Day #274 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Merry Christmas Eve…Scroll down for our Christmas poem from the past…

Today’s poem I wrote years ago is from a post on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2013, while in Marloth Park, South Africa. For more details, please click here.

The above Christmas graphic is to express our wishes to family, friends, and readers worldwide. In reviewing the countries mentioned in the above image, we haven’t visited four of these 15 countries: China, Israel, the Philippines, and Norway. We still have plenty of the world yet to see!

Tom was delighted with the endless stream of birthday wishes that came his way via Facebook and email. Many came through our site and my email as well. He appreciated every single kind and generous message. Thank you!

Tom and I never say “Merry Christmas” until the actual “eve” begins on December 24th, which is several hours from now. In our old lives, we were often still reeling from the festivities from his birthday the previous day. This year? None of the “reeling.” Instead, we wait with bated breath for the next 19 days until we know we can depart India and begin the long journey to South Africa.

There’s nothing that could bespeak the holiday season for us at this time. We have nothing planned for today or tomorrow. Instead, we’ll focus on our feelings of gratitude for that which we do have in our presence and afar at this time; the love and friendship for one another, our family, friends, and readers; safety from Covid-19; and of course, the fingers-crossed prospect of leaving India before too long.

As more and more news comes out of South Africa with a rapid increase in new cases, especially from a new strain, we wait with bated breath, hoping the borders stay open for the next 19 days and nights, allowing us ample time to get out of here.

Today, the air-con in the building isn’t working, but it is being worked on, based on a call we received from the front desk. It could take two to three hours until it’s working again. It’s stifling in our room and getting hotter by the minute. I just returned from a fast walk in the corridors, dodging guests talking loudly on phones, without masks, and I’m sweating up a storm.

Midway through my walk, I stopped to send an email to the front desk. They, too, are upset about guests not wearing masks and want us to report any discrepancies we observe, if we don’t mind. They don’t want to get sick, nor do the loyal staff who have left their homes, their families for months at a time to work and live here. It’s unfair for everyone.

Ah, anyway, we’re trying to get into the holiday spirit, and the best way we can do this is through memories of Christmases past. In reviewing which photos we’d post today for Christmas Eve, I stumbled across this poem I wrote in our old lives a few nights before the family arrived for Christmas Day dinner.

I decided to share this poem again today, seven years later. It seems all the more appropriate based on the circumstances everyone is experiencing all over the world. Here you go:


Elbow to elbow, we’re all gathered here

Family and friends, sharing holiday cheer

Our plates, all filled with tasty delights

Our appetites whetted, to take the first bites

The candlelight glowing on each smiling face

As we look to each other, wondering who will say “grace”

The words are well-spoken, as hands are held tight

The meaning, so special, this holiday night

Elbow to elbow, we’re all gathered here

At this table, we’ve gathered for many a’ years

We’ve enjoyed fancy dinners, some romantic for two

And squeezed in so many, as our family grew

And now, here are our children, adult, and attached

In love with their partners and very well matched

With room at the table, their children are here

As we teach them the meaning of holiday cheer

A few are still missing, there always will be

Their gifts in the mail, not under the tree

We’re feeling their love, across all the miles

Holding back tears, remembering their smiles

Elbow to elbow, we’re all gathered here

Putting aside life’s trouble and fear

The food and the merriment, the taste of good wine

The joy and the happiness, knowing they’re mine.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

We’ll be back with more tomorrow on Christmas Day.

Photo from one year ago today, December 24, 2019:

No photos were posted on Christmas Eve last year other than the above. Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah to our family, friends/readers all over the world. For more on this post, please click here.

Day #273 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Part 2…Christmas wishes…Chanukah wishes (belated)…Kwanzaa wishes…Boxing day wishes!..

In an old vehicle, Us is located at the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, as in the movie of the same name. For that post, please click here.

Today’s photos are from the post on March 7, 2020, the date of our 25th wedding anniversary, which we celebrated while in India on a private tour, before the lockdown, with several photos of us from other dates. For that post, please click here.

Are we celebrating Christmas? It’s a distant memory for us. The last year that we celebrated with all the family, decorations, baked goods, gifts, and numerous social events was in 2011. We left Minnesota on Halloween in 2012 to begin our world journey. Do we miss all the commotion?

We’d be lying to say we don’t miss many aspects of it all, particularly the part when we were all together. But, over the last few years, while in Minnesota, Tom and I often found ourselves alone on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, a reality of the extended families of our three grown children and the creation of their own Christmas traditions.

