Enjoyable Sunday…Family and football..

From our post on December 5, 2013…Down the road another block, several giraffes were hanging outside one of the houses in Marloth Park. This giraffe was eating, which accounts for the chubby cheeks. The food slides down her throat in a big lump, as shown. See the post here.

Yesterday, we spent most of the day at Greg’s home in Chaska, about a 20-minute drive from here. We stopped at Target to get some football-watching snacks. It was fun to watch the game with Greg and the kids, who wandered in and out of the family room during the three-hour game, chatting with us on each occasion.

When Camille returned from Christmas shopping, it was great to catch up with her. By about 4:00 pm, we were going back to the hotel to make a plan for dinner and put away all the laundry we’d washed and dried at their house. With the clothes we purchased at Target when we arrived last Saturday, we only had two loads of laundry.

It was great to use a clothes dryer. It had been a long time since we had access to a clothes dryer. Everything came out unwrinkled, and nothing shrank. We’d each bought a few flannel shirts to stay warm, and I was concerned they’d all shrink, but this morning I am wearing one of those shirts, and there was no shrinkage whatsoever. Even my flannel pajamas came out perfectly.

We begin thinking about any items we may need before leaving the US, knowing we won’t return for nine months. Saying goodbye this time will be a lot easier, knowing we’ll return next September at the end of two cruises. We’ll also head to Nevada to see Richard and renew our driver’s licenses in our state of residence.

While here, we’ve made several phone calls to see if we qualify for any refunds or credits due to our recent travel fiasco. But we’ll need to wait until we return to South Africa to get the wheels in motion. Ethiopian Air doesn’t consider our bags “lost” until 25 days have passed, so we can’t file a claim until then. Our credit card lost baggage benefit will also require documentation from the airline showing our bags are considered lost. We have no choice but to wait.

Now, my centipede fear has some competition. After a massive storm last night, our pool was filled with dead insects. This morning, Tom fished out this scorpion. Carefully, we tread.

It appears we won’t be able to recover any part of the loss of the cruise fare. This is frustrating, but they consider the obstacle we encountered “our fault.” We take full responsibility for the fiasco but are disappointed with the cruise company, and Intrepid Travel didn’t give us a heads-up when we inquired about any governmental documents we may have needed to enter Seychelles. There’s nothing more we can do. It’s frustrating.

But, as always, we must pick ourselves up and carry on and focus on the positives in our lives for which we feel grateful and fulfilled. Slowly, I am beginning to feel better, but the headache pops up every few days and the facial pain remains. I don’t know if I am going to seek further treatment. At this point, I feel like I have tried everything possible.

Perhaps, I have to resign myself to these lingering Omicron symptoms, and in time, they will improve. It is not debilitating in a manner that impacts our lives, but I am aware of it each day. I make a concerted effort to stay cheerful and take extra good care of myself. I am still using the various nasal treatments which, luckily, I had in my carry-on bag. When we fly on the 16-hour flight from Newark to Joburg, I won’t be able to use the products since it’s not sanitary in the plane’s restrooms.

In only three days, we’ll be on our way. Our first flight from Minneapolis to Newark is at 2:00 pm on Thursday. We have a long layover in Newark, 3 hours and 20 minutes, and then we’re off to Joburg on the 16-hour flight. Once we arrive in Joburg we’ll stay overnight at the City Lodge airport hotel to catch our flight on Airlink the following day. This way, we avoid driving to Marloth Park in the dark on the dangerous N4 Highway.

Soon, we head out to make one more stop at Target for a few items, and then Tom will drop me off at my friend Chere’s home in Eden Prairie for a few-hour visit with a dear old friend.

That’s it for today, friends. Have a great day!

Photo from one year ago today, December 5, 2021:

It’s only on the hottest days that Little sits in the cement pond. For more photos, please click here.

Whew!..Time in Minnesota moving quickly…

This morning view from the living room of our holiday home on this date in 2016 in Penguin, Tasmania. It’s a fantastic, sunny day.

Note: Today’s photos are from 2016, when we first arrived in Penguin, Tasmania. For more photos and the story, please click here.

In only four days, we’ll be on the move once again. Our flight to Newark on Thursday departs Minneapolis at 1:59 pm. We’ll be ready to go. The items we ordered from Amazon.com are arriving as planned, and the contact lenses I ordered from Vision Direct in the UK have also arrived earlier than expected.

Once everything arrives, we’ll know how big of a suitcase we need to purchase to fit all the replacement clothing. According to Ethiopian Air, we can’t consider our bags lost until 25 days after they’ve disappeared. We’ll have to deal with that claim when we return to Marloth Park.

Once we know the space we’ll need after all the packages arrive by Wednesday, we’ll head to TJ Maxx, where we’ve often purchased brand-name bags at great prices and bought a new bag for the new items. We keep everything folded in their original plastic bags for easy packing. We feel confident all of the things will fit and meet our needs.

