A reunion with an old friend with a new family…Issues revealed in getting into Kruger Park during holiday…

Adorable baby Danie with his loving and attentive mom, Okey Dokey. He never stopped smiling and laughing the entire time they were visiting.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Kudus are spectacular animals.  They are gentle and never hesitate to make eye contact. But, those huge antlers can be dangerous for both humans and other wildlife. We stay back when offering food and taking photos.

There are so many people in Marloth Park right now; we’re having trouble with the Internet. I tried downloading today’s photos but wasn’t able to do so for several hours. Now at almost 11:00 am, I’m still busy getting the post ready to upload.

The larger male of the Vervet monkeys troop sits in the tree next to the veranda where the bush baby house is located.

There are 12 national holidays in South Africa, resulting in Mondays as the official “off work” day. As for this current holiday, Tuesday is the official May Day holiday since it’s May 1st. This link will provide you with a list of the South African holidays.

We’ve heard that people are being turned away to enter Kruger National Park during this busy period. Only 600 people are allowed into each of the eleven entrance gates throughout the massive wildlife area. 

He sat there for quite a while, watching us. 

According to our visiting friends Okey Dokey and family, yesterday, people were being turned away without a pre-paid reservation. And even many of those visitors with “reservations” were left waiting for up to two hours to enter the gate. The extra cost for booking a reservation, over and above the usual entrance fees (prices vary), is ZAR 38 (US $3.07) per person.

Once inside, every sighting is observed by dozens of vehicles. Oh, good grief. This enormous natural environment is taken over by commercialism during the holiday, returning to its quiet and enriching status that usually takes one’s breath away.

Soon, he was distracted by the noise his troop-mates were making as they flew through the trees.

Of course, we aren’t going to the park again until well after the holiday when most tourists have left the area. That’s not to say there aren’t others like us who are renting holiday homes during the quieter seasons who will still be here. Hopefully, they, too, like us, attempt to blend in and become a part of this magical place. 

As we enter the cooler winter season, beginning on June 21st, tourism in the area will taper off due to lower temperatures. This morning, both of us were outside on the veranda by 6:30 am bundled up to stay warm. Now, four hours later, we’re back to shorts and tee shirts.

We tried for a better photo of this male bushbuck which is the darkest we’ve seen, but I was distracted with our company and never took the time for a good picture as darkest fell.

The cooler weather will not deter us from spending our days and nights outdoors.  We’ll add more layers of clothing to stay warm. It doesn’t get much below 10C (50F) during most winter months. But, after all of these years of warm weather (except for Antarctica), these temps might feel cold to us.

Before dusk, our dear friend, Okey Dokey, our driver here in Marloth Park four years ago, who remained a great friend these past years, visited us with her husband and baby, both named Dani, for snacks, wine, and beer. We’d never met the two Danis and adored them both.

His coloring was much darker, and he was considerably larger than other male bushbucks we’ve seen so far.

n. It was delightful to meet her two loved ones. It was as if we’d never missed a beat. How fortunate we are to have made such fine friends along the w A third Danie, of Louise and Danie, also joined us since they were also good friends with this extraordinary young woman.

We were sad to see them go. But, adorable little Danie, now almost eight months old, was ready for sleep after they spent a very long day in Kruger, as they explained above, regarding gaining entrance into the park.

I wish I’d taken better photos of our visitors, but sometimes, I’m just more interested in the people than the photos.  Louise is next to Okey Dokey, and Okey Dokey’s husband Danie is seated to Tom’s right.  Louise’s Danie and I were at the far end of the table.

Who knows how long it will be until we see them again? They’ve invited us to visit them at the “farm,” a five-hour drive from here. Perhaps, at some point during our remaining months in South Africa (immigration permitting), we’ll visit them.

Soon we’re off to the little market at Marlothi Centre for a few items for tonight’s dinner and more carrots and apples for our wildlife friends. It will be a quiet few days for us with no plans to travel any further than the little market,  as the holiday season continues through Tuesday.

We hope you have a quiet and pleasant day wherever you may be! 

Photo from one year ago today, April 30, 2017:

Image result for international date line map
Map of the world illustrating how the International Date Line affects each side of the line. One year ago, we crossed, and we had two May firsts. Please click here for details.

Holiday traffic in the park…Changes everything…

This is a common sight in Marloth Park this weekend.  It’s packed with tourists sitting in the back of a “bakkie” which is Afrikaans for “pick up truck.”

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Little Wart Face stopped by for a nap. 

Last night, our friends Kathy and Don, joined us for dinner at our bush home. We prepared an excellent meal without too much fuss so we could enjoy sitting on the veranda on a perfect evening, enjoying our lively conversation and the sounds of night in the bush.

On Thursday, tourists began arriving in Marloth, with many staying through Tuesday, the end of the five-day holiday weekend. The traffic has been outrageous for this conservancy. The otherwise quiet dirt road we live in is experiencing a steady stream of cars, day and night.

Midday on Friday, this was Olifant Road, the paved main road in Marloth Park. We couldn’t believe how many cars and people had entered the park for the holiday weekend.

Kathy and Don, who live along the Crocodile River, said they’ve also seen a steady flow of traffic on their usually quiet dirt road as well. We’ll all be glad when the holiday ends.

When we took off for a drive in the park on Friday, we didn’t expect to see much and then these beautiful elephants!

No offense intended for tourists. But, the calm and quiet residents hold in high regard is often disturbed during the busy holiday season. When Louise and Danie stopped by for a visit yesterday, they mentioned it felt like more tourists here now than there were at Easter or this past Christmas season.

A male impala in the bush.

This is a dilemma for people who own homes here. The community needs the revenue generated by tourists staying in holiday homes and spending money in restaurants and shops. The majority of the tourists are thoughtful of the “rules of the park.” still, they can’t help but feel frustrated by a handful of tourists who play loud music, talk loudly, and are inconsiderate of the wildlife and trash disposal.

Last night, after we cleaned up (Tom did the many dishes), we wandered back outside to the veranda to see if any visitors would stop by.  During the busy holiday seasons, few animals visit their usual haunts. 

Several youngsters with two moms, cooling off and drinking in the Crocodile River.

We haven’t seen Scar Face, Wart Face, or Frank since Friday, and only a few bushbucks, kudus, and the usual zillions of guinea fowl have made an appearance. This is typical when there are lots of people are in the park. Hopefully, they’ll return to their usual routine by Tuesday or Wednesday, and so will we.

