Happy New Year’s Eve…Party in the bush tonight…More power outages…No aircon…

May the New Year bring us all together regardless of our spots or stripes…

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Baby and Mom.  What a sight!

Tomorrow, we’ll be posting our “Year in Review” with photos and stories of special times we’ve experienced in this past fantastic year of our world travels. This past year may prove to be our most memorable ever if there is such a thing. Every year has been over the top!

Tonight we’ll be celebrating as we bring in the New Year at Royal Kruger Lodge here in Marloth Park owned by JJ and Flo, a lovely couple we met through Louise and Danie at one of several Frikkee’s Dam braai parties over this past year.  

Adorable giraffe at rest.

Louise and Danie arranged our and Rita and Gerhard’s invitation, and we won’t be surprised to see that we already know many of the attendees from other social events in the park.

As is the tradition in South Africa, we bring our beverages, ice, and at times, a dish to share. I made a low-carb chicken, sausage, mushroom, and cauliflower casserole, which I’ll bake ahead of time and cut into bite-sized squares. It may be served warm or at room temperature.

There were dozens of zebras playfully carrying on in the parkland.

Speaking of temperature, it was another hot night when the power went out for five hours during the night; no aircon, no fan. Somehow, we managed to get some sleep, although we often awoke from sweating profusely.

When the power came back on early this morning, the aircon wouldn’t come back on. Thus, once again, we have no AC. We do not doubt that Louise will arrange for the aircon guy to fix it after the New Year. It’s just impossible to get service over a holiday, and we understand that service people want time off for holidays.

Although at quite a distance, it was delightful to see so many giraffes and zebras together in the open field.

Today’s expected high is 37C (99F) which, although is hot, is not nearly as bad as it was days ago. We can manage this for the next few nights until we get service, hopefully on Wednesday.

With a limited inventory of good photos, we took a chance yesterday and went out for a drive through the park. Our expectations were low. We figured we would see much with fewer animals visiting us over the past two weeks due to holidaymakers infiltrating the park.

At times, it appeared the two species were interacting.

On a few occasions, we embarked on our usual drive, only spotting impalas who are easy to find at any time. Their prolific numbers and sturdiness keep them readily available for viewing on the hottest days and active regardless of tourist traffic.

We took the shorter route, starting at Volstruis Road, where we often find ostriches. As mentioned in earlier posts, Volstruis means “ostrich” in Afrikaans. Ironically, that’s where most of the ostriches in the park seem to hang out.  Go figure.  

Playfully interacting with one another.

At that point, if all we could get were ostrich photos, we wouldn’t complain.  Ostriches are other animals that don’t seem to care if there are tourists in the park or not. They proudly walk about as if they own the place…maybe they do.

Once we approached the intersection of Volstruis Road and Hornbill Street, yep, we saw ostriches as shown in today’s photo. From there, we drove a few a little further to behold a scene unlike any other we’ve ever seen in Marloth Park.  

Zebras and giraffes were sharing the same space in the parklands.

In an open field, part of the parklands, we spotted no less than 17 giraffes with youngsters and at least two dozen zebras, including their recently born offspring.  

It truly was a sight to behold, a menagerie of animals co-mingling in the same space with no concern whatsoever as to one another’s presence. They occupied an area equivalent to a long city block, and we held our breath in the total wonder of what lay before our eyes.

Zebras and giraffes at a distance.

Sure, I wish we’d been able to get better shots, but we were on the road, and they were in the center of a large open field. But that fact didn’t keep us from trying to get a few good shots to show here today and more to share after the New Year, most likely on Wednesday.

As mentioned above, tomorrow, we’ll be back with a “Year in Review” post with some of our favorite photos, including some from Antarctica and Buenos Aires, both of which occurred in 2018.

Ostriches don’t seem to mind what’s going on in the park. They are easily found near Volstruis Road.

May your New Year’s festivities be joyful, festive, and safe, and may the New Year bring you all the riches you so well deserve. Happy New Year to all!

Photo from one year ago today, December 31, 2017:

Tom’s monstrous meal from a great barbecue place in Palermo, Buenos Aries. I ordered the guacamole for my salad and ate all of his sugar-free coleslaw. For more photos, please click here.

Stunning wildlife from five years ago today…Another entertaining dinner in the bush..

Five years ago today, a Big Daddy came to call at the Hornbill house.  

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

The family of nine warthogs stopped by almost every day.  The other mom and one more baby were off to the side when taking this photo.  The babies love looking at us almost as much as the moms.  Each time they arrived, we take a head count ensuring all nine are still there.

Five years ago on December 30, 2013, we posted all of the photos included here today.  The story we wrote, which may be found here, revolved around some of the hardships one may experience living in the bush while reveling in the extraordinary experience of living among wild animals.

In reviewing this old post we realized how much we’ve changed over the years and how much more tolerant we’ve become, not only in Marloth Park but throughout the world as we continue in our travels.
I took this up close male kudu photo while standing behind the railing of the veranda at Hornbill.

We never give gecko poop a single thought; we now love the rain (for the sake of the wildlife’s source of nutrition); we don’t mind cloudy days based on the prospect of rain; the insects don’t bother us so much anymore; we pay no attention to the bumpy roads other than to navigate them without damaging the rental car; and, we’ve learned enough about the wildlife and precautions we must take to ensure ours and their safety.

