Final expenses for one year in India, including 10 months in the hotel in Mumbai…More fun photos…

The colors on the heads of Helmeted Guineafowls are bright and unseemly.
Yesterday afternoon, as promised, I got to work preparing the following numbers for our expenses incurred since we’d arrived in India on January 31, 2020, until we departed on January 11, 2021, a few weeks short of one year. Included, first, are the expenses for the train tour on the Maharajas Express, followed by the private tour we’d booked which began immediately after the one-week train tour of India. The second grouping is for the expenses while living in the hotel in Mumbai for 291 days.

Based on the fact we are now in South Africa, we included the money exchange into Rands (ZAR), from US dollars. If you are in another country and would like to see these numbers in your familiar currency, please click here for an easy link. This is simple to use but if you have any problems, feel free to ask us for assistance.

There are no less than three mating pairs of francolins in our garden.
Expenses  US Dollar  South African Rand (ZAR)
Maharajas Express Train Fare for 2                     11,996.00 177,694.35
Tips                          433.38 6,419.57
India Tour                      19,530.00 289,293.98
Dining Out                          115.43               1,709.84
Visa Fees – India for 2                         120.00 1,777.54
ATM fees                           24.30 359.95
Total                     32,219.11 477,255.23
Avg Daily Cost  53 days (6 nights train, tour, plus 4 nights hotel in Mumbai prior to lockdown)                           607.91 9,004.81

 

Expenses US Dollar

  South African Rand

Mumbai Hotel (10 months) inc. meals                       31,213.89 471,295.50
Tips                          1071.53 16,178.93
Supplies, pharmacy, toiletries & miscellaneous                          2515.06 37,963.31
Dining in restaurants     Included in hotel bill
Visa extension Fees – India for 2                           136.00 2,052.84
ATM fees                          18.25 275.47
Total                        34,954.73 527,175.31
Avg Daily Cost 291 nights                             120.15 1,812.06

Grand Total from above:                       67,173.84        1,012,797.96

Average Daily Cost 347 days                     193.51               2,917.60

We’re thrilled to have these numbers finally presented here. In actuality, it wasn’t that difficult to do since I had already recorded everything in our usual spreadsheet. All I had to do was convert the currency and figure out an easy to read format since numbers like this aren’t easy to format in a website such as ours.

Here are a few of our resident francolins, a mom, a dad, and two fast-growing chicks. In the past, we only had one mating pair at any given time.

As it turned out, we didn’t spend much more than we would have in a normal year of world travel with the exception of cruises. It’s those pricey cruises that always increase our annual expenses. We haven’t included our health insurance or insurance on our belongings which runs approximately another US $5300, ZAR 79,844.61 per year.

Also, we didn’t include purchases for clothing, digital equipment, our phone calling, and WiFi use (pay only for what we use on Google Fi plus US $17, ZAR 256.11, a month for the service). Also, we didn’t include annual fees for cloud services, website services, Ancestry.com, and various streaming services.

A young kudu male with lots of horns yet to grow.

Although we spend our days and nights on the veranda, when we go indoors for the night, we usually watch one streamed episode on my laptop, which we place atop a book on the bed. With no TV in the bedroom, we have no interest in sitting in front of the TV in the lounge room where it’s often very hot and “buggie” at night.

As most of you know, we only buy clothes when we’re in the US other than a few items we may desperately need from time to time. Right now, I have less clothing than I’ve had since we began traveling, but what I wear these days has become less of a concern for either of us over the years. As long as we have something clean and in reasonably good shape, we’re content.

A tentative young kudu looking over mom’s back, checking us out.

Thank goodness, here in Marloth Park, there’s no need for anything “dressy” and with the unlikelihood of cruising for the next year or two, we won’t even have to give our wardrobe a thought. We often wonder when cruising will be possible again and are surmising, that most likely, future cruises will require proof of vaccination.

With the slow pace of the prospect of vaccinations becoming available in South Africa, we may not be able to cruise for some time. It’s not looking promising. By the way, today is day #9 of our self-imposed quarantine with only 5 more days to go. As mentioned, we will have tremendous peace of mind when the 14 days have passed. We’re doing the Covid-19 quarantine countdown from the day we arrived in Marloth Park on January 13th, not the day we began the long journey on January 11th.

Of course, we will continue to exercise tremendous caution in wearing masks, social distancing, and handwashing until such time in the distant future that it’s not required to do so, whenever that may be, if ever. It’s hard to speculate.

Wildebeest Wille and Ms. Bossy Kudu getting along over pellets.

As soon as the vendor arrives with his truck at Louise and Danie’s office about five minutes from here, we’ll drive over to collect a 40 kg, 88 pounds, bag of sweet potatoes for the wildlife. Most of them love the small potatoes which the farmer gives away since they are too small for sale at the grocery stores. They are dirty and often attached to stems but the kudus, warthogs, and wildebeests love them. After all, they are used to grazing in the dirt anyway so this is normal for them.

That’s it for today, folks. It’s hard to believe we left India 11 days ago.

Stay safe and healthy!

Photo from one year ago today, January 22, 2020:

One year ago, we posted this photo we’d taken in 2013 while on a road trip. Bourke’s Luck Potholes which was definitely our favorite photo of the day on our three-day tour of the Panorama Route and Blyde River Canyon. See the year-ago post here.

