Fantastic evening with friends in the bush…Tom’s on his way but ran into an obstacle…An uninvited visitor in the house…

Danie was preparing our dinner on an open fire which included slow-roasted lamb necks, roasted cauliflower, sweet potatoes, and more This was truly a South African meal. Delicious.

Note: I was so distracted by Tom returning I forgot to upload yesterday’s post!  Here you go…

The only way last night could have been better was if Tom had been with us. We all missed him and spoke of him often. That aside, we had a wonderful evening. Louise and Danie certainly know how to turn a meal into a memorable event serving fantastic food, a wide array of options, and an ambiance one would only expect in fine dining.

Most people don’t often invite half a couple for dinner. They wait until the partner has returned from wherever they may have been and then invite them as a couple. But Louise and Danie didn’t hesitate to invite me by myself, never giving it a thought that cooking for one guest may be a lot of extra work. These two special people aren’t afraid of work.

They’d been staying at the Khaya Umdani house, where my birthday party was held three weeks ago, since it has solar power, whereas their own home does not. Load shedding has been awful lately. I feel bad they put this massive inverter system in this house to ensure we are comfortable, yet they haven’t put it in their own home.

Khaya Umdani is the most upscale of all their rental properties (although all of them are very nice) and has always been our favorite. From time to time, when it’s not rented (a rarity), they use it themselves to get away from the annoyances of load shedding.

In 2014, we stayed at Khaya Umdani for about three weeks and cherished being there. We’d love to be able to rent it regularly, but it is out of the range of our budget, and we don’t expect Louise and Danie to lower the price and lose money with us staying there for so long. The price is about three times more per night than we pay for this lovely house that fulfills all of our needs and expectations.

The evening started with adult beverages and keto starters of ham, cheese, and dill pickles, perfect for my way of eating. By the time we stopped chatting long enough to eat the main course, I already felt full. But, not surprisingly, when they put that huge slow-roasted lamb neck on my plate, I dug right into it, savoring every morsel, never thinking, as the meat melted in my mouth, about how full I was getting. I wasn’t leaving a morsel behind.

This is where I sat at the table at Khaya Umdani last night at sunset when Louise and Danie prepared a fantastic meal for me. I brought my bottle of low-alcohol wine.

Yesterday, I baked two keto cream cheese pies with almond flour crusts, which I know they both love, one to bring to them and another for me. I only tried a few tastes of side dishes, which were also delicious. If I’d had more room, I’d have also piled them onto my plate. (Tom doesn’t care for it). I’d hoped to save space in my full stomach for a small piece when I got home.

They get up each day at 4:00 am and had another busy day working and prepping the lovely meal. They each had a small piece of pie and offered some to me, but I wanted to leave it all for them and also needed a little time for my food to settle down before I could enjoy the pie. Louise drove me home when  I insisted it was time to go around 9:00 pm, 2100 hrs.

The ride back was special when we saw a lot of wildlife hunkered down for the night along the dirt roads. It’s incredible how they all look out for one another. They only looked up for a few seconds when we drove by to ensure they were safe. It’s quite a sight to see.

Back at the house, no more than a minute after Louise dropped me off, I ducked when a huge bat flew over my head when I was in the lounge room. I thought I’d better quickly cut my little piece of pie and head off for the bedroom, knowing I’d never open the bedroom door again until morning.

Once I was settled with my pajamas on, I noticed a message coming in from Tom that his flight from Newark (where he was) had been delayed, which would cause him to miss the 16-hour flight to Joburg, which ultimately could delay him by as much as a day. He texted me at 2:00 am to let me know he’d be in the air before too long when the airline booked him on an earlier flight so he’d make his connection.

Louise had made cole slaw, salad, and creamed spinach, all of which were delicious. I ate an entire lamb neck, but a little of the sides since the meat was so large and delicious. I took bones and scraps for the mongooses I hadn’t seen in days.

With that flight often taking 16½ hours, plus going through customs and immigration in Joburg, most likely, he won’t arrive at the airport hotel until around  10:00 pm, 2200 hrs., or later tonight, where hopefully he can get some sleep and recover for his morning flight from Joburg to Nelspruit on Airlink. He still should arrive here by 1:00 pm, 1300 hrs., at the latest. Whew! What an ordeal!

Vusi is here now and hasn’t seen the bat anywhere, either. I suppose it will appear tonight when it’s dark. With the lions in the area, I don’t feel safe leaving the doors open after dark, plus doing so would invite more nocturnal creatures into the house. We’ll see how it goes. I am not panicking. I just don’t like bats flying around the room.

Anyway, that’s it for today. folks. Thank you for sharing these past long days and nights alone in the bush without my lover, partner, husband, and travel companion. Soon, he’ll be home. I am in the process of planning a special dinner for him. I will post the menu tomorrow.

Be well.

Two “Go-Away” birds are enjoying the birdbath in our garden. Photo from one year ago today, March 14, 2022:

For more photos, please click here.

African Reunion…Our new home for now…A new “Vigil for Visitors”…A huge Spider, the Golden Orb…

African Reunion House, named after the island off the coast, is considerably larger than it appears in this photo with four bedrooms, five bathrooms, two huge verandas, a Jacuzzi room, open kitchen with dining bar, over-sized dining room and inviting entertainment/TV/living room/lounge. 

Yesterday, our only challenge once we’d moved into the African Reunion House, was which bedroom we’d choose. After nearly a half hour of walking up and down the stairs to the second level and back and forth on the main floor, we looked at each other contemplating our dilemma.

Tom, doing his usual power lounging on the “new” veranda at African Reunion House, another temporary house we’re enjoying in Marloth Park.

“You know what, Honey?” I said, grinning from ear to ear.  “Look at us. Our biggest problem is which bedroom to choose.” We burst into laughter.

The stone braai area, conveniently located to the house and pool.

At that point, we quickly made a decision. We’d choose the two bedrooms on the main floor, the one overlooking the pool for me to use for showering and dressing for the day and the other for sleeping. 