However, we still experience frustration over power outages especially during periods of extreme heat.  That situation results in losing sleep and feeling awful during the heat wave.

This is the mineral lick we’d purchased at the time for visitors that was recommended by the Rangers as an excellent adjunct to the visitor’s natural diet of greenery.  The kudus were the only visitors that seemed to like it.  The others sniffed and walked away.  We’d hoped this would attract wildebeests, which at that time had yet to come to the garden, only running through on one occasion.

Today, the third comfortable day in a row, the temps are staying well below the previous 40C, (104F) and higher and the cooling breeze provides a considerable amount of comfort.  The expected high for today is 35C, (95F) which we can handle easily without using aircon until bedtime.

Speaking of aircon, Louise texted me this morning to ask if it was working.  She’d contacted the aircon repair guy, Louis, but wasn’t certain if he’d been here or not.  Much to our surprise, it worked when we tried it.  Whether it reset on its own or Louis fixed it, we don’t know at the moment.  At least it’s working as long as we have power.  We’ll see how that goes as it heats up again.

This same warthog from five years ago may still be in the park.  Warthogs have a lifespan of up to 15 years.

So far today, we’ve had a few more visitors than we’ve seen in the past 10 days, making us think that perhaps some of the holidaymaker crowd may be thinning out.  So far, we’ve had two bushbucks, nine kudus and two warthogs, one of which was “Little” of course, all of whom we fed with enthusiasm.

Last night, while driving on Oliphant, the paved road, while returning from another excellent dinner for nine of us at Jabula Lodge & Restaurant, Rita and Gerhard turned on their flashers to alert us to something on the road, a magnificent highly venomous puff adder snake, as shown in our photo below from when we attended “snake school.”
Puff adders are commonly seen in Marloth Park. This photo was taken while we were at snake school in March.  Click here for the link.

We’d love to have been able to take a photo but it moved so quickly there was no time to turn on the camera and get the shot from the car.  None the less, we were quite excited as we’re sure Rita and Gerhard were as well.

As for the evening at Jabula Lodge & Restaurant, it couldn’t have been more enjoyable.  Three of Don’s cousins; Lorraine, Mike, and Hugh, joined the six of us (Kathy, Don, Rita, Gerhard and Tom and I) and the conversation was outstanding.  

The nine of us were seated at a long table on the veranda, the same table where we’d had my 70th birthday party last February 20th.  It’s hard to believe that was so long ago; 313 days or 10 months and 10 days ago.

Hanging out upstairs in the loft with aircon from a much-needed break from the awful heat, we took kudu photos from the second-floor veranda as he looked up at us. “How about some pellets?” he asked. Kudus can weigh as much as 317.5 kg, (700 pounds) or more.

Now as we look to the future, we’re equally surprised by the fact that we’ll be leaving Marloth Park in a mere 46 days.  How the time has flown!  And now, with only about one week until the park crowds thin out, we’re looking forward to the immediate future and the return of our wildlife friends.

May your day be filled with sunshine!


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

Tom’s burger with ham, eggs, cheese and beef with fried potatoes on this date, one year ago.  For more photos of Palermo, Buenos Aires, please click here.

A few days relief at last…The value of a good night’s sleep…

A single bottle brush flower blooms in the bush.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Tom took this photo of two hadeda birds on the roof of a neighboring property. They are known as the loudest birds in South Africa. Click here to hear the sounds they make, which result in their name.

No words can describe the relief we feel after the temperature has dropped after the rains of the past 24 hours. Currently, at 10:00 am, it’s a comfortable 25C (77F).

What a pleasant surprise for Tom early this morning! There were three duikers, one male and two females, and two female bushbucks in the garden sharing pellets.

Although the aircon in our main floor bedroom won’t be repaired until after January 1st, we’ll manage just fine if it stays this cool for the next few days. If it heats up to 40C (104F), we’ll be back where we were when the power went out when the company can’t handle the extra load of holidaymaker’s use.

Several locals have made comments on various Marloth Park pages on Facebook, such as “We wouldn’t lose power if you idiots don’t use aircon when it’s hot.”

This is a male giraffe due to the lack of hair on the ends of his ossicones—the pointy protrusions atop his head. The coat has worn down from competition for dominance with other males.

But, the reality is, people will use aircon when temperatures are so high. Many people living and visiting Marloth Park are seniors, have health problems, children, and everyone in between. 

Male elephants are excluded from the family during their teenage years to live and fend for themselves. This is done to preserve the integrity of the gene pool and prevent the male from mating with his siblings and other female relatives.

When the temperature is over 40C, it’s doubtful anyone will be willing to sacrifice being cool, at least at night, when sleeping is nearly impossible. It’s a catch 22.

Plus, you can’t single out healthy mid-age residents to avoid using aircon, so others less fortunate may use it.  That’s not going to happen. Thus, with high temps in Marloth Park right now, the power goes out. Plain and simple.

At times, we’ll see two or more males hanging out together.

It should become more accessible within a week when many holidaymakers leave the park after New Year’s Day. By January 9th, we should be back to “normal” with sufficient power to handle the park’s needs in most cases.  

