One day and counting…New lockdown in South Africa…Our 30 year anniversary of the day we met…

This young male kudu stopped by a few times yesterday and was foaming at the mouth. His mom may have been lost to the kudu culling. We called the rangers, and Juan and Mark came out to look for him. But, by the time they got here, only minutes later, he was gone. They explained he might have choked on something which could cause the foaming. In the evening, he returned and was so longer foaming at the mouth. We fed him plenty of pellets which he seemed to enjoy. He was back again this morning, looking better.

Who’s in the garden this morning?

  • 10 warthogs – inc. Little, Tiny, Lonely Girl, Fred, and Ethel, and more
  • 8 bushbucks – inc. Chewy, Thick Neck, Torn EarSpikey, Stringy, Young Ms. Bushbuck, and others
  • 6 kudu – inc. Big Daddy, Bossy, and kids
  • 1 wildebeest – inc. Broken Horn
  • 17 helmeted guinea-fowl
  • 2 Frank and The Misses
  • 21 mongoose

Last night President Cyril Ramphosa conducted one his his “Family Meetings” to update the citizens of South Africa of new Covid-19 restrictions as stated in this article:

“JOHANNESBURG, June 27 (Reuters) – South Africa will tighten COVID-19 restrictions for 14 days as current containment measures are insufficient to cope with the speed and scale of new infections, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Sunday.

The country, the worst hit on the African continent in terms of recorded cases and deaths, is in the grip of a “third wave” of infections. It recorded almost 18,000 new cases on Saturday, approaching the peak of daily infections seen in a second wave in January, and local scientists say the Delta coronavirus variant first identified in India seems to be spreading fast. read more

“Additional restrictions are necessary… Our focus is on limiting social contacts while preserving the economy,” Ramaphosa said in a televised address to the nation. Under the measures announced, all gatherings will be prohibited, there will be a curfew from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m., and the sale of alcohol will be banned.

A Big Daddy with a massive rack of twisty horns.

Schools will start closing on Wednesday, but beaches and parks will remain open. Restaurants will only be able to sell food for takeaway or delivery. “We will assess the impact of these interventions after 14 days to determine whether they need to be maintained or adjusted,” Ramaphosa said.

South Africa recently received 1.4 million doses of the Pfizer(PFE.N) vaccine via the COVAX Facility and an additional 1.2 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) vaccine, the president added. So far, the vaccine rollout in South Africa has been slow, with only around 2.7 million doses administered among a total population of 60 million. Faced with opposition protests, the government has set a target of more than doubling the rate of daily vaccinations over the next month.”

In summation, alcohol sales are banned, restaurants may only offer take-away, and schools will be closed. As a result, reservations made by holidaymakers throughout the country, including Marloth Park, are rapidly being canceled. Who will want to visit a location for a day, a weekend, or an extended period if the restaurants can’t serve food and guests can’t purchase alcohol for their consumption?

Bossy is back to stopping by several times a day.

In reality, I suppose this is a good time for us to be leaving since it would have been illegal for us to meet up with our friends for sundowners at private homes, visits to the Crocodile River, dining out, and gatherings of any type with people outside one’s household.

Hopefully, by the time we return at the end of July, the number of cases will have dropped, and the Level 4 lockdown measures will have ended. But one never knows. With this new variant, entitled Delta, who knows what will transpire in weeks to come?

Our packing is almost complete. I made a convenient packing list on my phone on the excellent app called “Keep,” and go through it from time to time to ensure we haven’t forgotten anything. But, of course, we’ll be in the US, and if we did forget something, we could easily purchase it there.

Big Daddy, interacting with females.

Today is the 30th anniversary of the day we met in 1991. Usually, we celebrate this particular date with a special evening out. But that won’t be happening today. So instead, we’ll cook burgers on the braai, topped with cheese and streaky bacon, along with rice for Tom and a fried egg to top my burger.

We’ll spend our last evening on the veranda, most likely with Little and Tiny in attendance, hoping they will still be here after the upcoming warthog culling coming soon. Apparently, there are about 2000 warthogs in Marloth Park, 500 of which will be culled. So that leaves our “boys” a 75% chance of still being here when we return.

Hopefully, no new lockdown measures will impede our return in approximately four weeks. Then, we’ll be flying out of Las Vegas, Nevada. We can only wait and see.

Thick Neck never fails to stop by.

This morning we headed to Komatipoort to get our Covid-19 PCR tests. The results will arrive by email tomorrow at 8:00 am. Louise will print them for us, and we’ll pick them up at her office on our way to the airport. Everything is ready for our departure.

That’s it for today, dear readers. When we arrive in Johannesburg tomorrow afternoon, we’ll upload another post once we’re situated at our hotel. Of course, if I have everything done in the morning, I may do the post before we depart Marloth Park.

Have a pleasant Monday, and please be healthy.

Photo from one year ago today, June 28, 2020:

Protective gear from one year ago today; face masks, N99 masks, goggles, face shields, and hand sanitizers. Gloves have yet to arrive. (Sorry, this is a video. I hit the wrong button, but I’d already repacked everything, so a retake was too much trouble). For more photos, please click here.

The countdown has begun…10 days and we’re off on our big change of plans…

An oxpecker on the back of a young male kudu, eating the bugs and debris off his body.

Yesterday was a highly accomplished day for a Sunday. Then again, any day of the week is a day that may require us to “pull up our bootstraps” to figure out a solution to an imminent situation, such as we encountered regarding the new lockdown in Kenya, which started on Friday, preventing us from going on our planned and paid trip to Little Governor’s Camp in the Maasai Mara.

If you missed yesterday’s post with the details, here is the link.

