Adorable little visitors……Three days and counting…

It appears these chicks are blue waxbills, common to this area. Right now, they are no larger than a pinky finger.

Some of today’s photos were taken through the screen door to the veranda, the only screened door or window we can use. There are a few screens on windows in the house, but most are not tightly fitted and would allow mozzies and other insects to enter.

Nothing like getting inside the container of seeds!

The screen door to the veranda also doesn’t fit tight and has no latch of any kind to close it tightly, allowing insects, Frank, and mongooses to enter the house from time to time.  For security reasons, we lock that screen if we take a short nap and keep the keys in the bedroom with us during the day. We lock the screen door and the sliding glass door at night and set the alarm, again keeping the keys on the nightstand if we need to hit the red button in an emergency.

In total, we saw seven of these little birds.

The screen has metal bars running vertically to prevent potential entry by unwelcomed humans or animals. When we first arrived at the house, the first time we saw Little, he had torn a massive hole in the screen to get indoors. Within days, Louise arranged for Vusi and Zef to repair it. They did an excellent job, as always.

I was listening to Frank squawking in the background.

Thank goodness, Little never tore the screen again, especially now that he knows it’s easy to get our attention, even when we’re indoors like we are now. The current temperature is 61F, 16C, and there’s a bit of a breeze. The humidity is high, and with an occasional drizzle, we’re sitting indoors on the sofa, preferring to avoid getting moisture on our laptops.

Some flew off, but others stayed behind to partake of the seeds.

Sitting on the sofa provides a clear view of the veranda to ensure we don’t miss any visitors that may stop by. Only minutes ago, Tom jumped up to feed Broken Horn pellets and has done the same for the past several hours when nine bushbucks, four kudus, and two warthogs stopped by.

Through the screen, it appeared that mom and dad showed them that it was safe to eat the seeds.

Yesterday. When I took photos of the little birds that stopped by with their parents to eat Frank’s seeds, I knew if I stood up, they’d fly away Gingerly. I picked up the camera and took a few shots through the screen door.

Mom stayed around for a while to make sure the coast was clear.

Of course, I was disappointed with the poor shots through the screen door and was thrilled to see they’d returned this morning. After eating a little, this time without the parents, I decided to open the door wide and see if I could get any shots while quietly sitting on the sofa.

In only a matter of one minute, I got these shots without the obstruction of the screen. But a moment later, the door slammed due to the winds, and they flew off. It was such a delight to get these few shots, although not perfect when I had so little time to focus on the camera.

Dad took a turn ensuring the chick’s safety.

What made the experience all the more enjoyable was, when Frank had just finished eating seeds, the mom, dad, and babies flew in and started working on the seeds. Frank stood no less than a meter away, screeching the entire time. He was mad! We couldn’t stop laughing!

We have no doubt we’ll be able to watch the chicks grow over the next several months. Frank won’t be happy, but we’ll keep the container well stocked this week and then after we return from Zambia on October 26th.

A simple joy, six or seven tiny birds, and one bigger francolin, Frank, made the day special yesterday and then today when they returned. Nature is such a gift. We only need to stop what we’re doing for a few minutes and take a moment to observe, to put a smile on our faces, and brighten our spirits.

Have a bright and fulfilling day.

                                       Photo from one year ago today, October 18, 2020:

A final view of the King of Jungle as we left Kenya. This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #209. We were never disappointed, continually offering an opportunity for a close-up and the chance to observe their playful antics and instinctual behaviors. Thank you, lions. For more photos, please click here.

An exceptional artist and wildlife conservationist shares his comments on Kruger fires, and samples of his art work…

Photo of the fires across the Crocodile River, taken from Marloth Park side a few nights ago. (Not our photo).

Long ago, I ran across a member of several Marloth Park Facebook groups, Dawie Fourie, a conservationist, wildlife, and nature artist who often posts his stunning works of art. His frequent posts are rife with an appreciation of Marloth Park and its wild animals as well as those in Kruger National Park, both of which he’s visited many times over the years.

Having worked at the Veterinary Research Institute Onderstepoort, he has a vast knowledge and understanding of nature, far beyond average laypersons and amateur photographers like us.  As a professional artist for over 35 years, he’s had an opportunity to delve into the intricacies of many aspects of wildlife and life in the veld (an open, uncultivated country or grassland in southern Africa. It is conventionally divided by altitude into highveld, middleveld, and lowveld).

