Airline challenges, but we’ve made it to Joburg…Photos from our last night in Las Vegas…..

We dined in Henderson, Nevada, at Lindo Mochaicans. a fantastic Mexican restaurant, noisy and fun. This drink is called a Coronarita. Get it? 

While on the first leg of our long journey, I wrote this, an almost five-hour flight from Las Vegas, Nevada, to Newark, New Jersey. I was hopeful. If the flight continued at this pace, we expected to arrive early in Newark, at around 7:30 pm, Eastern time.  

Our next flight to Johannesburg, the 15-hour red-eye, was scheduled to depart at 8:35 pm, giving us ample time to get to the gate where we are to board.  Our fingers were crossed for more ‘safari luck,” especially appropriate as we make our way back to Africa with wildlife in mind.

Guacamole made tableside, served with homemade tortilla chips.

Toward the end of the Newark flight, I spoke to the flight attendants. They told us the next flight would wait for us since we’d booked everything with United Airlines, except for the leg from Joburg to Nelspruit, leaving on Monday at 11:20 am and arriving less than an hour later, when we collect the rental car and make the 90-minute drive to Marloth Park.

With only 46 minutes between the two flights to make our way to a distant gate, naturally, when we deplaned, hearing the pilot telling the other passengers to make way for those with immediate connecting flights, we didn’t think we’d make it. The flight attendant noticed us walked by and said, “Barrel on through. People wouldn’t budge. Make them move!”

I giggled at her comment and pressed on through the crowd, with Tom behind me, handling the two carry-on bags. We exited gate C121 in Newark and thought we could make it in minutes to gate C125 in no time at all. Oh, no, not the case. My Fitbit clocked over 3000 steps from one gate to the next.

Once we arrived at the gate, the doors were closed with a sign reading “Boarding closed.” Fortunately, an agent stood behind the desk and checked us in, alerting the plane we’d made it. Whew! We were so relieved to have made it. I was incredibly relieved to see the two seats were empty next to me on row 45. I could stretch out to sleep. Tom only had one free seat next to him, at his seat across the aisle from me.

I was glad we hadn’t upgraded to business class, which we’d considered. But, at the cost of US $2000, ZAR 29702, we couldn’t justify it. One bad night’s sleep could be recovered in a few nights.

The almost 15-hour flight was relatively uneventful. The food was awful, nothing I could eat, and nothing Tom would eat. Before landing at 5:45 pm, 1745 hrs, they served an egg McMuffin-type thing with one cooked egg and a slice of ham. I ate the egg and the ham and left the bread. Tom ate his.

Once we arrived at Joburg airport, after over an hour of searching, the big duffle bag containing most of our new clothes and shoes was missing at the carousel. We filed a claim and hope we’ll receive it in Marloth Park by Tuesday. If not, we’ll have to file another claim for the value of its content. What a pain! But, we are grateful to be here safely with only one more leg to go.

We’re spending the night in the airport hotel in Johannesburg and will be ready to get back into the airport in the morning. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get some sleep tonight. It’s almost 10:00 pm here in South Africa, but to us, it’s still 1:00 pm. I can’t imagine falling asleep anytime soon.

There it is, folks, another long journey behind us with many more to come in the future, health-providing, speaking of which, we’re grateful to return to SA fully vaccinated after a fantastic family visit. Time well spent.

The view of Allegiant Stadium, home of the Las Vegas Raiders, is seen from the restaurant window.

We will be back tomorrow with an update on which of our animal friends are back to see us! We’ve been gone four weeks and hope they weren’t too discouraged to return to us.

Photo from one year ago today, July 25, 2020:

From the year-ago post on day #124 while in lockdown in Mumbai, India. Classic scene of three vultures on a limb in Kruger National Park. We were thrilled to get this shot from quite a distance. From this site: Vultures are, however, great ecologists, having a high sense of personal hygiene and are a manifestation of the adage of patience as a virtue. They clean the veld of carrion, thereby minimizing the impact of animal disease, and they bathe regularly in rivers after gorging themselves at a kill.” For more, please click here.

Day #2…We’re on the move…South Africa visas extended, again for foreign nationals…Vaccines provided in Marloth Park…

    A young male kudu sheltered in the shade to cool off in the heat.

