Day #2…We’re on the move…South Africa visas extended, again for foreign nationals…Vaccines provided in Marloth Park…

    A young male kudu sheltered in the shade to cool off in the heat.

So it goes. As of last night, a notice was online from South Africa immigration that visas for foreign nationals were extended once again, this time until September 30, 2021. Then on Facebook, we saw photos of seniors over 60 years of age getting their Covid-19 vaccines in Marloth Park. Oh well, this information became known to us once we had arrived in Johannesburg and we were situated in our hotel room.

In any case, we’re excited to see the family after a year and a half, and the trip indeed will be worthwhile and gratifying. We will return with a visa stamp taking us to October 26, 2021, and we’ll figure things out from there. Returning to South Africa fully vaccinated will also give us peace of mind, although we’ll continue to observe lockdown requirements and safety protocols.

If it weren’t for the long and challenging travel time, leaving and returning requiring almost two days, visiting the US would undoubtedly occur more frequently. But, it always seems as if we are very far away at any given time since we’re inclined to be interested in more remote locations, rather than a more leisurely trip to Europe, for example.

We’re often asked why we don’t spend more time in Europe. The answer for us is clear. We’ve already visited hundreds of historic buildings, including churches, museums, galleries, and such. We feel more inclined toward our preferences surrounding nature and wildlife and more unusual locations for the remainder of our years of world travel, less frequented by typical travelers.

Of course, with the pandemic in our midst, who’s to say where we’ll be able to travel in the future? For all of us passionate travelers, the options are limited at present and may continue to be so over the next several years, for all we know. Here again, only time will tell.

As for our drive to Nelspruit, the car rental drop-off, and the flight to Johannesburg, all was smooth and went as planned.  Airlink out of Nelspruit is a great airline, and we’ve always been happy with their flights and good service. But, unfortunately, since we’d booked the return flight at the end of July as one contiguous journey, Las Vegas (LAS) to Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger (MQP), we weren’t able to use the individual return flight from Joburg to Nelspruit.

We stopped at the Airlink counter yesterday, and they gave us a two-year credit for the return flight. That was great, even unexpected. Airlines are realizing that being more adaptable during Covid-19 will go a long way toward customer retention in the future.

Once we arrived at the hotel, Garden Court, it took a good 35 minutes to get checked in and a room key in Joburg. Several suitable Covid protocols were in place, but they never asked to see our negative PCR test results. We wondered what they’d do about food when all restaurants in South Africa are closed.

As it turned out, they have some arrangements for takeaway from a local restaurant, and our meals were delivered at 6:00 pm, 1800 hrs. We hadn’t eaten anything all day. Airlink had given us each a “boxed lunch” when we de-planed since no food service was allowed during the flight. We didn’t look at it until we checked into the hotel room.

There was a bag of salt/vinegar potato chips, candy, and two juice boxes. I don’t eat any of those items, and Tom snacked on both boxes throughout the evening. Dinner was mediocre, but what did we expect? I had two chicken legs and left the rice and veg. Tom had a steak (no steak knife), rice, and veg. He ate my rice along with his.

Our 9:30 am breakfast order lost. So we had to re-order again at 10:00 am. I ordered poached eggs, bacon, and sausage. Tom ordered fried eggs, plus cold cereal, muffins, toast, and hash browns. Hahaha! That’s my guy!

We requested a late checkout and arranged with the shuttle driver to take us back to the airport at 3:45 pm, 1545 hrs. So our flight isn’t until 7:00 pm, 1900 hrs, allowing us three hours before departure as required. The first flight to Frankfurt is 10 hours 35 minutes, followed by a five-hour layover in Frankfurt. Then, we’re off to Chicago on another 9 hours 15-minute flight.

Once we arrive in Chicago, we’ll have another layover of a few hours. Whew! It will be a long journey. But, this isn’t the first time we’ve had a long trip, nor will it be the last.

We’ll be back in touch during our layover in Frankfort.

Have a pleasant day and evening.

Photo from one year ago today, June 30, 2020:

We walked past a grove of palm trees and evergreens in Trinity Beach, Australia, as we made our way to the beach. For more photos, please click here.

Day #1…We’re on the move…USA, here we come!…

Mom and baby. We’ll miss you all.

No doubt it’s a long journey to the US. Soon, we’ll make the 90-minute drive to the airport in Nelspruit (MQP), over the treacherous N4, the highway I’m not particularly eager to travel. Unfortunately, there’s been a lot of traffic and road construction, so we’re leaving hours earlier than usual, figuring we could easily be delayed.

Most likely we’ll arrive at the airport two to three hours earlier than our flight if traffic isn’t as bad as expected. Unfortunately, due to the Level 4 lockdown a few days ago, the restaurant in the airport will be closed, and we’ll have to wait on benches in the corridor of the small airport. There are no “gates,” so to speak, at this airport, so we’ll have to hover while waiting for our 1:50 pm, 1350 hrs, flight to Joburg.

Once we arrive in Joburg, we’ll stay overnight in a hotel since our flight to Germany isn’t until the following day. From Joburg, we’ll have over 32 hours of travel time, including layovers. Then, we’ll repeat a similar journey on our return flight four weeks later.

The excitement of seeing everyone is tempered by the long travel time. Once we’ve had our Covid-19 vaccines at the airport in Minneapolis, picked up our luggage, the rental car, and arrived at our hotel, we’ll feel more relaxed and able to enjoy seeing our family and friends over the 16 days. I’m sure a good night’s sleep will be our first concern, especially since we’re arriving in the evening.