The infinity-edge pool is cool, clean, and refreshing. We took our first dip today.

This way, I wouldn’t awaken Tom in the mornings when I usually get out of bed before him. We’ve made this type of arrangement in most of the houses in which we’ve lived in the past 16 months. This plan has served us well.

Today, we had a chance to soak up a little sun after the dip.  No wonder I’m behind on posting today.  I was goofing off!

Moving was relatively easy with Zeff and Okee Dokee helping on both ends. An hour after arriving at the African Reunion House, we were fully unpacked and organized, in awe of the ample supplies and storage areas at our disposal.

This wall of various size and shape twigs and branches provides a privacy wall at night simply by flipping a light switch that magically creates full blocking of the veranda.

Louise and Danie stopped by later in the day to check on us, although it was totally unnecessary. Their thoughtfulness and consideration for our well being are outrageous. 

The view from the main floor veranda provides an excellent sweep of the yard as one searches for visitors.

Louise, bless her heart, had brought along four beautiful white linen napkins knowing that we were entertaining Linda and Ken for breakfast on Tuesday morning. Apparently, she’d read our recent post about how in our old lives, I’d always used linen napkins when entertaining and for ourselves when dining alone. 

Danie handcrafted this wood door. Not only is he a highly talented designer and builder, but, he also excels in the fine art of woodworking. 

There are no words suitable to describe the quality of service and attention to detail that these two over-the-top hosts provide on all of their properties. One hardly needs to ask. They pick up tidbits in conversation and respond to them quickly with the utmost of consideration. We’ve never felt so pampered in our lives.

Yesterday afternoon, while riding with Okee Dokee and Zeff, both of whom helped us move from Khaya Umdani to African Reunion House, we spotted this giraffe along the road. We tried to entice her to stop munching and pick up her head for a good photo.

And, this same personal service they offer is evident in the meticulously stocked, designed, decorated, and maintained houses they own and manage. If one were expecting perfection, they’d be totally fulfilled. If one expects less than perfection, they’d be surprised and in awe, as we have been long before we arrived, by the prompt and complete answers they provided for all of my annoying and seemingly endless questions.

This was the best photo we could get from her.  That must have been one tasty tree.

African Reunion House, although different from Khaya Umdani, offers similar quality design, decor and construction. With four bedrooms, each with an en suite bathroom as well as a fifth half bathroom on the main floor, two are located on the main floor, one of which is fully handicap assessable with a “roll in” shower and extra-wide doorways, the room we finally chose for sleeping. The bed, the pillows, and the covers were exquisitely comfortable. 

A few hours before leaving Khaya Umdani on Sunday, our friends Linda and Ken stopped for a visit. Earlier, I’d noticed this spider when I walked through its web. Ken captured this excellent photo, identifying it as the Golden Orb, which is non-poisonous.  As far as Spiders go, what a beauty!  As far as photos go, what a beauty!

One of the many enticing aspects to this home is the “outdoor” fully screened Jacuzzi tub off of one of the two bedrooms in the second-floor suite which also includes an inviting living/TV/entertainment room. 

Coincidentally, today, when OKee Dokee and I stopped at the little house for supplies she spotted this Golden Orb, hanging over the pool. My camera can’t do as good a job as Ken’s. But, I was thrilled to get this shot showing a smaller spider caught in the web.

There would be no disappointment by a group of four couples deciding on which of the four bedrooms to select. Each of the bedrooms and the other rooms in this fine home has its own special charm and amenities.

We’d planned to dine out last night, but decided to cook instead. The fully equipped kitchen was calling to me.  I couldn’t wait to chop and dice in the open space overlooking yet another tastefully decorated dining room with seating for eight. Also, eight can be served on the veranda at the comfortable handcrafted wood table and wicker chairs.

Last night, not only did we dine at that spacious table on the main floor veranda (there’s an additional veranda on the second level), but we stayed outdoors until after 11:00 PM, looking and listening to the nighttime sounds of Marloth Park, now so familiar and music to our ears.

After an excellent night’s sleep, we couldn’t wait to wander outdoors to begin the new “Vigil for Visitors” which without a doubt, will prove to be rewarding, as will be our stay for however long, in the enchanting African Reunion House.

Today, shopping was on the agenda resulting in another trip to Komatipoort for groceries, more data at the Vodacom store, the chemist to pick up Tom’s vitamin B6, which we’d ordered last week, a stop at Credence Clearwater for more bottled water, and a quick trip to the little house for more of our stuff. Leaving at 10:00 am with Okee Dokee, we didn’t return until after 12:00 pm which put me behind on posting today. 

For the early birds out there not seeing our post this morning, we apologize for the delay. Tomorrow, we’ll be back on track posting in the morning with lots more photos, South Africa time, of course.

Happy day to all.

An evening with friends in the bush…A dangerous Black Mamba story…Moving day today…Goodbye Khaya Umdani…An adorable video!

Some years ago, in the evening Linda, alone while sitting on the veranda at their home in Marloth Park, heard what sounded like a scream. She immediately went inside the house, locking the door behind her. The next morning, she wandered through their property to find the remains of this impala, who’d been attacked by a leopard, as confirmed by the Park Rangers whom she called to assist. All that remained of the impala was this skull that they’ve displayed in their yard as a reminder that there are wild animals in this area and one must always exercise caution.

The commonality we share with people we’ve met in Marloth Park is the profound love of nature and wildlife, like none we’ve seen before and most likely, will ever experience again.

Ken lit the fire in the braaii, using a combination of charcoal and wood. After dinner, he added more wood to keep it up like a bonfire while we remained outdoors the entire evening.

Last night this was exemplified while dining at the lovely bush home of our new friends, Linda and Ken. As typical in South Africa, a braai was on the evening’s agenda, only delayed by the constant chatter among the four of us.

