Discussions about total failure of power grid in South Africa…Very concerning…Baboons in the garden…

Baboons always have scowls on their faces. Not pretty animals.

Yesterday, the following article popped up on my phone. After reading this, we both wondered, as we have in the past, if there was a total blackout in South Africa and how it would impact us. Our biggest concern would be figuring out a way to leave the country when most likely, the airports would be closed, especially if we couldn’t be online to conduct research for possible flights.

Of course, we could make ourselves stressed by worrying about this possibility, but we have decided to go about our lives, knowing that we’ll be leaving in five months. No doubt, we’d be concerned for the friends we’ll have left behind and how they will function in such a dire situation. It’s beyond our comprehension.

There’s always hope on the horizon, as described in the article below from this site (text copied verbatim):

US Government warning about Eskom — time to think about total grid collapse

The United States Government has advised its stakeholders in South Africa to start thinking about disaster management plans for a total collapse of Eskom’s power grid.

Although a blackout remains unlikely, the risk has increased due to how unreliable Eskom’s coal fleet has become. This is evident by the higher levels of load-shedding South Africa is experiencing. The consequences of a total blackout would also be devastating, making it worth preparing for even if the likelihood is low. The US Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) convened a meeting with stakeholders last week to discuss business security concerns surrounding Eskom and load-shedding.

Representatives from several large US-based corporations with operations in South Africa and large local companies participated in the meeting. MyBroadband has viewed a recording of the meeting. After speaking to one of the participants, we learned they were all asked to agree to the Chatham House Rule.

It should be noted MyBroadband was not a party to the agreement. However, we chose not to identify any participants by name to avoid them being punished for speaking their minds. A US Government minerals and energy expert focusing on South Africa said that they are still not very worried about a total blackout.

He was looking for a place to get into some mischief!

“I have a lot of faith in Eskom System Operators. I think they really know what they’re doing,” they said.

“But when you start to get this level of load-shedding, and the amount of power plants that are tripping, I think it’s something we need to start thinking about.”

They said that although a total blackout presents several dangers, the primary threat is the time it takes to bring a system back up from that total collapse.

“Eskom estimates, in the best case scenario, it would take 6–14 days to restart the power grid,” the official said.

South Africa’s grid topology makes a “black start” like this challenging because it’s so spread out and because Eskom is in a power island.

“There are a few feeder lines from other countries, but not enough to help with a black start situation,” the US Government official said.

“To start one unit at Medupi would require a 60-megawatt generator. It’s massive power to get a Medupi unit started.”

Citing an Eskom presentation, they said the power utility believes there would be looting and civil unrest if the grid collapses. They quoted an unnamed individual as saying, “What’s left after a blackout would be what was left after a civil war.”

The official emphasised that Eskom was talking about the ruinous consequences of a blackout to illustrate why load-shedding is critical. Eskom has repeatedly explained that load-shedding is necessary precisely to prevent a total collapse of the grid. Gauteng residents may have an advantage over the rest of the country due to the density of the electricity network in the province. However, the US Government official said Eskom would not confirm how long it would take to bring Pretoria back online after a blackout.

Eskom has publicly stated that it would have to restart the system in islands, beginning with the interior network.

“I think our power in Gauteng would come back faster, but that’s just supposition,” the official said.

Constantly on the lookout for food and being very strong, they’ll overturn and destroy anything they think may provide an opportunity

Network outages, water shortages

Major considerations for organisations developing blackout plans is the eventual failure of South Africa’s telecommunications networks, and water and fuel shortages. The official said Eskom told them in 2021 that mobile sites would be available for 2–4 hours, and to expect telecommunications backbone failure within 8 hours. They acknowledged that this information was old and the backup power situation had likely improved since then.

Based on feedback MyBroadband has received from South Africa’s network operators, fibre networks will be able to operate for some time, provided that data centres and Internet exchange points can remain powered. However, batteries at cellular sites will start running empty after 4–6 hours, severely impacting mobile communications in South Africa.

This baboon didn’t find any opportunities for destruction in our garden.

“Water reserves would be severely impacted. There would be no sewage pumps,” the US Government official warned.