We had to purchase items to replace some of the things that were in our missing baggage. Why not wait until we see if the bags are truly lost for good? We can’t find items like these in South Africa that we know will fit and work for us. If we ordered everything from the US and had it shipped to our mailing service in Nevada, we’d have to pay no less than US $500 in shipping fees plus customs fees, all of which is more than what we’ve spent on the items, buying them while here in the US from Amazon.

White sand beaches with rarely a human in sight.

It made more sense to assume the bags were gone and shop accordingly. So far, we’ve received about half of the items, with the remainder arriving. In any case, we have not purchased replacement items, for nearly half of which were in each of our bags. We’ll be well-equipped if we get the bags back after all. But we aren’t hopeful.

Yesterday, after a great breakfast with Greg, Maisie, and her boyfriend Nick, we returned to our hotel and hung out for the rest of the day. At dinner time, Tom went to Chipotle to pick up our dinner. I had a salad bowl, and he had tacos. It was hard to believe the cost of the takeaway meal was $48.

When we were here in May, the identical items would have been less than $30. It would have been in the $25 range a few years earlier. We recall making these same purchases when we lived in Minnesota over ten years ago, being no more than $18 to feed the two of us. Wow! Times have changed.

This morning, we had a nice breakfast included in our hotel booking, of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, and a wide array of accompaniments. This breakfast holds us until dinner each evening, although Tom saved a few donut holes to enjoy in our room each day and evening. Tom has particularly enjoyed the donut holes but passed on the pancakes, toast, juice, and other breakfast side dishes. The coffee has been delicious.

From one area to the next, the scenery changed. With almost half of Tasmania’s entire population living in Hobart, most terrains were untouched areas of pure beauty.

Soon, we’ll be heading to Greg’s house to watch the Minnesota Vikings game with Greg and the family. We’ll do our two loads of laundry, washing the clothes we purchased at Target a week ago at their house. Doing so will avoid spending two hours sitting in a laundromat. (There are few laundromats in this suburban area). We’ll stay for the game and idle chatter afterward, then head back to our hotel for the evening. Most likely tonight, we’ll dine out.

As the time winds down until we depart, we’re making a point of seeing as many of our family members as we can before we leave. The time has gone quickly. We’ve made the very best of our time here and enjoyed every moment with family. But, we look forward to returning to Marloth Park to our animal and human friends. By Saturday afternoon, we’ll be back and settled into our house, hoping all of our favorites have been waiting for us!

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, December 4, 2021:

Look to the right of this tree in the center, and you’ll see our occasional visitor, a porcupine. For more photos, please click here.

In shock after a night out to dinner in Minneapolis…

This giraffe didn’t seem to mind being included in the photo with us. This photo was taken in our neighborhood. Louise explained that the giraffes would soon come to our house, and they did then, and they do now. For the post from December 3, 2013, please click here.

Last evening, when we arrived early at restaurant Benihana in Minneapolis to celebrate our grandson Vincent’s 17th birthday, we sat at the bar and ordered two drinks. I ordered nine oz. of Pinot Grigio, a little less than two glasses in a small carafe, and Tom ordered one Michelob Golden Light.

The total bill for the two drinks was US $39.75, ZAR 697.84, not including a tip. Our mouths were agape when we paid the bill. We don’t spend that much on dinner, drinks, tax, and tips at Jabula on a typical Friday or Saturday night, ordering anything off the menu we could possibly want.

However, this was only the tip of the iceberg. The cost of the dinner was yet to come. Tammy, Tracy, Vincent, and Tracy’s mom Lena were in attendance for six of us. Of course, the concept of teppanyaki is fun and festive, and we all expected to pay a little more than in a typical mid-range restaurant.

We usually pay the bill when we go out to dinner with our kids and grandkids. But this time, Tammy and Tracy insisted on paying for their own meals while Tom and I would pay for the two of us. I’m glad we had that arrangement on this specific occasion. I don’t mean to be a “tightwad,” but the total bill for all of us, excluding our drinks (we never ordered more), was US $494.87, ZAR 8687.84. Had we paid for everything, the total bill would have been $534.62, ZAR 9384.10. Can you believe it?

Thanks, Tammy and Tracy, for paying for the four of you. Our bill, separate from the above total, was US $159.62, ZAR 2802.26. We’d already lost a ton of money with this Seychelles fiasco and surely would have flinched for this outrageous bill which included a 20% service fee, and yet the server asked us for cash for more tips. Oh, good grief! Don’t ask! Tacky.

All of us agreed we’d never return after those outrageous charges. Prices have obviously increased since the pandemic, and we appreciate the dilemma the establishments have had to face. But, goodness, consider diners’ reactions and interest in returning.

Yes, the food was good, but none of us ordered the most expensive items on the menu. Nonetheless, Vincent enjoyed his birthday dinner, and we all had a lovely time. We were out the door two hours from the time we arrived. It was windy, cold, and snowing, so we said our goodbyes and headed back to our hotel.

