Impossible visa documents…Have to use the pricey option…Lion and a snake…

May be an image of big cat and outdoors
Photo from Facebook taken by Marloth Park Honorary Rangers post. Fluffy, who lives in Lionspruit, which borders holiday home in the back, caught a python and ate it. Whoever thought a lion would eat a snake?

Note: Today’s lion photos were taken by the Marloth Park Honorary Rangers, a group of local specially trained and uniformed local residents who donate their time for the well-being of wildlife and vegetation here in Marloth Park. We applaud this dedicated group of local citizens who work hard each day to preserve this amazing environment.

We spent all afternoon for two days in an attempt to apply for an e-visa for Kenya from the government immigration website. No matter what I tried, changing and reducing the size and the file types of the photos and documents required to upload, it was all in vain. It simply would not work. I wrote to the immigration department and also called with no response.

We were both so frustrated. There were dozens of other sites from which to apply but most of them were scam sites. It was too risky for us to proceed with one of those. Finally, we contacted the pricey US site, CIBT, which we’d used for a few visas in the past, mainly required for cruising. They are a reputable company, which is a must with less than a month left for us to leave for Kenya.

Had we known how difficult this would be we would have started the process a week ago. But, with the awful heat and humidity, it’s been challenging to be motivated. Today, I resigned myself to stay in the bedroom and get this done. Last night, due to the time difference, I called CIBT and they said I could email them the photos and documents for which they sent me a special email address.

We wondered how that tasted.

Their fees are high at US $179, ZAE 2672, per application plus the fee Kenya charges of US $51, ZAR 761, for a total of US $230, ZAR 3433 for each of us. Had we been able to apply at the Kenya Immigration site, we’d only have to pay the US $51, ZAR 761 each.

We expect that due to the pandemic, the government offices in Kenya aren’t open and no one is attending to their website or office inquiries. There’s no other explanation. Then again, we’ve had experiences with governmental offices and often have run into issues in some countries including in the USA. It’s not so unusual.

As soon as I upload today’s post, we’ll get to work on both of our applications at the same time, following each step of the way together. This is usually somewhat of a stressful process, one neither of us cares to do. Hopefully, by the end of today, we’ll have peace of mind and this will be done. We should receive the e-visa from CIBT within two weeks of submitting our application.

Over the past months, we’ve had a number of issues with our site. Our web people have been diligent in solving these myriad problems. Many of these issues don’t appear to you, our readers, but have an impact on me as I attempt to post each day. Of course, over this past almost year of the upgrade, we’ve been down for many days and many of you have been unable to read our new posts. We apologize for this inconvenience.

“It’s challenging getting this python eaten,” says Fluffy, one of two lions, including female Desi, in Lionspruit Wildlife Conservancy, which abuts our location. What a thrill to see these photos.

At this point, it’s looking as if most of the issues have been resolved and all should be fine going forward. That’s not to say we won’t have WiFi problems or any problems with the site going forward. Please know, that if our site is down, we are well aware of it and have notified our web people. Actually, WordPress sends me an email when there are problems.

The power just went out, due to load shedding. We are currently in the bedroom (no air-con working) with a fan blowing on us. The fan works off of the inverter, as does the WiFi. We have the blinds closed to keep the heat out until power returns in 2½ hours. Last night the load shedding started during the night from 3:00 am until 5:30 am. Thank goodness we have the fan.

Currently, the temperature is 95F, 35C at 11:00 am. It is expected to be 101F, 38C by 2:00 pm, 1400 hours. The humidity is through the roof. There are two more load shedding sessions today, resulting in 7½ hours without power on such a hot day. Oh well, as we said, this goes with the territory. This is Africa and we’re grateful to be here.

May you have a comfortable and safe day wherever you may be!

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

The town of Mahabalipuram is lined with shops with supplies for locals and also an endless array of tourist trinkets. For more photos, please click here.

Knocking down the “to do” list…Contacted an immigration attorney in South Africa…

One year ago today… Tom and I hid in the bedroom and once the others arrived for Don’s birthday, we suddenly appeared surprising everyone.  In the background is Keith (Don’s brother) and Ken, with Don and Linda in the center and Robin and Karen in the foreground.  It was a fun surprise. We had a fantastic stay with Kathy and Don. For more photos, please click here.

It was a quiet but good weekend. We had a happy hour party here on Friday night and attended a party by the pool on Saturday afternoon. The Vikings won their game, making Sunday special.


Last night, we laid back and watched a few shows including Jack Ryan on Amazon and a good show we’d downloaded on Graboid, The Resident, a medical series we’d missed along the way. 


The Resident would be a great binge-watching series, but right now we don’t want to take the time to be watching too many shows. We have other “fish to fry” while also continuing to participate in a multitude of social events with the sisters and other locals.


By the time I finish the daily posts, respond to many email messages from our readers/friends, the day passes quickly. Then, there’s dinner to prepare each day, our almost daily walks, cleaning and laundry (every four days), financial matters to attend to, leaving little time for research and planning for the future.


As far as research goes, we’ve made some headway in the past few days. So far, it appears Scotland, like Spain and Portugal, has some wonderful holiday homes within our budget. We’ve actually enjoyed doing the research and need to focus on this in the next several weeks.


Today, I ordered the shipment of our accumulating supplies at our mailing service in Nevada. It should arrive by the end of the week. Once it arrives, we’ll make an assessment on any additional items we may need and have them shipped to us in Apache Junction or in the worst case, I’ll head out shopping.


I really don’t enjoy shopping in stores, although I didn’t always feel that way in my old life. Now, the varied selections, and the abundance of items can be daunting making the process somewhat unpleasant. I don’t feel that way about grocery shopping which has always been enjoyable.