It was quite a daunting task, undoing all the bookings for Kenya and creating new bookings for the USA. But now we feel at ease that we’ve got a handle on it.  Now, we wait for refunds and credits to be applied to our credit card. In all, we discovered we’ll lose a total of US $400, ZAR 6007 from the Kenya online Kenyan visa, and cancellation fees of US $100, ZAR 1502 per traveler for canceling the flight with Kenya Airways.

Mr. Young Kuda staring at himself in the glass window to the second bedroom.

Many of the credits will take 30 days to process. At this point, we have the cash layout for the expensive Kenya trip and the upcoming trip to the US. We look forward to all of the credits coming through soon.

This morning we visited Louise to explain our situation. Since it makes no sense to pay for two holiday rentals simultaneously, we have no choice but to totally clear out of this house, leaving it available for Louise to rent it to other potential tourists, while we’re away, especially when our return date is uncertain at this point.

Overall, we anticipate we will return in approximately six weeks from our arrival on April 10, 2021, which would take us to the end of May at the latest. We can only speculate at this point. As soon as we know more, we’ll let Louise know what date we’ll be returning.

More kudus with oxpeckers on their backs.

Last night we informed our kids and grandchildren that we’ll be coming and they, along with us, are enthused for our return. It will be wonderful to see all of them once again after the long haul in India. It will be around 18 months since we were in the US to see everyone, so the timing is perfect.

Next week, we’ll start packing. We’ll only bring a minimal amount of clothing and supplies with us, especially since we’ll need room in our luggage for the items we’ll be picking up at our mailing service in Las Vegas. We’re certainly grateful, we didn’t pay the huge fees to send that package to us plus the associated hassle with insurance and customs fees.

We’ve decided to go to Nevada at the end of our US stay so we won’t have to haul around the extra 20 pounds, 9 kg, paying for overweight luggage while flying in the US. We’ll fly back to South Africa from Las Vegas, when at that point, it will be an international flight, allowing more weight in our bags.

Medium Daddy waits while Tom refills the pellet container.

The packing will be challenging, separating what we’ll need for the US with varying weather conditions in each location and what we’ll leave behind in South Africa. But, as always, we’ll figure it out. Most likely, while in the US we’ll purchase some new clothing for both of us. We each need a number of items which we can only find there.

For now, we’ll continue to enjoy our bush home and the dozen or so warthogs, kudus, bushbucks, and wildebeest who’ve become very familiar to us and us to them. Mostly, I’m concerned about Frank and The Misses who’ve really enjoyed eating the seeds we’ve offered several times a day.

Surely, none of them will starve without our constant supply of pellets and seeds. The vegetation is lush and green and most likely they’ll visit other houses for treats such as those we offer. Once we return, within a few weeks, they’ll all be back. For Frank and The Misses, they find berries, seeds, and bugs readily available in the park. Hopefully, they’ll remain in this territory while we’re gone.

We’ve done an inventory of how much food we have left. If we head to Komati tomorrow for a few odds and ends, we won’t need to purchase any more groceries before we depart. Louise will give us a plastic tote to store our non-perishable food items and of course, they will store that along with the baggage we’re leaving behind when we depart Marloth Park in 10 days to head to Nelspruit for an overnight stay for the next day’s long journey ahead.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, March 29, 2020:

The casual dining room where we had breakfast and dinner the first few weeks in the hotel in Mumbai, India. A few weeks later they closed the restaurant and started serving us room service only. It was a long 10 months. For more, please click here.

Oh, oh, alarming news!…Everything could change!…

Bossy in the garden, posing for a photo.

Last night while out to dinner at Jabula Lodge & Restaurant, having our usual great time, commiserating with owners Dawn and Leon, and other guests, and also savoring a predictably fabulous dinner, I heard a notification ding on my phone. Although I have only a few app notifications set up to alert me, I took a peek to find this article:

“Kenya imposes new lockdown – What are the restrictions?

Kenya has imposed a new lockdown to combat a surge in coronavirus infections.

President Uhuru Kenyatta on Friday announced a ban on all inland travel in the capital Nairobi and out four other counties.

Kenya’s Covid-19 positivity rate has jumped from 2% to 22% between January and March and Nairobi accounts for nearly 60% of the cases- Kenyatta said that hospital admissions had increased 52% in the past two weeks and that at least seven people are dying every day from coronavirus.

This is Tiny searching in the garden for more pellets. He has a tendency to scare off all of the other animals.

What do the new measures mean?

No road, rail, or air transport will be permitted in Nairobi, Kajiado, Kiambu, Machakos, and Nakuru.

In-person, meetings will also be banned.

As for curfew, hours now start at 20:00 until 04:00 am (instead of 22:00 until 04:00 am`) in the five counties. Special passes that allowed people to travel during curfew hours have also been revoked.

Alcohol sales in the areas have also been banned and restaurants can only provide takeaway services.

The president also ordered “an immediate suspension of all face-to-face teaching, which includes universities”, with the exception of students currently taking exams.

Kenya reopened its schools and colleges in early January, which had been closed for ten months.

All sporting events are also suspended.

International travel is permitted, but subject to a negative coronavirus test.

The new measures begin on Friday at midnight.

These two warthogs are Narrow and The Imposter. A brave impala invaded the scene.

Coronavirus in Kenya

This week Kenya recorded between 1,000 and 1,500 cases per day.

“According to our health experts, our third wave started to gain strength in early March,” said Kenyatta.

The peak of this wave is expected in the next 30 days, with more than 2,500 to 3,000 cases per day,” he added.

Recognizing the impact these decisions will have on the economy, Kenyatta added that these “measures are temporary and necessary to contain the spread of the disease and therefore to stop further loss of life.”

