Lions still in Marloth Park…Flights, canceling to and from South Africa…What shall we do?

When Melissa Grobler of Dubai, currently staying in  Marloth Park with her mom, a resident, captured these lion photos, this morning we were enthralled. Melissa managed to witness this fantastic sighting of one of the female lions known to roam the streets of Marloth Park.

Finally, this morning, photos were taken of one of the lions that have been spotted in Marloth Park over the past few months and subsequently, posted on Facebook. These are the first photos we’ve seen of the lions. I contacted the photographer, Melissa Grobler, who is currently staying in the park for a few months, visiting her mom, a resident, asking if we could use her photos. She was thrilled to share.

After all the comments we’ve read about numerous sightings since the lions were originally spotted, with no supporting photos, we began to wonder if these elusive carnivore beasts were actually staying here. Often, at night, humans perceive certain animals to be roaming the bush, other than those we see regularly, At times, at night, we’ve often thought we’ve seen something when perhaps the light and the night tricked our eyes.

Melissa did this drawing to outline the shape of the lion she spotted in the bush.

In this day and age, with the advent of rampant cellphone and camera use, we longed to see an actual photo of a lion in the park. It’s not that we doubted their existence here, especially when, in this day and age, rangers and many locals have spotted them, over and over again. But, as they say, “a picture is worth a thousand words” and Melissa hit the jackpot this morning.

So, for all the naysayers, here are some good photos of the lions, keeping in mind they don’t care to be around humans and may be extremely poor subjects when hiding in the bush, and mostly making appearances at night in the dark when they are on the hunt for their next meal. Obviously, the pickings are good in Marloth Park with so many animals a part of this unusual wildlife conservancy,

You may have to squint your eyes to see the lion in this photo.

On to other matters…This morning at 6:00 am, I received an email from Expedia, that our flight from Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger to Tampa, Florida had been canceled by Delta Airlines. Apparently, Delta isn’t interested in flying to and from South Africa, in light of Omicron, the newest Covid-19 variant.

Although, so far, reports are showing this variant is no more lethal than other variants, a worldwide panic ensued and many countries locked their borders to South Africa as well as airlines suspending flights. In this prior post, we commented how we’ve canceled our plans to attend our dear friends, Karen and Rich’s wedding in Florida on February 11th.

We were sad and disappointed to be missing this event, which after the wedding, we’d planned to stay in Florida for an upcoming cruise sailing out of Fort Lauderdale on April 8, 2022. After a month-long stay with Karen and Rich at their oceanfront home, we’d also planned to spend time driving through Florida, visiting friends that have relocated to various oceanside areas in the warm weather state.

It’s been a thrill to see these photos. We can only thank Melissa for capturing these photos.

With everyone’s justified concerns about Omicron, we won’t be seeing our friends after all. If the trans-Atlantic cruise actually sails, we’ll come to Florida two weeks earlier and self-quarantine, not seeing any of our friends during this period. From there, we’ll board the cruise. But, by the end of March, new rules may be in place about mandatory quarantine for anyone arriving from South Africa, whether US citizens or not. Only time will tell.

When we decided to cancel our trip to the wedding, we left our flight, departing on January 22, 2022, in place. With Delta, we had until the end of December to move the flight to a different ending point and date without penalty. A few days ago, when I’d made a to-do list on this post, it included moving this flight. Now, this has been taken care of by Delta canceling the flight and offering us a full refund.

This morning after receiving the email, I requested a refund for the flight and we’ll book our exit out of here when we know more. Is the cruise going to sail in April? Will there be flights out of South Africa by then? What will we do about our visas expiring on January 24th? This all remains to be seen.

In the interim, we’ll be contacting all of our friends in Florida, telling them not to worry about being near us since we won’t be seeing them after all. Our biggest concern beyond that is what we’ll do about our expiring visas in January? We may have no choice but to return to Zambia for another short stay and another visa stamp. Will immigration allow us to make this trip once again? Or, will President Cyril Ramaphosa issue another visa extension for foreign nationals based on this Omicron situation?

Only time will tell. In the interim, we will stay positive and aren’t as worried as one may think. We’ll continue to enjoy our time in the bush and see how it all rolls out.

Today, we’re reveling in the lion photos and the excitement each day of wildlife visiting our garden.

Happy day!

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

This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #260. We were with friends Lisa and Barry, enjoying one last night together on the ship in a private sitting in the wine room. For more photos, please click here.

Airline challenges, but we’ve made it to Joburg…Photos from our last night in Las Vegas…..

We dined in Henderson, Nevada, at Lindo Mochaicans. a fantastic Mexican restaurant, noisy and fun. This drink is called a Coronarita. Get it? 

While on the first leg of our long journey, I wrote this, an almost five-hour flight from Las Vegas, Nevada, to Newark, New Jersey. I was hopeful. If the flight continued at this pace, we expected to arrive early in Newark, at around 7:30 pm, Eastern time.  