“Data centres and power stations could run out of water.”

While there are 48-hour water guidelines for municipalities, they don’t all have them.

“Liquid fuel would be a challenge for everybody. Eskom would [also] have a hard time getting liquid fuel to their [open-cycle gas turbines],” they said.

All they had done was leave several pits from marula trees and other fruits on the veranda.

The US Government warned attendees that they would be unable to rely on South Africa’s national security structures as they would be stretched too thin. One attendee from a major South African financial institution added to this, saying that any disaster management plan could not rely on the government at all.

“If any mitigation plan has any reliance on the state, you’ve got a very poor mitigation strategy in place,” they said.

All of us here in South Africa continue with a high level of frustration over the ongoing power outages. Right now, as I write this, the power is out, and it’s not during a period of scheduled load-shedding. An outage isn’t scheduled until 1:00 pm, 1300 hrs. After researching online, it appears there is a problem at the “Main sub in Komati. Eskom locals on site, waiting for Eskom people from Nelspruit to assist.”

It could be hours before we have any power today.  Since we got the new clothes dryer over a week ago, we’ve yet to have a single load that can dry fully. We’re back to hanging clothes on the rack. TIA. Life in the bush.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, January 21, 2022:

Last night, Tom spotted the porcupine at the edge of the veranda. We were shocked when it didn’t run away when we opened the door and the screen, allowing me to take these three photos. What a thrill! For more photos, please click here.

Load-shedding nightmares…Its only going to get worse…Eskom is out of resources…Unwelcomed guests in our house…

This was the first time ever that Norman and Nina’s baby jumped the fence. Very skittish that even tossing some pellets made her/him run.

When a single electric company supplies a nation, its people are subject to its ups and downs, regardless of the inconvenient consequences. After decades of corruption, poor management, and neglectful maintenance resulting in endless breakdowns of systems countrywide, South Africa’s Eskom is dying fast, leaving its customers in the lurch.

Here is an article that simplifies the situation at Eskom.

How long this country can hang on with limited power supplies is baffling and uncertain. Already countless businesses have ceased to operate without much-needed power supplies. This has particularly impacted the small businesses that don’t have the resources to install solar power. In the next few years, solar energy will be necessary for businesses and private residences to function correctly.

Tulip was close by while Lilac was outside the little fence.

This morning I had laundry to do, but by the time I got up, there was barely enough time to do two loads, so we stuffed everything into the one washer, leaving our white socks. I have hardly been able to use the dryer with load-shedding up to 11½ hours a day,  But for us, it’s relatively easy. What about a household with six children or immobilized senior citizens?

What about the small businesses trying to function using a diesel-powered generator with the cost of fuel so high? Yesterday in this post, we wrote about the new system we’ll have by the end of January. But that’s just “lucky us” having fantastic landlords/friends that appreciate the daily challenges and are willing and able to provide us with solutions. What about
everyone else?

Bossy stops by several times a day. She is expecting another little one.

Every Friday and Saturday night at Jabula, we see their struggles running a generator to keep their food fresh and drinks cold for the never-ending stream of hungry and thirsty customers. Last night and Friday night, with Jabula closed for eight days for a holiday break for Dawn and Leon; we witnessed this same dilemma at Bos Restaurant and Giraffe. We sat at the bar in 90F, 32C weather with high humidity with no air-con to cool the customers and staff.

But it’s no different for us when we stay home and sit outside on the veranda. The heat is sweltering in the summer months, and the humidity only makes it worse. It’s challenging to get used to it, regardless of how much we try to be resilient and tough, like many locals.

A lot of senior citizens live in Marloth Park on a meager income, unable to afford to pay for air-con if they had it, let alone generators or solar power installations, which can range from ZAR 150,000, US $8,924 for a small house to as much as ZAR 300,000, US $17,848 or more for a larger home.

Three zebras stopped by.

Once that big chunk is paid for a solar installation, the operational costs are low, but expensive batteries must eventually be replaced. There’s no easy answer, and low-income households cannot afford the upfront expense.