 

 

 

Cute little visitors, relentless in their pursuit…Wildlife friends on the road…Sounds of nature…

Cute banded mongoose using a tree stump to pose for a photo.

Finally, this afternoon I will get to work on compiling our final expenses from our 10-month hotel stay in Mumbai, India. I don’t know why I’ve been putting this off. The only reason I can think of is how preoccupied and happy I am taking photos in our garden which backs up to Lionspruit, a game reserve within a  game reserve/conservancy here in Marloth Park where the two lions Dezi and Fluffy, live along with other wildlife, some of which prove to be a food source for them.

Another great pose on a rock. Mongooses are very clever. They know how to appear adorable in order to beg for eggs.

Lionspruit is described as follows from this site:

“Lionspruit Game Reserve is a 1500ha (hectare) nature reserve, a home to the big five which offers a true bushveld experience to the guests and residents of Marloth Park. Marloth Park is a wildlife conservation area, bordering Kruger National Park. The main species of game within Lionspruit Game Reserve are white rhino, Impala, Kudu, Zebra, and other small antelope, various mammals, reptiles and birdlife but Buffalo, Rhino and Lion are confined within the Lionspruit Game Reserve while the other wildlife can roam freely between Marloth Park and Lionspruit Game Reserve.

Currently, the reserve accommodates only day visitors. Various rangers patrol the reserve to monitor the animals and guard the animals against poachers as well as to monitor vegetation. Picnic spots are available for all visitors, but they need to be alert because lions roam around the area.”

Coincidences...Hilarious video interaction...Harrowing visit to Lionspruit game reserve...Busy weekend ahead... - WorldWideWaftage
Map of Lionspruit located within the borders of Marloth Park.

Surely, one night soon, as we sit on the veranda we’ll hear their roars when they make their way close to the fence that separates our piece of heaven from theirs. We hope to make a recording of those amazing sounds.

If that doesn’t work, let’s enhance the pose. “Banded Mongoose (Mungos mungo) males are only heavier than females during the immature stages. In adulthood,  both sexes are similar in size and mass, weighing about 1.5 kg. This Mongoose is characterized by triangular-shaped, pointed faces and flat broad ears. They have long bushy tails and a long, coarse coat. Coloration is grayish-brown with an unmistakable series of light and dark vertical bands across the back and flanks. Underparts are lighter with elegant dark legs.”

The mongooses in today’s photos, make a chirping little sound, especially when they are anxious for some eggs. The sound of the endless stream of birds in the bush is heard throughout the day, particularly, the sound of the African Morning Dove, whose relentless trill permeates the air day and night.

Tom delivered them a pan of raw scrambled eggs. They piled atop one another to partake in the treat. “Invertebrates constitute the major portion of the diet, particularly beetles and termites. Will occasionally also take larger prey such as rodents and snakes. Refuge dumps are often scavenged for edible tidbits. Banded Mongooses also feed on the eggs of ground-nesting birds and reptiles. They clasp the eggs with their front paws and throw them behind them to try and break them.”

During our past visits to Marloth Park, we had several resident Francolins. Now, we have a mating pair, their two growing chicks, and two other mating pairs. Often during the day and at dusk and every night without fail, they all begin their crazy loud song/chirping, unlike anything we’ve ever heard in our old lives. I’m sure one night soon, we’ll make a sound clip/video of those sounds, the nightly reminder that darkness is about to fall.

“The Banded Mongoose litters average 2.6 young per female. Within a pack, litters are produced in synchrony after a gestation period of eight to nine weeks. Collective nursing of offspring takes place. Breeding is normally restricted to the rainy season, and during her lifetime, a female averages 1.4 litters per year. 2 – 8 young are born in mid-summer and are blind and partly-haired. The eyes open after about 10 days.”

It’s so easy to sit here all day, getting up four times a day to walk on the treadmill, prepare a meal, do an occasional load of laundry or deal with recharging our digital equipment. Zef and Vusi washed, dried, and folded all of the musty clothes we had in our luggage for months.

Now,  with everything neatly folded and hung up in our respective closet areas in the master bedroom, we’re in great shape. I am using the chest of drawers in the second bedroom with an en suite bathroom which I use for showering and dressing. We sleep in the master bedroom, but having a separate bathroom for each of us is a treat.

Mongooses are known to attack and kill snakes. “The mongoose is known for its ability to fight and kill venomous snakes, especially cobras. Their specialized acetylcholine receptors render them immune to venom.”

Finally, we have two showers with floors that aren’t dangerously slippery, making showering all the more pleasant each day. Typical for the bush, the shower water pressure is low, but we manage just fine. The hot water is ultra-hot, so we are careful, but especially appreciate it for washing dishes, although we have a dishwasher we also use.

Yes, load shedding is a pain, especially when there’s no power or WiFi. Yes, the heat and humidity are outrageous and uncomfortable most days. Yes, the necessity to constantly keep an eye out for snakes or venomous insects is challenging. Yes, applying and reapplying DEET-laden repellent several times a day is an annoying must-do. (We opted not to take malaria prophylactics for such an extended period).

When we ventured out for a drive, we spotted zebras on the only paved road in Marloth Park, Olifant Rd.

