Part 2…The manatee story…Safari luck in Florida!…We’re off to Arcadia…

There may have been a small buoy attached to the tail of the frequent manatee visitors, making it easier for the tourists to spot.

This morning, we are off to Arcadia, Florida, to meet our friends, Tom and Lois, who visited us in Marloth Park, South Africa, in October 2018. It’s a 90-minute drive for us and a little more for them, and we appreciate them driving to meet us for lunch at a popular inland restaurant.

We’d hoped to see many more friends and family members while in Florida but after we changed our trip to come to Karen and Rich’s wedding due to Omicron, our timing changed considerably and there just hasn’t been enough time. We apologize to all those special people we won’t have an opportunity to see this time around but with our passion for cruising, surely we’ll be back in Florida at some point in the future. Also, after the pandemic, car rental prices are outrageous in Florida with limitations on mileage, something we haven’t experienced in the past. Driving all over the state would have cost thousands extra.

Thus, today, for time’s sake, we’ve included Part 2 of the manatee story, which I mostly prepared yesterday, to ensure we are on the road promptly at 10:15 am to meet them by noon, leaving a little extra time for traffic. We plan to return to Karen and Rich’s by 5:00 pm for a barbecue rib dinner Rich is making. It will undoubtedly be a busy and fun day with friends.

A manatee is lifting hers/his nose from the water for a dose of air. They do this about every five minutes or so.

We found this excellent information about manatees from the Smithsonian’s website here:

14 Fun Facts About Manatees

These roly-poly herbivores, just maybe the teddy bears of the sea. But keep an eye out when boating; they don’t move so fast. Emily Frost

Despite their size and stubbly snout, manatees seem cute and cuddly to many ocean visitors. These large, slow-moving marine mammals hang out in coastal areas and rivers where Florida spring-breakers can easily see them and think it is good to hop on for a ride. Not only is this and other forms of harassment such as hugging the sea creatures illegal (the West Indian manatee is listed as endangered in the United States), but it can also impact manatees’ natural behavior, changing the way they interact with humans.

Stingrays at the Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach, Florida

All three species of manatee—the Amazonian manatee, West Indian manatee, and West African manatee—and the related dugong are considered vulnerable (defined as facing a high risk of extinction in the wild) by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. This is due to a variety of threats, including boat collisions, hunting, habitat destruction, and toxic red tides.

Expansive views of Tampa Bay from the center.
This one decided to lay down in the shade. For more photos, please click here.

Final post from Marloth Park…Surprising news on our itinerary…Some of our favorite photos…

We always had a reason to celebrate. Here is Don (Kathy and Don) and Rita (Rita and Gerhard) at Jabula celebrating our friendships.

Note: Due to the high volume of tourists in Marloth Park right now, during school holidays, the WiFi is sketchy and inconsistent. Subsequently, I am unable to make formatting corrections including spacing and adding some links. We’re sorry for the inconvenience. After all, TIA (This is Africa)!

It’s Wednesday morning, and we’re almost totally packed and ready to go. All that’s left is to pack the everyday toiletries when Tom showers soon, and we’ll close our bags. We aren’t worried about overweight baggage this time since we’re allowed two 23 kg (50 pounds) bags each, and we only have three.

We packed one of the duffle bags into another suitcase since we’ll need extra room when we go on the cruises for the dressy clothes we’ll be packing for the Queen Mary 2. Once we get to Minnesota on May 1, we can send the formal attire to our mailing service to hold for us until we need them again.

A female kudu, in a daze from oxpeckers cleaning bugs off her ears and head. For this post, please click here.

I suppose you are curious about our itinerary news, and I should get on with it. After days of research and discussion, we’ve decided to return to Marloth Park on May 24, only 62 days from today. A few factors contributed to this decision, including the difficulty we encountered in traveling to many countries at this time. We considered increased costs, fuel shortages, and overall excessive cost of living due to the ravages of each economy as a result of the pandemic and now the war in Ukraine.

I.B. (Itchy Butt) laying in the wet, muddy cement pond, attempting to ease the itching. For this post, please click here.

There is so much unrest in many countries with poor economic conditions, political unrest, poor medical care, prohibitive medical costs, and the list goes on and on. We’ve decided, for now, making Marloth Park a base from which we’ll continue to travel and embark on cruises makes all the financial sense in the world.

We never figured out what this peculiar apparition that appeared on the night cam could possibly be. For that post, please click here.

Yes, we’ll have visa issues, but we know how to deal with these issues. We can travel to other countries in Africa for short stay safaris and expeditions and then return with a new 90-day visa stamp. Once back here in May, we won’t have to leave until August for a visa stamp. We can either fly to a non-bordering country or start a new visa extension. The new stamp will be good until November when we’re planning to leave anyway.