But, even so, Tom and I created a series of traditions of our own, including special meals we prepared, always steak and lobster on Christmas Eve, and other such special treats for Christmas Day. Our home was filled with the intoxicating smells of scented candles, potpourri, and the burning wood in the fireplace. Christmas music played in the background. Our hearts were filled with the anticipation of seeing everyone soon and enjoying the festivities.

With Tom’s birthday on December 23rd, we added another reason to celebrate and that we always did with aplomb! We often visited with friends, and they with us, on the days before and after the holidays. Of course, our close neighbors played a vital role in adding to the Christmas spirit with numerous celebratory occasions,

And now? Not so much. Over the past several years, we spent two Christmases in Marloth Park, once in 2013 and another in 2018. There was no shortage of parties and celebrations surrounding the holidays, particularly at the bush home of friends Kathy and Don, on their third-floor veranda, overlooking the Crocodile River. The views were exceptional, the food fantastic, and the companionship and celebrations divine.

When it’s just the two of us in any international location, we will prepare special meals, enjoy some low-carb snacks, wine, and cocktails and listen to Christmas music. But, there’s no tree, no decorations, no baked goods, and getting together with locals. When staying in a country for three months or less, it isn’t always possible to make many friends quickly enough with whom we’d spend Christmas.

But, we’re pretty fine during these periods, and we’ve made the best of every day, every holiday, every anniversary, and every birthday finding ways to feel a sense of celebration while on our own, often laughing over the irony of our situation, so far removed from our old lives.

On our way in December 2019 to the Vegas Golden Knights game with son Richard. Thanks, Richard, it was an enjoyable night! Here‘s the post from that night.

With Tom’s birthday upcoming in two days, I racked my brain trying to think of something special for him. He’s been working hard to lose weight, and although slowly, he doesn’t want to “eat cake” and gain it back after all his diligent efforts over the past month. So special food or drink is out of the question. There’s nothing the cooks here could make that would keep him on track. Also, we don’t leave our floor with many unmasked guests here, so there’s nowhere to go, certainly not to the dining room or bar.

I considered buying him some type of gift on Amazon India. But, as mentioned in a prior post, we’ll be unloading “stuff” from our luggage when facing some strict and costly baggage fees, not adding to it. He’s OK with this reality as I am, too, based on his positive attitude.

Our primary concern right now is getting on that flight to South Africa in 22 days and arriving safely and healthfully in Marloth Park in 23 days. This morning, there was news out of Germany stating that all flights to and from South Africa have been suspended. Hopefully, we won’t see such information from India before we can depart.

Have a safe and healthy holiday season!

Photo from one year ago today, December 21, 2019:

With no new photos taken on a year ago on this date, we’ve included this photo from 2013 while on the way to Nelspruit with our driver and dear friend, Okee Dokee. She stopped to buy lychee nuts from this adorable girl, who was selling them on the side of the road with her mom. For the story from one year ago, please click here.

Day #267 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…President of South Africa spoke last night…Holding our breath…

Colorful trees were blooming in the neighborhood.

Today’s photos are from 2015 while living in Pacific Harbour, Viti Levu, Fiji, where we spent the Christmas holidays. For more, please click here.

The Christmas season is upon the world, and for most, this will be a very different holiday than most years. With gatherings being held to a minimum with COVID-19 restrictions, which we hope people will observe for their safety and the safety of loved ones and friends, it will be an unusual year.

Access to the Qaraniquo river in the neighborhood.

The rollout of the vaccine couldn’t come soon enough. But, from what we’re reading on the news (accurate or not), many developing countries such as South Africa will only have enough to vaccinate only one-tenth of the population, which ultimately won’t offer any global protection to its people and visitors.

This article explains that this developing country cannot afford the low-temperature equipment to store the vaccine at adequate below zero temperatures safely. With this in mind, we doubt we’ll be able to get the vaccine if we so choose while in South Africa. Emerging the virus will continue to rage in the country while we’re there. We’re hoping to remain safe in Marloth Park.

What happened to this tree? It appears there’s been a human intervention.

Last night South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa conducted a speech about the rise in cases. Here is the link to the full text of his speech. In Johannesburg, our dear friends, Linda and Ken, watched the speech on TV and reported the results to me by text. Of course, I was concerned the borders would be closed once again, shutting down tourism, subsequently preventing us from flying out on January 12, 2021.

Thankfully, no such action is being taken at this point. Many of the restrictions imposed by Cyril during the past nine months are again re-enacted as Covid-19 cases rise, such as no alcohol sold over the weekends, curfews at 10:00 pm, mandatory mask-wearing, handwashing, and social distancing in any public venues, shops, restrictions on the number of people attending celebrations, and more, all of which is subject to fines or six months in jail if violated.

