Twenty year anniversary of 9/11…

No photo we could possibly post today would be of any significance on this sorrowful day.

This morning, as I stepped outdoors to see at least eight wild animals in the garden, I was reminded of how fortunate we are. Thoughts of 9/11 flooded my mind as I sat at the table and reminisced with Tom as to where we were that day in 2001, and the moment we discovered the news, and how devastated and angst-ridden we were for many days and months to follow.

No, we didn’t lose anyone we loved in the devastation, but surely each of us in the US and many throughout the world felt the immense sorrow coupled with fear for the future. Now, as we’ve traveled, we’ve found that many in other countries have expressed the impact it had on their lives as well.

And for those who lost loved ones, co-workers, and friends, we offer our heartfelt condolences over your loss and the lingering sorrow you must still be feeling 20 years later. That type of grief never leaves us, imprinting an image we can’t erase, even as the years pass.

Glued to the TV for weeks, none of us could escape the horrific scenes, replayed over and over, each time, creating deeper and deeper wounds while escalating the fears associated with this horrific event in history. Time doesn’t heal these wounds, especially for those who lost someone they loved or even knew.

And for the first responders, many of whom have passed away from the ravages caused by their heroic involvement and support during the nightmarish event, and many with lingering and devastating health consequences, that have taken away their quality of life, as well as that of their loved ones and caregivers.

We offer condolences for the loved ones, co-workers, and friends and the children, now grown, who were never allowed to know their parent who was snatched away on this date, 20 years ago.

And now, today, we are entrenched in another disaster of epic proportions, whether you “believe” the numbers of lost soles or not, to Covid-19, an entirely different kind of devastation that has impacted millions throughout the world. These lives are no less significant and meaningful to loved ones than those lost on September 11, 2001.

When we were in lockdown for 10 months in Mumbai, India, we watched in horror footage on the news of intubated Covid-19 patients lying on army cots in parking lots when all the hospitals were filled, and there was no alternative for these sick patients. This was a devastation that, in my heart and mind, impacts me very similarly to 9/11. People were lost. People loved them.

Today, it was impossible to post a few animal photos and share the infinitesimal details of our lives when we were experiencing this profound date…9/11 and the past 20 months with the loss of 4,632,374 people worldwide Covid-19. We can believe these numbers or choose not to, but the reality remains that now, few of us have not been personally impacted by the loss of life, the changed manner in which we live our lives, and the uncertainty of times to come.

Every lost life, regardless of an illness, an accident, a crime, or an injustice, matters to someone who knew and loved them. Today, we bow our heads in quiet contemplation over the loss of those souls while we all thank God, our higher power, the universe, or whatever one believes, for the gift of life, the opportunity to heal, and the realization of our purpose in this world and to one another.

May we all find peace in this “touchless’ society in which we now live and reach out to one another in our hearts.

Photo from one year ago today, September 11, 2020:

This photo was posted one year ago while in hotel lockdown for 10 months in Mumbai, India, on day #172. We spotted these flowers in Kenya in 2013, known as Plumeria, also known as Frangipani, also grown in Hawaii, where we were 15 months later. For more photos, please click here.

Special trail cam sighting…No water today…

Last night’s trail cam photo #1 of the porcupine visiting our garden.

Every morning Tom removes the data card from the trail cam and carefully goes through each photo, looking for something other than warthogs and bushbucks. We see plenty of them during daylight hours. The nocturnal wildlife piques our interest, which was the purpose of purchasing the trail cam many months ago.

Last night, once again, we were gifted with a visit from a porcupine, as shown in these two photos captured by the trail cam. No, they aren’t as clear or bright as we’d like. I tried editing them, but the result was less visible than those posted. Right now, we don’t see a wide variety of wildlife. Mostly, it’s those same warthogs, including Little, about eight bushbucks, Broken Horn, hornbills, and of course, Frank and The Misses.

Last night’s photo #2 of the porcupine.

Don’t get me wrong. We love seeing our “regulars” and respond to their visits with enthusiasm at every opportunity. But, we are limited right now on the number of photos we can offer on each days’ post. We will soon return to Kruger National Park, but we are busy making plans for the future this week, considering our visas expire at the end of October.

After booking flights and places to stay, we will post what we’ve decided to do in the next several days. With the state of the world now, we have many considerations as we watch the increase in Covid-19 cases in most countries, even as more and more become vaccinated. It’s crazy! Why are the numbers going the wrong way?