What a stunning photo of the fires in Kruger National Park. (Not our photo).

A few days ago, when several of our friends sent us photos of fires in Kruger National Park, of course, we became alarmed and concerned for the wildlife as well as the park itself. The Crocodile River separates Marloth Park from Kruger, and thus, we were less concerned about Marloth Park, its people, and its wildlife being impacted by the fires.

When we read the following statement, Dawie had posted on Facebook. It presented us with an entirely different perspective. We’ve been well aware of fires intentionally set In Kruger National Park to create new vegetation for the wildlife when the scorched areas recover and regrow.

We’d driven through Kruger National Park in September 2018, when embers were still burning, and the air was filled with smoke after a planned burn, as described in our post here at this link. We’d included several photos of the devastation that resulted from the burn.

Dozens of photos flooded Facebook during the fires. We are unable to determine who took the photos, but thanks to all who posted. (Not our photo).

After conducting considerable research about intentional fires set in national parks, we developed a better understanding of why such fires, if adequately controlled, are beneficial to the bush and its inhabitants.

In any case, the following is what Dawie Fourie wrote in his Facebook post a few days ago. By the way, I contacted him to ask his permission to quote him and post his photos. He’s enthusiastically offered a generous “yes.” Thank you, Dawie!

“If you live on Seekoei’s side of Marloth Park and I said something about the veld-fires from the last week you will say – tell me all about it! 😑

For days now, there has been a cloud of smoke hanging over Marloth Park as veld fires or bushfires burn in Kruger Park. A lot of people ask the question, why don’t they put out the fires. Well, here’s the very short answer:

Bushfires are very common in African Savannas, especially during the dry season between May and October. Fires in Kruger are managed using the patch mosaic fire philosophy whereby fires are ignited at selected localities and left to burn to create a natural patch mosaic of burnt and unburned patches. The extent of all fires in the Kruger National Park is mapped on a monthly basis using satellite imagery and information gathered by Rangers.

Dawie’s paintings are so exquisite, they appear to be photographs taken by a professional photographer. Contact him at the link below for more information.

These patch fires, although randomly ignited, are closely monitored by the Section Rangers and only ignited under favorable conditions when the Fire Danger Indices (FDI’s) are low to moderate. Patch fires are selectively used to reduce the amount of fuel and to create patches of burnt and unburnt areas. This generally prevents the hot, high-intensity uncontrolled fires from becoming unmanageable later in the season.

Rangers will generally stop setting fires when the FDI’s become too high and conditions too dangerous. This usually happens during August and September when hot berg wind conditions can easily cause fires to run away and turn into disaster fires. Once the rainy season starts, lightning fires may occur, and such fires are allowed to burn freely to allow lightning a chance to contribute as one of the natural sources of fire.

During a fire, the grass layer is often burnt completely. However, only the dead leaves are burnt, whilst the roots are still healthy. The early burns may sometimes resprout, and this green flush during the dry season will benefit certain antelope species. Research also indicates that bush encroachment tree species, such as sickle bush, maybe knocked back by these burns, giving improved game viewing pleasure as a positive spin-off.

Another stunning painting by Dawie Fourie!

Animals can hear, feel and smell a fire when it is still very far away, and most mammals normally have enough time to escape. Snakes and many kinds of insects escape into holes in the ground, where they are safe because the heat from the fire front seldom penetrates the soil below 5 cm depth.

The fire that was burning across from Marloth Park was started by lightning a couple of days ago, and, in line with the policy, it is left to burn.

Unfortunately, the fire management policy of the Park is a highly complex one and can’t be fully explained in such a short piece. For those interested in more scientific detail about fires, you can contact Scientific Services in Skukuza.”

For inquiries about Dawie’s artwork, please email him: dawiefouriearts@gmail.com

We are grateful the fires were contained, and hopefully, the wildlife could escape in ample time. In months to come, the veld will recover, and the green grasses, plants, and trees again will proliferate, and nature will be at its finest in those areas.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, October 17, 2020:

 This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India on day #208. My nightly dessert of fine cheese and Kenya is grown cashews and macadamia nuts. The night of the “bush dinner” Chef Ambrose had remembered to bring these items for my dessert, as the only guest in camp unable to eat the traditional desserts. Wow! For more photos, please click here.