Our next flight to Johannesburg, the 15-hour red-eye, was scheduled to depart at 8:35 pm, giving us ample time to get to the gate where we were to board.  Our fingers were crossed for more ‘safari luck,” especially appropriate as we make our way back to Africa with wildlife in mind.

Guacamole made tableside, served with homemade tortilla chips.

Toward the end of the Newark flight, I spoke to the flight attendants. They told us the next flight would wait for us since we’d booked everything with United Airlines, except for the leg from Joburg to Nelspruit, leaving on Monday at 11:20 am and arriving less than an hour later, when we collect the rental car and make the 90-minute drive to Marloth Park.

With only 46 minutes between the two flights to make our way to a distant gate, naturally, when we deplaned, hearing the pilot telling the other passengers to make way for those with immediate connecting flights, we didn’t think we’d make it. The flight attendant noticed us walking by and said, “Barrel on through. People wouldn’t budge. Make them move!”

I giggled at her comment and pressed on through the crowd, with Tom behind me, handling the two carry-on bags. We exited gate C121 in Newark and thought we could make it in minutes to gate C125 in no time at all. Oh, no, not the case. My Fitbit clocked over 3000 steps from one gate to the next.

Once we arrived at the gate, the doors were closed with a sign reading “Boarding closed.” Fortunately, an agent stood behind the desk and checked us in, alerting the plane we’d made it. Whew! We were so relieved to have made it. I was incredibly relieved to see the two seats were empty next to me on row 45. I could stretch out to sleep. Tom only had one free heart next to him, at his seat across the aisle from me.

I was glad we hadn’t upgraded to business class, which we’d considered. But, at the cost of US $2000, ZAR 29702, we couldn’t justify it. One bad night’s sleep could be recovered in a few nights.

The almost 15-hour flight was relatively uneventful. The food was awful, nothing I could eat, and nothing Tom would eat. Before landing at 5:45 pm, 1745 hrs, they served an egg McMuffin-type thing with one cooked egg and a slice of ham. I ate the egg and the ham and left the bread. Tom ate his.

Once we arrived at Joburg airport, after over an hour of searching, the big duffle bag containing most of our new clothes and shoes was missing at the carousel. We filed a claim and hope we’ll receive it in Marloth Park by Tuesday. If not, we’ll have to file another claim for the value of its content. What a pain! But, we are grateful to be here safely with only one more leg to go.

We’re spending the night in the airport hotel in Johannesburg and will be ready to get back into the airport in the morning. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get some sleep tonight. It’s almost 10:00 pm here in South Africa, but it’s still 1:00 pm for us. I can’t imagine falling asleep anytime soon.

There it is, folks, another long journey behind us with many more to come in the future, health-providing, speaking of which, we’re grateful to return to SA fully vaccinated after a great family visit. Time well spent.

The view of Allegiant Stadium, home of the Las Vegas Raiders, is seen from the restaurant window.

We will be back tomorrow with an update on which of our animal friends are back to see us! We’ve been gone four weeks and hope they weren’t too discouraged to return to us.

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

From the year-ago post on day #124 while in lockdown in Mumbai, India. Classic scene of three vultures on a limb in Kruger National Park. We were thrilled to get this shot from quite a distance. From this site: Vultures are, however, great ecologists, having a high sense of personal hygiene and are a manifestation of the adage of patience as a virtue. They clean the veld of carrion, thereby minimizing the impact of animal disease, and they bathe regularly in rivers after gorging themselves at a kill.” For more, please click here.

The Minnesota visit continues…Photos from our journey…

Roomy seats in Business Class that entirely lay down. I have no idea what he was looking at.

We expected to be busier here than we’ve been, but with Covid-19 and most of our friends worried about being around us with us coming from South Africa, we haven’t had our calendar as complete as in past visits. We certainly understand their hesitancy. After all, as of today, it’s only been seven days since we were vaccinated. We have another seven days to go to ensure the two-week period for maximum safety after vaccination.

It was such a relief to be in Business Class, away from other passengers other than one another. My clothes were all bunched up while I was wearing several layers. We wore two masks on the plane.

We’re a little surprised by how careless people are here. Few, if any, wear face masks, and social distancing is not happening out and about, in stores or public locations. We have no idea if people are washing or sanitizing their hands, but we don’t see anyone using the provided sanitation stations available at the entrance to most shops.

But, when checking stats, we can certainly understand why Minnesotans aren’t interested or motivated in following Covid protocols.

Roomier Business Class area on the huge plane.

Stats for Minnesota, which is in the 19th position on Worldometer. Click here for details:

(Total cases, new cases, total deaths. There were no new cases or deaths as yesterday).

And yet, when we look at South Africa, which is in the 18th position worldwide, up from 20th a month ago.

With 21,427 new cases as of yesterday, of course, President Cyril Ramaphosa has ordered a recent ramped-up lockdown, including an alcohol ban. (Total cases, new cases, total deaths. 411 new deaths).

