Eye exams and costs for eyewear in South Africa…We got our boosters in the most unlikely place…

When I tossed leftover salad into the garden, the “Go-Away” birds arrived within minutes. They loved the grape tomatoes. Who knew? It was fun to watch them. The grey go-away bird feeds on leaves, flowers, fruit, buds, and the occasional small invertebrates. They are agile birds and run along tree branches when feeding. The grey go-away bird is an important seed disperser for many fruit trees. This bird will practice geophagia, eating soil, to get the nutrients lacking in its diet.

Yesterday at noon, we were both scheduled for eye exam appointments with the same optometrist in Komatipoort we’d used in 2018. I knew my prescription had changed when I’d been having trouble reading small print in the past year or so, but Tom hadn’t noticed any changes.

As it turned out, Tom’s prescription had changed in his left eye only as did mine also in the left eye. When Dr. Dawie sent me home with test contacts for the new prescription to try out, I was able to reduce the font size on my phone and my laptop. What a thrill! I won’t have to bring “cheaters” to the supermarket with me when trying to read labels for carb counts on certain products.

The sounds from the Go-Away birds sound like go-away from time to time.

With Tom’s frames getting loose, he was ready for a change on both his clear and sunglasses. He picked out another rimless “designer” frame for both new pairs, and I ordered a 12-month supply of Air Optix contact lenses. With everything so slow due to Covid and now Omicron, it could be a month or more until our new products arrive.

We were pleased with the cost of the new eyewear. The total for Tom’s two pairs of glasses in identical frames is ZAR 9026, US $589. And my year’s supply of contacts is ZAR 6432  US $419 for a total for both of us is ZAR 15458, US $1008. If I remember correctly, the last time Tom purchased glasses at Costco in the US, he paid almost twice as much, and that was nearly ten years ago.

Suddenly, there were five Go-Away birds. The grey go-away-bird (Crinifer concolor), also known as grey lourie, grey loerie, or kwêvoël, is a bold and common bird of the southern Afrotropics.

My contact lenses are a little more than I’ve paid in the past, but we were willing to pay a little more for these good rates and the convenience of getting them here. Mine won’t arrive for at least six weeks. Tom will have his sooner. It was a relief to get this done.

Next, we headed to the Spar Supermarket, where we could get the J & J vaccine boosters outside the door to the store, sponsored by Tonga Hospital in Tonga, Mpumalanga. We brought along our passports and paper vaccination cards. Louise just so happens to have a laminating machine so we can laminate the final paper copies to fit in our wallets, keeping the original paper copies for any future add-ons.

The grey go-away bird gets its common English name from its call, which sounds like the bird is telling you to go away. It is a nasal call “g’wa-ay, g’wa-ay.” This is a highly vocal bird and will call whenever it is disturbed. These birds are gregarious and move in groups of up to 20 birds. Go-away birds need to drink regularly and will flock to water sources. The grey go-away bird roosts in small groups at night. The grey go-away bird can often be seen laying on the ground with its wings and tail spread, also having dust “baths.”

There was no queue for the boosters. They processed our papers and sent us over to the nurse to get the shots. We weren’t asked to wait afterward as we’d done when we were vaccinated at the airport in Minneapolis in July. If anything went wrong, Dr. Theo’s office was down the road, no more than five minutes from there.

We went straight into the supermarket and did our shopping, entirely forgetting we’d had it done. Since we had no ill effects after the first vaccine, we didn’t give it much of a thought. By the time we paid for our groceries and loaded up the little car, an hour had passed, and both of us were fine. Our arms aren’t tender today, or are we experiencing any issues whatsoever. There was no charge for the boosters. We’re both glad this is finally out of the way.

They often tilt their heads to listen when we talk to them.

Back at the house by 2:00 pm, 1400 hrs, after putting everything away, I had time to upload the post and do my walking. By 4:15 pm, 1615 hrs, we were situated at the table on the veranda. As usual, Little stopped by, ate some pellets, scared away all the other pigs, and enjoyed some carrots I sent his way. He swallows them whole with his powerful jaw and teeth.

Today, I am chopping, dicing, and doing some prep work for tomorrow’s dinner party, which will be for six or eight depending on whether Danie is feeling well again. We’ll play it by ear and see how he does.