Hottest day since we arrived last January!!! What a scorcher!…Expected to be 105F, 42C…Trail cam photos…

There was Little hanging around in the garden at 5:45 am. We weren’t up yet, Little!

Other than in Africa, we’ve never experienced such heat without using air conditioning during daylight hours. Thank goodness we have aircon at night, or we’d never be able to sleep on during these heat peaks that often occur in the spring, summer, and fall in Marloth Park.

Not all locations in South Africa are as hot as it is in Marloth Park. Right now in Cape Town, it’s 59F, 15C, a far cry from what’s going here right now at noon at 100F, 38C, and rising by the hour. The peak will be reached in about three hours. We can’t help but be indoors right now. Even Johannesburg is a comfortable 81F, 27F.

But this is the bush, the savannah, and the plains in Africa, and it’s consistently hotter in these areas.

A case of malaria was reported in Marloth Park a few days ago. The mozzies are back in their rampant mission to consume human blood, and without Deet, we have no chance of avoiding their annoying and potentially lethal bites. Every six hours, I apply another dose to any exposed skin, which I keep to a minimum.

Clothing is a good mosquito deterrent, and I am seldom bit beneath my clothes. In the morning, after showering, I cover myself from head to toe and then let it dry. If my clothes potentially rub off any exposed skin areas, I reapply them promptly. Its become quite a habit. I don’t give it much thought except when it’s time to reapply, which I rarely forget to do.  At night, when preparing for bed, I make a similar application.

This is Thick Neck at 3:08 am, who often stays in the garden most of the day and night.

When we go sit on the veranda in the evenings, Tom sprays the bedroom with Doom and keeps the door shut to kill any mozzies that may invade the room during the day. Tom doesn’t get bit, and thus, he doesn’t apply repellent except on a few rare occasions we may be out in the bush after dark. Lucky him.

With all these diligent precautions, I still get bit. Right now, I have a few bites on my neck and two on my arms. They are easy to pinpoint. The itching lasts for five days or more. I’ve tried every cream on the market, and nothing makes the itching go away for any longer than an hour or two. It’s not unusual to awaken during the night with all the bites itching at once.

Need I say, we’ve become used to this, and other than mentioning the heat, the insects, and the snakes here to provide our readers with the raw facts of the discomforts of the hot months in Africa, both of us do pretty well. In our usual way, we don’t complain to one another. Not even right now, as the temperature has risen to 102F, 39C, since I began preparing this post, neither of us, mentions how hot it is, other than the curiosity of how high it actually goes.

When we were in Henderson, Nevada, in summer 2019, staying at son Richard’s home in Henderson, we sat outdoors on his veranda by his pool, dunking every 15 minutes when the temperature was 115F, 46C.

This is Holey Moley and an unknown friend at 11:54 pm. She spends most of her days and nights with us. Note the huge temperature drop at night, as indicated by the camera’s description.

According to this chart, the temperature we are experiencing today is within a few degrees of the highest record temperature in this area of 106F, 41C. But even these highs may be surpassed from time to time. When this happens consistently, the power grid can’t keep up with the electrical use of air conditioners, and we lose power.

Hopefully, our electricity will hold, and we’ll make it until tomorrow when we’ll see a substantial drop in temperature to a high of 69F, 21C. It’s hard to believe there will be a considerable drop in 24 hours. We’ll see how that rolls out and welcome such a huge change, one that may require us to get out the hooded sweatshirts once again.

This morning I prepared most of the food for tonight’s dinner. I made a prawn and vegetable stir fry for myself, a huge salad, and a batch of homemade dressing. Later Tom will cook his pork chops on the braai, which he’ll have with rice, green beans, and salad. His muffins, ice cream, and apple crisps are no more. He’s back to eating healthy, along with me.

Somehow, Tom can eat white rice, called a “resistant starch,” and still lose weight. That’s not the case for me. For more information on resistant starches, please click here. Lucky him. Good genes.

I hope you are experiencing a relaxed and comfortable day!

Photo from one year ago today, October 16, 2020:

This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India,  on day #207. As more guests from Camp Olonana arrived, the women and children waited patiently to begin their welcoming dance. For more, please click here.