Our friend Frank, of Frank and The Misses francolins, had a self-tour of our house, including the kitchen. For that post, please click here.

In November, we’ll make our way to  Athens, Greece, for three back-to-back Azamara cruises for a total of 42 days, which brings us to Cape Town, South Africa, when we’ll make our way back to Marloth Park and begin the cruising booking process all over again, as new cruises are posted. These new cruises will take us to many new countries we’ve never visited in the past.

This was the third photo I got of the leopard, hoping for a  better shot, the best of which is the main photo. For that post, please click here.

We realize that spending one or two days on a ship excursion is not the same as living in a country for a few months as we’ve done in the past. But, our travels are an ever-changing adventure, and we have to do what feels right to us. In between adventures, we’ll enjoy our lives to the utmost in our favorite secluded place in the world. Undoubtedly, South Africa has its issues but is tucked away in the bush; we feel far removed from many issues. For now, this plan is precisely befitting our needs.

When thick-tailed bushbabies are around, the usual small bushbabies run for cover. The larger species will kill the little ones. For this post, please click here.

We have lots of wonderful friends here. We have a constant stream of entertainment as wildlife visits our garden. It’s only a 20-minute drive to enter Kruger National Park. We have access to excellent medical and dental care at affordable prices and insurance covering emergencies. Although smaller than Amazon, we can shop at markets that have all the food products we like to purchase and the excellent online shopping service, Takealot, although smaller than Amazon, carries most items we need to buy from time to time.

This adorable zebra was lounging in our garden. He must have spotted something interesting on the ground. For this post, please click here.

On top of it all, we will be moving into a different house when we return, as shown in photos in this post and in this post. We are excited about moving into this property when we return in May. It has everything we could want or need.

Mom, with the perfect curled tusks, whom we now call Tail-Less Mom, who lost her tail, also lost one of these babies, since then only returning with the fast-growing two piglets. For this post, please click here.

We realize and accept the reality that we may lose some of our readers from making this temporary decision. But, we hope those of you who decide to opt-out make a note of days we’ll be visiting other countries and will stop back to see our stories and photos.

The beautiful Christmas dinner table at Sindee and Bruce’s lovely home in the bush. Dawn was taking a photo of Sindee and the serving table, a short time later filled with great food. For this post, please click here.

For now, the next two months will be exciting for us:

  • 15 nights in Apollo Beach, Florida
  • 13 nights on a transatlantic cruise on Celebrity Silhouette to Southampton, UK
  • 3 nights in Southampton, sightseeing
  • 7 nights on transatlantic return cruise on Queen Mary 2 to New York
  • 14 nights in Minnesota visiting family and friends
  • 7 nights in Henderson, Nevada, visiting family and friends
  • Return to Marloth Park
It was Rita’s birthday and she and Gerhard took all of us on a bush dinner and night game drive. For this post including great wildlife photos, please click here.
Louise and Danie hosted the best possible birthday gift for me, a visit to an in-the-wild elephant interaction. For this post, please click here.

The above number of nights doesn’t account for the 62 days we’ll be gone, but the long travel days to and from Africa make up the difference. There are many time zone changes in this period that, hopefully, we’ll adapt to with ease.

Today may be the last time we see Little since we’re moving to another house a few km from here. Maybe we’ll get lucky and he’ll find us once again. Little was thrilled we’d returned from Zambia in October 2021 when he stopped by at his usual 4:00 pm. Immediately, he positioned himself on the right side of the veranda, near where I sit, waiting for his treats and words of affection (from me only). For this post, please click here.

So there it is folks, Next time we write to you, most likely it will be from Apollo Beach, Florida, unless we have time on one of our layovers for a quick update.

Be well. Be happy. Live life to the fullest.

Photo from one year ago today, March 23, 2021:

A male bushbuck with a plant growing from his muddy hoof after a big storm. It made us laugh out loud. For more, please click here.

Two days and counting…A smooth transition so far…

Mom and Baby mongoose sucking out white and yolk from an egg.

It’s all going well. We are feeling organized, and everything is getting sorted and packed. It seems it works better for us when we pack over several days rather than rushing on the last few days, especially when we’ve accumulated more stuff than usual during the past 14 months.

Tomorrow will be a busy day. We’ll be heading to Komatipoort for the required Covid-19 PCR tests and will get the results by email on Wednesday morning, the day we’re leaving. We’ll have Louise print off the report, the only item we need to have printed.

Over the years, we’ve found we don’t need paper copies of flights, hotels, cruises, and car rentals as long as we have the reservation or confirmation numbers on our phones. The documents may say to print a copy, but we’ve done fine without hauling pages and pages of documents. It’s wasteful and unnecessary in the majority of cases. Once we show our passports, providers can easily find us in their system.

How quickly the youngsters learn the value of an egg.

