Immigration has an answer for us…

Dung beetles are fascinating little creatures. We spotted this one in the garden yesterday morning.

Yesterday afternoon, we received an email from the law firm representing us in our request for a visa extension that the decision has been made. Since the South African immigration department is backlogged, we had to use an attorney. If we attempted to file independently, we may never have received an answer in time and would have overstayed.

We’d be banned from the country for five years if we overstayed and subject to fines. We are prepared for this possibility. If our extension is rejected, we’ll have seven days to leave the country. If that transpires, we will head to Florida early to wait for our cruise on April 8.

While seated at the table on the veranda, I spotted him at quite a distance. In this photo, he was trying to figure out how to get away from wildebeest Hal’s legs, fearful he’d be stepped on. He safely made it past Hal.

Most likely, we will be approved. Why would they turn us down? We are spending money in their country and not causing any problems. We don’t use their medical system without payment, although we did receive a no-cost vaccination booster. We offered to pay, and they refused.

Friday morning at 10:15 is our scheduled appointment to appear at the immigration office in Nelspruit to each open our sealed envelopes. Once again, we’ll make the harrowing three-hour round trip drive, head to the immigration office, wait for our turn to open the two sealed envelopes, one for each of us, to see if we’ve been approved and the date we have to leave.

On average, dung beetles can handle a dung ball 50 times their weight.

The last time we filed for an extension was in 2018 when we were each given different visa expiration dates. Go figure. Our applications were entered as a couple. Why would we leave on different dates? Instead, we left earlier so one of us wouldn’t be considered “undesirable” for overstaying by a few days.

I always dread the drive to Nelspruit, especially through the gorge where giant semis hog the two-lane road. Thank goodness South Africans are courteous drivers who move over onto the shoulder to allow faster vehicles to pass. We’ve never seen this anywhere else in the world. Drivers are thoughtful. We’ve yet to see any road rage. Instead, there are other issues on the roads here, such as shootings and carjackings. Then again, these have become commonplace in the US as well, including in Minnesota, where we lived.

Every so often, he fell off his ball and landed on his back. Struggling for a few minutes, he managed to right himself and start again.

This morning, I am rushing, trying to get the post done, and walking as much as possible. Rita is picking me up in an hour for us to have pedicures together at the lovely little spa in Marloth Park. We’ll be gone a few hours, so I will have to catch up on the walking when I return a few hours later. Right now, I have the timer set to walk every 15 minutes.

Already this morning, I folded all of the laundry on the rack, made the salad for tonight’s dinner, worked on the documents for Friday’s trip to immigration, and walked two miles in the house. Friday, we’ll be gone from 8:00 am until noon. Friday afternoon, when we return, I’ll be swamped catching up, doing the post with the outcome of the immigration office visit, and somehow manage to walk almost 4 miles,  6.4 km.

Some may say, “Give it a break! Take a day off!” But, I am doing this to save my life. There are no days off when that’s the objective.

His objective is to find a mate. Two “rolling” beetles, a male and a female, will roll and bury a ball of dung for food storage or to make a brood ball. The male is typically tasked with rolling the ball, with the female often hitching a ride on the ball. When they reach a soft spot in the soil, they bury the ball and mate underground. After preparing the ball, the female will lay eggs inside the ball. Some species will stay behind to safeguard their offspring; others will leave the eggs to hatch, with the larvae feeding on the dung

Otherwise, all is fine. Tomorrow morning at 9:00, I am going to Stoep Cafe for breakfast with Rita. At 11:00 pm, Tom and I have teeth cleaning appointments at the dental office next door to the cafe. Tom will arrive at that time, have his teeth cleaned, and then we’ll shop at the market and pharmacy.

On Friday night, friends Lynne and Mick, whom we haven’t seen since 2019, will meet the four of us for dinner at Jabula. We have no plans yet for Saturday night, but something will likely pop up.

Have a pleasant day and evening, wherever you may be.

Photo from one year ago today, February 9, 2021:

Bossy (before she was pregnant) and a friend, partaking of pellets. For more photos, please click here.

Early morning trip to Nelspruit…

    Our guide was prepared to begin backing up as this male elephant in musth moved closer and closer to us. Musth or must is a periodic condition in bull elephants characterized by highly aggressive behavior and accompanied by a large rise in reproductive hormones. Testosterone levels in an elephant in musth can be on average 60 times greater than in the same elephant at other times.