Another change in plans…Who did it???…

This morning, while Tom was seated at the table on the veranda, an animal purposely tipped over the birdbath. See the photo below for the culprit.

We completed and submitted the necessary documents for the boat trip on the Chobe River in Botswana. We put the details on our online calendar. We booked hotel nights on either end and even called the hotel to inquire about getting a Covid-19 PRC test before we departed on October 26th to return to South Africa.

Louise spent hours going back and forth with the company to ensure all the pricing and details were correct. On the contract she submitted, copies of our passports and credit card information were included. We even received a copy of a confirmation.

Two days ago, on Tuesday, Louise received an email from the rep from the cruise company that they were raising the price on us since we were not South African citizens. At first, they required a 100% price increase but last night backed down to a lower amount. This doesn’t work for us.

Yep, it was The Imposter who tipped over the birdbath right before Tom’s eyes. Tom said he accidentally tipped it over when drinking. No worries, The Imposter. We aren’t mad at you!

We are not willing to pay US $3000 ZAR 44627, for three nights on a houseboat, especially without WiFi. It’s just not worth it to us. We’ve already been on both the Chobe and Zambia Rivers on past trips to Zambia for visa stamps. The cruise would be a repeated experience, although a few days longer than in the past.

We told Louise to cancel. Fortunately, they had yet to charge our credit card, so we don’t have to deal with the hassle of getting a refund, nor will we have to have a total of five Covid-19 PCR tests. We’re fine. This morning we booked the three extra nights at the Protea Marriott in Livingstone, Zambia, and all we have left to do is arrange transportation to and from the Livingstone Airport, which we will do today.

Once we arrive at the hotel, we’ll check out any other possible events we may want to see while there. Keeping in mind, we did most of the attractions in and around Zambia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe while in Zambia twice in the past. We aren’t concerned. Instead, we’ll manage to enjoy ourselves as we always do.

Another handsome male impala in the garden.

At the hotel, we’ll have good WiFi and will still be able to post each day. Taxi fare is reasonable, and we’ll dine out each evening, except for the last night when we’ll dine at the hotel’s pleasant restaurant. We are particularly enthused to return to the popular Zambezi Cafe, where they serve delicious Portuguese food.

No, our photos won’t be as exciting as we’d hoped, seeing wildlife on the river. But we’ll do our best to include new images each day, including plenty of food photos from dining out.

Had we not had so many cruises upcoming in 2022, we may have considered the higher price of the houseboat tour. However, there was the fact we don’t care to have a venue suddenly raise prices on us when they determine we are Americans. We tend not to stand on principles stubbornly, but in this case, we feel differently.

Duiker’s diminutive size, at the bottom of the pecking order of antelopes, is shy and always the last to get pellets.

Since the onset of Covid-19, we’ve incurred thousands of extra dollars in lost charges and increased prices. We had to stand firm on this case with our intent to keep costs down to prepare for our exciting upcoming new cruises. It’s always a matter of checks and balances, ultimately what makes the most sense to us.

As soon as I’ve uploaded today’s post, I’ll get back to work on the corrections. At this point, I only have 29 more days of work, and then I’ll spend a week or two working on the four new detailed SEO (search engine optimization) posts requiring days to prepare. I should have all this extra work behind me by December 1st, and I can relax and enjoy the holiday season in the bush during our remaining time in Marloth Park, until January 23, 2022, when we’ll be on the move once again.

We are OK with all of this, especially after so many changes since the pandemic began. We’ve become more resilient and patient during this challenging time which has significantly impacted our travels in the past 20 months. Once we leave Florida in early 2022, we’ll begin to feel our journey has genuinely started again.

May you have a memorable day whatever you do.

                                     Photo from one year ago today, October 13, 2020:

This exquisite bloom which was the size of a soccer ball.
This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #204. This exquisite bloom was the size of a soccer ball. For more photos, please click here.

Fantastic evening on our veranda last night and many other nights…Just the two of us…

Impalas must be hungry to come so close to us. They usually steer clear of humans. We generously fed them.

Note: The horrifying photos we posted two days ago at this post of the duiker who had an encounter with a porcupine has since been darted, treated, and released by the Marloth Park vet with the help of the rangers. She is expected to make a full recovery. We are thrilled with this news.

There are no words to describe how much fun we have every evening, whether we are with friends at their homes, out to dinner, or having sundowners or dinner guests at our place. In reality, we aren’t with friends every evening, although it may often be two or three times a week.

