An exceptional artist and wildlife conservationist shares his comments on Kruger fires, and samples of his art work…

Photo of the fires across the Crocodile River, taken from Marloth Park side a few nights ago. (Not our photo).

Long ago, I ran across a member of several Marloth Park Facebook groups, Dawie Fourie, a conservationist, wildlife, and nature artist who often posts his stunning works of art. His frequent posts are rife with an appreciation of Marloth Park and its wild animals as well as those in Kruger National Park, both of which he’s visited many times over the years.

Having worked at the Veterinary Research Institute Onderstepoort, he has a vast knowledge and understanding of nature, far beyond average laypersons and amateur photographers like us.  As a professional artist for over 35 years, he’s had an opportunity to delve into the intricacies of many aspects of wildlife and life in the veld (an open, uncultivated country or grassland in southern Africa. It is conventionally divided by altitude into highveld, middleveld, and lowveld).

What a stunning photo of the fires in Kruger National Park. (Not our photo).

A few days ago, when several of our friends sent us photos of fires in Kruger National Park, of course, we became alarmed and concerned for the wildlife as well as the park itself. The Crocodile River separates Marloth Park from Kruger, and thus, we were less concerned about Marloth Park, its people, and its wildlife being impacted by the fires.

When we read the following statement, Dawie had posted on Facebook. It presented us with an entirely different perspective. We’ve been well aware of fires intentionally set In Kruger National Park to create new vegetation for the wildlife when the scorched areas recover and regrow.

We’d driven through Kruger National Park in September 2018, when embers were still burning, and the air was filled with smoke after a planned burn, as described in our post here at this link. We’d included several photos of the devastation that resulted from the burn.

Dozens of photos flooded Facebook during the fires. We are unable to determine who took the photos, but thanks to all who posted. (Not our photo).

After conducting considerable research about intentional fires set in national parks, we developed a better understanding of why such fires, if adequately controlled, are beneficial to the bush and its inhabitants.

In any case, the following is what Dawie Fourie wrote in his Facebook post a few days ago. By the way, I contacted him to ask his permission to quote him and post his photos. He’s enthusiastically offered a generous “yes.” Thank you, Dawie!

“If you live on Seekoei’s side of Marloth Park and I said something about the veld-fires from the last week you will say – tell me all about it! 😑

For days now, there has been a cloud of smoke hanging over Marloth Park as veld fires or bushfires burn in Kruger Park. A lot of people ask the question, why don’t they put out the fires. Well, here’s the very short answer:

Bushfires are very common in African Savannas, especially during the dry season between May and October. Fires in Kruger are managed using the patch mosaic fire philosophy whereby fires are ignited at selected localities and left to burn to create a natural patch mosaic of burnt and unburned patches. The extent of all fires in the Kruger National Park is mapped on a monthly basis using satellite imagery and information gathered by Rangers.

Dawie’s paintings are so exquisite, they appear to be photographs taken by a professional photographer. Contact him at the link below for more information.

These patch fires, although randomly ignited, are closely monitored by the Section Rangers and only ignited under favorable conditions when the Fire Danger Indices (FDI’s) are low to moderate. Patch fires are selectively used to reduce the amount of fuel and to create patches of burnt and unburnt areas. This generally prevents the hot, high-intensity uncontrolled fires from becoming unmanageable later in the season.

Rangers will generally stop setting fires when the FDI’s become too high and conditions too dangerous. This usually happens during August and September when hot berg wind conditions can easily cause fires to run away and turn into disaster fires. Once the rainy season starts, lightning fires may occur, and such fires are allowed to burn freely to allow lightning a chance to contribute as one of the natural sources of fire.

During a fire, the grass layer is often burnt completely. However, only the dead leaves are burnt, whilst the roots are still healthy. The early burns may sometimes resprout, and this green flush during the dry season will benefit certain antelope species. Research also indicates that bush encroachment tree species, such as sickle bush, maybe knocked back by these burns, giving improved game viewing pleasure as a positive spin-off.

Another stunning painting by Dawie Fourie!

Animals can hear, feel and smell a fire when it is still very far away, and most mammals normally have enough time to escape. Snakes and many kinds of insects escape into holes in the ground, where they are safe because the heat from the fire front seldom penetrates the soil below 5 cm depth.

The fire that was burning across from Marloth Park was started by lightning a couple of days ago, and, in line with the policy, it is left to burn.

Unfortunately, the fire management policy of the Park is a highly complex one and can’t be fully explained in such a short piece. For those interested in more scientific detail about fires, you can contact Scientific Services in Skukuza.”

For inquiries about Dawie’s artwork, please email him: dawiefouriearts@gmail.com

We are grateful the fires were contained, and hopefully, the wildlife could escape in ample time. In months to come, the veld will recover, and the green grasses, plants, and trees again will proliferate, and nature will be at its finest in those areas.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, October 17, 2020:

 This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India on day #208. My nightly dessert of fine cheese and Kenya is grown cashews and macadamia nuts. The night of the “bush dinner” Chef Ambrose had remembered to bring these items for my dessert, as the only guest in camp unable to eat the traditional desserts. Wow! For more photos, please click here.