“I am convinced that the cost of inaction would be much worse,” he said

At least it says that international travel is still allowed but the question becomes;  Will Little Governor’s Camp still be able to serve guests when restaurants and bars must be closed? A big part of the charm of the camp is the frequent arrival of elephants to the restaurant during mealtime.

This is Bossy and an unknown kudu. She usually waits for us in the driveway or the garden when we go out at night.

Will we, as guests, want a takeaway meal when part of the safari experience is delightful meal times, socialization, and good food, all of which are factored into the high daily cost. Would we even want to go if that’s the case? Probably not.

This morning, Saturday, I called two phone numbers for Little Governor’s Camp, but no management staff was available to answer our questions. Also, in both cases, the staff members answering the phones stated that on Monday, more news will be reported and they’ll know more about the restrictions and how they will impact the camp and the camp’s guests.

So what is Plan B, if, in fact, we cannot go on this planned adventure? I’m assuming we’ll be able to get a refund for the camp and flights. It will be trickier to get refunds for the flights, but in light of Covid, we may not have a problem. We can easily cancel all of the hotel bookings without an issue since they all had free cancellation policies. I’m not certain if we’ll be able to get a refund on the flights to and from Nelspruit to Johannesburg and back, which were booked separately, We shall see.

But, all of this hinges on what we find out on Monday or even as late as Tuesday. If we don’t go, we won’t have time to plan and book a trip to another location, apply for an online visa, etc. Honestly, neither of us feels like going through that again right now. Our only option with our South Africa visas expiring on April 12th, we’ll have no choice but to return to the US for a short stay.

Such a handsome male bushbuck.

In doing so, we’ll stay long enough to get our Covid-19 vaccines and then head back here. Depending on which vaccines we can arrange, we may be gone a month or more. It is during this time, we’ll see our family and take care of any business we need to address. We’ll go to Minnesota to see part of the family and then head to our state of residence, Nevada, where we’ll see eldest son Richard.

Once again, our lives are up-in-the-air due to Covid, uncertain of what the immediate future holds. At this point, neither of us is losing any sleep over this and will wait patiently for what transpires next week. We knew at some point, we’d have to return to the US to get the vaccine.

With upcoming cruises on the distant horizon and requirements for vaccines for all cruises, this may be as good a time as any to get it done. The likelihood of us getting a vaccine in South Africa is unlikely in the next few years. We’ll certainly keep you well-informed of the situation as it rolls out.

Note: In the past few minutes we received an email from Little Governor’s Camp. They are holding a managers meeting this afternoon to decide if they will close during the 60 day lockdown period or if they will stay open. We will report the results in tomorrow’s post.

Have a peaceful and fulfilling day, dear readers.

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

Beautiful statue at the beach in Pondicherry. For more photos, please click here.

Day #291 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…On our way tomorrow morning!…We’ll have been in India for 354 days…

An owl we spotted in Kanha National Park in India.

Today’s few photos are a continuation of those we posted during our first few months in India on tour, in today’s case on March 30, 2020, See the post here. We’ll continue on this path, sharing more tour photos until it’s time for us to hopefully depart tomorrow, on January 11, 2021. From there, God willing, it will be an entirely new world!

When Tom did the math this morning, he discovered we’ll have been in India for 354 days as compared to our original planned 65 days for our tour on the Maharajas Express, followed by the private tour of the country, cut short weeks early due to Covid-19.

Speaking of Covid-19, we received our Covid-19 PRC and antibody test results by email late last night and both were negative, not to our surprise. We’ve advised our friends in South Africa that we’ll self-quarantine the first 14 days and after that, when getting together we will follow social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines and only meet outdoors in small groups.

In any case, when people get together in Marloth Park it’s always outdoors in order to keep an eye out for visiting wildlife. All of us are equally obsessed! When, eventually, we do visit friends for “sundowners” we’ll bring our own glasses and beverages which is typical behavior in South Africa, the home of BYOB.

A Sambar Deer and her youngster, while on a game drive in India.

We’re almost completely packed. All of our necessary documents are printed. We’ve decided against ordering breakfast so early in the morning before we depart. We’re leaving the hotel at 7:00 am for the 20-minute drive to the airport for our eventual 10:30 am flight to Dubai.

Tomorrow, while waiting during the 16-hour layover in Dubai, whether we make it to the hotel or not, we’ll have time to prepare and upload another post, at which point we’ll include the final expenses for our almost one year in India. That will be most interesting for us to see as well.

The second of the three flights we’ll take the following day, on January 12, is from Dubai to Johannesburg is at 4:30 am. Since we’ll need to be at the airport two to three hours before departure, there’s no way either of us will get in any sleep before we depart, if we are able to get to the hotel between flights. I can’t imagine sleeping until 1:00 am, getting up, showering, dressing, and heading to the airport.

We both suspect we won’t be allowed to leave the airport between flights, due to Covid-19 restrictions, and as mentioned in an earlier post, we’re prepared to forgo the hotel room we booked and stay in the terminal for the duration. That will be one long wait, approaching the longest layover we’ve had, back in 2013 in Istanbul. There again, we’ll see how it goes.

A Black Eagle on the lookout for a meal.

When de-boarding the flights, we plan to stay in our seats until all passengers have exited the plane, thus avoiding close proximity to anyone. We’ll face the opposite direction of the crowd passing in the narrow aisle. In reality, there is only so much we can do to protect ourselves from contracting the virus. The most important aspect will be in keeping our “eye on the ball,” never being restless or careless for even a moment.

Most often when we travel, we both are friendly and at times, will chat with people around us. Not this time! No talking, laughing, talking to anyone more than is absolutely necessary. It’s the nature of the beast. It’s the nature of this dreadful, tiresome pandemic.