And yes, not knowing when and if the Covid-19 vaccine will be available in South Africa is a huge source of concern, wondering when and if we can relax a little and not worry about it. All of these concerns are a part of living in this country, living in Africa, living in the bush. But, amid all of this, we are content, fascinated, and in awe of our surroundings, It will be grand when and if we all can socialize and be more at ease with others.

Zebra traffic jam…

In the interim, we all must continue to be diligent, to be careful, and maintain hope for our future. Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, January 21, 2020:

Staci and I by the entrance to the Red, White & Brew restaurant. The wine and food were excellent and the companionship was spectacular. Hopefully, we’ll meet up somewhere in the future. For more from that post, please click here.

 

 

Another stunning sighting…They come out at night…

At first, we were thrilled to see her climb up the table to eat the banana but later decided, we need to place the plate of bananas on the floor of the veranda.

I contemplated bringing back the daily feature “Sighting of the Day in the Bush’ as we’d done during the prior 18 months we lived in the bush during 2013, 2014, 2018, and 2019 Over the next week, we’ll keep an eye out for those special photo ops and if it makes sense, we’ll begin that feature once again.

Also, in 2013/2014, we featured “Small Things,” which, if we encounter sufficient small things now, we’ll add that feature on occasion with appropriate photos. Right now, we’re getting into the rhythm of finding those special photos to share each day. However, it feels as if, posting such special features is more difficult during the heat of the summer months.

The hottest of days, spent outdoors on the veranda, are sticky and uncomfortable seeming to put a damper on my creativity, although not my enthusiasm, to spend more time on my computer than usual. Right now, with the basic posts, managing and, downloading photos, editing, and fact-checking, occupies at least half of each day.

At first, we spotted her looking our way while clinging to a tree in our garden. “The Male Thick-Tailed Bushbabies regularly form sleeping groups with females and their young.”

The remainder of each day is spent taking photos, commiserating with the wildlife in our own way, responding to emails, comments, and messages, handling financial matters, cooking, and eventually, as we run low on groceries, venture out to shop in Komatipoort. We’ve been waiting to shop for the 14-day quarantine to pass. Right now, we have reached the first seven-days, with only seven more to go, since we arrived in Marloth Park. We began counting from the day we arrived, not the day we left India since any exposure we may have had, occurred during the 59 hour travel time.

It’s not as if we’ll spend any time in groups of people once our quarantine ends. We’ll only visit with our usual friends whom we know have been cautious, while we’ll still wear masks and social distance. I am tentative about heading to Komatipoort to shop for groceries on the 27th. But, we can’t expect Louise to do all of our grocery shopping.

Thick-tailed bushbabies are three times the size of the smaller bushbabies. We couldn’t believe how brazen she was. She had no fear of us. “The Thick-Tailed Bushbaby is a nocturnal primate with child-like cries, which gave cause for the English vernacular name. Probably due to its diet and larger body size, this is the most social of all known bushbabies.”

Unfortunately, we can’t buy too much at one time with the possibility of load shedding hovering over our heads, day after day. If the power goes out for too many hours, we could lose everything we purchased. There is much to consider when one lives in the bush. But, we’re doing well in figuring it all out, as we always do.

An area of concern, once we arrived here, was being able to get in enough walking to maintain my previous level of fitness achieved from walking in the corridors in Mumbai for the past 10 months. As much as I’d enjoy walking on the roads here in Marloth Park, I don’t feel comfortable.

After the two surgeries on my legs in 2019, as a result of infections after open-heart surgery, I am not quite as sure-footed as I used to be. Walking alone on the uneven dirt roads in the park could present a tripping issue for me. Besides, there are often leopards and lions on the loose and although I love the wildlife, I certainly wouldn’t want to encounter such a predator while on a walk.

After her adventures on the table, she climbed down to forage for more to supplement her diet with insects, fruit, and leaves.

The locals seem to have no qualms about walking on the roads during daylight hours since most predators roam at night. There is a 6:00 pm curfew here at night. But, I needed a back-up plan. With Louise‘s help on Facebook yesterday, she found a local homeowner with an excellent treadmill she wasn’t using, The rate was very fair at ZAR 1800, USD $121 for three months. We didn’t flinch to pay this amount, knowing how important it is for me to continue to walk.

This morning, our helpers delivered it and I’ve already completed my first session. My plan is to use the treadmill every two hours during the day, to keep me from sitting too long. After all the walking in India, you’d think a treadmill would be easy but, I definitely will have to work my way up to a decent speed, checking my pulse frequently. Of course, I will be careful.

We were excited to share today’s photos from Monday night when we had a rambunctious visit from the thick-tailed bushbaby that dwells in our garden. She came right up onto the table and ate a plateful of mashed bananas we’d put out in case any bushbabies came to visit. Then, when she pooped and peed all over the table, which we cleaned after she left, we decided, going forward, we’ll place the banana plate on the floor of the veranda, not on the table.

I wish we had a photo of the most hysterical thing she did while on the table. Using her funny little “hands” she picked up my wine glass and tried to take a sip. I immediately grabbed it out of her hands, all the while laughing. We wish we had a photo of that, but it’s not always possible to react quickly enough for animal antics.

Have a good day! Stay safe!

Photo from one year ago today, January 20, 2020:

A two-year ago photo of an Egyptian Goose on the far shore of the Sunset Dam in Kruger National Park. For more on the year-ago post, as we prepared to leave the US to head to India, please click here.