When we spot a herd or “parade” of elephants, it often comprises a matriarch, moms,  offspring, other females who’ve yet to give birth. and young males who’ve yet to be ostracized from the family.

That’s not to say we’ll be free of outages. Load shedding is supposed to continue in January, but right now, the Eskom website states, “We are currently not load shedding.” We’ll see how that goes.

Three lions were lying…

Last night, I had a great night’s sleep. Although we both awakened many times during the night, I easily fell back to sleep, getting a total of eight hours of rest. On the other hand, Tom was out of bed by 6:00 am and may need a 20-minute nap today. I feel like a new person.

Last night, we decided to go out for dinner, and we showed up at Jabula Lodge and Restaurant without a reservation, although a group of nine of us will be dining there tonight. I was so tired I couldn’t imagine putting a meal together.

A male lion was perusing the area near the Crocodile River.

With the fabulous restaurant booked, we knew we’d be willing to eat at the bar rather than request a table. We arrived at 1700 hours (5:00 pm), and by 1930 hours (7:30 pm), after another beautiful meal, I was ready to head back to our house.

Tonight, Kathy and Don and three friends/family members and Rita and Gerhard will join us for dinner as mentioned above for what surely will be another enjoyable evening with friends.

A male lion on the move.

As for today, if it doesn’t rain, we’ll try a drive in the park, hoping to spot some of our wildlife friends. If there’s too much traffic along the river, we’ll turn around and come right back. This place is all about low stress and a powerful sense of calm. We prefer to keep it that way.

Have a peaceful and calming day!
                                          Photo from one year ago today, December 29, 2017:

Tom ordered a local beer while I had a Malbec at La Cabrera Restaurant in Palermo, Buenos Aires, Argentina, one year ago today. For more photos, please click here.

The power outages continue…No power for many hours…Trying to stay positive…

Here is a younger wildebeest who visits on occasion with what appears to be his dad. We call them “Dad & Son.”

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Little’s stopped by a few times today, including during the pouring rain.

We love this house in the bush. We love living in the bush, the wildlife, the people; it’s all beyond our greatest aspirations of spending time in Africa. But, with it, there are some challenges, for which we’re making every effort to stay upbeat.

The hardest part has been not sleeping for the past two nights when the power was out for 12 hours each night, the first night beginning at 2100 hours (9:00 pm) and the second night starting at 1930 hours (7:30 pm). In the past 18 hours, we’ve only had power for less than three hours.
If it hadn’t been so hot, it wouldn’t have been so difficult. But with no screens on the windows, no breeze whatsoever, and daytime temps in the 42C (107.6) with high humidity with nighttime temps only slightly less, sleeping was out of the question.
Big Daddy was eating pellets off the veranda’s edge.

We each took cold showers twice during the past two nights, but even the water temperature wasn’t cool enough to do any good.  Within minutes, we were soaking wet in sweat once again. I don’t recall any time in my entire life that I sweated so much.

After each shower, I had to load up again on insect repellent that works great without DEET but is sticky and smells awful.  It almost wasn’t worth taking the showers.

It’s easier for male kudus to eat this way instead of bending down with those giant horns. Wildebeest Willie waits in the background for his turn.

I’d considered the possibility of our leaving to stay at a hotel until the crowds in Marloth Park thin out, and less power is needed to accommodate the additional power usage. 

Tom wasn’t enthused about the costs of spending on two rental properties simultaneously when we have huge payments upcoming in the next two weeks for future cruises and the final balance on the Kenya tour. I got that and didn’t press the issue.

Finally, Willie inches his way into the pellets on the ground.

For the heck of it, I checked online, and there wasn’t a single room available outside Marloth Park during the next week or two. After all, it’s still the holiday season that doesn’t officially end here in South Africa until well into January. My research was pointless.

The aircon in our main floor bedroom has officially died. No matter what we do, it won’t turn on – new batteries in the remote – resetting the electric switch when the power is back on temporarily – nothing works.

At times, there are scuffles over dominance.

If we have power tonight and it’s still so hot, we’ll have to sleep upstairs for a working aircon. But that’s not the problem. Most likely, we won’t have power. As soon as everyone in Marloth Park turns on their aircon, the power goes out. There are just too many people here.

We’ve heard that some holidaymakers have left due to the power outages and the heat. Whether or not their landlords/property managers have given them any refund or credit remains to be seen.  

It rained for a few hours today bit not long enough.

I suppose all Marloth Park rental agreements should have a clause stating, “It is possible, if not likely, that during your occupancy, the power, WiFi services, and water services may be interrupted from time to time.  No refunds will be provided in the event of such occurrences.”

After all, this is Africa (known as TIA), and stuff happens here which may rarely occur in one’s home country.  It’s the price one pays to partake of the many wonders this continent offers, experiences that dreams are made of.

Each time it rains, the bush gets greener with life-saving vegetation for the wildlife.

And, as hard as it is right now to sleep and bear the heat during the days, we have the time to look forward to when the holidaymakers leave, and everything is right with the world once again.