Tammy and Tracy are leaving for a week’s holiday in California while grandma Lena stays at the house with Vincent. We’ll be gone when they return, so our goodbye was for now, although we’ll be returning in nine months, spending time with everyone once away.

This morning, at 9:30, we’re driving to the town of Shakopee to meet up with Greg’s family for brunch at a popular restaurant. Hopefully, everyone is feeling well, and we’ll all be able to be together for the first time since we arrived one week ago today. We’ve been here for one week since we arrived last Saturday afternoon. It seems like a long time ago that we shopped at Target, exhausted and dirty after wearing the same clothes and underwear for 56 hours.

Hopefully, the return flight in five days will be easier than this most recent one. When we arrive in Johannesburg next Friday, we’ll be staying overnight. Otherwise, we’d have had to drive in the dark to Marloth Park, which is way too dangerous on the N4 at night due to “spiking,” carjackings, and murders.

If all goes well and we arrive in Marloth Park after driving during daylight hours from Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger airport to Marloth Park, we should arrive in the afternoon. If we’re well rested, we’ll head to Jabula for dinner. We’re looking forward to seeing our friends, Leon and Dawn, and any other locals who may have stopped by for sundowners and dinner.

Of course, amid all this travel, we’ll be searching for the status of our missing baggage. We’ll keep you updated on the results.

That’s it for today, folks. It’s time for us to head out for breakfast with Greg’s family. We’ll be back with more tomorrow.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, December 3, 2021:

Hippos aren’t necessarily the cutest of animals, but it’s fun to take their photos. For more, please click here.

Change in plans, nothin’ to it…We’re flexible…Photos from nine years ago today!…

We posted today’s photos from nine years ago when we arrived in Marloth Park for the first time. For the story, please click here.

Note: Due to the reposting of old photos, there are spacing issues in today’s post.

The more time passes, the more we’ve adapted to the recent reality of our change of plans. A kind reader wrote and called our unexpected time with loved ones as bonus time with family”. Indeed it has been. We’re enjoying every moment. But life continues for everyone and last night’s plans changed at the last minute.

Our plans to go to Champs for dinner changed. Greg and Madighan were both sick and didn’t want to infect us. Instead, we took Miles, Maisie, and her boyfriend Nick to dinner at a restaurant in their area. We had a lovely time with the kids. Tonight at 5:15, we’re meeting Tammy, Tracy, Vincent, and Tracy’s mom Lena (who’s visiting from Pennsylvania), at Benihana, a popular teppanyaki restaurant, to celebrate Vincent’s 17th birthday, which is on December 15.

We’re busy, but not so busy we don’t have time to take care of some things while we’re here and prepare a new post each day. It’s nice not to feel rushed. We’ve been getting up by 6:00 each morning, having the included breakfast in the hotel by 7:00, and back in our room by 8:00 to work on tasks at hand and the day’s post.

Love the baby! We didn’t need to see many wildebeest during the Great Migration. They are here in our neighborhood, hopefully making a personal visit soon.

Tom’s enjoying watching football on NFL GamePass requires him to use our VPN, showing we are outside the US since the app won’t work while we’re in the US.

Soon, when the housekeeper comes to clean our room (they only clean every other day at this hotel), we’ll head out for a few items we need at Walgreen and quickly stop at our bank for some cash. Then, we won’t have anything to do other than begin calling the credit card company to see if they can help with any of our losses based on the benefits offered by the cards.

We aren’t expecting to recover anything. If we do, it will be a pleasant surprise and a perk we hadn’t anticipated. I’ve spent considerable time shopping on Amazon in the event our bags are lost for good. My bag contained every warm-weather clothing item I owned that was hanging in the closet in Marloth Park. Sure I have some tee shirts, but all my nice tops and pants were in that bag, along with 80% of my underwear and pajamas.

We didn’t know that baby zebras have fluffy hair and short bodies until seeing one up close and personal. Too cute!


The clothing we purchased at Target when we arrived without any baggage is all cold-weather items, all of which we’ll be able to wear during the upcoming cruise to Norway and again in the cool winters in Africa. For Tom, it’s not much different. We ordered him several short-sleeve button-up shirts he wears when we go to dinner or meet with friends. Also, he desperately needed some new tee shirts.

Nothing we purchased will have been in vain. I desperately needed some new items when I’d come to the point of tossing out old and worn items. I don’t think I will ever wear the shirt I wore on the trip here for 56 hours. I can’t even look at it. I had to toss the black pants I wore during that period when they were full of holes when we arrived here. I don’t know why that happened.

Several of our readers wrote inquiring about my headache during all this commotion. My headache improved after the last round of antibiotics, which I ffinished almost a week ago, but I am left with frequent sneezing and nose-blowing. Maybe once and for all, this is clearing out. The headache and facial pain are not entirely gone, but it’s much improved. I believe all the sneezing and blowing is allergy and sinusitis based, not a cold or virus, since otherwise, I feel fine.