So it goes. As of last night, a notice was online from South Africa immigration that visas for foreign nationals were extended once again, this time until September 30, 2021. Then on Facebook, we saw photos of seniors over 60 years of age getting their Covid-19 vaccines in Marloth Park. Oh well, this information became known to us once we had arrived in Johannesburg and we were situated in our hotel room.

In any case, we’re excited to see the family after a year and a half, and the trip indeed will be worthwhile and gratifying. We will return with a visa stamp taking us to October 26, 2021, and we’ll figure things out from there. Returning to South Africa fully vaccinated will also give us peace of mind, although we’ll continue to observe lockdown requirements and safety protocols.

If it weren’t for the long and challenging travel time, leaving and returning requiring almost two days, visiting the US would undoubtedly occur more frequently. But, it always seems as if we are very far away at any given time since we’re inclined to be interested in more remote locations, rather than a more leisurely trip to Europe, for example.

We’re often asked why we don’t spend more time in Europe. The answer for us is clear. We’ve already visited hundreds of historic buildings, including churches, museums, galleries, and such. We feel more inclined toward our preferences surrounding nature and wildlife and more unusual locations for the remainder of our years of world travel, less frequented by typical travelers.

Of course, with the pandemic in our midst, who’s to say where we’ll be able to travel in the future? For all of us passionate travelers, the options are limited at present and may continue to be so over the next several years, for all we know. Here again, only time will tell.

As for our drive to Nelspruit, the car rental drop-off, and the flight to Johannesburg, all was smooth and went as planned.  Airlink out of Nelspruit is a great airline, and we’ve always been happy with their flights and good service. But, unfortunately, since we’d booked the return flight at the end of July as one contiguous journey, Las Vegas (LAS) to Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger (MQP), we weren’t able to use the individual return flight from Joburg to Nelspruit.

We stopped at the Airlink counter yesterday, and they gave us a two-year credit for the return flight. That was great, even unexpected. Airlines are realizing that being more adaptable during Covid-19 will go a long way toward customer retention in the future.

Once we arrived at the hotel, Garden Court, it took a good 35 minutes to get checked in and a room key in Joburg. Several suitable Covid protocols were in place, but they never asked to see our negative PCR test results. We wondered what they’d do about food when all restaurants in South Africa are closed.

As it turned out, they have some arrangements for takeaway from a local restaurant, and our meals were delivered at 6:00 pm, 1800 hrs. We hadn’t eaten anything all day. Airlink had given us each a “boxed lunch” when we de-planed since no food service was allowed during the flight. We didn’t look at it until we checked into the hotel room.

There was a bag of salt/vinegar potato chips, candy, and two juice boxes. I don’t eat any of those items, and Tom snacked on both boxes throughout the evening. Dinner was mediocre, but what did we expect? I had two chicken legs and left the rice and veg. Tom had a steak (no steak knife), rice, and veg. He ate my rice along with his.

Our 9:30 am breakfast order lost. So we had to re-order again at 10:00 am. I ordered poached eggs, bacon, and sausage. Tom ordered fried eggs, plus cold cereal, muffins, toast, and hash browns. Hahaha! That’s my guy!

We requested a late checkout and arranged with the shuttle driver to take us back to the airport at 3:45 pm, 1545 hrs. So our flight isn’t until 7:00 pm, 1900 hrs, allowing us three hours before departure as required. The first flight to Frankfurt is 10 hours 35 minutes, followed by a five-hour layover in Frankfurt. Then, we’re off to Chicago on another 9 hours 15-minute flight.

Once we arrive in Chicago, we’ll have another layover of a few hours. Whew! It will be a long journey. But, this isn’t the first time we’ve had a long trip, nor will it be the last.

We’ll be back in touch during our layover in Frankfort.

Have a pleasant day and evening.

Photo from one year ago today, June 30, 2020:

We walked past a grove of palm trees and evergreens in Trinity Beach, Australia, as we made our way to the beach. For more photos, please click here.

Hello, my Africa…It’s good to be back where we belong…

Today’s photos were taken at dusk resulting in less clear images. We work on improving our photos going forward!