One elephant was off at a distance. Could this be a male who soon will be banished from the family unit?

In the interim, we’re staying put. Early this morning, we did a load of laundry and hung it on the clothesline. Now, as the sky has turned dark and cloudy, we may have to bring it inside before it rains. Few people have clothes dryers in South Africa, or for that matter, in many parts of the world.

Included in our rent is our fantastic Marta, who gladly will do all of our laundry. She washes and hangs up the sheets each week. In the interim, Tom and I don’t mind washing our clothes and hanging them to dry. 

We will never tire of seeing elephants. They are such majestic and mysterious animals.

Since we have so few items and only so much underwear, we do laundry more often than some. By doing it ourselves, we don’t have to wait a day or two until the next laundry day, especially for items we wear frequently. 

He doesn’t like words on his clothing. I sleep in a Celebrity Cruise Line tee shirt that Tom didn’t want when it had words on it. It’s currently the only warm-weather sleepwear I own. 

From this site:  “Elephants may spend 12-18 hours a day feeding. Adult elephants can eat between 200-600 pounds of food a day. As herbivores, elephants consume grasses, tree foliage, bark, twigs, and other vegetation daily. Elephants can also drink up to 50 gallons of water a day about as much as a standard bathtub holds.”

I had a wide variety of attractive sleepwear in varying colors and styles suitable for all weather conditions in our old lives. Not the case now. I wash the one tee shirt in the hopes it will dry by bedtime. If it’s too humid for it to dry (often the case), I’ll “borrow” a different tee shirt from Tom for the one night. He doesn’t mind a bit.

There’s one item of clothing I miss… a long fluffy bathrobe. A few holiday homes have had robes, but they’re often intended for much shorter people than the two of us. Wearing a robe that barely covers one’s backside is uncomfortable. We have no room in our luggage for robes, never have, never will.

Guinea fowl and zebras were snacking on pellets in the yard.

It’s a small and insignificant sacrifice. After all these years, we give little thought to the “stuff” we had in our old lives. Sure, at times, I think that a food processor would be handy. I’m constantly chopping and dicing for our meals, and it would be so much easier with this handy kitchen appliance. In the realm of things, I guess it just isn’t that important.

With two more days until the crowd thins out and our wildlife friends return, we’ll busy ourselves with “human” friends such as Okey Dokey and her family coming for happy hour today. Louise and Danie will join us.  I’d better get back in the kitchen and finish some chopping and dicing for some snacks for this afternoon when our guests arrive.

And, I see at the moment a few raindrops are falling. We’d better take the clothes off the line!

Happy day!

Photo from one year ago today, April 29, 2017:

A fancy outhouse on a tropical island. For more photos, please click here.

What happened to Scar Face?…The progression of his injury…If only love can help…

Scar Face’s right eye is above the injury but may have been affected.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Last night’s partial moon.

We have no delusions about life and death in the wild. It’s all a part of nature. Wild animals kill for food, and seeing this occur while on safari the first few times is a heart-wrenching experience for many. We were no exception.
In time we came to accept the “pecking order,” realizing that if one cares to embrace the bush, revel in the wild, and participate in photo safaris, seeing these events is inevitable at one point or another.  

In actuality, although harsh, witnessing such an event can be a life-changing experience as we mature and grow in our vast appreciation of the animal kingdom worldwide.

He stops by several times each day, and we always feed him generously.  He needs food to help him heal.

In Marloth Park, few predators hunt and kill the wildlife located within the park. On occasion, there’s a sighting of a lion, a cheetah, wild dogs, or hyenas. It’s not unheard of for residents to occasionally spot a carcass in the park, left behind for the vulture’s next meal.

In the day-to-day existence of living in the park, primarily it’s a happy place, filled with loving kudus, skittish duikers, gentle bushbucks, and determined zebras, trudging through the bush with heavy hooves, quickly alerting us to their arrival.

At the beginning of his injury, each day, it looked worse than the previous day. We were distraught. He was so busy eating; we had a hard time taking photos.

Of course, there are dozens of other species we see weekly, including the “small and smaller things” such as insects, lizards, mongoose, rodents, birds, rats, snakes, and many more.  

As a result, we seldom have seen injuries and the death of wild animals in Marloth Park. Like I said, “it’s a happy place” for both grownups and children who can learn so much in this magical environment.

We were fearful of reporting his injury to the rangers. See the reasons in the text.

But, when several weeks ago, a special warthog stopped by to see us, we were shocked by what we saw, the right side of his face had been severely stabbed by either the antler of a large antelope such as a male kudu or wildebeest, during an altercation with another warthog or as he ran into a protruding branch of a tree when he was on the run.

We’ve seen how fast warthogs can run, upwards of 48 kilometers (30 miles) per hour. We’ve also seen them dash through the yard at such high speeds when they become frightened, making it entirely possible for Scar-Face to have run into a protruding branch.

At times, he was covered in mud. Was that his way of attempting to heal the injury?

We’ll never know what happened to him to cause this horrific injury. All we know is we didn’t want to report his injury to the Rangers, who, when they’d see such a devastating injury, may have decided euthanasia was the way to go. We had hope. We didn’t report it.

At times, his good friend Mutton Chops comes to visit with Scar-Face. They get along well when sharing the pellets. (Previously posted photo).

If at any time, we’d seen him failing, unable to eat, lying in the yard, and in great distress, of course, we’d have had no choice but to report it. When he’s showed up in our yard several times a day looking for some quick and easy nourishment, we anticipated we’d made the right decision to “wait and watch.”  

Certain animals in Marloth Park, when injured or ill, will be treated by volunteer medical professionals, after which they’ll be returned to the wild. Recently, a bushbuck’s leg was caught in a scare and had become infected. The injured bushbuck was darted, treated, and released.  

Was it improving a little, we wondered?

Unfortunately, warthogs, who multiple prolifically and are pretty sturdy, don’t fall into a category of a species that the Rangers and medical professionals feel are “worthy” of being treated. Many warthogs are culled each year. Many are left to fend for themselves when illness or injury strikes or are euthanized if they can be found.

As the days passed, Scar Face began to look better and better. Some days, his face was covered in thick mud, which he must have been using to heal the severe wound. Animals are unique, and many are intelligent enough to care for themselves and one another using available resources in the wild.

