Early morning trip to Nelspruit…

    Our guide was prepared to begin backing up as this male elephant in musth moved closer and closer to us. Musth or must is a periodic condition in bull elephants characterized by highly aggressive behavior and accompanied by a large rise in reproductive hormones. Testosterone levels in an elephant in musth can be on average 60 times greater than in the same elephant at other times.

Yesterday afternoon we got a message from the lawyer informing us we had an appointment at the immigration office at 8:30 this morning to submit our 50 pages of documents for our visa extensions. We thought we were bypassing this step by using the law firm to assist us for some odd reason.

Had we known this, we may have done the process independently. Although, they helped ensure we had everything in order. Now we wait for about 60 days for the approval. If granted, we will have to return to Nelspruit again to get out passports stamped with the new 90-day extension. It’s quite a confusing and time-consuming process.

Elephant carrying her trunk on her tusk. Early elephants had tusks, and one idea is that as tusks became longer, it was harder and harder for elephants to get their mouths to the ground to reach the grass. The trunk on their tusk helps them to reach more food and to eat more in a shorter time.

Going through this painstaking process and avoiding flying to another country with many Covid restrictions right now saved us about US $3000, ZAR 4642. In the realm of things, it will have been worth it. Once approved, we’ll be able to stay until April 22. But if our April 8 cruise doesn’t cancel, we will be on our way by April 1 or sooner.

Our eventual departure date will depend on the cruise line’s requirements based on our coming out of South Africa.The ship sails out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The US has more Covid/Omicron cases per capita than South Africa. It will be interesting to see how that rolls out.

Elephant crossing the dirt road, trunk high in the air, sniffing for food or threats.

Our appointment at the immigration office was scheduled for 10:45 am. We arrived an hour earlier than the appointment time when Tom suggested we go right up to the fifth floor to VSF Immigration anyway, rather than kill time walking around downtown Nelspruit. That decision proved to be a great idea. We were the only applicants at the check-in point outside the door or inside the facility when we arrived.

As I write this post in the car, we expect to be back in Marloth Park by noon. We expected to be waiting in chairs for hours as we had in 2018 when we applied for an extension at that time.

Only one tusk was showing from this view. Our guide explained that when the elephant’s ears are flapped over, as shown above, it indicates an older elephant, as the ear cartilage has aged.

All and all, it wasn’t too bad. Before we left this morning, I prepped all the veggies for dinner. Once I add photos to today’s post upon returning to the house, I’ll do some laundry and catch up on my walking for the day.

We were happy to see Frank and The Misses at the veranda door at the house. We hadn’t seen either of them in almost a week, and we’ve been wondering if they’ve been busy sitting on some eggs out in the bush. It would be delightful to see little Franks and The Misses sometime soon.

The sky cleared after pelting rain when we first started.

Tom is sitting at the table on the veranda watching US football on his laptop, and I’m indoors finishing up today’s post. My timer is set to remind me to walk every 20 minutes. It’s a good day, after all.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, January 18, 2021:

This was Tiny. We haven’t seen him since we returned from the US at the end of July. We miss him but have focused on energy on Little and other animals. For more photos, please click here.

It’s not perfection…More Kruger photos…

Could these Cape buffalos be a mom and a youngster?

When I had a “to do” list in my old life, I’d do everything on it in record time. It’s different now. I’ve let go of trying to be perfect. A goal one can never achieve. Trying to achieve perfection can leave a path of destruction in its wake. Funnily, although hard to admit to the world, I had to leave to change my ways. It wasn’t easy.

It wasn’t as if I ever thought, “Oh, I have to leave Minnesota to stop trying so hard.” But when Tom suggested we traveled the world when he retired on October 31, 2012, I was all over it. I wanted to see Africa and knew that it was my chance to fulfill a lifelong dream.

A male Cape buffalo, part of a group of “retired generals?” The African buffalo is a large sub-Saharan African bovine. Syncerus caffer caffer, the Cape buffalo, is the typical subspecies and the largest one found in Southern and East Africa. 

But, as the weeks rolled on, two thoughts came to mind after we’d decided to begin this journey. One, I could write, which I always longed to. When I retired but knew retirement in Minnesota wouldn’t be challenging enough to inspire me. Two, I could break the chains I put around myself, always striving for excellence, if not perfection. No one ever “made me” do it. It was all on me.

It took being away for a few years to realize this fully. It didn’t happen overnight. It began to transpire when we started selling or giving away all of our belongings. But, it escalated when we unloaded all of our overweight and excess luggage and all the items contained therein.

The African buffalo is not an ancestor of domestic cattle and is only distantly related to other larger bovines. Its unpredictable temperament may have been part of the reason that the African buffalo has never been domesticated, unlike its Asian counterpart, the water buffalo. Adult African buffaloes have few non-human predators aside from lions and large crocodiles. As a member of the big five game, the Cape buffalo is a sought-after trophy in hunting. Not good, as far as we’re concerned.

Shipping worldwide is costly and inconvenient, although we still do it from time to time. I’d thought we needed all of that “stuff” when we left. Now I’m content with one bag for my personal belongings, only disappointed when a favorite item wears out and the challenge of replacing it from afar becomes cumbersome.

