Happy New Year!…Two lively nights in a row…Fun with friends…How’d we get so lucky?…

Last night at Jabula Lodge bringing in the New Year.

Neither of us can recall a time when we made friends with a couple “referred to us” by a couple we met in a restaurant and then another couple we met in a restaurant, of all things, on Christmas Day. 

Our new friends, Hettie and Piet, with whom we shared Christmas day dinner and again last night’s New Year’s eve celebration.

First, we met Lynne and Mick at Jabula Lodge, only three days after we arrived, ending up spending two great evenings with them before leaving to return to their second in Jersey, UK.

Leon, the owner of Jabula Lodge, and also a new friend will scream when he sees that we posted this photo of him from New Year’s Eve. He joined right into the fun with us and all of his and Dawn’s guests for the night.

They suggested to good friends Kathy and Don, who own a gorgeous home on the Crocodile River, to meet us for which they invited us to their home on Christmas Eve and then a second time a few days ago on December 30th.

To the left is Don’s cousin Sandy. Kathy, to the right, was, with her husband Don, our hosts for the pre-New Year’s braai at their lovely home overlooking the Crocodile River. It was our second visit to their home since Christmas Eve when they’d kindly and bravely invited us before we’d ever met.

Then on Christmas Day, we met Hettie and Piet (Pete) at Jabula Lodge, after which we’d planned to bring in the New Year together, again at Jabula Lodge, one of the very few restaurants in Marloth Park.  

From Tom on the left is Don, husband of Kathy and host. Next is Linda and Ken, friends of Kathy and Don’s who’s house in Marloth Park is currently rented over the holidays resulting in them staying with Kathy and Don for several days in their home. To the far right, is again Sandy, Don’s cousin, also from South Africa as was everyone but us.

This upcoming Friday, we’ll celebrate both Hettie and Piet’s birthdays, a few days apart, at a Portuguese restaurant in Komatipoort. After lunch, we’ll grocery shop and purchase more data for our SIM cards. Perfect!

After three days of rain, it was great to see a colorful sunset from Kathy and Don’s third-floor veranda, where we dined and conversed at length.  
More color in the sky from Kathy and Don’s veranda on Monday evening.

Unfortunately, all of these wonderful new friends are leaving, or already have, returned to their other homes, leaving us to make more new friends, a relatively easy proposition in the friendly Marloth Park. 

The Crocodile River before the three days of torrential rain, taken from Kathy and Don’s third-floor veranda on Christmas Eve.
The Crocodile River after three days of torrential rain also taken from Kathy and Don’s third-floor veranda.

One would think we’d make friends with other tourists as we travel the world. But, this only occurred on cruise ships, several of whom we’ve stayed in touch. The remainder of the friends we’ve made has been homeowners and residents of the areas in which we’ve lived.  

This was my T-Bone steak purchased at the Butchery in Marloth Park, which was ZAR $440, US $4.41. Tom’s was the same approximate size. Cooked for me by Ken, it was moist, tender, and delicious.  Often when hosting a braai, the guests bring their chosen cut of meat while the hosts serve beer and other beverages,  side dishes, salad, and dessert. 
After adding delicious sauteed onions and mushrooms and an avocado Greek salad, my plate was complete. Of course, as always I ate every morsel.

We’ve assumed that the ease in making friends is due to the extended periods we’re living in vacation homes during which, in a sense, we become local residents. Regardless of the reason, we’re loving our busy social life.

We shot these kudu photos from Kathy and Don’s third-floor veranda.

Spending 24 hours a day together, which I might add, we thoroughly enjoy as well, we do find it refreshing to socialize with people with whom we enjoy much in common. Each of these three couples has traveled extensively, often to places we’ve already visited in our own travels, making for lively conversation.

A new male warthog visitor to our yard who’d arrived yesterday with a small female, neither of which we’ve seen in the past. The mating ritual had seemingly been in the beginning stages.  He was the largest warthog we’ve seen so far, difficult to determine in the photo. Hopefully, they’ll return.
She kept nudging him for attention.  But he wasn’t quite ready for the big event, at least not in our yard.

In addition, each of these three couples, still find themselves enraptured by the wildlife in Marloth Park. What stories we’ve all shared about our experiences with visitors! And the laughterAh, the laughter, is the best part of it all.

Shortly after the courting couple left, this young mom appeared with her four babies, the smallest babies, we’ve seen thus far, perhaps only a few weeks old.
Suddenly, mom decides it’s time to nurse, stopping dead in her tracks. Immediately, the babies know it’s feeding time and they happily latch on to one of her four nipples. Female warthogs rarely give birth to more than four offspring based on the availability of only four nipples. Nature provides for itself.  Amazing!

So, we welcome the New Year filled with the hope of making many new friends as we continue on our travels.  It’s hard to imagine that in two months from today, we’ll arrive in Marrakesh, Morocco, switching gears from a divine wildlife experience to a profound cultural experience in the hustle and bustle of one of the most diverse and interesting cities in the world.

Yesterday, a lone kudu stopped by, nibbling on the lush vegetation after the three days of rain. He stuck his head in between these small branches near our braai, next to the pool.  What a majestic animal!  We never tire of their visits. Female kudus rarely make an appearance in our yard, although we’ve seen a few.  Males and females don’t hang out together once the mating is complete. We often wrongfully assume that most animals mate for life when actually few we’ve seen in Marloth/Kruger Parks do so.

For now, we’ll put future travels aside to continue to embrace this magical place as we patiently await the next batch of visitors in our yard. I wonder who it will be today. The anticipation itself is a divine part of the adventure.

This same kudu in the above photo stood at the railing waiting for “people food.”  Many tourists over the holidays go nuts giving the wildlife “people food” which, unless fresh vegetables, is generally ill-advised. However, the rangers in Marloth Park suggest providing nutritional pellets or mineral licks, which we’ve done.  Notice the notches in the Kudu’s ear, either from fighting with other kudus during the mating season or in combat with other wildlife.  Kudus are non-aggressive animals and herbivores.

Thanks to all of our new friends in Marloth Park for freely welcoming us into this unbelievably fulfilling and joyful location which we’ll always remember as being the most friendly we’ve encountered in our travels.

Happy New Year to all of our readers. May each one of you find a way to “step outside the box” if only for an hour or a day, to reach for your dreams, whatever they may be.

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