Over the years, we’ve experienced several long hauls such as this. In each case, the exhaustion was palpable, but a good sleep usually set us right the next day. Hopefully, it won’t be any different this time. The time difference is only seven hours between South Africa and Minnesota. This small difference doesn’t usually result in any jet lag for either of us.

Our Covid-19 tests arrived in my inbox this morning with both negative as expected. We’ll stop at Louise’s Info Center to pick up our copies on our way to the airport. We have all other documents in order as required by the airlines. No special consideration is required for US citizens returning to the US from South Africa other than a recent (72) negative Covid-19 test.

Of course, we’ll consider our potential exposure when visiting family and friends based on the fact we’ll only have had the one-dose J & J vaccine on July 1st. We will always proceed with caution.

Thank you to so many who’ve written, wishing us a safe journey. We plan to post again tomorrow from Joburg since our first flight doesn’t depart until 5:00 pm, 1700 hrs. So we’ll have plenty of time.

Little and Tiny are both here now. I hope this isn’t our last goodbye. The warthog culling takes place in mid-July when 500 will be taken out.

Be well. Be safe, and we’ll be back soon.

One day and counting…New lockdown in South Africa…Our 30 year anniversary of the day we met…

This young male kudu stopped by a few times yesterday and was foaming at the mouth. His mom may have been lost to the kudu culling. We called the rangers, and Juan and Mark came out to look for him. But, by the time they got here, only minutes later, he was gone. They explained he might have choked on something which could cause the foaming. In the evening, he returned and was so longer foaming at the mouth. We fed him plenty of pellets which he seemed to enjoy. He was back again this morning, looking better.

Who’s in the garden this morning?

  • 10 warthogs – inc. Little, Tiny, Lonely Girl, Fred, and Ethel, and more
  • 8 bushbucks – inc. Chewy, Thick Neck, Torn EarSpikey, Stringy, Young Ms. Bushbuck, and others
  • 6 kudu – inc. Big Daddy, Bossy, and kids
  • 1 wildebeest – inc. Broken Horn
  • 17 helmeted guinea-fowl
  • 2 Frank and The Misses
  • 21 mongoose

Last night President Cyril Ramphosa conducted one his his “Family Meetings” to update the citizens of South Africa of new Covid-19 restrictions as stated in this article:

“JOHANNESBURG, June 27 (Reuters) – South Africa will tighten COVID-19 restrictions for 14 days as current containment measures are insufficient to cope with the speed and scale of new infections, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Sunday.

The country, the worst hit on the African continent in terms of recorded cases and deaths, is in the grip of a “third wave” of infections. It recorded almost 18,000 new cases on Saturday, approaching the peak of daily infections seen in a second wave in January, and local scientists say the Delta coronavirus variant first identified in India seems to be spreading fast. read more

“Additional restrictions are necessary… Our focus is on limiting social contacts while preserving the economy,” Ramaphosa said in a televised address to the nation. Under the measures announced, all gatherings will be prohibited, there will be a curfew from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m., and the sale of alcohol will be banned.

A Big Daddy with a massive rack of twisty horns.

Schools will start closing on Wednesday, but beaches and parks will remain open. Restaurants will only be able to sell food for takeaway or delivery. “We will assess the impact of these interventions after 14 days to determine whether they need to be maintained or adjusted,” Ramaphosa said.

South Africa recently received 1.4 million doses of the Pfizer(PFE.N) vaccine via the COVAX Facility and an additional 1.2 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) vaccine, the president added. So far, the vaccine rollout in South Africa has been slow, with only around 2.7 million doses administered among a total population of 60 million. Faced with opposition protests, the government has set a target of more than doubling the rate of daily vaccinations over the next month.”

In summation, alcohol sales are banned, restaurants may only offer take-away, and schools will be closed. As a result, reservations made by holidaymakers throughout the country, including Marloth Park, are rapidly being canceled. Who will want to visit a location for a day, a weekend, or an extended period if the restaurants can’t serve food and guests can’t purchase alcohol for their consumption?

Bossy is back to stopping by several times a day.

In reality, I suppose this is a good time for us to be leaving since it would have been illegal for us to meet up with our friends for sundowners at private homes, visits to the Crocodile River, dining out, and gatherings of any type with people outside one’s household.

Hopefully, by the time we return at the end of July, the number of cases will have dropped, and the Level 4 lockdown measures will have ended. But one never knows. With this new variant, entitled Delta, who knows what will transpire in weeks to come?

Our packing is almost complete. I made a convenient packing list on my phone on the excellent app called “Keep,” and go through it from time to time to ensure we haven’t forgotten anything. But, of course, we’ll be in the US, and if we did forget something, we could easily purchase it there.

Big Daddy, interacting with females.

Today is the 30th anniversary of the day we met in 1991. Usually, we celebrate this particular date with a special evening out. But that won’t be happening today. So instead, we’ll cook burgers on the braai, topped with cheese and streaky bacon, along with rice for Tom and a fried egg to top my burger.

We’ll spend our last evening on the veranda, most likely with Little and Tiny in attendance, hoping they will still be here after the upcoming warthog culling coming soon. Apparently, there are about 2000 warthogs in Marloth Park, 500 of which will be culled. So that leaves our “boys” a 75% chance of still being here when we return.

Hopefully, no new lockdown measures will impede our return in approximately four weeks. Then, we’ll be flying out of Las Vegas, Nevada. We can only wait and see.

Thick Neck never fails to stop by.

This morning we headed to Komatipoort to get our Covid-19 PCR tests. The results will arrive by email tomorrow at 8:00 am. Louise will print them for us, and we’ll pick them up at her office on our way to the airport. Everything is ready for our departure.