It baffles me that I’m content without a garlic press, cookbooks, Egyptian cotton sheets, and pillowcases. But I am. It baffles me that I only have one handbag I purchased in South Africa at the shop in Lower Sabie, which soon must be replaced due to wear and tear.

Buffalos rarely have twins. Buffalos kill more hunters than any other species. Buffalos are good swimmers.

It baffles me that I promise myself to do tasks but totally excuse myself when I don’t do them and never feel guilty or burdensome on myself. I pay the bills. I manage travel arrangements and keep records. I cook nice meals, do laundry, and grocery shop. I remember friends and family members’ birthdays, staying in touch worldwide. I host social events and dinner parties from time to time.

But, I don’t wake up in the middle of the night thinking of all of the tasks awaiting me or the things I “should do.” I’m free. Recently, I started walking indoors with a goal in mind. I haven’t missed a day yet, but there’s always tomorrow when I do.

At the end of life, no one will ever say, “I wish I’d got more done! Or, I wish I’d done everything on my “to do” list.”

A “sausage” growing on a sausage tree. Kigelia is a genus of flowering plants in the family Bignoniaceae. The genus consists of only one species, Kigelia Africana, which occurs throughout tropical Africa. The so-called sausage tree grows a poisonous fruit that is up to 60 cm long, weighs about 7 kg, and resembles a sausage in a casing.

Almost three years ago, when my mortality faced me head-on with open heart surgery and a relatively poor future prognosis, I didn’t think of tasks I needed to accomplish. I have a will, and Tom knows my final wishes. Instead, I think of the people I love, family, friends, and acquaintances we’ll make along the way.

I think of my husband, partner, and best friend and how I can better his life in small ways each day. I think of the tasty plate of food I place at our table each time we eat in and smile when I see the satisfaction on Tom’s face.

The sky was quickly changing at sunset as we were on the move.

I think of the eyes on the faces of the animals that visit and how they connect with me, with us. I think of the little dance that Little does each time he sees me, shuffling his feet in a playful way, no different than a dog wagging his tail when you come home at the end of the day.

Simple. Uncomplicated. Not perfect. No pressure. No guilt. I love this life. I am grateful.

May your life be filled with the joy of the “little” things.

Photo from one year ago today, January 17, 2021:

What a handsome face with young horns. Antelopes in Africa don’t have antlers. They have horns for life, never shedding them. For more photos, please click here.

More photos from Kruger National Park…Another fun night at Jabula!…Great seasoning recipe…

This is a side-striped jackal, another less frequent sighting we were delighted to encounter. The side-striped jackal is a canine native to central and southern Africa. Unlike the smaller and related black-backed jackal, which dwells in open plains, the side-striped jackal primarily dwells in woodland and scrub areas.

One year ago today, the third day since our arrival in the bush in South Africa, we had no power for 19 hours and no WiFi. We are enjoying today without any outages, a strong WiFi signal, and a slightly cooler yet humid day. Often, this time of year, the temperature may only be in the 80Fs, 27Cs, but the humidity can be outrageously high, making us sweat until the sun goes down.

The kori bustard is a ground-dweller, hence the name bustard, meaning birds that walk. They have a majestic walk with measured strides. They prefer to walk away from danger and fly only when necessary because of their weight. They take off with hefty wing beats, but they fly quickly and strongly once airborne.

Nonetheless, it’s a good day. I’ve already prepped all the vegetables and ingredients for tonight’s taco salad dinner and only have to prepare the lettuce and cook the mince (hamburger meat) as soon as it defrosts enough to fit in the pan. I made the taco seasoning from scratch early this morning, using the ingredients listed below.

Those little packets of taco seasoning contain many chemicals and wheat, none of which we care to eat. Here is a simple recipe that takes only a few minutes to put together.

Marabou storks I first encountered at the old dump in Marloth Park in 2014. The marabou stork is a large wading bird in the stork family Ciconiidae. It breeds in both wet and arid habitats in Africa south of the Sahara, often near human habitation, especially landfill sites.
Low Carb Taco Seasoning
4 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoon cumin
4 teaspoons paprika
4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoon dried onion or onion powder
2 teaspoon oregano
2 teaspoon black pepper
Add all the spices to a mason jar or large zip-seal bag. Close and shake or stir until fully combined. Store in an air-tight container in a cool, dry place for up to 1 year.
Use 2 tablespoons for every packet of taco seasoning called for in a recipe or for every pound of meat with no additional salt added. Use 1/2 tablespoon to season 1/4 pound of meat if making individual servings. The individual serving size is about 1/2 tablespoon.

Serving: 8serving (1/2 tbsp) | Calories: 15kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 616mg | Potassium: 78mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 849IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 19mg | Iron: 1mg

Table setting at the boma in Kruger National Park. There we just the eight of us as guests, with several staff members serving and assisting.

This is so easy to make. This morning,  I added sliced olives, diced onions, grape tomatoes cut in half, and chopped lettuce in individual containers. I’ll soon cook the meat until no blood remains, draining it in a strainer, placing it back into the pan, adding seasonings as stated above, based on how much meat I am cooking.

Our plates of meat were delicious.

Then, I add about one cup of water for about 4 pounds, 2.2 kg of meat. Let the meat simmer until most of the water is absorbed, usually about 20 minutes. While the meat is simmering, I cut up one small avocado to serve atop my salad. Serve right away, layering your salad as you’d like. I add a dollop of sour cream to my salad, but Tom doesn’t add any dressing. Some may prefer to add salsa. Cool the meat slightly before refrigerating. It will keep in the fridge for four days or freeze in Ziplock individual servings.