Yesterday afternoon we got a message from the lawyer informing us we had an appointment at the immigration office at 8:30 this morning to submit our 50 pages of documents for our visa extensions. We thought we were bypassing this step by using the law firm to assist us for some odd reason.

Had we known this, we may have done the process independently. Although, they helped ensure we had everything in order. Now we wait for about 60 days for the approval. If granted, we will have to return to Nelspruit again to get out passports stamped with the new 90-day extension. It’s quite a confusing and time-consuming process.

Elephant carrying her trunk on her tusk. Early elephants had tusks, and one idea is that as tusks became longer, it was harder and harder for elephants to get their mouths to the ground to reach the grass. The trunk on their tusk helps them to reach more food and to eat more in a shorter time.

Going through this painstaking process and avoiding flying to another country with many Covid restrictions right now saved us about US $3000, ZAR 4642. In the realm of things, it will have been worth it. Once approved, we’ll be able to stay until April 22. But if our April 8 cruise doesn’t cancel, we will be on our way by April 1 or sooner.

Our eventual departure date will depend on the cruise line’s requirements based on our coming out of South Africa.The ship sails out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The US has more Covid/Omicron cases per capita than South Africa. It will be interesting to see how that rolls out.

Elephant crossing the dirt road, trunk high in the air, sniffing for food or threats.

Our appointment at the immigration office was scheduled for 10:45 am. We arrived an hour earlier than the appointment time when Tom suggested we go right up to the fifth floor to VSF Immigration anyway, rather than kill time walking around downtown Nelspruit. That decision proved to be a great idea. We were the only applicants at the check-in point outside the door or inside the facility when we arrived.

As I write this post in the car, we expect to be back in Marloth Park by noon. We expected to be waiting in chairs for hours as we had in 2018 when we applied for an extension at that time.

Only one tusk was showing from this view. Our guide explained that when the elephant’s ears are flapped over, as shown above, it indicates an older elephant, as the ear cartilage has aged.

All and all, it wasn’t too bad. Before we left this morning, I prepped all the veggies for dinner. Once I add photos to today’s post upon returning to the house, I’ll do some laundry and catch up on my walking for the day.

We were happy to see Frank and The Misses at the veranda door at the house. We hadn’t seen either of them in almost a week, and we’ve been wondering if they’ve been busy sitting on some eggs out in the bush. It would be delightful to see little Franks and The Misses sometime soon.

The sky cleared after pelting rain when we first started.

Tom is sitting at the table on the veranda watching US football on his laptop, and I’m indoors finishing up today’s post. My timer is set to remind me to walk every 20 minutes. It’s a good day, after all.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, January 18, 2021:

This was Tiny. We haven’t seen him since we returned from the US at the end of July. We miss him but have focused on energy on Little and other animals. For more photos, please click here.

Summer solstice today in the Southern Hemisphere..Again, we made a decision about our visas expiring in a month…

Impala with an oxpecker in Kruger National Park.

This morning, when checking the news for any relevant topics to share today, other than the news-hogging Omicron variant, I stumbled across several articles about today being the official start date for summer in South Africa. It was nice to see headlines about something other than Covid-19, which is monopolizing headlines worldwide.

Impalas on the side of the road as we passed.

To stay on top of things, I read several news reports from worldwide sources. I tend to particularly like news from the UK and South Africa, both of which seem to be most relevant to us during our time in this country. The UK media tends to report on activities in South Africa, especially now when many tourists from the UK often visit SA during the holiday season. Of course, travel has been dramatically tempered since the onset of Omicron, which is raging in the UK right now.

Also, at this time, we’re paying particular attention to news directly out of South Africa to see if President Ramphosa will extend visas for foreign nationals, which will directly impact us.

Baby impala, perhap only days old.

However, at this time, to be safe with our visas expiring in a little over a month, we had decided to use the services of the law firm in Cape Town that we used to obtain a waiver after we were banned from the country for five years when we overstayed by 90 days when I had emergency open-heart surgery.

The law firm did an excellent job for us when we contracted their services in May 2019 while we were in Ireland, and they could handle everything remotely. We feel confident using them again. As a matter of fact, Gerhardt and Rita used this same firm with our recommendation when they applied for their four-year retirement visa while in the US.