Instead of counting the days until we leave, I’m counting the days until they leave. If predictions are accurate, this should be around January 9th – 12 days and counting.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, December 28, 2017:

Orange.....more than just a colour!
This is exactly what we posted one year ago today: “The entrance to our new vacation/holiday home we’ll be renting in Marloth Park beginning on February 11th, aptly named “Orange…More Than Just a Colour.”  For the link to this listing, please click here.” For the entire post, please click here.

Oh, what a night!!!…Not so good!…But, it’s Africa…What did we expect?..

Youngsters of varying ages comprise an integral part of the elephant family.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

This photo was taken five years ago on this date when we discovered oxpeckers and why they land on the bodies of certain wildlife for the first time.  For more on this post, please click here.

Note:  Based on a lack of sightings these past few weeks, many of today’s photos were taken over the past few months.
For December, we expected exactly what we’d been given; power outages, heat; humidity; tourists; lots of bees, flies, mosquitos, and other insects, and fewer animals in the garden than at different times of the year.

Elephants were coming down the hill to the river.

But, when facing these types of challenges, our former expectations provide little relief or comfort.  When yesterday’s temps reached 43C (107.4F), the power went out at 2100 hours (9:00 pm), leaving us in a bedroom with no screens and not even a fan for relief.

We both drifted in and out of sleep throughout the night, laying atop the top sheet and comforter. I can’t recall the last time I slept without at least a sheet covering me.  

They made it down to the river to cool off.

I spent most of my waking hours playing solitaire on my phone with the screen dimmed while continually aware that the battery was rapidly losing its charge. By the time I rolled out of bed this morning, sweaty and exhausted, there was a paltry 10% left. Thank goodness it made it through the night.

We try to avoid taking photos through the fence between Marloth and Kruger Parks, but it’s often unavoidable.

Showering in the dark bathroom this morning even left me hotter and more sweaty. My phone wouldn’t work to call Louise for a power update. Oh, good grief. So, we decided to drive to her house to see what she’d heard about the outages.

Before we headed out the door, John, the WiFi guy, appeared prompted by a thoughtful call from Louise, and a short time later, we had both electricity and Wi-Fi.

Dad ostrich and one growing chick.

At this point, we realized we’d better get to Komatipoort to do our shopping, or the crowds would be outrageous later in the day or tomorrow. With the upcoming New Year’s Eve party on the horizon, we needed to shop for ingredients for the dish we’ll bring to share. It was a good thing we grocery shopped when we did.

As we drove back out of the small town when we were done, the roads were already backed up with holiday shoppers and locals preparing for the upcoming New Year’s Eve celebrations.

The dry ground seems to offer little in the way of nourishment, but somehow they manage to find enough food to sustain their growth.

While shopping, we ran into Kathy and Don, who informed us they’d love to join us (and Rita and Gerhard) at Jabula Lodge and Restaurant on Saturday evening, adding three more friends to our already booked party of six. Now, we’ll be a party of nine. I notified dear friend/owner Dawn to see if nine will work during this busy period. Most likely, she’ll find a way to make it work.

Back at the house by noon, we unloaded the groceries, and finally, I had a chance to sit down to get to work on today’s post. In the continuing heat, I wondered if I could muster up the energy to get it done before too late in the day. The hot weather has a way of slowing us down.

A darkly spotted giraffe was sitting in the bush, taking a break from standing on her long legs all day and night.

We lost some food overnight during the 12-hour power outage but not too much since it was time to shop again. We tossed it all away, and Vusi removed the garbage a short while ago. Rotting food certainly gets stinky in heat such as this.

This morning when we pulled into the driveway, we noticed Mom and Baby warthogs, four to be precise, sitting in the cement pond. What a delight it was to see them here. A lone female bushbuck was lying in the shade at the edge of the garden, trying to stay cool. We can only imagine how hard this heat is for our wildlife friends.

Hopefully, tonight more will visit when we sit on the veranda while watching and waiting.

Have a cool day!

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

We found these colorfully painted buildings interesting and befitting the somewhat flamboyant nature of Palermo, Buenos Aires.  For more photos, please click here.

The day after a special Christmas…Photos from two social events at Kathy and Don’s…Scorcher today, 43C, 109.4F with high humidity…

Me, Tom and Kathy during the cocktail hour before dinner.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

A hippo on the banks of the Crocodile River as seen from Kathy and Don’s third-floor veranda last night.

To say today is hot is an understatement.  With humidity ranging from 50% to 60% and temps as high as 43C (109.4F), it’s relatively unbearable.  Every so often, we come inside to recover in the bedroom’s aircon for a few minutes and then head back outdoors to sweat some more.

As always, Kathy and Don’s spread of good food was delicious and easy finger food for Saturday night’s cocktail party.
Last night, at Kathy and Don’s delightful Christmas night dinner, we made the best of the heat and had a superb evening.  The food, the decorative ambiance and the lively conversation among the six of us (including Rita and Gerhard) continued well into the evening.
The views from their third-floor veranda are spectacular.

Finally, we excused ourselves to head back to our bush house in order to call our kids, grandkids and other family members to wish them all a Merry Christmas.

Kathy and Don do a tremendous amount of hosting guests and always do so aplomb and ease.

When we entered the car after 2200 hours (10 pm) it was still 35C (97F).  Our clothes were soaked in sweat but the chatter amongst friends kept us delightfully distracted and we hardly noticed that fact throughout the evening.