This morning, after conducting research online and reading many reviews, I found a South African immigration attorney to whom I wrote an inquiry explaining our situation, asking if they could assist and their fees for such services. 


The time difference makes it difficult to call during their regular business hours from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. We’re hoping they will be of assistance in expediting this immigration issue, enabling us to sail on the cruise arriving in Cape Town on December 2, 2020. We’ll report back what we hear.


Once we arrive in India, the time difference will only be three hours making any necessary phone calls more practical time-wise than it is now while in the US. 


Today, I sent another email requesting an update from Home Affairs in South Africa, the department which handles immigration issues for locals and foreigners. We’ll see if they respond.


The research will continue after we clean the house. The kitchen and bathroom are done. All that’s left is vacuuming the floors (Tom does this) and washing them with the mop (my job). It didn’t make sense to hire a cleaner for this small place and now that I’m feeling well, I can share in the process.


However, in future full-sized vacation homes, we’ll hire a once-a-week cleaner as we had in the past when such a service wasn’t included in the rent. Heavy-duty cleaning is not something either of us cares to do in our retirement.


That’s it for today, folks! We hope you had a fantastic weekend and all is well your way!

________________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, January 6, 2019:

One year agoTwo hippos we spotted when visiting Rita and Gerhard’s temporary condo at Ngwenya in South Africa on Thursday evening. For more photos, please click here.

Ratcheting up the research…Holidaymakers moving in…Piglets in the pond!…

Mom and the piglet are enjoying the cement pond on a hot day.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

This is “Little” on his usual mission of getting our attention to come outside and give him some pellets. If we don’t respond, he enters the house. Very funny!

Our one year in Marloth Park is rapidly coming to a close. We’ve decided to spend one night, February 14th, Valentine’s Day, in Nelspruit to avoid early morning traffic on the 15th, the day we must exit South Africa. It’s hard to believe in 71 days, and we’ll be leaving Marloth Park to drive to Nelspruit for the flight to Nairobi, Kenya, departing early the following morning.

If you missed our story as to why we must leave on the 15th as opposed to the planned February 20th initially, please click here for yesterday’s post. It’s all clearly explained there.

As it turns out, we won’t have to travel on my birthday after all and will spend it doing something exceptional while in Kenya. Details will follow once we get everything booked.

Mom warthog gets into the cement pond to cool off.  Now, the piglets follow her.

Speaking of bookings, we need to get to work now that we have a definitive answer on our immigration status. We’d left many loose ends in the itinerary, and the time has come to get these items booked.

With the ongoing power outages, spending time online is tricky. By the time we manage photos and prepare and upload the day’s post, the power goes out again, usually for 2½ hours. During these periods, we have no internet access.

According to the Eskom load shedding schedule, the power should be out about 7½ hours every 24 hours. Fortunately, and not surprisingly, the schedule isn’t precise, and often a time slot for an outage is ignored, and we have full power and WiFi. Go figure.  

Piglets were climbing out of the cement pond.

We’re managing to work around it, as are other residents throughout this country, not just here in Marloth Park. With the continuing heat and humidity, it’s even more uncomfortable when we can’t use a fan, especially when our surroundings are still and windless, resulting in a long 2½ hours.

But this is Africa, and we’re making the best of it, planning social events, cooking our meals, dining out with friends (tonight with Uschi and Evan, tomorrow with Rita and Gerhard), and attempting to ignore the inconveniences.

The holidaymakers are beginning to filter into the park now as we see more and more vehicles on the roads each day. Soon, every holiday rental and most bush homes will be filled, the noise will ensue, underage kids will be driving vehicles in this relatively un-policed area, and maniacs will be driving fast on Olifant Street (the paved road), killing the precious wildlife.

With the heat evaporating the water in the pond, between cleanings, Tom refills it for easy access for wildlife being able to reach for a drink.  So far, the only animals we’ve seen enter the pond are the warthogs.

No pun intended…it’s the nature of the beast. Not everyone who comes to stay in Marloth Park possesses the love and respect for this magical place, its rules, and its wildlife. This is so sad and disheartening.

Among the rest of us dedicated to this paradise, we’ll continue to respect the laws and treat the wildlife with dignity and respect. We’ve heard tales of humans feeding wildlife marshmallows, potato chips, and other human junk food. If it’s not good for us, why would we assume it’s good for them?

During this Christmas season, as in the past six years, we don’t have a tree, wrap gifts, bake cookies, or plan holiday parties, although we’ll attend a few. I’ll bake some treats to share at Christmas and make a few special items for Tom’s upcoming birthday on December 23rd.

Back onto the dirt, everyone is cooler and refreshed.

I’d considered a party or get-together for his birthday, but he reminded me how busy a time it is for everyone else with their usual holiday festivities. To burden others with a party the day before Christmas Eve was unfair. I relented, and we decided to make it a party for two.

This leaves us plenty of time in December to get to work booking the following for our upcoming travels:

  • Hotel in Kenya for seven nights, arriving February 15, 2019, and departing for the booked photography tour on February 22, 2019  (tour ended on March 7, 2019
  • Flight from Nairobi to Santiago, Chile on March 8, 2019
  • Transportation from Santiago, Chile to San Antonio, Chile (the location of the cruise port) 
  • Hotel in Santiago, Chile from March 8, 2019, to March 24, 2019, when our 15-night cruise departs from San Antonio, Chile, and sails to San Diego, California
  • Flight from San Diego, California to Minneapolis, Minnesota* on April 8, 2019
  • Rental car in Minnesota from April 8, 2019, to April 25, 2019
  • Flight from Minnesota to Fort Lauderdale to board the next cruise to Copenhagen on April 25, 2019, cruise departed on April 26, 2019
  • Flight from Copenhagen to Dublin, Ireland on May 12, 2019
  • Rental car in Dublin, Ireland on May 12, 2019, and drive to Connemara, Ireland, where we’ll stay in a holiday home until August 9, 2019 (booked and deposit paid)
    Two giraffes were walking along a dirt path in the park.