So there it is folks, our last post prepared in this hotel room, 291 days later, after 354 days in India. We never planned to stay so long. Staff members here have asked when we’ll return to India. To avoid being rude and blurting out “never,” we politely reply, “We still have a lot of the world left to see.” So true. So very true.

Again, thank you to our readers who’ve sent endless messages with well-wishes for our safe arrival in Marloth Park and we wish all of you the very best as well as we all work our way through these challenging times.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, January 10, 2020:

Two years ago photo. These Hornbill mates are often very noisy around us, asking for seeds. They sure had us trained, says Tom. For the post one year ago, please click here.

Day #289 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…3 days and counting…Are we worried about exposure while traveling?…

Beautiful statue at the beach in Pondicherry.

Today’s photos are a continuation of those we posted during our first few months in India on tour, in today’s case on March 27, 2020, See the post here. We’ll continue on this path, sharing more tour photos until it’s time for us to hopefully depart on January 11, 2021. From there, God willing, it will be an entirely new world!

We can’t believe we’re three days from departure and still, our flight remains in place. We can’t totally relax at this point, after our experience of being turned away at the airport on March 20, 2020, to then begin this awfully long lockdown in a hotel room in Mumbai, India.

A church we visited in Pondicherry. 

Peace of mind will only come once we’re in the air on the flight from Dubai to Johannesburg on January 12th. From there, an overnight stay in Joburg and then on to our flight to the Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger Airport, where we’ll pick up our rental car, to commence the one hour drive in daylight hours to Marloth Park.

The journey will consist of considerable exposure to people, at airports, hotels, and planes. Are we worried about the added exposure to Covid-19 compared to minimal exposure all these months in the hotel in Mumbai? We’d be foolish to say we’re not concerned.

The stunning interior of Our Lady of Angels Catholic Church in Pondicherry.

No doubt, Emirates Airlines have instituted extensive measures to protect its passengers while flying. We have less concern about being on the plane, other than if we have to use the restroom. We plan to be careful with our fluid consumption while traveling. Of course, we won’t partake in their complimentary cocktails during the two flights, only drinking minimal amounts of water as needed.

Our bigger concern is for safety at the airports, waiting in queues, and at the two hotels where we’ll be staying along the way, one in Dubai, the next in Joburg. At this point, we have no idea as to where and when we will eat along the way. Most likely, I won’t eat anything on the flights since they won’t have anything suitable for me.

Entrance to the cemetery in the French Quarter in Pondicherry.

Our current hotel chef stated he’d have breakfast delivered to our room on departure morning. We need to allow three hours at the airport for our 10:25 am flight, which is only a 3¼ hour flight until we reach Dubai. We won’t need to eat again until we’re at the hotel in Dubai near the airport. I looked up the menu and they have beef!

I’m certain Tom will order a burger and fries. I’ll order two beef patties without the bun with lettuce and cheese. Most likely, we won’t dine in the restaurant which may be packed with travelers and may be less safe than dining in our room. We’ll play that by ear. But, all of these factors are important to consider.

This morning, we packed and weighed our bags. We are within 2 kg of the maximum weight of 40 kg each. With Emirates Airlines, the total weight is the issue, not the number of bags. We have three checked bags between us and one carry-on we’d like to check, leaving us with the laptop bag for Tom and the yellow Costco bag and handbag for me.

A shrine on the interior of a temple in Pondicherry.

If for some reason, we are over on the weight, we’ll take the small purple bag with us as an additional carry-on which contains our heavy jeans, pants, and shorts. All we have left to do is pack the clothes we’re wearing, the laptops, cords, adapters, power strips, and the final batch of the few toiletries we’ll be using over the next few days and a few odds and ends.

I wish I could say we’re excited at this point, but until we get to Marloth Park and enough time passes when we’re at ease that we didn’t contract the virus during our two travel days, it’s only then we can fully relax and embrace our glorious surroundings in the bush.

Thank you to so many of you who continue to write and send well wishes for our departure and safety. It means the world to us, as all of you do as well.

Stay safe.

Photo from one year ago today, January 8, 2020:

This was the photo we posted, one year ago today. When we visited friends Kathy and Don in Pretoria, South Africa, two years ago, we visited this monument, the Voortrekker Monument, which is an unusual-looking structure located in Pretoria, South Africa. At the time I walked up all these steps (not all steps we tackled are shown in the photo) without getting out of breath or having any health issues. It was a little over a month later, I had open-heart surgery with three main arteries 100% blocked. Who knew? For more photos from this date, one year ago, please click here.

Day #288 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…4 days and counting…

When I originally took this photo of Tom’s dinner early on in our India travels, he said, “Don’t post that. It looks disgusting.” Now, it’s starting to look appetizing to both of us.

Today’s photos are a continuation of those we posted during our first few months in India on tour, in today’s case on March 26, 2020, See the post here. We’ll continue on this path, sharing more tour photos until it’s time for us to hopefully depart on January 11, 2021. From there, God willing, it will be an entirely new world!

There were messages all over Facebook, Google News, and numerous other news outlets that South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa was going to speak last night or today to impose a higher level of lockdown that would prevent travel between provinces.

This building was shown in a scene from the movie, Life of Pi, filmed in Chennai, India.

If that were the case, we’d be stuck in Johannesburg until a more stringent lockdown would eventually be lifted. Johannesburg is in Gauteng Province and Marloth is in Mpumalanga. It would be very frustrating for us to spend weeks or months in Johannesburg in a strict lockdown, certainly no better than what we’re facing now. At least here, we know what to expect.