Flowering shrubs line the boulevard.

However, we do not doubt that the first time we head to Komatipoort and its overly crowded streets and shops, that mask-wearing will be at a minimum. In that case, we’ll choose to shop in small, less well-stocked shops in Marloth Park as needed. We will drive to Komatipoort for pellets for the wildlife since this purchase enables us to stay in the car while the trunk is loaded with the 40 kg (88 pounds) bags.

We’ll figure it all out, even without the vaccine, and do our best to avoid contracting the virus, taking every possible precaution. At this point, our imminent concern is getting there safely when flying on three flights and going through four airports in the process.

We’d never encountered this particular flower.

Of course, everything could change in the next 28 days when we head to the Mumbai International Airport for our flight in the middle of the night. Suppose gatherings during the holiday season, resulting in even more outrageous increases in cases in South Africa. In that case, Cyril could easily decide to close the borders again, crippling the much-needed tourism business in the country.

Thanks to Linda and Ken for updating me late last night. I couldn’t fall asleep anyway, knowing this speech was imminent at 8:00 pm, South Africa time, and midnight here in India. By 1:15 am, I finally drifted off to a night filled with dreams about Christmas and buying gifts while living in various houses in my distant past.  Hum…

It was only a short walk from our holiday home to the river.

Have a pleasant day.

Photo from one year ago today, December 15, 2019:

We attended a brunch with Tom’s sisters and spouses at the resort in Arizona, highlighting “omelets in a bag.” Here is Tom’s three-egg omelet after it came out of the bag. For more photos, please click here.

Planning Tom’s birthday party on the 23rd and holiday festivities…


Photo from this date in 2013: Of nine members of this warthog family, there are two moms; one with four babies and three babies.  From watching this family almost daily over 18 days, we believe the mom shown above is the mom of the three babies, which, if you look closely, are all nursing. (It’s hard to see the third).  Thus, the baby on which she is resting her chin belongs to the other nearby mom and seems comfortable with this situation.  We couldn’t have laughed more when the fourth baby provided this neck resting spot, whether hers or not. For more photos from this date, please click here.

With Tom’s birthday party in only four days, we’ve begun planning how we’ll seat seven people for dinner in our tiny house. We have four chairs inside, two at the dining table, and four chairs outside, which we can bring in as needed. 

The outdoor table has a glass top, and it would be impossible to bring it inside. If the weather isn’t too cold, we could eat early outdoors, getting the inside table and chairs outdoors. 

The weather forecast predicts 69F (21C) on Monday. Usually, it’s warmest here between 3:00 and 4:00 pm. With the Minnesota Vikings game on at 6:15 pm, it should work well if we eat around 4:00 pm and have “birthday cake” during halftime. 

An easy dinner is planned to avoid spending too much time in the tiny kitchen. Tom will cook on the gas grill while I wrap up the sides indoors. We only have six plates and salad bowls, so we’ll borrow one more of each from the sisters to round it out to the seven of us.

Today, we’ll walk down to Mary and Eugene’s place to pick lemons off of her overflowing lemon tree to make lemon drop martinis as we’d made last year at his birthday party, hosted by Rita and Gerhard. We’ll borrow a blender from Mary and a juicer from Margie as well.

My grocery list is complete, and we’ve already purchased the meat and ingredients for the dessert. A quick trip to the market will wrap it up, which I’ll do over the weekend or perhaps tomorrow to avoid some of the Christmas rushes.

On Christmas Day, Mary and Eugene are having a traditional turkey dinner. I will make the side vegetables and possibly a few pies. No doubt, the festivities will be delicious and festive.

Christmas is less about gifts, decorating, or a Christmas tree, which we haven’t done since we began traveling. It’s never made sense living all over the world, nor would be willing to accumulate “stuff.” We send gifts to the grandkids but had mutually agreed long ago not to purchase gifts for the adult kids.

We aren’t particular about Christmas Eve yet. Typically the family goes to a local establishment for drinks and light meals. Surely, we’ll join them this year. And, we’re planning to go to Christmas Eve Mass at a nearby church which starts at 8:00 pm, instead of midnight.

There are many seniors in this area, and Midnight Mass would probably be poorly attended. Let’s face it; most seniors go to bed reasonably early, making midnight a little late for most of us.

Yesterday, at 4:00 pm, we attended the pot luck mulled wine party at the clubhouse. I’d make a double batch of artichoke dip with Club crackers. We had no idea how many would attend, so I assumed a doubt batch would be best. 