It has been heartbreaking thinking he’s been in pain.

He’s come to visit every single day, eating a massive number of pellets, apples, and other vegetables, and frequently drank from the cement pond in the yard. He’d scratch his face on a tree. There’s no doubt that as the wound began to heal, it became itchy.  

Danie told us that warthogs like to eat bones. We cooked meats and saved all the bones for him. He especially loves the bones, quickly chewing them. Warthogs are omnivores and not only graze on grasses, roots, and tubers but will eat dead animals encountered in the wild, although they won’t hunt for meat.

Now, the injury appears to be drying up, and he seems more animated but extremely cautious around animals other than a few friendly warthogs, like Mutton Chops and Little Wart Face (as opposed to big Wart Face, who’s very grumpy).

Each time he stands in the dirt near the veranda staring at us, asking, “What’s to eat today?’  We can’t help it as we both jump to our feet, scurry around gathering food for him. We stand on the edge of the veranda tossing food to him, which he enthusiastically devours.

Now, as we see him looking so much better, we can only hope he’ll remain on the road to recovery.  No doubt, he’ll continue to return as we carefully and hopefully watch his recovery progress. We’re thrilled.

Then suddenly, two days ago, he started looking better with minor oozing.

Tonight, friends Kathy and Don are coming for dinner. With all the socializing we’d done with them four years ago, and since our return to the park, this will be the first time it will be just the four of us. We plan on an enjoyable evening.  

Tomorrow, at 4:00 pm, Okey Dokey, our dear friend and former driver in Marloth Park in 2013/2014, is coming with her husband and baby, whom we’ve yet to meet, for happy hour along with Louise and Danie. We’ve stayed in touch all these years and are excited to see her and her family. It will be a great weekend, for sure.

May your “May Day” weekend be busy with those whose company you especially enjoy!

Photo from one year ago today, April 29, 2017:

A tiny rowboat at the ready in the Isle of Pines in the South Pacific. For more photos, please click here.

Bumpy roads, baboons, and broken baked clay…

We shot this photo of the Crocodile River while standing at the brick overlook. With the five-day May Day holiday and many tourists in the park, we won’t be returning for several days. 

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Happy caterpillar dancing across the floor!

The five-day holiday observation includes today’s Freedom Day (Freedom Day is a public holiday in South Africa celebrated on April 27th each year. It celebrates freedom and commemorates the first post-apartheid elections held in 1994), then the May Day celebrations begin. See this link for details.

Once again, Marloth Park is packed. All of Louise and Danie’s holiday rentals are booked (not unusual for their exceptional properties. There’s an endless stream of vehicles along our ordinarily quiet dirt road, and the shops and restaurants will be packed over the weekend until Tuesday when the festivities come to an end.

Yesterday, we didn’t see any wildlife along the Crocodile River, although the scenery is always stunning.

With company coming for dinner tomorrow evening (friends Kathy and Don), we plan to stay put over the next several days. We have plenty of food, drinks, and supplies on hand and a plan to make a great dinner not only tomorrow but for the remaining evenings as well.

With the post done and uploaded yesterday around noon, we decided to take one more bumpy drive on the dirt roads in Marloth Park to see if we’d discover any unique sightings.  Whether it’s a turtle or a lizard on the road, a parade of elephants along the river, or a bloat of hippos lounging in a pool of water, it all matters to us.

We didn’t see much wildlife on yesterday’s drive in the park.  This ostrich made the day!

As we drove over one outrageously bumpy road after another, seeing very little, which can be attributed to the increased traffic in the park, we decided to call it a day and head to Daisy’s Den for more birdseed and a few items we needed for the weekend.

Male ostriches typically have black feathers, while females and youngsters are a greyish brown color.

It’s such fun going to any one of the three small shopping centers here in Marloth Park. Talk about a small-town feel! These are oozing with charm and quaintness, leaving both of us enjoying any necessary shopping runs we may make throughout the week to fill in on any items needed.

The pickings are slim in either of the two little grocery stores carrying just the basics. At times, we’re surprised by the excellent produce and odds and ends we may find that prevent us from the necessity of the long drive to Komatipoort for only an item or two. 

A male kudu resting in the bush from the hot midday sun was looking our way as we shot this photo.

The drive to the Marloth Park shops is three minutes. The purpose to Komatipoort is 20 to 25 minutes, depending on what big trucks we’re stuck behind on the two-lane road. 

Back at home by 2:00 pm, the moment we stepped out of the little blue car we realized we had visitors…unwanted visitors…a troop of baboons. Luckily, there isn’t much they can destroy on the veranda at this house. Sure, they could ruin the cushions on the outdoor chairs, but the potted plants are simply too heavy to tip over.

At a distance, we could see these two young baboons playing in the yard.

There are some decorator items on the stucco walls and both a gas grill and wood-burning braai (grill), neither of which seem to appeal to baboons on one of their destructive rants.  Weeks ago, we knew they’d been here when we found poop, baboon poop, all over the veranda and cushions from a few chairs tossed about.  We cleaned up the stinky mess and put everything back in order.

As we kept a watchful eye on yesterday baboon invasion after closing the doors to the house, we heard several loud crashes coming from next door. Maybe they were heading our way next! Tom grabbed his big stick designated for precisely this type of situation, which if he holds over his head cause the baboons tend to freak out and run away. It worked perfectly. 

We immediately shut the doors to the house.  Once baboons enter, they can tear a home apart.

After we were assured they were gone from the general area, Tom walked next door to check out the damage, taking these photos we’ve shown.  If they’d turned over a trash bin, he could set it upright to avoid more baboons and Vervet monkeys coming to eat from the garbage which often occurs. That’s why homeowners have wired or steel cages to hold their trash until pickup arrives.

It didn’t take long to see we were surrounded by destructive animals.

Luckily, they never returned the remainder of the day. We spent the evening as usual, on the veranda enjoying our dinner and watching a variety of “friends” come and go.

We heard several loud crashes from the house next door, where no one is living right now. Rina and Cees had left to return to The Netherlands. The baboons broke many clay pots, as shown in these photos.

Tomorrow, we’ll share the heartfelt story of an injured animal we’ve come to know and love and how we’ve attempted to help him a little as he hopefully recovers soon. 