In the past year, Linda and Ken found this huge skin shed by the dreaded Black Mamba that was hanging from the thatched roof over a second-story veranda. Up close, we could see it’s head in detail. Yikes.

Ken, a phenomenal photographer made us drool over his plethora of wildlife photos, inspiring us to bite the bullet and purchase a more sophisticated SLR camera and spend the time necessary to learn to use it. 

Linda and Ken like to fill this standing trough with birdseed and pellets for visiting wildlife. Having only returned from their other home on Friday, they’d yet to see many visitors. They explained that once they’ve been back for three days or so, the wildlife comes to call.  As we sat outdoors the entire evening, there was an abundance of birds and toward the end of the evening, we saw a Genet, a cat-like animal we’d yet to see, which moved too quickly for a photo.

Alas, I tried holding up one of his two cameras last night, only to be disappointed, when my bad shoulder prevented me from holding it up for less than 30 seconds. As much as I love taking photos, this is my reality, which I accept, with the hope and expectation that as technology advances, a lightweight, quality camera will become available in a size and weight I can manage.  

Tom and Ken in my blurry photo as they cooked the steaks on the braai. Wish I’d held the camera steady for a better shot.
This morning Linda and Ken stopped by and we proudly showed off Khaya Umdani as we prepare to leave in a few hours. Once again, we instantly engaged in lively and animated conversation, especially when  Louise and Danie stopped by to see how we’re doing. 

That very commonality becomes so clear when residents of Marloth Park meet other residents immediately having this special interest that only this unique area can provide.

Another skull found in Linda and Ken’s garden from a duiker.

Where are we going? Not back to the little house. Our generous hosts, Louise and Danie have opened up yet another fine property for us to enjoy as our time in Marloth Park winds down. How did we get so lucky?

Although Tom isn’t thrilled about moving quite so often, once we’re unpacked and settled in, the sense of comfort and familiarity will appease him, as it always does, putting him at ease. For me, it’s all an adventure and I love every moment. I don’t even mind the packing and unpacking anymore when it creates a familiar sense of organization and order that I gave up so long ago.

Khaya Umdani was an ethereal dream, 10 full days of the ultimate in comfort and style enhanced by the endless sounds and sights of nature at our doorstep as shown in our photos. It couldn’t have been more perfect.  Absolutely nothing was out of order, annoying or difficult. 

At Khaya Umdani, we enjoyed no less than 10 various warthog families, all of which learned to come to the left side of the pool if they were to get any pellet treats. They learned quickly, making us laugh.

Every possible amenity was on hand; the finest of quality, offering the utmost of functionality and an abundance of eye appeal. From the dishes to the placemats to the bedding and towels, nothing was spared. From Zeff’s daily presence, quietly and unobtrusively in the background, every possible need was met with warmth and enthusiasm.

A few days ago we took this adorable video.  Please watch for a heartwarming chuckle!

In a way, it’s not easy to leave Khaya Umdani. But, we know, having previously seen the house we’re moving to, we’ll be equally at home once we settle in. For me, the bigger issue is the reality that we’re leaving Marloth Park in 19 days. Never in the past, when preparing to leave other countries have I felt such angst about leaving. 

The animals, the people, it will be hard to say goodbye. I can only hope that someday we can return to Africa, to Marloth Park, to visit Capetown, to finally see Victoria Falls, and to once again possess this powerful feeling of belonging to this land.

For now, we’re not done in Africa when soon we’ll head to Morocco, expanding our horizons, further building our experience and knowledge of this continent, so far removed from our past reality and today, so forefront in our hearts and minds.

Problem with the letter “i”…Why?…Upcoming social plans…Moving tomorrow morning…Hppo, I mean “Hippo” photos…

On Thursday night when we went to Ngwenya for dinner, we perused the Crocodile River for wildlife. Until almost dark, we hadn’t seen a thing until finally, this hippo popped up in the shallow water with several bird friends nearby. In the impending dark, we weren’t able to determine what is located in front of her mouth other than a clump of dirt in the shallow water.

There’s a problem with the letter “i” on the keyboard of my new computer. It’s worrying me.I awoke during the night thinking about the “i” wondering what I will do about it.

I’ve tried everything on the “solutions” list and now am faced with calling HP on Skype which I dread. Having used a computer for most of my adult life, I know what they’ll say, “Send it in for repair under its warranty.”  That’s not possible! We’re leaving South Africa in 20 days. Shipping anything at this point is ridiculous. Oh, please.

Perhaps, it’s foolish of me to hope that over time I’ll get used to pressing the letter with vigor or that eventually, from use, it will resolve itself. Then again, we’ve proven that we have the ability to adapt in the most peculiar situations. 

There she goes to safety for the night. Observing activity on the Crocodile River many times over these past months has shown us how the wildlife returns to the cover of Kruger National Park as darkness falls. Fortunately, for the mature hippo, few predators will attempt to attack them, including the crocodiles as shown in the photo below from our safari in the Maasai Mara in October 2013.

It was only in the past few days that I described what an awful typist I am. Now with the difficultly of pressing a key, it’s more frustrating. Any suggestions out there? I’d love to hear from you! Please comment at the end of this post.

On a more cheerful note… During the holidays we had the pleasure of meeting four wonderful couples, all homeowners in Marloth Park, all of whom have homes in other areas. They spend as much time here as they can since not all of them are retired. 

After the holidays ended, they returned to their other homes. But, in each case, we’ve stayed in touch by email.  Linda and Ken arrived back in Marloth Park yesterday and called inviting us to their home for a braai. We couldn’t be more thrilled!

Here’s our previously shown photo from our safari in the Masai Mara in October 2013;  Hippos and crocs hanging out together. This was quite a surprise to us. Hippos can weigh from 3300 to 4000 pounds, 1500 to 1800 kg. 

Tom and I both are social butterflies, having always enjoyed entertaining in our old lives and getting together with friends at their homes. Although, we don’t pine over not socializing when it’s just the two of us, having social plans is a bonus we’ve thoroughly enjoyed.