That’s it for today, dear readers. When we arrive in Johannesburg tomorrow afternoon, we’ll upload another post once we’re situated at our hotel. Of course, if I have everything done in the morning, I may do the post before we depart Marloth Park.

Have a pleasant Monday, and please be healthy.

Photo from one year ago today, June 28, 2020:

Protective gear from one year ago today; face masks, N99 masks, goggles, face shields, and hand sanitizers. Gloves have yet to arrive. (Sorry, this is a video. I hit the wrong button, but I’d already repacked everything, so a retake was too much trouble). For more photos, please click here.

“Movie in the Bush”…We booked appointments for J & J vaccines in Minneapolis!…Two days and counting…

Rita, Gerhard, and Tom situated in our chairs, ready for the evening to commence.

Who’s in the garden this morning?

  • 10 warthogs – inc. Little, Tiny, Lonely Girl, Fred, and Ethel, and more
  • 9 bushbucks – inc. Chewy, Thick Neck, Torn EarSpikey, Stringy, Young Ms. Bushbuck, and others
  • 6 kudu – inc. Big Daddy, Bossy, and kids
  • 1 wildebeest – inc. Broken Horn
  • 29 helmeted guinea-fowl
  • 2 hornbills –
  • 2 Frank and The Misses
  • 21 mongoose

Yesterday afternoon, after hours of searching online for possible J & J vaccine appointments in Minnesota, hopefully within one day of our arrival, frustration set in. There were plenty of two-dose vaccine appointments available, but nothing definitive for the J & J, one dose.

I took this photo before the arrival of many of the movie-goers.

We’ll be in the US long enough to get the two-dose vaccine, if necessary. But, doing so will prevent us from visiting Tom’s sister, who’s in a nursing home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The facility won’t allow any visitors until 14 days have passed since their second dose. This wouldn’t work for us.

When the frustration set in after a few hours of research, I tried different keywords and, by a fluke, stumbled across the J & J vaccine being offered to travelers with a boarding pass, arriving or departing from MSP (Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport). I couldn’t book our appointments quickly enough. At 5:45 pm, 1745 hrs,  on July 1st, we are scheduled to get our vaccines at the airport before taking off in our rental car to our hotel. What a relief!

Thanks to many of our readers who wrote to us with suggestions, some knew about the airport vaccination program. Your assistance is much appreciated!

When we first arrived at Lisa’s property, at least six ostriches occupied the spaces where we’d set up our chairs.

For the third time, since we’ve been coming to Marloth Park in 2013, last night’s Movie Night in the Bush was another delightful experience. Lisa, who hosted the event with proceeds going to wildlife rescue, had a fantastic spread of food for the participants.

There were approximately 45 guests who each paid a paltry ZAR 120, US $8.48 for a dinner of pulled pork and pulled chicken with buns, coleslaw, and sliced pickles. Lisa, whom we know well,  was so thoughtful of me when she put aside a huge bowl of roasted pork for me without the sugary barbecue sauce. How thoughtful was that!  The meat was delicious.

Tom, Rita, and Gerhard enjoyed the full meal as we all dined in our portable chairs a short distance from the movie screen, as shown in the photo below. We didn’t know many people in attendance but were happy to see those we’d met in the past.

Movie screen in the bush. What a fun event!

The movie, The Ghost in the Darkness was a historical piece that elicited several good and bad reviews. Instead of sitting there critiquing the movie, the four of us decided to have fun and enjoy it regardless of its reputation. After all, it was an Africa movie filmed here in South Africa, and it was fun to be watching it in the bush, with wild animals surrounding us and content movie-goers in the audience.

It was a cool night, and fortunately, we’d all brought along ample clothing to keep us warm. At one point, I was shivering a little even while bundled up in my airline blanket. It was warm during the day, and as typical in Africa, it cools down quite a bit in the evenings.

When we arrived, before darkness fell, the four of us got a kick out of the ostriches that surrounded us, appearing to want to get in on the action. They had to be shooed off to get out of our faces. Perhaps, they viewed all of us as potential sources of good “people food,” which, like other wild animals, is not good for them.

Finally, some of the ostriches were shooed away, but a few determined birds stayed behind.

By 8:00 pm, 2000 hours, the movie ended, and we said our goodbyes, including to Rita and Gerhard, who are embarking on a trip to the outskirts of Johannesburg for a course on off-roading with their new vehicle. We won’t see them again until we hopefully can return, as planned, at the end of July.

Tonight, at 8:00 pm, President Cyril Ramphosa will be speaking during what is referred to as a “Family Meeting” to address the nation regarding further lockdowns due to the massive increase in cases of Covid-19, especially in the Gauteng Province where Johannesburg is located. We are located in Mpumalanga Province. But, we will be in Joburg, staying overnight on June 30th.

Sunset in the bush on “Movie Night.”

Our primary concern is, “Will we be able to return to South Africa at the end of July?” For our friends, Louise and Danie, managing so many properties, and Dawn and Leon, as owners of Jabula Lodge and Restaurant, this speech could negatively impact their businesses if the new lockdown measures prevent travel to Marloth Park. They have already struggled so much in the past 18 months.

Now, as we wind down our time in Marloth Park, we are preoccupied with the necessary paperwork required due to Covid-19 for traveling. We have a health questionnaire to complete, and we’ll be good to go.

A photo I took of the movie in the first few minutes.

That’s it for today, folks. We will continue to post during our travel period, providing adequate WiFi services are available along the way.

Take care, everyone!

Photo from one year ago today, June 27, 2020:

It was business as usual, with Tom wearing a sarong as the required dress to enter the temple. He had a hard time managing the steps. He didn’t have the same experience as women who’ve worn long dresses, knowing when to hold up the hem for ease in walking. For more photos, please click here.