Hottest day since we arrived last January!!! What a scorcher!…Expected to be 105F, 42C…Trail cam photos…

There was Little hanging around in the garden at 5:45 am. We weren’t up yet, Little!

Other than in Africa, we’ve never experienced such heat without using air conditioning during daylight hours. Thank goodness we have aircon at night, or we’d never be able to sleep on during these heat peaks that often occur in the spring, summer, and fall in Marloth Park.

Not all locations in South Africa are as hot as it is in Marloth Park. Right now in Cape Town, it’s 59F, 15C, a far cry from what’s going here right now at noon at 100F, 38C, and rising by the hour. The peak will be reached in about three hours. We can’t help but be indoors right now. Even Johannesburg is a comfortable 81F, 27F.

But this is the bush, the savannah, and the plains in Africa, and it’s consistently hotter in these areas.

A case of malaria was reported in Marloth Park a few days ago. The mozzies are back in their rampant mission to consume human blood, and without Deet, we have no chance of avoiding their annoying and potentially lethal bites. Every six hours, I apply another dose to any exposed skin, which I keep to a minimum.

Clothing is a good mosquito deterrent, and I am seldom bit beneath my clothes. In the morning, after showering, I cover myself from head to toe and then let it dry. If my clothes potentially rub off any exposed skin areas, I reapply them promptly. Its become quite a habit. I don’t give it much thought except when it’s time to reapply, which I rarely forget to do.  At night, when preparing for bed, I make a similar application.

This is Thick Neck at 3:08 am, who often stays in the garden most of the day and night.

When we go sit on the veranda in the evenings, Tom sprays the bedroom with Doom and keeps the door shut to kill any mozzies that may invade the room during the day. Tom doesn’t get bit, and thus, he doesn’t apply repellent except on a few rare occasions we may be out in the bush after dark. Lucky him.

With all these diligent precautions, I still get bit. Right now, I have a few bites on my neck and two on my arms. They are easy to pinpoint. The itching lasts for five days or more. I’ve tried every cream on the market, and nothing makes the itching go away for any longer than an hour or two. It’s not unusual to awaken during the night with all the bites itching at once.

Need I say, we’ve become used to this, and other than mentioning the heat, the insects, and the snakes here to provide our readers with the raw facts of the discomforts of the hot months in Africa, both of us do pretty well. In our usual way, we don’t complain to one another. Not even right now, as the temperature has risen to 102F, 39C, since I began preparing this post, neither of us, mentions how hot it is, other than the curiosity of how high it actually goes.

When we were in Henderson, Nevada, in summer 2019, staying at son Richard’s home in Henderson, we sat outdoors on his veranda by his pool, dunking every 15 minutes when the temperature was 115F, 46C.

This is Holey Moley and an unknown friend at 11:54 pm. She spends most of her days and nights with us. Note the huge temperature drop at night, as indicated by the camera’s description.

According to this chart, the temperature we are experiencing today is within a few degrees of the highest record temperature in this area of 106F, 41C. But even these highs may be surpassed from time to time. When this happens consistently, the power grid can’t keep up with the electrical use of air conditioners, and we lose power.

Hopefully, our electricity will hold, and we’ll make it until tomorrow when we’ll see a substantial drop in temperature to a high of 69F, 21C. It’s hard to believe there will be a considerable drop in 24 hours. We’ll see how that rolls out and welcome such a huge change, one that may require us to get out the hooded sweatshirts once again.

This morning I prepared most of the food for tonight’s dinner. I made a prawn and vegetable stir fry for myself, a huge salad, and a batch of homemade dressing. Later Tom will cook his pork chops on the braai, which he’ll have with rice, green beans, and salad. His muffins, ice cream, and apple crisps are no more. He’s back to eating healthy, along with me.

Somehow, Tom can eat white rice, called a “resistant starch,” and still lose weight. That’s not the case for me. For more information on resistant starches, please click here. Lucky him. Good genes.

I hope you are experiencing a relaxed and comfortable day!

Photo from one year ago today, October 16, 2020:

This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India,  on day #207. As more guests from Camp Olonana arrived, the women and children waited patiently to begin their welcoming dance. For more, please click here.

We made it through the 104F, 40C, day with ease…Today? The same…Six days and counting…

Due to WiFi issues today, I am unable to post a caption under the main photo below. Instead, the caption is listed below in a paragraph. 

Caption for above photo: “Above is the photo we took this morning of Bad Eye. Her eyelid has improved tremendously without medical intervention. To see her immediately after the injury occurred, please click here.”

It was so hot last night when we went to bed; the pair of jeans I’d washed after dinner was dry this morning. Usually, it takes two to three days for jeans to dry indoors on the drying rack.

Sleeping was easy with the aircon on all night, and it was true, load shedding had ended for now. We both slept through the night without the aircon going off due to another power outage. Over these past eight or ten outages, oddly, we didn’t lose WiFi which was unusual. Power outages aren’t quite as dull when we have nothing to do but stare at the walls or play dumb offline games on our phones when we don’t have WiFi.

Starting Sunday, the temperatures will drop to a high of 69F, 21C, and a low of 59F, 14C. Go figure. Cloudy skies and much-needed rain may follow these low temps. The animals are hungry. This morning I cut up dozens of carrots and a half head of cabbage for the antelopes.