We were surprised when she stood on the veranda railing, but even more so when we jumped onto the table while we sat there.

We hope you have a pleasant day.

Photo from one year ago today, January 20, 2021:

We couldn’t believe how brazen she was. She had no fear of us. “The Thick-Tailed Bushbaby is a nocturnal primate with child-like cries, which gave cause for the English vernacular name. Thick-tailed bushbabies are three times the size of the smaller bushbabies. This is probably due to its diet and larger body size. This is the most social of all known bushbabies.” For more photos, please click here.

Gloom and doom about the cruise industry…Worst-case scenarios…

Gosh, our porcupine is becoming quite a regular. Next time we shop, we’ll purchase some root vegetables for her.

The worst-case scenario of cruising during the pandemic is getting the virus and becoming seriously ill during or after a cruise. However, the next situation would be, after becoming infected, with or without symptoms, and being forced to quarantine in the small cabin for several days, missing all or part of the cruise.

At this point, some cruise ships are requiring all positive-tested passengers to remain collectively on one particular deck, unable to attend regular dining, tours, or activities. It’s entirely possible an infected passenger may be required to forgo their upgraded cabin, such as our usual balcony cabin upgrade and moving to whatever other cabins may be available on the quarantine deck.

For instance, we could be moved to an inside cabin which, without a window or sliding door, would be awful for us. Neither of us feels comfortable in a window-less room. We’re always willing to pay considerably more for a balcony cabin which offers some upgraded options for which we are also willing to pay an additional charge.

Imagine our upcoming 13-night transatlantic cruise with either or both of us infected, spending seven of those days in quarantine. This is not appealing to either of us. As of today, we are scheduled to board the Celebrity Silhouette in 91 days. Will this Omicron thing be eliminated by then? Most likely, it won’t be.

When we went indoors to make dinner, Little was in the garden looking for the last remnants of pellets.

We ask ourselves this question? What happens if we board the ship and in two days it is forced to return to the port of embarkation, in this case, back to Florida, due to too many cases onboard the ship? This could be the case if all of the cases were staff, let alone passengers. This has been occurring regularly, especially in the past few days as per this article below:

“Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise cancel voyages amid omicron spread

It comes after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised people to avoid cruise travel after launching investigations into cases on more than 90 ships.

Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line on Wednesday canceled sailings amid rising fears of omicron-related coronavirus infections that have dampened the nascent recovery of the pandemic-ravaged cruise industry.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd called off its Spectrum of the Seas cruise for Jan. 6 after nine guests on its Jan. 2 trip were identified as close contacts to a local Hong Kong Covid-19 case.

The contacts have tested negative, but the cruise ship will return to Kai Tak Cruise Terminal in Hong Kong on Jan. 5 to test all guests and crew who must take a second test on Jan. 8, the company said.

A similar decision to cancel trips by Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd was made against the backdrop of the United States reporting the highest daily tally of any country for new coronavirus infections on Monday.

“Due to ongoing travel restrictions, we’ve had to modify a few sailings and unfortunately have had to cancel,” the 17-ship strong cruise operator said, with the embarkation dates for a few canceled sailings as far out as late April.

The cruise line, which requires everyone on board to be vaccinated, has also had to cut short a 12-day round trip from Miami on its Norwegian Pearl ship, citing “Covid related circumstances.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had last week advised people to avoid cruise travel after launching investigations into onboard cases on more than 90 ships. The health agency starts a scrutiny if at least 0.1 percent of the guests test positive.

Norwegian Cruise said guests, who were supposed to embark on the canceled sailings on the eight ships, will receive full refunds and bonus credits for future bookings.

The omicron-led travel uncertainty is also causing guests on other sailings to cancel their bookings as a few ships have also had to skip ports due to onboard infections.

“We booked the cruise last March and assumed that things would be getting back to normal… by mid-December, I was mentally prepared for a change of plans,” said Holly Bromley, a consulting arborist. She canceled her booking on Norwegian Epic.

Meanwhile, bigger rival Carnival Corp said it had not canceled any upcoming voyages, but its shares fell on Wednesday to close down 2.6 percent. Royal Caribbean lost 2.1 percent and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings 3.6 percent.”