Bossy was spared!!!…Tom and Gerhard’s Marloth expedition…Three days and counting…

Although blurry and without showing his head, Tom captured this photo of a crocodile on the river.

Who’s in the garden this morning?

  • 18 warthogs – inc. Little, Tiny, Lonely Girl, Fred, and Ethel, Peter, Paul and Mary, Benny, Henny, Lenny and Penny, Mom and Babies, and more
  • 12 bushbucks – inc. Chewy, Thick Neck, Torn Ear, Spikey, Stringy, Young Ms. Bushbuck, and others
  • 6 kudu – Bossy and family are back!!!
  • 1 wildebeest – inc. Broken Horn
  • 31  helmeted guinea-fowl
  • 2 hornbills –
  • 2 Frank and The Misses

After Tom dropped me off and Gerhard dropped Rita off at the local spa for our pedicures, the two guys took off in their new bakkie (truck) to explore Marloth Park. We knew it would take at least two hours for our pedicures to begin at 1100 am, giving the guys plenty of time to venture out on the bumpy dirt roads.

A crocodile is lounging on the bank of the river.

I was happy for Tom to be able to have some “guy time” while Rita and I certainly enjoyed our “girl time,” a rarity in our lives of world travel. Tom rarely has time away from me, and I was thrilled he was to have a few hours on his own. Neither of us longs to have time apart or even “alone time,” as many seem to cherish. We’ve always adapted well when in one another’s presence day and night.

After our fabulous pedicures, Rita and I took off in our rental car, which she drove toward our house, where we were to wait for the guys. But, as it turned out, they encountered us only a few blocks from the spa when they’d come to collect their respective wives. Rita jumped out of the car to join Gerhard, and Tom jumped in, and we were on our way back to our holiday bush home.

Tom enthusiastically shared the stories of his and Gerhard’s adventures in the park while I perused the photos he’d taken. No, Tom’s not the best photographer, especially using our less-than-ideal camera. But, he got enough photos for us to share here today, albeit blurry. I was content.

The area where Gerhard and Tom spotted while walking in Marloth Park.

Once back home, we got back to work on the final touches of our upcoming travel to the US, which begins in a mere three days. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely President Cyril Ramaphosa will extend foreign national visas again before we depart, and we’re committed to continuing on our way to the US.

In the afternoon, I had a good opportunity to continue working on the corrections I have almost every day over the past few months. I’d intended to get further ahead by now to avoid doing them while in the US. But, I decided when and if I have downtime, I’ll attempt to tackle them again.

Much to my delight, mid-afternoon, Bossy made an appearance with some of her family members. I couldn’t have been more thrilled to see her. Somehow, she avoided the helicopter round-up but most likely was terrified and stayed undercover for a few days.

The crocodile returned to the water with plenty of fish for him to devour.

Today, I will be spending the afternoon trying to find where we can get the J & J vaccine in the Minneapolis area. If any of our readers know of such a location, please contact us by email. In reviewing numerous “vaccine finders,” I am not having much luck. If we get the one-shot J & J vaccine, we’ll be able to visit Tom’s sister Beth in Milwaukee a few days before we leave, which will be two weeks later. If not, we won’t be able to see her.

Last night, once again, we headed to Jabula Lodge and Restaurant for dinner with Rita and Gerhard, our usual Friday night out. As always, the food, ambiance, and service were exceptional. Now, I only order the lamb shank and three butter-fried eggs. Invariably, Tom always orders ribs, chips (fries), and bread. It’s always predictably good food.

The croc was working his way back onto the bank of the river.

Back at home early, we streamed a few shows, but I nodded off during the second. For some odd reason, I was exhausted, and by 10:00 pm, 2200 hrs, I was asleep, ending up with a total of eight hours for the first time in weeks.

This morning on the veranda, our usual visitors were here, and we enjoyed every moment. News has been posted on Facebook that the warthog culling will begin in July. Only time will tell. I can only hope and pray that our favorite warthogs will be back to see us when we return at the end of July.

A massive bird’s nest in a tree near the river.

Tonight we’ll be attending “Movie Night in the Bush,” a fun experience we’ve participated in a few times in the past. This is a fund-raiser for Wild and Free wildlife rescue, and we hope to see a good turnout.

Have a fantastic day!

Photo from one year ago today, June 26, 2020:

Tom, at the park by the river in Bagni de Lucca, Tuscany, Italy in 2013..One of our readers commented that his white tennis shoes are a dead ringer for a tourist. Apparently, Europeans wear darker-colored shoes. But, we’re not ashamed to be tourists, spending money and savoring every moment in the current country in our journey. For more photos, please click here.

Girl time today…Couples time in the evening…Four days and counting…

This is so typical for Broken Horn. He peeks around the house to see if we’re outside. He always makes us laugh!

Who’s in the garden this morning?

  • 18 warthogs – inc. Little, Tiny, Lonely Girl, Fred, and Ethel, Peter, Paul and Mary, Benny, Henny, Lenny and Penny, Mom and Babies, and more
  • 13 bushbucks – inc. Chewy, Thick Neck, Bad Leg, Spikey, Stringy, and others
  • 1 kudu – Big Daddy – Did we lose Bossy and family?
  • 1 wildebeest – inc. Broken Horn
  • 31  helmeted guinea-fowl
  • 2 hornbills –
  • 2 Frank and The Misses
This same bushbuck that visited a few days ago with vines/roots on his head has now been aptly named Stringy.