We took this photo of Bad Eye this morning. Her eye is doing so much better. See the photo and link before for the injury when it was new.

A short while ago, we had 14 antelopes in the garden, as shown in today’s photos, all at once, including a duiker, bushbucks, and impalas. It was apparent they were all hungry and thirsty. Many of them drink from the freshwater we put in the birdbath each day. We even ensure Frank has clean water in his little container each day, along with his separate container of seeds.

When checking the weather report, we see it is sweltering in Livingstone, Zambia, right now and will continue during our five-night trip. In a mere six days, we’ll be on our way to Zambia. Packing will be quick and easy, only bringing hot weather casual clothing. None of the restaurants or venues in Livingstone require anything other than very casual attire, although, like South Africa, it generally cools down by about 25 degrees after sunset.

I took a break from preparing this post when I noticed Bad Eye standing at the edge of the veranda.  It was the first time we saw her alone without her three female friends/family. She was never found and treated, or perhaps, the rangers felt she’d heal on her own, which she did. She almost looks like herself again with this injury, as shown in today’s main photo. Her eye has healed beautifully on its own without any medical intervention.

This adorable bushbuck Spikey was among the many visitors this morning.

These animals are tough. They get through the outrageously long barren months of winter with barely any vegetation they can consume available. They exist on the offerings of people like us who don’t hesitate to feed them freely. This must have been going well this winter since few of the wildlife look undernourished or scrawny.

Soon, the rains will come, the trees, bushes, and grasses will grow, and once again, the wildlife will flourish in their environment. We are thrilled this will occur while we prepare to leave, giving us a degree of comfort, knowing they will graze without our intervention.

Today, we do what we can to stay cool, and then tonight, we’ll head to Jabula at 5:00 pm for our usual Friday night social time and dinner. It’s always such fun chatting with the locals in an upbeat environment. It will be hot sitting inside at the bar or outside, but we’ll dress accordingly and be fine.

They were spread out in the garden, preventing us from taking a photo with all visitors.

A few minutes ago, I heard back from Chris (Chris Tours), the same reliable tour and transport guy we used the last two times we were in Zambia, and he did such an excellent job for us. The only inconvenience is that he requires cash payments, not credit cards, to visit an ATM on the drive from Livingstone Airport to our hotel. Easy peasy. He will also arrange and transport us should we decide to do any tours we haven’t already done.

So there it is, folks, post #3343 as we rapidly approach our ninth anniversary of traveling the world.

Be well. Be safe. Be happy.

                                            Photo from one year ago, October 15, 2020:

We posted this photo one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #206. This male lion was resting after a mating session in the Maasai Mara, Kenya. For more photos, please click here.

Hot today!!!…103F, 39C…Fantastic dinner for eight at Amazing Kruger View…Seven days and counting…

The view from Amazing Kruger View, where eight of us gathered for dinner to say goodbye to Rita and Gerhard.

Once in a while, we dine at other restaurants besides Jabula, where we dine every Friday night and will do so as long as we’re in Marloth Park. We feel it’s essential to support the business of our friends, Dawn and Leon, owners of the popular, loved restaurant for its great food, playful ambiance, and exemplary service.

Last night, eight of us gathered at Amazing Kruger View (formerly known as Aamazing River View) as Rita and Gerhard’s last dinner out in the bush before they depart for the USA tomorrow. They won’t be returning to Marloth Park until after we’ve left on January 23, 2022. Of course, we will miss them but will stay in touch via Whatsapp until we meet again.

Including in the group of eight beside us and Rita and Gerhard were Kathy and Don and Louise and Danie. What a perfect group we are. As always, the conversation flowed with ease. The food was quite good, and we may go there again on any day but a Friday.

It was sweltering last night as it is today. While we were at the restaurant dining outdoors, they used water misting pipes which helped keep it much cooler. Once we were situated at our table, we never gave the heat another thought. But today, it’s different and already darned uncomfortable already at 10:49 am. It’s 94F, 34C, and it’s expected to rise to over 100F, 38C, by 2:00 pm, 1400 hrs.

The glare of the sun made it challenging to identify these birds. They may have been some bee-eater.

In our old lives, we have our central air conditioning running cooling the entire house, a huge expense in the summer months. The only aircon is in the bedrooms and is very expensive to run, although it quickly cools the room with the door closed. Last night, we kept it on all night except when we had load shedding between 1:00 am, and 3:30 am, during which I never slept a wink.

Supposedly, load shedding is suspended for an unknown period as of today. But, with this heat, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s instituted again in the next few days when considerable power is utilized during heat spells. Often, as described by local property owners/managers of holiday houses, some holidaymakers leave on the aircon in their rental, on full blast, while they spend the day in Kruger. It’s frustrating to hear about this since it impacts all of us when Eskom decides to stop power “to catch up” (So they say).

Ah, it’s the nature of the beast. Yesterday it was almost as hot as today, and we did fine all day. It’s much cooler inside, so we may sit on the sofa in the living room with the veranda door open, allowing us to easily see if any visitors come. If our wildlife friends come to call on such hot days, we certainly don’t ignore them. We have fresh water in both levels of the bird feeder, water in a bit of cup for Frank and The Misses and the chicks, and food it offered freely.