Nine years ago today…she was wonderful then and she’s wonderful now! Louise stocked the cupboard with nuts, seasoning, and other foodstuffs that we use. Gosh, I haven’t had the use of a plastic container with a lid in almost a year. I’ll be spoiled!

There’s still quite a bit of Covid in the US with over 39,000 new cases recorded two days ago. We still see several shoppers wearing masks. But also, several other viruses, many as serious as Covid/Omicron, are rampant in the US and other countries.

We can’t help but remember how sick we were when we were here seven months ago. Hopefully, this residual sinusitis problem I developed with Omicron will soon be resolved with time and continuing treatments which I’ve diligently followed since we arrived last Saturday. It’s hard to believe that we’ll be heading back to Marloth Park in a mere six days. We’ve enjoyed being here but look forward to our return, as always.

That’s it for today, folks. Thank you for all the support and encouragement from many of our readers/friends. We appreciate every one of you!

Be well

Photo from one year ago today, December 2, 2021:

This may be a Southern Masked Weaver, who’s about to enter her nest. For more photos, please click here.

Generous support and kindness from our readers….Getting Tom’s google account restored today…

Seated over the wing on our way to South Africa on this date in 2013, some of our views were obstructed. But the Heavens offered up this cloudy view. For more photos, please click here.

We have received many messages from readers, not only as comments on particular posts but also by email. We’ve made a point to respond to each one as promptly as possible and hope we haven’t missed responding to you. The outpouring of love and concern fills us with such joy that it surely makes the daily efforts to post new stories with photos meaningful and purposeful. Thank you!

This morning, at 10:40, we have an appointment with the Geek Squad at the Best Buy store in this neighborhood. Louise went to our house, picked up Tom’s two old phones, and charged them, but only one worked. The Geek Squad tech will submit a request to Google for a code that will come to that phone. Once Louise sees that code, she will tell us, and the technician can proceed from there. There will be no more for Louise to do.

Fortunately, she could get into the house, find the phones and do this for us. We are very grateful. We’ll undoubtedly figure out some unique way to show our appreciation once we return to Marloth Park, although she’ll dismiss her efforts as “nothing at all.” But having her and Danie always providing us with so much help means more to us than we can say.

Hopefully, this process works, and by this afternoon, Tom will have his laptop functioning and his new Google Pixel 6a phone. We are holding our breath that this process works. If not, Tom will have to create a new email address which will cause so much work for him to go into every app, file, and website he uses and change the email, which is time-consuming and cumbersome. It could take him weeks to accomplish this task.

Yesterday afternoon, as mentioned, we visited Tom’s brother Jerome at his house in Coon Rapids. As it turned out, seven of us had stopped by, including daughter Tammy, grandson Vincent, sisters Colleen and Patty, and niece Jeanne. After a three-hour visit, we all took off for dinner at Texas Roadhouse. We all shared a large booth, ordered drinks, and enjoyed fresh, delicious meals.

I ordered salmon and salad, and Tom ordered steak, mashed potatoes, and green beans. The rest of the group ordered steaks and ribs, which were huge portions, and all said everything was delicious. The service was exemplary, and Tom added a generous tip to the bill. Later, Jerome’s daughter Kathy stopped by for a drink. It was a lovely afternoon and evening.

Tonight at 7:00 pm, we’re meeting Greg and his family at Champps for dinner. It’s not as if we can go on a picnic or do outdoor activities in this cold weather. It’s often cold after a snowstorm for several days. This morning it was 6F, -14.4C, but fortunately, it is warming up during the day. Today’s high will be 31F, -.55C. According to the weather report, there doesn’t appear to be much snow on the horizon until we leave a week from today.

We’re heading off to the Geek Squad at Best Buy now. We’ll report the results when we return.

We just returned from the Geek Squad. After about an hour, we got Tom’s Gmail account restored, and now his laptop and new phone are working. We called Louise, who had his old broken phone in her hand, and she gave us the code that popped up that made it possible to restore his Google account. What a relief! Thank you, Louise!!!

Best Buy only charged $40 for the help. While we were there, we purchased a portable phone charger. When Connie visited us (when Jeff passed away), we saw her use a separate phone charger which should be helpful for us when we travel. We’ve been on several planes lately that don’t have USB plugins, and we were cautious about freely using our phones. With this external charger, we can use our phones as we like.

The Anker, Slim and Powerful +46 hours will be perfect for us on many occasions. I will keep it in my bag when we head out and perhaps forget to recharge our phones or run them down from use.

Tom’s happy with his new phone, and I’m so glad not to have to think about this anymore. One problem was solved and is now out of the way. Now, we have bigger “fish to fry” contacting our credit card company to discuss the coverage included for lost bags. We will report back the results.