Living in “other people’s houses” makes us uncertain about us entertaining. Also, with limited cooking supplies available for entertaining, we’ve hesitated.  Instead, we do what most South African people do: have a braai (barbecue) with guests bringing their own meat, a dish to share and their own alcoholic beverages. That works for us.

Only too well do we know how much work it is to have guests in one’s home; the shopping, the cleaning before and after, the table settings, the clearing of the clutter of papers, bills, personal items scattered about most of our homes at times. It’s a full day or more task for one dinner gathering. We appreciate the invitations more than our hosts can imagine.

OK.  After looking up our photos from the Maasai Mara I could resist posting a few more of our previously shown hippos photos. This was one of the first wildlife sightings we experienced only minutes after arriving at the Masai Mara airport. Love it!

Tomorrow, Sunday, at noon we’re moving out of Khaya Umdani to make way for other guests. We’d assumed we’d be moving back to the little house where the remainder of our “stuff” is still located. 

When we first arrived at Khaya Umdani nine days ago, we weren’t certain how long we’d stay with the prospect of a possible booking sending us on our way. We’d packed enough for a long weekend, since returning to the little house on three occasions to pick up food, supplies, prescriptions, etc.

How they love basking in the sun at the water’s edge on the Mara River. Safari luck, for sure!

Louise and Danie graciously suggested we stay for yet another undetermined period in another of their upscale properties. How could we refuse? In our old lives, the uncertainty of how long we’d stay would have made us crazy. Now, it doesn’t even phase us. How we’ve changed!

This morning, I’ve already packed the food we’d placed in the kitchen cabinets. Tomorrow morning, we’ll pack the food in the refrigerator and freezer, clothing, toiletries, and digital equipment. Okee Dokee will pick us up at noon to drive the short distance to the new house, which is conveniently walking distance from the little house, in case we need anything additional. Easy.

A hippo, taking a break from sunbathing to sniff the ground, or is it that hippos heads are so heavy that they can’t lift them to look around?

As our remaining time in Marloth Park wafts away, we are reminded of how the beauty of nature and wildlife continue to be the core of our travels. Hopefully, soon, throwing in a huge dose of culture may ultimately prove to add another element to our travels that we find enriching and fulfilling. We shall see.

Visitors to Khaya Umdani…They never disappoint…Never a dull moment…Hooked on a Feeling!

There he was, looking at us through the glass and wood sliding door in the master bedroom at Khaya Umdani. What a sight! 

One might think that sitting on a veranda, most days in the heat and humidity would become dull and meaningless. Tom said that in a funny way it’s almost like fishing.  The constant anticipation is worth every quiet moment. The joy of discovery makes it all worth it.

He stepped back as we opened the door after the noise from the door opening.

After a week at Khaya Umdani, we made the foolish assessment that perhaps the only visitors here would be warthogs, an occasional impala from afar, an elusive duiker in the dense bush,, or Vervet Monkeys, none of which were ever a disappointment. 

He inched closer as Tom dashed to get the cup of pellets while I was taking the photos while practically squealing with delight.

Yesterday, Danie stopped by and straightened out our thinking, saying that patience prevails and “they” would come, “they” being the larger animals. Of course, Danie knows better than we do. So, we reframed our thinking and retained our hope.

Moments later, Tom returned with the pellets while Mr. Kudu patiently waited. When we realized the female kudus were in the garden, we quietly moved back outside to gasp at the amazing sight of an additional nine female kudus munching in the yard.

Alas, yesterday afternoon when we wandered indoors to shower and dress for dinner at Ngwenya, we were enthralled by the above sight of Mr. Kudu at the sliding door to the bedroom. From there it was an hour of pure pleasure as Tom scrambled to get the pellets and I snapped away. The shower would have to wait.

The female kudus were scattered about the yard with a few Warthog families hanging around as well, hoping a tasty morsel would come their way.

Last night out to dinner with Okee Dokee joining us as our guest (we adore her), we mutually agreed upon a fact that holds so much truth: Being in the presence of animals, wild and not so wild, makes one feel peaceful and happy, a feeling often lasting hours later.

Female kudus don’t have antlers.  Their big pink ears add to their beauty.

Take us, already happy travelers, and place wildlife in front of us and we become wildly happy with smiles on our faces that we can’t erase for hours. It’s no wonder that medical science has proven that animal interactions may be instrumental in helping patients heal from ill-health. Click here for one of many medical studies supporting this concept.

Ms. Kudu getting ready to munch on a tree. So pretty.

It wouldn’t be surprising if scientists studied residents of Marloth Park to discover that they lived longer and healthier lives with constant exposure to wildlife. It’s no wonder, I have angst about leaving, three weeks from today. I’m hooked on a feeling!

Graceful, gentle, and quiet.

What we felt when we saw this Mr. Kudu at the bedroom door and moments later his entourage of nine gorgeous females can only compare to the joy we felt when 12 giraffes stood in the driveway of the little house, almost two months ago. And then, more and more such sightings! The high continues on each day.

This baby kudu was still a little unsure on her feet. Most likely she was born in the past 60 days. Moms keep babes out of sight for several weeks after giving birth to protect them from potential predators.

Add the pleasure of our time at Khaya Umdani, the laughter from the warthog families that visit each day, and this, in itself has been a blissful experience. On Sunday morning, we’ll move out to make way for an upcoming prior reservation. 

The handsome male explored this side of the pool…

Do we go back to the little house or do Louise and Danie have something new up their sleeves planned for us?  Soon, we shall see.  And of course, we’ll promptly share the details with all of you.

Then, he wandered over to the opposite side of the pool, all the while making eye contact with us. He was the only male in the group, commanding reverence from the females and the Warthogs. Ha!

With newly made local friends returning to Marloth Park today and more a week later, we look forward to our social life firing up once again. 