Tom was preparing to put on his compression socks for our upcoming 20 hours of flying time on the two longest legs of our journey to the USA. I had put mine on earlier in the day.

Thank goodness, when we’ll return to South Africa in 18 days, fully vaccinated but will remain cautious. The vaccine is no guarantee of total safety from the virus. However, we’ve read that 30 days after the jab, the protection from the vaccine increases exponentially. That’s a relief.

Besides, most of our local South African friends will not have been vaccinated by the time we return. Of course, we’re concerned for their safety when there are now over 35 active cases in Marloth Park, based on what we’ve heard so far, which may or may not be accurate.

We’ve been able to get the bulk of our shopping done while in the USA. Tom has some new clothes and shoes. I have ordered a few clothing items but still need a few pairs of jeans which, most likely, I’ll order online and have shipped to our mailing service in Nevada.

Tom’s takeaway (room service) meal at the hotel in Johannesburg when a new lockdown required all restaurants to be closed. (Reminiscent of our time in India, huh?)

Yesterday, I ordered a new camera, a newer model of the camera we had. My familiarity with that model made the most sense, especially since it has a few new features I’ll enjoy using. Also, from Amazon, I ordered two more pairs of shoes that I knew will fit without issue. More on that later.

We visited a DSW shoe warehouse while out and about, but I didn’t see anything that fit my criteria of being ultra-comfortable and washable. After all, shoes get very dirty in South Africa. At US Amazon, I had no trouble finding what I liked in my size.

This afternoon, we’re heading to Tom’s sister Mary’s house in Andover for a family barbecue. We stopped at Cub Foods and picked up a salad for me, brats for the grill with buns for Tom. This weekly barbecue was an event we attended when we were here in 2017 during the summer months. We hope to see even more members of his family.

My room service meal in Johannesburg. I gave Tom my rice but ate the chicken and veg.

If time allows for Greg, Camille, and family, we’ll visit them tomorrow morning and then head to Tom’s family’s weekly happy hour and dinner get-together at Billy’s Bar in Anoka.

Well, dear readers, that’s the only update I have for today. Please know that we’re very aware of our lack of photos. Some readers have asked for photos of family members. But, please keep in mind, not everyone wants their image posted online for “the world” to see. We get this and must respect their privacy.

Have a pleasant day! Stay safe wherever you may be.

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

These common Yellow Allamanda were growing like crazy in the garden of our holiday home in Fairlight, Australia, in 2017. For more photos, please click here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a pleasant day and evening.

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

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

The booking process has changed over the years…The itinerary for our US visit in 3 weeks…

Who’s in the garden this morning?

  • 13 warthogs – inc. Little, Tiny, Lonely Girl, Fred and Ethel, The Imposter, Peter, Paul and Mary, and others
  • 6 bushbucks – inc. Thick Neck, Bad Leg, Spikey, and others
  • 10 kudus – inc. Little Daddy, Bossy, Baby Daddy, Medium Daddy
  • 2 wildebeest – inc Broken Horn, Old Face,
  • 2 Frank and The Misses

Note: Included above is our video mentioned in yesterday’s post. As it turned out, only a few minutes after making this video, two more bushbucks appeared for a total of 10. What a fantastic start to a chilly morning in the bush!

On our way to the river, we encountered a dazzle of zebras.

At the beginning of our world travels in 2012, when we first started booking holiday homes, flights, and rental cars, the process was very different than it is now. At times, it was slow and cumbersome with inconsistent methods, including sketchy confirmations when we were done booking.

It’s a whole new world now. Websites are working more efficiently, and the booking process is easier than ever in the past. That’s not to say we don’t encounter problems. We do. But they are minimal and often quickly resolved,

Great message on this sign on the fence at Two Trees Crocodile River viewing location.

Over the past three days, we’ve been busy planning and booking the following for our trip to the US, leaving in a mere three weeks from today.

  • June 29, 2021 – Flight from Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger to Johannesburg, South Africa
  • June 29, 2021 – Hotel in Johannesburg (awaiting next day’s flight)
  • June 30, 2021 – Flight from Johannesburg to Minneapolis, Minnesota, US
  • July 1, 2021 – Rental car upon arrival in Minnesota
  • July 1, 2021 – Hotel in Eden Prairie, Minnesota
  • July 16, 2021 –  Drive to Milwaukee, Wisconsin – Hotel yet to be booked
  • July 18, 2021 – Return Drive from Milwaukee to Minneapolis, Minnesota, for an upcoming flight
  • July 18, 2021 – Flight to Las Vegas, McCarran Airport
  • July 18, 2021 – Hotel at Green Valley Ranch, Henderson, Nevada
  • July 24, 2021 – Flight from Las Vegas to Johannesburg, South Africa
  • July 26, 2021 – Flight from Johannesburg to Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger
  • July 26, 2021 – Return Drive to Marloth Park, arriving late afternoon

    More elephant photos from our visit to the Crocodile River.

