from a distance is almost impossible without special equipment. With our less than sophisticated Sony CyberShot camera, the lens damaged from humidity, I did the best I could.

A momentary opening in the clouds caught my eye.

At dark, we headed to Jabula Lodge, spotting a poisonous tree snake on the road as usual.  As we entered the cozy bar and restaurant, Dawn and Leon greeting us warmly with hugs, kisses, and birthday greetings. Our favorite table close to the AC was decorated specifically for the occasion, more than I could ever have expected.

A loud, and enjoyable evening filled with even more laughter was immediately heightened when Louise and Danie appeared a short time later as we all gathered around the tiny tables. Leon gave everyone in the bar a shot of Amarula, the sweet alcoholic drink made from the popular Marula tree which bears a sweet fruit both animals and people love, after which everyone, those we knew and those we didn’t know, toasted me while singing the birthday song. 

Blushing over the thoughtful tribute, I failed to take what could have been a memorable photo of the locals and friends. Some moments simply remain in the heart if not in a photo.

Danie and Louise last night at my party. We couldn’t adore them more! They told us we were the “easiest” guests they ever had with the least complaints.  Of course, we were flattered.

After lively conversation, laughter, and endless accolades over one another, the evening ended as it was time for the restaurant to close for the night. Soon, the three of us were bouncing along the road in Okee Dokee‘s game vehicle, reeling over the fun we all had. “People Luck” for sure.

Okee Dokee with us under the Cape Buffalo head at Jabula Lodge. We wish we could take her with us! We will miss her! She’s also coming to our party on Monday, along with Dawn and Leon, Danie and Louise

Of course, we didn’t get out of there without planning the traditional “goodbye party” hosted by us, this upcoming Monday beginning at 5 pm. We promised a traditional American dinner using the traditional South African bush braai. Hum..what shall we make? We shall see.

Today, another year older…Acceptance…Fulfilling a lifelong dream…A new visitor came to call…A previous visitor returned…

Last night during our quiet dinner party for four on the veranda at the African Reunion House, we heard a sound in the distance. Moments later, we heard the “thump, thump” sound of hooves. Less then 20 feet, 6 meters, from us stood this adorable zebra.  Grabbing pellets and carrots, we all had an opportunity to interact with him, unable to wipe the smiles off of our faces. Without a doubt, he’ll be back.

Finally, I’ve begun to accept that we’re leaving South Africa, with the knowledge that we’ll still be on the continent of Africa for almost three more months. 

Our first zebra visitor at the African Reunion House was welcomed with open arms.

As a young girl, I dreamed of Africa hoping that someday this dream would be realized. At 17, ready to graduate high school, I longed to join the Peace Corps. Still underage, my mother refused to let me go. But, here I am today, enriched and fulfilled after spending the past almost six months in Africa with more time to be savored in the exotic Morocco, a world away from Marloth Park. 

Our friend Kathy got up close and personal with him, hand feeding him pellets. As a hostess gift for our dinner gathering, Kathy and Linda brought us a big bag of pellets, instead of the usual wine, flowers or candy. Nothing could have been more appropriate when we were running low. How did they know we needed pellets?

Almost 50 years is a long time to carry around a dream. Why was it so long in coming? Life. Kids. Work. Responsibilities. Time. Money. All of these.

Today, on my 66th birthday, I can only smile feeling grateful in many ways; to my husband for making this adventure possible and for his willingness to spread his wings to leave a lifetime of comfort and familiarity; to our family for accepting our decision to leave Minnesota and the US; to our friends for graciously supporting our decision; for our health which, without it, none of this would have been possible; and for the new friends we’ve made along the way that have opened their homes and hearts to us.

Tom feeding the visiting Zebra carrots.  I didn’t care if we ran out of carrots and couldn’t make our usual coleslaw.   

Gee, this sounds like an Academy Awards acceptance speech! However, birthdays, after age 60 years, seem to revolve around acceptance. It includes acceptance of changes in ourselves; the changes in our health, our bodies, our memory, our energy level and most of all, our motivation. 

One might think it’s just “too much work” to travel to Africa; the required inoculations; the malaria pills; the risk of illness, injury, disease; the necessity to become tolerant of the heat and humidity often with no air conditioning; dealing with the fears of snakes and insects; accepting the lengthy travel time and, the daunting task of finding the best place to live.

He was actually much taller than he appears in these photos. We were standing on the edge of the veranda while he was standing in a lower spot in the bush. I was so excited I paid no attention to my camera settings, resulting in the darkened shot.

All of these reasons and more may leave a prospective traveler with the sense that it’s just too much trouble to travel to Africa. Amid all of these reasons, somehow, we got ourselves here. 

Tom has surprised me. I thought he’d never want to visit Africa. And when we lived outside on that veranda in Kenya, not by choice but by necessity, in the blistering heat and drenching humidity, with the biting insects, with the almost daily power outages, he somehow made it through with dignity and grace. 

Kathy’s hand reaching out to feed him a piece of carrot that he loved.

And I, too, made it through, albeit with my raging fear of centipedes, sweating in the heat, knowing that complaining served no purpose, especially when I was the one that wanted to go to Africa.

And now, these past almost three months, outdoors on the veranda no less than 15 hours a day, often in the heat and humidity, at times with biting insects and snakes, yes and snakes, we haven’t felt it was a struggle.  Acceptance. It kicked in almost three months ago, when they came to see us. The animals. It came to us almost six months ago, when we arrived in Kenya, knowing a safari in the Masai Mara was imminent.

The discomfort wafted away, replaced by something magical, the likes of which neither of us has ever known and most likely, will never know again. The animals. The people. The environment. Amazing.

Mr. Tree Frog was gone during dinner last night, but reappeared for the fourth time this morning. We can’t figure out why he likes this particular spot. Most likely, he loves to eat and drink, perhaps swim in the pool, only to return to this exact spot. I looked for information on tree frog behavior, unable to find an explanation.

We’ve been given a gift by Louise and Danie by completing our remaining time in Marloth Park in the luxurious African Reunion House by, a gift we couldn’t turn down. Each day more and more visitors stop by as if welcoming us in their area, their home in the bush. 

With more visitors coming here, we have no reason to return to the little house, other than to stop over on Monday, pack all of our belongings to bring it all to one house to pack for the upcoming trip to Morocco next Friday.

We can now say goodbye, knowing that when and if our health and time is right, we can return to Marloth Park, perhaps to go on safari again in the Masai Mara, Kenya, to finally see Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and to travel to Rwanda to see the Gorillas and to once again embrace Africa and its wonders.

And, if for one reason or another we cannot return, we’ll always hold the memories of our time in Africa deep within our hearts, our minds, and our spirits.

Today, I celebrate my birthday, not as one more year of this life passing by. Instead, I celebrate the acceptance for all that I’ve loved, for all that I’ve learned, and for all that is yet to come.