Another baby caught our eye.  Mom was always nearby, keeping a watchful eye. It was time for us to go. It was hard to leave them, but they had begun to wander away for the next lush vegetation in the area. When we returned after dinner in the dark, we saw the herd in a nearby yard.

Plus, we want to say thank you to all of our readers for staying with us on our journey, soon to make a 180-degree switch from wildlife to culture. In a mere 21 days, we’ll be leaving South Africa to travel to Morocco, where we’ll live in the colorful hustle and bustle city of Marrakesh for 75 days, where we won’t be cooking any of our own meals. Wow! That should be interesting. 

No Super Bowl Sunday here…”Home is where the heart is”…Pricing for Khaya Umdani…The Safari Room…New wildlife photos…

Louise suggested we put out some yogurt at night for the nocturnal bush babies. We placed a small bowl in a hanging wood birdhouse close to a tree. Unfortunately, we were distracted yesterday morning and forgot to remove the little plastic bowl of yogurt. Going inside to get beverages, we returned to find these Vervet Monkeys with the little bowl in hand, lapping up the yogurt. Tom scared them off (they can be destructive) and they dropped the bowl, running off.

Never much of a football fan myself and Tom being a die-hard Minnesota Vikings fan with no interest in other teams, other than the unlikely prospect of the Vikings beating a team in a game, missing another Super Bowl didn’t have much effect on us.

It’s tricky taking photos of Vervet Monkeys.  They never sit still for a second. After Tom chased them the veranda, the hung around the braai area, without a concern.

However, we did discuss the time difference as to when the game would begin (it was 1:30 am this morning here in South Africa) and we wondered who won until Tom discovered the winner by opening Facebook first thing this morning and seeing the score this morning in an email from his brother Jerome.

This Vervet Monkey was trying to figure out how to lap up a few drops of the yogurt on the stones that the other had spilled carrying the bowl.

Although, we did think of our friends and family gathering together for the game, as we had done at times in the past with me making a football-shaped and decorated cake, along with a smaller football-shaped cheese ball with all the other nasty snacks we used to enjoy. How times have changed for us!

The moms are exceedingly protective of their babies making it difficult to get close enough for a clearer shot.

Nostalgic?  Perhaps, a bit, mostly over missing the “people” not the game or the food. But, this morning, when we threw open the entire glass wall of doors to the veranda at Khaya Umdani, we knew we were “home.” You know, “the place where the heart is.” 

And that place is the “home” that Tom and I had made for ourselves wherever we may be at any given moment. Isn’t that what “home” is, the place you gravitate back to at the end of the day, or after an outing to find the familiar comforts that embrace you the moment that you walk in the door?

For now, it is luxurious Khaya Umdani. In a few days, it will be back at Hornbill, the smaller house, where perhaps our warthog families are awaiting us, standing in the driveway at full attention with ears flicking back and forth when I speak in my high pitched voice in greeting. Even here, only four short days later, several moms already respond when I say, “Good morning, Ms. Warthog. Good morning baby warthogs.”

An outdoor adventure can be had in the Safari room on the second level of Khaya Umdani.

As for the rates on Khaya Umdani,* which we’d mentioned yesterday, that we’d post today, here they are:

December/January (per night)
(01 Dec ’14 – 31 Jan ’15)
ZAR 5000  US $469.58  EU$344.14
All other periods ZAR  4000    US $376.66    EU $275.31

*Rates are subject to change and may vary based on the size of the group. Imagine how reasonable this would be for two families sharing this fabulous house as compared to each family tightly packed into two small rooms in a resort hotel? 

The Safari room is completely screened for an open-air experience, enjoyed by young and old alike.The sounds of the night are enchanting in this “sleeping outdoors” experience.

Restaurant prices are usually no more than US $25, ZAR $266.20 per couple, including cocktails, at the finest of establishments in the area. Groceries are usually 40% less than we’ve seen in other large cities. The most tender delicious filet mignon is usually no more than US $3.91, ZAR $41.67 per serving. 

Can you imagine how exciting this room would be for kids, especially, preteens and teenagers?

Although airfare from some countries is high and the time to travel is long, the experience is priceless; friendly people, wildlife in the yard, Kruger National Park a short distance for some of the most amazing safari experiences in the world and the unreal experience of the Bush Braai and Game Drive, hosted by Louise and Danie, an experience we’ll always treasure.

Yes, the posts of the past few days may have been a huge ad for this house and this area. And yes, we share these details on behalf of our wonderful hosts, Louise and Danie. But, folks, we’re experiencing the most unbelievable adventure of our lives. For nature lovers, nothing compares. 

The moms often look at me intently when I talk in my high pitched voice. They’re asking for pellets. I comply. No longer will I toss pellets near this small fence after yesterday’s incident when the baby crawled inside the fence and the mom went after it, almost knocking it over. Tom scared them off before the fence broke. (See yesterday’s post with photo).

When we’ll be in Hawaii beginning in eight months, we’ll spend most of our days whale watching and hopefully, we’ll swim with the dolphins. Maybe, sometime in the future, we’ll watch for moose in Alaska, crocodiles, and anacondas on the Amazon River or tigers in India. With continued good health, we hope to continue on and on.

Impalas, in this case, a male with the antlers, are rather shy. Their gentle nature and gracefulness make them a joy to watch, especially when they leap through the air.

But, being here, living in Africa and now in Marloth Park, which is at times hard and challenging, has been the best experience of our lives, one that has changed us forever and that we will carry into our hearts wherever we may be.

We often hear “people,” ask, that on one’s deathbed, what will they wish they had done differently? The answer will never be, “I wished I had worked harder,” nor “I wish I’d had more “stuff.” It will always be about “love” and “experience” of which, if it were all to end now, we can emphatically state, “We’ve had it all.”

For this, we are humbled. For this, we are grateful. We carry on…

Would’ve, could’ve, should’ve…Not for us…Lots more photos…

How beautifully nature provides for its creatures!  Look at the lack of fat on this male impala and its fine musculature that we spotted in the yard at Khaya Umdani.