This morning I got up early to use the oven to bake chicken breasts for tonight’s dinner, hoping the house would cool off a little before the worst of the heat kicked in. Now, as I sit here next to Tom on the sofa, while we listen to Garage Logic, his favorite podcast from Minnesota, Frank and The Misses are eating the seeds and drinking the water. It always makes us smile to see them.

Three birds on a branch over the Crocodile River.

Yesterday morning when I got up, I noticed Frank was in the house once again. He loves coming inside to see what’s going on. He scurried under this sofa when he saw me and headed out the door, which was still ajar from when he entered. We never stop laughing over Frank coming indoors.

The only other time we had a bird walk into our house was in Australia when a magpie loved walking around the kitchen, looking for morsels of food that may have dropped onto the floor when we last cooked a meal.  We call such activity “crumb patrol.” In many countries, windows and doors are left wide open without screens, as is often the case here in Africa. Whereby in the US, if our kids left the door open, we’d holler, “Shut the door!”

You’d think that where there are many insects, both harmless and venomous, there would be screens on windows and doors in most countries. But both in Africa and Australia, where we have had the most insects, it would be different. Even In Italy, there were no screens, and we constantly were fighting off biting flies and horseflies. A bite from one of those flies lasted for days.

Geese in flight on the river.

Oddly, we don’t see a lot of flies here in Marloth Park. You’d think with all the animals and their dung, flies would be prevalent. Instead, its bees, hornets, and other flying insects, along with multitudes of crawling, walking, and slithering creatures, more so as we rapidly approach summer in Africa.

We’re used to all of this. That doesn’t mean we don’t get hot and sweaty. We do, but the more hot days we experience, the less we notice them. It’s the same with insects. In our old lives, I’d scream if I saw a “bug.” Now, I hardly pay any attention unless it’s venomous and needs to be removed from the house. We’ll do what we can to get it safely outdoors if we can.

In one week from today, we’ll be on our way to Zambia, and we’re looking forward to a pleasant trip. On Wednesday, we’ll go to Komati to get a PCR test and have the results the following day, before we leave. Louise will print a copy for us along with a copy of our rental agreement when we re-enter, which is also a required document.

That’s it for today, folks! Have a fantastic day!

Photo from one year ago today, October 14, 2020:

This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day#205. Unable to get as close as we’d like due to the rough terrain in the Serengeti in 2013, we did our best to zoom in for this and other photos on the remaining wildebeests at the tail end of the Great Migration. For more, please click here.

Another change in plans…Who did it???…

This morning, while Tom was seated at the table on the veranda, an animal purposely tipped over the birdbath. See the photo below for the culprit.

We completed and submitted the necessary documents for the boat trip on the Chobe River in Botswana. We put the details on our online calendar. We booked hotel nights on either end and even called the hotel to inquire about getting a Covid-19 PRC test before we departed on October 26th to return to South Africa.

Louise spent hours going back and forth with the company to ensure all the pricing and details were correct. On the contract she submitted, copies of our passports and credit card information were included. We even received a copy of a confirmation.

Two days ago, on Tuesday, Louise received an email from the rep from the cruise company that they were raising the price on us since we were not South African citizens. At first, they required a 100% price increase but last night backed down to a lower amount. This doesn’t work for us.

Yep, it was The Imposter who tipped over the birdbath right before Tom’s eyes. Tom said he accidentally tipped it over when drinking. No worries, The Imposter. We aren’t mad at you!

We are not willing to pay US $3000 ZAR 44627, for three nights on a houseboat, especially without WiFi. It’s just not worth it to us. We’ve already been on both the Chobe and Zambia Rivers on past trips to Zambia for visa stamps. The cruise would be a repeated experience, although a few days longer than in the past.

We told Louise to cancel. Fortunately, they had yet to charge our credit card, so we don’t have to deal with the hassle of getting a refund, nor will we have to have a total of five Covid-19 PCR tests. We’re fine. This morning we booked the three extra nights at the Protea Marriott in Livingstone, Zambia, and all we have left to do is arrange transportation to and from the Livingstone Airport, which we will do today.

Once we arrive at the hotel, we’ll check out any other possible events we may want to see while there. Keeping in mind, we did most of the attractions in and around Zambia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe while in Zambia twice in the past. We aren’t concerned. Instead, we’ll manage to enjoy ourselves as we always do.

Another handsome male impala in the garden.

At the hotel, we’ll have good WiFi and will still be able to post each day. Taxi fare is reasonable, and we’ll dine out each evening, except for the last night when we’ll dine at the hotel’s pleasant restaurant. We are particularly enthused to return to the popular Zambezi Cafe, where they serve delicious Portuguese food.

No, our photos won’t be as exciting as we’d hoped, seeing wildlife on the river. But we’ll do our best to include new images each day, including plenty of food photos from dining out.

Had we not had so many cruises upcoming in 2022, we may have considered the higher price of the houseboat tour. However, there was the fact we don’t care to have a venue suddenly raise prices on us when they determine we are Americans. We tend not to stand on principles stubbornly, but in this case, we feel differently.

Duiker’s diminutive size, at the bottom of the pecking order of antelopes, is shy and always the last to get pellets.