We’ve gone through all of the Covid-19 restrictions for this upcoming flight and our two upcoming cruises. It’s all under control. We’re pleased with how organized we’ve become over the years. But, it took us a while to learn the best way to handle all the necessary documents clearly and concisely. There is so much paperwork it can be overwhelming without an easy-to-use system.

But, who knew how to travel the world? In the beginning, technology wasn’t as advanced as it is now. And yet, in some countries, technology is far behind, and actual printed pieces of paper are required for many venues, rentals, and other services. We continue to learn as we go.

Today, I did laundry for the last time. With the high humidity, clothes usually take two days to dry, so today was the day to wrap that up. The cupboards are empty of our foodstuffs, and the refrigerator only contains enough food for tonight’s dinner. Tomorrow morning when we head to Komatipoort, we’ll have breakfast at Stoep Cafe.

This little one was unsure how to crack open the two eggs.

We’re going out to dinner at Giraffe with Louise and Danie tomorrow evening. We always enjoy their company. It will be wonderful to spend our last evening in the bush with them.

Throughout all of this busy packing, I’ve continued walking, staying at a full 25 miles, 40 km, per week. Even when we’ve been out for the majority of the day, I catch up when we return or, in a few cases, add to the next day. Surely, while traveling, I should be able to keep pace with all of the walking at airports.

There’s no doubt we’ll be exhausted when we arrive in Tampa. Thank goodness the drive to Karen and Rich’s house is less than 40 minutes, in regular traffic. They are planning a nice dinner for us. Karen wrote a thoughtful message, asking if we would prefer to eat a light meal when we arrive since it will be later at night to us, after being awake all night.

It pays to learn from Mom how to do it.

I explained how that wouldn’t be an issue for us. We prefer to immediately adapt to the new time zone, eating and sleeping based on the times of the day and night where we are currently. This helps us to acclimate more quickly and avoid severe jet lag. Usually, after two good nights’ sleep, we are back to our “old selves.” But, on a few occasions, we were a little tired for a few more days. Missing a night’s sleep in itself can cause that!

When we arrive, we’ll avoid napping and get into the groove as soon as possible. Surely, by 10:00 pm, 2200 hrs, we’ll be ready for bed on Thursday, our day of arrival. Thanks to Karen and Rich for thinking of us and inviting us to stay at your lovely home. I can’t wait to see the ocean once again!

Two little ones were trying to get in on the action.

That’s all for today, folks. It’s time for me to start walking again to ensure I stay on track. When we get to Florida, I may be able to walk outdoors, hopefully, avoiding running into any alligators!!! Then again, it would be fun to take a photo!!!

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, March 21, 2021:

Frank eats out of the seed container. There were so many warthogs in the garden I set this down for Frank. The warthogs love to eat the seeds, leaving none for Frank. This was a good solution at that point to ensure Frank and The Misses got their share. For more photos, please click here.

Now we know about the changes to the cruise to Ukraine…Decisions for the future…

Zebra on the veranda!

This morning at 5:00 am, we received an email from Azamara explaining the new itinerary changes excluding Russia and Ukraine. It has changed as follows. To see, you must click the following link.

ON_29_June_2022_ItineraryChange

The cruise is still priced as expensive as the original Black Sea cruise, which we’d been willing to pay for since this was a long-desired itinerary since we began traveling. This new itinerary doesn’t appeal to us. We’ve already done a cruise to the Greek Islands, thoroughly enjoying it but not interested in repeating that past itinerary. We’d booked the back-to-back to Greece because we wanted to extend the long-awaited Black Sea cruise.

Zebra’s tails appear to be braided, but obviously, they are not.

Now, with the Black Sea out of the question due to the war in Ukraine, we aren’t interested in the second leg. Thus, we’ve decided to cancel this cruise and the back-to-back second leg (again the Greek Islands) we’d booked for 21 nights. We have to call Costco Travel to do this, and the only time we can call in is at night due to the time difference. Each time we call, we’ve been on hold for at least an hour.

This morning, there was a message on Costco Travel’s website stating they were recovered today from a phone outage yesterday and waiting times will be longer than usual…what??? Longer than one hour on hold? No thanks. We’ll wait a few days and call. We could cancel online, but we’d lose our deposits.

The only way we can be assured the amounts we paid in full for these two cruises of US $14,923, ZAR 223257 is to call and ask them to contact Azamara, explaining we want to cancel due to the unforeseen itinerary changes and have the funds transferred to our other upcoming cruises starting in November 2022. This can’t be accomplished online.

Zebras love pellets, as do most of the mammals in the wild.

When booking through a travel agency such as Costco Travel or Vacations-to-Go, the cruise line requires all changes handled through the booking agency, not through the cruise line itself. Otherwise, we’d call Azamara ourselves.