Not much here in the way of photos. I haven’t wanted to pressure family members to have their photos taken for publication. Not everyone is comfortable with this, and we surely understand.

Have a wonderful day!!!

Photo from one year ago today, December 1, 2021:

A yellow-billed stork with a reflection in the water at the Sunset Dam near Lower Sabie in Kruger National Park. For more photos, please click here.

Exciting news from the bush with short video…Trying to find our missing bags…

Louise sent us this short video of Nina’s new baby, born only a few days ago. Once we return to Marloth Park, we’ll be excited to see dad Norman, son Noah, Nina, and the yet-to-be unnamed baby, whom we’ll name once we know the sex. Of course, her or his name will begin with the letter “N.”

It will be interesting to see how Norman and his son Noah react to the little one. We’ll post videos, and photos and write about the exciting new life in the bush. What a magical experience! It will certainly be fun to see the now family of four when we return in about ten days.

We’re still experiencing a bit of angst over our lost baggage. Tom wasn’t able to get the required claim form during the three hours he spent at the Johannesburg Tambo Airport on Friday. The actual claim numbers on the two tickets were illegible. The printer must have been running out of ink. No one was able to read the numbers. Now we’re trying to call Airlink but keep getting disconnected or the call doesn’t go through.

It’s frustrating, to say the least. I think we need to wait to deal with this until we return to Joburg airport next Friday, conduct another search for our bags and get the proper claim form completed and processed. We have zero confidence that the claim Tom made while he spent three hours at the airport will be attended to without the numbers being legible. What a mess! We are trying to reach Airlink where the tags were issued but they don’t answer their phone or the line is busy.

In the meanwhile, we need to apply for a new ten-year passport. Our ten-year passport expired which we replaced with a four-year passport a few years ago. Since Covid, the handling of passport renewals is tricky and cumbersome especially when we are living outside the US. It appears, our only option will be to fly or drive to the US embassy in Joburg, Pretoria, or Cape Town once we get back to South Africa to handle this.

As for today, we are picking up Tammy and grandson Vincent at their home at 1:15 pm to drive to Tom’s brother Jerome’s home where we’ll meet up with Tom’s sisters Patty and Colleen. We’ll all stay for a long visit and later head out to dinner. It will be wonderful to spend time with them, as it has been with other family members.

On another note, Tom has been unable to use his laptop or set up his new Google Pixel 6a phone since he was cut off from his Google account the day after we arrived, for no known reason. It’s been frustrating for him to be without the use of his laptop since Sunday. Hopefully, when we have our appointment tomorrow morning at the Geek Squad at Best Buy we will get this resolved.

At the moment, I am on hold with Ethiopian Air’s lost baggage department. They are trying to locate our bags. Hopefully, we will get some good news. The important thing is to get the bags back to Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger Airport so we don’t have to pay for excess baggage fees when we return. We had to book and pay for another flight from Joburg to Nelspruit which is a domestic flight and has strict weight restrictions. If the bags are returned to Nelspruit we can pick them up there when we arrive on December 10.

Ah, I got disconnected. It’s all a series of errors that is almost laughable. I’ll be glad to get out today and away from all of this confusion and disharmony. It’s always a welcomed relief and pleasure to be with our loved ones and escape from all this paperwork and forms.

I just got off the phone with the Ethiopian Air baggage claim department. Our bags are in Addis Ababa. Hopefully, they will forward them to Joburg and then on to Nelspruit. We can only wait and see what transpires.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, November 30, 2021:

Such pretty animals. The waterbuck is a large antelope found widely in sub-Saharan Africa. It is placed in the genus Kobus of the family Bovidae. Irish naturalist William Ogilby first described it in 1833. Its 13 subspecies are grouped under two varieties: the common or ellipsiprymnus waterbuck and the defassa waterbuck. For more photos, please click here.

Taking advantage of every moment we can spend with family…Snowstorm in the area…

It was hard to believe we were experiencing winter weather.

Today, we’re staying at the hotel when it’s a very snowy day and dangerous on the roads. This unexpected visit somehow ended up being better timing for our kids to spend time with us, and we couldn’t be more thrilled. We are delighted to be spending such quality time with our family members.

The clothing situation continues to be of concern. We went for a quick trip to the pharmacy for a few odds and ends to replace items we needed to use here that were in our lost duffle bags. Here’s the dilemma…if our bags are truly lost, and we never get them back, we need to replace the lost items.

The bags contained almost every one of our hot weather items. Also included were swimwear, shoes, underwear, casual and dressy tops for me, and every pair of pants we currently wear while in South Africa. I’d recently had a couple of old jeans cut off and hemmed by seamstress Tracy at Daisy’s Den into a pair of shorts I was looking forward to wearing in hot weather.