*The hotel in Minnesota is already booked and partially paid, with the balance due upon arrival.

This covers our booking needs for the next eight months. Once we’ve put all of this together, we’ll update and fine-tune our spreadsheet with all the new expenses.
 
I hope you have a spectacular Wednesday!


Photo from one year ago today, December 5, 2017:

In Pisco, Peru, this pelican was trained to entertain tourists as the man passed around a cup. For more photos, please click here.

There’s always a recipe for a solution…Cost and convenience are often the vital ingredients…

This fluffy little one captured our hearts.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Baby zebra are sticking close to mom during nighttime activities.

I don’t know where to begin. It’s a convoluted story of inconsistencies, inaccuracies, and rampant incompetency in one manner or another. My intent is not to bash South Africa’s governmental procedures. 

Instead, I reach out to you, our valued and loyal worldwide readers, to share our story and to alert those of you who may consider a long-term stay in this country.

Don’t get me wrong…we’re grateful for the exquisite almost 10 months we’ve spent in the country in this isolated little world of paradise in the bush, Marloth Park.  

It’s not like this everywhere in the country, animals roaming free as one might expect countrywide. There are conservancies, game reserves, national parks, and designated wildlife areas for that.  

The dry bush will brighten once the rainy season takes off.

The uniqueness of Marloth Park was the motivator for us to visit and subsequently return this past February. Our future itinerary has us returning in about two years from now, but only for the allowed 90 days, no more. We never want to deal with immigration issues again.

I won’t reiterate the beginning of the story and the massive pile of documents we prepared to accommodate a request for a visa extension to February 20, 2019, the day we’d been advised to book a flight out of here to Nairobi, Kenya, for our next adventure. If you’ll click this link here, that portion of the story is told in its entirety.

But, it was the culmination of the complicated process that hovered in our minds as we wondered as to the outcome since September when we first applied, as it turned out, way too early, upon advice from others and ended up starting all over again on October 24th when we returned to Nelspruit the second time to apply.

While there in September, a rep made a handwritten notation on our document copy that we were to return on October 24th (still have this document), giving ample time for the file to be reviewed and meeting our planned departure date of February 20, 2019.

Waterbucks grazing by the river’s edge.

Part of the application process required two departing South Africa-airline tickets for ZAR 15461 (US $1132) for that date which we purchased at the time of making the first application in September.

Stay with me. We’re getting there. When we returned on October 24th, going through all the forms with the reps at the VFS Immigration office, we were told everything was in order. We were told to start checking online after three weeks to see when the response would be ready.

For those of you who read the prior posts, we indicated we’d have to appear once again once the notification indicated we were ready to see the answer in a sealed envelope, which we’d open in front of the immigration rep.  

If we didn’t like the answer, the only available process was to reapply once again. This was not an option for us. Our visas had already expired on November 21st.  We weren’t in a particularly good position for “negotiating,” which, in any case, is not a part of the process regardless of circumstances.

A lone giraffe was munching on treetops.

We took off for Nelspruit yesterday morning, typically a 75 to 90 minutes drive where many trucks and vehicles jockey for space on the highway. We were told to arrive anywhere between 10:00 am and 1500 hours (3:00 pm).  

Once we were “scanned” by the security guard, we entered the waiting area, lined up several rows of chairs. All the seats were filled, and we had to wait, standing, in the back of the chairs section. As each person was called, everyone in the chairs moved over to the next available chair, kind of like a musical chairs thing.

Much to our surprise, the line moved more quickly than during our two other visits.  Within 40 minutes, we were standing at the counter awaiting our news.  Tom was handed his sealed envelope first. Gingerly, he opened the envelope and immediately we were bost aghast. He was granted an extension but only until February 15th.

We have paid our rent here to February 20th, paid for a rental car to February 20th, and paid for the two airline tickets for February 20th. We tried to explain that it was their manager who’d told us to return on October 24th, allowing us ample time for the requested February 20th departure date.

Waterbucks live close to the river, grazing on its green lusher vegetation than in other areas of the bush, where everything is dried up during this year’s low-rain period.

We even showed her the handwritten notes she’d made on the document telling us to return on October 24th. She dismissed this written statement saying what she wrote was irrelevant. The government’s decision is all that matters, regardless of the number of days.

Then the weirdest thing happened.  I opened my envelope and was given until February 21, 2019. Our files were linked as a married couple. Why the six-day difference? All kinds of thoughts ran through our heads. No matter what we said, the only option they suggested was to start all over.  

There was no way we were going to pay the fees ZAR 3500 (US $256) again and start over the lengthy and detailed paperwork process, all the while taking the risk that nothing would change.

We walked out the door, neither of us talking, and made our way to the parking ramp, thoughts racing through our heads. On the return drive, we reviewed our options, but Tom, bordering on “overly grumpy,” was more engrossed in his driving in traffic than a lengthy discussion over our options.

On Sunday night, while situated on the veranda, speaking on Skype with my dear friend Karen in Minnesota, a dazzle of zebras appeared.

Instead of pressing him, I wrote the text for yesterday’s post on an offline app on my phone, determined to get it uploaded before the power went out due to “load shedding” again at 1500 hours (3:00 om).  

As soon as we returned, I immediately got to work on the post, albeit with less than my usual enthusiastic demeanor. Miss Overly Bubby wasn’t in. I rushed to get it done, but the power went out earlier than expected, and I couldn’t upload it until after 1730 hours (5:30 pm). Sorry for the delay.
 