In our old lives in Minnesota, we most likely socialized with friends two or three times a month at most. At times, in the middle of the bitter cold and snowy winters, weeks could pass before we socialized. It wasn’t practical for us or guests to risk being on the roads at night on the dangerously icy roads with drunk or incompetent other drivers.

Once the bush begins to turn green in the next few months, the wildlife will be able to graze once again.

Once spring arrived, our house was often busy with guests, with most events held outdoors at our lovely property. But, here in South Africa, there’s no snow or icy roads, and the distance from one property to another may not be any more than a ten-minute drive.

If we didn’t drive slow to protect the wildlife crossing the roads in the dark or have the necessity of driving slow on bumpy dirt roads filled with potholes, the distances between many bush homes might well be less than ten or fifteen minutes. Thus, with the relative ease of getting to restaurants and friends’ houses, more frequent socialization is typical in the bush.

Besides, the people of South Africa are enthusiastic about getting together, whether citizens or part-time residents, as often as it makes sense for their lifestyle and preferences. For us, we rarely turn down an invitation as long as we don’t already have plans for a specific date.

It’s a long winter, especially for the little duikers who are very shy around humans and other larger antelopes.

We sadly had to decline on a few occasions when we were under the weather for one reason or another, such as when we both had the flu (not Covid-19) or recent painful dental work. Otherwise, we won’t hesitate to say “yes!” to most invitations to get together.

Now, with Rita and Gerhard leaving on Friday to return to their home in the US and Kathy and Don both returning to Hawaii by December, we feel fortunate to have several other friendships we’ll cultivate in their absence. Of course, we always have Friday and Saturday nights at Jabula, enjoying time with Dawn and Leon and engaging with many other locals we’ve come to know. There’s no doubt in our minds that we’ll never be bored.

During the day, we each do our own thing, although we may be in each other’s presence as we are right now situated on the veranda, working on our laptops, tossing pellets, cabbage, and carrots to our wildlife friends. This morning, we fussed over ten bushbucks and a few duikers in the garden, along with a few warthogs, Frank and the Misses, and Broken Horn.

Impalas are beautiful with their unique markings.

When we don’t have plans with friends, we create our party on the veranda around 4:00 pm, 1600 hrs each evening. We sip on our beverages, whether it’s light wine for me, a cocktail for Tom, or an iced tea for both of us. We play music on our Bluetooth speaker playing songs from our distant past, feed the visiting wildlife, and chat enthusiastically, well into the evening, when we finally decide to go inside for a wonderful homemade dinner. It’s always special.

We dream about the future and reminisce over the past, our hearts filled with the many memories we’ve created. Together, over 30 years, we have never had a dull moment, as we playfully interact with one another for the remainder of the evening, laughing, smiling, and appreciating our unique quality of life.

Yes, sometimes things don’t go exactly as we’d like when illness befalls one of us, mostly me. And, no doubt, we run into obstacles of one type or another along the way. We never forget for a moment how blessed we are to be together.

May your life be fulfilling and purposeful.

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

This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #203. An eland antelope, reasonably common in the Maasai Mara, posed for us in the morning sun. For more photos, please click here.

Another “day in the life”…

Usually, there are dozens of helmeted guinea-fowl in the garden, also searching for pellets. They swallow them whole!

As I sit here on the veranda on Monday morning, coffee in hand, the day is sunny, cool, slightly windy, and Frank is on the floor next to me pecking at his seeds and drinking from his little container of water. He makes cute little chirping sounds when eating, illustrating how happy he is.

I can see four bushbucks in the bush who gingerly approach, looking for another handout of pellets. We comply. There’s Thick Neck, Mom and Baby, Stingy and Spikey. Earlier this morning, Tom had seen four or five more bushbucks, Lonely Girl (warthog), Broken Horn (wildebeest), and more.

I stumbled across this old photo of Tiny, with his hair fluffed up when other warthogs were in the vicinity, stealing his pellets.

Today, the last of the holidaymakers will leave Marloth Park now that the school holidays have ended. The vehicles on the road have thinned to barely any activity. The parking lots at the Marlothi Centre and the Bush Centre will no longer be nearly impossible to enter. The stores in Komatipoort will have their usual local Monday shoppers.