It would be too risky to attempt to drive from Johannesburg when police will be stopping drivers on the highways imposing fines and jail time, a result of violating travel bans. As it is, even in “normal” times, it’s best to avoid being stopped by police as we experienced in 2013, when Tom was stopped for “allegedly speeding,” resulting in a “cash ” payment in order to be allowed to continue on the road. We learned quite a lesson from that event.

The two gold statues of a revered couple who were highly instrumental in doing good works for the Indian people.

As it turned out it was all speculation. Cyril won’t be speaking after his Covid-19 council met on Wednesday to discuss additional lockdown measures, based on increased cases of the virus and changes in various strains. It’s not rocket science to understand why cases would increase after the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

In South Africa, (80% of the population are Christian), as is the case in many countries throughout the world,  cases have spiked since the holidays. When many gatherings of family, workers, and friends, with few wearing face masks or social distancing, continued to congregate to celebrate, more and more cases resulted from these types of events.

This woman, on the side of the road, was shaking seeds out of a basket to be used in making vegetable oil.

So, with four days remaining until we head to the Mumbai International Airport for our flight on January 11th, we are still on pins and needles hoping nothing will change that will have an impact on our reaching Marloth Park, after two days of travel, on January 13, 2021.

I know the repetition of our discussions on getting out of here may be boring and redundant. But, as our long term readers know, we “tell it like it is,” including what’s most prevalent on our minds at any given time. No doubt, the next four days will consist of a similar dialog.

Once we’re on the move, we’ll stay in close touch, since we’ll have ample time in Dubai, and again in Johannesburg to provide all of our readers with updates on our experiences. Also, for those who have yet to travel during the pandemic, we’ll include information as to how Covid-19 is being handled at various airports and on the flights.

Another of Tom’s meals while touring India in February and March 2020.

After all, we’ll be at four airports during our two days of travel: Mumbai, Dubai, Johannesburg, and Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger. As it turns out, if plane travel is relatively safe and airports are clean with appropriate precautions, picking this time in history may actually prove to be good for fulfilling one’s own dreams of safari.

There aren’t huge crowds while on safari, which usually consist of only six to eight tourists and one guide, in an open-sided vehicle (bus or van tours should be avoided during the pandemic). Most likely, these types of fee-based safari tours will provide social distancing for passengers as well.

Another great point about Kruger National Park is its massive size as follows:

“Kruger National Park is one of the largest national parks in the world, with an area of 19,485 km2 (7,523 sq mi). The park is approximately 360 km (220 mi) long, and has an average width of 65 km (40 mi).”

An artfully designed temple built over 1000 years ago in Chennai.

This extensive area which includes hundreds of budget, moderate, and luxury camps/resort accommodations, is the perfect vacation/holiday for individuals, couples, and families. What is particularly fantastic about Kruger National Park is the option for visitors to “self-drive” only requiring a daily entrance fee as shown below:

Daily Conservation Fees for 1 November 2020 to 31 October 2021
South African Citizens and Residents (with ID) R105 per adult, per day R52 per child, per day
SADC Nationals (with passport) R210 per adult, per day R105 per child, per day
Standard Conservation Fee  (foreigners) R424 per adult, per day R212 per child, per day

As for the comparison to USD to Rand/ZAR, R424 as described above for foreign nationals, the entrance fee is USD $28.20, INR 2062, per person, per day. Of course, with our intent to visit many times during a hopefully longer stay, we’ll purchase an annual pass, referred to as a Wild Card, with access to 80 national parks in South Africa. Details are found here.

That’s all for today, folk. Please continue on this journey with us. We’ll be back with daily updates.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, January 7, 2020:

The photo we posted one year ago, which was taken in 2019, as we continued to have such a fantastic weekend celebrating friend Don’s birthday while staying at their gorgeous home in Pretoria. This photo was taken at a Mexican restaurant with 10 of us in attendance, again celebrating Don’s birthday. For more photos,  from one year ago, please click here.

Day #286 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…6 days and counting…Complicated paperwork…

Often, cows and bulls are depicted in Hindu temples.

Today’s photos are a continuation of those we posted during our first few months in India on tour, in today’s case on March 20, 2020, when we included some favorite photos. See the post here. We’ll continue on this path, sharing more tour photos until it’s time for us to leave on January 11, 2021. From there, God willing, it will be an entirely new world!

The number of steps required to get out of here far exceeds the necessity of organizing our stuff and packing our bags. That’s the easy part. With all the Covid-19 restrictions, South Africa  and UAE requirements, Emirates Airlines requirements, visa extension documents, we’re bombarded with tasks each and every day as the time nears.

“Kapaleeshwarar Temple: Dedicated to one of the forms of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati that is Arulmigu Kapleeswar and Karpagambal respectively, the temple should be on the top position of your list of temples to visit.

With only six days until we fly out of India, we have the front desk staff running back and forth to our room with more and more copies of what we need. Here are a few of the items required:

  1. Letter from the hotel with the dates we stayed here – Done
  2. Letter from Louise with the rental agreement details for South Africa – Will be done today
  3. Copies of all the Indian visa extension documents, in the event we aren’t approved in time and provided with the extension document which we’ll have to print – Will wait until Friday to see if we’re approved with a single document each
  4. Copies of our approval to re-enter South Africa when we overstayed in 2019 – Done
  5. Installation of the South Africa Covid Alert app on our phones – Done
  6. Pack and weigh our bags befitting Emirates baggage restrictions in ample time to pay for our excess online (lower cost of doing so). We have one extra (third) checked bag.
  7. Printed Covid-19 negative PCR test
  8. Health questionnaire for South Africa
    This hall at the temple site is used for weddings, arranged marriage meetings, relaxation, and prayer.