At 5:30, we set up the veranda for the evening, made ourselves a “sundowner,” and sat down to discuss our options. They included the following:

  • Reapply and start the entire process all over again with no guarantees. We tossed this idea out the window.
  • Tom could leave and go to Kenya on the 15th while I stayed alone in Marloth Park, using one of the two non-refundable flights from Nelspruit to Nairobi on February 20th (my birthday). This raised many questions: hotel for Tom, transportation for me to the airport, being alone for the five nights until February 20th when I could depart, traveling apart, handing luggage…and on and on.  We tossed this idea out the window.
  • The rep told us Tom could go to Mozambique by car and see if he could end up with the extra five days. This was a very risky idea. When would he go? He could easily have ended up with no more than what he has or even less, depending on what transpired at the border.  We tossed this idea out the window.
  • We could try to get some form of credit from the airline to change our travel day to February 15th, change our end-of-rental date to February 15th, change our car rental period to February 15 and clear out of South Africa. We decided this was our only option, with both departing on February 15th, regardless of the cost or inconvenience.
There was a total of nine zebras, including the baby.

Immediately, we got to work on Expedia.com on our website to see what we could first accomplish with the tickets. In all these six years of world travel, we’ve never canceled or changed a single flight. Somehow the preplanning has always worked for us.

We knew that flights were non-refundable but never encountered an opportunity or desire to change a flight.  The website offered such an opportunity, and for a total of ZAR 2156 (US $159), we changed our tickets to February 15th.  We were relieved.

 
We want to book hotel accommodations in Kenya which we’ll do this month. Not having done so was one more minor step to handle. From here, we’ll see about our rent and early return of the rental car, both of which should save us a little more to apply to the added cost of the extra five days in Kenya.
 
Whew! What a relief! Drama averted. Immigration issues are averted, and a massive lesson learned: When we return to South Africa in years to come, we’ll only stay 90 days. Period.
Preoccupied with my phone call, I couldn’t get a photo of all nine at once.

We skated through the first three 90-day periods by leaving the country twice to travel to Zambia to get another 90-day visa each time. We just weren’t able to pull it off the third time. These two one-week trips cost us upwards of ZAR 111628 (US $8232).  Surely if we’d tried traveling out the country once again, we’d have incurred similar costs with no guaranty on the ability to return.

And so it goes. We’re good again. Cheerful, but hot in the temps above 40C (104F). And, we’re back in sync with our otherwise pleasing lifestyle and of course, with one another.

Today, we’ll lay low in the heat and humidity, but who knows what tomorrow may bring.


Happy, healthy day to all.

Photo from one year ago today, December 4, 2017:

Children were playing at the beach with views of colorful fishing vessels in Pisco, Peru. These boats remind us of the colorful fishing boats in Negara, Bali. (See that link here). For more details from the one year ago post, please click here.

Immigration day from hell…Solutions rolling around in our minds…More tomorrow…

She was reaching for the treetops.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Three very young impalas in the bush.

It would have been easy to sit down and pen today’s post if the South Africa immigration issue had been resolved as we’d hoped. The realities of world travel dictate that sometimes, things don’t go as we’d hoped. Attitude adjustments are in constant flux.

Unfortunately, this morning’s trip to the immigration office in Nelspruit didn’t go well after we’d received the online notice to appear, and we are in a quandary as to how to proceed from here. Our options are few. Our frustrations are many.
Giraffes are fortunate during the dry season.  There’s no competition for the leaves in the treetops.

Due to a myriad of ill advice, government incompetence, bureaucracy, and inconsistency, today’s visit to the immigration office was both frustrating and disappointing.

When we returned to the house a short time ago facing another power shutdown in the next half hour, I felt rushed and out-of-sorts to write an upbeat article about life in the bush.

Instead, I apologize for a less-than-cheerful rendition of where we’re at the moment and where we’ll be in months to come based on today’s outcome.

Cheeks filled with vegetation.

Inconvenience coupled with unexpected expenses is a bitch. My usual overly bubbly self continues to nudge me into settling down and seeing the bright side.  Isn’t there always some semblance of a bright side in these kinds of situations?

Good grief, I’m not implying there’s any modicum of a bright side in lousy health, injury, and personal loss, although some special people manage to find a means to rebound regardless of strife.

But, when it comes to business-type situations and functions of daily life, generally speaking, there are lessons to be learned that may prepare us for the “next time.” We need to hold on to those lessons!
Giraffe along the road.

I need to settle down for the remainder of the day as we discuss our options to come up with a suitable plan that we can live with. By no means is this situation untenable, nor a significant crisis. It’s more annoying than anything. We’ll get over it.

But, for today, I must reserve going into the details until such time in the next 24-hours that we’ve had an opportunity to review our options and come to a logical and practical solution.

We’ll be back with a much more enlightened demeanor by tomorrow’s post. For tonight, we’ll still enjoy another warm night on the veranda, loving our wildlife friends with their playful and entertaining antics.

Have a pleasant evening!

Photo from one year ago today, December 3, 2017:

It was an evening “chic” night, and we entered the elevator with other passengers. One of the passengers grabbed my camera off my shoulder and shot these “feet photos.”  We all howled when this occurred, and here’s the funny photo! For more photos, please click here.

The immigration story continues…Nighttime visitors…

Last night, Tom took this photo when he checked the thermometer to find a frog doing the same. It was 25C, 77F at 2200 hours, 10 pm.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Hippo and cattle egret on the river’s edge.

I almost don’t know where to begin regarding the South Africa immigration story. With a definitive response, when our passports were stamped when we re-entered at the airport in Nelspruit after a trip to Zambia, that we won’t be allowed to stay beyond November 21, 2018.