After considerable discussion, we decided to purchase new clothing with the idea that we won’t be getting back our bags. Why not wait and see? Simple reason by our standards…neither can find any clothing we like while in South Africa. Most women aren’t as tall as me, so buying pants is nearly impossible outside the US. Tom has similar issues buying clothes and prefers certain brands he knows they fit him well and last for a long time.

This morning, I started searching through Amazon.com and putting items into our cart that I knew Amazon could deliver to this hotel in time for our December 8th departure. I actually enjoyed online shopping, especially when I knew the prices are excellent on Amazon and I could predict the quality of anything I bought based on experience.

We hadn’t purchased jackets, only sweatshirts, and hoodies, so it was cold when Tom brushed the snow off the car.

It felt good to get this task accomplished on this snowy day. Meanwhile, we contacted our travel insurance company about the missing luggage. We can file a claim for missing baggage. The claim is to cover some of the cost of the replacement clothing and miscellaneous items we needed to replace for almost two weeks in Minnesota. We don’t have to wait for the bags to be found.

Then we got to work calling about how we could renew our passports. Our ten-year passport ran out a year ago, which we replaced with a four-year passport when we were here a few years ago. Now that passport will run out in January 2024. That seems like it’s long enough away not to worry.

However, our upcoming cruises require that we have no less than six months remaining on our passports to sail. This is becoming a common requirement for many travel venues. As it turns out, we cannot apply for a passport renewal while we’re here in the US since doing so requires we mail our existing passports during the application process. We can’t take the risk that the passports won’t get to us in time for travel in nine days.

Our only alternative is to go to a US Embassy while we are in South Africa in either Johannesburg or Cape Town. That’s what we’ll have to do sometime in the next five months…one more trip on our agenda. However, this will allow us to visit Cape Town, which we’ve wanted to do for quite a while. But we’ve been so content in Marloth Park, we haven’t traveled much to other parts of the country.

The rest of this week is busy. Yesterday afternoon, Tom spent time with his son TJ which we’ll do again before we leave next week. Tomorrow, we’ll head out with daughter Tammy and grandson Vincent to visit Tom’s sister Patty and elder brother Jerome who recently turned 94 along with Tom’s sister Colleen who will join all of us. Thursday evening we’re going to dinner with Greg’s family.

We’re pretty much planning to spend most days or evenings with our kids and grandkids. We are excited about every event with our family members. We would love to have time to see our friends here but time is short and since we didn’t have an opportunity to see anyone due to our being sick with Omicron in May. We’re certainly making up for lost time now.

Tonight, we have leftover food we purchased at the grocery store for last night’s dinner and we will stay in, rather than venture out for dinner in the snowy weather. All is good here.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, November 29, 2021:

Two elephants flapped their ears as we passed. For more photos, please click here.

Part 2…A shocking and totally unexpected situation…We aren’t in Seychelles on the cruise…What???…

This morning, there was ice on the windows of the little car. Tom had to use the provided scraper to scrape off the ice.

The first question we asked when we discovered we weren’t getting on the flight was, “What about our luggage?” At that point, it was already on the plane to Seychelles.  The rep assured us our luggage would be removed from the aircraft since luggage is never sent without the passengers on the flight due to security risks. We were assured we could pick up our bags the next day.

After hearing the bad news as we stood at the Ethiopian Air check-in counter, Tom and I looked at one another for a minute, each lost in our thoughts of what we’d do next. As Tom called it, we both had the same idea, “Plan B.” There can always be a Plan B.

He spoke first, “Let’s go to Plan B.”

“And, what is Plan B?” I asked, knowing full well what his answer would be.

He replied, “We have no choice but to go to the US, which will ensure reentry into South Africa with a new 90-day visa stamp.” I nodded in agreement. We had to get out of the country and do so quickly. There was no time, only 26 hours until we became “undesirables” in South Africa.

There were no immediately available flights to the US. Our only option was to get a hotel room and search for the next flight to Minneapolis. We hadn’t seen our family members when we were in Minnesota only six months ago due to being sick with Omicron. Now, not infectious by any means, we could at least see the family in Minnesota, although it didn’t make sense to also visit Richard in Nevada on this trip with the holiday season in full bloom.

We’d stay a few weeks and head back to Marloth Park less than two weeks later. Immediately we tried booking a room at the Johannesburg airport hotel, City Lodge, where we’d stayed on previous occasions, but the reservation wouldn’t go through. We thought it was due to the weak WiFi signal. We were SOL. We decided to trek the long distance inside the airport in hopes of getting a room. The hotel was indeed totally booked. They arranged a taxi to take us to their sister hotel, about a 15-minute drive (at our expense), and within minutes after arrival, we could check into a room.

This morning the temperature was 32F, 0C, with snow expected tomorrow. Photos will follow as we try to get back into the groove of taking photos.

We were situated in the room by 1:00 am on November 25, with 23 hours to go until our visas expired. Under the circumstances, neither of us was hungry but had we been; no food was available that late at night. Neither of us had eaten anything since early that morning in Marloth Park.