We’ll be sharing some hard-to-look-at photos of his awful injury and why some animals in the park are treated by volunteer vets and others are not or in some cases euthanized by shooting. Please stop back for this story.

What a shame. I suppose this lighter-weight pottery makes no sense in the bush.

Have a lovely day and evening!

Photo from one year ago today, April 27, 2017:

Clouds above the pretty beach in the Isle of Pines, a port of call on last year’s cruise. For more photos, please click here.

First time visitor stuns…Gentle musings on a busy morning in the bush…Two must-watch videos…

Notice the train-like mating noise Wart Face makes when approaching
this female, one of two moms that stop by each day.
The interaction with wildlife is not only educational but also humorous.
Each day, we spend hours watching their behavior.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

As shown in this photo (not ours), a genet appeared last night while we were packing to go inside for the night. Unfortunately, I’d already put away the camera. By the time I went back inside to get it, the genet was long gone. Now, I suppose, we’ll be hell-bent on seeing this lovely cat again and taking our photos.

We’ve had few quiet mornings in Marloth Park since we arrived two and a half months ago. Whether it’s the four dozen helmeted guinea fowl that live in the bush surrounding our house, a single kudu or a forkl of kudu, a sounder of warthogs or Frank (the francolin) and his wife, it’s always a busy morning.

A good-sized turtle was crossing the road.

Often, they begin to appear once we’re up and about, but on a rare occasion, as soon as we open the giant wooden doors to the house, a variety may be awaiting us. “What’s for breakfast,” their eyes ask as they stare at us. Wildlife in Marloth Park is used to being fed.

A part of this outrageous adventure are the sounds in the bush both day and night, including an indescribable variety of bird calls, cricket chirps, impala barks, hog snorts, frogs croaks (only the males’ croak), and the frequent sounds at a distance, often hard for us novices to decipher. In time we will learn.

Three young monkeys were playing in the dirt in front of the veranda.

For now, we sit back in a perpetual state of wonder, rarely ever missing a beat. The rustling in the bush is often a good indicator that an animal is approaching. My finely-tuned hearing is quick to pick up on a pending arrival, for which I quietly alert Tom while we both wait in anticipation as to who will grace our presence in the next minute or two.

They are highly social and spend considerable time playing with their troop-mates.

With Tom’s years of hearing loss from “working on the railroad,” with difficulty hearing certain tones, he’s often dependent on me to let him know someone is approaching.  But, then, his keen eye often spots action in the bush long before I see it. We’re a good team as observers of wildlife in the bush (along with other things).

Monkeys use rocks and boulders as tools to open nuts and fruit.

One may ask, “What do we have to gain from this?” Other than the joy of knowing we’re providing some sustenance for the wildlife who often suffer during droughts, why do we have this peculiar passion that we and many homeowners and visitors to Marloth Park and nature reserves throughout the world also possess?

As wildlife populations diminish worldwide due to human intervention and a natural cycle of life, death, and extinction, we’ve added the experience of seeing and being entrenched in the beauty of nature and wildlife, which our great-grandchildren may never be able to see.

Monkeys such as this Vervet come by in troops, swinging through the trees and carrying on in our side yard.  Vervet monkeys are smaller and less destructive than baboons.

Perhaps our stories and photos here will provide them with a peek into “what it was like” decades ago to help them have a better understanding of cyclic changes in nature precipitated by myriad forces often beyond our control.

This monkey picked up this pellet off the ground and wiped off the dirt before eating it.

Did “humankind” wipe out the dinosaurs? No. Nature did.  And maybe, just maybe, nature naturally has played such a role over the millennium. Once, humans weren’t on this earth. Will one day we be gone as well? We don’t know, nor can we accurately surmise or assume we can change what is yet to come in our destiny.

This is a blue-tailed day gecko we often see close to the river.

Meanwhile, many of us are allowed to play a role, however small and seemingly insignificant in the realm of things, that may or may not impact the future. If doing so brings us peace and purpose, then the effort and dedication were valuable and meaningful.

Our cute little bushbuck baby with her mom on the left is growing up quickly.

Some may say, everything we do is for our pleasure. And, we’d be foolhardy to deny that reality. But, if somehow, through our daily stories and photos, we can provide a moment of pleasure to others throughout the world who may be reading our posts, then this daily commitment was all worthwhile. For this, dear readers, we glean our greatest joy.  For this, dear readers, we thank all of YOU. 

Photo from one year ago today, April 26, 2017:

The coral reef in the Isle of Pines was exquisite. For more details, please click here.

Visit to a dentist in South Africa…More excitement at “home”…Remembering a friend in the “Photo from one yea ago”…

From left to right, at the reception desk are Dr. Luzaan, assistants Daleen, and Melanie. They can be reached at 061 608 9323 for appointments.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Male impalas who rarely visit our yard stopped by last night for a few pellets. They’re timid, and any sudden movement will make them dash off in a hurry. During the mating season, they bark when claiming their territory among other males. It’s a sound like no different sound we’ve heard in the bush.

As we drove through Kruger National Park two days ago, I felt a sharp pain in my right bottom molar several times over three or fours hours. It was over three months ago, while we were on the Antarctica cruise, that a temporary filling I’d had in Costa Rica finally fell out.

When we’d gone to the dentist in Costa Rica (click here for details), for some reason, I didn’t feel right having the dentist entirely replace the chipped filling. Instead, I asked for a temporary filling, knowing that something else would have to be done in time.  

The spotless waiting room in Dr. Luzaan Du Preez’s dental office is located two doors from Wimpy’s in the Spar Shopping Centre in Komatipoort.

Once the temporary filling was in place, I didn’t give it another thought until it fell out during dinner while on the cruise. Since there was no pain or discomfort, just a gaping hole in the tooth, I’d figured that in time I’d get it repaired. 

The well-equipped modern treatment room was the most sophisticated we’d seen in years with the latest and most professional equipment.

Oh, good grief. I don’t like medical stuff. But, if we still lived in the US, from time to time, we’d go to a dentist, a doctor, an ophthalmologist, or others for a wide variety of aches, pains, and illnesses that occur to us at any age. No one is exempt from these issues.

Many zebras were hanging around the yard when we returned from the dentist appointment and grocery shopping in Komatipoort. Of course, we gave them pellets, apples, and carrots.