As mentioned above, we’ve found that booking all of these flights, cars and venues are considerably easier than they were in the past. In some cases, the payment process may require a few steps to verify the use of a credit card which we don’t mind. Our credit card numbers have been stolen on several occasions, demanding that we find a way to receive a new card, which is tricky in some locations.

For most of our travels, we’ve used either of two credit cards, one of Tom’s and one of mine, that both accumulate tons of points for travel, which we often use to pay down a new balance, rather than specify it for a particular event. So for us, it’s the best way to take advantage of accrued points.

The majestic elephant never disappoints.

After our extended stay in the hotel in India, using on our site, we accumulated many credits we’re using for the hotels in the US. Every ten nights that we stayed in that hotel which we booked through, we earned one free night, which is limited to the average dollar amount spent for previous hotel rooms. Because the hotel in Mumbai averaged around US $100, ZAR 1359 per night, our credits are limited based on the high cost of hotels in the US.

After totaling all of our expenses, including still paying rent for this house in Marloth Park, we’ll easily spend US $10,000, ZAR 135942, for the 28 days, averaging US $357, ZAR 4853, per day. Of course, we will be keeping track of all of our expenses and include them here at the end of our stay.

No doubt, birds are used to being fed while humans watch the action on the river.

Meals will be a considerable expense during the trip. Fortunately, our hotel in Minnesota has a kitchen. That’s not to say I will be cooking all of our meals. Breakfast is included in the hotel. But, I can easily see us heading to Costco to purchase a few dinners from time to time.

In Las Vegas/Henderson, we’ll be staying at the fabulous Green Valley Ranch Hotel, Spa, and Casino, where breakfast is not included. With numerous restaurants within walking distance, we will indeed have trouble finding a good spot for breakfast. Most likely, we’ll be dining out most nights with Richard and friends. It will all work out.

More entertaining us in hopes of being fed. Next time, we’ll bring birdseed.

As for today, we’re staying put. There is an endless stream of wildlife to entertain us. We’re making a big pot of slow-cooked short ribs for dinner. And, after the past few days, busy booking for the trip, I need to spend some serious time getting caught up doing post corrections. Unfortunately, I doubt I will have time to do edits while we’re in the US, so I’d like to double up until we depart or the next three weeks.

We hope you have a fantastic day!

P.S. I have been inside trying to stay warm for the past hour, with the door closed. In the bedroom, I opened the bedroom door to check out the garden’s action and found Frank wandering around inside the house. LMAO!!! Frank, what a guy!

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

While on a walk in the neighborhood in Sumbersari, Bali, in 2016, we spotted this friendly neighbor (she spoke no English) making bowls as shown that are used for offerings at the Hindu temples. For more photos, please click here.

Rainy Sunday morning…Will our plans for the river be dashed?…A decision is made…

Wildebeests in the driveway near the rental car.

Who’s in the garden this morning?

  • 9 warthogs – inc. Little, Lonely Girl, and others
  • 12 bushbucks – inc. Thick Neck, Bad Leg,
  • 6 helmeted guinea-fowl
  • 1 kudu- inc. Medium Daddy
  • 3 hornbills – banging on the kitchen window for hours
  • 2 Frank and The Misses

With plans for river sightings with Rita and Gerhard today at 3:00 pm, a rainy morning may indicate that we won’t be heading out today. Anxious for new photos to share here, after a steady stream of regulars in the garden, day after day (which we love but our readers may not), we have been looking forward to seeing our friends again with an opportunity to take big game photos.

The wildlife tends to hunker down on rainy and windy days, so if we go, regardless of the weather, we may not see much action on the river today. However, right now and last night, we could hear lions Fluffy and Desi roaring in Lionspruit, which abuts the end of our back garden. We’ve listened to that roar over and over again, and it always makes us smile. What an exquisite sound!

Hornbills next to the veranda enjoying Frank’s seeds.

It’s not only the photos and videos we take that make this experience so delightful. The sounds, day and night, are thrilling and, at the same time, heartwarming; whether it’s birds or animals, it all sends a chill down our spines. So many of these sounds may be heard when viewing any of our videos, over and above my endless chatter describing the current scene in view.

Of course, our big concern is that our readers will become bored with photos of warthogs, bushbucks, and kudus and lose interest in our site. So we always strive to “shake it up,” but with the limitations for travel due to Covid-19, we’re fast running out of new and exciting photos.

Then again, I have been under the weather for almost three weeks, continuing to cough, and haven’t felt like doing much of anything other than sitting on the veranda watching our furry friends stop by for a warm “hello” and, of course, pellets, carrots, apples, and cabbage.

A dark-capped bulbul. Sorry for the blurry photo. They don’t stay still for a good shot.