So with these changes, we’re back to May 22 when our time in Henderson/Las Vegas, Nevada ends, and we need to decide where we’ll go until the next cruise sails in November, which is a full six months. When we peruse the world map and consider places we’ve been and places we’d like to go, we find issues due to damage done to the economy of many countries due to two years plus of Covid and the remnants of lockdown and isolation.

We’ve already spent over two years in the South Pacific, visited many significant areas in South America, spent plenty of time in Europe, and had a long, painful time in India. And it goes on and on. Please take a look at our world travel map on the top right side of our page. As you can see, we’ve visited many parts of the world.

After getting their fill of pellets, they wandered off to the front of the house to lounge in the driveway, like Hal and Broken Horn often do.

Sure, we could easily spend the next ten years visiting new places. And we will see new and unusual places. But at this point, we ask ourselves, do we want to go there based on a burning desire or just to go somewhere? With the high prices on fuel with airfare and car rental rates escalating by the hour, where exactly do we want to go?

We aren’t done traveling by any means. There is nowhere in the world we’d like to live permanently right now. But, we have become a bit disillusioned by the outcome of the pandemic and now the war in an area of the world we longed to see. We don’t feel compelled to go anywhere in particular right now. For now, we love cruising, and the more we can do, the better.

So, our focus will be on where we can visit and cruise to fill in some of the blanks in the itinerary we’ve built over the years. Searching and discovering those desirable new places and cruises continues to be exciting and fulfilling. It is from that perspective we continue on our journey. And, of course, we always enjoy our time in South Africa and always will.

Be well.

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

I could not take the photo of this elephant from the car, and thus, I got out, walked down a narrow, uneven path, and made my way to the fence. For more photos, please click here.

Lovely evening with friends at their home in the bush…

Helmeted guinea-fowl chicks have yet to develop the blue and red facial features shown on the adult in the far left.

There were only six of us at Janet and Steve’s bush home for dinner on their upper-level veranda overlooking their exquisite garden. Lynne and Mick also were in attendance, and the conversation flowed with ease and considerable passion when we touched on so many topics of the day.

Most inconvenient for our hosts was load shedding when dinner was served, but Jan and Steve orchestrated all the food for a seamless event. Other than all the candlelight and lanterns on the veranda, we were entirely in the dark, but the warm and inviting ambiance only added to the magic of the evening.

Zoom in to see a few of these tiny mongoose babies! They are so adorable!

Much to our surprise, we didn’t return home until 11:15 pm, 2315 hrs which is late for a night out in the bush. Fortunately, when we returned, load shedding was over for a while and wouldn’t restart until 3:00 am and end at 5:30 am. Our bedroom turns into a hot box when there’s no air-con on the night when there’s load shedding.

Thank goodness we have a floor fan operated by the inverter when the power is out. I always hear a little “ding” when it goes off and then back on. We left that on when we went to bed, hoping it would help in the middle of the night. Wide awake after the fun evening, I had an awful time falling asleep, and I suppose I was anticipating waking up when the power went out.

We placed a dozen eggs on the ground for the mongooses. It was fun to see the babies getting in on the action.

Last night, our friends from the UK explained that they don’t use air-con to sleep. We always left the air-con on, knowing once the power was restored, it would automatically kick back on. We Americans are spoiled used to air-con in hot weather. It’s hard to break that habit. However, we always ensure that wherever we book for a stay has air-con which we both prefer a good night’s sleep, even in cooler weather.

It’s easy to recall the many sleepless nights we endured in the heat and humidity. That’s not to say we haven’t had times without air-con. In Kenya, where the heat is unbearable at times, we spent three months in a thatched roof house with only a slow-moving overhead fan in the bedroom. Again in Trinity Beach, Australia, we also didn’t have air-con, and we remember many sleepless nights in the hot climate.

It’s delightful to watch how the mongooses crack an egg. The “hike” it between their legs like a football.. Very funny!!

After a few years, we wised up. We no longer book holiday homes without air-con in the bedroom. We can manage fine during hot days, but sleeping is vital to our health and well-being. After sleeping only about four hours last night, I feel out of sorts and exhausted today. I am struggling to get my walking done. I awoke the moment the power went out and barely got back to sleep by the time it was restored.

For the last time before we leave South Africa in 13 days, this morning, we’re returning to Malalane to Dr. Singh’s office to have him check on a painful tooth, which I’ve needed to address for the past few months. My appointment got moved several times due to load shedding (they don’t have a generator), but today it’s a “go” at 11:20 am.

Bossy’s baby has a long way to go to become more sure-footed.

I hope to complete half of my daily walking before we leave soon. Tom will drop me off at the dentist’s office. Then he’ll go to the local Spar Market to buy his favorite donuts. I don’t tell him what to eat when he craves something like donuts. I can only control what I choose to eat.