Since the onset of Covid-19, we’ve incurred thousands of extra dollars in lost charges and increased prices. We had to stand firm on this case with our intent to keep costs down to prepare for our exciting upcoming new cruises. It’s always a matter of checks and balances, ultimately what makes the most sense to us.

As soon as I’ve uploaded today’s post, I’ll get back to work on the corrections. At this point, I only have 29 more days of work, and then I’ll spend a week or two working on the four new detailed SEO (search engine optimization) posts requiring days to prepare. I should have all this extra work behind me by December 1st, and I can relax and enjoy the holiday season in the bush during our remaining time in Marloth Park, until January 23, 2022, when we’ll be on the move once again.

We are OK with all of this, especially after so many changes since the pandemic began. We’ve become more resilient and patient during this challenging time which has significantly impacted our travels in the past 20 months. Once we leave Florida in early 2022, we’ll begin to feel our journey has genuinely started again.

May you have a memorable day whatever you do.

                                     Photo from one year ago today, October 13, 2020:

This exquisite bloom which was the size of a soccer ball.
This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #204. This exquisite bloom was the size of a soccer ball. For more photos, please click here.

Fantastic evening on our veranda last night and many other nights…Just the two of us…

Impalas must be hungry to come so close to us. They usually steer clear of humans. We generously fed them.

Note: The horrifying photos we posted two days ago at this post of the duiker who had an encounter with a porcupine has since been darted, treated, and released by the Marloth Park vet with the help of the rangers. She is expected to make a full recovery. We are thrilled with this news.

There are no words to describe how much fun we have every evening, whether we are with friends at their homes, out to dinner, or having sundowners or dinner guests at our place. In reality, we aren’t with friends every evening, although it may often be two or three times a week.

In our old lives in Minnesota, we most likely socialized with friends two or three times a month at most. At times, in the middle of the bitter cold and snowy winters, weeks could pass before we socialized. It wasn’t practical for us or guests to risk being on the roads at night on the dangerously icy roads with drunk or incompetent other drivers.

Once the bush begins to turn green in the next few months, the wildlife will be able to graze once again.

Once spring arrived, our house was often busy with guests, with most events held outdoors at our lovely property. But, here in South Africa, there’s no snow or icy roads, and the distance from one property to another may not be any more than a ten-minute drive.

If we didn’t drive slow to protect the wildlife crossing the roads in the dark or have the necessity of driving slow on bumpy dirt roads filled with potholes, the distances between many bush homes might well be less than ten or fifteen minutes. Thus, with the relative ease of getting to restaurants and friends’ houses, more frequent socialization is typical in the bush.

Besides, the people of South Africa are enthusiastic about getting together, whether citizens or part-time residents, as often as it makes sense for their lifestyle and preferences. For us, we rarely turn down an invitation as long as we don’t already have plans for a specific date.

It’s a long winter, especially for the little duikers who are very shy around humans and other larger antelopes.

We sadly had to decline on a few occasions when we were under the weather for one reason or another, such as when we both had the flu (not Covid-19) or recent painful dental work. Otherwise, we won’t hesitate to say “yes!” to most invitations to get together.

Now, with Rita and Gerhard leaving on Friday to return to their home in the US and Kathy and Don both returning to Hawaii by December, we feel fortunate to have several other friendships we’ll cultivate in their absence. Of course, we always have Friday and Saturday nights at Jabula, enjoying time with Dawn and Leon and engaging with many other locals we’ve come to know. There’s no doubt in our minds that we’ll never be bored.

During the day, we each do our own thing, although we may be in each other’s presence as we are right now situated on the veranda, working on our laptops, tossing pellets, cabbage, and carrots to our wildlife friends. This morning, we fussed over ten bushbucks and a few duikers in the garden, along with a few warthogs, Frank and the Misses, and Broken Horn.

Impalas are beautiful with their unique markings.

When we don’t have plans with friends, we create our party on the veranda around 4:00 pm, 1600 hrs each evening. We sip on our beverages, whether it’s light wine for me, a cocktail for Tom, or an iced tea for both of us. We play music on our Bluetooth speaker playing songs from our distant past, feed the visiting wildlife, and chat enthusiastically, well into the evening, when we finally decide to go inside for a wonderful homemade dinner. It’s always special.

We dream about the future and reminisce over the past, our hearts filled with the many memories we’ve created. Together, over 30 years, we have never had a dull moment, as we playfully interact with one another for the remainder of the evening, laughing, smiling, and appreciating our unique quality of life.

Yes, sometimes things don’t go exactly as we’d like when illness befalls one of us, mostly me. And, no doubt, we run into obstacles of one type or another along the way. We never forget for a moment how blessed we are to be together.

May your life be fulfilling and purposeful.

Photo from one year ago today, October 12, 2020:

This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #203. An eland antelope, reasonably common in the Maasai Mara, posed for us in the morning sun. For more photos, please click here.

Another “day in the life”…

Usually, there are dozens of helmeted guinea-fowl in the garden, also searching for pellets. They swallow them whole!

As I sit here on the veranda on Monday morning, coffee in hand, the day is sunny, cool, slightly windy, and Frank is on the floor next to me pecking at his seeds and drinking from his little container of water. He makes cute little chirping sounds when eating, illustrating how happy he is.