 

 

 

 

Photos working now…Such a stressful situation…Figured out the issue…By the skin of our teeth…

Mom and babies…

There are no captions on some of the photos today and in the past few posts due to WiFi issues.

Saturday morning and load shedding just started at 9:00 am for the next 2½ hours. Much to our delight, yesterday, electrician Moses came and rigged a means for us to have WiFi during power outages. That way, we can distract ourselves during the few hours without power. I’m thrilled to see it’s working this morning. Plus, I am over-the-moon happy that I figured out that photos from my phone won’t show in our posts but will easily upload from my camera

Until I figure out how to rename the older photos I took using my phone when we first arrived, I will be using only the camera for all photos. Hopefully, we’ll never encounter this issue again. I can’t tell you how many readers contacted us about this issue and I’d tried to respond one by one. Unfortunately, with so many, I won’t be able to respond to each one. Please know we thank each and every one of you for writing to us.

As for the posts from January 13th and 14th, I will work with our web people, to get those photos to upload on the prior posts. If it’s not possible, we’ll have to resign ourselves that they are lost forever and new photos will replace them in the many months to come. Goodness, with the abundant wildlife before us, there is certainly plenty of time and wildlife to fill in the blanks.

Baby poses by big rock.

Well, we’re still reeling and happy to be here, but according to yesterday’s news, we arrived by the “skin of our teeth.” Emirates Airlines has suspended all flights to and from South Africa, See the news story here. Also, with three days having passed since our arrival, we remain hopeful we won’t experience any symptoms of Covid-19.

Band of mongoose…

There was one situation during the 59 hour travel period that worried us. We were waiting for at least 20 minutes in the tube when the doors to the plane had yet to open. Hundreds of passengers were crowded into the small space, many with their masks below their noses, talking loudly, coughing and sneezes. This is the airline’s fault. They should have been more stringent in boarding passengers.

Wildebeest Willie came to call…

Also, during boarding and de-boarding, no social distance guidelines were followed, on any of the flights. Mask wearing on the flights was also sketchy when passengers justified removing their masks in anticipation of food and drinks being served. It was a scary 59 hours.

Mongoose trying to crack an egg we offered.

Now, safe in our wonderful bush house, we are feeling hopeful the remaining 11 days of self-quarantine will pass quickly and we can relax from there while continuing to exercise the utmost caution when out and about or with friends in Marloth Park. Jabula and a few other restaurants have adequate social distancing outdoor seating which we’ll visit in the weeks to come.

Soon, once we’ll upload today’s post, we’ll head to Daisys’ Den for birdseed for our numerous visitors. There are about six mating pairs of francolins, Frank & The Misses, nesting hornbills in a bushbaby house at the edge of the veranda, and many noisy and fun-to-watch other bird species. We try to avoid feeding the helmeted guinea fowls since they are pesky, relentless, and can be bothersome.

Tonight, we’ll make bun-less burgers on the grill with “butt” bacon, topped with fresh cheddar cheese and topped with a fried egg, alongside more of the delicious cheesy sausage known as boerewors, here in South Africa.

I have yet to figure out a walking strategy. I posted a request to rent a treadmill or stationary bike from anyone who may be interested in Marloth Park. I’ve had one response so far for a bike, but I do prefer a treadmill. We’ll see how that rolls out over the next several days.

Ah, folks, now that we know the new photos will work, we have peace of mind and are beginning to relax. Yes, it’s very hot and humid outdoors today where we’ll spend the bulk of our day. There’s plenty of flies, insects and for all we know, venomous snakes nearby.

The only air-con in the house is in the two bedrooms, only available when load shedding is done. If it becomes unbearable, we can always opt for a short nap during which we’ll turn on the air-con and cool down, shortly later returning to the veranda. It’s too hot for me to walk on the roads. It should cool down in a few months.

May you have a safe and pleasant day. We’ll be back with more tomorrow and also with photos you can see!

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

Three years ago today, this scene at La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires particularly caught our eye. For the year-ago post, 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 work on improving our photos going forward!

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 say this again, 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 10 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 the 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 definitely 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 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.
3 flights       12 hours 15 minutes
2 layovers   42 hours
1 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 would have 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. Nothing, after those 10 trying months 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 each and 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.

 

Day #264 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Will we take the COVID-19 vaccine?…

 

We knew we had to be very cautious not only for our safety but for his as well when this adorable zebra climbed the slippery steps to see what we had for him. If we startled him or told him to get down, he could have broken a leg on the slippery tiles of the stairs to the veranda. Instead, we tossed pellets on the ground near the bottom of the steps.

Today’s photos are from this date in 2018 while living in Marloth Park, South Africa. We realize these photos may be redundant, but we couldn’t resist sharing these fun photos. For more, please click here.

Yesterday and again this morning, I had some work to do with one of our website’s advertisers and ran into a glitch on their site which kept me in a tizzy for two hours. I’ve contacted our web people to help but they aren’t available this weekend. It will have to wait until Monday. It’s the nature of the beast.

We were busy working on our laptops and didn’t realize what was happening until we saw this zebra climbing up the veranda steps.

Speaking of beasts, I was definitely in the mood for some more “feel good” hormones as mentioned in yesterday’s post here, smiling and laughing over old photos from Marloth Park in 2018. Yes, I’ve thought quite a bit about the possible redundancy of all the upcoming future photos when, again, we’ll be living in the bush among the wildlife.

