Immigration “wild goose chase”…Frustrating experience…Fun zebra video…

Zebras often stop by to visit but usually with three, four of five. This dazzle 
of 12 zebras was quite exciting.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Two Ms. Bushbucks and the baby, waiting for the pellet delivery.

Nothing could have been more frustrating than yesterday’s trip to Nelspruit for our two appointments at the VFS Immigration office in an effort to extend our visas to February 20, 2019.

All of the required paperwork was in order and collated exactly as dictated by their website. We had our required black pen with us and our two separate batches of papers, one for each of us, were in a plastic bag as stipulated.

Zebra visitors with babies.

We ran into a number of obstacles in getting to the appointments in a timely fashion, although we’d left 2½ in advance of the 11:00 and 11:15 am appointments for the less than a 90-minute drive. Good thing, we left extra early.

The long drive on the N4 Highway was cluttered with semis and other trucks requiring a tremendous amount of passing on the mostly two-lane highway. In South Africa, from what we’ve seen thus far, there is usually a shoulder on the road.  

This zebra tried coming up the steps but the tiles were too slippery for her hooves. Speaking of coming up the steps, this morning there was a mongoose under the table on the veranda looking for eggs.

Most drivers, let’s say 90%, will move onto the shoulder to make way for those desiring to pass, something we haven’t experienced to this degree in other countries. Nice people. Friendly drivers. Also, often we’ll encounter passing lanes every so often providing drivers to pass long rows of vehicles during busy times. This helps.

Since we have no wi-fi on my phone (only calling) we used a printed map of the location from google maps. Well, wouldn’t you know, the directions were all wrong. The road where we needed to exit the highway wasn’t marked and we ended up well past Nelspruit, running into road construction that slowed us down by no less than 20-minutes.

Dad, baby, and mom drinking from the cement pond.  

Once we realized we’d gone too far, we turned around and headed to the area where we saw tall buildings. Surely, the immigration office would be in the center of town near the tall buildings. Plus, we called Louise and she walked us through it while looking at maps on her computer until we recognized where we should be.

You may ask, why don’t we have data on our phones? Simple answer. It disappears every 30 days and we were paying and paying for nothing. We didn’t use it enough to justify the expense when we have great wi-fi in the house.  Yesterday, we wished we had it. But, how often are we driving far from Marloth Park?  When in Kruger National Park, the signal is poor and it wouldn’t do us much good.

Baby zebra seeking shelter from the hot sun on a 40C (104F) very hot day.

Rather than designating a specific street name and number on the immigration website, it stated the location was at the corner of Brown St. and Paul Kruger St.  That should have been easy. We parked in a ramp and searched for it on foot.  That was nearly impossible.

The immigration office is located in a convoluted mix of banks, offices, and shops with many ending up down long narrow passageways. An address would have been of no help whatsoever.

The zebras and other wildlife like cold moist, celery tops, and lettuce on hot days.

Finally, with the help of a security guard in one of the bank buildings (there were a few), he pointed us to elevators to go to the fifth floor. The only elevator of four that was working was the freight elevator. We took it.

We arrived at the front door five minutes before our first appointment at 11:00 am. We were wanded by a guard, who checked our papers and used a card to swipe the door look to let us enter. We were told to sit in specific chairs based on our appointment times and told to keep moving to the “next” chair as people were called.

The zebras often fight when having to share pellets but these two were in perfect harmony.

No food, no beverages, no cell phones were allowed. For two full hours, we sat there staring into space, often wondering why people went ahead of us and others, while we all waited.

I won’t go into details about the processing system. In essence, the three-tiered process made sense. The waiting did not. After the two hours, we finally made it to system #1 and sat down to wait again in another grouping of chairs. Thirty minutes later we made it to system #2.  

Big Daddy stopped by for pellets and a drink from the pond.

It was at system #2 that were told, they could not, would not accept our application for processing since we’d arrived weeks too early for an extension all the way to February 20th. We’d have to return and start over. Nothing we’d done that day would count.  

They sent us on our way after writing down a walk-in date and time of 8:00 am on October 24th. There was nothing else we could do. We left frustrated and disappointed with little to say to one another. We’d been given the wrong information. But, then again, as we always say, this is Africa. Perfection is not on the menu.

He likes eating off the edge of the veranda when he doesn’t have to bend down to the ground with that big heavy rack.

Fortunately, the return drive was uneventful. We stopped on at Melalane to shop for a few grocery items and also to shop at the local Click Pharmacy so I could pick up a few cosmetic items which took about 40 minutes. But, we dodged a bullet!  

Once we were on the highway, I asked Tom if we needed fuel. He looked at the gauge and the “empty” light was flashing. When we found the first petrol station, the little car took 30 liters. Good thing we caught it or we’d have had an entirely new “situation!” Whew!

The items I needed in Melalane (or similar thereof) are in the missing box, shipped from the US on May 28th, and had yet to arrive due to a postal strike since resolved but leaving a mess in its wake. Management claims the box is on a shipping container yet to be unloaded. More on that later.