We have yet to complete the health questionnaire which we’ll complete today. The form wasn’t editable online so Tom will complete both of ours. My handwriting is illegible.

Need I say, all of this is cumbersome and frustrating when many of the forms to be completed online on various websites don’t work correctly. We tried for days to enter Tom’s passport information into the Emirate’s website and finally today it accepted his information. I can only imagine how challenging this stuff would be for those folks with a limited online experience and/or lack of patience.

A moonlit evening at the beach.

Today, we found out, after reading and reading various rules and restrictions that UAE, where we’ll layover for 16 hours, will only accept Covid-19 PCR test results from certain labs in India. The hotel arranged this for us and now we’re waiting to see if that lab is approved or we have to change to a different company.

If we aren’t able to get on the upcoming flight, we’ll have to start this entire process all over again, since the dates represented in the forms will have changed. Oh, our fingers continue to be crossed along with those of many of our readers who have so generously supported our ability to leave India at long last.

St. Thomas Church in Chennai. “There are over 19.9 million Catholics in India, which represents around 1.55% of the total population and the Catholic Church is the largest Christian Church in India. There are 174 dioceses in India organized into 29 provinces.”

So that’s the latest, dear readers. We spend the better half of each day engaged in the prep to leave here and easily roll back into our usual routine when the day’s tasks are completed. We walk, we write, we make lists and notes, and when free of all that, we escape into another few episodes of Shark Tank and our new binge-watch-worthy series, A Million Little Things – quite entertaining and good mindless drivel in which to escape for a few hours. Go ahead, give it a try.

Stay safe and healthy!

Photo from one year ago today, January 5, 2020:

On this date in 2016, we were in Sydney, Australia, preparing to board our ship for a 14-night cruise to Auckland, New Zealand. For more about the year-ago post, please click here

Day #285 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…One week and counting…

We took a detour to see this temple in Tanjore known as the “Big Temple” since the name is long and difficult for people to remember. ”Kapaleeshwarar Temple: Dedicated to one of the forms of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati that is Arulmigu Kapleeswar and Karpagambal respectively.”

Today’s photos are a continuation of those we posted during our first few months in India on tour, in today’s case on March 17, 2020 when we included some favorite photos. See the post here. We’ll continue on this path, sharing more tour photos until it’s time for us to leave on January 11, 2021. From there, God willing, it will be an entirely new world!

It’s ironic, that in the above-mentioned post from which we’re sharing photos once again, the heading on March 17, 2020, read:

The waiting game continues…Tomorrow, we fly out of Madurai to Mumbai…Three days and counting…

It was almost 10 months ago that we were on pins and needles as we are now, in this case, hoping to leave for South Africa in one week as opposed to three days. When we arrived in Mumbai with only three days remaining until March 20, 2020, for our then-upcoming scheduled flight on which we weren’t allowed to board, we had to return to the SunNSand Hotel, a pretty hotel on the beach.

This temple is over 1000 years old.

As posted several times, they literally “kicked us out” of the hotel on March 24th, assuring us they’d booked a room for us at the Orchid Hotel in Mumbai. Our bags were loaded into a taxi and we headed to the Orchid Hotel, only to discover they’d never heard of us and that they, too, were closing immediately, due to the lockdown. We were sorely disappointed they’d lied to us. (Thus, we wouldn’t return there if we are forced to stay in Mumbai if this upcoming flight also falls through).

We had nowhere to go. Almost every hotel in Mumbai was required to close and for the next few hours, we were in a panic. There we were in the Orchid Hotel lobby with all of our bags, unable to find a still-open hotel. Fortunately, the wonderful manager at the Orchid got on the phone and started calling every quality hotel in Mumbai looking for a room for us.

This view reminded us a little about entering the Lost City of Petra in 2013.

It was a stressful few hours, as we researched other options online such as holiday/vacation homes as an alternative. None of those we researched were available due to the lockdown or responded to our inquiries. After several hours passed, the hotel manager had found that this hotel, Courtyard by Marriott Mumbai International Airport, was staying open for the time being anyway.

During the first two or three months of our almost 10 months stay, it was impossible not to be concerned that we’d continue to have a place to stay. As the months wore on and more and more guests arrived, we could finally relax knowing, if they had ample business, they’d stay open.

The beautiful beach scene at the Ideal Beach Resort in Mahabalipuram. We particularly enjoyed this resort.

Early on, at one point, only six rooms were booked including ours. It was during this period, it was most worrisome. How could they afford to stay open with so few guests? Thank goodness Marriott is a hugely successful international company. It was this fact that allowed them to continue operations whereby other privately owned hotels most likely couldn’t afford to stay open during the lockdown.

The first few weeks we ate both breakfast and dinner in the dining room. But as cases of Covid-19 continued to rise, all restaurants in India were forced to close, except for those offering takeaway. It was at that point, we began dining in our hotel room.

The colorful temples in Chennai were breathtaking to see. “Kapaleeshwarar Temple: Dedicated to one of the forms of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati that is Arulmigu Kapleeswar and Karpagambal respectively, the temple should be on the top position of your list of temples to visit.”

A few months ago, the restaurant reopened and it was at that time, we discovered more and more guests not wearing masks in the corridors when they headed downstairs to dine, as often as three times a day. They figured they wouldn’t be wearing a mask while eating, so why wear a face mask on their way to the restaurant?

It was this laissez-faire attitude that convinced us it was too risky to dine in the now-opened restaurant beside those careless individuals. We opted to eat breakfast and dinner in our room, only having exposure to the masked room service staff member, whom we never allowed to enter our room. Tom has always grabbed the trays, placed them on the bed, closed the door, and immediately washed his hands.