Well, folks, maybe it will get more interesting coming up here in 23 days when we are finally leaving South Africa for about a little over three weeks to return to the US for several reasons; 1. to see our family members in Minnesota, Nevada ad Wisconsin; 2. to get the Covid-19 J & J  vaccine, which is readily available at many locations in the Twin Cities; and 3. to get that darned visa stamp we so much need, when our visas expire on June 30th.

It doesn’t seem realistic that SA President Cyril Ramaphosa will be extending visas for foreign nationals again in the next 24 days. He opened visas last time at the beginning of a month to June 30th, not at the end, as we need at this point. So it’s doubtful the dates will coincide with our needs.

Thus, yesterday afternoon, we began booking rental cars and hotels for our already-in-place flight from Johannesburg to Minneapolis on June 30th with Lufthansa Airlines. So all we have left to book is:

  1. A round trip flight from Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger to Joburg
  2. A one-way flight from Minneapolis to Las Vegas to visit son Richard
  3. A return flight from Las Vegas to Joburg

    Warthogs and mongoose get along well, paying little attention to one another.

We have yet to book the Las Vegas/Henderson hotel, which we’ll do today, planning on staying at the Green Valley Ranch Spa and Casino in Henderson, which is close to Richard‘s home. Unfortunately, we will be in Las Vegas during the hottest month of the year, so we won’t spend much time outdoors if we can help it.

As for visiting Tom’s dear sister, Sister Beth, a nun in a nursing home in Milwaukee, we will drive from Minneapolis, returning a few days later to fly to Las Vegas from there. We’ll see Sister Beth, and then Tom wants to visit a few cemeteries for his Ancestry stuff.

It will be a busy time, and we hope to take many photos along the way. But, of course, we’ll continue to post each day, even during the long travel days while on long layovers.

At this point, regardless of the visa scenario changing again for foreign nationals in South Africa, we’re committed to leaving Marloth Park on June 29th to begin the long journey to the US. We hope to get our J & J vaccine on July 2, which we plan to book before leaving here.

Also, the rain stopped, and the sun came out. It looks like we’ll be able to go to the river today, after all! We’ll be back with more tomorrow, including what we’ll be doing with our vacation home during our absence.

Have a fantastic Sunday!

Photo from one year ago today, June 6, 2020:

While in Campanaria, Madeira, Portugal, we heard the music coming from the fish guy’s truck and raced up the hill to meet him. He held up a tuna for us to inspect. It was smaller than some of the others, but this size was perfect. It weighed 7.7 kg, 17 pounds, and the cost was INR 2569, US $34. He cut them into portion-sized pieces, wrapping each piece individually. For more photos, please click here.

We didn’t come all this way to leave and not get back in..

Check out Torn Ear’s horns covered in mud. He may have been showing off his digging skills for the females during the rutting season.

Flight schedules are changing rapidly. We watch for information daily, noting any changes. A friend in the US, planning on coming to South Africa in a few weeks, found his flight was canceled. Will he be able to rebook another flight? It’s hard to say if these types of scenarios will impact us going forward.

But, we stay well informed of the issues. We’re also aware that wherever we may go, we may not be able to get back into South Africa if we have to leave on June 30th for a visa stamp. We experienced this when we were in India. It may not be any different in the next almost two months, when on June 30th, we have to hightail out of South Africa for a visa stamp.

We still have a booked flight to the US on June 30th, but most likely, we’ll change it unless we have no choice but to return due to Covid-19 conditions worldwide.

Handsome male impala.

As we’ve reiterated, we do not want to travel the outrageous distance to the US, with flights and layovers lasting over 24 hours. At this point, with Covid-19 still raging throughout the world, we don’t want to take the risk. It’s possible but unlikely. We’ll have been able to get the vaccine here in South Africa by June 30th.

But, even so, with the vaccine, it appears there are still risks associated with Covid-19. The question becomes, do we want to take those risks on such a long travel day and then risk not getting back into South Africa?

Two male wildebeests stopped by for pellets.

When we think of and discuss what we went through to get out of India unscathed, for which we are very grateful, based on what’s happening in India now with almost 400,000 new cases a day, we don’t want to be in a similar position once again, filled with a sense of uncertainty coupled with a degree of apprehension and fear.

In general, the uncertainty of travel leaves us in a precarious position. We don’t want to “throw in the towel” and give up this life we’ve become so accustomed to, which has brought us great joy and contentment. Even now that the ten-month lockdown in India ended almost four months ago, we don’t feel traumatized by that experience. We learned a lot about ourselves, one another, and us as a couple, a knowledge we will carry with us into the future.

Another male impala was watching the action in the garden.

As we consider that we spent those ten months in that hotel room in Mumbai, it isn’t easy to comprehend that those ten months constituted 9.9% of the entire time we’ve been traveling the world. However, like all of our experiences, good and bad, we have incorporated them into the realm of our whole experience, and to date, we have no regrets.

When we embarked on this journey on October 31, 2012, we didn’t consider it easy. But anyone can look back at their prior nine years, and surely there have been “ups and downs.” That’s the nature of life itself. Some of the hardships and heartbreaks we’ve experienced during this time would have presented themselves, regardless of where we lived at any given moment.