Much to my surprise, the mulled wine was delicious and made without sugar. As it turned out, the huge hot pan of the dip was consumed in no time at all, along with all the dishes others had brought along. With the chilly weather, it was a welcomed treat to stay warm.

Unfortunately, we’d forgotten to bring a camera or phone with us for photos. It would have been great to share photos with at least a few hundred people in attendance and live music. Sorry about that!

In any case, Tom’s birthday and the holidays will be meaningful and fun while we’re here in Apache Junction. May all of our readers who celebrate have an excellent time planning their holiday festivities.

Photo from one year ago today, December 19, 2018:

This is one of our favorite pairs of warthogs, Mike and Joe, named after two US vice presidents, non-partisan of course, Mike Pence (current) and Joe Biden (last presidency).  Tom always says, “The VPs are here.” For more photos, please click here.

Christmas parade in the neighborhood…Another fun night with the family!…

Yesterday was Tom’s niece Laurie’s birthday. Instead of a traditional birthday cake, Laurie opted for a fruit tart. She looked good.

After yesterday’s big shopping trip and putting everything away, we feel organized with our tiny house tidy without clutter. It feels good to be settled in for a while. We’ve certainly been on the move for the last several months.

Tom is still coughing quite a bit, but my cough has significantly diminished with only a few bad coughing jags during the day or night. It’s a relief to be on the mend finally. I only hope Tom progresses further in the next week.
Several residents of the RV park decorate their golf carts to participate in the annual.
Christmas parade through the neighborhood.

Regardless of how we’ve felt, we’ve continued to participate in family get-togethers and activities. Last night was no exception when Mary and Eugene’s daughter Laurie (Tom’s niece) arrived with Craig to celebrate her birthday. 

They have a holiday home for about an hour from here. It was a pleasure to see both of them, and all nine of us had an enjoyable time. The evening ended with us playing a hysterical game app on Laurie’s phone called “Heads Up,” a US-only game with questions about US culture. We did a lot of laughing.

This classic car zoomed by during the parade. (I am still learning to use my phone’s camera. Please bear with me).

This morning, we’re returning the rental car to the Phoenix Airport and will be using sister Margie’s Cadillac, which she so generously offered to us during our lengthy stay. This saves us hundreds of dollars. I will follow Tom to the airport while he drops off the car.

From there, we’ll find a restaurant on the return drive and stop for a late lunch. Yesterday, we cooked steaks on the grill around 3:00 pm and didn’t bother making any dinner instead of snacking on some tidbits at Mary and Eugene’s home.

More golf carts came around the corner as we all cheered.

Honestly, with the small kitchen, I have no interest in cooking. Yesterday we’d purchased many items for leisurely meals, things we can cook on the grill with a side of a few vegetables and rice for Tom. Today, we’ll stop at a market to purchase snack foods to offer when everyone comes to our place to hang out. 

For some odd reason, I’ve lost interest in cooking these past few months. In essence, it’s been since I had the surgery last February. Standing in the kitchen for hours holds no appeal to me anymore.

Preoccupied in conversation, I almost missed this shot. Excuse the lack of clarity.

Once we leave the US at the end of January, we won’t purchase groceries or cook for at least three months, two in India and another 29 nights on the cruise from Mumbai to Greenwich (UK). From there, we’ve yet to book anything but will do so in the next few months.

For now, we prefer to settle back and not engage in lengthy and time-consuming research as to what we plan to do once we arrive in Greenwich. We’ll have a little over six months to fill until our next cruise from Lisbon to Cape Town (providing we receive the required visa waiver).

Santa and Mrs. Claus were sitting on the back of this golf cart.

Should the waiver come through, most likely, we’ll spend the six months in and around Europe, where we’ve spent little time overall. As wildlife and nature enthusiasts, Europe, although an amazing draw for most tourists, holds less interest than many other parts of the world.

Now, we’re off to the airport, lunch, and a little more shopping.

We’ll be back with more tomorrow.

Have a splendid day!

Photo from one year ago today, December 11, 2018:

This is Cupid with a heart-shaped marking on her throat. She particularly loved the lucerne we’d purchased for the garden. For more photos, please click here.

A few days relief at last…The value of a good night’s sleep…

A single bottle brush flower blooms in the bush.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Tom took this photo of two hadeda birds on the roof of a neighboring property. They are known as the loudest birds in South Africa. Click here to hear the sounds they make, which result in their name.

No words can describe the relief we feel after the temperature has dropped after the rains of the past 24 hours. Currently, at 10:00 am, it’s a comfortable 25C (77F).