There were several vegetable options, some without sauces which I selected.

OK, enough about food for you non-foodies. Oh, oh, one more thing about food. Last night, Rita, Gerhard, Petra, Fritz and Tom, and I went to Jabula for another enjoyable time together. We lounged at the bar for a while, ordered our dinner while at the bar, and then sat at the usual table for six that Dawn always saves for us and any group of six we may have to join us.

The food is consistently delicious, and the hosts divine, which brings us back over and over again. We never tire of dining and spending time at that great restaurant, unlike any other we tried throughout the world. The bar reminds us of the TV series Cheers, where “everyone knows your name.” And the food never disappoints.

This is the beautiful European roller. The European roller is the only member of the roller family of birds to breed in Europe. Its overall range extends into the Middle East, Central Asia, Africa, and Morocco. The European roller is found in various habitats, avoiding only treeless plains. They migrate to South Africa from Europe each summer season. That’s a long flight!

When we returned home, we settled in for the night, watched an episode of a series on my laptop, and drifted off to sleep by midnight.

Today will be a quiet day. I continue faithfully with my new walking regime and haven’t missed a day since I started on January 1st. I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, but this year was different. I needed to start walking more for my health.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, January 16, 2021:

These two piglets were Barbara and Lori, who are now almost full-grown and visit each day. This mom is now Tail-less Mom who recently lost her tail to an injury. For more photos, please click here.

Fantastic evening in Kruger National Park with friends…Rhino, hyena, lions and more…

Safari luck prevailed! It will take several days to post the many photos we took while in Kruger National Park on last night’s guided game drive with Rita (her birthday celebration), Gerhard, Petra, Fritz, Louise, Danie, and the two of us. We had the safari vehicle exclusively for our group only and dinner in the bush later on.

Our guide took this group photo of the eight of us.

I took the above video in error while I fast and furiously tried to take photos in the near dark without using any flash since using a camera’s flash is not allowed at night in the park. The flash can blind particular creatures, if not frighten them. We were in their space, not ours.

OK, I get it; a photo of a lion pooping is not necessarily worthy of posting. But, in the dark, in the moving vehicle, this was the best photo I could get of this lion.

As a result, the above video is all over the place. But I couldn’t help but share it with all of you when it included the dehorned rhino, hyena, and one of two lions we spotted in the dark. Also, some of our photos are not as clear as we’d like since many of the photos were taken in the dark, often in the moving vehicle. I’m not a good enough photographer to combat these issues. I did the best I could.

Hyenas are not always seen on a game drive. This one walked past us without giving it much of a thought.

With the eight of us in the safari vehicle with our highly competent guide and his significant other in the front seat, the conversation among us was fun and exciting as we saw more and more stunning wildlife. Our excellent guide, Xander van der Merwe, went over the top to provide us with an excellent experience, and he did. He’s highly skilled and knowledgeable, and the more experienced animal enthusiasts in our group learned a few things from him.

The two male lions were on the road at night in the dark.

If you are coming to or in this area, please don’t hesitate to give Xander a call for an experience such as ours. He will happily arrange an evening to be your guide and enjoy the dinner in the bush. He can be reached at +27 079 061 9995 or by email at xandervdmerwe14@gmail.com.

We waited for the rhino to turn around.

As it turned out, we saw four of the Big Five, but we weren’t disappointed to accomplish this common goal, as we mentioned many times. Sure, it would have been nice to see a leopard, but we saw many exciting and rarely seen wildlife. We couldn’t have been more content.

Finally, he turned, and I was able to get a shot of him, revealing he had been dehorned.

After stopping many times for various sightings on the evening drive, we didn’t arrive at the dining boma until around 8:00 pm, 2000 hrs, instead of the intended hour earlier. The fire was roaring, the tables were nicely set, and the buffet was set up with various options.

Quickly, he wandered off.

We gathered near the bonfire for exciting conversations over our special game drive. Firstly, wine and beer were served, and although all of us were hungry, we didn’t cut ourselves short on “sundowner time.” I drank regular red wine instead of my usual low alcohol wine but monitored myself carefully to avoid drinking too much. Tom drank beer.

Rita and I were standing under the sign.

Before dinner, the servers announced they were serving “champagne,” actually sparkling wine, to celebrate Rita’s birthday. We all raised a glass to her in tribute to her 60th birthday. After drinks and more photo-taking, we were seated at the table with our plate filled with good food. There were plenty of meats and vegetables available for me, while I avoided the starchy sides and dessert.

A beautiful sky at sunset.

Finally, we were on our way back to Louise’s and Danie’s Info Centre parking lot. We all hugged goodbye, delighted over extraordinary memories we’ll all treasure in years to come.

Enjoy our photos, and know there will be many more in the days to come.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, January 15, 2021:

We posted this photo one year ago. Mom, now called Tail-less Mom, with Barbara and Lori when they were piglets. Now full-grown, they visit us every day with Tail-less Mom and her two new piglets. For more photos, please click here.

Avocados, popular in South Africa…Finally found a solution to ripen them quickly…More trail cam sightings!

Here are the remaining eight small avocados from a bag of ten we purchased a few days ago.