He stayed around for quite a while looking for pellets.

Covid-19 hasn’t made it easier for any of us. It’s been no more complicated or easier for us than for anyone: sorrow, illness, loss of loved ones, and substantial unexpected expenses. And yet, we as a race, as humans, strive to make our way through these difficult times with grace, with dignity, and with compassion.

And, we can’t forget gratefulness. For those of us who, by chance or not, have escaped becoming deathly ill from the virus, gratitude must remain our state of being to get us through this next phase, whatever that may be. None of us knows what the future holds. We can only speculate based on historical data, speculation, and our personal beliefs.

Tiny and Mrs. Tiny, nose to nose, kissing while Lonely Boy is looking on.

Ultimately, we carry on, with love and hope in our hearts, that our family members, friends, and readers stay safe, free from illness, free from harm, and free from the many dangers facing us in these precarious times. At times, none of this seems natural. Upon reflection, sometimes it feels as if we are living in a dystopian movie. l. On occasion, we shake our heads in dire wonder if this is our world today. Sadly, dear readers, it is.

We’d hoped to go to Kruger National Park today but, it was so busy in the garden with dozens of visitors, we decided to wait until another day.

May we all stay strong, healthy, and in touch with our surroundings.

Photo from one year ago today, May 4, 2020:

Giraffes in the bush in the neighborhood. For more, please click here.

How do we perceive the current situation?…Returning to the US…Nine days and counting…

Last night, we had another visit from the thick-tailed bushbaby.

It’s somewhat of a weird feeling, knowing we’re leaving for the US in a mere nine days. In the past, we knew well in advance that we were returning to our home country for a visit, often many months or even a year before our pending arrival. Those periods allowed us to plan our re-entry and mentally prepare ourselves for the temporary return to our former way of life.

Everyday life in a big city has been absent in our lives for over a year when we left for India in January 2020 and ended up in a lockdown. Spending those ten months in the hotel in India left us free of the day-to-day annoyances when we were so isolated. Returning to the US now will be an entirely different scenario in light of Covid-19. We don’t quite know what to expect.

She was a little tentative about jumping down to the floor of the veranda. The lure of the treat was irresistible.

I suppose that’s been the case for people worldwide during the last year of the pandemic and subsequent lockdown in many countries. Many have isolated themselves from the day-to-day commotion associated with “normal” life instead of the lives we’ve all experienced during the pandemic. Will we ever live those lives again? It’s hard to say.

While we were in India, we flatly refused to return to the US. No matter what, we were going to stick it out. There were too many virus cases and a noticeable lack of precautions by many who believed they were exempt from its wrath. Now, here we are returning, contrary to our former beliefs.

We put a little bit of sour cream down for her, and she loved it.

What drives us to change our minds at this point? One simple reason is the vaccine. We need to get it done if we intend to continue to travel instead of isolating ourselves in a lifestyle we aren’t interested in experiencing. Sure, we’re looking forward to seeing our family members. That’s a given.

In any case, we’d planned to be back in the US in May 2022, a little over a year from now, when we would have been entering the US via cruise ship to Seattle, Washington. Now, that’s up in the air. Who knows if any of our booked four cruises while transpire beginning on November 30, 2021, and ending on May 7, 2022? None of these may sail.

Ms. Bossy, pregnant, which doesn’t show in this photo, is so “in-our-faces. She’s outrageously persistent. But, we thoroughly enjoy her daily visits.

However, if any of these cruises do sail as planned, there is no doubt in our minds that we’ll need to be vaccinated to board any or all of them. That’s the way traveling into the future is rolling out, whether we like it or not. We realize the vaccine is not a 100% guarantee we’ll be safe or need boosters down the road. Science has yet to determine how long the vaccines will last.

Often family and friends write to us with news about Covid-19 in a thoughtful way, assuming we don’t have access to the latest news and science. But, we do, as readily and as frequently as any of you in any country throughout the world, including in the USA. In any case, whatever transpires, we’ll continue to stay well informed to ensure we know exactly what we need to do to carry on.

We always say to the pigs, “Don’t eat the seeds.” Some listen. Others do not.

We’ve learned, as many of you have, how to filter out “fake news” and controversies that have continually surrounded this seeming politicized pandemic. To us, good science, often tricky to decipher, is all we have to go on. Of course, we consider sources of information above all when making any decisions for our lives. We avoid politically charged sources of information, preferring to lean toward solid science from sources we’ve come to trust.

We don’t consider Facebook and other social media as reliable sources of medical information. So much of that can be manipulated as scare tactics to appeal to specific groups. If we read an article that piques our interest in Facebook, we immediately search for reliable studies and information generally available to the public.