Last night’s Christmas Day dinner was at Kathy and Don’s home once again.  There were six of us, including Rita and Gerhard.  

As always, it was wonderful talking to our family members.  With the time differences and everyone’s busy schedule, we don’t always talk as often as we’d like but with Facebook’s easy back and forth, we never feel as if we’re that far away.

The “pie day from hell” resulted in this pinwheel-looking pie when it was impossible to handle the piecrust dough in the heat and humidity. Don said he loved it although it wasn’t pretty.

By the time, we both finished with the Skype calls, it was nearly midnight and much to our surprise we both had a good night’s sleep.  Thank goodness the power was still on.  Five years ago we had no power in Marloth Park on Christmas Day.

Gerhard, Don, and Rita were busy mashing the ingredients in their drink, called kawa, a Kenyan tradition that requires mashing the ingredients together.  

Luckily, the power shedding hasn’t been excessive in December (thus far) and we’ll see how it goes for the remainder of the month and into January and February when we depart on Valentine’s Day to head to Nelspruit for our last night in South Africa, to be spent in a hotel for our early morning flight to Nairobi, Kenya.

A Merry Christmas hippo on the river’s edge.

With the outrageous heat, we don’t have big plans for today.  We have homemade pizza left for Tom and I’ll have hake (fish), cauliflower and salad.  This morning I already prepped the vegetables and salad and put together the leftover ingredients to make one last pizza.  

They had a few visitors while we were there, a few zebras and a wildebeest.

As we reflect on our wonderful Christmas season we’re still reeling over how grateful we’ve been for all of our friends who made this time of year (and all year-long) so special for us.

Kathy gave them pellets and they stayed around until the last one was eaten.

This week will be quieter than last. On Saturday, we’re dining at Jabula Lodge and Restaurant with Rita and Gerhard, and possibly with Kathy and Don and others before they take off to return to Pretoria.  We hope to see them again before we leave.

We’ll be attending a New Year’s Eve party in the bush when attendees bring starters and snacks and beverages of choice.  We already know many of the party-goers and much to our pleasure Rita and Gerhard are also included.  No doubt, this will be one more good time in the bush.

Don had placed various flags around their property including this US flag.

Tomorrow, we’ll head to Komatipoort for a few grocery and pharmacy items.  We won’t need to purchase pellets since we’ve had so few visitors over these past few days and currently we still have five 40 kg (88 pounds) bags.  Hopefully, in a week or so, our usual visitors will return when the holidaymakers begin leaving the park.

Have a pleasant day after Christmas!


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

The Feria de Plaza Serrano outdoor market is open weekends and holidays from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm.  For more photos, please click here.

Merry Christmas, everyone…It’s a good day in the bush…

Little doesn’t disappoint. He stopped by this Christmas morning and began walking up the steps to the house. I found him on step #3 and encouraged him to eat outside. He complied. I tendered pellets, apples, and carrots. He ate the produce and left the pellets thinking about the human leftovers he could get elsewhere at a holidaymaker’s house, maybe chips, Christmas cookies, and marshmallows (not suitable for him).  But, after all, he is a pig, and he likes junk food, too.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Ms. Bushbuck (no baby for this one) stopped by today on Christmas morning. We rewarded her generously.

This is our seventh Christmas since we left Minnesota in 2012 to travel the world. We don’t have a Christmas tree, decorations, gifts, or a kitchen filled with baked goods and holiday treats.  We didn’t send Christmas cards. 

We didn’t awaken early this morning to make hot chocolate, coffee or savor the smell of cinnamon rolls baking in the oven. We didn’t listen to Christmas music, turn on all the tree lights and the switches for the animated characters scattered about the house. 

We didn’t look out the windows to see billowy puffs of snow atop the Weber grill, tree limbs sparkling with crystal-like coverings, and a frozen lake inviting ice skating, cross-country skiing, or ice fishing. Those days were over, eight Christmases ago.

Instead, this morning we awoke to intense humidity with the inside of the house feeling like an oven…it never seemed to cool off. Today’s expected high temperature should be about 40C (104F), and the thickness in the air leaves us sticky and sweaty.

The floors, washed yesterday, are sprinkled with live and dead insects that collected over the night. In the heat, the trash bin begins to smell from remnants of foods we cooked in the past 24 hours, but we can’t take outdoors for fear the monkeys or baboons will come. When the boys return to work tomorrow (after only one day off for Christmas), they’ll take it away as they always do. 

This Big Daddy stopped by for a visit on Christmas Day five years ago, at the Hornbill house. Tom said, “Here’s my Christmas gift for you…a reindeer.”  I couldn’t have been more thrilled.

I’d promised to bake Don’s favorite, a cherry pie, to bring to tonight’s Christmas dinner at his and Kathy’s bush home. But again, due to the intense humidity, I struggle with the pie crust.

Oh, oh, will this be another “pie day from hell” similar to my experience making pumpkin pies in the heat last month for our Thanksgiving dinner party?  (See here for details).

But then, we threw open the two large front doors, and there it was, the bush green and lush from recent rains, Ms. Bushbuck and Baby waiting in the wings for their turn at some pellets, Frank and the Misses, chirping from a tree and walking up the steps and so far, on step #3, was my boy “Little” who’d come to call on Christmas morning.