In a perfect world, I could easily let go of my thoughts of leaving Marloth Park. That was the plan. Now, with only 26 days until leaving for Morocco, a sense of loss keeps flitting through my mind. Quickly, I push it back. 

Another impala nibbled on this sharp spiny bush.

Last week, while at Jabula Lodge we met a local man, chatting with him for a few hours. A kindly gentleman, in our age range, he couldn’t encourage us enough to go to Capetown, South Africa for all its vast experiences and varied cultures. He explained that we’d be doing ourselves a disservice not to go while we’re already in South Africa.

The bed in the master suite in Khaya Umdani is comfortable and appointed with the plush bedding.
This is the seating area in the master bedroom where we’ve lounged the past three nights before heading to bed.
A Jacuzzi tub such as this would have been a must for me in my old life.  With no tubs available in most of our past vacation homes, I’ve lost interest in soaking instead of preferring a quick shower in order to get outdoors. None the less, this large tub may have considerable appeal for a weary guest after a lengthy game drive in Kruger National Park.

Understanding his thoughtful determination to convince us, it was a losing battle. As much as we’ve been told to explore Capetown we don’t want to leave Marloth Park.

Seating for 10, this hand made dining table and chairs could easily accommodate a few more if necessary. With six bedrooms and five bathrooms, Khaya Umdani can easily accommodate a good-sized family or group.

If one died, awakening in Heaven, would one say, “Is there somewhere I can go that will make me happier?’ (Excuse the analogy. It was the best I could muster this early in the morning). Why fix it when it’s not broken?

Tom, lounging in the shallow side of the splash pool.  After putting down the camera, I joined him.

But, that’s how we feel. Why leave when we’re happy? Why spend more money when the money we’ve spent here has been well spent on another dream come true? 

Tom was worried that the mom would revolt when this baby warthog worked his way through the little fence. I laughed hysterically as I grabbed the camera. Moments later, the mom started pushing through the fence to get to the baby. Tom scooted them both off. We had left a few pellets on the opposite side of the fence, but the baby noticed the “grass was greener” for munching on the other side!

After all, isn’t the reason we’re traveling the world, homeless, free of “stuff”, affording it via a strict budget, for fulfillment and happiness? Isn’t a part of the pleasure, sharing it with those that may enjoy a tiny piece by traveling along with us via our posts and photos, or for those who may consider it for themselves for a week, a month, or more.

Tonight, after dinner we’ll try out this loft entertainment area with flat-screen TV and comfy seating areas.

Why do any of us have a cabin in the woods or on a lake, or take a trip to Las Vegas to play at the casino, or take a river cruise down the Seine other than for our own pleasure? Do we remind others that they need to go elsewhere if they are already happy with what they have?  Hardly.

This huge covered ottoman is the perfect spot for putting up one’s feet for “power lounging.”

Attempting to convince our newly made well-intentioned acquaintance at the Jabula Lodge bar that we are content in Marloth Park was pointless. Although, we appreciated his concern and his love for his country, eventually we smiled, shook hands, and were on our way, never faltering for a moment that our remaining time in South Africa would be as wonderful as it’s been thus far.

Also on the second level is the aptly named bush baby room with its own private veranda in close proximity to where a number of the nocturnal bushbabies reside.

Yes, there’s the heat, near midsummer. There are some nasty insects and crawling things, avoided with a modicum of respect for their existence and watching where one walks. Every morning I continue to tip my shoes upside down, banging them on the floor in case someone is residing therein. And, we shake our towels and clothing when showering and dressing. We always turn on a light when entering a darkened room.

Coffee and tea supplies are readily available in the bushbaby room, making a beverage on the private veranda a must, morning or night.

All of these simple precautions have become routine after living in Africa for five months so far. We accept that whatever precautions we may take may not be enough to prevent injury or illness. But, isn’t that the case no matter where you live; falling off a ladder, on the steps in your own home, or cutting your finger chopping vegetables for dinner? Life is filled with risks.

The modern vanity area in the en suite bathroom of the Bush Baby room.

As our time at Khaya Umdani continues, we find the same contentment that we’ve found in the small house; filled with awe and wonder over our surroundings, the bush, and its varied gifts of nature.

The veranda off of the bushbaby room is a perfect spot for a morning beverage or a nightcap. The opportunity to see the bush babies at night is enhanced by leaving them a few bites of a banana over a period of several nights, increasing the likelihood they will reappear.

Yesterday afternoon, the sky cleared after a few hot, humid and misty days and we decided to try out the swimming pool. With the pool in the sunlight, it’s less occupied by insects than the pool at the little house. Also, the thought of getting back a touch of color on our now pale skin was as appealing as splashing in the cool water of the pool. It was refreshing, to say the least.

We were excited to see another tree frog foam nest hanging over the private watering hole in Khaya Umdani.

Today, another sunny day, we’ll do the same as we continue to treasure every moment in Khaya Umdani. More than anything, we’ll be spending yet another glorious day in Marloth Park without giving a thought to where we “should be,” where we “could be” or where we might find more contentment that we already have found.

Tomorrow, we’ll share the rental rates for Khaya Umdani, more wildlife photos including an invasion by the Vervet Monkeys and, the safari room where guests can sleep outdoors to embrace the nighttime wildlife sounds, a true bush experiences especially enjoyed by children.

Back to my old ways…Inspired by Khaya Umdani, a look inside the cupboards…Food photos…Visitors…and more…

Hand carved African decorator items are tastefully displayed in Khaya Umdani.
Vegetation native to South Africa grows freely without little care or maintenance.
There in the side yard, outside the master bedroom door, was this lovely Bird of Paradise that had bloomed since we arrived on Thursday. This morning we noticed a second bloom.
Less than 48 hours ago, we temporarily moved into this exquisite six-bedroom, five-bathroom home in Marloth Park, known as Khaya Umdami (houses are named in Africa and some other parts of the world), and instantly I fall back into my old patterns of thinking, “Shall we invite company for dinner?” and, “What shall I wear?” These are two questions that haven’t crossed my lips in a very long time
Besides, I don’t have enough clothing left to make what I wear ever an issue. I wear what is clean and available. Style is out the window!
When Louise and Danie renovated Khaya Umdami, this sixth bedroom was a part of the renovation. During the construction period, baby warthogs entered of their own volition and slept in the en suite bathroom’s shower at night. In the morning, they’d have to scoot them out. Thus, the name of this bedroom accessed via the veranda.