When reading our posts, we each can choose how we receive and decipher what we read online, including all of you. We make every effort to provide clear and concise information here in each day’s post, But, we too, aren’t exempt from making an error or misstating something we’ve discovered. It’s up to each one of us to do our research to bring us to the point of feeling well-informed and educated. It’s a work in progress, potentially imperfect.

Ms. Bossy and Mary, Peter, Paul, and Mary, are getting along as they share the pellets.

This morning we headed to Komatipoort for our last shopping trip and purchased our last bag of pellets. We bought very few groceries after taking a careful inventory of what we had on hand. We’ll be dining one last time at Jabula Lodge & Restaurant on Friday night, leaving us with only seven meals ahead of us that we’ll prepare. -We have one more significant chunk of delicious tenderloin in the freezer that will get us through two more nights. Tonight, we have it covered with bacon-wrapped fillet mignon. We don’t mind a bit.

If we get low on something, we can always run to the local meat market to pick something up. In the interim, we’re focused on eating everything we have on hand with no perishable food remaining when we leave on April 8th.

All is good. We have peace of mind and don’t feel stressed at all. Of course, once we’ve accomplished the long journey and received our vaccines, we’ll have even more peace of mind.

Be well. Continue to be safe.

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

The excellent staff was serving us at the Courtyard by Marriott Mumbai International Airport. They couldn’t have been more attentive and concerned about our needs and those of the other stranded foreign nationals staying at the hotel during this difficult time. Thank you, dear staff members, for taking such good care of us, including taking everyone’s temperature this morning. For more, please click here.

Yesterday’s post heading stated, “Everything could change.”…Everything did change!!!…What’s next?…

The seed solution for Frank and The Misses. Now they both eat out of the little container. Once they’re done, we take away the container.

In an attempt to stay calm, bit by bit, we’re piecing together what our plans will be going forward now that it’s confirmed by Little Governor’s Camp that they will be closed during the new Kenyan 60 day lockdown. This morning we received an email from the rep to inform us of the news.

Now the process of planning our next move begins today. We’ve definitely decided we’ll be returning to the US to see family and get our Covid-19 vaccines, preferably the one jab, so that we can carry on with our plans. Since we don’t know the exact dates, we’ll be able to get the one jab. We’re not booking any flights beyond getting to Minnesota, where we’ll be vaccinated. South Africa won’t have a sufficient vaccine supply for us as non-citizens to eventually be vaccinated.

We’ll return to South Africa in about four to six weeks. From there, we’ll head to Nevada, where we’ll spend another week or two visiting sons, Richard, take care of any necessary business tasks, and then carry on. At this point, we are ok not knowing the date we’ll return when it is entirely based on the dates and type of vaccine we’ll be able to get.

This warthog has blood coming from his left eye.

I want to state at this point emphatically: We are not stopping our world travels by returning to the US for the vaccines and family visits. This was the most logical way to get a new 90-day visa stamp for South Africa, see family, and get the vaccines, a multi-purpose trip now that we cannot go to Kenya due to their new Covid-19 lockdown.

Also, while we are in the US, we will continue to post daily, as we always have, hopefully adding photos along the way. Before we know it, we’ll be back in Marloth Park, hopefully to this same house in the bush, and once again, seeing our favorite wildlife and human friends.

After enjoying nap time after eating the treats we’d offered, eggs and meat, a pile of mongooses.

As of this moment, we have canceled all the hotels we had booked except the one near the Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger Airport. Also, we’ll still take the same flight we’d already booked to Johannesburg, But we won’t be making the return flight from Johannesburg on April 14. We’ll try for a refund for the return portion of the flight, but I doubt we’ll get that.

Bushbucks were eating pellets in the bush. Tom tossed them far out to them so the warthogs wouldn’t scare them away.

I already spent 30 minutes on hold with Kenya Airways to cancel our flight to Kenya and back due to the Kenyan lockdown. Their website isn’t user-friendly, and there are 404 messages on the refund page. We’ll try calling again later today and continue to work on attempting to get a refund.

If Kenya Airways doesn’t provide the refund, we’ll have no choice but to contact our credit card company, who will assist in processing the refund. We had to do this in 2019, and they were beneficial, promptly providing us with the refund, especially now in light of Covid-19.

Kudu in the bush was watching for the pellet situation.

As of this moment, we had canceled two hotel bookings, Little Governor’s Camp and the car rental we’d booked for April 14 when we were scheduled to return to South Africa. We’ll have lost the cost we paid for our Kenya visas, for which we paid over US $200, ZAR 3005. There is nothing we can do about that. If that is all the losses we incur due to the cancellation of the trip to Kenya, we can accept that.

Male bushbuck in the garden.

Today, we’ll book the hotel in Minneapolis but wait to book a hotel in Las Vegas until we know what date we can leave Minnesota to head to Nevada. Right now, we are working on booking the flight, which is all over the place with pricing and hidden charges, extra charges for basic seats, and baggage in some cases.