Suddenly everything is right with the world. This is where we’re meant to be on this seventh Christmas of our world journey. In only 51 days, our time in Marloth Park will come to an end, and off we’ll go on to new wonders, new experiences, and making new friends, as we revel in Mother Nature’s magical hold on this planet.

This Christmas and every day, we are reminded, as Tom would say, “We are humbled and blessed to be able to live this life.” And that we are. It’s another good day in the bush.
Merry Christmas (to those who celebrate) and a sunny day to those who do not.

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

Here was our Christmas Eve dinner last year in Palermo, Buenos Aires,  which we repeated on Christmas Day when all the restaurants in the area were closed except for a few fixed-price menus served at 2100 hours (9:00 pm) with many foods I couldn’t eat. Instead, we stopped at a mini-mart deli to purchase this goofy meal. Nonetheless, we had a good Christmas as the only guests in the boutique hotel. For details of this and other Christmases in past years of world travel, please click here.

Shaken, not stirred…A special birthday for Tom filled with surprises…Merry Christmas to all…

The festive spirit took over. Danie, Rita, me, Tom, Gerhard (in the back), Kathy and Don from left to right.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Party or not, this is Africa, and a scorpion visitor joined the party on the back of the bathroom door.

It’s not easy to pull off a surprise birthday party. Tom began to wonder when I packed two bottles of gin and two bottles of vodka with about 30 lemons to make sugar-free Lemon Drop Martinis for Rita and me. Most likely, neither of us would drink more than two.

The bright light behind us wasn’t the best vantage point in taking this photo. From left to right: Don, Kathye me, Tom, Danie, Gerhard with Louise and Rita in front.
But, in Tom’s usual go-with-the-flow mentality, he went along with the premise that I always make a lot of whatever we’re having, and he brushed it off as my usual nonsense.
Beautiful platters of snacks.

We made our way to Rita and Gerhard’s giant condo at Ngwenya Lodge. We made our way down a few steps carrying the apple crisp dessert I’d made earlier in the day, a box of four fancy martini glasses, an electric juicer Louise had provided, and two chill boxes (coolers in SA) filled to the brim with ice.

Jandre, Danie, Kathy, Tom, Rita, Louise, and Gerhard on the veranda overlooking the Crocodile River.

Rita and Gerhard greeted us with much hoopla and enthusiasm as we entered the condo to find it beautifully decorated with balloons, streamers, blowers, and sparkly “Happy Birthday” confetti strewn about. We gasped in sheer wonder.

The outdoor table is set for 10.

It was apparent they’d gone to a lot of work for the dinner party for four. But wait.  Moments later, Kathy and Don, Louise and Danie, son Jandre, and girlfriend Michelle popped into the living room with blowers in their mouths shouting, “Happy Birthday, Tom!” 

Our hosts, Rita and Gerhard, couldn’t have done anything more to make this a spectacular birthday for Tom and a celebration for all of us.  Our heartfelt love and thanks to them both.

A surprise birthday party was born, albeit with only 10 of us but easily some of our most beloved friends in the bush. Tom couldn’t stop smiling as I “oohed” and “aahed” over every detail, gleefully taking photos of the stunning spread.

We mulled around chatting until dark when we finally sat down to dinner.

There were appetizer platters made by Rita and Louise, the outdoor table set for 10, with the aroma of delicious foods cooking on the stove and in the oven. How did we get so lucky to have such fine friends?

With the help of Jandre, who juiced all the lemons, after some photo-taking, Tom and I got to work making the Lemon Drop martinis, after everyone who wanted one, eight out of ten, specified if they’d preferred Bombay Gin or Seagram’s Vodka (the only vodka brand we could find at the local liquor shop).

Jandre and Michelle.

“Shaken, not stirred,” we made the martinis which everyone seemed to enjoy, several asking for seconds a while later. Rita was busy in last-minute preparations for the fantastic meal she’d prepared while Kathy and Louise also helped in the kitchen. 

The festive nature of this special night was easily felt by all. The spirit of Christmas wafting through our heads, coupled with the smells of great food, the sights of the decorative setting, and the joyful nature of each one of us in attendance, created a night we’ll never forget.

Danie and Louise.

The night flew by too quickly. From the food served seamlessly on a buffet table in the kitchen to fill our plates and return to the outdoor table to the giant scorpion Michelle discovered on the back of the bathroom door, every moment was memorable.

As the evening ended and we packed up our remains, glassware, juicer, and two cool boxes, we hugged everyone goodnight, thanking them for sharing Tom’s special night.

Jandre, Michelle, Tom, Rita, Louise, and Gerhard huddled together for a photo.

And what can we say to Rita and Gerhard that could praise the depth of our appreciation? Thank you didn’t seem sufficient enough, but for now, we hugged, we praised the fantastic job and hard work in putting it all together, and we walked out the door, looking forward to today when they’re joining us tonight for Christmas Eve dinner.

Our dinner tonight won’t be quite as elaborate. We’re making homemade pizza, salad, and garlic bread (for the boys) with more of the delicious apple crisp for dessert, which everyone seemed to love.