As mentioned in a few prior posts, our only solution was to find a holiday home where we could stay for three months while we await our big upcoming tour in Kenya beginning on February 22, 2019. This was no easy task.  
In the dark, Tom also spotted a re-visit of giraffes in our garden.  I was already asleep so he took the photos.

Between us, we each spent no less than 40 hours in research trying to locate a holiday home for this extended period, for these specific dates, in any country we were interested in staying for three months. On short notice, 95% of most properties were already booked.

Even if we stayed part of the time in a hotel and the remainder in a holiday home, we couldn’t match up the dates and locations that would work for us.  Also, we had to consider airfare, rental cars (or other means of transportation), distance, and expenses during this period.

Two giraffes munching on treetops near the little car.

Frustration kicked in after a few days of research but diligently we continued to consider many alternatives that would have been less desirable such as staying in apartments or hotels during the entire period. Living in a hotel for three months was certainly not an appealing prospect.

Considering there are a number of countries in Africa we’d prefer not to visit, our options were limited.  Louise and Danie were well aware of our frustration and in their usual thoughtful manner, connected us with a highly experienced and competent immigration specialist who walked us through, over the phone, how to complete the myriad documents in order to get an extension until February 20th.

A giraffe visiting in the dark.

I’m not exaggerating slightly when I say, it took the entirety of two days to get the paperwork completed, collated, and stacked all of which Louise handled with her printer at her home office. On both ends, we were at it for two days. I don’t know how we can ever thank her and the kindly immigration specialist who supported us through this process.

I must add here, that no special consideration is given to us. We are simply following the “letter of the law” in compliance with gathering the endless number of documents required to possibly receive an extension.  

She’s awfully close to the little car.  One swift “necking” and it could be totaled.

This included bank statements, financial documents, passport and visa documents, and many peripheral forms to be completed, dated, and signed at the time of the meeting. Also, we paid a fee of ZAR 3550 (US $240.42) but weren’t allowed to use any of our credit cards. The fee had to be paid using a South Africa credit or debit card.  

Once again, Louise came to the rescue. We used her card and gave her the cash we’d received from an ATM. This added exponentially to the amount of paperwork in order to be able to confirm Louise authorized this transaction

Moms and babies at the Crocodile River.

During this process, using the complicated South Africa Immigration website, we were assigned an appointment date and time for a face-to-face meeting upcoming this Wednesday morning in Nelspruit to which we must bring all of the printed documents. Complicated, to say the least. 

Part of the process required we include airline tickets showing we’re flying out of South Africa on February 20th (coincidentally, the date of my birthday). The only tickets available were over ZAR 16243 (US $1000) and are non-refundable. In other words, if we don’t get approved to stay until February 20th, we lose the money we paid for the tickets. Oh, goodness.

A noisy hadeda bird flies overhead almost every night at dusk.

We decided we had to take the risk. We understand the necessity of this complicated process for visa extensions when so many countries struggle with those overstaying their visas or entering illegally.  

So here we are, two days from taking the 90-minute drive back to Nelspruit, from which we returned only a few weeks ago after our flight, to enter our documents in person to see if we’ll eventually be approved. It can take two to four weeks for a response. Hopefully, we’ll know by the end of September or early October.

Bushbaby tongue sticking out and the others head in the yogurt cup!

After Wednesday’s in-person meeting, we’ll include an update and will continue to update the news here as it becomes available.

Enjoy today’s photos, some of which Tom took last night in the dark while I was sleeping.  

For those in the US, today is Labor Day. Have a safe and meaningful day whatever you may do!

Photo from one year ago today, September 3, 2017:
This Giant Tortoise is located at the Zoo Ave location, although not indigenous to Costa Rica. We suspect the facility imported some of its wildlife to attract more visitors to its rehab facility. For more details, please click here.

We’re back in Marloth Park…Immigration shocker!…Recap of Victoria Falls…All new photos…

There were endless openings at Victoria Falls that excellent allowed viewing.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

We shot this photo on the Chobe River. We’d have preferred a better view of the inside of the hippo’s mouth.  Hippos open their mouths wide to show how mean and powerful they are. No doubt, we were spotted and told to take off.

It was a dark and dreary night as we drove to Jabula for dinner after arriving back in Marloth Park around 6:00 pm. On the way, we encountered three giraffes, two zebras, two bush bucks and one dead puff adder snake on the paved road. We were “home.”

The rushing water came up to the edge of the viewing area.

After weeks of me worrying about our immigration issue of having used all of the 90-days allowed in our visa and the possibility of not being let back into the country other than to pack and leave, no words can describe our delight when we arrived in Nelspruit/Mpumalanga airport and received a new 90-day stamp in our passports…no questions asked.

One might think that leaving the country for a week to a country not bordering South Africa would be a sure bet we could return. But, after considerable research, we discovered leaving to visit a non-bordering country doesn’t ensure a new 90-day visa.

Rainbows from the spray.
Beautiful!

We could easily have been refused the visa and told we had to return to our “home country” in order to return to South Africa for another 90-days. Arriving in Nelspruit helped. Had we traveled through Johannesburg, there’s a strong possibility we’d have been refused. The law states they can give us seven days to “clear out.”

In checking the cost of returning to the US, it would have been over ZAR 127,714, (US $10,000) to return to Minnesota, including round trip airfare between South Africa and the USA, a cheap hotel and a rental car for a paltry nine days. During that period, we’d still have been paying for the house in Marloth Park. 

Adding in the cost of meals and expensive miscellaneous items in Minnesota and we’d have been looking at quite a chunk of money. At this point, we have plans including cruises to take us back to the US in 2019 which ultimately is a lot less expensive.

The power of the falls left us in awe.

Our other option was considerably less expensive, which was to fly to New York, stay two nights in a hotel, turn around, and fly right back to South Africa.  We could have accomplished this for around  ZAR 38,314, (US $3,000) which we may have to consider in three or six months in the event we’re asked to leave.