The warthog room as all of the other five bedrooms has its own unique décor and stone en suite bathroom. Amenities include its own refrigerator as shown in the far right.

In our old lives Tom often referred to my “linen napkin lifestyle” which obviously, I’ve let go since the beginning of our world travels. Not only have I let it go but I’ve found myself content with the dishtowel on my lap as we dine on the same 10 things we cook for dinner, over and over again. 
Nope, there were no hippos visiting this room. But, at night one can hear the gurgling sounds of the hippos emanated from the nearby Crocodile River.
Mosquito netting  as shown in the hippo room is commonly placed around beds in Africa. Although, after two months in Marloth Park we’ve yet to use the netting. Keeping the bedroom door closed during the day prevents insects from entering. Plus, the bedrooms have air conditioning, which further reduces the presence of mosquitoes.  I recall being concerned about mosquitoes when booking with Louise and Danie for Marloth Park. They haven’t been an issue, using a bit of repellent each day, even for me, a mosquito magnet.
This soaking tub in the hippo room is appealing after a bush braai (fabulous food!) which includes a game drive in the late afternoon, hosted by Louise and Danie. We know from personal experience!

My lifetime interest as a “foodie” has all but disappeared as we’ve discovered that special ingredients conducive to my way of eating become more and more difficult to find as we’ve traveled the world. A former dessert baking aficionado, I’ve since given up grains, starch, and sugar, leaving few options for desserts so we stick to nuts, nuts, and more nuts, which are prolific in Africa, some of the best in the world.

The Kingfisher room is named for the frequent sighting of the Kingfisher bird, often seen through the window of this room on a nearby tree. Our eyes are peeled in that direction.
The Kingfisher room has a bathroom with a stone shower a few steps outside the door which may be used as its own private bath or shared with guests while mulling on the main floor.

With planning last night’s dinner imminent, it didn’t take long for me to search the cupboards and drawers in Khaya Umdami in search of linen napkins, suddenly no longer content with a dishtowel in place of a neatly pressed linen napkin.

The well-stocked kitchen was calling me as I began searching through cabinets and drawers to enhance last night’s dinner place settings.
The only mess in this cupboard is our stuff on the middle shelf which we brought over from the smaller house.
The beautiful dinnerware made an attractive place setting possible for our dinner.
This organized cupboard holds a wide array of wine and beverage glasses.
With little access to plastic containers for over a year, this tidy cupboard held particular appeal.
More pots, pans, and baking and cooking supplies, more than we’ve had anywhere we’ve lived since leaving the US. Look! There are even two graters!

So, last night, we grilled the two chickens we’d brought with us on the spit of the traditional, non-braai, gas grill so readily familiar to us for a wonderful nostalgic dinner on cloth placemats with linen napkins, proper place settings and the peculiar knowledge that here in Khaya Umdami we need not even wash our own dishes, leaving them for household staff to handle the next day. How decadent!

Our simple place setting fulfilled all of my expectations for a dinner outdoors last night. 
There is was our first outdoor grilled dinner since leaving the US. None of our past vacation/holiday homes had outdoor grills that we’ve found suitable. This was a rare treat. Wrapped in foil on the side grate is the chicken gizzards and livers which I’ll eat with tonight’s repeat dinner. Tom only eats white meat and I like dark meat, making a whole chicken perfect for us. Zeff cleaned it this morning and, did all the dishes! Oh, good grief!
This was Tom’s plate of food.  Mine was identical except piled high with the various bones and dark meat parts. We’d cooked the chickens for 90 minutes, on high for the first 20 minutes, and on low for the remaining time. The chicken was moist and delicious. As usual, we had our favorite low carb, sugar-free coleslaw, a daily staple which we love.

Soon, we’ll return to the smaller house, and once again, we’ll return to using dishtowels as a linen napkin and to my bigger concerns expressed to Tom dozens of times each day, “Did you hear something?” or, “Did you see something?” Of course, these questions revolve around our intense interest in seeing more wildlife, any wildlife actually! Pigs, striped horses, or poop rolling beetles! We love them all!

This was a first for us, a mom warthog with long brown hair. She was kneeling to eat after I tossed some pellets. Their knees are particularly calloused so they can easily kneel when eating. Their snouts make it difficult for them to eat fully standing.

For now, as we languish in this special property, we revel in its stories, its amenities, it’s a magical way of being incorporated into the bush, its lush vegetation and, its wildlife, offering a cocoon of comfort and wonder that only Marloth Park, South Africa can offer.

A young male impala checked us out before venturing to Khaya Umdami‘s private watering hole.

Yesterday afternoon, Danie stopped by offering that he and Louise teach us to braai on the open wood fire here at Khaya Umdami, the true South African way, a lesson we must learn before departing in 27 days. We heartily agreed with considerable enthusiasm and an abundance of appreciation for yet another amazing experience in the bush.

We held our breath waiting for him to take a drink, not to disappoint.

Ha! It looks as if company may be coming for dinner after all!  Get out the linen napkins! And, if only for a little while, take me back to my linen napkin ways!

Note Tomorrow, the unbelievable master bedroom befitting a king and queen, the “outdoor” bedroom, and more wildlife photos we’ve taken in the past few days at Khaya Umdami.  Our driver, Okee Dokee, is out of town for the weekend. But, we’re so content that we have little desire to leave.