I am rushing through today’s post.  At 11:00 am, Rita and I have pedicure appointments with Patience which could easily last for 2½ hours. It was only about 6 weeks ago that Linda and I had pedicures at the same spa here in Marloth Park. Since it will be hot in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and especially in Nevada, another pedicure for my two pairs of sandals was on the agenda.

As I’ve aged, and especially after open-heart surgery, as much as I dislike admitting this, I’ve found doing my own pedicures isn’t as easy as it used to be. Then again, I notice some other tasks are a little more challenging than they used to be, such as chopping and dicing. My hands are not as adept as they used to be. But, Gee…as they say, it’s hell to get old.

A short time later, Stingly used the bark of a tree to remove these vines/roots from his face.

On the other hand, there’s never been a time in my life when I’ve enjoyed myself more. Is it maturity that makes this life so fulfilling, or is it the fact that we’ve been living in “Paradise” for the past five months? This morning with no less than six wildlife species in the garden and the remainder of the day spent engaged in social activities, including dinner out tonight with Rita and Gerhard, and I couldn’t ask for more.

There’s been an uptick of Covid-19 cases in Marloth Park, most likely due to the influx of guests staying in the holiday homes in the park, many coming from Johannesburg, where there’s been a tremendous surge in cases, inspiring President Ramaphosa to enact tougher lockdowns.

Today, there are 10 new, active cases here in Marloth Park, which put us on alert while we continue to dine out and interact with our friends in tiny gatherings. In addition, we received new masks in the most recent package sent to us a few months ago. These masks were approved for military use in the US with enhanced protection. So today, during our pedicures, I will wear that mask, hoping it provides ample protection.

This is One Tusk, who’s become quite a regular. Most likely, while in the US, we’ll purchase a new camera. The camera we have is now several years old, and after years of humidity, the lens has been ruined, resulting in poor-quality photos.

As of yesterday, there were 16,078 new cases in South Africa. Detailed information may be found at this link. As a result, South Africa moved up the list of countries globally with the most number of cases and deaths to the 19th position from the 20th, which held for many months.

When at Jabula, we make a particular point of maintaining social distancing, frequently using sanitizer, and avoid contact with others.  We’re curious to see how it goes in the US when we will be out and about every day and evening. At this point, 45% of the US population has been fully vaccinated. But, they are a long way from herd immunity. When there, even after our vaccinations, we will proceed with caution.

We’ll head to Komatipoort for our Covid-19 PCR test on Monday, receiving our test results first thing Tuesday morning. We had to schedule our tests as close to our departure date when airlines and countries we’ll enter on the long journey require test results to be no older than 72 hours.

Tiny and Broken Horn are frequently in the garden at the same time.

We won’t be required to quarantine in the US. Also, the majority of our family members have been fully vaccinated. But, we’ll continue to exercise caution once we arrive as to who we see the first several days. It would be unrealistic not to be concerned about contracting the virus while traveling for two days.

As we’d done when we flew here from India over five months ago, we will be as cautious as we possibly can be, wearing masks, face shields, gloves, using sanitizer frequently, and social distancing. It will be interesting to see how many travelers will be at the various airports.

So, that’s it for today, folks. With only four days until we depart Marloth Park, our thoughts are wrapped around packing and getting everything in order before we leave.

Be safe. Be well. Have hope for the future.

Photo from one year ago today, June 25, 2020:

This was the steepest hill in the neighborhood in Boveglio, Tuscany, Italy, in 2013. For more photos, please click here.

The helicopter noise has ended…The result, unknown as yet…5 days and counting…

A red-backed shrike was sitting atop Rita’s hat while we were at Two Trees.

Who’s in the garden this morning?

  • 12 warthogs – inc. Little, Tiny, Lonely Girl, Fred, and Ethel, Peter, Paul, Mary, One Tusk, and more
  • 10 bushbucks – inc. Chewy, Thick Neck, Bad Leg, Spikey, Big Spikey, and others
  • 1 kudus – none-did we lose Bossy and family?
  • 1 wildebeest – inc. Broken Horn
  • 27  helmeted guinea-fowl
  • 24 mongoose
  • 2 Frank and The Misses

We are so relieved the helicopter herding of kudus and impalas has ended. Unfortunately, at this point, we have no idea how many animals were moved and culled in the process. The only place to find the stats is on various groups on Facebook. There have been many posts that both espouse the approach and criticize it.

I had posted some frustration and mistrust of the process but got such negative feedback. I removed the post. I have no interest in getting into online altercations. And yet, a day later, dozens of comments were made stating my same concerns, often vehemently expressed back and forth between Facebook users.

Two giraffes, at a distance on a hill, at the Crocodile River.

At some point soon, warthogs will be culled, perhaps while we’re in the US. We’ll keep watching the various Facebook groups for more information. However, my biggest question will remain prevalent in my mind – will Little and Tiny still be here when we return, four weeks later.

On another note, last night, there were seven of us situated on our veranda for sundowners and appetizers. What a fabulous evening we had! It started at 4:00 pm, 1600 hrs, and ended after 10:00 pm, 2200 hrs. We are so blessed to have such good friends here in Marloth Park and look forward to seeing them all again when we return at the end of July.

A turtle on the opposite side of the Crocodile River.

And now, as we plan activities in the US, we are arranging some get-together with some of our friends in Minnesota between family visits. On the 4th of July, my son Greg and family will meet us for dinner at Maynard’s Restaurant on Lake Minnetonka, followed by an evening of fireworks at our former next-door neighbor’s house.

Greg will bring chairs for all seven of us, sit on Nelleke and Dave’s lawn, and watch three or four sets of fireworks over Lake Minnewashta. It will be a fun experience for three of our six grandchildren and reminiscent of years past when we watched the fireworks from our dock on the lake.