On occasion, we move Frank’s seeds to the table when other animals try to eat them. He’s content to jump onto the table even when we’re sitting there.

No doubt, we are in a quandary as to where to go next. At this point, we know for sure that we are heading to Howey-In-The- Hills, Florida, in February for dear friends Karen and Rich’s wedding on February 11th. Yesterday, we booked three nights at the resort where the wedding will be held.

At either end of the wedding, Karen and Rich have invited us to stay with them at their house In Apollo Beach, right on the water. It was hard to resist their invitation. After staying with them in 2019 for our three-week visit to Minnesota, we know the four of us have a great time together and can easily live under the same roof.

Handsome Big Daddy stopped by for a visit.

Yesterday, after considerable research, we managed to book a car with Budget in Tampa, Florida, for around ZAR 13411, US $900, which is reasonable for vehicles in the US. In this case, it paid to book as early as possible. Florida is a busy place in the winter months.

Staying with friends and family isn’t always easy. We each have our peculiarities and routines, Tom and I included. But somehow, Karen and Rich have similar routines and habits, making staying together easy and seamless. Plus, we have so much fun together. It’s irresistible! We’re looking forward to spending time with them once again. We plan to be in Florida for about a month.

Old Man also stopped by for a visit and a few pellets.

But, the dilemma now is what we will be doing when the end of October arrives, and our visas expire once again. The more and more research we do, the less confident we feel about traveling to other countries in Africa. Many African countries aren’t reporting Covid cases, nor have they since the onset of the pandemic. It’s a guess to determine which countries are safe and which are not.

Breakthrough cases of vaccinated individuals are rapidly rising worldwide, and the unavoidable reality is…where do we want to be if we become infected? What countries have adequate medical care? Also, we’re not well informed yet whether or not the one jab J & J vaccination was sufficient to provide ample protection. At this point, no medical organization has definitive answers about the necessity of boosters or the long efficacy of the various vaccines.

Hal likes to wander the park with his friend, Old Man.

It is no wonder that so many “vaccine objectors” exist worldwide when information is sketchy and uncertain, with endless exaggerations from social media impacting people’s views. However, we don’t judge others for refusing the vaccine. Each person has the right to choose what is appropriate for themselves and their loved ones.

We chose to be vaccinated based on our desire to continue to travel the world. Only time will tell if our five booked cruises will set sail in 2022 when such awful news is posted daily about Covid cases on cruise ships, even for the vaccinated.

There’s no water pressure today in Marloth Park. Apparently, some thieves ripped off electric cables to run the power for the water plant. As a result, we are without running water at this time. Thank goodness we have bottled water for drinking and hand washing. We’re using pool water to flush the toilets.

May our world become safer in months to come.

Photo from one year ago today, August 18, 2020:

One year ago, there was no post on this date while in lockdown in Mumbai, India, on day #148, due to my dear sister Susan’s passing.

Losing loved ones in times of Covid-19…Today is a sad anniversary…

A flock of yellow-billed storks on the bank of Sunset Dam in Kruger National Park..

A few days ago we read a post on Facebook that the husband of a well-known couple in Marloth Park, passed away from Covid-19 at 52 years old, only after two days in the hospital. Their adult daughter, a popular singer, and performer has been in hospital in ICU for the past over five weeks, hanging on for dear life, also with Covid. Neither had yet been vaccinated since their age group for the jab hadn’t come up yet. This is heartbreaking.

There’s no doubt that many of our readers have suffered such losses due to Covid-19 in the past 18 months since this nightmare began, impacting all of our lives in one way or another. Whether we lost a loved one, lost a job, lost income due to cutbacks and closings, lost a business, and lost a dream for the future, no one has been exempt from the ravages of the pandemic.

What brought this to mind, especially today, is that one year ago on this date, my elder dear sister Susan (four years my senior), who was already bedridden and suffering from many conditions (mostly hereditary), passed away. My sister Julie and Susan’s daughter Kely were at her side when she took her last breath.

A lone yellow-billed stork at Sunset Dam.

A few days later, Julie, who hadn’t worn a mask while at Susan’s side, tested positive for Covid-19 and experienced a horrifying case of the virus, still plaguing her yet today, suffering from what is called, “long haul Covid.” Little is known as to how to treat these lingering symptoms.