What a pleasant surprise for Tom early this morning! There were three duikers, one male and two females, and two female bushbucks in the garden sharing pellets.

Although the aircon in our main floor bedroom won’t be repaired until after January 1st, we’ll manage just fine if it stays this cool for the next few days. If it heats up to 40C (104F), we’ll be back where we were when the power went out when the company can’t handle the extra load of holidaymaker’s use.

Several locals have made comments on various Marloth Park pages on Facebook, such as “We wouldn’t lose power if you idiots don’t use aircon when it’s hot.”

This is a male giraffe due to the lack of hair on the ends of his ossicones—the pointy protrusions atop his head. The coat has worn down from competition for dominance with other males.

But, the reality is, people will use aircon when temperatures are so high. Many people living and visiting Marloth Park are seniors, have health problems, children, and everyone in between. 

Male elephants are excluded from the family during their teenage years to live and fend for themselves. This is done to preserve the integrity of the gene pool and prevent the male from mating with his siblings and other female relatives.

When the temperature is over 40C, it’s doubtful anyone will be willing to sacrifice being cool, at least at night, when sleeping is nearly impossible. It’s a catch 22.

Plus, you can’t single out healthy mid-age residents to avoid using aircon, so others less fortunate may use it.  That’s not going to happen. Thus, with high temps in Marloth Park right now, the power goes out. Plain and simple.

At times, we’ll see two or more males hanging out together.

It should become more accessible within a week when many holidaymakers leave the park after New Year’s Day. By January 9th, we should be back to “normal” with sufficient power to handle the park’s needs in most cases.  

When we spot a herd or “parade” of elephants, it often comprises a matriarch, moms,  offspring, other females who’ve yet to give birth. and young males who’ve yet to be ostracized from the family.

That’s not to say we’ll be free of outages. Load shedding is supposed to continue in January, but right now, the Eskom website states, “We are currently not load shedding.” We’ll see how that goes.

Three lions were lying…

Last night, I had a great night’s sleep. Although we both awakened many times during the night, I easily fell back to sleep, getting a total of eight hours of rest. On the other hand, Tom was out of bed by 6:00 am and may need a 20-minute nap today. I feel like a new person.

Last night, we decided to go out for dinner, and we showed up at Jabula Lodge and Restaurant without a reservation, although a group of nine of us will be dining there tonight. I was so tired I couldn’t imagine putting a meal together.

A male lion was perusing the area near the Crocodile River.

With the fabulous restaurant booked, we knew we’d be willing to eat at the bar rather than request a table. We arrived at 1700 hours (5:00 pm), and by 1930 hours (7:30 pm), after another beautiful meal, I was ready to head back to our house.

Tonight, Kathy and Don and three friends/family members and Rita and Gerhard will join us for dinner as mentioned above for what surely will be another enjoyable evening with friends.

A male lion on the move.

As for today, if it doesn’t rain, we’ll try a drive in the park, hoping to spot some of our wildlife friends. If there’s too much traffic along the river, we’ll turn around and come right back. This place is all about low stress and a powerful sense of calm. We prefer to keep it that way.

Have a peaceful and calming day!
                                          Photo from one year ago today, December 29, 2017:

Tom ordered a local beer while I had a Malbec at La Cabrera Restaurant in Palermo, Buenos Aires, Argentina, one year ago today. For more photos, please click here.

The power outages continue…No power for many hours…Trying to stay positive…

Here is a younger wildebeest who visits on occasion with what appears to be his dad. We call them “Dad & Son.”

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Little’s stopped by a few times today, including during the pouring rain.

We love this house in the bush. We love living in the bush, the wildlife, the people; it’s all beyond our greatest aspirations of spending time in Africa. But, with it, there are some challenges, for which we’re making every effort to stay upbeat.

The hardest part has been not sleeping for the past two nights when the power was out for 12 hours each night, the first night beginning at 2100 hours (9:00 pm) and the second night starting at 1930 hours (7:30 pm). In the past 18 hours, we’ve only had power for less than three hours.
If it hadn’t been so hot, it wouldn’t have been so difficult. But with no screens on the windows, no breeze whatsoever, and daytime temps in the 42C (107.6) with high humidity with nighttime temps only slightly less, sleeping was out of the question.
Big Daddy was eating pellets off the veranda’s edge.

We each took cold showers twice during the past two nights, but even the water temperature wasn’t cool enough to do any good.  Within minutes, we were soaking wet in sweat once again. I don’t recall any time in my entire life that I sweated so much.

After each shower, I had to load up again on insect repellent that works great without DEET but is sticky and smells awful.  It almost wasn’t worth taking the showers.