A distant hippo and a few cattle egret, who often hang around with hippos, on an island in the Crocodile River.

But, we won’t be too sad. We appreciate and love this nomadic life we live. Memories bring a smile to our faces, reminding us how grateful we are for all of the experiences of our lives. Some of our friends/neighbors have moved away from the neighborhood but live nearby, and hopefully, we’ll see them as well.

Of course, we’re looking forward to seeing both sides of our families. Tom is from a huge family, and he’ll visit them on his own when I am with Greg’s family and, at other times, with me tagging along. I have always enjoyed his family and look forward to seeing them, too.

A hornbill and a red-backed shrike were wondering if we had some snacks. We did not.

With the number of cases of Covid-19 rapidly escalating in South Africa, we’re hoping there won’t be an issue when we attempt to return on the new flight we booked with United Airlines on July 24 from Las Vegas to Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger, arriving on July 26th. Unfortunately, it’s a long haul both ways, consisting of over two days of travel time each way.

The hardest part of such long travel periods is the lack of sleep. We can easily handle jet lag, time differences, and waiting at various points along the way. But, the lack of sleep in two days is tough to take especially, when neither of us sleeps well sitting up.

Soon, there will be a full moon.

We’ll arrive in Minneapolis at our hotel around dinnertime on July 1st and will undoubtedly look forward to a good meal and a restful night’s sleep. The following day, the first thing we’ll do after breakfast is head to a location where we can get the J & J vaccine. It’s imperative we can get the one-dose to head to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to see Tom’s sister Betty, who is in a nursing home.

As is the case at most nursing/assisted living facilities, visitors must have had their vaccines at least two weeks before visiting friends and family members. If we can’t get the J & J vaccine, we won’t be able to see Sister Beth (a retired nun), which would be a big disappointment for her and us.

Today, we’re staying put, gearing up to sorting and packing for the upcoming journey. We’ll be spending one night in Joburg and need to carry on overnight items accordingly, checking the remainder of our luggage. In addition, we’ll each check one suitcase with clothes and things we’ll need.

Have a great day!

Photo from one year ago today, June 24, 2020:

This buffalo was not happy to see Tom when he went for a walk in the neighborhood in Sumbersari, Bali. He didn’t use any zoom to capture this photo when suddenly, this monstrous, agitated buffalo started to approach him. Tom ran like a “bat out of hell” to get away, telling me the story while still breathless from running. For more photos, please click here.

Day 3 of culling…An early morning live alarm clock!…Young kudus visiting without their moms?…Could it be?…

This may look like a bird when, in fact, it was the helicopter we spotted this morning, flying overhead herding animals for the bomas, where they will then be transferred to Lionspruit. Their fate is yet to be confirmed.

Who’s in the garden this morning?

  • 15 warthogs – inc. Little, Tiny, Lonely Girl, Fred, and Ethel, Peter, Paul, Mary, 2 Moms and Babies, and more
  • 10 bushbucks – inc. Chewy, Thick Neck, Bad Leg, Spikey, Big Spikey, and others
  • 1 kudus – inc. Bossy
  • 3 wildebeest – inc. Broken Horn, Old Man, and Hal
  • 19  helmeted guinea-fowl
  • 38 mongoose
  • 2 Frank and The Misses
Excuse this blurry photo, taken from quite a distance. This is a red-billed hornbill described here: The red-billed hornbills are a group of hornbills found in the savannas and woodlands of sub-Saharan Africa. They are now usually split into five species, the northern red-billed hornbill (Tockus erythrorhynchus), western red-billed hornbill (T. kempi), Tanzanian red-billed hornbill (T. ruahae), southern red-billed hornbill (T. rufirostris), and Damara red-billed hornbill (T. damarensis). Still, some authorities consider the latter four all subspecies of Tockus erythrorhynchus. The female lays three to six white eggs in a tree hole during incubation, which is blocked off with a plaster of mud, droppings, and fruit pulp. There is only one narrow aperture, just big enough for the male to transfer food to the mother and the chicks. When the chicks and the female are too big for the nest, the mother breaks out and rebuilds the wall. Then both parents feed the chicks.

The helicopter is flying overhead right now and has been doing so for the past 3 hours. The sound of the whirring blades makes me cringe. Bossy, my favorite kudu, who’s pregnant, ran off terrified when the helicopter swooped in over her head.  Did she follow the stampede of terrified animals to the bomas, where they are being held until they are moved into Lionspruit?

Is Bossy now gone? Only time will tell. She was a daily visitor, often stopping by as many as four or five times a day. She’d look into my eyes, with what almost appeared to be a smile on her “got milk” white mustache, typical for all kudus. I will feel lost without her daily presence.

We spotted this giraffe on our way to Two Trees to meet up with friends.

There are many opinions and rumors about what’s happening with animals once they are gathered. Some say they will be shot. Others say they will live peacefully in Lionspruit with their only threat, the two lions, Dezi and Fluffy, who permanently live in Lionspruit and have for years. Here again, only time will tell what’s happened to the hundreds of kudus being moved over these past three days.

The more I speak to locals, which we’ve done quite a bit over the past several days, the more I accept the reality of this seemingly humane thing to do. Is it a quick and painless death or a slow, painful death of starving with no readily available vegetation during the long winter months?

Three ostriches along the side of the road on our way to Two Trees.

Humans who feed them can’t possibly provide enough food to keep them going throughout the winter. Imagine how much food it takes to feed a 250 to 500 pound, 113 kg to 227 kg animal in a day? It would be impossible to provide them with adequate portions to sustain life.