The sound of the rushing water was deafening. 

In the meantime, we have the next 89-days to revel in our busy and happy lives in Marloth Park with the unique wildlife and our equally impressive human friends, many of whom are coming back and forth from homes in other parts of the world.

When we arrived at the airport after the pleasant flight from Zambia, my heart was in my throat o head directly to the only immigration officer on duty. Tom was as cool as a cucumber, not even slightly concerned.  Usually, it’s the other way around.

The magnificence of Victoria Falls.

But, I was the one that spent almost three hours in the middle of the night, reading everything I could find on South Africa’s immigration laws. Based on our situation, the outcome didn’t look good. It appeared we’d have to leave, return to the US, and return to South Africa, which was not a good option.

Teletubbies. 

Well, we have been approved to re-enter, and we practically skipped to the rental car desk to get yet another long-term rental car that will see us through until August 15th, when the visa period ends once again.

We’re aren’t sure where we’ll go next time, but most certainly, it will be a non-bordering country on the continent of Africa. We have a few ideas and will share them once we decide and book the next trip.

There were many rainbows at the falls.

Hertz gave us a free upgrade, and we got a slightly larger car, a VW something, that has power door locks and windows. What a treat that is! The tires look good, the AC works well, and it even has a clock. (Some of the cheap cars we rent have none of the above). 

The return drive to Marloth Park was long when we encountered a bad accident in Malelane that tied up traffic for no less than 30-minutes. Also, there were many trucks on the single lane N4 (highway) and Tom’s who’s an inpatient driver, insisted on passing every truck in our path. It was great to get back into Marloth Park at the security gate and head to our bush home.

The charming shop is Big Hippo Love, located at the Livingstone, Zambia airport.

While we were gone, Louise had arranged for deep cleaning of the house. When we walked in the door to find the TV working, lights left on for us and the house has been totally “spring cleaned” and beautifully “detailed” we couldn’t have been more appreciative.

One thing we’d like to mention is a beautiful experience we had with two lovely shopkeepers at a newly built tea shop at the Livingstone Zambia airport where we were able to sit comfortably while I sipped on exquisite organic herbal tea. (Tom surprised me and purchased two packages of the tea I loved, enough to last for a few months).

The girls were so kind and thoughtful.

We chatted with the two adorable shopkeepers and had a fabulous time. If you ever get to Zambia, stop by and say hello to us. We’ve included a few photos of our visit to the shop.

Soon, at around 11:00 am, Tom will drop me off at Jabula for a remarkable women’s “tea” event to watch the Royal Wedding on TV. There will be about 12 of us girls in attendance, and it should be fun. I can’t recall the last time I did a “girls only” get together. 

Not only do they carry delicious healthful teas but also a wide array of interesting African inspired merchandise.

Since we’ve been gone a week, it may take a few days for our usual group of visitors to realize we’ve returned. Although so far this morning we’ve had two kudus, two bushbucks stop by and an ostrich walking down the dirt road. Tonight, just the two of us will do a braai while we set up our nighttime routine in hopes of seeing more visitors. We’ll wait patiently.

Tomorrow, we’ll continue sharing more photos we’ve yet to present here from our outstanding trip to Zambia. 

Have a happy weekend!

Photo from one year ago today, May 19, 2017:

The Ketchikan sign over the boulevard as we wandered about the historic city. For more Alaskan photos, please click here

Immigration news…New photos of us and Bob…

Our kindly and thoughtful landlord, Bob with Tom.
We returned from the Manly Ferry and bus ride back to our holiday home at around noon. It’s a bright sunny day without a cloud in the sky and we’re on CLOUD 9!!!

We’re no longer illegal immigrants!  No words can say how happy we are to have this dreadful, worrisome situation behind us. The staff at the Australian Immigration Office couldn’t have been more helpful. 

In only took about 30 minutes to receive a new Bridging Visa that will last until April 22nd when we’ll board the ship that will hightail us out of Australia and bring us back to North America for our upcoming Alaskan cruise and nine weeks visiting family.

We were happy to have photos of Bob with each of us.

This morning at 7:45 am we met Bob at his door ready to go. He drove us to the Manly Ferry and only five or six minutes later we boarded the ferry to Circular Quay in Sydney, a 30-minute ride.

No doubt, both of us were worried about the outcome of our 10:00 am appointment, but we both attempted to remain upbeat and hopeful. I continued to take photos on what proved to be a sunny day, the first we’d experienced in the past two weeks since our arrival in Sydney by cruise ship.

Once we arrived at Circular Quay we took a taxi to immigration, a traffic-congested 20-minute ride in Monday morning rush hour traffic at a cost of AU $17.50, US $13.33. We arrived with an hour to spare decided to head to a local coffee shop for a cup of tea for me and coffee for Tom.

We sat outdoors at this cafe sipping coffee, tea and chatting with an American couple we met.

The instructions for our appointment clearly stated we were not to arrive any sooner than 15 minutes prior to the scheduled appointment. With comfortable seating at an outdoor cafe, we met a wonderful retired couple from the US and the lively banter began. 

Before we knew it, it was 9:45 and we needed to make the short walk for our appointment. I felt my heart rate increase in worrisome anticipation of a poor outcome. In no time at all, we were seated in a waiting area on the fourth floor where others with similar immigration status were also waiting for the outcome of their situation. 

Our ticket number was 001. Surely the wait wouldn’t be long. Moments later, we heard our number being called to find the kindly rep who’d worked with us the first time we arrived at immigration almost two weeks ago in an attempt to sort this out.

Within 15 minutes, we were told with smiles on their faces that they’d provide us with a new Bridging Visa and within 30 minutes, we were out the door with documents in hand giving us an extension, good until midnight on April 22nd.