Unfortunately, living outside our home country and unsure of the quality of medical care in many countries, taking care of medical issues is fraught with a certain degree of fear and apprehension. 

Warthogs are always lurking in the bush, waiting for other animals to stop by so they can partake in the pellet offerings. No wonder they are called wart “hogs.” Five zebras were munching.

Are things sterile?  Will we “catch” something in the doctor’s office? Is the doctor educated sufficiently to handle our concerns, or do they do “cookie-cutter” treatment for all their patients? One never knows. 

As we’ve worked with Dr. Theo Stronkhorst in Komatipoort for our vaccination boosters and my gastro issues, we’ve felt confident in his care. His knowledge and attention to detail are impeccable.

Then, there were seven zebras.

Yesterday’s appointment with Dr. Luzaan made us both feel the same way, resulting in our booking appointments to have our teeth cleaned on May 3rd. What an exceptional dentist! Plus, the entire bill, including x-rays, was only ZAR 625 (US $50.28)!

She took x-rays of my tooth to discover it has a crack, most likely from grinding my teeth at night, which I’ve done all of my life. She explained that the filling she replaced might not last forever, mainly if I eat anything hard to chew on that side. In essence, the tooth may eventually need a root canal and crown. I was in no mood for that right now or at any time soon.

Zebras tend to stay close to one another due to their distinctive stripes acting as a point of confusion to predators. However, in Marloth Park, generally, there are no predators. Although, recently, lions have been sighted.

She gently repaired the filling without anesthetic (to which I jumped only a few times), and we were off to the grocery store, meat market, and biltong store for the foodstuffs we need over the next week.

Another holiday is on the horizon, and once again, Marloth Park will be packed with tourists. We won’t be returning to Kruger until the holiday is over after the weekend. We hear it’s the “May Day” holiday which wasn’t mainly celebrated in the US in our old lives.  Instead, we celebrated “Labor Day” on the first Monday in September.

They stayed around for quite a while, occasionally tossing a kick toward a warthog who honed in on their treats.

By 3:00 pm, we were back home, put away all the groceries, and settled in on the veranda to a busy night in the bush. We used the gas grill to make pork chops for Tom and lamb for me, along with bacony green beans and homemade low-carb almond flour muffins, a real treat when warmed and topped with butter. 

Several times during dinner, we had to jump up to accommodate visitors. But, we don’t mind. A cold plate of food is just fine as long as we can spend time with the animals who stop by day and night, always making us smile.

Enjoy your day and evening! 

Photo from one year ago today, April 25, 2017:

One year ago today, we posted a story and this photo (not ours) about our friend and loyal reader Glenn, who passed away a few days earlier. It’s with love, respect, and reverence that we recall his memory and post this photo once again as we think of Glenn and his lovely wife Staci, with whom we’ve stayed in close touch. For the full story, please click here.

Unexpected visit to Kruger National Park…Never disappoints…

No more than 10 minutes into Kruger we spotted elephants.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Kudu sticks out her tongue in anticipation of being hand fed pellets.  We don’t feed the males by hand due to the risk of an unintended injury by their massive and dangerous antlers.

When we miraculously uploaded yesterday’s post by around 11:45 am and the sun was shining on a beautiful day, impulsively I said to Tom, “Let’s go to Kruger now!”

We assumed the dark brown color was due to rolling around in a muddy waterhole.

Although midday may not be the perfect time to find wildlife out and about in the heat of the sun, we decided “why not?”  We’d never entered the park this late in the day but it wasn’t as if we had any other pressing matters on the agenda…the wildlife “at home” could wait for our return if they happened to stop by and we weren’t around.

There were a few giraffes a distance from the road.  Unfortunately, in Kruger visitors must stay on the roads.  Returning to the Masai Mara (in February) on our Greg Harvey Wildlife Photography Tour we’ll have a guide driving the safari vehicle and they are able to drive off-road

Since we were both showered and dressed for the day it took us only a few minutes to get ready to head out the door; gather our passports, park entrance documents, camera and extra batteries, binoculars, and drinks in our mugs (water for me and iced tea for Tom).

When we’d given up hope of seeing a parade of elephants, safari luck kicked in and once again, we were gifted with these elephants crossing the road.  We couldn’t believe the baby’s determined stride!

By noon, we were out the door to head to the petrol station to put air in the little blue car’s tires.  We have to do this every few days but refuse to pay for tire repairs on the rental car, especially since we’ll only have it for another 17 days. 

If we’d been a few minutes earlier we’d have seen the entire parade but we were thrilled with what we did get an opportunity to witness.

Hopefully, the vehicle we’ve rented for the next three more months, which we’ll pick up in Nelspruit after we return from Zambia on May 18th, won’t have similar problems as the past few rentals in South Africa.

Check out the size of this newborn calf which probably was born in the past week.

Once we crossed the Crocodile Bridge and reached the entrance to the park, when we showed our Wild Card (annual pass to the park) we were told we’d have to go inside in order to be allowed to enter the park.

There were dozens more than we could capture in a single photo.

Any visitors arriving after 12:00 pm have to register inside the reception building.  Little did we know it would take 15 minutes to have a rep at the desk check us in.  Next time, we’ll make sure to arrive before noon to avoid this added wait.

We could see, at a distance, where they all were headed.

By 12:45 we were on the main paved road with a plan to drive for an hour or more and then turn around and head back the same way.  With the car’s bad tires, we weren’t about to tackle a washboard dirt road. 

Mating season.  A little hugging perhaps?

One might wonder “Why would you want to return the same way you came?”  The answer it simple.  We can see nothing on the way in and magic happening on the way out.  Wildlife is unpredictable and although they may have favorite watering holes and foraging spots they wander many kilometers on any given day.

Kruger is 19,485 square kilometers (7,523 square miles), the size of the country of Wales.  It’s odd to imagine that driving on any road, paved or dirt, we’d actually encounter any wildlife at all, considering how much space they have to wander.  But, we do.  And it can be on the main paved road or a dirt road with little predictability.

Check out the look on this zebras face!

Once we get a car with better tires, we’ll explore more of the dirt roads in the park, more for a change of scenery than in hopes of seeing more wildlife.  We already know the main road very well recognizing vegetation and watering holes along the way.

It proved to be a good day based on the photos we’re sharing today and will continue to share in the future as we accumulate more and more good shots we’ve been able to take while in the park.