What can I say? How we feel is beyond description. At the moment, we’re seated at the big wooden table on the ground level veranda with nary a railing, overlooking the bush parklands, rife with wildlife. No sooner than we opened the screened (yeah!) sliding door, they were here, albeit tentatively, wondering who we are and what we may have in store for them.

We served up treats from a 40 kg, 88-pound bag of pellets already opened last night for the stream of visitors that arrived only moments after we did. Sitting by the fabulous braai, a South African fire pit, we gasped in awe of the treasures our eyes beheld, one species after another, including seven giraffes at our driveway, several kudus, warthogs, guinea fowl, bushbucks, and more.

Then, this morning, they all returned, perhaps others than those from last night, anxious to see who will be their new neighbors. Besides, this is their land, not ours and in reality, we are the visitors, not them. Ah, the number of times, we’ve said in our posts, “Pinch me, is this real?”

And now, I say this again, with as much, if not more enthusiasm than ever. At times, I wondered if the excitement would be as profound as it was in the prior 18 months we spent in Marloth Park over the past eight-plus years. But, if anything, it was more.

The 10 months in the hotel room in India catapulted us to a new level of appreciation and gratitude, one we thought we could never achieve, after all the exquisite experiences since the onset of our travels in 2012. But, here we are now, reeling with pure joy to be back where we belong.

The familiarity we felt as we drove from Nelspruit after our three full days of travel, was comforting. As we began the long final drive toward Gate 2 in Marloth Park, around 3:00 pm yesterday, where the guards at the gate gave us a one month pass to hang on the rearview mirror with offers for more in months to come. We knew we were “home.”

We drove to Louise and Danie’s beautiful Information Center to be greeted with the enthusiasm we so cherish, with them as such great friends for the past seven years, during which we always stayed in close touch when we were away. We sat at their gorgeous bar, commiserating for a few hours until finally, it was time to come to our new home.

We knew the house was small, a single story with two bedrooms, two en-suite bathrooms, a spacious lounge/living room, a dining room with a  fantastic table and upholstered chairs, and a good-sized modern kitchen with a countertop with bar stools, well-equipped with everything we’ll need.

Louise grocery shopped for us, putting everything away as we would have. She knows us so well after all these years. Soon, we’ll prepare our first meal, steak on the braai. Is it any wonder, we’ll be eating beef for the next several days? We weren’t hungry for breakfast this morning and last night, we didn’t bother with dinner. Instead, we had a small plate of good cheeses to share, along with water and iced tea.

We definitely had good luck during the three travel days, which included the following details Tom compiled this morning::

“Three flights; the first from Mumbai, to Dubai, 2 hours 45 minutes with a 16-hour layover. A second flight from Dubai, to Johannesburg an 8 hour 45-minute flight with a 26-hour layover. The third flight from Johannesburg, to Nelspruit (Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport), 45 minutes.
Then, the rental car drive, from Nelspruit to Marloth Park, 1 hour 30 mins.
3 flights       12 hours 15 minutes
2 layovers   42 hours
1 drive           1 hour 30 minutes
Total travel time from door to door was 59 hours, which included hotel departures, shuttles, waiting at airports, and spending time working on three months of car rentals at the Budget counter in Nelspruit.
If anyone would have asked me a few years ago if we’d be open to 59 hours of travel time to anywhere, we would have said it was too challenging, even for “sturdy us.” But, as we all know, motivation and purpose are powerful drivers and we’re grateful we stuck to our commitment to return to South Africa, instead of “giving up” and returning to the US at this time.
And here we are, sitting together, in touch with each other’s needs, wants, and joys, as always. Nothing, after those 10 trying months has diminished the strength of our love and commitment to one another. We’re still “stuck like glue.”
Again, thanks to everyone for the endless stream of good wishes. There will never be enough time to reply to each and every one of you, but please know we appreciate every single one of you.
Stay safe. Be well. Be happy.
Photo from one year ago today, January 14, 2020:
This hornbill from a photo taken in 2019, decided to look at her reflection in the glass of the little red car, assuming it was another Hornbill, perhaps a possible mate. For more from the year-ago post, please click here.