It’s easier for male kudus to eat this way instead of bending down with those giant horns. Wildebeest Willie waits in the background for his turn.

I’d considered the possibility of our leaving to stay at a hotel until the crowds in Marloth Park thin out, and less power is needed to accommodate the additional power usage. 

Tom wasn’t enthused about the costs of spending on two rental properties simultaneously when we have huge payments upcoming in the next two weeks for future cruises and the final balance on the Kenya tour. I got that and didn’t press the issue.

Finally, Willie inches his way into the pellets on the ground.

For the heck of it, I checked online, and there wasn’t a single room available outside Marloth Park during the next week or two. After all, it’s still the holiday season that doesn’t officially end here in South Africa until well into January. My research was pointless.

The aircon in our main floor bedroom has officially died. No matter what we do, it won’t turn on – new batteries in the remote – resetting the electric switch when the power is back on temporarily – nothing works.

At times, there are scuffles over dominance.

If we have power tonight and it’s still so hot, we’ll have to sleep upstairs for a working aircon. But that’s not the problem. Most likely, we won’t have power. As soon as everyone in Marloth Park turns on their aircon, the power goes out. There are just too many people here.

We’ve heard that some holidaymakers have left due to the power outages and the heat. Whether or not their landlords/property managers have given them any refund or credit remains to be seen.  

It rained for a few hours today bit not long enough.

I suppose all Marloth Park rental agreements should have a clause stating, “It is possible, if not likely, that during your occupancy, the power, WiFi services, and water services may be interrupted from time to time.  No refunds will be provided in the event of such occurrences.”

After all, this is Africa (known as TIA), and stuff happens here which may rarely occur in one’s home country.  It’s the price one pays to partake of the many wonders this continent offers, experiences that dreams are made of.

Each time it rains, the bush gets greener with life-saving vegetation for the wildlife.

And, as hard as it is right now to sleep and bear the heat during the days, we have the time to look forward to when the holidaymakers leave, and everything is right with the world once again.

Instead of counting the days until we leave, I’m counting the days until they leave. If predictions are accurate, this should be around January 9th – 12 days and counting.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, December 28, 2017:

Orange.....more than just a colour!
This is exactly what we posted one year ago today: “The entrance to our new vacation/holiday home we’ll be renting in Marloth Park beginning on February 11th, aptly named “Orange…More Than Just a Colour.”  For the link to this listing, please click here.” For the entire post, please click here.

Oh, what a night!!!…Not so good!…But, it’s Africa…What did we expect?..

Youngsters of varying ages comprise an integral part of the elephant family.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

This photo was taken five years ago on this date when we discovered oxpeckers and why they land on the bodies of certain wildlife for the first time.  For more on this post, please click here.

Note:  Based on a lack of sightings these past few weeks, many of today’s photos were taken over the past few months.
For December, we expected exactly what we’d been given; power outages, heat; humidity; tourists; lots of bees, flies, mosquitos, and other insects, and fewer animals in the garden than at different times of the year.

Elephants were coming down the hill to the river.

But, when facing these types of challenges, our former expectations provide little relief or comfort.  When yesterday’s temps reached 43C (107.4F), the power went out at 2100 hours (9:00 pm), leaving us in a bedroom with no screens and not even a fan for relief.

We both drifted in and out of sleep throughout the night, laying atop the top sheet and comforter. I can’t recall the last time I slept without at least a sheet covering me.  

They made it down to the river to cool off.

I spent most of my waking hours playing solitaire on my phone with the screen dimmed while continually aware that the battery was rapidly losing its charge. By the time I rolled out of bed this morning, sweaty and exhausted, there was a paltry 10% left. Thank goodness it made it through the night.

We try to avoid taking photos through the fence between Marloth and Kruger Parks, but it’s often unavoidable.

Showering in the dark bathroom this morning even left me hotter and more sweaty. My phone wouldn’t work to call Louise for a power update. Oh, good grief. So, we decided to drive to her house to see what she’d heard about the outages.

Before we headed out the door, John, the WiFi guy, appeared prompted by a thoughtful call from Louise, and a short time later, we had both electricity and Wi-Fi.

Dad ostrich and one growing chick.

At this point, we realized we’d better get to Komatipoort to do our shopping, or the crowds would be outrageous later in the day or tomorrow. With the upcoming New Year’s Eve party on the horizon, we needed to shop for ingredients for the dish we’ll bring to share. It was a good thing we grocery shopped when we did.

As we drove back out of the small town when we were done, the roads were already backed up with holiday shoppers and locals preparing for the upcoming New Year’s Eve celebrations.