We made it a challenge to see how many bushbabies we can capture in one photo. In this photo, it appears there are four when in fact there were six.  We’ll keep trying.

Today, we’re off to Komatipoort for a dentist appointment for me.  A filling I had repaired in Costa Rica has fallen out and needs to be repaired.  I don’t like going to a dentist but who does?  It’s just a fact of life we all must bear.  Our friend Gail made a recommendation for a good dentist located two doors from Wimpy’s Hamburgers near the Spar Supermarket.  Afterward, we’ll do some grocery shopping. 

So, that’s it for today, folks. We hope you have a fabulous day! Once the dentist appointment is over, my day will be just fine!

Photo from one year ago today, April 24, 2017:

A small uninhabited island off the coast of New Caledonia.  For more photos, please click here.

Action in the evenings and again in the mornings leaves us on our feet…

Flowers growing near the lookout over the Crocodile River.
“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”
Can any of our local friends identify this insect we found on the wall in the bedroom? The prior night I awoke Tom when this thing was walking on me. With the light from my phone, I saw it and must admit, a little scream escaped my lips as I shooed it off my shoulder. Yucky! Look at those spiky legs! Tom captured it in this plastic container and released it outside.

The activity we’ve had in the yard in the past 24 hours has been astounding, especially at dusk last night and again early this morning. I was running back and forth from the kitchen to the veranda with cut-up carrots and apples while Tom kept refilling the yellow plastic container with pellets. 

Currently, we’re totally out of carrots and soon will run out of apples. Fortunately, the cost of both of these is minimal. A five-kilo bag (11 pounds) of carrots is ZAR 29 (US $2.37), and it’s about the same for the big bags of small red apples.

We’re seeing lots of mating behavior in all species right now. Notice Mr. Kudu’s bulging neck, which swells during mating season, is in full bloom. He sure knows how to use his antlers, especially when competing for pellets with the warthogs.  He likes to eat right off the edge of the veranda, so he doesn’t have to bend over with those enormous antlers.

Usually, the bags of carrots and apples will last a week if we’re a little discriminating in handing them out. The cost for the bags of pellets, which last almost a week, is ZAR 199 (US $17.03). 

As a result, we’re spending US $22.77 per week plus a small number of eggs for the mongoose, which only come by every two or three days. At the most, we’re spending ZAR 307 (US $25) per week. Since we seldom spend very little on ourselves, we justify this expenditure out of our pure love of the wildlife and the pleasure of providing them with nourishment. 

Similar to a photo we posted a few days ago, but we couldn’t resist sharing this mom and her baby hippo.

In our old lives, I would have spent ZAR 307 (US $25) to go out to lunch with the girls one day a week by ordering a Cobb Salad, an iced tea, and paying tax and tip. Regardless of the cost to feed the animals I post here for our curious readers, we are having the time of our lives. The only challenge we feel at this time is my healing from this dreadful gastrointestinal condition. 

I’ve been on the H2 blockers for one week as of today and have noticed only a slight improvement. We shall see how it goes since they’re supposed to provide an improvement over a period of time, not necessarily after only one week of treatment.

The African buffalo or Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer) is a large African bovine from this site. It is not closely related to Asia’s slightly larger wild water buffalo, and its ancestry remains unclear. Syncerus caffer, the Cape buffalo, is the typical subspecies and the largest one found in South and East Africa. S. c. nanus (African forest buffalo) is the smallest subspecies, common in Central and West Africa forest areas, while S. c. brachyceros is in West Africa and S. c. aequinoctialis is in the savannas of East Africa. The adult buffalo’s horns are its characteristic feature; they have fused bases, forming a continuous bone shield across the top of the head referred to as a “boss.” They are widely regarded as hazardous animals, as they gore and kill over 200 people every year.”

Last night as we dined on the veranda, we could hardly finish the food on our plates. It seemed that we had one visitor after another every few minutes, each with their own plan in mind as to what they wanted. Was it apples, pellets, carrots, or seeds?

Overall, we must admit the wildlife prefer the pellets over the fruit and veg. However, they seem to particularly enjoy scraps from vegetables we’re cooking, especially the outside leaves from celery, lettuce, and cabbage.

From this site:  The African buffalo is not an ancestor of domestic cattle and is only distantly related to other larger bovines. Owing to its unpredictable nature, which makes it highly dangerous to humans, the African buffalo has never been domesticated, unlike its Asian counterpart, the water buffalo. Other than humans, African Cape buffaloes have few predators aside from lions and large crocodiles and can defend themselves. Being a member of the big five games, the Cape buffalo is a sought-after trophy in hunting.”

As darkness falls each night, the sounds in the bush are music to our ears. Even Tom, with his not-so-good hearing after 42½ years working on the railroad, can hear most of the sounds. If only we had the knowledge and expertise to identify each sound.

But, as time goes by, we’re learning to recognize more and more sounds, including our newly discovered recognition of the “bark” of the impalas as they run through the bush day and night, as they challenge one another for mating rites. Until recently, we never knew or recognized this sound.

My dinner last night was; homemade low-carb pizza and a side of mackerel salad made with boiled eggs, onions, celery, seasoning, and sour cream dressing. Fish and pizza? Great combo.

Now, as we spend more and more time with warthogs, kudus, and a variety of wildlife in the antelope family, we’ve come to understand their grunts and sounds, each with a special meaning and specific tones.

What a wonder it is to be a part of this magical world. Last night, as we lounged outdoors after dinner, Tom asked, “Will you ever get tired of this?” 

Tom’s pizza. We’ve cut back on salads this past week since I’ve found raw veggies, and too much fiber doesn’t agree with me right now.

“No, I won’t,” I answered, “it’s not even possible. ” He agreed. 

Would one get tired of eating a delicious meal, hearing beautiful music, seeing gorgeous scenery? Would one tire of the touch of a hand, a kindly spoken word, or the wagging tail of their beloved dog? Hardly.

This is the first male kudu we’ve seen with such small antlers, and yet his body seemed mature. 

And that’s the way it is here. There’s no getting tired of it, not for us anyway. When we see homes for sale in Marloth Park, we often wonder what precipitated a homeowner’s desire to leave after spending time here. 

In the dark, it’s hard to capture a good photo when there are even more bushbabies than these in the tree. It sure is fun watching them go after the cup of yogurt and share it so willingly.