Why would a travel-related site write about avocados? I could say that regardless of where we live, we have to eat. But, in this case, it’s more about cultural interests, agriculture, and the diet of those who prefer to eat certain nutritious foods. Avocados are among this group in South Africa.

Certain food items are impossible to find as we’ve traveled the world. If they are available, they are costly and often difficult to ripen. In many cases, I’ve left avocados on the counter, hoping they’d soften in a few days, only to be disappointed when they don’t ripen at all or are tough and tasteless when they do soften sufficiently to cut and eat.

We’re always thrilled to see the porcupine photos the following day.

South Africa is 12th in the world in avocado production s indicated on this site, as listed below:

“Statistics of Avocado Production

The export estimate for the 2019 season from March to October is 14.5 million of 4 kg cartons, which amounts to 58 000 tons. Derek Donkin, CEO of the South African Subtropical Growers’ Association (Subtrop), estimates that the total crop of 2019 will be 110 000 tonnes. This includes local, export, and fruit sold for processing into an avocado puree and oil.

Future production of avocados in South Africa is expected to grow with an additional 1000 ha – 1500 ha to be planted annually for at least the next five years from 2019 onwards. Exports should exceed 20 million cartons at this growth rate and will expand as long as the industry grows.

Is this a young porcupine with undeveloped quills?

The bulk of new plantings in South Africa is the black-skinned Hass and Hass-type avocados. New green-skinned avocados are aimed at either the early or late local market.

The informative ‘Avocado Market – Growth, Trends, and Forecast 2019-2024’ report estimates an increase in avocado consumption in China. Already in 2017, China imported 22% more than the previous year. China imports avocados mainly from Chile, Mexico, and Peru, all three countries having beneficial terms of trade with China.

World Production of Avocados

Approximately 76% of avocados are produced in the Americas, 11% in Africa, 9% in Asia, and 2% in both Europe and the South Pacific. Mexico is the world’s biggest producer of avocados, with an approximation of 1.5 million tonnes out of global production of 3.2 million tonnes as of 2018.

Tom was standing in the doorway to the veranda when he spotted the genet.

South America, Colombia, Brazil, Chile, and Argentina are the large producers of avocados, with Peru exporting 60% of South America’s volume. Colombia’s plantings are growing faster than South Africa’s, with 1 500 to 2 000 ha planted each year. Colombia has also become the largest exporter of Hass avocados in the world.

In Africa, avocado producers include South Africa at 120 000 tonnes; Kenya produces an estimation of 80 000 tonnes, Tanzania and Zimbabwe each has 5 000 tonnes, and newcomer Mozambique is at 1 000 tonnes.

Other countries producing avocados include the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Madagascar, Mauritius, Madeira, the Canary Islands, southern Spain, and southern France, as well as Sicily, Crete, Israel, and Egypt.

South Africa’s Avocado Exports

Between 45 and 50% of South Africa’s avocados are exported, and 10 – 15% is processed into oil and pulp. The rest is sold locally. The main importing countries of South African avocados are Europe – particularly the Netherlands, France and Spain, the UK, and the Baltic states at 95%. Small volumes are exported to Africa, the Middle East, and Hong Kong.

Is this genet going to become a regular visitor to our garden at night? Most likely, it will, especially when we put out some meat.

South African industries and government are negotiating market access to the USA, mainland China, and Japan. Currently, strict phytosanitary requirements limit access to these markets. Peru, as another southern hemisphere producer, is South Africa’s most serious competitor, both in volume and timing, for the supply of avocados into northern hemisphere markets.”

As a result of how prolific avocados are in South Africa, I often buy a bag of small avocados, the Haas dark skin variety. I have had nothing but a good experience every time. The typical cost for the bag of ten small avocados is usually under US $5.00, ZAR 77.

When purchasing one of these bags, all of them are hard and unripened. I always plan to ensure they are soft and ready to eat when I buy them. In a perfect world, I have one of these small-sized avocados in my salad each night, but I have to plan to accomplish this based on when we shop and when we’re dining at home.

One day, a few months ago, I placed two avos on the window sill. They weren’t in direct sunlight, but it’s warmer there. By the way, I never refrigerate avos unless I’ve only eaten half and plan to have the other half the next day. Avo lovers know so well that they don’t keep well after peeling. They are ready to eat within 36 hours of placing the small avos on the window sill. I always have sufficient ripe avos and never waste by this process.

Years ago, I read that if you store a portion of the avo with the pit in a sealed container, it will keep for a few days. Although I rarely leave half of these small avos, I’ve tried this, and it seems to work well for 24 hours when refrigerated.