Tom and Don, celebrating together. We met him and Kathy five years ago today, Christmas Eve, when they invited us to their bush home, having never met us but heard about us from friends Lynne and Mick, who we’ll all see again sometime in January.

So, now we change gears for the Christmas celebration in the bush, our second such affair in the past five years. But, this time, our circle of friends has expanded, and the meaning and blessings of the holiday season hold all the more joy. 

Tomorrow, us and Rita and Gerhard will join Kathy and Don at their home for Christmas dinner, and the good times with friends will continue. 

A few weeks ago, Kathy and Rita nonchalantly asked Tom, “What’s your favorite meal?”  He replied, “meat, mashed potatoes, sweet corn, and green beans.  Well, look here! All his favorites and more, steamed cauliflower, potato salad, Greek salad, and spinach salad. What a fantastic meal!

May your Christmas season (should you celebrate) be filled with the company of those you love, with the spirit of the holiday season embracing your heart and soul.

Note: On December 26th, we’ll be posting photos from Kathy and Don’s two-holiday events. Please check back.

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

Another colorful building exterior as we made our first walk in the neighborhood in Palermo, Buenos Aires, Argentina, one year ago today. For more, please click here.

Remembering Tom’s birthday over our years of world travel….Happy birthday, Tom!!!…

December 23, 2013:  We were so preoccupied with a “safari luck” day in Kruger, we didn’t take photos of Tom on his birthday.  Instead, here’s a favorite hippo photo we took on the sunset game drive. Click here for details.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

We were thrilled to see Wildebeest Willie stop by for a bit of hay, some pellets, and a nap in the shade.

Looking back at posts on Tom’s birthday since 2012, after we’d left Minnesota to begin our journey, we’re reminded of how few photos we’ve taken of us over the years. 

It’s not as if we’re particularly camera shy. It’s more about the fact that we’re preoccupied with our surroundings, finding using the camera’s timer to take a photo of us a bit cumbersome, and preferring not to disturb other travelers to take our photo.

December 23, 2012:  At that time, we rarely posted photos, unaware of how big the commitment to posting would eventually become and all the worldwide readers we’d finally have. Click here for the text from the post on Tom’s birthday in 2012.

Also, I guess I wasn’t diligent enough over the years to take photos of Tom on his birthdays as often as I could have.  Tonight, at Rita and Gerhard’s temporary home at Ngwenya, where they’re making a special birthday dinner for him, I promise to take photos.

December 23, 2014: Click here for a video taken on Tom’s birthday while in the Pahoa, on the Big Island in Hawaii with our kids and grandkids.

Last night, we did take photos at Kathy and Don’s party. Still, once again, none of us, as we were preoccupied chatting with everyone, dining on excellent starters, appetizers, or PuPu platters as Kathy and Don, who also live in Hawaii, refer to a variety of platters of delicious foodstuffs suitable for nibbling or dining. We’ll post those photos soon.

But today, Tom’s birthday is my primary focus. I know I could go on and on extolling his virtues as a husband, lover, travel companion, and best friend, but you’ve heard it all before.

December 23, 2015:  Tom’s birthday dinner in Fiji. My rumpled lobster juice-soiled clothes were a sight to see after dinner. Click here for details.

Recently, I read some reviews from another travel writer’s post, and the wife was severely criticized for raving on and on about how wonderful her husband is. I cringed, thinking, “Oh, good grief, that could be me.”

We don’t get many “haters” and are incredibly grateful we don’t have to deal with the emotional upheaval that can be precipitated by negative comments from readers.  

Thus, I learned a lesson from someone else’s experience and tempered my enthusiasm to describe Tom’s fine qualities. Above all, on this day of his, I’ll say I am grateful…for him…for our lives together…for the friends we’ve made along the way and for this magical world we live in.

December 23, 2016:  Mersey Beach bluff in Tasmania, where we dined on Tom’s birthday. The outdoor food wasn’t exceptional, the live band was festive, and the ocean views were exquisite. But, again, I failed to take photos of him that night. Click here for details.

It’s not just Marloth Park. It’s also all the other places we’ve visited in the past six years. It’s all the different experiences we’ve had along the way. And, we can’t forget the joys of our “old lives” so many moons ago that linger as distant memories that flood our hearts and minds when we stop for a moment to recall.

Tonight we’ll celebrate with friends. Today, we’ll revel in the day, and whatever morsels of nature wander our way. We’ve already been greeted by Ms. Bushbuck and Baby and, of course, our friend “Little,” who loved eating the apple peels from the birthday dessert Tom requested for tonight – homemade gluten-free apple crisp topped with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream.  

We have no doubt tonight will be wonderful at Rita and Gerhard’s birthday dinner.  We’re bringing all the ingredients to make sugar-free Lemon Drop Martinis for this special occasion and his non-traditional birthday cake of apple crisp.
December 23, 2017:  Happy 65th birthday to my darling husband, lover,  travel companion, and forever friend who has made this special and unique life of world travel possible. Click here for details.

We’ll be back tomorrow with photos from last night’s party and tonight, including photos of our friends and us.

Christmas is almost here. May the blessings of the holiday season (for those who celebrate) fill your hearts and homes with love.