After these events, I felt certain that although Susan was suffering from many conditions, none of them were imminently life-threatening. With Julie getting sick only days later, I am convinced that ultimately Susan passed from Covid, or at least her many conditions were exacerbated by contracting Covid while living in a small nursing facility.

The hardest part for me was finding out she’d passed by a phone call, which transpired while Julie was reading one of our posts to her, while we were on day #145 in lockdown in a hotel room in Mumbai, India. There was nothing I could do. Tom, who also cared for Susan, cried along with me that day when the only thing we could do was sit on the edge of the bed in each other’s arms in our hotel room and let the tears flow.

Elephants heading to the river.

At that point, unbeknownst to us, we were only halfway through those 10 months in lockdown in India, waiting for the Mumbai and Johannesburg airports to re-open to international flights so we could finally be on our way to South Africa. I wonder if we’d known then that we were only halfway through the lockdown if we’d have done as well as we did, with the grief of losing my dear sister and the fear of losing other loved ones in the process.

Our inconvenient situation in lockdown was nothing compared to the sorrow of losing loved ones and becoming ill with the dreaded illness. The fact we stayed safe all those months still surprises us. At that time, if one of us had become ill and required hospitalization, the public and private hospitals were totally full. Sick patients were placed on “Army cots” outdoors in parking lots.

The terrain along the Sabie River.

That was a terrifying thought to both of us, especially as the months passed by and new guests entered the hotel, staying on our floor, talking loudly, with few wearing masks and social distancing. Many days we had to forgo walking in the corridors when other guests were careless coming in and out of their rooms.

Today, again, I mourn the loss of my dear Susan and will do so each anniversary to come, along with the anniversaries of others we have lost over the years, regardless of the cause.

May you all find peace and comfort in recalling great memories of loved ones you have lost over the years. Stay well.

Photo from one year ago today, August 15, 2020:

This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in Mumbai, India on day #145. Good thing I couldn’t eat any of this. We’d have spent a fortune and I’d have gained so much weight I wouldn’t fit into my clothing. For more photos, please click here.

Enjoying relaxing and quiet times, too…Three days and counting…

Green Valley Ranch Resort and Spa is a fabulous property. When we return to Las Vegas in years to come, we’d love to stay here again.

Since we arrived in the US on July 1st, the time has flown by so quickly that we can hardly believe it. Hey, “Father Time,” slow down! We still have lots of life to live, and it’s moving way too quickly for our liking. We arrived here three weeks ago and now are left with only three more days until departure.

But, as we prepare to depart, we feel comfortable with the quality of the time spent in the US with our family members and a few friends. Now, as the days dwindle toward departure, we are reminiscing about the good times we’ve had, with more to come over the next few evenings.

Tonight, we’re heading to Richard‘s home for dinner at 7:00 pm. While there, we’ll use his washer and dryer to do one load of laundry since there are no laundry facilities in this hotel other than pricey laundry service, which we seldom use other than as necessary on cruises.

Last night we were on our own. After eating out so many nights, we decided on takeaway with the many options available in the hotel’s food court. We found an Asian restaurant with several stir-fried, non-battered options that work for me. It will be a long time before we have access to Asian food again. We’ve never seen an Asian restaurant anywhere in South Africa, other than in the big cities.

We set up a small table and two chairs in our room to use as a dining area while we streamed an episode of Shark Tank as we ate our delicious food. We chatted while eating since we’d already seen the older episode and thoroughly enjoyed the meal and each other’s company.

Green Valley Ranch Resort and Spa is huge, with 496 rooms and massive grounds.

The remainder of the evening flew by as we easily entertained ourselves, talking and streaming a few more shows. Later, sleep was elusive. Several times during the night, we were both awake, looking at our phones. At one point, from sheer desperation, I got up and took an aspirin. I didn’t have a headache or any pain, but on a rare occasion, I take one aspirin since it makes me sleepy. It worked, and by 1:00 am, I drifted off. Tom said he did the same without the aspirin.

Today, we’re staying in, continuing to research the future, which, at this point, is still vague and uncertain regarding Covid-19. It’s unbelievable how many states in the US and other countries are experiencing spikes in cases over the past week.