As for nutrition, avocados are ideal for my way of eating, as indicated below:

“Mini Avocados contain 4g total carbs, 1g net carbs, 8g fat, 1g protein, and 80 calories.” What is a “net carb?” Some low-carb/keto enthusiasts deduct fiber from the total carbs. I tend to count the total carbs rather than subtract the fiber since it’s easy to overeat the number of carbs you’ve chosen to consume each day when counting this way.
I recall paying as much US $2.99, ZAR 46, for one large avo. Sure, on occasion, when I’d make guacamole for a party, I could find ample ripe avos at the market. However, making a good-sized batch of guac can require as many as ten large avocados. That was one pricey dip!
This morning for breakfast, I had one of those ripe little avocados with a one-ounce chunk of cheddar cheese, a slice of gluten-free deli chicken meat with a dollop of homemade salad dressing for dipping. What a treat!. Of course, Tom doesn’t care for avocados and never eats them alone or in a dish.
As for today, at 3:30, we’re meeting Rita, Gerhard, Petra, Fritz, Louise, and Danie outside their office to be picked up by a guide in a safari vehicle as we head out to Kruger National Park on safari, ending in “dinner in the bush,” all to celebrate Rita’s birthday! Today, we’ll wear our “bugs away” clothing in the open vehicle hoping to deter the mozzies from biting.
Tomorrow, we will be back with photos of today’s adventure, hopefully with plenty of photos to share, including photos of the food from our bush dinner.
Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, January 14, 2021:

Within minutes of arriving back in Marloth Park, we were gifted with this amazing sight. Love these! For more, please click here.

Fabulous celebratory night at Khaya Umdani…Error correction in yesterday’s post…One year ago, we arrived in Marloth Park…

Note; In yesterday’s post here, I listed a genet as a civet when it was a genet. Many Marloth Park locals and dear friends Kathy and Don, who are now at their home in Hawaii, heard that it was indeed a genet. This morning, I corrected yesterday’s post with numerous references and facts about civets that now reflect facts about genets.

Rita, smiling as always, and Tom, an equally cheerful person.

On last night’s trail cam, t returned. Tonight’s trail cam photos will likely reflect her visit once again. Tonight, we’re having lamb (me) and pork chops (Tom) again and will leave some meat and bones out for her after dark.

As soon as we arrived, there were 11 kudus in the garden.

Last night, we had a great time at Khaya Umdani, where Rita, Gerhard, her sister Petra and her husband Fritz are staying for the upcoming three weeks. After Petra and Fritz leave, Rita and Gerhard will move to their favorite house on Hornbill, where we stayed during our first three months in the bush in 2013/2014.

A rhino beetle on Rita’s finger! Note the horn, thus the name.

Even with countless rhino beetles, as shown in the above photo on Rita’s finger, flying around us, landing on our clothes, we didn’t flinch. The drinks, the great food, and the conversation flowed with ease as always. Tom did a great job cooking the steaks and boerewors (sausages) on the braai. Rita and Gerhard served homemade potato salad, sweet corn, steamed green beans, and crusty bread. I brought a salad and Rita’s low-carb birthday cake, as shown when she didn’t want to eat sugar or gluten.

Rita loves my low-carb, chemical-free, homemade salad dressing

Tom was in heaven eating the bread, the corn, and the potato salad, although he picked at his filet mignon and salad. He can have steak and salad with me any day. But corn, potatoes, and bread are never on the menu when it’s just the two of us.

My plates of rare tenderloin, sausage with a dab of mustard, and salad. All delicious.

If he can eat healthy low-carb foods with me, he’s able to manage his weight and his health. But, he splurges when we dine out or dine at the homes of friends. It’s a fair compromise, and I keep my mouth shut about what he’s eating under those circumstances. Of course, my concern is for his health. But, he takes no drugs and has no medical conditions. Who’s to argue with his desire for treats now and then? Not me.

Petra is delightful. We had a lot of good laughs and great conversations.

We enjoyed chatting with Petra and Fritz. Petra speaks better English than Fritz (they live in Germany). Still, we managed to easily communicate with them, either from their English, or translation in German by Rita and Gerhard. None of us missed a beat in the lively conversation.

Gerhard and Fritz enjoyed their beer.

We celebrated Rita’s birthday, which is on Friday since we’ll all be in Kruger National Park for a guided night game drive and dinner in the bush afterward. It made sense to make the celebratory first anniversary of their US citizenship along with her birthday on a special night.

Low-carb almond flour cakes don’t rise like flour cakes. But it was delicious, nonetheless.

I didn’t realize the birthday candles I’d bought at Spar were the type that doesn’t blow out. We all laughed out loud when we had a terrible time trying to put out the fire on the cake.

The trick candles took a few minutes to extinguish!

Today is a quiet day. I am baking that exact cake for us and bringing an extra to Louise and Danie as a surprise. They will surely love it also. It will be fun to have a special treat after tonight’s dinner.

We hope you are doing well in these crazy times.

Photo from one year ago today, January 13, 2021:

One year ago, on this date, we arrived in Marloth Park after a 59-hour journey from Mumbai, India. After ten months in lockdown in the hotel in Mumbai, we couldn’t have been more pleased to be here. For more, please click here.

More exciting sightings from the trail cam…A special day of celebration with friends.

What a night it was in the bush! These fantastic creatures stopped by after we’d left some bones out after dark. Genets, as shown in the photos, are carnivores. Porcupines aren’t carnivores, but I also tossed out some vegetables, so perhaps that’s what attracted them.

We’ve had a few glimpses of genets, here and there, but never quite as clear as seen in these photos from last night’s shots by the trail cam. Each morning, it is so exciting to see what treasure the trail cam picked up when we aren’t sitting outdoors.

We couldn’t have been more thrilled to see a genet on last night’s trail cam photos.

It rained in buckets last night, and we were inside when these photos were taken. Plus, sitting outdoors in the dark right now with all the insects buzzing around our heads isn’t as fun as it was a few months ago. Although, when we have guests, we have no choice but to sit outdoors when our dining room table only seats four.