When I walked into the room, the first thing I said to Tom…and I may add, the first whining I did, was to say, “I don’t have any pajamas.” I always wear pj’s of one sort or another to bed. I’d have to sleep in my day-old underwear, an unpleasant thought. Tom gave me an overly grumpy look and growled. I hadn’t even packed toothpaste, deodorant, or other toiletries, using most of the space in my carry-on bag for all the medications I’d been taking for sinus problems. I didn’t complain further.

Oddly, when I packed the carry-on bag, I included enough medication to last a month, assuming anything could happen, and I’d hate to have to get to a doctor for my handful of regular medicines.

So, we got undressed and under the covers, cold from being tired, and began searching online for flights. We spent no less than two hours trying to book flights, a hotel, and a rental car. We ended up speaking to a rep at CheapOAir, and wow…did we run into problems, one after another. Finally, by 3:00 am, we had it all booked, and Tom turned over to get some sleep.

At 3:10 am, I received an email from CheapOAir, stating that all three of our reservations for air, hotel, and car had been canceled for no apparent reason. I looked up the credit card we’d used, and the charges were listed under “pending.” I was wide awake but played with my phone to lull me off to sleep, which usually works.

I was able to get in contact via chat with another rep from CheapOAir, and she resolved the issue by confirming by email that the cancelation email had been an error on their end and that all of our reservations arrived once again with confirmation numbers. I didn’t wake Tom up to tell him about this recent event. Why bother him? When we awoke a few hours later, I told him what had happened.

With reservations in place and our 16-hour flights from Joburg to Newark, we were scheduled to depart at 10:30 pm, only 90 minutes before “undesirables” status. That was cutting it close. What if the plane arrived late at the gate? We decided not to even think about this. We’d had enough stress for one day.

When we went to breakfast in the hotel, we asked if we could pay for a late checkout until 6:30 pm, 1830 hrs,  to which they agreed to charge us Zar 840, US $49, which was well worth it, rather than spending more hours waiting in the airport. After breakfast, we returned to the room to handle some of the issues we’d yet to face, such as canceling the cruise, getting our bags, and miscellaneous odds and ends.

When we hadn’t heard anything about the bags, Tom decided to head back to the airport to see if they’d brought the two large duffle bags to the missing baggage department. Our bags were nowhere to be found. They proved to be on their way to Seychelles. He left the hotel at 12:20 pm, 1220 hrs, and didn’t return until three hours later.

He filed a claim, only to discover there was no way they’d send the bags to the US. They’d only forward them to Nelspruit, South Africa, sometime around December 10. We’d have to arrange to pick them up in Nelspruit if the bags were found. They agreed to contact us when the bags were on their way to us.

This happened to us the last time we came to the US, and we had to pay a delivery service to collect the bags in Nelspruit and bring them to us in Marloth Park. Fine. If the bags are found, we’ll be thrilled to arrange that.

So, we were boarding the flight to Newark, New Jersey, with no bags on board other than a few carry-on bags with our digital equipment and the medications. We were heading to the US with nothing but clothes on our backs, shoes on our feet, and wearing dirty underwear. We’d figure this out when we arrived in MSP.

The 16-hour flight was one of the hardest for me ever. I couldn’t get comfortable in my tiny seat and spent the entire time watching fewer than eight movies. My favorite was the new Tom Cruise Top Gun movie; I barely remember the rest. I nodded off several times for only a few minutes each time. Tom and I couldn’t sit together, but he often came back to check on him. We were both wearing compression stockings. I made of point of getting up and going to the bathroom every few hours.

We had a three-hour layover in Newark, but the time passed quickly. Before we knew it, we were on our way to MSP, arriving at about 12:30 pm. We took a shuttle to the car rental facility distant from the airport, but the service and car we booked were excellent at Ace. Shortly later, we were on the road, heading to Target to buy some emergency clothes and toiletries. It was Saturday afternoon, about 53 hours since we’d left Marloth Park.

I barely remember the time we spent in Target. We were exhausted and had trouble thinking, but nary a complaint crossed our lips during the shopping expedition. It would have been fun if we hadn’t been so tired. Everything we purchased fit us and would suffice for the days until we left to return to South Africa on December 8.

Once at our lovely hotel in Eden Prairie, we unloaded our new clothes, removed the tags, and showered. What a relief that was. I purchased two pairs of warm pajamas and couldn’t wait to get into them quickly enough, adding a pair of new socks to the equation. By 6:30 pm, I was in bed, falling asleep in only minutes. Tom wasn’t far behind. We slept for over eight hours and felt much better in the morning.

The story continues with a few new challenges, which we’ll share as we go along. We have no delusions about our responsibility in not investigating further to discover the requirement of this form. However, we’d checked the US State Department’s website for requirements for US citizens to enter Seychelles and read, “visa provided upon entry.”