I can see four bushbucks in the bush who gingerly approach, looking for another handout of pellets. We comply. There’s Thick Neck, Mom and Baby, Stingy and Spikey. Earlier this morning, Tom had seen four or five more bushbucks, Lonely Girl (warthog), Broken Horn (wildebeest), and more.

I stumbled across this old photo of Tiny, with his hair fluffed up when other warthogs were in the vicinity, stealing his pellets.

Today, the last of the holidaymakers will leave Marloth Park now that the school holidays have ended. The vehicles on the road have thinned to barely any activity. The parking lots at the Marlothi Centre and the Bush Centre will no longer be nearly impossible to enter. The stores in Komatipoort will have their usual local Monday shoppers.

Soon, Tom will drop me at Louise‘s Info Centre, where Kathy will be waiting for Rita and me for the three of us to head to Stoep’s Cafe in Komati for “girl talk” and breakfast. Tom has a dentist appointment at 11:00 with Dr. Luzaan to have his teeth cleaned. I’ll do the same in a month or more after my extraction heals a little more (it’s on the mend).

Two hornbills were banging on the kitchen window, an almost daily occurrence.

Rita and Gerhard leave on Friday to return to Washington for the holiday season. Kathy will be leaving Marloth Park in November for Hawaii, and Don will also leave for Hawaii in early December. We’ll miss them all and hope they will be able to be here when we return in December 2022, only 14 months from now. My 75th birthday party will be three months later, and we’re hoping, if it works out for them, that they will be able to attend. It’s a long way from the US, and we’d understand if they can’t make it.

In the meantime, we’ll cultivate relationships with other locals we’ve come to know and enjoy and spend the holiday season right here in Marloth Park. It will be hot, humid and the bush will be rife with snakes and insects. But we’ve experienced these issues in the past, and we’ve come to expect them.

Load shedding will continue twice a day for a total of 5 hours each day without power. It is expected to stop by Thursday, but we’ll experience the upcoming awful heat during the night when it occurs between 3:00 am, and 5:30 am. Hopefully, it does stop as described, since on Thursday,  Friday, and Saturday, the temperatures will range from 99F to 104F, 37C to 40C. It certainly gets hot during the night without aircon for almost three hours.

Zebras on the road while on our way to the market.

Kathy, Rita, and I had a great time during girl talk at Stoep Cafe this morning. Suddenly, I realized it was 11;00 and I needed to walk over to Dr. Luzaan’s office while Tom was getting his teeth cleaned. Once he was done, after a great chat with the dentist, we headed to the pharmacy and Spar Market, down the road in Komatipoort.

By the time we returned to the house, load shedding had an hour to go. We put away the groceries, and soon the power returned, as expected. I did a little chopping and dicing for tonight’s dinner of homemade taco salads with seasoned ground meat for Tom and seasoned chicken and prawns for me.

I had made the taco seasoning spices myself since those at the market in the little packets are loaded with sugar, flour, and chemicals, making them high in carbs and undesirable for either of us.

All is well. We are as content as we could be. Go Vikings! Yesterday, they finally won a game!

Have a fabulous Monday!

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

This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in Mumbai, India, on day #202. The cubs took a break to relax. For more photos, please click here.

Nature can be cruel..Heartbreaking photos…Thanksgiving dinner in the bush…A startling revelation from last year…

This heartbreaking photo of a precious little duiker who encountered a porcupine, who responded by releasing quills, makes us cringe in horror. How can she possibly survive these massive injuries? (Not our photo). From this site: “Porcupines are solitary, slow-moving animals that largely keep to themselves unless threatened. The quills usually lie flat against the porcupine’s body until they encounter a threat, at which point they “puff up” and erect their quills, swinging their spiny tails until the threat either leave them alone or gets a sharp whack and a face, hand, or paw full of quills.  Quills are stiff, hollow hairs with microscopic, backward-facing barbs at the tip (kind of like tiny fish hooks), so when they come into contact with flesh—human or animal—they get stuck and pull free from the porcupine’s skin.”

When we saw today’s photos on Facebook and Kathy sent them to me via Whatsapp, we were both heartsick over the devastation caused by a porcupine to this precious duiker. Hopefully, he’ll be found by the rangers and treated by the Marloth Park vet. Some of the quills appear to be deeply penetrated. We can only imagine how painful this is.

We hesitated to post these photos, but as we always say, we tell “it like it is,” and when 99% of our images can put a smile on ours and our reader’s faces. The bush isn’t always pretty. As we’ve always mentioned, we aren’t those people who may nonchalantly say, “Well, it’s all a part of nature.”

We feel deep sorrow for animals in pain as we do when humans are suffering. Animals are no less important in our world, and without them, we wouldn’t be on this planet. We are all integral players in the ecosystem.

When we hear of humans losing a pet, we certainly understand their grief and sorrow. Some may say, “It was just a dog or a cat.” But, those pets play a huge part in our joy in daily lives which are often riddled with challenges. The relationships and love of pets can provide great comfort.

Over the years we’ve spent in Africa, we witnessed many heartbreaking wildlife injuries. Sadly today’s photos sit at the top of this list, and we only hope this poor little duiker gets some help soon. Unfortunately, with the extent of the damage the quills may have caused, euthanasia might be the only option.