Tom just finished booking the flights, which comprised of three flights with a 28 hour travel time. We’ll have to wait at the airport in Johannesburg for almost 8 hours before the first leg takes off, resulting in a 36 hour travel time with nowhere to sleep in between. We’ve done this before.

The pigs eat the seeds we put out for Frank and The Misses. We had to come up with another plan.

Tomorrow morning, we’ll visit Louise and Danie to tell them what’s happening and that we may not be back until May. Undoubtedly, all of this isn’t very reassuring, but it’s the way it is, especially in times of Covid-19. We are both doing ok, and we’ll be relieved when all the bookings and refunds are resolved.

Whew! Life goes on.

Be well!

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

One year ago today, we posted this photo from 2018 taken in Kruger National Park. For more details, please click here.

Hello, my Africa…It’s good to be back where we belong…

Today’s photos were taken at dusk resulting in less clear images. We will work on improving our photos in the future!

What can I say? How we feel is beyond description. At the moment, we’re seated at the big wooden table on the ground-level veranda with nary a railing, overlooking the bush parklands, rife with wildlife. No sooner than we opened the screened (yeah!) sliding door, they were here, albeit tentatively, wondering who we are and what we may have in store for them.

We served up treats from a 40 kg, 88-pound bag of pellets already opened last night for the stream of visitors that arrived only moments after we did. Sitting by the fabulous braai, a South African fire pit, we gasped in awe of the treasures our eyes beheld, one species after another, including seven giraffes at our driveway, several kudus, warthogs, guinea fowl, bushbucks, and more.

Then, this morning, they all returned, perhaps others than those from last night, anxious to see who will be their new neighbors. Besides, this is their land, not ours, and in reality, we are the visitors, not them. Ah, the number of times we’ve said in our posts, “Pinch me, is this real?”

And now, I repeat this, with as much, if not more enthusiasm than ever. At times, I wondered if the excitement would be as profound as it was in the prior 18 months we spent in Marloth Park over the past eight-plus years. But, if anything, it was more.

The ten months in the hotel room in India catapulted us to a new level of appreciation and gratitude, one we thought we could never achieve, after all the exquisite experiences since the onset of our travels in 2012. But, here we are now, reeling with pure joy to be back where we belong.

The familiarity we felt as we drove from Nelspruit after our three full days of travel was comforting as we began the long final drive toward Gate 2 in Marloth Park, around 3:00 pm yesterday, where the guards at the gate gave us a one-month pass to hang on the rearview mirror with offers for more in months to come. We knew we were “home.”

We drove to Louise and Danie’s beautiful Information Center to be greeted with enthusiasm we so cherish, with them as such great friends for the past seven years, during which we always stayed in close touch when we were away. We sat at their gorgeous bar, commiserating for a few hours until finally, it was time to come to our new home.

We knew the house was small, a single story with two bedrooms, two en-suite bathrooms, a spacious lounge/living room, a dining room with a  fantastic table and upholstered chairs, and a good-sized modern kitchen with a countertop with bar stools, well-equipped with everything we’ll need.

Louise grocery shopped for us, putting everything away as we would have. She knows us so well after all these years. Soon, we’ll prepare our first meal, steak on the braai. Is it any wonder we’ll be eating beef for the next several days? We weren’t hungry for breakfast this morning, and last night, we didn’t bother with dinner. Instead, we had a small plate of good cheeses to share, along with water and iced tea.

We had good luck during the three travel days, which included the following details Tom compiled this morning::

“Three flights; the first from Mumbai, to Dubai, 2 hours 45 minutes with a 16-hour layover. A second flight from Dubai to Johannesburg is an 8 hour 45-minute flight with a 26-hour layover. The third flight from Johannesburg to Nelspruit (Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport), 45 minutes.
Then, the rental car drive, from Nelspruit to Marloth Park, 1 hour 30 mins.
Three flights       12 hours 15 minutes
Two layovers   42 hours
One drive           1 hour 30 minutes
Total travel time from door to door was 59 hours, which included hotel departures, shuttles, waiting at airports, and spending time working on three months of car rentals at the Budget counter in Nelspruit.
If anyone had asked me a few years ago if we’d be open to 59 hours of travel time to anywhere, we would have said it was too challenging, even for “sturdy us.” But, as we all know, motivation and purpose are powerful drivers, and we’re grateful we stuck to our commitment to return to South Africa instead of “giving up” and returning to the US at this time.
And here we are, sitting together, in touch with each other’s needs, wants, and joys, as always. After those ten trying months, nothing has diminished the strength of our love and commitment to one another. We’re still “stuck like glue.”
Again, thanks to everyone for the endless stream of good wishes. There will never be enough time to reply to every one of you, but please know we appreciate every single one of you.
Stay safe. Be well. Be happy.
Photo from one year ago today, January 14, 2020:
This hornbill from a photo taken in 2019 decided to look at her reflection in the glass of the little red car, assuming it was another Hornbill, perhaps a possible mate. For more from the year-ago post, please click here.