Soon, Tom will drop me at Louise‘s Info Centre, where Kathy will be waiting for Rita and me for the three of us to head to Stoep’s Cafe in Komati for “girl talk” and breakfast. Tom has a dentist appointment at 11:00 with Dr. Luzaan to have his teeth cleaned. I’ll do the same in a month or more after my extraction heals a little more (it’s on the mend).

Two hornbills were banging on the kitchen window, an almost daily occurrence.

Rita and Gerhard leave on Friday to return to Washington for the holiday season. Kathy will be leaving Marloth Park in November for Hawaii, and Don will also leave for Hawaii in early December. We’ll miss them all and hope they will be able to be here when we return in December 2022, only 14 months from now. My 75th birthday party will be three months later, and we’re hoping, if it works out for them, that they will be able to attend. It’s a long way from the US, and we’d understand if they can’t make it.

In the meantime, we’ll cultivate relationships with other locals we’ve come to know and enjoy and spend the holiday season right here in Marloth Park. It will be hot, humid and the bush will be rife with snakes and insects. But we’ve experienced these issues in the past, and we’ve come to expect them.

Load shedding will continue twice a day for a total of 5 hours each day without power. It is expected to stop by Thursday, but we’ll experience the upcoming awful heat during the night when it occurs between 3:00 am, and 5:30 am. Hopefully, it does stop as described, since on Thursday,  Friday, and Saturday, the temperatures will range from 99F to 104F, 37C to 40C. It certainly gets hot during the night without aircon for almost three hours.

Zebras on the road while on our way to the market.

Kathy, Rita, and I had a great time during girl talk at Stoep Cafe this morning. Suddenly, I realized it was 11;00 and I needed to walk over to Dr. Luzaan’s office while Tom was getting his teeth cleaned. Once he was done, after a great chat with the dentist, we headed to the pharmacy and Spar Market, down the road in Komatipoort.

By the time we returned to the house, load shedding had an hour to go. We put away the groceries, and soon the power returned, as expected. I did a little chopping and dicing for tonight’s dinner of homemade taco salads with seasoned ground meat for Tom and seasoned chicken and prawns for me.

I had made the taco seasoning spices myself since those at the market in the little packets are loaded with sugar, flour, and chemicals, making them high in carbs and undesirable for either of us.

All is well. We are as content as we could be. Go Vikings! Yesterday, they finally won a game!

Have a fabulous Monday!

Photo from one year ago today, October 11, 2020:

This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in Mumbai, India, on day #202. The cubs took a break to relax. For more photos, please click here.

Nature can be cruel..Heartbreaking photos…Thanksgiving dinner in the bush…A startling revelation from last year…

This heartbreaking photo of a precious little duiker who encountered a porcupine, who responded by releasing quills, makes us cringe in horror. How can she possibly survive these massive injuries? (Not our photo). From this site: “Porcupines are solitary, slow-moving animals that largely keep to themselves unless threatened. The quills usually lie flat against the porcupine’s body until they encounter a threat, at which point they “puff up” and erect their quills, swinging their spiny tails until the threat either leave them alone or gets a sharp whack and a face, hand, or paw full of quills.  Quills are stiff, hollow hairs with microscopic, backward-facing barbs at the tip (kind of like tiny fish hooks), so when they come into contact with flesh—human or animal—they get stuck and pull free from the porcupine’s skin.”

When we saw today’s photos on Facebook and Kathy sent them to me via Whatsapp, we were both heartsick over the devastation caused by a porcupine to this precious duiker. Hopefully, he’ll be found by the rangers and treated by the Marloth Park vet. Some of the quills appear to be deeply penetrated. We can only imagine how painful this is.

We hesitated to post these photos, but as we always say, we tell “it like it is,” and when 99% of our images can put a smile on ours and our reader’s faces. The bush isn’t always pretty. As we’ve always mentioned, we aren’t those people who may nonchalantly say, “Well, it’s all a part of nature.”

We feel deep sorrow for animals in pain as we do when humans are suffering. Animals are no less important in our world, and without them, we wouldn’t be on this planet. We are all integral players in the ecosystem.

When we hear of humans losing a pet, we certainly understand their grief and sorrow. Some may say, “It was just a dog or a cat.” But, those pets play a huge part in our joy in daily lives which are often riddled with challenges. The relationships and love of pets can provide great comfort.