Tom and I with Sydney behind us on another cloudy day., taken a few days ago.  Today, finally, we have sunshine!

Thank goodness, the upcoming cruise didn’t include any Australian ports of call. Had that been the case, we may have had an even more serious situation. Luckily, this particular cruise itinerary didn’t include any stops in Australia. We were good to go.

We thanked the rep and her assistant profusely. Tom even put his hands together and bowed as he’d so graciously done time and again in Bali, in gratefulness for a service well provided. We both chuckled over the fact that some habits are hard to break, especially one as special as that bow.

Now, back home after a pleasant outdoor ride on the ferry and a quick bus ride, I began today’s post excited to share our good news. Once I wrap this up, we’ll get back to work on ordering Tom a new laptop we found online with expedited international shipping.

Now, we can go back to thinking about our missing shipment from Nevada that included all of our tax documents, our two new driver’s licenses, my new phone, and a variety of other items we’d included in the package. One thing at a time, please.

Thanks to all of our wonderful readers who sent us good wishes for today’s outcome. Your concern meant so much to both of us! Happy day!

Photo from one year ago today, March 26, 2016:

Taking photos of the two pink cockatoos at the alpaca farm in New Zealand through the narrow chain link fence was tricky.  This unedited photo illustrates the tightness of the fence and the beauty of this pink bird.  For more photos, please click here. 

Working on our immigration issue…Five days and counting….

The sun peeked out for a few hours while we were in Manly making our way to the ferry.

When we left the Australian Immigration office in Sydney nine days ago, we were told to watch for the Bridge Visa we’d received via email by the end of the day.  The officer at immigration had given us a phone number to call if we had questions in the interim.  We had many questions when we’d had a difficult time understanding the vague and complicated instructions given to us by the immigration officer who, with the best of intentions, was unsure as to how to handle our case.

Later in the day the email arrived stating we had another appointment at the same office on March 27th at 10 am. That was clear to us.  Thus, we didn’t call the phone number which we’d left on the kitchen table which continued to nag at me.  Should we call?  Or should we wait until our appointment?

Yesterday morning, we decided to call to see if there was anything additional we could do or prepare for the upcoming appointment on Monday.  After waiting on hold for 20 minutes in the queue, finally a friendly rep came on the line.

Sailing on a windy day.

In reviewing our file, she adamently stated we needed to apply for Visitors Visa #600 before our appointment on Monday.  When we asked this same question to the rep at the immigration office “Should we apply for the visa online?” the she wasn’t sure if we should or not, leaving us confused when we left.

Calling might provide us with an answer.  There was no way we wanted to show up on Monday having failed to do something required in this complicated process.  Yesterday, we were relieved we’d called when we were told we better not show up on Monday without having applied online for Visitors Visa #600, a necessary adjunct to our Bridge Visa which was in place for only two weeks (ending on March 27th).

If we didn’t get the Visitors Visa, we’d be in big trouble next Monday when the Bridge Visa expires at midnight.  The phone rep immediately sent us the link to apply for the Visitors Visa. 

An appealing candy kiosk in at the Manly Ferry station.

We each followed the link in the email deciding to complete the form simultaneously on each of our laptops in order to aid one another in ensuring accuracy.  There was no margin for error in this process and lately, as error prone as I had been (you know…wrong day at the opera), following along together made sense.

Before we could even begin the 20 page process, we had to sign up for an online immigration account which required a series of seven or eight security questions. 

Having to deal with answering security questions can be a tricky process.  If an answer is off by only one letter, one number or a single aspect of the answer, it may result in total frustration when trying to recall what was originally intended.  

Manly is a charming beach town with shops, restaurants and water activities.

We didn’t want to make a lengthy handwritten list for each of us.  We’d already written down the complicated passwords including all types of characters, capital and lower case letters and numbers.  You know how that goes.

It ended up taking at least a half hour to getting our individual accounts set up.  As we’ve mentioned, its been very rainy and humid since we arrived.  When we were 10 minutes into this process, I suggested we turn on the air con.  We were both drenched in sweat.  Oh, I don’t like this stuff.

Immediatey Tom turned on the air conditioning.  Besides, we’d done two loads of laundry hanging it indoors on the portable rack making the humidity all the worse in our little apartment. The air con was a welcomed relief.

Yummy looking mounds of interesting flavors of ice cream at the Manly Wharf.

Once we’d established the accounts, we proceeded to begin the 20 page online document.  It was a slow process when we continually received error messages for entering words in unacceptable formats.  We plodded along.

Once we completed page 4 and hit the “continue” button for page 5, we both received an error message, “You cannot continue from this point based on your current status.  Call the immigration office immediately.”  Oh, oh.

We called again, waiting on hold on Skype for another 30 minutes only to be told, when a different rep came on the line after looking up our file, that were not supposed to fill out this form.  We were to wait and see what transpires on Monday. Oh.  She was very kind and apologetic that we were told otherwise.  We asked her to note the conversation in our file which she promptly handled.

After dark this cruise ship headed out to sea from the Sydney Harbour.  Hopefully, that will be us one month from today on April 22nd.

In one way we were relieved to avoid completing the remaining 16 pages but in another way, we were further concerned as to the outcome on Monday.  There was nothing more we could do at this point.

Worse case scenario…we could be told to leave the country immediately and not return for three years, missing our cruise on the April 22nd, forcing us to fly to New Caledonia, book a hotel  for almost a month and wait for the ship to arrive at a port of call three days after the cruise begins and then have to load our bags on a “tender boat.” 