Khaya Umdani…An exquisite opportunity…A respite in another area in Marloth Park…Our temporary new home…

Khaya Umdani is a six bedroom, five bathroom stunning bush home fully embracing the integrity of African culture while providing a luxury environment befitting the expectations of both the seasoned traveler and those less traveled, seeking the comforts of stylish and easy living.

It’s not that we weren’t happy in the other house. We were rather content. But, our fabulous hosts, Louise and Danie suggested we experience a few of their other properties to review and share with our worldwide readership. Over the next several days, we’ll share our experiences as residents of Khaya Umdani.

We couldn’t have been more thrilled and appreciative of this opportunity, especially after we arrived at 10:30 yesterday morning for Louise’s expert tour of this upscale home, most likely one of the most desirable properties in Marloth Park.

This veranda is where we’ll spend our time for easy viewing of the massive grounds, a combination of the dense bush with a few open spaces for wildlife to run. This shot reminds me of a scene in the movie “Out of Africa” which we watched a few months ago while in Kenya.

Nothing was spared in the design and décor of this luxury home with six bedrooms, five of which have en suite bathrooms. Each bedroom is aptly named befitting this unique bush location and in some cases, includes a story surrounding past wildlife experiences on the property which we’ll share soon.

Packing yet again, including clothing, toiletries, food for meals, drinks, snacks, and digital equipment was challenging in yesterday’s heat and humidity apparently typical as South Africa moves into February, comparable to August in the northern hemisphere. Today, it’s cool and pleasant after last night’s rains.

This is the oversized eight-person table where we’re sitting as we write here now, overlooking the ‘double pool” with a shallow and deeper depth suitable for all. Chaise lounges to the left await us as soon as the sun appears after a much needed rainy night. 

Once we were unpacked, securing all of our food supplies from a potential monkey invasion, Danie stopped by to ensure all of our needs and comforts were met, showing us how to use the first gas grill we’ve had access to since leaving the US many moons ago. 

We brought along two frozen uncooked chickens and we were delighted to see an “American” type grill over which we all laughed as Danie removed the cover. The convenient modern kitchen has every possible amenity including a wine cooler, a dishwasher and a wide array of small kitchen appliances, few of which we’ve had in any of our vacation homes outside the US.

To the left is the open braai (fire pit) suitable for cooking or a bonfire with a stone seating area. To the right, is an enclosed wood-burning braai with a stainless steel sink and every possible rack and utensil. The yard is this area is “gently” fenced to keep nosy visitors from occupying this area while preparing meals.

In addition, the cupboards were impeccably stocked with spices, coffee, teas, and every imaginable dish, knife, flatware, bowl, container, and pot befitting the most ambitious cook. 

Tomorrow, we’ll share photos of the well-stocked interior of the cabinets, an unbelievable sight to see.(We’re waiting for the sun to appear for brighter interior photos). Only Louise‘s fine taste and detail orientated demeanor could create such pleasing and useful spaces. 

And for the less savvy braai cooks, here is the “traditional” and delightfully, familiar gas grill on which we’ll cook tonight’s dinner, roasted chickens on the electric spit. 

In South Africa, the wood-fired open braai (fire pit) is a daily means of cooking that for most citizens, is more of a tradition than a necessity, a reason for friends to gather to partake of the local beer and wine, for which South Africa is known. Add a variety of delicious grilled and stewed grass-fed meats, a few starchy side dishes and a South African meal is ready to enjoy.

Khayi Umdani offers features we experienced, in part, during our past two months in Marloth Park, including daily maid service, dishwashing if desired, laundry service, and maintenance. Every possible means of providing relaxation and comfort are afforded by it’s guests. 

The attention to detail in the finest of amenities is reflected in the lovely locally made table on the veranda.

Louise suggested we leave our breakfast or prior night’s dishes for the staff to handle the next morning. We never leave dirty dishes overnight. But, the staff is on hire in any case and prefer to be kept busy than standing around from 7:30 am to 2:30 pm each day as they work about the house attending to every detail. They are unobtrusive, quiet, and respectful, never causing us to feel that they are underfoot.

With Zeff only, coming to the other house twice a week, we were more than satisfied. Knowing how much we’ve liked him, Louise and Danie ensured he’ll be here for us during our time in Khaya Umdani. What service! The quality of service provided by Louise and Danie and their staff fined tuned to perfection, is comparable to that which one would find in the finest of five-star resorts and hotels. That quality of service follows through from our smaller house, all the way to Khaya Umdani and other fine properties owned and managed by Louise and Danie.

The natural stone pool is meticulously maintained daily.  The water is crystal clear.

Already scheduled to dine out when we moved in on Thursday, I had wished we were dining in. The moment we feasted our eyes on the massive dining room table with seating for 10, we knew a home-cooked meal was imminent. Also, the square oversized dining table for eight on the veranda holds an enormous appeal for us, where we’re seated now as we write here. The temperature has cooled and we’re blissfully relaxed.

Today, we’re sharing exterior photos of the house with interior photos following over the next several days.  Tonight, once the beautifully appointed dinnerware is filled with our homemade “grilled chicken,” veggies, and salad, we’ll take photos to share in Saturday’s post along with more photos of this exquisite vacation/holiday home as we experience the endless areas offering the utmost of comfort, style, space, and amenities. 

These sturdy swing chairs are actually very comfortable.

So far, we’ve seen a number of warthog families, tentatively approaching us curious as to our motives. Soon, they’ll see that we respect their environment and that they need not fear our presence.

The private watering hold attracts wildlife from all over the area. During heavy rains, this “creek” is filled with water.

As always, our eyes continue to scan the grounds for even the slightest movement, anticipating full well, that more visitors will arrive in these surroundings. Although we’re only a few miles/meters from the other house, perhaps a few of our favorites will wander our way. One never knows!

Our first warthog visitor with two babies, the mom giving me “the look” that says, “Did you bring any pellets with you?”  “Yes,” I said, “We certainly did,” as I ran to the kitchen for a handful.  Khaya Umdani, heavenly!