Speaking of guests coming for dinner, tonight at Rita and Gerhard’s US citizenship dinner party at the Khaya Umdani house, we’ll plan a night for all of them to come to our house for dinner, maybe next Thursday or Saturday. With Rita’s sister, Petra, and brother-in-law Fritz here with them for a few weeks, it will be fun to entertain them on our veranda.

“A genet is a member of the genus Genetta, which consists of 14 to 17 species of small African carnivorans. The common genet is the only genet present in Europe and occurs in the Iberian Peninsula, Italy, and France. Genet fossils from the Late Miocene and later have been found at sites in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Morocco.”

It’s always so exciting to share the adventures in the bush with first-time human visitors. It’s delightful to watch the expressions of pure joy on their faces when they see a giraffe crossing the road, warthog moms and babies in the garden, and even insects one has never seen in their lives and may never see again.

After all this time we’ve spent in Marloth Park, which Tom and I just figured out has been 30 months, less one month in the US, and several short visa stamp trips, we’ve never become bored for a day. Yes, we’ve been miserably hot, covered in mosquito bites, and suffered some long stretches without power, water, and WiFi. But, as our long-time readers know, none of this keeps us away.

The small, catlike genet is extremely common in Africa. Nocturnal, secretive, and shy, the fox-size common or small-spotted genet has black marks on its face that give it the appearance of wearing a mask. The spots on the back of a genet’s coat are arranged in parallel lines and become elongated as they approach the tail, which has distinct black rings. Blotched genets are close relatives and share a similar facial mask, but they have larger spots and black-tipped tails.

A few minutes ago, I heard the hornbills pecking on the kitchen window as they often do. I jumped up in an attempt to take a photo of them but instead was distracted by five “go-away” birds near the veranda. And when we’re gifted by the constant flow of human and animal visitors, life couldn’t be better than this. I got several excellent shots which we’ll share in tomorrow’s post.

Every day it’s something new. This type of constant stimulation wasn’t as prevalent in our old lives. And, as much as we enjoyed those days and nights, we have a different perspective of life, of nature, from living here in the bush. We’re often asked if we’d live here permanently, and the answer is still an emphatic “no.” It’s the novelty of all of this that keeps us coming back for more.

That’s not to say we’d get bored living here. Many people live here full-time and never tire of the wildlife and their many friends in this hugely social environment. But, our goals remain the same…we are world travelers, and once we can get back out there in the world, we will. Right now, we’re waiting to see if our cruising plans, in less than three months, will once again send us on our way.

This appears to be two porcupines. Could it be a mom and baby?

For now, I’m finished in the kitchen, having made an enormous salad and surprise treat for Rita, which I’ll share in tomorrow’s post. Her birthday is on Friday, and we’re all going into Kruger on a private guided night drive, ending in a dinner in the wild shortly thereafter. We’ve done this in the past and loved the experience, as I’m sure we all will again.

That’s it for today, folks. I have some projects to complete before heading out to Khaya Umdani for tonight’s festivities. It will be fun to be back at that fabulous house where we stayed for a few weeks in 2014 and have been to several times over the years for other social events.

Have a safe and productive day.

Photo from one year ago today, January 12, 2021:

We were no longer in Mumbai, India, on this date, one year ago. Adorable giraffe at rest. For more photos, please click here.

Today is a special one year ago anniversary…Complications with paperwork…Kidding myself about using my phone or camera for scanning documents…

About three weeks ago, this piglet became separated from her mom and two siblings in our garden. We hope others are feeding her too.

One year ago today, we were finally able to leave the hotel in Mumbai, India, where we spent a few days short of 10 months in lockdown at the Marriott hotel due to Covid-19 to fly to South Africa. Several days earlier, we’d made arrangements but expected the flight to be canceled. It was not, and we made it as far as Dubai on January 11, 2021, as described in this post.

Without a doubt, with Covid-19 in the air; it was scary flying for so long. From the Mumbai airport to Marloth Park, it was 59 hours. We remember that day as if it was yesterday. We were so happy to be here, in this house, with this fantastic garden, backing up to Lionspruit, the exhaustion we felt after 2½ days of travel was incidental.

In a matter of a few days of rest, good food, and sleep, we were feeling great and settled in, thanks to Louise‘s help, dinner at Jabula, and our uncanny ability to adapt to time zone, and long travel days reasonably easily. In no time at all, animals came to visit us. Most exciting was the day that Little appeared, shortly after we arrived, tearing a hole in the screen trying to get into the house.

We hadn’t seen Little in over two years at that point, and the fact he found us so far from the Orange house where we lived in 2018/2019, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled. He visits almost every day, except during this busy now-ending holiday season. Soon, he’ll be back to his old routine of stopping by around 4:00 pm, 1600 hrs, daily.

This poor little piglet is alone. We’ll make a point of feeding her each time she stops by.

At this point, we’re busy getting all the documents the law firm needs, and undoubtedly, it’s been a hassle. We carried a small portable printer and scanner when we first began traveling. But those days are long gone. Both weren’t of the quality of desktop models, and neither lasted more than a few years. Besides, they were bulky, although travel-size, and added a few kilos to our luggage weight.