The newly added pool area at Ravla Khempur is also known as the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, where the popular movie was filmed. This was a favorite tour during our travels in India.

Each meal, before and after we dine, we thoroughly wash our hands in hot soapy water. We have trays we keep in the room which Tom frequently washes in the shower. We have kept it as safe as it can be. Now, going forward, hopefully in one week from today, we’ll continue to be safe during our time at four airports (Mumbai, Dubai, Johannesburg, Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger), on three flights, and staying in two hotels in our efforts to make our way to Marloth Park.

So far, so good. There’s been no canceled flight email message for the January 11th flight. We wait, we hope and we pray we can fly away!

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, January 4, 2020:

This repeated photo was the only one we posted, one year ago today. On this date in 2014, similar to the main photo in this post of December 14th, once again, we looked toward the driveway to discover giraffes coming our way. What a glorious sight! Click here for the one-year-ago post.

Day #284 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…8 days and counting….Am I too old for this?…

This is the grass left from harvesting rice. Note the horns on these buffalos. Indian ricegrass is highly palatable to livestock and wildlife. It is a preferred feed for cattle, horses, and elk for all seasons. It is considered a preferred feed for sheep, deer, and antelope in spring and a desirable feed for sheep, deer, and antelope in late fall and winter.

Today’s photos are a continuation of those we posted during our first few months in India on tour, in today’s case on March 15, 2020. See the post here. We’ll continue on this path, sharing more tour photos until it’s time for us to leave on January 11, 2021. From there, God willing, it will be an entirely new world!

It is surprising that every 30 minutes I check my email to see if our flight was canceled? Even during the night, when I awaken for a few minutes, I check my email. I can’t help myself.

Festival in the street. “Meena Sankranti is an important Hindu festival observed on the auspicious occasion of the transition of the sun from Pisces to Aries. Known as Meena Sankramanam in South India, the festival will be celebrated on March 14 (Saturday), 2020 all over India. Celebrating a Sankranti is often marked with the donation of various things. According to specific personal needs, the people celebrate the event at the onset of every month. Some Indian states like Punjab, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala observe the occasion at the beginning of each month. In contrast, states like West Bengal celebrate the festival during the latter half of the month.”

With the upcoming 16 hour layover in Dubai, we decided to take a chance and book a room at a nearby hotel in Terminal 3 at the Dubai Airport. They may not let us leave the airport without collecting our bags and if so, we’ll forego the room. It’s just not worth it to go through that entire process of collecting our bags, since they will already be ready to be put on the next flight to Johannesburg. 16 hours later.

The cost of the room was US $47, INR 3435 with taxes. If we can’t board the flight for whatever reason, or leave the airport to go to the hotel in Dubai, we’ll lose the US $47 since the last cancellation date is January 8th. For this small amount, we’re willing to take the risk.

The festival continued along the road.

If the flight is canceled prior to the 8th, no problem, we can cancel everything at no loss to us, although it could take two months to receive refunds from the airlines. We’ve already alerted the hotel here in Mumbai that, if we aren’t allowed on the flight or any other flight, we’ll be returning to this hotel. They’ve agreed to hold this room for us. If we can’t fly, we’d be back to the hotel before noon.

What a dreadful thought! But, I must admit, now that we’ve accepted the possibility that we may not leave, I am not feeling stressed anymore, regardless of my frequent email checks. For a few days, I could feel the tension coursing through me. But now, with my blood pressure and heart rate as low as ever, I am feeling like my old self again, old indeed.

There were dozens of participants.

Speaking of “old” I ask myself, “Am I still up for all of this as I’m fast approaching my 73rd birthday next month? My recent drop in blood pressure resulting in stopping all hypertensive drugs, with my blood pressure now running around 100/60. My blood sugar is at the lowest in my adult life, averaging around 4.3 mmol/L, 80 mg dl, except with a slight rise after eating to 5.0 mmol/L, 90 mg dl, the pain in my legs gone and the pain in my back is almost completely gone, I am a new person.

Add the fact I am 25 pounds, 11.3 kg, lighter than when we arrived at this hotel, you bet I feel younger than I did last March. I now easily walk 10,000 steps a day, which is 5 miles, 8 km. My only challenge will be walking this much in Marloth Park when currently there’s an injured leopard on the loose. Nonetheless, we’ll figure it out, as we always do.

A small band was leading the procession.

I suppose feeling old is predicated on how healthy we feel. No doubt, I have cardiovascular issues that may or may not improve with all these newly implemented measures. In the interim, I am psyched to continue with our travels, as is Tom, if the pandemic measures make it possible and safe.

If at some point, if it’s necessary and safe to return to the US for a year to wait out the pandemic in other parts of the world, we’re prepared to do so, perhaps staying in different states in the country to visit family members and see other parts of our own USA. In that eventuality, we’ll still continue to do our daily posts while we wait.

Indian music is quite beautiful.

After almost nine years of posting (since March 15, 2012), doing so has morphed into an integral part of our very existence. Sharing our daily lives with all of you throughout the world has added an element of joy and appreciation that is difficult to describe. At no point, do we imagine, we won’t continue to write here each day.

Thank you for sharing these painstaking many months with us. Your love and support has been highly instrumental in our ability to stay positive and hopeful. Thank you for all the kind and loving holiday wishes and the endless stream of messages we receive each day, as you look forward, along with us, to us departing India in eight days.

No offense intended to India. It’s a fascinating country with wonderful people, considerable history, charm, and culture. Under different circumstances, we would have appreciated it so much more.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, January 3, 2020:

In error, in yesterday’s post, I added the above photo as the year-ago photo when in fact the above photo was from one year ago. I have since corrected yesterday’s year ago photo. On this date in 2016, we posted this photo of a vegetable stand where we purchased most of our produce during the 28-day stay in Pacific Harbour, Fiji. For more from that date, including final expenses for Fiji, please click here. For the year-ago post, please click here.