The dry ground seems to offer little in the way of nourishment, but somehow they manage to find enough food to sustain their growth.

While shopping, we ran into Kathy and Don, who informed us they’d love to join us (and Rita and Gerhard) at Jabula Lodge and Restaurant on Saturday evening, adding three more friends to our already booked party of six. Now, we’ll be a party of nine. I notified dear friend/owner Dawn to see if nine will work during this busy period. Most likely, she’ll find a way to make it work.

Back at the house by noon, we unloaded the groceries, and finally, I had a chance to sit down to get to work on today’s post. In the continuing heat, I wondered if I could muster up the energy to get it done before too late in the day. The hot weather has a way of slowing us down.

A darkly spotted giraffe was sitting in the bush, taking a break from standing on her long legs all day and night.

We lost some food overnight during the 12-hour power outage but not too much since it was time to shop again. We tossed it all away, and Vusi removed the garbage a short while ago. Rotting food certainly gets stinky in heat such as this.

This morning when we pulled into the driveway, we noticed Mom and Baby warthogs, four to be precise, sitting in the cement pond. What a delight it was to see them here. A lone female bushbuck was lying in the shade at the edge of the garden, trying to stay cool. We can only imagine how hard this heat is for our wildlife friends.

Hopefully, tonight more will visit when we sit on the veranda while watching and waiting.

Have a cool day!

Photo from one year ago today, December 27, 2017:

We found these colorfully painted buildings interesting and befitting the somewhat flamboyant nature of Palermo, Buenos Aires.  For more photos, please click here.

The day after a special Christmas…Photos from two social events at Kathy and Don’s…Scorcher today, 43C, 109.4F with high humidity…

Me, Tom and Kathy during the cocktail hour before dinner.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

A hippo on the banks of the Crocodile River as seen from Kathy and Don’s third-floor veranda last night.

To say today is hot is an understatement.  With humidity ranging from 50% to 60% and temps as high as 43C (109.4F), it’s relatively unbearable.  Every so often, we come inside to recover in the bedroom’s aircon for a few minutes and then head back outdoors to sweat some more.

As always, Kathy and Don’s spread of good food was delicious and easy finger food for Saturday night’s cocktail party.
Last night, at Kathy and Don’s delightful Christmas night dinner, we made the best of the heat and had a superb evening.  The food, the decorative ambiance and the lively conversation among the six of us (including Rita and Gerhard) continued well into the evening.
The views from their third-floor veranda are spectacular.

Finally, we excused ourselves to head back to our bush house in order to call our kids, grandkids and other family members to wish them all a Merry Christmas.

Kathy and Don do a tremendous amount of hosting guests and always do so aplomb and ease.

When we entered the car after 2200 hours (10 pm) it was still 35C (97F).  Our clothes were soaked in sweat but the chatter amongst friends kept us delightfully distracted and we hardly noticed that fact throughout the evening.

Last night’s Christmas Day dinner was at Kathy and Don’s home once again.  There were six of us, including Rita and Gerhard.  

As always, it was wonderful talking to our family members.  With the time differences and everyone’s busy schedule, we don’t always talk as often as we’d like but with Facebook’s easy back and forth, we never feel as if we’re that far away.

The “pie day from hell” resulted in this pinwheel-looking pie when it was impossible to handle the piecrust dough in the heat and humidity. Don said he loved it although it wasn’t pretty.

By the time, we both finished with the Skype calls, it was nearly midnight and much to our surprise we both had a good night’s sleep.  Thank goodness the power was still on.  Five years ago we had no power in Marloth Park on Christmas Day.

Gerhard, Don, and Rita were busy mashing the ingredients in their drink, called kawa, a Kenyan tradition that requires mashing the ingredients together.  

Luckily, the power shedding hasn’t been excessive in December (thus far) and we’ll see how it goes for the remainder of the month and into January and February when we depart on Valentine’s Day to head to Nelspruit for our last night in South Africa, to be spent in a hotel for our early morning flight to Nairobi, Kenya.

A Merry Christmas hippo on the river’s edge.

With the outrageous heat, we don’t have big plans for today.  We have homemade pizza left for Tom and I’ll have hake (fish), cauliflower and salad.  This morning I already prepped the vegetables and salad and put together the leftover ingredients to make one last pizza.  

They had a few visitors while we were there, a few zebras and a wildebeest.

As we reflect on our wonderful Christmas season we’re still reeling over how grateful we’ve been for all of our friends who made this time of year (and all year-long) so special for us.

Kathy gave them pellets and they stayed around until the last one was eaten.