Lately, while walking the corridors, I’ve been thinking of ways in which we can add more exciting photos of that which we encounter living in the bush. It’s the unusual shots such as today’s repeated photos, that add to the uniqueness and innovation. Regardless of how hot and “buggie” it is outdoors on the veranda at our new location, we plan to spend our days and nights outdoors, searching for photo ops such as those included today.

Just like that, he was on the veranda. The only reason we think this happened is due to the fact that many residents feed the zebras on their ground-level verandas. 

It’s those special occasions that add so much to our experiences. Then again, for us, the simple, less interesting visits by wildlife add to our experiences on a daily basis. Of course, we’ll be venturing into Kruger National Park at least once a week when again, we’ll purchase an annual entrance pass, taking many photos of the “Big Five” and more.

Also, from time to time we’ll head to the village of Komatipoort to shop but will avoid going more often than is absolutely necessary, due to COVID-19, which is more prevalent in the town than where we’ll live, which is 25 minutes away in the bush.

We gave him time to fulfill his curiosity, talking softly, and with confidence.

As of now, we’ve booked our required COVID-19 PCR test with a local lab that will come to our hotel on January 10, 2021, between 8:00 am and 4:00 pm. We’ll have the results in our email within eight hours, which we’ll have the hotel print and we’ll bring to the airport as required by Emirates Airlines and South Africa for entry without quarantine.

Several of our readers have written asking if we will be taking the COVID-19 vaccine. We are considering it, especially, if it’s going to be required in order for us to continue to travel. It won’t be available in India by the time we leave in January but, we expect we’ll be able to get it at some point in South Africa, either at Dr. Theo’s office or the pharmacy in Komatipoort. We’ll see how that rolls out.

It was definitely a shock to see him on the veranda, but we appreciated the photo op!

This plan will give us time to see if the vaccine is safe for our ages and my health conditions that include allergies, which, based on some news (true or not) that stated that those with allergies may not be good candidates. At least we’ll have time to figure it out when we observe what’s happening to recipients of the vaccines in the US and worldwide.

Yes, if it proves to be safe and effective, I’d enjoy the peace of mind after having the vaccine. After all, we’ve had numerous vaccines protecting us in our travels. One more won’t be much different if it is safe. However, it’s not an easy decision for any of us when many have opinions about the efficacy and safety of vaccines in general. Each of us can only choose a decision based on our own opinions and health, along with the opinions of our personal medical professionals.

He let out a loud whinny and took off for the pellets we tendered at the bottom of the steps. It was quite a nice visit, one we’ll always remember.

Tom awoke this morning and said, “Good morning, Sweetie. Guess what? It’s the weekend!” Duh?

Thirty-two days and counting.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, December 12, 2019:

It was fun to sit by the firepit with Tom’s sisters, spouses, and other residents in the RV park in Apache Junction, Arizona. For more, please click here.

 

 

Day #263 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Longing for “feel-good” experiences…

 

This is Cupid with a heart-shaped marking on her throat.  She was particularly loving the lucerne.

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2018 in Marloth Park, South Africa when we had an extraordinary day with “visitors” to our garden. For more, please click here.

When I searched through all the December 11ths over the past eight years of world travel, to find which photos we’d highlight today, I stopped dead in my tracks when I encountered the photos from Marloth Park. Yes, I’ll admit, I needed a dose of wildlife as these remaining days in this hotel room slowly tick by.

Wildebeest Willie arrived in time to get in on the action. He ate quite a bit and then decided he’d sit on it only sharing with a warthog or two.

Seeing these photos made my heart skip a beat along with a rush of feel-good hormones when it was impossible not to smile and laugh over these stunning kudus and their pleasure when eating the lucerne we had delivered from Daisy’s Den. We could almost detect smiles on their faces as shared here today.

Many times, over the past eight years I’ve written about the happy rush that comes from being up close and personal with wildlife. Obviously, not everyone has this same physiological response to wildlife. Others may experience such a feeling from watching a favorite sporting event, playing a game, reading a book, or even eating a particular food that elicits moans of joy and satisfaction.

The animals are so hungry, many residents have ordered lucerne to be delivered. Although we don’t like the idea of them sharing a food source due to potential health hazards, starvation in itself is a huge health hazard.

It’s these types of experiences we’ve sought during these challenging times over the past nine months we’ve been trapped in this room. With our food options limited, we couldn’t glean any such feeling there. Nor, did we have access to any wildlife, other than a few birds we’d spot on the window ledge from time to time.

Weirdly, there have been a few shows we’ve streamed, that the moment the intro begins, we settle in to savor a special viewing experience. Right now, we’re entrenched in two series “The Crown,” (Netflix) and “This Is Us,” (Hulu) both of which we find ourselves settling into, in a mindless manner, each evening after dinner.

Daisy’s Den delivers the lucerne for ZAR 145 (US $10.05)  Lucerne is: Oat, barley, and wheat plant materials occasionally cut green and made into hay for animal fodder. It’s a rich source of protein, carbohydrates, and minerals ideal for wildlife during the drought.