Miss Duiker stopped by for pellets. We were happy to send some her way.

I should mention that Royal Caribbean owns Celebrity Cruise Line.

We can only imagine the inconvenience of being stuck in Florida if the ship returns to port or never sails at all due to Covid cases. We will have spent a fortune on airfare from South Africa and quarantining in a hotel, plus meals, for at least a week before we even board the ship. We don’t want to take a risk that we won’t be able to board coming directly from South Africa. (But, we’ll check prior to booking the flight and hotel).

Yes, sure. It’s all up in the air. The third year of the pandemic continues to impact our travel plans. Today we sent the law firm in Cape Town all of the required documents to process our extension. If we get it, it will be good until April 22, 2022.  If the cruise scheduled for April 8th cancels, we’ll have to figure out what we’ll do at that point.

Challenging times continue. If good health supersedes it all, we’ll have no complaints.

Be well.

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

This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #288. An artfully designed temple was built over 1000 years ago in Chennai. For more photos, please click here.

Had to get a Covid test this morning…Results tomorrow…


Oh, oh…roadblock!
Little, patiently waiting in the garden for the next round of pellets.  

Tom is recovering nicely from his two tooth extractions and had turned the corner on his bad virus/cough/cold, whatever it was. Last night I was awake until 3:00 am, sneezing, blowing my nose, coughing, having difficulty breathing, along with a bad headache. I never get a headache.

I then decided I needed to get a Covid test, not that I needed to know. Whatever I had was running its course. But, it was important for us to see if we need to quarantine for the next two weeks, if I did, have a breakthrough case of Covid-19, although we had the one-shot J & J vaccine in the US on July 1st at the airport in Minnesota upon our arrival.

Hornbill, eating Frank’s seeds.

My big concern was not so much that I could do or take anything to improve the symptoms, but more so, to avoid infecting others in days to come. If the test results are positive tomorrow, both of us will begin to quarantine for a minimum of 10 days since several days have passed since the onset of symptoms.

However, we both could have had the seasonal flu or picked up some bug on our long journey back to South Africa from the US. Fifteen hours on a plane could certainly attribute to “catching” something in such tight quarters. Plus, we spent many hours waiting for our flights in various airports. We’ve only been back nine days as of today. We could even have picked something up here after returning, at the market or out and about.

It was nice to see that One Tusk returned to our garden.

More and more discussions in the news about cases of “break-through Covid,” which ultimately have scared away from receiving the vaccine. Many are assuming that the vaccine is useless if the vaccinated are getting the virus. But, it appears that having had the vaccine may significantly reduce the severity of a break-through case.

Again, each person has to decide what course they choose regarding vaccination for themselves and their loved one. In any case, it’s sad to hear about many people dying in hospitals after refusing the jab, compared to only a small number of vaccinated people succumbing to the disease.

Closeup of One Tusk.

This morning we drove to the medical clinic here in Marloth Park. I didn’t see a need to go to Dr. Theo in Komatipoort when all I felt I needed was the test. Nor did I have an appointment or care to visit with any doctors at the clinic here in the bush. As bad as the cough is, I am turning the corner on day #5 since the onset of symptoms.

Yesterday afternoon, we set up the new camera. Although I didn’t feel like learning the latest features from my similar old camera, I took a few photos, which I’m posting here today. None of the few photos were especially interesting or outstanding, but I will become more enthusiastic about using the camera and learning its features in time.

Broken Horn stops by at least once a day.

Based on the above concerns, we had to turn down Kathy and Don’s invitation to dinner at their lovely riverfront bush home tonight. But, surely once we’re back on track, we will see them again, along with Rita and Gerhard and our other friends.

Hopefully, all of our readers are staying healthy and safe. Be well. Be happy.

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

This was a year ago photo posted on this date while in lockdown in Mumbai, India, on day #134. The second of two replicas, the Paris Statue of Liberty, is much more miniature than in New York Harbor, USA. For more photos, please click here.

A most exciting trail cam photo!!!…

Last night’s trail cam photos picked up this porcupine! We are so excited to see this! The prospect of getting this photo prompted us to purchase the trail cam.