Believe me, if I weren’t committed to this low-carb way of eating, I’d succumb to a donut now and then. I haven’t eaten a donut in at least 15 years. My blood sugar goes up just from looking at them!

Bossy is a good mom. Here she is, keeping an eye out for the baby of a friend as well.

Tonight, we’ll stay in for the evening, cooking bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin on the braai with veggies, salad, and rice for Tom. We always enjoy our evenings outdoors when the temperature cools a little, and many of our wildlife friends stop by to say “hello.”

Have a pleasant day!

Photo from one year ago today, March 10, 2021:

An adorable young male bushbuck, we later named Stringy, checks out the grassy area in our garden, waiting for Tom, in the red shirt, to toss him a few pellets. Later, we named him Stringy since, on several occasions, he appeared with vines hanging from his head. For more photos, please click here.

Fantastic anniversary day and evening…Kruger National Park photos…

The Vurhami Dam had a lot of debris from heavy rains, earlier in the spring.

Spending several hours in Kruger National Park necessarily wasn’t filled with “safari luck” this time. It was hot and humid, and we didn’t expect to see many wildlife attempting to stay cool in the dense bush. But, we had such a good time, chatting, laughing, and reminiscing that we didn’t even mind.

We were content to be in the air-conditioned car as we searched for sightings amid our lively chatter. The greenery in the park easily obstructs viewing. We’re happy to see the animals with abundant food supplies, but they stay undercover in the dense bush on hot days.

These elephants had their backs to us, but we were happy to see them anyway.

We were both hungry and looking forward to a nice meal. We both opted for breakfast, ordering delicious omelets with both cheddar and mozzarella cheese, topped with back bacon, avocado, and grilled grape tomatoes. By noon, we made it to Lower Sabie, a complex of offices, the fabulous massive gift shop, and of course, the Mugg & Bean restaurant.

Buttered toast was included, which I gave to Tom, and he piled his avocado slices on my omelet. It was a lovely breakfast. We spotted a few crocs and hippos on the Sabie River, but overall, the photo ops were limited. Tom splurged and ordered a strawberry milkshake with his breakfast, and I couldn’t resist taking this photo.

It’s a rare occasion that Tom has a milkshake but yesterday’s anniversary was the perfect day to indulge.

After our meal, I wandered through the fun stop, purchasing a few items for our friends who are hosting us for 15 days, and headed back to the little car. We then headed to Sunset Dam but saw very little there either. At that point, we decided to head back toward Crocodile Gate and eventually back home by 3:15 pm.

A giraffe was munching on treetops.

I had a lot of catching up with the walking and immediately got back to work to upload the short post I’d started before we left in the morning and commenced escalating my walking pace to get caught up. By the end of the day, I managed to do well over my goal of 8000 steps.

Moments before we headed outdoors to begin our evening on the veranda, my phone beeped. Rita and Gerhard wanted to know if we wanted to meet them and their visiting friends, Karyn and Dan, at Amazing Kruger View for sundowners. They are all leaving on a road trip on Wednesday, and we’d have one more opportunity to say goodbye.

Wildebeests were hanging out under a tree.

Rita and Gerhard are moving out of the Ratel house, which we’ll occupy when we return in December.  After they drop Karyn and Dan in Joburg to fly back to the US, they will continue on a road trip through rough terrain in their newer Toyota Helix, going to Namibia and heading back to Joburg, returning to their home in the US for several months.

We will miss them after all the great times we’ve had since they surprised us by showing up at the New Year’s Eve party a few months ago. Fortunately, we have other friends in Marloth Park, and our delightful social life will continue. Tomorrow evening we’re having dinner at Janet and Steve’s home, and Friday evening we’ll be back at Jabula where we always see many of our friends.

Yellow-billed storks at the Sunset Dam in Kruger.

With only 15 days until we fly to Florida, we have plenty to keep us busy. Tomorrow morning, one final dental appointment for me in Malalane, and on Friday, one last visit with Dr. Theo to get my three prescriptions to get me through until we return in December. I can purchase six months of meds here, and with my current stock on hand, we’ll return just in time to get more. Prices are very low on most prescription meds here in South Africa.

So there it is, folks, our 27th wedding anniversary came and went. March 15 is a special day for us too. I will share details on why one week from today.

Enjoy your day!

Photo from one year ago today, March 8, 2021:

What an adorable face! For more photos, please click here.

Today is our wedding anniversary…We’re celebrating with the animals…Off to Kruger National Park…

Bossy makes sure we see she is here for a visit.

Today is our 27th wedding anniversary, and we’re off to Kruger for a self-drive safari. When we arrive in Lower Sabie, we’ll have lunch at the Mugg & Bean Restaurant overlooking the Sabie River, hoping to see Cape buffalos, hippos, crocs, and more.