Typically, before dinner, I put on my now worn-out pajamas and a pair of thick socks, white with gray soles, you know the kind they sell in Minnesota at Costco for those chilly winter nights? I put on those PJs early (I have two pairs which I’ll toss when we pack before we leave here), after I’m done walking for the day, in order to avoid getting food on my clothes, resulting in a little less annoying hand washing.

I make myself a cup of chamomile tea, grab my little black airline blanket, and nuzzle into my comfy chair. By this time, Tom is comfortably ensconced in bed, pillows supporting his back while we begin to watch these two shows, two episodes of each which takes us all the way to bedtime. It’s a “feel-good” thing that has helped us get through this confined period of time. Many other shows/series/movies we’ve streamed have fulfilled this objective as well.

While Mark, the owner of Daisy’s Den was still in our garden, 15 kudus arrived in minutes to begin devouring the lucerne with considerable enthusiasm.

Maybe our lives of world travel have been a compilation of feel-good experiences; scenery, culture, people, wildlife, good food, and of course, an occasional “happy hour,” none of which has been prevalent in the past nine months. And yet, we anticipate where we’ll hopefully be in 33 days (well, actually 34 days until we actually arrive) and how all of the above will immediately be on hand for our enjoyment.

The warm welcome we’ll receive from the workers, shop owners, and friends we left behind in May 2019, a mere 19 months ago, that now seems like an eternity, will be our first “feel-good” experience upon arrival. The first friends we’ll see, most likely, will be Louise and Danie, our hosts, landlords, and amazing friends.

More and more kudus arrived to partake in the bale.

From there, the balance will flood into our hearts and minds; as mentioned above. We can already taste that first bite of a juicy steak, that first sip of a favorite beverage, and the companionship that often goes with it. The lack of socialization since we arrived in India at the end of January 2020, almost 11 months (except for the six days we spent on the Maharajas Express train) has been prevalent for both of us. Obviously, we enjoy one another’s company, but the opportunity to interact with others will be savored.

There’s never been a time in either of our lives and we’re sure in many of your lives when we have been so lacking in “feel-good” experiences. Hopefully, soon, it will become a part of our daily life.

Then, there were 15 kudus with a few off to the sides.

Be well. Be safe. Be happy. Be healthy.

Photo from one year ago today, December 11, 2019:

This classic car zoomed by during the Christmas parade at the park where we lived last year. For more, please click here.

 

Day #254 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Looking forward…Funny photos…

Little decided to check out the inside of the house. I was in the kitchen chopping vegetables when he entered and looked up to see this! Neither of us couldn’t stop laughing about this for days. A few days later another exciting visit occurred. Check back for that photo soon for a hearty laugh.

Today’s photos are from a post on this date in 2018 while living in Marloth Park and experiencing our favorite all-time warthog experience. Bear with me as we share this one more time, laughing all the while. See the link and a video here.

I struggled a little with the thought I might be boring our readers one more time while re-sharing, my favorite post from South Africa in 2018. The heading for the post was as follows:

Pig on the porch…Pig in the parlor…Warthog “Little” comes to call…

The previous day, Little gingerly climbed several steps up to the veranda, looking for pellets.

It was this very experience that left me reminiscing all this time while in lockdown in India for the past eight months, thinking about how much we miss living in the bush. It was only a short time later, we had a similar heading reading:  “Pig on the porch…Pig in the Parlor…Pig in the pond,” when our favorite warthog, Little did all three in one day, also adding lounging in the cement pond to cool off on a hot day.

For our new readers, we named him “Little” due to his tiny tusks when other warthogs of his size generally had much bigger tusks. After using his name over and over, he came to know it. I could call out in the garden when he was nearby and he’d come running.

Once he was situated, we brought him some fruit and veg.

Pigs are known to be smarter than dogs:

“Pigs are smarter than any other domestic animal. Their ability to solve problems, like the pig I.Q. test on The Joy of Pigs, is well-documented, and they are considered by animal experts to be more trainable than dogs or cats. … Pigs are difficult to classify.”

I sat quietly in the chair next to him, wanting to make him feel at ease.

For a PBS story on pigs and their abilities and intellect, please click here. People underestimate the intelligence and learning ability of pigs but as a lifetime pig enthusiast, I knew they were trainable and never hesitated to teach “Little” and a few other favorite warthogs in Marloth Park to respond to my voice, a somewhat high pitched squeal of my own.

Little became so attached to me and I to him, that he’d look into my eyes (warthogs have poor vision) while I spoke to him before he’d ever touch any pellets, carrots, and apples, I may have dropped on the ground at his feet. I fell in love with a pig. Throughout each day and night, my eyes scanned the garden looking for him. But, he easily made himself well known to me each time he arrived by snorting and digging up the dirt in the garden.

That day, he was determined when he climbed the steps, feeling more at “home.” He’s come up the steps to the veranda a few times in the prior weeks but then, it had been two consecutive days. 

On this date in 2018, when I was busy inside the house chopping carrots and apples for our wildlife visitors. It was summer during a drought. There was barely any vegetation for the animals in the conservancy and most homeowners and visitors purchased game-warden approved pellets, lucerne (hay), and vegetables to supplement their sparse diet during these difficult times.

Sure, some animal activists complain we shouldn’t feed wild animals and I get this concept. But, watching them die from starvation and thirst made no sense when most of us occupants in Marloth Park were more than willing to spend money and take time to feed them until the bush was lush again after the rains.