On days like today, when it’s so hot and humid, preserving our food is the biggest concern. We grocery-shopped for two weeks, purchasing little meat and lots of vegetables since I’ll make various stir-fry dishes over the next week. These meals require less meat than a meat and vegetable dinner, making more sense during the load-shedding periods, often at dinner.

We are careful in keeping meat fresh and less concerned about the small amount of dairy we keep in the refrigerator, primarily sour cream, hard cheeses, and cream cheese which we keep on hand for making keto dishes and salad dressings. These all seem to survive the outages ok for far.

Bossy spends a lot of time looking at us. Hmmm…I wonder why?

As for the unwelcome guests in the house, this morning, Tom noticed three bee hives inside the house in the dining room on a lower baseboard, close to where I often sit. This morning, he sprayed them and removed the three nests, respraying them so they won’t return. It’s no wonder I was stung last Saturday. Also, on Friday night, Tom stepped on a bat in the kitchen and accidentally killed it. Fortunately, he was wearing shoes. He would never have killed it on purpose.

That’s our story for today, folks. Tom is entrenched in NFL playoff football games while I stay busy working on projects. Tomorrow, I will wrap up the insurance claim for Tom’s missing bag and begin working on the forms for the visa extension.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, January 15, 2022:

Couples from left to right, Gerhard and Rita, Tom and I, Danie and Louise, and Rita’s sister Petr and husband Fritz. The eight of us had gone on a night game drive ending in dinner in the dark in Kruger National Park. It was pretty fun! For more photos, please click here.

Load shedding is over the top…Stage 6…12 hours a day without power…Company coming tomorrow?…

Kudus and bushbucks love jumping over the fence to check out our surroundings.

If it goes to Stage 8, we may be looking at a total blackout. Right now, load shedding at Stage 6 results in 12 hours a day without power which we’re facing today. We can live with all this as long as we can keep our food fresh. Again, we just went shopping yesterday, purchasing lots of perishable food.

I suppose we need to stop shopping and buy what we need, one day at a time. This may be our only alternative if we can save what we have and go through it.

Zebras stop by the front of the house to see what’s happening.

We’d planned to have Dawn and Leon for an Asian dinner on Thursday, but now I am wondering how I can do all the prep required by opening and closing the refrigerator over and over as needed in preparing such a meal. We purchased all the ingredients for the three entrees we’ll prepare but wonder if it will be possible to do without power. Our stove top is gas, but the oven is electric.

Bushbuck Lilly is sniffing around the garden.

I’d planned to prep all the meats and vegetables ahead of time, but I am concerned about keeping the meats fresh in the process. We’ll have to see if anything changes between today and tomorrow. At this point, the power will be out on Thursday from:

  • 1:00 – 3:30 am
  • 9:00 – 11:30 am
  • 1700 (5:00 pm) – 2130 (9:30 pm)
Bad Ear and a few kudus checking out the pellet situation.

As inventive as I may attempt to be in the kitchen, I am not sure I can safely prepare three entrees and ultimately serve them in the dark. We’d planned a similar get-together with them a few weeks ago and canceled due to load shedding. Maybe we can figure out something different this time.

In any case, this is the way it is, and there is nothing we can do about it. If it weren’t for the issues with storing food, we wouldn’t be concerned at all. As mentioned in other posts, we do pretty well without electricity. That’s not to say we’d be comfortable living “off the grid” with no power. That’s not our style of world travel.

Kudu boys and girls wondering what we’ll do next…offer up some pellets, perhaps?

Tom will drive me to the little spa where Dawn will meet me in a little while, and we’re both having pedicures. I hadn’t had one since before we left in March, and it’s about time. As I’ve mentioned, I don’t drive here since we don’t pay extra to have me on the car rental contract, I don’t drive a stick shift with my left hand, and I am not used to driving on the opposite side of the road.

“Should I jump or should I stay?” she asks.

Never a good drive anyway; adding these three factors put me at high risk of causing an accident. Since I had open-heart surgery in 2019, my coordination is not ideal. Unless there is an emergency, I will no longer be driving although I will continue to renew my driver’s license in our resident state of Nevada. Many times in our travels, we’re asked to produce a driver’s license for identification, particularly on cruises and in the US.