This week will be quieter than last. On Saturday, we’re dining at Jabula Lodge and Restaurant with Rita and Gerhard, and possibly with Kathy and Don and others before they take off to return to Pretoria.  We hope to see them again before we leave.

We’ll be attending a New Year’s Eve party in the bush when attendees bring starters and snacks and beverages of choice.  We already know many of the party-goers and much to our pleasure Rita and Gerhard are also included.  No doubt, this will be one more good time in the bush.

Don had placed various flags around their property including this US flag.

Tomorrow, we’ll head to Komatipoort for a few grocery and pharmacy items.  We won’t need to purchase pellets since we’ve had so few visitors over these past few days and currently we still have five 40 kg (88 pounds) bags.  Hopefully, in a week or so, our usual visitors will return when the holidaymakers begin leaving the park.

Have a pleasant day after Christmas!


Photo from one year ago today, December 26, 2017:

The Feria de Plaza Serrano outdoor market is open weekends and holidays from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm.  For more photos, please click here.

Merry Christmas, everyone…It’s a good day in the bush…

Little doesn’t disappoint. He stopped by this Christmas morning and began walking up the steps to the house. I found him on step #3 and encouraged him to eat outside. He complied. I tendered pellets, apples, and carrots. He ate the produce and left the pellets thinking about the human leftovers he could get elsewhere at a holidaymaker’s house, maybe chips, Christmas cookies, and marshmallows (not suitable for him).  But, after all, he is a pig, and he likes junk food, too.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Ms. Bushbuck (no baby for this one) stopped by today on Christmas morning. We rewarded her generously.

This is our seventh Christmas since we left Minnesota in 2012 to travel the world. We don’t have a Christmas tree, decorations, gifts, or a kitchen filled with baked goods and holiday treats.  We didn’t send Christmas cards. 

We didn’t awaken early this morning to make hot chocolate, coffee or savor the smell of cinnamon rolls baking in the oven. We didn’t listen to Christmas music, turn on all the tree lights and the switches for the animated characters scattered about the house. 

We didn’t look out the windows to see billowy puffs of snow atop the Weber grill, tree limbs sparkling with crystal-like coverings, and a frozen lake inviting ice skating, cross-country skiing, or ice fishing. Those days were over, eight Christmases ago.

Instead, this morning we awoke to intense humidity with the inside of the house feeling like an oven…it never seemed to cool off. Today’s expected high temperature should be about 40C (104F), and the thickness in the air leaves us sticky and sweaty.

The floors, washed yesterday, are sprinkled with live and dead insects that collected over the night. In the heat, the trash bin begins to smell from remnants of foods we cooked in the past 24 hours, but we can’t take outdoors for fear the monkeys or baboons will come. When the boys return to work tomorrow (after only one day off for Christmas), they’ll take it away as they always do. 

This Big Daddy stopped by for a visit on Christmas Day five years ago, at the Hornbill house. Tom said, “Here’s my Christmas gift for you…a reindeer.”  I couldn’t have been more thrilled.

I’d promised to bake Don’s favorite, a cherry pie, to bring to tonight’s Christmas dinner at his and Kathy’s bush home. But again, due to the intense humidity, I struggle with the pie crust.

Oh, oh, will this be another “pie day from hell” similar to my experience making pumpkin pies in the heat last month for our Thanksgiving dinner party?  (See here for details).

But then, we threw open the two large front doors, and there it was, the bush green and lush from recent rains, Ms. Bushbuck and Baby waiting in the wings for their turn at some pellets, Frank and the Misses, chirping from a tree and walking up the steps and so far, on step #3, was my boy “Little” who’d come to call on Christmas morning.

Suddenly everything is right with the world. This is where we’re meant to be on this seventh Christmas of our world journey. In only 51 days, our time in Marloth Park will come to an end, and off we’ll go on to new wonders, new experiences, and making new friends, as we revel in Mother Nature’s magical hold on this planet.

This Christmas and every day, we are reminded, as Tom would say, “We are humbled and blessed to be able to live this life.” And that we are. It’s another good day in the bush.
Merry Christmas (to those who celebrate) and a sunny day to those who do not.

Photo from one year ago today, December 25, 2017:

Here was our Christmas Eve dinner last year in Palermo, Buenos Aires,  which we repeated on Christmas Day when all the restaurants in the area were closed except for a few fixed-price menus served at 2100 hours (9:00 pm) with many foods I couldn’t eat. Instead, we stopped at a mini-mart deli to purchase this goofy meal. Nonetheless, we had a good Christmas as the only guests in the boutique hotel. For details of this and other Christmases in past years of world travel, please click here.