Zebras near the Verhami Dam.

We considered applying for the South Africa four-year retirement visa but doing so requires an extended stay in the US which didn’t work for us. Foreign nationals cannot apply for an extended visa while in South Africa. Subsequently, in the past few days, we decided to go ahead and apply for a 90-day extension with the law firm, which will take us to the end of March (and beyond until April 23, if need be).

Why pay for a law firm to assist us? Right now, the immigration department is so backlogged with applications, we will get a faster result if we use a law firm.

Zebras seeking shelter from the sun under a bush,

At this point, we still don’t know if our booked transatlantic cruise to the UK will sail on April 8th. The final payment will be taken from our credit card online at Costco on Christmas Day. We were hoping that Celebrity Cruise Line would do so before the final payment is due if they ended up canceling the cruise.

However, many cruise lines require full payment on the original final payment due date, even if they intend to cancel the cruise in a few months due to the pandemic. This provides them the free use of our money for many months while we end up having to wait for a refund for months after they cancel the cruise. It can take three to four months to get a refund after the cruise is canceled. It’s the nature of the beast.

A newborn wildebeest suckling.

Based on what’s happening in the UK right now with the Omicron wildfire of cases, we’re expecting the cruise will be canceled. Based on stats from the website Worldometer, yesterday, the UK, with a population of 68,409,000, had 91,743 new cases. For comparison’s sake, the US had 143,530 new cases, also yesterday, with a population of 333,850,090, which continues to have the highest numbers of cases and deaths worldwide.

Yes, I know these numbers can easily be skewed. After all, humans are entering the information. Does a person who goes to the hospital with a fatal heart attack become a Covid statistic when they also happen to have Covid-19 at the time of death? Sure, there’s plenty of this going on, especially when many countries provide hospital remuneration when patients die from the virus.

Wildebeests resting near Verhami Dam.

But, we have nothing else to go on, and perhaps these stats serve as a guide to what’s happening throughout the world. I can only imagine how many cases aren’t reported in most parts of the world. Not everyone who gets Covid019 gets tested or goes to a medical facility for treatment. It’s not foolhardy to speculate that more than half, if not more, of the cases, go unreported.

We live in precarious times. We can’t anticipate what the future holds, even based on daily living. All we can do now is continue to strive toward good health, fulfilling relationships with family and friends, kindness to others and our world, and fiscal responsibility to the best of our ability.

May this holiday season remind us of our blessings and those areas of life for which we can be grateful.

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

This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #263. In December 2019, we were preparing to enter the stadium for the Las Vegas Golden Knights game with my son Richard. Thanks, Richard, it was an enjoyable night! Here‘s the post from that night. For more photos, please click here.

The immigration issues unfolded…Hearts pounding, holding our breath!…

There’s our boy, Broken Horn. He was so happy to see us he was shaking his head and moving his feet up and down. Funny, boy!

The flight from Livingstone was delayed. We later discovered it was due to a mechanical issue before it took off for Zambia. As we sat in the cafe at the airport, we were only concerned about the delay in the event we wouldn’t get to Nelspruit in time to hit the road, the dangerous N4, before dark.

It’s never wise to travel on this two-lane highway at night due to heavy truck traffic and carjacking risks. If our flight didn’t arrive at the Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger Airport by 5:30 pm, 1730 hrs, we’d have no choice but to book a hotel room for the night. Sunset was at 6:05 pm, 1805 hrs, and with the usual 90 minutes required to make the drive to Marloth Park, at no point during such a drive would being on the road in the dark be worth the risk.

Broken Horn and Bad Eye. Her eye has healed nicely.

Finally, after an hour-long wait, the plane arrived and prepped for our flight. By 2:30 pm, 1430 hrs, we were on the runway with only six passengers, including the two of us. It took off with the lowest number of passengers we’d experienced on this particular small jet with Airlink.

The flight was smooth and uneventful, and we arrived in Nelspruit by 4:00 pm, 1600 hrs. All we had to do at that point was get through immigration without a hitch, collect our two duffle bags, pick up the rental car and hopefully be on our way. We approached the immigration desk with passports, documents, PCR tests, and proof of rental in hand, hearts pounding, hoping for the best.

Four female kudus are regular visitors. They wasted no time visiting us today.