Last evening the two of us celebrated the 31st anniversary of the day we met. We had a few drinks on the veranda with our JBL speaker playing oldies from our ‘heydays” via YouTube, and we had a lovely time. Since it was cold and rainy, we ate dinner indoors at the dining room table. The power didn’t go out until 1900 hrs., 7:00 pm, so it all worked out well.

Young male bushbuck checking out the pool.

We both had a good night’s sleep which has been the case this past week now that we are fully recovered. I can’t express enough how grateful we have made it through all of that after a very challenging couple of months.

Thank you to many of our readers who wrote to us, wishing us a happy anniversary and offering thoughtful comments about our recent challenges. Every single word means so much to us, and we try to reply to each one.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, June 29, 2021:

Mom and baby. We’ll miss you all as we prepare to leave for the US to get vaccinated and see the family. For more photos, please click here.

No power…No WiFi…It was a long, hot night…

This is a monitor lizard that Tom spotted while driving. It happened so quickly, I had to take the photo through the windshield.

Although the inverter in the house allows a fan to work in our bedroom, it was a hot night and we had little sleep. There had been a short moderate-intensity rain storm around 10:00 pm (2200 hours). It doesn’t take much for the power to go out here. The WiFi towers revert to their battery power to keep the WiFi signal going, but after an hour or so, that too will run out of juice leaving all of us without internet access.

According to a message Louise got from Eskom, supposedly all will be restored sometime this morning, which could be in the next two hours as I write offline waiting for it to return. If that’s the case, we’ll have been without power or Wifi for 12 or 14 hours. In the realm of things, that’s not too long. But, in the middle of the night when the heat and humidity are high and sleep is elusive, it seems like an eternity.

Right now, at 10:30 am, it’s hot and humid on the veranda. I can feel my clothes sticking to me. I stay more covered than most to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes. I usually wear Capri-length jeans, heavy-duty white socks, and a closely fitted tee-shirt, all of which prevents me from any bites other than on the exposed skin on my arms, face, and neck. I use Tabard DEET repellent around the clock on any exposed skin.

Playful zebras on the side of the road.

Last night, with no air-con due to the power outage, a few mosquitoes were buzzing around me all night. I was bitten no less than 10 times when I was unwilling to cover myself with a sheet due to the heat. I usually wear one of Tom’s tee shirts to bed since I don’t have any summer-type pajamas.

I ordered a few such items that will arrive in the package we’ll have sent to us on Monday. I know. We promised ourselves we wouldn’t order stuff from the US and have it shipped to us, but we had a few replacement credit cards (due to fraud) at our mailing service and decided we may as well order whatever else we needed. My Fitbit band broke a few days ago and I’ve since ordered a new Fitbit with even more features.

A zebra crossing the road.

This morning at 8:00, Tom headed to the little market in Marloth Park to purchase four bags of ice for our perishables until the power returned. Wouldn’t you know, we grocery shopped yesterday and the refrigerator was stocked full of items? I don’t know yet if anything was spoiled, but will be extra careful when restocking the refrigerator from the cool box where we placed the food and two bags of ice. We placed two more bags of ice in a metal bowl in the refrigerator, which cooled it down considerably while we waited.

Ironically, as I write here now, the power has been restored and moments later, so has the WiFi. Whew! What a relief. Tom turned on the fan on the veranda and aimed it directly at me. The breeze helps substantially. While Vusi was busy washing floors, we made our way to the bedroom with the air-con on, hoping to cool off for a bit. Another much-appreciated relief!!

We don’t have many zebras visit us. Seeing them when out and about is a treat.

Before Vusi arrived, I’d decided to make a pan of our favorite egg casserole with cheese and bacon and get it into the oven to bake before it gets even hotter during the day. It’s odd, but electric ovens here cook more slowly than in some other countries. We always have to plan ahead when baking anything in the oven.

Tonight, Tom will have pork chops on the braai while I have two small chicken breasts. Tom will have his chops with white rice and we’ll both have some of the delicious egg casserole as a side dish. Neither of us cared for any breakfast this morning after the fitful night so a nice Friday night dinner on the veranda will be enjoyed. Later, this afternoon it will cool down and we’ll be fine sitting outdoors, watching our wildlife friends stop by for a visit.