When we need to prepare documents for visas or other reasons; it is a real pain in the you-know-what. There is a post office here in Marloth Park that does printing and scanning for a fee, but their hours aren’t always convenient, and we could end up waiting for quite a while with other customers in the shop.

Louise has an excellent printer and scanner which we use. But, lately, with the busy holiday season, we haven’t felt comfortable pestering her so much, although she is always happy to oblige.

So I got all the necessary documents together, and some of them weren’t acceptable. Our passport pages couldn’t be adequately scanned on a camera, so we had to run back to Louise to do these. Plus, the immigration department wouldn’t accept airline tickets for our eventual departure without the Expedia (or other vendors) logo on the tickets. It’s impossible to make a PDF of an Expedia ticket for whatever reason.  I ended up having to take a screenshot to comply.

Bushbuck’s hair stands up on their backs when they are around other bushbucks, fearful of having to share their territory.

Then, yesterday, the law firm couldn’t get South Africa’s immigration system to accept any of our credit cards to pay the additional processing fees. I called our credit card companies, spending almost an hour on the phone, to find out nothing was wrong with our cards, which I knew would be the case. It’s a South Africa VSF immigration department issue. Hopefully, today, that will be resolved on their end. Otherwise, I don’t know what they/we will do.

At this point, other than the payments as stated above, we’ve done our part, and they should have everything they need to complete our extension applications. It’s frustrating, to say the least. We’re glad we didn’t attempt to do this ourselves. It would have been even more cumbersome.

On another note, last night, after returning from picking up Rita’s sister, Petra, and her husband Fritz, at the airport in Johannesburg, Gerhard called and said he had a “perishable” treat for Tom. He and Fritz came over to hand Tom two boxes of Krispy Kream glazed donuts. He couldn’t have been more thrilled. With six donuts in total, Tom ate three last night and the remaining three with his coffee this morning.

Soon, we’re heading to Komatipoort to shop.

Have a wonderful day!

Photo from one year ago today, January 11, 2020:

I was wearing my N-99 mask, face shield, and gloves continuously during the entire 2½ days of travel from Mumbai, India, to Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger Airport. The post may be found here.

New visitors to the garden appear on trail cam photos!!!…

Definitely, not as clear as we’d like. We were thrilled to see these two Meller’s Mongoose on the trail cam last night.

We had a relatively quiet day upon returning from Royal Kruger Lodge, where we slept on Saturday night after a pipe broke in the bathroom and flooded the house. The house was back in order. I’d already done the laundry the previous day, and nothing more than writing a new post, making dinner, and continuing with my exercise routine was required of me.

It was on my mind that we needed to go to Louise‘s office early in the morning to get clearer scanned copies of our passports and visa stamped pages from when we returned from Zambia in October with our current visas good until January 23, 2022. Now, the law firm has all of the necessary documents to begin processing our extensions. We wait.

When an application for an extension is submitted, the approval won’t be tendered until after the original visa extension dates have expired. We have to stay in the country until the approval comes through, or we’ll become “undesirables” if we leave earlier.

In other words, if the approval doesn’t come in until we need to leave for our April 8th cruise, we won’t have the benefit of the extension and will be banned from South Africa for five years. We don’t want that to happen. The usual processing time using a lawyer is under 60 days. On our own, it could easily have been much longer.

Immigration offices are poorly staffed right now due to the pandemic. It was worth paying the US $983, ZAR 15,366 for the legal fees. It is several thousand dollars less than we’d have paid to fly somewhere.

It is hard to get perfect shots from the trail cam, but we’d never been able to see these two Meller’s Mongoose in the garden without it.

If our transatlantic cruise on Celebrity Cruise Line is canceled, we’ll have no choice but to leave around April 23, when the new visa extensions expire. We can only wait and see what happens. Many cruises are canceling now, and ours could soon be on the chopping block.

We’d love to embark on this cruise, but the news isn’t promising. Instead, we’re keeping a positive attitude and loosely considering our options if we can’t sail away. No, we aren’t worried. This pandemic is now in its third year, and we’ve managed to figure out what to do, time after time.

We finally got our refund from Delta Airlines on the flight they canceled for what would have been our trip to friend Karen and Rich’s wedding, upcoming, on February 11. We’re disappointed we couldn’t attend the wedding but being stuck in a two-week quarantine in a hotel in Florida was particularly unappealing to us.

And yet there was no other way to fully provide peace of mind to the wedding party with us coming from South Africa. There are nearly 1,000,000 new cases a day in the US, and the misconception is that South Africa is worse. It is not. Now, 95% of all cases are the less dangerous Omicron variant. But, even if a bride or groom ended up with the cold-like symptoms, typical with Omicron, it could put quite a damper on their wedding. We understood the concern and chose to stay away.

Instead, this week we’re content in Marloth Park as always. It’s Rita’s 60th birthday week, and many fun activities are planned to which we’re included. Today, they are in Johannesburg, picking up Rita’s sister Petra and her husband, Fritz, from the airport, arriving from Germany and staying with them for a few weeks.

They will all be staying at the Khaya Umdani house starting today. On Wednesday, we’re going to that house for a dinner party celebrating Rita and Gerhard’s one-year US citizenship anniversary. On Friday, on the actual day of Rita’s birthday, we’re going on a night game drive with a guide into Kruger National Park, ending with a dinner in the bush, in the dark, with the wild animals surrounding us.  Then on Saturday evening, the six of us will head to Jabula for dinner.