There’s always time in his busy schedule for a pellet break.

None of the wildlife we observed ever stopped grazing when everything was green again. But, coming to us for pellets seemed to be the same as giving your dog a treat. They grazed, drank from the cement pond which we kept clean with fresh water, and still stopped by for some pellets.

But, not only did Little and the other warthogs bring us considerable entertainment and laughter, other wildlife touched our hearts every single day. The thought of returning to such daily adventures warms our hearts. Will we see Little again? Warthogs wander for miles each day and it is possible he will find us again in our new location. Now, we can only hope and pray we’ll be able to get there in 41 days.

Little contemplating a nap after his big meal. He actually slept for about an hour.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, December 2, 2019:

It was six years ago today that Tom was checking out the views from one of the two houses we rented in Pahoa, Big Island, Hawaii. Only days later our family began to arrive for the holidays. For more, please click here.

 

 

 

Day #221 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Kenya anniversary holiday, seven years ago…

A morning view of our tucked away ocean cottage at The Sands at Nomad in Diani Beach, Kenya.

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2013 while living in Diani Beach, Kenya when we embarked on a mini-vacation to celebrate our one-year anniversary of world travel. Tomorrow is our eight-year anniversary of embarking on our world journey. For more from this date, please click here.

The restaurant has opened in the hotel. If we so chose we may now dine there. As we’ve settled into a comfortable routine, sitting in our comfy chairs in our hotel room, with trays on our laps, I doubt we’ll change our routine. I think this may be the case for the duration, for however long that may be.

Finally, we were able to take photos of the elusive Colobus Monkey. Note the long sideburns. 

Today’s photos bring back many pleasant memories, which during this challenging time, brings a smile to our faces. What a fantastic three-night stay at The Sands at Nomad Resort! They treated us like royalty knowing we’d be documenting our experiences which was entirely unnecessary.

Many times we ask for special pricing for several reasons:

  1. We’ll be promoting the business, not only while we’re on the premises, but also for years to come via our website
  2. In most cases, we’ll be staying longer than most guests
  3. We have acquired a five-star rating as renters from past property owners and property managers
Another Colobus with the long swatches of hair. Not all of them had these particular markings.

As in the case of this above aforementioned short three-night stay, our special pricing included a discount of 30% off the regular room rates. We were happy with that at the time. But, now after researching online, their prices have increased by 40%. Today, their room rates range from a low of US $329, INR 24551, to a high of US $418, INR 31192, per night. Such prices would be beyond our reach if we could return to Kenya anytime soon.

We had such a good time during that three day period and during our three months in Kenya, other than the apprehension we felt for our safety while due to high crime risks, Our favorite restaurant, Sails, which we visited many Saturday nights, was bombed by terrorists a month after we’d left.

After returning from the pool where the umbrellas provided too much shade, Tom did a quick 20 minutes in the sun on one of the chaise lounges in our front yard.

We were ill-advised about renting a car while in Kenya even in the more upscale area of Diani Beach, due to the high risk of carjackings. Instead, our landlord provided us with the name of a reliable local man who drove us everywhere. Based on these facts we didn’t go sightseeing as much as we have in other countries.

Even at the grocery store, the taxi was searched by military staff carrying rifles, and we were searched upon entering the market or the phone store where we purchased data. Military personnel were stationed at every ATM. It was while we were in Kenya that the horrific attack transpired at a shopping mall in Nairobi.

The chaise lounges at our ocean cottage where fresh towels are delivered each day.

Our family members and many friends/readers contacted us to ensure we were ok. But, Diani Beach is an almost 10-hour drive from Nairobi. The fact our house and the owner’s house next door were guarded by two guards in two 12-hour shifts seven days a week provided us with a modicum of peace of mind, especially at night.

We had a red emergency button next to our bed and the windows throughout the house had steel bars on all windows. At night, we had to close the windows due to the mosquitos and other insects when there were no screens on the windows. The house became a hotbox during the night with only a slow-moving ceiling fan over the bed.

Early this morning as we left our cottage for breakfast in the main restaurant.

Why did we go to Kenya? To be able to visit the Maasai Mara for our first safari experiences. But, we are grateful for the time we had in Kenya, which toughened us up. The wonderful local people we met, who were warm and kind, and the rich cultural experiences were presented to us in one way or another, day after day.

Kenya is now open for tourists and occasionally, there are a few odd flights out of Mumbai right now. But, based on the above scenarios, neither of us feels it makes sense to return at this time. We long for the freedom of movement, driving, shopping, and dining out, all of which will be possible when and if we can return to Marloth Park, South Africa.

A sunny view from our veranda to the sea.

Don’t get me wrong, Johannesburg and other cities in South Africa have very high crime rates as shown here:

Countries with the Highest Crime Rates (from this site)

The countries with the ten highest crime rates in the world are:

  1. Venezuela (84.36)
  2. Papua New Guinea (80.04)
  3. South Africa (77.29)
  4. Afghanistan (76.97)
  5. Honduras (76.65)
  6. Trinidad and Tobago (72.43)
  7. Brazil (68.31)
  8. Guyana (68.15)
  9. El Salvador (67.84)
  10. Syria (67.42)

Marloth Park, in itself, a five-hour drive from Johannesburg, has its own share of crime from time to time, mainly burglaries of the bush homes, occupied by both locals or tourists. Let’s face it, many cities in the US are not safe right now either.