If they were in Kruger, they’d have larger foraging areas to wander for food. But here in Marloth Park at 6.76 square miles, there isn’t enough vegetation to feed them, the hundreds of impala, the bushbucks, wildebeest, and other foraging animals.

The three ostriches with their heads up.

Even the giraffes, who mainly eat from the treetops, are running out of suitable vegetation. Soon dozens of them will be culled. What will happen to them? It’s a painful reality for all of the wildlife in Marloth Park.

This morning at 6:00 am, while we were still asleep, we were both awakened by repeated loud barks coming from the garden. I jumped out of bed and looked outside to find Broken Horn staring at the veranda door, wondering when we were coming outside to feed him. In one way, we found it humorous, but moments later, I stopped my giggling in the sad realization he, among others, is hungry.

Egyptian geese are commonly seen at the river. The Egyptian goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca) is a duck, goose, and swan family, Anatidae. It is native to Africa south of the Sahara and the Nile Valley. Egyptian geese were considered sacred by the Ancient Egyptians and appeared in much of their artwork. However, because of their popularity chiefly as ornamental birds, escapees are common and feral populations have become established in Western Europe, the United States, and New Zealand.

The trees, plants, and bushes they all consume are sparse. But, of course, they’d come to see us and others living/staying in Marloth Park for whatever morsels we can provide. I get it. Over the past few days, I’m off my “high horse” and surrender to reality, albeit sadly and painfully so.

Yesterday afternoon Tom witnessed five young kudus alone in the garden with no moms present, which is a rarity. I was indoors finishing the post (I had to get away from the distractions in the garden) to focus and finish up for the day. Tom waited and watched, and none of the usual moms appeared. Undoubtedly, the moms have been captured, and now the youngsters must fend for themselves—another harsh reality.

This distant elephant was making her way to the river.

Yesterday afternoon we met up with Rita, Gerhard, and Don at Two Trees overlooking the Crocodile River. I was able to take some interesting photos, which we’ll share over the next few days. After the river, Tom, Don, and I headed to Jabula Lodge and Restaurant for another outstanding dinner while Rita and Gerhard had a quiet evening at home.

By 9:00 pm, 2100 hrs, we were back home relaxing while watching another great episode of the streamed Africa series on Amazon Prime, Wild at Heart. In no time at all, I drifted off for a good night’s sleep. Tom often stays awake until midnight reading on his laptop.

Impalas on the hill in Kruger above the Crocodile River.

This afternoon we’re having sundowner guests. There will be seven of us for snacks, drinks, and undoubtedly more great conversation. We’ve been quite busy socially these past weeks, which we have thoroughly enjoyed. Now, with only six days until we depart Marloth Park to begin the long journey to the US, we’re winding down the socializing to get ready to leave for almost a month.

With our return flight booked through United Airlines, all we have to do now is to figure out a way to get a refund from the former canceled flight. Unfortunately, it’s time-consuming and tricky.

Have a pleasant day!

 Photo from one year ago today, June 23, 2020:

Houses we encountered on a walk through the village of Bennabio in Tuscany, Italy, in 2013. For more photos, please click here.

Day 2 of 3 of culling…Tiny and Little still alive…Only one more day… Seven days and counting…

Poor little male bushbuck got caught up in some roots he was digging up. Too cute for words.

Who’s in the garden this morning?

  • 11 warthogs – inc. Little, Tiny, Lonely Girl, Fred, and Ethel, Peter, Paul, Mary, and more
  • 10 bushbucks – inc. Chewy, Thick Neck, Bad Leg, Spikey, Big Spikey, and others
  • 9 kudus – inc. Bossy, Notches, Little Daddy, Youngsters, and others
  • 2 wildebeest – inc. Broken Horn, Hal
  • 23 helmeted guinea-fowl
  • 2 Frank and The Misses
Open Photo
Last night, Tom and Danie were busy making fancy cocktails. Excuse the blur. I accidentally hit video, not still photo.

When Little and Tiny showed up this morning, I breathed a deep sigh of relief. Now, we can only hope and pray they will be back later today day tomorrow, when the helicopter “rounding up the wildlife” will end at dark. If they can make it through the next 36 hours, along with all of our favorite kudu friends, who were the primary targets along with impalas, we can relax before we depart in a mere seven days.

If they make it, we do not doubt that within a week or two of our return, they’ll all be back to see us. However, we wonder as to the degree of reference that animals may possess of time passing. It didn’t take long for Little to find us after we hadn’t seen him in almost two years, in an entirely different location.

Open Photo
The roaring fire in Louise and Danie’s garden.

This morning I couldn’t help but coo over all of them, fearful that it might be the last time we see many of them. We can now hear the helicopters overhead, louder than yesterday. This is because they are closer to us. Yesterday, we only heard the sound in the early morning.

But, now, at almost 2:00 pm, 1400 hrs, the whirly sound of the helicopter’s rotors is hard to miss, leaving my heart aching each time the sound is closer. I know. This is beyond the control of anyone in Marloth Park. The municipality organized and executed the culling. Don’t get me started on this topic. As a visitor, I have no right to express my opinions on this process.

Big Daddy in the garden in the early morning.

Nonetheless, it impacts everyone who lives in, visits, and loves Marloth Park. I can imagine the frustration of homeowners with holiday homes to rent, wondering if it will ultimately impact their ability to rent their properties with fewer animals in the park. Unfortunately, many seem to think we won’t even notice the difference. And perhaps, we won’t if our favorites are still here after Wednesday night.

Yesterday, we attended two parties, one at 4:00 pm, 1600  hrs and another at 5:30 pm, 1730 hrs, for friend Danie’s birthday! We had a fantastic evening with friends, which will be repeated today when we head to the Crocodile River to meet up with Rita and Gerhard for game viewing. Friend Don, whose earlier party we attended yesterday at 4:00 pm, 1600 hrs, will be joining us at the river and then for dinner at Jabula.