Today, I have been chatting back and forth via text with several of our friends in South Africa. Somehow, they manage well with the Level 4 lockdown, including an alcohol ban and mask-wearing anywhere out in public. Once we return, we’ll follow suit with mask-wearing while proceeding with caution in public places.

Other than small get-togethers with close friends, several of whom are now vaccinated, we’ll follow the Covid-19 requirements and be extra careful when heading to Komatipoort to shop for groceries. The small town is a hotbed of Covid-19 and has been so all along.

This resort is beautifully decorated and appealing to the eye.

Tomorrow morning, we go for our Covid-19 PCR tests at a drive-up Minute Clinic at a nearby CVS pharmacy, required for us to enter South Africa, even though we’ve been vaccinated. We’d have preferred to get the test on Friday, but there was nowhere in this entire city that offered 24-hour results.

All of the regular PCR testing sites only offered 48-hour turnarounds. This is cutting it close for us since South Africa requires the PCR test to be completed no more than 72 hours before entering the country. There’s a rapid test available, but we were concerned that South Africa wouldn’t accept the rapid test when all the information online specifically stated it must be a PCR test, not a rapid test. We didn’t want to take any chances.

Calling the airlines to check on this is pointless since it requires two to three hours on hold on the phone to get through to a representative. No thanks.

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

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

This photo is from our post on Day #120 while in lockdown in Mumbai, India, one year ago. Most beaches are rocky in Madeira, Portugal. Wooden planks are provided for sunbathers to avoid sitting on the rocks. On many beaches, these thatched umbrellas are also provided. For more, please click here.

Part 1…We’re back to booking future travels!!!…Building a new itinerary…

Yesterday, we not only booked the cruise on the Black Sea but also booked the “back-to-back” (the next cruise, on the day of arrival), which we’ll share in tomorrow’s post. Tomorrow is a travel day for us as we make our way to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to see Tom’s sister, Sister Beth, where we’ll spend two days in a hotel.

I will certainly use the workout facility.

As for the itinerary for this ship, see below:

Azamara

11 Nights – Azamara (Istanbul – Round Trip)

Cruise Line: Azamara

Ship Name: Azamara Onward Not Yet Rated

Cruise Length: 11 Nights

Departure Date: 06/29/2022

Embarkation Port: Istanbul, Turkey

Return Date: 07/10/2022

Disembarkation Port: Istanbul, Turkey

Sailing Itinerary

Date Port of Call Arrival Departure

06/29/2022 Istanbul 06:00 PM

06/30/2022 Varna/Bulgaria 08:00 AM 08:00 PM

07/01/2022 Burgas 08:00 AM 08:00 PM

07/02/2022 Constanta 07:00 AM 08:00 PM

07/03/2022 Odessa/Ukraine 09:30 AM

07/04/2022 Odessa/Ukraine 08:00 PM

07/05/2022 Cruising

07/06/2022 Sochi 08:00 AM 09:00 PM

07/07/2022 Batumi 08:00 AM 05:00 PM

07/08/2022 Cruising

07/09/2022 Istanbul 08:00 AM

07/10/2022 Istanbul

Once we arrive back in Istanbul, Turkey, we’ll move to another cabin on the same deck but on the opposite side of the ship for better viewing for the upcoming itinerary on this ship’s next leg for another ten days, July 10 to July 20, 2022, ending in Athens, Greece. We’ll include our costs for the balcony cabins for both cruises and the second leg’s itinerary in tomorrow’s post.

The theatre for nightly shows.

As for today, our last family day in Minnesota, Tom will be joining his family for the Thursday barbecue at his sister Mary’s home, while tonight, I’m going to a movie with Greg’s family. At 11:00 am this morning, we’re heading to visit our dear friend Sue, former neighbor and widow of our beloved, since deceased friend Chip, who passed away five months before we left in 2012. We hadn’t seen Sue since we were here in 2017 since she spends the winters in Florida. It will be wonderful to see her again.

This morning, Tom took our vaccination certificates to Office Max and had them make copies to be laminated and kept the originals to be amended for boosters in the future if required. Oddly, Office Max didn’t charge to do this. Go figure.

That’s it for today, folks. We’ll be back with more tomorrow, perhaps later in the day, completed after arriving at our hotel in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, July 15, 2020:

Some flowers are continuing to bloom through the summer season, as is the case in this Alstroemeria. For more photos, please click here.

Day #4…We’re “back in the USA!”…

Mongoose and kudus in the side garden,  munching on treats we tossed their way.