This adorable cat came to visit daily as we sat on the veranda of our beach cottage.

The bottom line, “you can run but you can’t hide.” Of course, now with COVID-19, that becomes another consideration for us, as to which countries will accept us and their subsequent restrictions for US citizens and those arriving from India. In time, it will all come to fruition, won’t it?

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, October 30, 2019:

Bartenders performing tricks at the Ice Bar on the ship. For more photos, please click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day #210 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Nothing has changed…

This is what I heard flying around in the empty second story of the house in Diani Beach, Kenya, which proved to be an owl, 

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2013 after returning from safari to Diani Beach, Kenya. For more from this date, please click here.

Nothing has changed. We’re still in this hotel room, attempting to make the best of it each and every day. This morning, Tom’s omelet was overcooked and his bacon was undercooked. He called the restaurant and asked for “crispy bacon,” a seemingly difficult food item for Indian cooks to get right who really don’t eat bacon. We try to be patient. They sent up a new batch.

The moon is a crescent on the bottom portion when this close to the equator. Who would have ever thought of this? No, we didn’t watch the toilet flush in the opposite direction as it does in the US. 

Each day, each evening the same items we’ve ordered, are different than the day before. Tom finally gave up ordering dinner. Instead, he eats a big breakfast.  I haven’t been having much in the way of breakfast after becoming tired of the same things, day after day. I focus on my dinner of grilled chicken parts, broccoli, and sauteed mushrooms, changing up the vegetables periodically for variety.

From time to time, I’ll order the grilled salmon, but the portion is so small I end up hungry after the meal, often ordering two hard-boiled eggs to round it out. We never realized how eating for pleasure was so important until this situation. We both long for variety to no avail. 

Diners at Madafoo, in Diani Beach, as well as most other resort properties are welcomed to sit outside, near the beach, and in some cases by their pool. 

This morning, I felt out-of-steam walking my first mile. Maybe today, I need to take a day off, the first time since I began in March. I slept well last night, but wonder if the repetitive nature of this same old, same old, walking path in the corridors, hour after hour, may finally be getting to me. I’ll continue on tomorrow, but need a change of pace today.

Often, I’m tempted to say this is comparable to being in prison, but I don’t, realizing prison would be much worse. The bed here is divinely comfortable and we have a private bath. We have a flat-screen TV and can stream shows, although they stop every seven or eight minutes for a few minutes, to the spinning red wheel, when the signal is poor.

While we sat near the ocean at Madafoo’s a few vendors approached us, relentlessly trying to encourage us to make a purchase. Watching the windsurfers was fun but seemed more befitting the younger crowd. We only observed one person possibly over 40 partaking in this activity.

Two days ago, I forgot to mention that when I left to get cash from an ATM for the package, it was the first time I’d been outside the hotel in seven months, except for a few occasions I stepped out the main door to collect an item from Amazon India when we’ve ordered basic toiletries and pharmacy items. Since that time, I’ve asked the hotel staff to please collect our packages and bring them up to our room. 

The sunbathers left as the sun began to set and we moved to the restaurant for dinner,

I would never have imagined not going to a market, a pharmacy, or any store for over seven months. How peculiar that is. During our last foray in the US, I stopped at a Walgreens at least once a week for an item or two. Now, not at all. Amazon India has many items but different quality, prices, and actual products. Also, each item is shipped individually, resulting in lots of monkeying around including:

  1. Sending me a text with an OPT (one-time password)
  2. The driver waits for me to respond and if I don’t respond immediately they cancel the shipment
  3. If I do respond immediately, I have to enter the OPT.
  4. Then, the package is left with the guard at the distant gate who calls the front desk staff to collect it
  5. Then, the front desk calls our room phone to inform us the package has arrived, asking if we want to get it or have it delivered to our room. We always request, “Deliver to our room, please.
  6. Within 30 minutes the item arrives at the room after the doorbell is rung. I get up to answer the door and take the package.
    This adorable guy, a part-time resort resident belonging to one of the windsurfing trainers, hung around with us during our dinner looking for morsels.  Once we gave him several bites and he saw our plates were clean, he moved over to the table of other diners with full plates.

Yesterday, my single bottle of TUMS antacids didn’t arrive, falling short at item #3 above. I didn’t see the text until it was too late. The item was canceled and now I have to reorder. Shucks! The nature of the beast. 

Ah, I don’t mean to sound down or morose. But, regardless of how busy we stay, how much we get done, how many shows we stream, and how many podcasts we listen to, this is not easy. Yes, it’s better than prison and for this we are grateful.

The moon at Madafoo’s second night we visited upon returning from the safari, then on October 15th, was almost full.

Ultimately, we are grateful to avoid becoming infected with the virus which is rampant here in India, especially in Mumbai. In no time at all, India will surpass the US in the number of cases, and probably already has, with the poverty here and the thousands, if not millions, of unreported cases and deaths.

We remain safe in this cocoon and for that, dear friends, we are grateful. Nothing has changed.

Thank you for being at our side, continually offering so much love and support which means the world to us. 

Stay healthy and hopeful.

Photo from one year ago today, October 19, 2019:

Ken and Linda set up our camera timers for this photo of the four of us in front of Raglan Castle in Wales. For more photos, please click here.