Broken Horn and bushbuck sharing pellets.

Tom is currently on the veranda, rebooking our return flight from Las Vegas to Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/ Kruger while I am indoors wrapping up this post. There were so many animals and noisy birds in the garden I wasn’t able to focus. Instead, I was distracted by something funny or wonderful every few minutes!

Within the next few minutes, he’ll have wrapped up our July 24 flight, and we can rest easy. The company we’d used previously is trying to charge us a “passenger processing fee” of US $75, ZAR 1074  per person. We will take this up with our credit card company, who most likely will work it out for us. It wasn’t our choice to cancel the flight.

The hornbills are relentless lately. They bang on the windows all day, even now when I’m in the bedroom. No afternoon naps around here! We can’t help but laugh.

I have been so distracted with this culling thing, I’ve had a hard time focusing on today’s posts. Of course, I’ll check for errors, but surely, there will be many.

Have a great day!

Photo from one year ago today, June 22, 2020:

This must be a variety of cactus, spotted in Madeira Portugal in 2014. For more photos, please click here.

We can hear the helicopters rounding up our animal friends…The close proximity of sightings…

Who’s in the garden this morning?

  • 12 warthogs – inc. Little, Tiny, Lonely Girl, Fred, and Ethel, Peter, Paul, Mary, and more
  • 10 bushbucks – inc. Chewy, Thick Neck/Bad Leg, Spikey, Big Spikey, and others
  • 7 kudus – inc. Bossy, Notches, Little Daddy, and others
  • 1 wildebeest – inc. Broken Horn
  • 19 helmeted guinea-fowl
  • 2 Frank and The Misses

The sound of the helicopters overhead is making me cringe. But, with seven kudus in the garden right now along with Little, Peter, Paul, and Mary, Fred, and Ethel, and seven bushbucks, we’re hoping they’ll hang around with us today, tomorrow, and Wednesday. If they stay nearby, they may be safe, according to Louise’s input.

The male bushbuck we call Bad Leg stood close to us on the veranda.

If they stay in this general area, there is less likelihood of them being herded to their demise. Nevertheless, it will be a tense three days on this end. Now, here comes Broken Horn, with lucerne hanging from his mouth. As he approached, he stepped on the long grass in his mouth and pulled hard to get it out. Animals are amazing.

We underestimate their intelligence. But, then again, do we? As we sit here day after day, totally enthralled, watching them and their behaviors, we’re continually in awe of their innate ability to communicate with one another, let alone with us from time to time.

For the first time, gray louries pecked at Frank’s seeds.

Yesterday, while observing dozens of birds who’ve become regulars, we commented to one another how each day is different from the next. So it’s no wonder it’s difficult for us to feel a need or desire to go away for the day. Even visiting Kruger National Park, which we’ve promised ourselves to visit more frequently when we return from the US, doesn’t consistently deliver the thrills we encounter right here in the garden.

No doubt Kruger has its array of thrills; seeing the Big Five is only a tiny part of it. The endless videos we’ve made and photos we’ve taken over the years of extreme sightings in the national park have left us reeling with wonder. We often refer back to them, astounded by what we’d seen.

The gray louries are typically shy around humans. So it was fun to see them up close.

But, the garden is another matter, requiring no hours-long rides in the car without seeing anything and often managing to maneuver for a good spot when other vehicles are crowded near a special sighting. So, for us, it’s usually about the “little things” we see along the way.

That’s not to say we are tired of game drives. Suppose we could add all of our safaris and self-drives in our visits to national parks. In that case, we could easily say we’ve had hundreds of experiences in several countries, including South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Morocco, and most recently, India.

A gray lourie landed on the table on the veranda while we were seated, a first for us.

In India alone, we visited three national parks during our private tour of the country before the Covid-19 lockdown. We counted 24 game drives in those locations, always on a search for the majestic Bengal Tiger. Mission accomplished. The Big Five performed in many of the above-listed countries, beginning in Kenya in 2013.

That’s not to say more thrills aren’t awaiting us on more game drives. Most certainly, they are, and we look forward to those opportunities, in many ways inspired by our commitment to sharing them here with all of our worldwide readers. But, of course, doing so makes the sightings all the more exciting and rewarding.

Unusual. Three gray louries (go-away birds) descended on the grill for the first time.

Yesterday, we focused on the dozens of birds visiting the garden, drinking from the birdbath, eating seeds, and even getting up close and personal with us by landing on the veranda table while we were seated here, as we are now. Whether it is the sighting of a dung beetle rolling his ball, a bird splashing in the birdbath, or a band of mongoose munching on leftover meat and fat from a prior meal, we love it all. The close proximity certainly is a factor in our degree of enthusiasm.

Yes, we love it all. And soon, in a mere eight days, we’ll be leaving all of this behind us for four weeks and heading to a world so far removed from what we’ve experienced here on a day-to-day basis. Oddly, once again, it will be a culture shock. I can only imagine the day we walk into a Costco store to buy a few of their popular five-dollar roasted chickens to eat in our hotel with a microwave and full kitchen, and our eyes will open wide in shock over all the “abundance.”

Little, on the left, and Tiny were sitting closer together than we’d seen in the past. They are our favorite pigs, and yet their personalities are so different. Little is pushy and bossy, and Tiny is gentle and accommodating.

Life in the bush is abundant in other ways.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, June 21, 2020:

The ocean is behind this old vine-covered garage in Campanario, Madeira, Portugal, in 2014. For more photos, please click here.