The lyrics to the song written by Chuck Berry, “Back in the USA,” (see the link here), are as follows and rings true today in many ways;  “Chuck Berry first issued the song on Chess Records in 1959 as a single which reached number 37 in the Billboard Hot 100. The song’s lyrics were supposedly written based upon Berry returning to the United States following a trip to Australia and witnessing the living standards of Australian Aborigines.”

Lyrics
“I woke up to a bitter storm (bitter year)
And Noah’s Ark came washed up on the shore
The riot gear has lined the dawn (bitter year)
Like dogs that shit on your neighbor’s lawn
Let freedom ring with all the crazies on parade
Let them eat poison, and it tastes like lemonade
Back in the USA for a small town serenade
With fireworks on display
Tonight, it’s a hero’s welcome home
And there’s no place to go
And I’m taking it to the grave
Back in the USA
The saddest story ever told (bitter year)
Is feeling safe in our suburban homes
Like soldiers of an endless war (bitter year)
And every church can have a liquor store
Let freedom ring with all the crazies on parade
Let them eat poison, and it tastes like lemonade
Back in the USA for a small town serenade
With fireworks on display
Tonight, it’s a hero’s welcome home
And there’s no place to go
And I’m taking it to the grave
Back in the USA”
Many of these words remind me of the trials and challenges most of us faced during the past 18 months of the pandemic. The music to this song is an “earworm” playing over and over again in my head, as we both deal with a severe lack of sleep since Tuesday night, In total, we each may have slept only  10 to 12 hours, and we’re both feeling the brunt of the long journey.
I knew that preparing a post today wasn’t going to be easy. So, on the last leg from Chicago to Minneapolis, I wrote the following on my phone when I had a sudden burst of energy. Doing so made the short 55-minute flight fly by quickly and read as follows:

“I wrote today’s post while on the flight yesterday afternoon from Chicago to Minneapolis. Packed like sardines on the United Airlines Airbus with nary an empty seat, we should be landing in MSP in less than 90 minutes.

Our long journey, albeit tiring, was moving along seamlessly until we arrived in Chicago. Several things went wrong, and honestly, aside from the loss of Tom’s suitcase, it’s not worth getting into each one of the other issues.
Facing time constraints with our upcoming Covid-19 vaccines scheduled for 5:45 at the MSP airport, the inconvenience of filing a claim for the lost luggage put us in a severe time crunch.  Maneuvering back and forth to the vaccine center in the terminal and baggage claim area will keep us busy.
The 5:45 pm vaccine times for both of us is a priority over filing the claim. We’ll have to juggle picking up my one bag, making the lost luggage claim, and keeping the vaccine appointments. On an average day, this would be no big deal. After traveling for three days with only a few hour’s sleep, we’re both raggedy and out of sorts.
I haven’t eaten anything all day, and Tom ate high-carb, primarily junk food. We need a shower, good food, clean clothes, and sleep. (Oh yeah, Tom doesn’t have any clothes other than what he’s worn since Tuesday morning when we left Marloth Park).
We’ll see how all of that goes. Now, if we can get the vaccine without incident, I won’t complain too loudly. Tom, sitting across the aisle from me in the “sardine can,” reminded me, “Eight years, eight months, and we never lost a bag!”
I laughed! We have been pretty lucky, haven’t we?
Ah, after a good night’s sleep and food, our attitudes will change exponentially. We’ll report back as to how all of this evolved in tomorrow’s post. Please check back for the update.”
We’re at “tomorrow,” and we wanted to update our readers on our receiving the J & J vaccine, surprisingly in the airport upon arrival. Before heading to the luggage area, since we didn’t have enough time to do both, we made our way with our two carry-on bags to see if we could be vaccinated a few minutes earlier than the 5:45 appointment time.
The two very professional nurses were delighted to have some vaccine recipients. They mentioned, ” business has been slow with few passengers interested in getting the vaccine. In the early part of June, when they first started offering the jabs, they were busy. But, in the entire 45 minutes, we were with them, including a 30 minutes waiting period after the jab, not another patient appeared.
As it turned out, we chatted with them during our waiting period, and the time flew by. It didn’t allow us to be concerned or worry about possible side effects. Neither of us experienced a thing. Even today, as tired as we are, we have not had a single twinge of any reaction or side effect.
When done, we headed to the baggage area, picked up my bag, and filed a claim for Tom’s. They have no idea when his bag will arrive. Today, he has to buy some clothes, after wearing the same things since Tuesday. I couldn’t get my clothes off fast enough to sit on the bed and eat my Chipotle bowl. Oh, what a treat that was! Tom did Wendy’s.
Dining around here will be easy. We’re in an area where there are tons of takeaway and eat-in restaurants. Plus, we’re across the road from Eden Prairie Shopping Mall, making it easy for any shopping we need to do, particularly the clothes Tom needs to buy today until his suitcase arrives if it does at all.
That’s it for today. We’ll be back tomorrow with some unusual details about our hotel. Please check back.
Photo from one year ago today, June 2, 2020:
This flock of ostriches is often found in a particular area near the river we often visit when on daily drives. Note the chick on the far left. For more photos, please click here.