A male impala posed for a photo. Such handsome animals.

Sorry for the mundane post. I’m too hot and tired to be creative today. But, thanks for stopping by anyway!

Have a peaceful day!

Photo from one year ago today, March 19, 2020:

View of the city from the palace in Udaipur. For more photos, please click here.

Oh, oh…Frequent power outages scheduled for December…A challenge in our lives…

We didn’t see much on the river yesterday, but we were thrilled with our other sightings, including this young zebra and mom.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

This is our boy Wildebeest Willie, who stops by most afternoons for pellets and several naps. He waits for other wildlife to appear then gets up to join in on the pellet frenzy. He isn’t interested in carrots, celery tops, apples, or pears.  He responds enthusiastically to his name and most likely responds to names other residents have given him. Smart guy, that Willie!

It was a shocker yesterday when there was a notice on Marloth Park’s Facebook page about power company Eskom’s scheduled power outages, referred to as “load shedding.” 

What is load shedding?  Here’s a description from Eskom’s website here:

“As South Africa’s primary electricity supplier, Eskom’s mandate is to ensure the security of supply to service the South African economy and society.

Eskom, therefore, generates, transports, and distributes electricity – and this is managed predominantly by Eskom for the entire country; however, Eskom only directly supplies more than 5 million households which means that most of us are provided by municipalities.
At all times, there must be sufficient supply to meet demand, but electricity demand is not consistent because of:

  • peak periods when demand is higher
  • and continuous growth in the number of customers requiring electricity services.

This means that the power system requires constant and prudent management of supply to meet demand, but, today, Eskom faces the challenge of a constrained power system that will affect us until substantial new power capacity is available. In the meantime, to meet demand, our older power stations and infrastructure are being used to total capacity. In addition, routine and necessary maintenance of plant and infrastructure are carefully scheduled to limit compromising supply capacity during periods of high demand. We have also strengthened the distribution network to reduce localized outages when the power trips because of overload in local areas such as suburbs.

Localized outages should not be confused with load shedding. Local outages can occur when there is either a technical fault in the transmission or distribution network, or when electrical equipment has been tampered with, such as theft of cables, or when there is an overload of the local system because of irregular high usage due to electricity theft as well as normal faults.

Five years ago, we saw ostriches at this bush house, and they continue to visit almost every day. The owner can walk freely among them and distribute pellets. We’ve yet to have an ostrich at the Orange house but had one at the Hornbill house in 2014.

Load shedding, or load reduction, is done countrywide as a controlled option to respond to unplanned events to protect the electric power system from a total blackout. While we generally use the word blackout loosely to mean “no lights” in our local area, a country-wide blackout has much more severe consequences, which can occur when there is too much demand and too little supply, bringing the power system into an imbalance – tripping the power system in its entirety.

Many countries and cities in other parts of the world have experienced complete blackouts. To re-start their system, they can tap into a power system from a neighbor who can take a few hours or days, but we have to rely on ourselves to start the system from scratch – energizing one power plant at a time and one section of the country at a time. It could take up to two weeks to restore full power, which would severely impact our country! This is why we use load shedding, or load reduction, to effectively manage our power system and assist in protecting it from such an event.”

This is one of the chicks we’ve been following for the past several months. They certainly have grown. One of the fantastic attributes of the ostrich is the fact that they will grow to adulthood in 18 months. They weigh about 1kg when born and, in the space of 18 months, grow to an incredible size of about 140kg. The female ostrich will start laying eggs when she is about two years old.

There’s nothing we can do. This is the way it is and will be, especially over the busy holiday month of December. The holidaymakers will begin arriving this upcoming week, and it will be relentless throughout the entire month of December and part of January.

When reviewing the schedule for outages, we realize in many ways this will be a challenge for our daily needs as well as that of other residents and tourists in Marloth Park. Our biggest concern is being able to upload our posts with new photos daily. 

Of course, we found them on Volstruis St., which means ostrich in Afrikaans, where they are often found.