Day #283 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…9 days and counting…No delusions…

This kind man, Mr. Ganapthay of Cholan Art Village, made the experience of visiting his nine generation family bronzing business all the more special to both of us.

Today’s photos are a continuation of those we posted during our first few months in India on tour, in today’s case on March 14, 2020. See the post here. We’ll continue on this path, sharing more tour photos until it’s time for us to leave on January 11, 2021. From there, God willing, it will be an entirely new world!

We have no delusions about getting out of here in nine days. We both have accepted the reality that we could be returning to this hotel, hours after heading for the airport in the early morning, to book it once again. We have definitely decided we would return to this particular hotel, on the premise, “love the one you’re with.”

Mr. Ganapthay warm smile won our hearts. He showed us the items at varying stages in the production.

One may ask, why not go for new scenery or the option to be outdoors? We’ll have spent 10 months here and didn’t contract Covid-19. That’s all the assurance we need. Plus, to start over, with all of our food requirements, cleaning protocol and safety concerns would only add more stress and confusion, which if we can’t leave, we don’t want.

So that aspect of our potential inability to depart India, in itself, gives us peace of mind, knowing what to expect. Most likely, international flights would resume in two or three months and we’d start over again. At any point, we have the option to “throw in the towel” and return to the US since repatriation flights are still available in small numbers.

Wax and sand are used in making molds.

However, as our long time readers know, that is not our objective. With the rampant rise in cases of Covid-19 daily and the lack of coordination on the flow of the vaccine, we feel better off making other plans at this point. If we were going to be stuck here another nine or ten months, we may have no choice but to do so. For now, that’s not on our radar.

Instead, we’re trying to be proactive as to our choices over the next few weeks and going forward. Also, we are bracing ourselves for the upcoming realities of Marloth Park, which for many travelers may be difficult and inconvenient.

The wax mold for the bronze head of a God that his brother sculps, soon to be completed.

Since we belong to many Marloth Park Facebook groups, each day, we read what’s going on in the park. At times, it’s disheartening and may cause many travelers to think twice before booking a bush home in the wild. Such challenges at this time include:

  • Heat: It is summertime in SA upon our arrival, and the temperatures can easily rise well into the 100F, 40C, or more. It’s hot and sticky, often with not much of a breeze, if any at all. This is Africa, not Palm Beach.
  • Power: Due to Eskom, the electric power company, there are almost daily power outages, referred to as “load shedding” to reduce usage. This results in sleepless nights when temperatures are over 100F, 40C, during the day when we can’t use a fan or air-con. Most bush houses don’t have air-con in the living areas so residents must bear the daytime heat regardless. Besides, we prefer to spend the majority of each day outdoors to see the visiting wildlife, rather than sitting indoors in an air-conditioned room.
    The brother, in the process of manufacturing an item.
  • WiFi: Without power, we won’t have WiFi in the house. Fortunately, this time, we have WiFi on our phones and although it can be pricey when they are used as hotspots if used excessively, it’s worthwhile for uploading posts and conducting online searches.
  • Water outages: The water in MP is not safe to drink or use for brushing teeth. From time to time, the water supply is cut off for hours, or even days. We’ll deal with this on a case by case basis and improvise as needed. We’ll always have plenty of bottled water on hand.
  • Mosquitoes: We decided against taking prophylactic malaria medication. Once again, we plan to stay in Africa for an extended period and it’s not recommended to be taking the drugs long term. The last time I took them was while we were in Botswana in 2018. I had an uncomfortable reaction, some weird headache, and stopped them after a few days. As it turned out we spent 15 months in Africa in 2018-2019 and diligently used roll-on repellent for full protection, which we re-applied every six hours. With regular use of the repellent, we were able to avoid being bitten.
    They work in their bare feet next to the very hot items.
  • Snakes: They are everywhere during the hot summer months, often in the house and gardens, many of which are highly venomous, and life-threatening. It’s imperative to constantly be on the lookout for snakes, immediately reporting their presence to one of the many professionals in Marloth Park. We will contact Juan, whom we know and is an expert handler. They will not be killed but will be relocated to other safer locations, such as in Lionspruit, another conservancy with wildlife, located within Marloth Park.
  • Grocery shopping: Although there are a few shops in Marloth Park, most of them offer only grocery items applicable for short-term tourists. Most likely, once a week we will travel the 22 minutes to Komatipoort to shop at the big market, Spar, and the larger meat market. There is a small meat market in MP that served us well for many items, owned by the same larger company in Komati. With frequent power outages, we don’t want to worry about meat and other groceries spoiling. We’ll have to shop frequently, increasing exposure to Covid-19 in the busy town.
    Rows upon rows of shelves filled with bronze figures for sale.

Yes, many tourists would shy away from such challenges. But, after a total of 18 months of experience, living in the bush since the onset of our travels, we feel comfortable that we can handle it. After all, when I returned from the hospital after open-heart surgery, in awful pain and discomfort, and again more than a month later, after two surgeries on both legs, I managed then and we’ll manage now.

For us, the experience is worth it, as it is for many who visit and many who own bush houses. I can’t say we’ll never whinge a little about such inconveniences since as we’ll always, “tell it like it is” but, in any case, it will be a lot more enjoyable than sitting in this hotel room for 10 months. This morning, again, our bacon was burned. Hum, bacon every day, 10 months. Go figure.

Now, let’s get through these next nine days and be on our way!!!

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, January 2, 2020:

At the New Year’s Eve party a few nights earlier. For more, see here.