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

Panamanian hats for sale in Manta, Ecuador. This was the last post with favorite photos from the 30-night South America cruise, which ended on this date, one year ago. Click here for details.

The holiday festivities have begun…Sparse photo situation at present…Losing weight isn’t easy…

The baby bushbuck took cover behind mom when she wasn’t sure what to do when she saw us.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

With the small amount of rain, the bush has begun to green, creating more vegetation for the wildlife.  But, it still has a long way to go to nourish them fully.

We can hear the cars and bakkies (trucks) driving down our road, minute after minute on what is not necessarily a thoroughfare. Our road, Swartwitpens, is one of the bumpiest dirt roads in the park and isn’t the first choice for residents to get to their homes. 

As a result, most of the passing vehicles, often driving too fast are holidaymakers finding their way through the maze of dirt roads when the only paved roads in Marloth Park is Oliphant Street (the main road) and Maroela Road (for a short distance from Oliphant to the municipal park and building).

Why people drive so fast here baffles us. It’s not as if the roads are comfortable to maneuver when passengers bounce around as if on a boat in rapids. In my old life, I’d never been able to ride on these dirt roads.  

Now, with renewed health due to my eating, I no longer have pain that would prevent me from doing so.  For this, I am eternally grateful and maintain this strict diet with relative ease.

Unfortunately, over the next few weeks, we aren’t willing to tackle the traffic on the river roads. Tom is an impatient driver, and it’s just not fun being stuck behind multiple vehicles on the narrow dirt roads.

The lucerne lays scattered about the garden uneaten. The warthogs move it around with their snouts but eat very little.

Instead, we’ll stay at our bush house, relishing every moment we can, even with the few visitors we’re getting right now. This morning was better when we had a few bushbucks, and eight kudus stop by for pellets.  

It was exciting to see the kudus. I told Tom to keep tossing pellets while I went inside and chopped carrots and apples for them. A neighbor stopped by while I was tossing them and scared them off.  Hopefully, they’ll return soon.

Without our usual drives in the park, self-drives in Kruger, and with less wildlife visiting us, right now, our photos inventory is sparse. I know I should take photos when we’re out to dinner and at social events, but once I start having such fun, I forget about taking photos and live in the moment instead.

I suppose in the realm of things, enjoying the moment instead of stopping to take photos isn’t always a bad thing. I will start working on this tonight when we go to Kathy and Don’s bush home for their holiday cocktail party. But, during this time, I’d be wise to take photos of social activities to ensure we have fresh photos for the next day’s post.

And then, tomorrow is Tom’s birthday which, as mentioned, we’re celebrating with Rita and Gerhard. They’re doing the cooking, and all I’m bringing is one of Tom’s favorite recipes, gluten-free apple crisp, which is not low carb.  

Mom and baby stop by for some treats.

I found a low-carb version I’m going to make tomorrow for Rita and me. It has a total of 10 grams of carbs per serving, so I’ll have to carefully consider what I consume for the remainder of the day to stay within my daily allotment of 20 grams.

A while back, I’d mentioned I was trying to lose the 11.34 kg (25 pounds) I’d gained when I was suffering from the now non-existent gastrointestinal issue for two and a half years. Eliminating all dairy several months ago put a quick end to my woes.  

By dropping dairy from my diet and cutting back a little on fat and protein, so far, I’ve lost over 9 kg (20 pounds) with only about 2.5 kg (5.5 pounds) to go to be back where I was when we began traveling six-plus years ago.  

Need I say, I’m thrilled to wear my limited wardrobe without lying on the bed to zip my pants and constantly feeling as if I had to “tuck in” my love handles which have now all but disappeared.  

It’s been a slow process. While I was suffering from the condition, I was constantly eating to stop the gnawing pain in my gut. Sure, I continued eating a low carb, grain-free, starch-free, and sugar-free diet, but one can certainly gain weight if overeating any food.

Mongooses often stop by looking for eggs.

These last few pounds have been tricky. When Tom and Lois were here, we were dining out more often than usual, and the weight was packed on. During their three-week visit, I gained back 2.27 kg (5 pounds).  

Since November 1st, when they left to return to the US, it’s taken me to get back to the point where I was before they’d arrived. That’s slow! However, I stayed determined and on course, day after day.  If I lose the remainder by the time we leave here in February, I’ll be content.

In the interim, the clothing I purchased in the US in 2017 is now too big, and before we leave here, I’ll donate everything that doesn’t fit and purchase some new items when we return to the US in April. Wearing the same clothes over and over again with frequent washings results in wear and tear, and every few years, we must replace some items.

Today, I’m trying to dry a pair of white denim capri pants to wear to the party tonight. Without a dryer, the heavy denim fabric often takes two days to dry in the humid climate. Tom set us a chair in front of the portable fan, and I’m hoping it’s going to dry them in time.

That’s it for today, folks. We’ll be back tomorrow on Tom’s 66th birthday, looking back at his past birthdays since we left Minnesota on October 31, 2012. 

Have a fantastic day as many of us delve into the spirit of the holiday season, wherever we may be.

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

Many of the streets in Montevideo, Uruguay, reminded us of other historical cities we’ve visited. For more photos as the 30-night cruise came to a close, please click here.