No, we have no interest in owning a house, here or anywhere in the world, but we now know from the bottom of our hearts that this won’t be the last time we’ll visit Africa, health providing, as we continue on our world journey. Maybe in two or three years, but we’ll be back…not for so long next time but three months for sure.

We love Frank.  He and his wife live here and stop by for birdseed several times a day. It’s a challenge when the guinea fowl compete with him for the seeds, so we’d be thrilled when Frank and Mrs. Frank come by, and the guinea fowl haven’t got here yet. About five dozen helmeted guinea fowl live in the bush surrounding no other francolins and us besides Frank and the Mrs.

In a few days, we’ll be heading back to Kruger National Park, and in 18 days, we’ll be flying to Livingstone, Zambia. Humm…life is good.

May your life be good as well.

Photo from one year ago today, April 23, 2017:

Onboard, Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas;  Each passenger finds a groove that enables them to participate in activities they find most pleasurable. Many sit quietly and read or play games on their iPads, tablets, and phone with little interaction with others. That’s our groove! We’re both social butterflies. For more details, please click here.

Keeping it fresh and current, a daily challenge…Elephant viewing from Marloth Park…

A mom and her calf with the possible huge matriarch in the background.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Most weekdays, Josiah comes by in the morning to wash and sweep the veranda, rake the yard and clean the pool. No more than an hour after he’d done, the veranda is dirty again with leaves from the trees, pellets residue, and lately, soot from the sugar cane burning transpiring at this time. Tom is always sweeping in order to keep us from tracking the dust, dirt, and debris into the house. By the end of each day, the bottom of our bare feet is so dirty we have to shower again before getting into bed.

Yes, we know…it appears many of the photos we post are repetitious. How could they not be? We’re living in the African bush surrounded by wildlife. However, we make a point of not sharing repeats of the same photos.

There were dozens of elephants in this marsh area in Kruger which we were able to see from the Marloth Park side of the fence.

The way we manage this is by placing the day’s photos in the “Today’s Photos” folder on my desktop. Once we post those photos, we move them to the general “Marloth Park” or another appropriately named file.  This keeps us from using the same photo over and over again, but we may post a similar photo over time.

Then, for the next day, we review recently taken photos we’ve yet to post taken from another named folder.  Keeping track of all of this is relatively easy but does require a considerable amount of time each day.

If we’d been in Kruger National Park, we wouldn’t have been able to gain access to this area.

At times, we are concerned we may be losing readers when we’re posting one animal photo after another, day after day. We’re hoping that our readers will remain with us during the remaining months in Africa even with these ongoing wildlife photos.

Taking photos through the electrified fence is tricky so we get what shots we can. At times, we’re pleasantly surprised at the finished product.

If nothing else, we hope you’ll check back from time to time to see what’s new as was the case in yesterday’s post when we described a fabulous trip we’ll be taking to Kenya in 10 months, an exciting tour of “bucket list” venues we only imagined in our dreams. 

If you missed yesterday’s post with the detailed itinerary, please click here for the exciting details. This tour will be a “photographic” expedition which hopefully gives us both an opportunity to hone our photo-taking skills which we both need. 

As mentioned in prior posts, the males are kicked out of the herd (parade) when teenagers. When we see large numbers it’s unlikely any are males except for youngsters yet to reach maturity at 13, 14, or 15 years of age.

I’m particularly at an impasse in the learning process and look forward to working with Greg Harvey, who’s organized the expedition and will be on-site during the entire adventure.

This darker elephant had just come out of the muddy water.  Once dry, she’d be the same gray color of the others.

Two weeks earlier on April 7th, we posted the information about our upcoming trip to Zambia, required to ensure we can get our passports stamped for another 90 days in South Africa and part of our plan as to what we wanted to see while we are in Africa for this extended period…in this case Victoria Falls and more.

If you missed that post, please click here for the details. Once we return from that trip on May 18th, we’ll begin a new search for a location for the next visa renewal due another 90 days later which will take us into August and from there, another trip taking us well into November. 

A mom fussing over her offspring.

That will leave us with a final 90 days between the time we return from our plans for November until it’s time to leave South Africa to head to Kenya for the final African adventure.

Researching, booking, and presenting stories and photos from all of these many events will provide us with plenty of fodder for continuing stories over the next many months. 

Although they were scattered throughout the area, they gather together when its time to return to their favorite areas in Kruger.

In the interim, until our upcoming adventure begins on May 11th (in 19 days), we’ll continue to search for new topics to share along with the day-to-day we so much love; stories about people, wildlife, local venues, and on and on.

Neither the elephants of the waterbucks seem to mind one another’s presence.

Writing a new story with photos on a daily basis is a daunting undertaking. As we’ve mentioned many times in the past, at this point, we have no intention of changing how and how often we do this. 

After the rain, there’s some rich vegetation for the elephants.

We equate this process to writing a newspaper story each and every day. However, in those cases, the news is happening all around the reporters to provide fodder for stories.  or us, our stories are predicated on what is happening in the lives of us, two senior world travelers. It’s not always exciting and newsworthy. Who’s daily life is anyway?

Can you imagine how close we were able to get in order to take this photo?

There’s always the plain, the mundane, and the predictable. We kindly ask all of our loyal readers to stay with us through these many months in Africa and if possible, to forward our link to family and friends who may be curious to read about our peculiar lives and to see our endless photos.

We so much appreciate all the wonderful email messages we receive from many of our readers each day and we’ll continue to make every effort to respond to each and every one of those messages within 24 hours. 

Each day these two females stop by several times with two piglets, most likely several months old. The two females, maybe sisters, maybe mother and daughter from a prior litter or who knows, maybe another relative of one sort or another. This morning the two of them were playing a nose-to-nose game while the two piglets busied themselves with pellets.

We also encourage you to post comments at the end of each post. You can do so anonymously if you so choose and here again, we’ll always respond with 24 hours. 

Thanks to all of you who post a comment or send an email. And also, thank you to all of you who quietly read without comment or email in your own time and at your own pace. You all mean the world to us!

Photo from one year ago today, April 22, 2017:

I started shooting a few photos before we made a mess unpacking our bags on Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas for last year’s cruise back to the USA.  We had a few more immigration issues at the Port of Sydney when checking in but worked it all out. See here for details.

A new heart-pounding adventure on the horizon in Africa..