We made it to Johannesburg…The best laid plans of mice…

May the New Year bring us all together regardless of our spots or stripes…

Today’s photos are from our post on December 31, 2018, while enjoying New Year’s in Marloth Park. These photos are a taste of what is yet to come

Well, folks, we’re almost there. A short time ago, we arrived at the hotel in Johannesburg, showered, and dressed in comfy clothing and we’re staying put for the night, ordering room service for dinner. In the morning, prior to heading back to the Tambo International Airport, we’ll have breakfast in the restaurant before heading out.

Mom and baby. What a sight!

Mask wearing (or not wearing) is worse here in Johannesburg than anywhere we’ve been along the way or, even in India. Apparently, South Africans think that wearing the mask partially over their mouth is sufficient.  President Ramaphosa stated in a new speech last night that people will be arrested, fined, and jailed for failure to wear a mask.

Either the President needs to be more specific about how to wear a mask in his speeches or people just don’t care. Enough about that! I’ve been whining about mask-wearing for months. I am going to try to let it go with “other fish to fry” and certainly plenty of other diversions upcoming by 3:00 pm tomorrow afternoon when we’ll arrive in Marloth Park.

Adorable giraffe at rest.

In the interim, I have to confess, I am not following through on a promise I made about posting our final expenses for the 10 months in lockdown in Mumbai, India before we’d get situated in South Africa. In the past two nights, according to my Fitbit, which is pretty accurate, I’ve slept a total of six hours. I just don’t have it in me to work on the numbers with my foggy brain.

However, I will post those figures in the first weeks that we’re in Marloth Park when we’ll be relaxing outdoors, well-rested, and enjoying our wildlife visitors, moment by moment. Also, we received more well wishes for safe travels than we can ever respond to. But, we read every single one and tried to respond to as many as possible. If we missed replying to you, please accept our apologies and know that we appreciate each and every comment and email.

There were dozens of zebras playfully carrying on in the parkland.

Also, based on my current lackluster state, I wasn’t very creative in choosing photos for today’s post, just grabbing a date and going with it. These photos are a taste of what’s to come over the next months, as we make every effort to keep our photos relevant, fresh, and interesting.

As for this last flight of eight hours from Dubai to Johannesburg? Well, we weren’t able to get an upgrade to business class for Tom so I enjoyed the extra room and totally lay-down seat with a big soft blanket, pillow, and even a thin mattress pad that the flight attendant added early on to all of our seats in that section.

Although at quite a distance, it was delightful to see so many giraffes and zebras together in the open field.

Although everything was relatively comfortable, I just couldn’t sleep. During the eight hour flight, I watched four movies, my favorite of which was the recent Harrison Ford, Call of the Wild. Weak and exhausted, I cried real tears, although I was well aware that the adorable and endearing dog, Buck was computer-generated (CGI). I suppose it’s no different than getting emotional watching an animated movie with sweet characters.

During the four movies, I dozed a few times, never more than 30 minutes at a time, but not at all during the last movie, The Call of the Wild. It’s a wonderful family movie for mushy animal lovers like me.

Playfully interacting with one another.

I was offered champagne in the middle of the night, or wine or cocktails but I declined. I didn’t want my first taste of wine to be on an empty stomach on an airplane. As mentioned, alcohol is currently banned in South Africa so we may have to wait a while to have “sundowners” with our friends.

OK, friends, I’m wrapping it up here. I need to order something to eat after not having a morsel in the past 24 hours. I don’t care to eat in the middle of the night or at 5:00 am in the morning when food was served on the plane. Plus, the options for me were limited, as they are on the room service menu at this Protea by Marriott hotel. But, I’m more needing to eat than feeling hungry.

Ostriches don’t seem to mind what’s going on in the park. They are happily doing their own thing. 

Somehow, amid our very busy day tomorrow, we’ll post a short blurb and possibly a few new photos when we fly and drive to our new home in the bush.

Have a pleasant day and evening wherever you are and thanks for being our friends! Whew!

Photo from one year ago today, January 12, 2020:

On this date in 2015, in Kauai, Hawaii here is another of Tom’s exquisite sunrise photos. For the year-ago story, please click here.