Best case scenario…we’ll get another Bridge Visa, good until April 22nd when we’ll board the ship in Sydney.  There’s another possibility that we’ll have to leave the country, fly to another country and return a day later.  Also, there are possible fines, penalties and circumstances we aren’t aware of at this point which by Monday, we’ll be well informed.

Kookaburra atop the roof of neighboring house.

We’re surprised how we’ve been able to still enjoy our time in Fairlight, Manly and Sydney based on our concern over this situation.  We’ve taken many photos, seen so much and have been out and about reveling in this beautiful area.  Also, we’re still able to laugh and maintain a hopeful and positive perspective. 

After all, the results of this scenario whichever way it goes, won’t cost us more than money, time and inconvenience.  In the realm of things, as we always say, “If we have our health, we’re safe and we have one another, we can handle it.”

So it goes.

May you have good health and be safe with those you love.

________________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, March 22, 2016:

Many farms in New Zealand have ocean views adding another layer of beauty to the scenery.  For more photos, please click here.

Facing the biggest challenge of our travels to date…Telling it like it is…Arrived in Sydney to a fabulous vacation home…

View from the veranda of our new holiday home in Fairlight/Manly, a suburb of Sydney.

As we discussed in prior posts, we never fail to “tell it like it is,” although, at times, we may wait to post a troublesome situation after we know more about it. This was the case when, on March 6th, while already onboard the cruise for six days when Tom received an email from Australian Immigration stating that he violated immigration laws. Oddly, this didn’t include me at that point.

When we met with immigration upon boarding the ship, an issue came up at that time in regard to Tom’s visa, here again not mine. They let us board saying we could deal with it later. Perhaps it was some glitch, one we could deal with after we disembarked the ship on March 13th.

The sky’s been overcast since our arrival yesterday morning. 

We never gave it another thought until the email came through on the 6th. The email requested documentation of our travels in Australia, particularly recent cruises to which Tom quickly responded, providing appropriate documentation.

On March 9th, four days prior to the end of the cruise, the ship’s immigration officer called us in the cabin stating they were putting a call through from the immigration department in Sydney regarding “both” of our immigration violations.

When the rep came on the line, it sounded as if we were in serious trouble. Apparently, according to their records, we’d violated the maximum 90 day period we’re allowed to stay in Australia, thus canceling our one-year visas entirely (our second in these past two years). 

Reef Bay, our views from the veranda.

According to their records, we’re currently in this country illegally. Ouch. Rather than spend paragraph after paragraph trying to explain the immigration laws of Australia, we’ll simplify how this happened, as we’ve now discovered may be entirely our fault from misunderstanding the immigration laws in this country.

As meticulous as we’ve been over these past years to maintain the highest level of compliance for all laws, rules, and regulations, we’re stunned to find ourselves in this predicament.

Bob, our amazing landlord and new friend came running to tell us the Kookarburros were on his veranda. We couldn’t believe our eyes for this up-close view of these huge beautiful birds.

Here’s what transpired in a nutshell. First, we’d assumed (yes, we know the word “assumed” shouldn’t be in our vocabulary) that sailing in and out of various countries during a cruise would restart the 90 days we can stay in Australia. 

How wrong we were. In Australia when sailing from and ending up in the country, its referred to as a “closed-loop,” with none of the countries we’ve visited counting toward restarting the 90 day ticker of time allowed in Australia.

On the phone call with immigration on March 9th, we were instructed to show up immediately at the immigration building in Sydney upon our arrival without stop or delay.

The size of these beautiful birds is astounding when up close and personal. We’d seen them in Trinity Beach in 2015 but never this close. They didn’t fly off when we approached, but they certainly checked us out.

As much as we wanted to comply, it was impossible to bring our three heavy bags and two carry-on bags into the building with us. Surely, security would have had to go through everything in the government building. 

Instead, after disembarking the ship, we decided to take a taxi to the vacation rental (30-minute ride), drop off the bags, and immediately return to Sydney’s center to the Australian Immigration Building. 

By 10:45 am, we were waiting in a queue to speak with someone who’d hopefully help us figure out the best solution to our dilemma.  Our options were few:

1.  Leave the country for good: We’d lose the money for the vacation rental for 40 nights plus a portion of the cruise fare for our return to the US on April 22nd, having to board the ship during a port of call in another country.
2.  Apply for a “bridge visa” only good for a short period while we attempt to find a solution while working with immigration.
3.  Fly out of the country with a “bridge visa” in place and also apply for a new one year visa hoping it would be approved (but not guaranteed) for our return to board the cruise.”

The Kookaburras were squawking at Bob for a treat. He complied while we watched in wonder.

Fortunately, the kindly rep we met with was willing to help us put some of the above options in action. She directed us to apply online for the “bridge visa” and scheduled an appointment for us to return to immigration on March 27th, the last day the “bridge visa” will be valid. 

Yesterday afternoon, after returning to the vacation rental, we spent hours applying for the bridging visa, which was approved later in the day when we received the online confirmation. Unfortunately, this doesn’t warrant or guaranty in any manner that we can stay until the cruise on April 22nd. 

At this point, we have no idea what will transpire on March 27th. We can only be patient and wait and see. In the interim, we’re making every effort to stay upbeat and positive, neither of which will impact the outcome, both of which will aid us in maintaining our sanity in the process.

Last night’s cloudy view in the shopping and dining area of Manly Beach.

As for the property in Manly…its outstanding, as is our fun, funny, thoughtful, and generous property owner with whom we dined out last night and have already spent considerable time hanging out together. Both the property and owner are exceptional.

Tomorrow, we’ll share more photos and details on the fabulous accommodations and surroundings in this very special beach town of Fairlight/Manly. We’ll keep you updated on our immigration status as we learn more over these next weeks.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, March 14, 2016:

We never figured out the source of smoke in these photos but the scene was gorgeous none the less. For more photos, please click here.