Today, a social day and evening in the bush…

Wildebeest Willie has now become a regular visitor, stopping by a few times each day.

Today, at 4:00 pm, a small group of us will be meeting at one Marloth Park’s favorite Crocodile River overlooks, known at Two Tree for sundowners. Doing so, requires the participants bring lawn chairs. Without a single such chair in our bush home, we were able to borrow two chairs.

Linda and Ken, who will participate with us in the Two Trees gathering, have invited us for dinner following the event. No doubt, it will be a fun and entertaining late afternoon and evening. We so much appreciate being able to socialize after such a long dry spell months ago in India.

He doesn’t take a guff from the pushy warthogs who jockey for pellets.

It certainly has been a social dry spell for citizens throughout the world over the past 14 months since Covid-19 precipitated lockdowns in almost every country. At this point, we can’t help but wonder how safe the lessening of lockdown will impact the new cases of the virus as more and more private and public gatherings pick up the pace after all this time.

Surely, what’s transpiring in India now, with almost 400,000 new cases daily, has something to do with the lack of protective measures exercised by the masses of people attending political, social and religious gatherings. It saddens us, when we especially recall hotel guests wandering the corridors in the hotel in Mumbai, talking loudly and gathering in groups without wearing masks or social distancing.

Willie, in the morning shadows, drinking from the top section of the birdbath.

On several occasions, we were shocked by the hotel hosting weddings, conventions and other events with little regard for the risks of Covid-19. This mentality, obviously carried through the entire country and now, India is paying the price with these outrageous numbers of cases and subsequent deaths.

On the occasions where I went downstairs to pay the hotel bill, which later we had them bring the bill to us, again, I was shocked by the resistance to wearing masks, wearing masks properly and lack of social distancing. The hotel staff tried desperately to get the guests to comply to no avail.

Willie spends a lot of time staring at us, in an attempt to get us to give him more pellets.

But, the desperation by the privately owned hotel to recoup some of their losses prompted them to allow social events to transpire during the worst months of the pandemic which surely continued long after we left. Now, we wonder if the hotel, or any other hotels in India are still open for non-Covid guests.

Gosh, we’re grateful we were able to leave India. It’s so much safer here in Marloth Park. We often wonder about the accuracy of the stats here in South Africa when it appears cases are dropping at this point. And yet, just yesterday, we read a news article from what appears to be a reputable source, stating a potentially new lockdown on the horizon.

These two wildebeest were new to the garden, an adult and a younger male.

As mentioned in yesterday’s post here, the uncertainty during these times of Covid-19 is palpable for all of us. Many are frustrated over being unable to visit loved ones and many are missing traveling to their favorite locations. Of course, cruising has been out of the question and may continue to be so for a few more years to come.

Currently we have four cruises booked all the way to April 2022, most of which we expect will be canceled. One of our cruises will require a payment in full in July which is scheduled to set sail in November, 2021. We feel compelled to pay the final payment since we got such a great price on it, which is now priced 50% higher. So, just in case, it isn’t canceled, we’ll pay the final payment to lock in our price. It’s all up in the air.

That’s it for today, dear readers. Thanks for hanging in there with us during these peculiar times. Hopefully, as restrictions lessen, (or not) we can still provide ample fodder to please our readers.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, May 5, 2020:

Tom and I at Amazing River View in October 2018, when friends Lois and Tom were visiting for three weeks. For more photos, please click here.

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

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

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

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

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

Handsome male impala.