Each night since we received the trail cam a week ago, we have been hopeful that somehow one night, it would take a photo of the porcupine that Tom has seen six times and me, once. When I got up after Tom, I asked the new question I’ve been asking him each morning, “Did you look at the trail cam photos? Anything exciting, honey?” He’s said each day, “Nothing unusual.” This morning he said, “You’ll have to see for yourself.” It was at that moment I knew. The porcupine showed up in the trail cam photos. I couldn’t shower and get dressed quickly enough.

Holding my breath, I inserted the card reader with the camera data card into my laptop, a fresh cup of coffee in hand, and quickly scrolled through the photos to find the photo above. No, it’s not as straightforward as we would have liked. I did my best editing it a little to enhance the image. But, in the dark, at night, it was the best photo the trail cam could get. Nonetheless, we’re thrilled. Based on how often Tom has seen it, this porcupine may be a regular in our garden. In the past month, collectively, we’ve seen it seven times. Sure, there’s a possibility it could be more than one porcupine, but most likely, it’s the same one over and over. Porcupines are not territorial as per this statement:

“Social system – Porcupines are solitary during much of their lives. Exceptions occur during the winter when as many as 12 may den communally and during courtship. Porcupines are not territorial, although an individual may drive others from a tree in which it is feeding during the winter.”

Warthog’s wiry hair on their backs stands up when confronted and during mating activities.

Facts about porcupines from this site:

“Porcupines are large, slow-moving rodents with sharp quills on their backs. They are found on every continent except Antarctica. Scientists group porcupines into two groups: Old World porcupines, which are found in Africa, Europe, and Asia; and New World porcupines, which are found in North, Central, and South America. The North American porcupine is the only species found in the United States and Canada.

Sharp quills

All porcupines have a few traits in common. The most noticeable trait is the long, sharp quills that cover their bodies. According to National Geographic, some quills can get up to a foot (30 centimeters) long, like those on Africa’s crested porcupine. 

Porcupines use the quills as a defense. They may shake them, which makes them rattle, as a warning to potential predators. If that doesn’t work, they may charge backward into the predator. According to the Animal Diversity Web, the quills are loosely attached but cannot be thrown or projected. Some quills have scales or barbs that make them very hard to remove. Once a quill is lost, it isn’t lost forever. They grow back over time. A North American porcupine can have 30,000 or more quills, according to National Geographic.

In his full glory, One Tusk is ready to protect “his new territory,” our garden in Marloth Park.

Size

The largest porcupine is the North African crested porcupine. It grows up to 36 inches (90 centimeters) long. The smallest is the Bahia hairy dwarf porcupine. It grows up to 15 inches (38 cm) long. Porcupines weigh 2.5 to 77 lbs. (1.2 to 35 kilograms), depending on species, and their tails can grow up to 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 cm).”

When and if we’ll ever get a daylight photo of a porcupine remains to be seen. We’ll continue to check out the trail cam photos every day to see what other treasures we can see that enter the garden in the evening. With winter approaching and darkness falling earlier each evening, we look forward to many more exciting trail cam photos, along with the photos we take daily from the veranda and when driving in the park.

There are glands around the warthog’s eyes that produce a secretion during mating seasons and social interactions.

Next week, when the ten-day school holiday period ends, and it’s no longer necessary to make an appointment to enter, we’ll be heading back to Kruger National Park for more stunning wildlife sightings, which we look forward to sharing here. Our permanent Wild Card (year-long entrance pass) has arrived, and we’re chomping at the bit to get back out there.

Tonight, we’re heading to Jabula for dinner with dear friends Linda and Ken, who are here in Marloth Park right now. It’s been several weeks since they’ve been here, and we have plenty of catching up to do!

Have a pleasant weekend filled with exciting surprises!

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

Female lions lounging in the shade, re-posted one year ago while in lockdown in India. For more photos, please click here.

Part 2, Matsamo Culural Village Tour on the border of South Africa and Swaziland…

The Matsamo village consists of many huts made by the men using straw, wood, vines, and cow dung. They are very well constructed.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Tom and Lois have particularly enjoyed the bushbaby’s nightly visit to the cup of yogurt on the little stand.