Mom and Baby stopped by as they often do.

We pulled up in the driveway around 1600 hours (4:00 pm), almost eight hours later. We were hot (it was 39C, 102F), dehydrated, and utterly exhausted. We stopped to see Louise and Danie for a bit to explain what had transpired and headed home to eat dinner outdoors, feed a few animals and eventually go to bed early.  

I think I slept for eight hours, although not continuously. Tom was up at 5:30 am feeding wildlife as usual. We’re better today after having accepted the fact we’ll be returning on October 24th and then after that, one more time to find out if we’re approved.  

If not approved, we won’t know until we arrive the third time, when they open a sealed envelope in front of us with our results. Tom said, “It’s like the Academy Awards.”

Mom and Baby happily munching pellets by the steps, where they prefer to dine!

Today, we headed to Komatipoort and Lebombo to shop for food and pellets. All went smoothly. It’s even hotter today at 40C (104F). Currently, I’m finishing today’s post indoors with a fan blowing. It gets sunny on the veranda this time of day and it’s hard to see the laptop screen.  

By 1700 hours (5:00 pm) we’ll set up the veranda for the evening, as usual, pour ourselves a cold beverage, and enjoy yet another night in the bush. How many such nights are remaining, we don’t know at this point. But, we’ll continue to cherish each and every moment.

Have a lovely evening wherever you may be!

Photo from one year ago today, September 6, 2017:

The scenery was pretty while driving in the mountains of Costa Rica. For more photos, please click here.

Harrowing drive completed…Grateful to be back at the villa…The old rat race or gerbil on the wheel…How did this happen to us?

Giant abalone shell sinks on the grounds of Puri Bagus Lovina.

“Sightings on the Beach in Bali

Tom spotted a local woman with straw on her head after we went back to Sumbersari.

What a unique feeling it was, returning to the villa, after a five day stay in Lovina that we completed the visa extension process. It was like coming home. At 2:00 we picked up our stamped passports for a departure from Indonesia on October 30. Four weeks from today we’ll be heading to Kuta to board the red eye flight to Sydney after midnight on the 30th.

In four weeks, we’re going to Kuta to board the Red Eye flight to Sydney after midnight on the 30th.Boats on the waterfront.

In our old lives, after a short vacation/vacation, it was easy to fear the return to reality; its piles of mail, messages and back-to-work responsibilities. Then there were the piles of laundry, the old food to throw in the refrigerator, the need to quickly get to a grocery store and fill the car with fuel. 

Statue with a lei of fresh blooms on the lawn.

Sunday nights were particularly difficult as memories of time away would waft from our minds and the painstaking process of getting up and ready for work to face yet another day of the necessary grind most of us have experienced in our daily lives.

Flowers by the sea.

Of course, there are those of you who love your work and feel no anguish at the return of a journey. For the rest of us, it was only after several hours back into the groove that we could finally relax accepting our 40, 50 hours or more of the weekly “rat race.” 

Small lily pond.

The rhythm of life in this period escapes me almost now after all these years free of such responsibilities and constraints. Returning from the resort yesterday we experienced none of the above frustrations. 

The infinity edge of the pool at Puri Bagus Lovina.

We loaded the laundry hamper with our dirty clothes that the two Ketuts will make on Monday. Our dinner was prepped and ready for us once we unpacked and changed into our bathing suits.    There was no snail mail, messages we had not already processed, no need to go grocery shopping or fill the tank with fuel.

Boat and tower in the bay. Gede, the resort manager at Puri Bagus Lovina suggested patrons don’t go into the ocean due to poisonous coral.

“How did this happen to us?” We’ve often asked ourselves this question. At dinner over these past nights at the resort, we often discussed how we remain in awe of our lives, affordable with a strict budget, freeing in ways we never imagined and filled with endless experiences far exceeding any expectations we may have had in our lives and ultimately in our travels. 

Statue in the garden.

Yesterday, with a late 1:45 pm checkout in order to get to immigration by 2:00 pm, I spent the morning in the bar preparing the post. On several occasions, a variety of resort managers stopped by to thank us for our posts and for highlighting the resort.

A father, a son and a nephew serenading diners during dinner.

As we were leaving, they all were present to wish us well. Gede, the general manager, asked to take a photo with us for his own keepsake. We were flattered by their appreciation as we were appreciative of their kindness and attentiveness.

Heart shaped flower arrangement left on our bed in the resort.

Today our own Gede, visited to ensure we’d enjoyed his recommendation of the resort in Lovina located in his home town where he’d grown up and his parents and siblings are still living. We couldn’t thank him enough for the fabulous recommendation.

Tangle of trees along the shore.

Today? Easy day. Sunshine. Happiness. How did this happen to us? May it happen for you as well!

Photo from one year ago today, October 1, 2015:

This was actually a dine in restaurant in a small strip mall in Savusavu, Fiji, with two tiny tables for diners and minimal cooking space for the cook.  For more details, please click here.