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

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

Two male wildebeest stopped by for pellets.

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

In general, the uncertainty of travel leaves us in a precarious position. We don’t want to “throw in the towel” and give up this life we’ve become so accustomed to, which has brought us great joy and contentment. Even now that the 10 months in lockdown in India ended almost four months ago, we don’t feel traumatized by that experience. We learned a lot about ourselves, one another and us as a couple, a knowledge we will carry with us into the future.

Another male impala watching the action in the garden.

As we consider that we spent those 10 months in that hotel room in Mumbai, it’s difficult to comprehend that those 10 months constituted 9.9% of the entire time we’ve been traveling the world. However, like all of our experiences, good and bad, we have incorporated them into the realm of our full experience and to date, we have no regrets.

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

He stayed around for quite a while looking for pellets.

It’s been no harder, nor any easier for us than for anyone: sorrow, illness, loss of loved ones, and substantial unexpected expenses, Covid-19 hasn’t made it easier for any of us. And yet, we as a race, as humans, strive to make our way through these difficult times with grace, with dignity and with compassion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An important message from a dear reader…

This is One Wart. As shown, he only has one wart on the left side of his face and none on the right. Hence, his name.

Pam, a longtime reader of our site, wrote:

“Was thinking of you and Tom today after watching the tragic news on the Covid-19 situation in India. I’m so glad you were able to leave when you did! I was just amazed at your skill in arranging those flights just at the right time while there was that small window of opportunity. I attached a brief news clip showing the 5-star hotels in Mumbai that are being used for Covid patients. Who knows if the hotel you were in would have been next? What an unsettling thought, but thankfully that is all behind you now.”

Here is the link to the video Pam attached to her email message https://youtu.be/FmqFTIJ-Uxk.

Wildebeest Willie in the garden.

No doubt, the Covid-19 news from India, which we’ve followed since we left over three months ago is disheartening and alarming, not only for the Indian people but for all of the world. Will this hotbed of Covid keep the world from ever recovering? It’s hard to say. Even scientific and medical experts aren’t able to predict!

Thank you, Pam, for writing and your kind and thoughtful message. It wasn’t so much skill that got us out of India when we did. It was totally based on the sheer terror of what was yet to come, which proved to be a huge motivator. When each day we spotted dozens of guests in the corridors, talking loudly in close proximity groups, not wearing masks or social distancing while continuing to have parties and weddings at the hotel, we knew India was in big trouble.

A number of impalas stopped by, all the while “barking” over the pellets.

When I left the hotel midway through our stay to go to an ATM with the hotel’s driver, the numbers of people in the streets, in crowds, in groups and entering shops without masks or social distancing, it was easy to see, there was no way, their previously low numbers of cases and deaths would ultimately last.

Statistics, such as those shown in the Covid-19 world tracker, Worldometer, found here with over 319,000 new cases yesterday, far surpassing any country’s number of cases in one day, are alarming. Sure, India has almost 1.4 billion people, four times the population of the US, for example, which had 47,456 new cases yesterday, still an outrageously high number.

Impalas are skittish around humans. Thus, I took this photo while seated or they’d have run off if I’d stood.

It’s also easy to surmise that India’s numbers aren’t as accurate as many other countries, with their medical infrastructure rapidly failing due to a serious lack of support equipment, staff, and space for victims. Now, they are housing non-ICU patients in hotels when hospitals are full of ICU patients, dying from lack of available sources of oxygen and medicines.

Yes, this is morbid and surely considered to be less than ideal fodder for our post. But, as upbeat as we strive to be, we can’t and won’t put our heads in the sand and deny what is transpiring in the country from whence we came only a few months ago where we spent over one year of our eight years of world travel. Our hearts are breaking for those patients, their families, and the  overwhelmed medical professionals.

Kudus are used to hanging around with impalas and they all get along well.

We can only hope that other countries with surplus supplies can continue to step in and help. We read this article regarding participation by other countries in providing supplies and aid to India. How do you vaccinate 1.4 billion people? How many cases aren’t being reported? How do you treat millions currently in the throes of the virus? It’s heartwrenching.

Yes, dear reader Jan, thank you for writing to us. No words can express how grateful we are to have been able to leave India and now be in this paradise-like environment, relatively safe from the virus if we remain diligent, Now, we are on a list of 500,000 in South Africa who have signed up for the vaccine. But, with a population of 58.6 million that a half million is only the tip of the iceberg. It’s less than 1%.