Whether or not the villagers of Matsamo live the primitive life they described as customary in these modern times, it was interesting to learn about their history and culture.

There are various boma-type structures to round up the cattle at night or conduct meetings among the tribesmen.

The young man who provided us with a private tour of the village was enthusiastic and dedicated to the customs of his heritage, many of which we assume continue today to some degree.

The chief, our tour guide’s father, was in a meeting with another tribesman.

It was evident by his detailed descriptions that the male members of the tribe supersede the females of the tribe in many ways, except the grandmother, who is held in the highest esteem, even above that of the chief.

The baskets hanging on the side of the boma fence are for nesting chickens.

Women are married at very young ages, and many men take two wives. The first wife will have children, cook, clean, and care for the family and continues to do so until the man decides to take a second wife.

The largest hut was for the grandmother, where all the teenage girls sleep once past seven or eight years old.

At this point, the first wife is “promoted,” and she moves to another hut without a cooking area. The new wife is then responsible for all household tasks while the first wife languishes more leisurely. Interesting, eh?

Note the quality construction of the huts.

There is no limit to the number of children the wives may bear regardless of their status in the family unit. It’s a lifestyle demanding for most of us to imagine, so far removed from our reality.  

The chief’s son, the youngest of his 25 children from two wives respectively, two wives, the first with 15 children, and the second with ten children.

After the tour ended, we made our way back to the car and proceeded to drive back to Marloth Park via the proper roads, avoiding the potholed roads. By early afternoon we were back on the veranda waiting for visitors while Lois and I prepared a lovely dinner for the evening.

This low entrance to the huts is intended to keep invaders out and present a humble entrance for those welcomed.  A large stick is kept by the entrance in the event an unwelcomed visitor intrudes.

Some things never change, especially in our generation of retired seniors, women doing most of the cooking and men taking on other household tasks. For us, traveling the world over these past six years has led us to fall into specific roles and functions based on our skills and interest, more minor on gender identity roles of decades past.

Decorative items to be worn during festivities and when young women are presented to the chief as potential new wives for himself and others.

I prefer to cook. Tom likes to do the cleanup and the dishes. He does the heavy lifting of the 40 kg (88 pounds) pellets while I put away the groceries. I wash the laundry, and if helpers aren’t available, he hangs it on the clothesline.

The husband and wife sleep separately on mats, the man on the right, the woman on the left.  As we entered the hut, we had to comply with this left/right ritual, man always on the right. Hmmm…or did he mean “man is always right?”

In many cultures, established roles and tasks are distributed by a couple, regardless of gender, in a similar manner, based on expertise, ability, and interest. This method works well for us and never, do either of us feel we are locked into a specific gender obligation.

Various baskets were used for collecting water by the young women from the local river.

Yesterday, Saturday, we embarked on the Crocodile River drive in Marloth Park and once again have some spectacular sightings we’ll share in tomorrow’s post.  

The village was designed to generate revenue for the villagers, and many areas were modern and tourist-friendly.

As always, last night’s dinner at Jabula was fantastic, along with the fun the four of us had sitting at the bar yakking with Leon, the owner. Dawn, his significant other, and co-owner were out of town visiting family, and we kept him entertained as he did us!

For an additional sum, we could have stayed for lunch.  But when reviewing the online menu, we opted out on this when many of the items were wheat, corn, starch-based, and deep-fried.

Soon, we’re off to another bush braai in Lionspruit, the game reserve within a game reserve where we’ll spend the better part of the day at Frikkie’s Dam with Louise, Danie, and friends. It will be a pleasure to share this delightful event with Tom and Lois as their time here is quickly winding down.  In a mere four days, they’ll depart to return to the US.

Several areas were set up for dining, and many tourists were dining as we walked through the dining area.

Have a fantastic day, yourselves! We’ll be thinking of all of you as we take photos while embracing today’s fun event.

Photo from one year ago today, October 28, 2017:

Exterior photo of the hotel, the Real InterContinental Managua at Metrocentro Mall, where we stayed for two nights, to renew our Costa Rica visas. For more pictures and details, please click here.

Part 1, Matsamo Cultural Village Tour on the border of South Africa and Swaziland…

We arrived at the Swaziland border where Matsamo Cultural Village is located, just as the show began.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

A zebra was climbing the steps of the veranda for more pellets as we headed to the car to go to Swaziland.