Also, we had asked the tour company for any documents needed, and they said none other than what we’d provided. It’s hard to believe that after ten years, we still have lessons to learn, but, like life itself, regardless of how long we live, we still learn more and more each day.

After Covid, so much has changed in how documentation enters many countries. We may have become lazy in “assuming” we had everything we needed. We realize we need to be more proactive and mindful than ever and will do so in the future as we make new travel plans.

And so the story continues with more positive updates from these first few days we’ve spent with family. Delightful! Perhaps it was meant to be.

Photo from one year ago today, November 28, 2021:

Mom and three piglets often stop by. Is this the same mom we’ve seen this year with new babies? It certainly looks like her. with those perfectly formed tusks. Be well. For more, please click here.

Part 1…A shocking and totally unexpected situation…We aren’t in Seychelles on the cruise…What???…

I don’t know where to begin to tell this convoluted story of sheer travel frustration and dismay.

In many ways, the details of this story only compare to the fiasco of attempting to find a place to stay when we ended up in lockdown in India when Covid-19 hit. That resulted in our being trapped in a hotel room in Mumbai in March 2020 for ten long months, indeed a somewhat awful travel memory.

Now, this new harrowing experience is more than a correlation between our determination to continue traveling and our intent to maintain an optimistic attitude during one of the most complex travel situations over the past ten years. But. this current situation could have been the straw that broke the camel’s back had we been considering putting an end to our travels.

After ten years of highly experiential travel, we pride ourselves in being well-prepared and knowledgeable on most potential challenges we may encounter.

So here’s how it all began and ultimately played out starting Thursday. November 24, a mere three days ago.

The drive from Marloth Park to Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger Airport was relatively smooth and uneventful. We dropped off the rental car and wheeled our two well-stuffed duffle bags into the lovely little airport, checked in with our two duffle bags looking forward to a pleasant, albeit long 19-hour trip, including layovers, until we’d land in Mahe, Seychelles, with a one-night stay at an oceanfront Hilton Hotel.

We didn’t anticipate any problems. Our documents for our arrival in Seychelles and our subsequent return to Marloth Park 12 days later were in order. Or…so we thought…

When booking the Seychelles cruise with Intrepid Travel months ago, we asked countless questions and conducted extensive research on immigration and Covid-19 requirements. Our online research verified that we’d receive a Seychelles visa upon arrival to the country.

Nothing in the comprehensive documents and instructions from Intrepid Travel over the past months stated that any additional documents would be required than the requested copies of passports, vaccine certificates, and my food preferences.

We verified what Intrepid needed via multiple email messages and a chat module on their website.

Once we completed the usual easy flight on Airlink to Johannesburg Tambo Airport, around 7:30 pm,1930 hrs., we checked in at the Ethiopian Air counter. The rep gave us all the boarding passes we needed.

The agent asked to see the border authority’s approval for arrival and departure for Seychelles. We were dumbfounded. We’d never heard of such a form.

The rep firmly stated, “You need to have approval from the Seychelles border authority that you’ve been approved to enter the country.” She gave us a link to begin the application process, which we could do online right then and there. At this point, we had four hours until our flight, and we weren’t concerned. Surely, we’d get the form completed and processed on time for our flight.

At first, we thought it was no big deal. It was just a minor inconvenience. We found a good place to sit and began the process. The WiFi signal at Tambo was very poor. I could get online on my phone with the weak signal but not on either of our laptops. While we started the application, we were approached and asked by other passengers if they’d been informed of this requirement. They, too, had no idea about applying for this border authority permit.

Fast and furiously, we scrambled on our phones with the awful signal trying to get the forms for each of us submitted. The application kept shutting down due to the poor signal, and we didn’t get our forms submitted until about two hours before the flight. We had options to choose from as to how it would cost for various expediency, based on the urgency of the approved documents. We choose the most expensive option for the fastest approval at Euro 78 per person, US $81.23.

We waited and waited. One of the other couples going through the same process got their approval, but the others, including us, did not.

We all asked if we could board the flight to Addis Ababa, the next leg of our flight which was five hours, with a three-hour layover, before our last flight to Seychelles. Nope, this was not allowed. We either got on now with the approval or…this was it…we weren’t going. By the time we were supposed to board, while we were still at the Ethiopian Air counter, we still didn’t have the approval. The Ethiopian Air agent told us we were too late to board and weren’t getting on the flight.

At this point, I should mention there was not another available flight to Seychelles that would allow us to board the ship in time for the sailing.

But, here is the clincher. All this occurred at 10:40 pm, 2240 hrs, November 24, 2022. At this point, we had less than 26 hours to get out of South Africa, or we’d become “undesirables” and couldn’t reenter South Africa for five years.

Instantly we knew we needed to have a Plan B. In tomorrow’s post, we’ll share Plan B and tell you what transpired.

Be well.