On a more positive note, last night, we attended a Thanksgiving dinner celebration at Kathy and Don’s lovely home overlooking the Crocodile River. As mentioned in yesterday’s post here, we brought the two pies I’d made, Rita brought the green beans, and Kathy made the balance of the delicious meal: turkey and mashed potatoes with gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and a delicious salad.

Of course, I only ate turkey, green beans, and salad which was perfectly satisfying. I couldn’t help but drool a little when everyone was eating the cherry pie with ice cream and whipped cream and pumpkin pies, also topped with whipped cream, both of which I loved in my old life.

Please, if any Marloth Park residents or visitors see this duiker, report it immediately to the rangers. (Not our photo)

But, I didn’t take even a bite when the others did a little coaxing, encouraging me to try a taste. For me, after all these years of strict low carb, even a small portion could set me on a destructive path. One bite would never be enough when I’ve always had a sweet tooth.

Load shedding began during the dinner party and lasted for two hours while we dined at their big dining room table, drinking wine (except Tom, who drinks brandy and Sprite Zero) in the dark. There were plenty of candles on the table, allowing us to see what we were eating. The night had cooled down considerably from a sweltering day, with heavy wind and rain with the windows open in the dining room, and we were all comfortable. It was a grand night indeed.

In today’s heading, we wrote: “A startling revelation from last year.” Yesterday, while I was working on corrections with only about one month until I will be done, I came across this post from January 23, 2020, while we were still in Arizona, preparing to leave for India in less than a week.

Contained in the post was our first mention of Covid-19. We were sharing details of our upcoming cruise from Mumbai, scheduled to sail away on April 3, 2020, shortly after the end of our private tour of India. As it turned out, the cruise was canceled due to Covid, and we had to cut our tour of India short by many weeks, again due to Covid. It was on March 24 that our 10-month isolation in lockdown began at the Marriott Hotel in Mumbai. Wow! That seems like a long time ago!

It’s still with us. Be careful. Be well.

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

This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India on day #201. The veranda to our tent at Camp Olonono in the Maasai Mara in Kenya.  Approaching, it took our breath away. For more photos, please click here.

Another pie making day from hell…Thanksgiving dinner tonight with friends…

    The cherry pie crust ended up thick due to the awful heat and humidity today. Hopefully, it will taste good.

Kathy and Don are hosting an early Thanksgiving dinner for their American friends, Rita and Gerhard, and the two of us. Kathy managed to find a small turkey in Nelspruit. Turkey isn’t often consumed in South Africa and is usually purchased only for visitors from the USA.

The last time we all had Thanksgiving dinner together was in 2018, when we lived in the Orange house. The day before the event, I made eight pumpkin pies, which I described in this post. It was a hot day, with temperatures running at 102F, 40C, and pie crust dough. See that post here.

Pie crust dough should not get above 70F, 21C and although I got up to make the crusts at 6:00 am this morning, it was already above 80C, 27C in the kitchen. Here is an interesting article about making pie crusts in too cold or too hot temperatures.

Of course, I waited to turn on the oven until I’d made and rolled all the dough and placed it in the tins. But, like in November in 2018, once again, it was challenging, and my crusts had to be thick to put them in the pan without them falling apart.

On top of that, I was making Don’s favorite cherry pie, which requires a lattice top. Rolling and cutting those strips to keep them from breaking apart as I placed them on the pie was, once again, very tricky. Finally, I resigned myself, again, that the strips would have to be thick to prevent them from breaking. Fortunately, the crust is flakey and delicious, so eating big strips of dough won’t be so bad.

The pumpkin pie’s crust wasn’t perfect in appearance, but we’re expecting the flavor to be good.

If we had planned this Thanksgiving dinner for Sunday instead of today (my fault when Kathy asked which day was better), the temperature would only be a high of 70F, 21C, which would have been perfect pie-making weather. Oh, well, history certainly does repeat itself.

Right now, the pumpkin pie is baking after Tom helped me get the cherry pie out of the oven. With no regular pie tins, I am using tinfoil pans, which are flimsy in South Africa. I used two tins for each pie to make them slightly sturdier. We’ll see how that works out when we drive the pies to Kathy and Don’s later today on the very bumpy dirt roads in Marloth Park.

We’re scheduled to arrive at Kathy and Don’s home at 5:15 pm, 1715 hrs. At 7:00 pm 1900 hrs, Eskom, the electric company, will be instituting the second load shedding (power outage) since last night at 9:00 pm, 2100 hrs, which started right after we got home from Jabula. We’ll be dining in the dark.

Luckily, last night, we still had WiFi when the power went out and could stream a show in the dark. Before we dozed off, the power had come back on, 2½ hours later. Once again, tonight, it will be out until 11:30 pm, 2330 hrs. Depending on how late we stay at Kathy and Don, tonight might be a repeat of last night.

Last night we had a fun time at Jabula. A lovely couple from Scotland who lives in Marloth Park approached us while we sat at the bar before dinner with Rita and Gerhard. This couple greeted us warmly to tell us they’d been reading our posts for a long time.