There’s a warthog in almost every shot, hoping to steal pellets from others.

Any speculation by “experts” that this pandemic may be over in 2022 or 2023 is deluding themselves. Each and every one of us can choose to take responsibility for doing our part to stay safe as we possibly can, even after receiving a vaccine, even after having had the virus, even after taking every possible precaution we can muster.

Stay safe, stay healthy, and pray along with us for the world’s recovery.

Photo from one year ago today, April 27, 2020:

These tropical island musicians and dancers greeted us in Noumea, New Caledonia. For more from the year-ago post, please click here.

Is this enough?…

Big Daddies in the garden, getting along well with a female while they eat pellets.

A few days ago, Tom asked me, “Are you bored or antsy?” Is this enough?”

I giggled when I answered. “With the world still in some form of lockdown or another, there is nowhere I’d rather be.”

Without question, I have a short attention span and can easily become bored or antsy. Throughout my life, I’ve learned to find ways to entertain myself to avoid boredom or discontent. As Tom and I have discussed on many occasions, if we were living in a condo somewhere right now, waiting out the hopeful end of the pandemic, I could easily be climbing the walls in search of mental stimulation. He doesn’t experience such an issue.

Helmeted Guinea-fowls stopped for another visit. Their chicks are getting big but no blue heads quite yet.

How in the world did I ever maintain my sanity during the 10 months in that awful lockdown in India? The only way it was possible was to develop a consistent routine and stick to it. This may sound counterproductive. But, in that peculiar situation, the routine saved me; the daily posts, the 8 km walk in the corridors, working on the new website along with endless hours in research on many of my favorite topics.

Another shot of guinea-fowls and chicks.

Tom was content to be on his laptop researching ancestry.com and other websites that appeal to him. We both enjoyed when it was 3:00 pm, when we began streaming favorite series with multiple seasons. That time wrapped in mindless drivel helped us both so much. We don’t need to do that now, although we may stream a few shows when we go to bed.

Of course, being with Tom helps me considerably. He constantly makes me laugh and brings up topics he knows I’ll enjoy contemplating and discussing. We never run out of conversation. Even here in Marloth Park, we’ve developed a routine that only adds to our sense of fulfillment and lack of boredom.

Mongoose waiting for Tom to come out with a pan of scrambled eggs.

As it turns out, we do most of our chatting in the late afternoon when we may decide to have a beverage, referred to as “sundowners” here in South Africa. These may be iced tea, hot tea, or a glass of wine for me or a cocktail for Tom, depending on what feels right at the moment.

Tom lights the various citronella candles and coils to keep the mosquitos at bay while I put last-minute touches on what we’ll be having for dinner. Then, for the first time all day, we totally relax and unwind, engaged in lively chatter, sharing thoughts, dreams, and hopes for the future.

This is our boy, Torn Ear. Enlarge the photo to see his left ear is torn.

Often, we relive travel experiences of the past almost nine years of world travel. At times, we look at old posts and recall the magic moments along the way. It’s never dull. It’s never boring. At other times, we discuss plans for the future. Right now, we consider where we’ll go when our visa stamps are needed by June 30th. At times, we grab my phone and look up the Covid-19 restrictions for various countries which may change daily.

Little and guinea-fowl, getting along nicely.

Then, of course, we have the exquisite opportunity to engage with the wildlife that enters the garden throughout the evening. Regardless of the fact that most wildlife comes to visit us for the pellets or whatever species-appropriate morsels we may have to offer, we can’t help but consider they may be visiting since it “fun” here. We can dream, can’t we?

The concept of living in the moment and dreaming of the future seems to work for us. We can’t help but embrace both of these.  It was through that belief that got us both through those challenges 10 months in India and now, more than ever, we appreciate our sheer determination to get out of India, just in time when Covid-19 has grown to horrific levels.

Big Daddy, politely sharing pellets with the girls.

Need I say, how grateful we are? Never a day passes that we don’t take time to reiterate how happy we are to be here, leaving no thoughts or time for boredom.

It’s always wonderful to see them all sharing the pellets as opposed to headbutting.

Stay safe and continue to protect yourselves and your loved ones.

Photo from one year ago today, April 26, 2020:

Two Big Daddies head butting for dominance. For more year-ago photos, please click here.