When Lois expressed an interest in attending a traditional African tribal dance, we asked Louise and Danie what they’d recommend. They didn’t hesitate when they suggested the Matsamo Cultural Village Tour located on the South Africa side of Swaziland, a bordering country.

The Swazi performers are very talented in both singing and dancing.

Here’s a map showing how Swaziland, a different country, and how it is situated next to South Africa and bordering Mozambique on the east:

Map of Swaziland.

Had this tour been located in Swaziland, we wouldn’t have been able to attend. While attempting to be granted a visa extension, we were warned not to leave the country, resulting in any stamps in our passports.

Tree stumps were used as seats during the performance.

The website for Matsamo was a little unclear as to whether we’d need to be part of a tour group or if we could show up on our own. We tried calling the contact number to no avail and finally decided to take a chance on the over one-hour drive from Marloth Park.

The men performed a traditional dance.

In looking at a map, Tom and Tom mapped out directions and by 10:00 am, we were on the road, hoping to arrive in time for the posted 11:30 am performance. As it turned out, we barely made it on time when we mistakenly took a shortcut which proved to be the second-worst potholed road we’ve experienced in our lives.

The women also performed a traditional dance and song.

Months ago, we’d made a similar mistake by taking a shortcut and ended up with what is described as the worst pothole road on the planet. Yesterday’s route wasn’t as wrong as our prior experience, but awful. It was quite the adventure for Tom & Lois!

Performing for tourists provides the village with income. The cost of the performance and tour is ZAR 200 (US $13.70) per person.

Finally, we arrived at the village and proceeded to make our way to the activities with the help of a member of the village who directed us down a path to the performance, which was starting at any moment.

Their agility and ability are spectacular.

We found seats in the back row when all the best seats were taken by that arrived earlier than us, but we got good enough seats to take photos and enjoy the 45-minute show with a bit of maneuvering.

The colorful dress of the Matsamo people was bright and appealing.

Their voices and dancing skills were exceptional, and the four of us were mesmerized during the entire performance. After the performance ended, one of the leading performers, a skilled and attractive young man, and the chief’s youngest son, approached us and offered a personalized tour of the village and its customs.

We were thrilled to have him show us around and explain the details of their fascinating culture, all of which we’ll share in tomorrow’s post.

At one point, audience members joined in the dance while we took photos.

Here’s an overview from the Matsamo Tribe’s website located here:

“Matsamo Customs and Traditional Centre Co-operative is a traditional village near Swaziland and a must for visitors looking to experience authentic Swazi culture, which is well preserved in this. It is named after Chief Matsamo, a prominent Shongwe chief and contemporary of King Mswati II. 

As a reward for his loyalty in defending the territory against invaders from the north, Mswati II allowed Chief Matsamo to remain in charge of the region as an eminent member of Swazi royalty. He was the first Swazi chief to reside permanently in the area. Today the part is still under the control of the Matsamo Tribal Authority.

Our tour guide walked down this pretty trail with Lois as both Toms, and I followed behind as we made our way toward the village for the tour. Tomorrow we’ll continue with Part 2 and photos of how the Matsamo people live.

Matsamo Cultural Village offers old folk songs, rhythmic dance performances, including the famous Rain Dance, authentic African instruments, and traditional Swazi cuisine. Visitors can also wander on tour through the village with its many huts and spaces, interacting with the villagers as they go about their daily activities, cultivating their crops, preparing traditional food, and fashioning beautiful craftworks.

Matsamo Cultural Village is near Kruger National Park. It first opened its doors in 2014 and enjoyed tremendous support from the broader community.”

As soon as today’s post is uploaded, we’ll be heading out on a drive through Marloth Park to see what’s happening today on the Crocodile River. Tonight, we’re dining once again at Jabula Lodge and Restaurant, which no doubt will be another excellent evening.

Have an enjoyable and fruitful day!

                                          Photo from one year ago today, October 27, 2017:

Hoffman’s Woodpeckers often stopped by for nectar from the African Tulip Tree in Costa Rica and proceeded to sing. For more photos, please click here.