Next week, we’ll invite the four of them for dinner at our house. It will be a fun and busy time. We’re happy to have an active social life with dear friends once again.

Vusi is here now cleaning the house, and we’re sitting at the table on the veranda as usual. Stingy is here along with Imposter Little, but we had many more animals a short time ago.  More and more holidaymakers are leaving the park after the school holidays have ended. Soon, we’ll see many more wildlife visitors, and I’ll be able to take more photos that have been sparse over the long holiday season.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, January 10, 2020:

This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #291. An owl we spotted in Kanha National Park in India. For more photos, please click here.

Oh, my gosh!!!…What a week!…Another shocker!!!…

After breakfast, Tom at Royal Kruger Lodge in the area where we waited for the house to be ready.

What can I say? It was a crazy week with the intruder in the garden, shown in this post, and now the latest, a flood at our house.

Last evening, as we often do, we were on the veranda, sipping our beverages, listening to music, and enjoying a slightly cooler evening than those of the past several days. We’d considered going out to dinner but decided to dine in, having been out the previous night and having a busy upcoming social week, we’ll explain in tomorrow’s post.

We threw a well seasoned free-range chicken (generally, not available) on the braai on medium heat and let it cook for a crispy exterior and moist, tender meat. I’d made a big salad, roasted some carrots with the chickens, made rice for Tom, and we were looking forward to our upcoming meal on the veranda watching wildlife.

The view across the garden to the pool and dining area where we had breakfast this morning.

About 20 minutes after we sat down outdoors, we went indoors to refill our glasses. We stepped into the water and heard the water running hard and loud from the master bedroom. Sloshing through the living room to the master bedroom, where the water was even higher, we saw the water supply line under the sink in the en suite bathroom was pouring out water like a hose. We couldn’t believe what we had encountered.

Quickly, I contacted Louise, who happened to be grocery shopping in Nelspruit, and she told us where to find the water shut-off. In seconds, Tom found the shut-off valve close to the road in our driveway, and he turned off the water supply.

We ran around the house, picking up things off the floor. The water had run through the entire first floor but didn’t reach our luggage in the second bedroom but wasn’t far from doing so. Surprisingly, the two bags of pellets in a corner in the second bedroom was only a meter from the water. That would have been a mess since pellets dissolve quickly in water.

Most likely, this was a rhino beetle we spotted outside the door to our guest room at Royal Kruger Lodge. We couldn’t see the face to determine its species, but it certainly looked like one.

But, the worst of it all, due to our concern about leaving our laptops in the second bedroom at night, we’ve been leaving them on the floor of the master bedroom, plugged into an outlet that works off of the inverter during power outages, and load shedding. There’s no dresser or table in the master bedroom to set the computers on. The little nightstands are too small.

Had it not been for this week’s human intruder to the garden and our concern of theft, we would have kept the laptops in the second bedroom on the long wood shelf along a wall. The laptops were far from the window, which we’ve kept locked with the shade down. Now, we’ll develop another plan with the laptops off of the floor.

My laptop was on the daybed in the lounge room when this happened, so there was no issue there. But Tom’s laptop got wet, dripping when he picked it up. Plus, all of our specially purchased power cords, adapters, and converters, of which there are many, were underwater.

Firstly, we knew we couldn’t spend the night with all the water in the house. The power had tripped from the water, but Tom managed to get it going again. Louise arranged for a guest room at Royal Kruger Lodge, where we spent New Year’s Eve at a party, hosted by owners Flo and JiJi. We decided we wouldn’t leave until after eating our dinner, which was still cooking on the braai.

We packed a duffle bag with overnight stuff, the laptops (including Tom’s soaked device), and by 6:45 pm, 1845 hrs, we were on our way to Royal Kruger Lodge. The room and setting were beautiful, with impeccable service, and we were settled in no time at all. Tom left his laptop open all night in the cool air-conditioned room, deciding not to check it until this morning.

Much to our shock and relief, his laptop is working fine. Plus, all the power cords, converters, and adapters survived as well. That was also surprising. There was no way we wanted Louise to feel responsible for replacing our equipment.

When we returned to the house a few hours ago, it was dry and spotless. This morning, writing back and forth with Louise on WhatsApp, they had the plumber here to fix the broken pipe, and Louise, Danie, and Zef and Vusi cleared all the water, cleaning everything to perfection in its path. Thank goodness it isn’t quite as hot and humid today since the house feels a bit humid after all of that water. But it’s drying out with fans running and a few windows with screens open.

This morning we had a lovely breakfast at the resort, and soon, I’ll start prepping for tonight’s t-bone steak dinner, again using the braai. We are good and pleased with the result. Perhaps there was a little “safari luck” in the mix with our equipment surviving.

At the moment, we’re back on the veranda, after feeding pellets to Gordy, Spikey, Broken Horn, and “Little” Imposter, sipping our iced tea and content as we could be.

Happy day!

Photo from one year ago, January 9, 2020:

This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #290. The excellent staff served us at the Courtyard by Marriott Mumbai International Airport. They couldn’t be more attentive and concerned about our needs and those of the other stranded foreign nationals staying at the hotel during this difficult time. This photo was taken when we could still go downstairs. For more photos, please click here.