The immigration officer was immediately well aware we’d done a “visa run” often frowned upon. With the thought that we’ve been classified as “undesirables” twice in these past nine years of travel, we were prepared for the worst. The first time was in Australia in 2017 when we made the mistake of “assuming” going on a cruise out of Sydney, visiting other countries, with the cruise ending in Sydney, only to discover we’d “overstayed.”

After days of stress, documents and worry, we finally were able to work it out with the Australian immigration department to stay until our next cruise a month later that had us officially leaving Australia.

One Tusk and Lonely Girl were happy to see us too, especially when we tossed pellets.

The next time we were “undesirable” was after we had no choice but to overstay after I’d had open-heart surgery in February 2019. We were banned from South Africa for five years, requiring us to hire a lawyer to lift the ban, successful many months later.

Had we not had these two scary experiences,  yesterday we may not have been so apprehensive when we tried to re-enter South Africa. After all, we’ve been here since January 2021 and hoped to stay until January 23, 2022. When the immigration officer carefully examined our passports, checked our records on his computer, he asked one question:

“When are you returning to the US?”

As usual, Lonely Girl arrived alone. She appears to be pregnant.

Without hesitation, Tom held up a copy of our return ticket to Tampa, Florida, USA, dated January 23, 2022. He read it carefully, pulled out his stamp, and proceeded to stamp each of our passports, writing that date as our final day without saying another word.

With only six passengers on the plane, the bags came up quickly. We struggled to keep from cheering instead of walking away briskly to collect our bags which were already waiting for us on the carousel in the next room. Tom grabbed a trolley, the bags, and we were on our way to the rental car area. By 5:00 pm, 1700 hrs, we were on the road.

Female kudus (including Bad Eye), along with Broken Horn, harmoniously shared pellets.

How did we get away with staying in South Africa for so long after receiving our original 90 days upon entry?

  1. President Ramaphosa issued a visa waiver for those who’d arrived around the time we had – 90 days.
  2. We went to the US for a month and received another new visa – 90 days
  3. Yesterday’s new visa was issued for traveling to Zambia, luckily accepted – 90 days

Until darkness fell, Tom drove fast and aggressively, never forsaking the law or safety with only a short time. We pulled into the Gate 2 entrance to Marloth Park 70 minutes after we left the airport. Safari luck? Perhaps. In any case, we are grateful.

Once back at the house, which smelled clean after the spring cleaning Zef and Vusi did in our absence, we quickly unpacked, plugged in our equipment, freshened up a bit, and made our way to Jabula, where Dawn and Leon greeted us with the warmest of hugs. It was great to see them again, and we all sat at the bar, listening to great music while Dawn ran back and forth serving customers. We didn’t head out the door until 9:30, 2230 hrs.

A good night’s sleep was had by both of us. I awoke at 5:00 am, chomping at the bit to get outside to welcome our furry friends back into our lives. But, I stayed in bed to avoid awakening Tom. Throughout the day, they’ve returned, one after another making us laugh over their apparent enthusiasm at seeing us back here. We’ve yet to see Frank and Little but give it a few more hours, and I imagine we’ll see them too.

We couldn’t be happier to be back among our human and animal friends. Life is good.

Have a spectacular day!

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

This screenshot was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #218. I received this message from Fitbit that I’ve earned my India walking badge. For more, please click here.

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

We spent all afternoon for two days attempting 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 must have less than a month left 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 particular email address.

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. If we could apply at the Kenya Immigration site, we’d only have to pay the US $51, ZAR 761 each.

We expect that the government offices in Kenya aren’t open due to the pandemic, 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 simultaneously, 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 several 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 impact 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.

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 we are well aware of our site and have notified our web people if our site is down. 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. Today, there are two more load shedding sessions, 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 relaxing 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 to be surprising everyone.  In the background are 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 tremendous 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 participating in a multitude of social events with the sisters and other locals.

When I finish the daily posts and respond to any 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 beautiful holiday homes within our budget. We’ve 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 comes, we’ll assess 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 don’t enjoy shopping in stores, although I didn’t always feel that way in my old life. The varied selections and the abundance of items can be daunting, making the process somewhat unpleasant. I don’t think that way about grocery shopping which has always been enjoyable.

This morning, after researching 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 assist 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 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 ago…Two 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.