They felt like they knew us after our detailed daily exposes. We all laughed at the irony of being at Jabula on the same night. We’ve experienced this many times as we’ve traveled worldwide, especially on cruise ships when people recognize us from our photos. It is these memorable interactions that make our travels all the more enjoyable.

There we sat with dear friends Rita and Gerhard, whom we also met due to our posts who stumbled across us on the web years ago. We love this! How lucky we are!!!

We’re hoping you’ll have a delightful weekend too. Be well. Be healthy. Be happy.

Photo from one year ago today, October 8, 2020:

This photo was posted while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #200. While in Bali in 2016, the two Ketuts, our cooks, walked in bare feet in the rain-flooded road to the villa to make our dinner, leaving their motorbikes elsewhere on higher ground. For more photos, please click here.

Hoping it was Tiny!…Photo comparison…

Yesterday afternoon, when this warthog stopped by, we were hopeful that it was Tiny. After careful examination of the photo of Tiny shown below, we were certain he was not Tiny.

Since we returned from the US at the end of July, we haven’t seen Tiny, who, along with Little, was our favorite warthog. Expressive faces, eye contact, and response to the names we’ve given them, these two warthogs always make me smile. On the other hand, Tom isn’t quite as attached for me but has kept an eye out for Tiny when we haven’t seen him since we’d returned.

This is a photo of Tiny we posted on February 21, 2021. The differences between him and the pig we saw yesterday are distinct.  Note the eye bags, the size, and shape of the facial and temple warts, and of course, the size and shape of the tusks.

Little often visits two or three times a day, seldom missing a day. If we don’t see him during any day, we can always count on him stopping by around 4:00 pm, 1600 hrs. He loves to appear when we are sitting on the veranda, ensuring he gets our attention to toss him pellets. This always makes us laugh.

Day after day, we continually check every giant tusked warthog to see if it’s Tiny, keeping in mind many such animals look very similar. But over the years we’ve spent in Marloth Park, we have learned to 0observe identifying characteristics that distinguish one animal of a particular species from one another.

Such characteristics on warthogs include:

  • Size of tusks and variance in each tusk’s size
  • Size of facial warts on males on both their cheeks and temples. Females don’t have facial warts and small temple warts but have white whiskers in varying sizes that aid in identifying them.
  • Body size can vary considerably, but, along with the above, it helps identify warthogs.
  • Bags under the eyes, most prominent in older males
  • Personality – it’s easy to detect a particular warthog when they are overly timid or bossy (Little is bossy and persistent while Tiny was not) along with the other identifying characteristics
  • Appearing alone, as a twosome or with more warthogs, with “sounders” being as small as three, as large as ten or more. Often males are “friends” and graze the bush together and groom each other. It’s a rarity to see females together without piglets. Moms will often hang out with another mom and her young, supporting each other and even going as far as nursing each other’s piglets.

We must admit we are more interested in male warthogs based on their seemingly more quirky behavior. As I write this, there is a lone female in the garden, whom we call Lonely Girl. She is shy without much of a distinctive personality.  And yet, there are many male warthogs we see over a week that we can easily identify as a regular or a new visitor.

We only observe one or two new male visitors each week. They eat and wander off, never to return. Daily, we see “regulars,” all of whom we enjoy and seem to respond to their various names and the sounds of our voices. Tom isn’t as excited about warthogs as I am, but as mentioned above, when I am busy indoors, he keeps out watchful eye, always looking for Tiny.

Regardless of what I am doing, when he tells me there’s a large, sizeable-tusked warthog with huge, droopy warts on his face on the premises, I come running outside with the camera to see if it’s Tiny. Sadly, time after time, we’ve been disappointed.

Was he culled while we were away? We haven’t heard that warthogs have been culled in the past few months. Mostly, impalas and kudus were taken to Lionspruit to thin out the huge populations in Marloth Park and to provide food for the lions, Fluffy and Desi, who reside in Lionspruit, hence the name.

Yesterday, Tom hollered out to me when I was in the house, “Hurry,” he said, “There’s a large pig with big tusks in the garden.” I grabbed my phone to quickly bring up a photo of Tiny I have on my home screen. I was extremely excited that it was him upon first inspection.

However, when comparing the photo of Tiny with the new visitor, we both sadly realized it wasn’t him. Now, we wonder if we’ll ever see him again in our remaining three and a half months in Marloth Park. It’s hard to say. He was huge, and he looked very old. He could easily have died from old age or illness, been hit by a car, or made his way under the fence into Kruger National Park, never to return. We’ll never know. He, like Little, was a loner.

On occasion, Little appears with the same female and two fast-growing female piglets. We referred to them as his “family” since the otherwise greedy pig doesn’t share food with anyone but them. Like many animals in the wild, generally, fathers don’t participate in the upbringing of their young. It’s always fun to see ostriches, who can remain as a mating pair for life, and the dad is equally responsible for rearing the chicks.

In any case, we’ll continue to keep an eye out for Tiny and hope we’ll be able to post a new photo of him if and when he returns.

Have a fantastic weekend!

Photo from one year ago today, October 8, 2020:

This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #199. Like all animals in the wild, this female lion is constantly on the lookout for the next meal to feed her cubs, who were lying under this tree. For more photos, please click here.