Sometimes a trip to Kruger proves to be uneventful. We hope to spot elephants on the long drive, and if we experience “safari luck,” we might encounter big cats and other exciting species. If we see a lot, we are grateful and excited beyond words. We are always prepared for that eventuality and take it with a grain of salt.

Yesterday, we grocery shopped for what may be the last time before we leave South Africa in a mere 16 days. If we run low on groceries, we can always dine out or make a run to the local meat market and the little shop for a night’s meal. At this point, we are trying to use up as much as we have on hand as possible as the days wind down.

I am working hard to get in as much of my walking as possible before leaving. I hope to have half of my usual goal accomplished before heading out the door soon. If we return by 2:00 pm, 1400 hrs, I’ll be able to finish the other half before dinner. I already prepped everything for tonight’s dinner except the salad I’ll make when we return.

We’d dined out twice in the past five days, and after lunch at Mugg & Bean, we thought dinner at home would be fine. We’re having bacon-wrapped filet mignon, fresh green beans, and salad, with rice for Tom. It will be a perfect way to celebrate our special day.

Off we go! We will be back tomorrow with photos from Kruger National Park.

Have a happy day!

Photo from one year ago today, March 7, 2021:

We waited quite a while to pick up their heads for a photo, but they were preoccupied. For more photos, please click here.

Enough procrastination for now…Finally, we’re making decisions…Fun new photos…

A lovely female kudu was sound asleep in our garden. She didn’t move for over an hour.

It’s been easy for us to procrastinate after many cancellations have occurred over the past two years. We no more than book a trip to another country, and close to departure time, everything changes, and either our flight is canceled or changed, or we decide not to go for one safety reason or another.

In the 14 months we’ve spent in South Africa since January 13, 2021, we’ve only left the country twice; once to fly to Zambia for a visa run and another to fly to the US for a visa run, vaccinations, and see family. We accomplished our objectives and returned for yet another 90 days in each case.

On one occasion, President Ramphosa provided an automatic visa extension for visitors already in the country. That worked well for us since it was close to when we had to leave anyway. Recently, we applied for and received a 90 days extension that runs into April 23. But, in this case, we’re leaving in 20 days, a month earlier than the extension date, to get to Florida in time for our cruise on April 8.

Eight female kudus hung around our garden all morning.

Then, of course, we were scheduled to go to friend Karen and Rich’s wedding on February 11. But, based on negative news in the US about Omicron, which was minimal here and extensive in the US, we would have had to quarantine in a hotel for 14 days before the wedding. That didn’t work for us. We had no interest in hotel quarantine after what happened in India in 2020, resulting in a 10-month quarantine in a hotel.

Now, with the upcoming cruise on April 8, leaving from Florida and feeling comfortable it won’t cancel, we booked our flights to Tampa, a rental car for 15 days while we’ll stay with Karen and Rich. On the morning of the cruise, we’ll drive to Fort Lauderdale, drop off the car at the airport, and take a taxi to the port.

With the high cost of living in England, we recently wondered if it made sense to fly to a less expensive country and enjoy its wonders. The dilemma begins at the end of the cruise in Southampton, England, on April 21. We have two months “to kill” until our next cruise in Istanbul, Turkey, at the end of June.

Our resident tree frog lives atop this structural post on the veranda. She croaks off and on during the day but ramps it up at night, communicating with other frogs.

As mentioned in yesterday’s post here, we listed all the non-Schengen countries we could visit during the gap in our itinerary. But most of those countries are around Russia, and we don’t feel it is sensible to stay in many of those countries right now, based on the war in Ukraine.

I awoke during the night and started thinking of what would make the most sense for us. In my mind, I came to a decision. All I had to do was present it to Tom and see how he felt.  As we have often mentioned, we never choose to stay anywhere in the world without both of us totally in agreement.

This morning when I bolted out of bed, I approached Tom, who was sitting at the table on the veranda, as usual, and posed the question, “Honey, shall we just “bite the bullet” and stay put in England for the entire two-plus months as originally planned, staying one to two weeks in each location we visit.” When we did that in 2019, we had a wonderful experience, enjoying each unique experience along the way.

This was the tiniest mongoose baby we’d ever seen.

Tom immediately replied with a resounding “yes!” It means we’d have to move frequently, but we’re good at that, living out of suitcases from location to location. We can rent holiday homes, cook our meals and haul our leftover food with us from one locale to the next. That way, we’d reduce the cost of eating dinner out every night, although we’ll still dine out once or twice a week.

Now, we go back to the drawing board, searching for holiday homes, using the VRBO link on our website while accepting the reality that we’ll be paying a lot more than we did last time, which was also expensive. From what we can see online, average prices for holiday homes are as much as 30% higher than before the pandemic.