We want to assure our readers that we will continue to post every day regardless of this challenging schedule. The exception will be in the event of a total power outage lasting more than a day.  

Here’s the proud mom still fussing over her growing brood.

Thus, if you do not see a post by the end of 24 hours, you can be assured we have no power and cannot do a thing until the power is restored. At first, we were shocked and disappointed.

But now, after reviewing the schedule, we’ve discussed ways in which we’ll make it work. For us, lousy sleepers that we are, the most challenging times will be on hot nights when we won’t be able to use a fan or aircon. The windows have no screens, so we’ll be in the equivalent of a “hot box” during the two to three-hour outage.

Here’s the family altogether; mom, dad, and growing chicks.

For example, here are the scheduled power outages for us in Stage 2 over the next week:

Sat, 01 Dec
07:00 – 09:30                                         2.5 hours
15:00 – 17:30  (3:00 pm to 5:30 pm)      2.5 hours       TOTAL OUTAGES IN 24 HOURS – 7.5 HOURS
23:00 – 01:30  (11:00 pm to 1:30 am)    2.5 hours
Sun, 02 Dec
Mon, 03 Dec
Tue, 04 Dec
Wed, 05 Dec
Thu, 06 Dec
Fri, 07 Dec

The load shedding schedule varies by week when many of the outages will be during dinner time from 1700 to 1930 hours (5:00 pm to 7:30 pm). Last night was the first evening we experienced this particular schedule.  

For the first time yesterday, we spotted giraffes at a particular overlook we often visit but rarely see any wildlife on the Marloth Park side of the fence.

Knowing in advance, while the power was still on, we prepared everything we needed for our dinner. We usually start putting the dinner together around 1830 (6:30 pm) with ease with lights on. Last night we got everything out and ready to prepare while it was still light (it gets dark about 30-minutes later). We ate by candlelight.  

However, the most challenging part for us at this time of day is not the meal.  We’ll manage that just fine. It’s the fact that it’s our prime wildlife viewing time from the veranda when our evenings are so unique, is from 1700 hours (5:00 PM) to 2100 hours (9:00 pm).

We’re always in awe of giraffes, especially those in the neighborhood.

The remaining schedule includes outages for most of these hours in 2.5-hour increments. This changes everything. We won’t be able to see a thing. This is a big disappointment for us and our lifestyle.

There is nothing we can do but adapt to this situation to the best of our ability.  Next Thursday, when we go to Komatipoort to shop, we’ll stop at the hardware store to see if we can locate an excellent solar-powered light we can see the garden at night.  

We spotted five giraffes in this area, including a youngster.

As it turns out, the power issues during the prime evening hours don’t begin until December 9th.  This will work out well if we can find a solution. In reality, this is always the case; finding solutions to situations we find discomforting.

Traveling the world isn’t always convenient. It isn’t always comfortable, as we’ve seen by the outrageous over 40C (104F) heat we’ve had with much hotter temps ahead of us.  

It wasn’t easy when I was attacked by pepper ticks from walking in the bush at the river resulting in over 100 awful bites lasting for over a month, requiring medical intervention and a 12-day course of cortisone (only three days of meds remaining – situation greatly improved) when I’ve hardly been able to sleep as a side effect of the drug.

For the time being, to avoid getting more tick bites, I’ve taken photos from the car while on the daily drive in the park.  I only get out where I don’t have to walk through the bush to get to the fence to avoid taking photos of the wall. These gorgeous waterbucks males typically weigh 198–262 kg (437–578 lb) and females 161–214 kg (355–472 lb).

We never have to ask ourselves, “Is it worth it?”

Without a doubt, we rest easy in the knowledge that we love this life we’ve chosen, even with its ups and downs. No life is free from challenges, medical concerns, inconveniences, and for us, immigration issues.

We carry on with joy, love, and happiness that somehow supersedes the hardships, knowing full well, this is what and where we’re meant to be…in the world.

Happy day!

Photo from one year ago today, December 1, 2017:

Slurpy mouthed iguana posing for a photo at the park in Manta, Ecuador, as seen one year ago today. For more photos, please click here.