Due to yesterday’s power outage, we couldn’t upload yesterday’s post dated April 20, 2018, until this morning.  Sorry for the inconvenience.  Also, none of today’s photos are ours except for “Sighting of the Day in the Bush.”

Giraffes were joining diners at Giraffe Manor.  Oh, my, this looks fun!

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Ms. Kudu was munching on a tree near the veranda.

Last week when Louise sent me this safari/tour event in Messenger on Facebook, I gave it a severe look, noticing that several aspects of it make my heart skip a beat about the prospect of returning to Kenya.

The thought of returning to the Masai Mara, the most highly regarded and wildlife-rich game reserve in the world, stirred my memories from our visit in 2013, one of the most incredible experiences of our world travels.

Giraffes were looking for treats at Giraffe Manor.

Next, the prospect of visiting Giraffe Manor, which I’d heard a lot about, sent me into a tailspin of excitement. Also, adding the concept of touring the world-renowned David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, which has been of dream of mine since we first visited Africa, made my heart skip a beat.  (Daphne Sheldrick, David’s wife, was the world’s most renowned elephant rescuer, passed away last Thursday at age 83. Click here for details).

Then, the idea of a stay at Little Governor’s Camp after I’d watched this video many times, dreaming of having such a once-in-a-lifetime experience, sent me to the moon with sheer delight.

Can you imagine having this photo op? (Photo was taken at Giraffe Manor in Kenya)

How could such a package be presented by any other than well-known Canadian wildlife photographer and “tour designer extraordinaire,” Greg Harvey of Harvey Wildlife Photography?  His exceptional passion for wildlife coupled with the finest of skills and experience made this event particularly appealing.

This was not going to be a standard safari, but as Greg calls it, “a bucket list” experience few seldom add to their repertoire of wildlife adventures. Instead, the February 22 to March 7, 2019, the event can round out our African experiences beyond our “wildest” dreams before we leave the continent (after 13 months) on March 7, 2019, the day of our wedding anniversary.

A scene at Little Governor’s Camp.

We’d intended to stay in South Africa until around March 21, 2019, but since we’re embarking on this tour, we’ll be leaving one month earlier than planned. Luckily, our schedule has some flexibility to make changes at this point.

No doubt, this is a pricey expedition, mainly when it includes only 14 guests. It certainly isn’t as expensive as Antarctica was but higher than our preferred price range for tours and cruises at ZAR 87,149 per person for a total of ZAR 174298 (US $7200 per person for a total of US $14,400). Not only does this expedition offer such exciting venues, but it will also give us both the opportunity to hone our photographic skills.

Elephants were wandering through Little Governors Camp, a common occurrence.

For these very types of opportunities, we remain frugal in our daily lives of world travel; low rents when possible, inexpensive rental cars; less dining out than most travelers; and minimal purchases besides groceries and essentials. Even with this extra expenditure, we’ll be able to stay within our budget.

After many email communications with Greg Harvey, we firmed up our reservation, paid the deposit (the balance paid in two installments between now and then), and we’re set to go. We have yet to arrange the long flight to Nairobi, Kenya from South Africa, which previously the reverse had been one of the longest travel days in the past 5½ years, and the flight when we leave Kenya.

Sign at the entrance to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Orphans Project.

Here’s the itinerary for this upcoming adventure we’ve booked, leaving in a mere ten months from now as taken from Greg’s website:

“Masai Mara, Kenya Safari – February 22-March 7, 2019.

The “Bucket List” African Safari Adventure…Who’s In?

In February 2019, Greg from HW Photo & Safaris took another group of safari guests to Kenya. We call it the “Bucket List African Safari Adventure.” Whether it be having breakfast with Rothschild giraffes at Giraffe Manor, watching elephants walk by your tent, or floating 60 feet above the Mara River in a hot air balloon (hot air balloon rides are optional and an extra cost), all of these activities are indeed “bucket list” events.

Kenyan Itinerary:

February 22 & 23- Ololo Safari Lodge. Ololo Safari Lodge is located on 20 acres on the south edge of Nairobi National Park. Only half an hour after we leave the airport, we will already be in Nairobi National Park on the way to the lodge. There we will recover from the international travel. For the early risers, the next morning, we will have the opportunity to go on our first official game drive in the park. This will give us the chance to scrape the rust off our photography skills.

Daphne Sheldrick’s love, passion, and dedication to elephants were like none other in the world.  Sadly she passed away last week.

February 24-28- Zebra Plains

Zebra Plains is located in great leopard and cheetah territory. As the name suggests, the area is very densely populated with massive herds of zebras.

March 1-5

Little Governors’ Camp- Little Governors’ Camp is located in the Northern area of the Masai Mara National Reserve. The site is home to the famous Marsh Pride of lions. This area also has vast numbers of elephants. It is common to see between 100-500 elephants in the Marsh area just a few minutes away from camp.

March 6- Giraffe Manor & Private Tour of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (Elephant Sanctuary)

Rhinos are also rescued at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. The wildlife in all of these adventures is not trained to perform “tricks’ for humans.  Those rescued at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust are done so with the intent of returning them to the wild, except those who could not survive on their own.  More on this later.

After our private tour of the elephant sanctuary, we will return to the Giraffe Manor for high tea, where we will have the chance to interact with the giraffes. Dinner is at 8 p.m.

After we check out from Giraffe Manor, we’ll go to Mat Bronze to visit their gallery and have lunch. After lunch, we will see a wood sculpturing gallery and store, Kazuri Beads, and an open-air market for some beautiful souvenirs. From there, we will go to the Four Points Sheraton, where we will check in to a day room to freshen up, re-pack if necessary, and have a farewell dinner. Then it is a five-minute drive to the Nairobi International Airport for our flights out at 11 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. on the next day (March 7, 2019).”

How does Tom feel about all of this? Honestly, he’s not as excited as I am. But, like most experiences over which he hesitates, he too will have an exceptional experience once we’re there. 

Now, we have two exciting trips planned in the next ten months, and with immigration requirements in South Africa, we still must leave two more times. We’ll keep you posted on those two adventures as well! 

Enjoy your weekend doing something extraordinary!

Photo from one year ago today, April 21, 2017:

Tom’s shot of a stunning sunset in Fairlight, Australia, as we wound down our last few days. For more photos, please click here.