I suppose some property owners have been trying to make up for lost revenue during travel hesitancy and restrictions in the past two years. Ultimately, this philosophy may not serve them well when their overpriced holiday rentals are sitting empty.

That’s it for today, folks. We’ll be back tomorrow with more!

Be well.

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

Last year at this time, we were scheduled to travel to the Maasai Mara in Kenya in 37 days to stay at Little Governor’s Camp. We had to cancel the trip when Kenya closed its borders. For more, please click here.

Last night, the house we’ll move to when we return in December…More photos tomorrow…

The master bedroom with ensuite bath.

Rita and Gerhard’s friends from the US, Karyn, and Dan, arrived on Sunday after they’d moved into the bigger house on Ratel St., which Danie and Louise own and recently remodeled. Louise has mentioned this house to us many times. They lived in that house for several years, and we’d seen in 2018, before the remodeling, on several occasions.

Another view of the master bedroom with ensuite bath.

Once they finished the recent remodeling, Louise suggested we see the house to consider it a possibility for us when we return next December. Somehow time slipped away, and we didn’t get over there until last night when Rita and Gerhard invited us for dinner with Louise and Danie, joining them and their houseguests for steaks on the braai and side dishes. I brought a huge salad, and Tom cooked everyone’s steaks, as usual.

The upper-level bedroom.

It was fun to meet Karyn and Dan, Americans who’d never been to Africa. Of course, as we sat there enjoying our sundowners amid lively conversation, the animals came to call at an unbelievable pace; we were shocked. Karyn, who’d gone nuts over them, feeding them what she called “kibble,” actually pellets, did so with such enthusiasm we all couldn’t stop laughing and reveling in her sheer joy! Dan was less vocal but couldn’t put down his phone when he was constantly taking videos and photos.

The upper-level ensuite bathroom.

It’s such fun to see a first-time visitor to the bush, like Karyn, become so enthralled with the wildlife that she literally could not sit still for five minutes. We couldn’t stop laughing and encouraging her. Like me, she also uses a high-pitched ‘animal-talk” voice. She reminded me of myself eight years ago when I couldn’t believe what I saw when we first arrived. I eventually settled down in time, but even today, eight years later, I’ve never become tired of seeing them.

Upper-level shower.

Last night was truly a feast, not only with the delicious food but also a “feast-for-the-eyes” when not only did we see an endless stream of kudus, bushbucks, and warthogs but later in the evening, the very elusive steenbok, which is rarely seen in the bush or even in Kruger National Park. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me and could not get good photos with my phone.

Indoor dining and lounge area.

However, when we return in December, a mere nine months from now, we will stay in the Ratel house as shown in today’s photos, which Louise sent me this morning. We told her to block it off for us for about six months since we plan to make a visa run after the first 90 days.

View of kitchen from the dining room.

It will be fun to stay in a house with a more oversized veranda, enabling us to entertain more easily. The place looks fantastic, and there’s a master ensuite bedroom on the main floor, which we like with another ensuite bedroom upstairs for guests. We’re hoping by then our friends, Karen and Rich, will come to visit and we’d have plenty of room in that house when we don’t have room in the house that we’re in now.

The spacious open kitchen.

It’s a beautiful thought to know we will move into the Ratel house when we return in December. We’ve certainly enjoyed this house, but mainly for the wildlife in the garden and the seclusion, so far from other bush houses. Although the Ratel house is closer to other properties, none that we can see from the grounds. It appears to have even more wildlife than we have here.

The six-burner gas stove.

Besides, the open garden will certainly bring giraffes and zebras, which we seldom get here other than in the driveway. The bush is too dense for them to maneuver their way to the garden. But, how will we feel about not returning to be with the animals we know and love now?

The scullery is a separate area for doing dishes.

We have no doubt thatLittle will find us eventually. Some of the others may also find us there. Surely, we’ll have to come up with new names for many of the wildlife we’ll meet while living there. For now, we are OK with this.

Of course, Louise has everything there we could need.

Yesterday, Karyn and Dan shared an exciting story. They saw and heard one of the lions loose in Marloth Park run through the side yard. How exciting was that? Of course, that’s not to say we will see the lions when we move there but, no doubt, we’ll enjoy all the wildlife and this house.

Here are Louise’s recent photos of the house after the remodeling was completed. Tomorrow, we’ll share the exterior photos, including the spacious veranda.

Have a lovely day!

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

When we were gone, Vusi was cleaning, and Little returned and tried to get inside again. Vusi suggested moving the big bags of pellets from the lounge to another area. We moved the bags of pellets to the second bedroom. For more photos, please click here.

Power outage for 14 hours…Long night without aircon….Amazing responses from readers…

Spikey Kudu has only recently begun to sprout his lifetime horns. Look at his tongue sticking out a little. Cute.

Last night when we were sitting indoors watching the final emotional episode of the excellent prequel to Yellowstone, 1883, the power went out. With numerous short-term outages lately, we expected it to be restored shortly. No such luck! It never came back on until this morning, 14 hours later.

We did the usual, putting the metal bowl of ice in the refrigerator, which Tom refreshed with more ice this morning. Last night’s meaty casserole was still cold, but since we will be going to Rita and Gerhard’s for dinner tonight, we tossed it out to the few dozen mongooses waiting in the garden for paloney. They loved it! Their digestive systems are sturdier than ours. After all, they can eat venomous snakes!

I keep thinking about Little stopping by several times after leaving and not finding us here.

Luckily, we still had hot water but could not make coffee when we got up. The side burner on the braai wasn’t working for some reason. I made myself an iced coffee using decaf crystals and added ice leftover in the freezer. That worked ok for me. Finally, when the power was restored, Tom could have his coffee.

After carefully checking the food in the fridge, I determined it all survived, but I threw out a few questionable items. Since last Wednesday, we hadn’t shopped, so the refrigerator wasn’t overly stocked. Everything in the freezer was still frozen solid, including fish and prawns. No worries there.

As far as homely warthogs go, Little is a fine-looking specimen, although he has small tusks.

Luckily, with our laptop’s long-lasting batteries, we were able to watch shows until finally we shut it down, played with our phones for a while, and drifted off to sleep. Of course, we awoke several times during the night, never even using the top sheet. It was too warm. Thank goodness, yesterday wasn’t the hottest day in the past week.

Today, I’ll continue walking and make a salad to bring to R & G’s tonight. They have friends visiting from the US, whom they picked up yesterday at the Nelspruit Airport. They are all going on a road trip in about ten days and won’t return to Marloth Park until next September.

Last night, Mom and babies stopped by, accompanied by Barbara and Lori (not shown in the photo), her daughters from her previous litter.

Maybe another surprise will be on the horizon!! We probably won’t see Rita and Gerhard when we return in December since they spend Christmas in the US at their home in Washington. But, they surprised us by showing up on New Year’s Eve at the party at Flo and JiJi’s. That would be fantastic.

Tonight there will be eight of us, with Louise and Danie joining in on the dinner party. Gosh, it’s fun to go to a dinner party on a weeknight. We never did that in our old lives when we had to get up and go to work the following day. It’s one of the many joys of retirement.

In yesterday’s post here, I apologized for our mundane posts and lack of exciting photos since the pandemic hit the world over the past two years. As for many of you, traveling became cumbersome and complex with all the Covid restrictions, closed borders, and regulations.

Mongooses sleep close to one another, even when it’s hot. After this morning’s breakfast, they stay around for a few hours, lounging in the side garden.

In response to that post, the email messages came in by the dozens, if not more. All of them were kind and thoughtful, expressing their support of what we do each day to bring you our latest news. There wasn’t one “hater” or negative comment. We thank every one of you for taking the time to write and for your thoughtful and generous words.

One of these email messages particularly stuck in my mind overnight from a longtime reader/friend, Liz. It’s a bit self-boasting to post this, so in advance, let me say that it is not our intention to “fluff our feathers.”  Here’s what Liz wrote:

“Dear Jess,

It should be us who thank you and Tom to allow us ‘homebodies’ to travel vicariously through your experiences. The time and effort it takes to photograph, create the post idea, write and edit is not lost on me. The fact that, unless in exceptional circumstances, you have provided a daily post for many years now is amazing.

On the one hand I too am ‘champing at the bit’ to get back out there to see more of my beautiful country, but on the other hand circumstances, health, and finances.

In the mean time I am able to watch the world through your eyes informing and learning not only about the far flung places but my attitude, likes and dislikes. Geography, social history, politics and the human race are all presented there in your blog giving me the chance to learn something new.

Thank you!

Liz”

Another slightly younger Spikey Kudu arrived in the garden.

This email brought tears to my eyes. We posted for the first time in March 2012, almost ten years ago, and our readership continues to grow with many new readers each year. Is this why our readers have stuck with us through boring, mundane, and repetitive posts, year after year?

All we can say is “thank you” to Liz and to every reader who wrote to us, and every reader continues to read our post. With your support, we stay motivated and engaged in bringing you more content, especially now as we hope to enjoy more freedom of travel.

Will this war in Ukraine have an impact on our future travels? As always, only time will tell. But, again, travel freedom can change in a moment, as we’ve seen over the past two years. In the interim, we continue to make as many plans as possible at this point.

Have a pleasant Monday!

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

Tom and I and Ken and Linda, great friends from Marloth Park who happened to be in Sydney at the same time as us! Small world! In May, we’ll see them again in England. For more photos, please click here.