Over the years we’ve spent in Africa, we witnessed many heartbreaking wildlife injuries. Sadly today’s photos sit at the top of this list, and we only hope this poor little duiker gets some help soon. Unfortunately, with the extent of the damage the quills may have caused, euthanasia might be the only option.

On a more positive note, last night, we attended a Thanksgiving dinner celebration at Kathy and Don’s lovely home overlooking the Crocodile River. As mentioned in yesterday’s post here, we brought the two pies I’d made, Rita brought the green beans, and Kathy made the balance of the delicious meal: turkey and mashed potatoes with gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and a delicious salad.

Of course, I only ate turkey, green beans, and salad which was perfectly satisfying. I couldn’t help but drool a little when everyone was eating the cherry pie with ice cream and whipped cream and pumpkin pies, also topped with whipped cream, both of which I loved in my old life.

Please, if any Marloth Park residents or visitors see this duiker, report it immediately to the rangers. (Not our photo)

But, I didn’t take even a bite when the others did a little coaxing, encouraging me to try a taste. For me, after all these years of strict low carb, even a small portion could set me on a destructive path. One bite would never be enough when I’ve always had a sweet tooth.

Load shedding began during the dinner party and lasted for two hours while we dined at their big dining room table, drinking wine (except Tom, who drinks brandy and Sprite Zero) in the dark. There were plenty of candles on the table, allowing us to see what we were eating. The night had cooled down considerably from a sweltering day, with heavy wind and rain with the windows open in the dining room, and we were all comfortable. It was a grand night indeed.

In today’s heading, we wrote: “A startling revelation from last year.” Yesterday, while I was working on corrections with only about one month until I will be done, I came across this post from January 23, 2020, while we were still in Arizona, preparing to leave for India in less than a week.

Contained in the post was our first mention of Covid-19. We were sharing details of our upcoming cruise from Mumbai, scheduled to sail away on April 3, 2020, shortly after the end of our private tour of India. As it turned out, the cruise was canceled due to Covid, and we had to cut our tour of India short by many weeks, again due to Covid. It was on March 24 that our 10-month isolation in lockdown began at the Marriott Hotel in Mumbai. Wow! That seems like a long time ago!

It’s still with us. Be careful. Be well.

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

This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India on day #201. The veranda to our tent at Camp Olonono in the Maasai Mara in Kenya.  Approaching, it took our breath away. For more photos, please click here.

Another pie making day from hell…Thanksgiving dinner tonight with friends…

    The cherry pie crust ended up thick due to the awful heat and humidity today. Hopefully, it will taste good.

Kathy and Don are hosting an early Thanksgiving dinner for their American friends, Rita and Gerhard, and the two of us. Kathy managed to find a small turkey in Nelspruit. Turkey isn’t often consumed in South Africa and is usually purchased only for visitors from the USA.

The last time we all had Thanksgiving dinner together was in 2018, when we lived in the Orange house. The day before the event, I made eight pumpkin pies, which I described in this post. It was a hot day, with temperatures running at 102F, 40C, and pie crust dough. See that post here.

Pie crust dough should not get above 70F, 21C and although I got up to make the crusts at 6:00 am this morning, it was already above 80C, 27C in the kitchen. Here is an interesting article about making pie crusts in too cold or too hot temperatures.

Of course, I waited to turn on the oven until I’d made and rolled all the dough and placed it in the tins. But, like in November in 2018, once again, it was challenging, and my crusts had to be thick to put them in the pan without them falling apart.

On top of that, I was making Don’s favorite cherry pie, which requires a lattice top. Rolling and cutting those strips to keep them from breaking apart as I placed them on the pie was, once again, very tricky. Finally, I resigned myself, again, that the strips would have to be thick to prevent them from breaking. Fortunately, the crust is flakey and delicious, so eating big strips of dough won’t be so bad.

The pumpkin pie’s crust wasn’t perfect in appearance, but we’re expecting the flavor to be good.

If we had planned this Thanksgiving dinner for Sunday instead of today (my fault when Kathy asked which day was better), the temperature would only be a high of 70F, 21C, which would have been perfect pie-making weather. Oh, well, history certainly does repeat itself.

Right now, the pumpkin pie is baking after Tom helped me get the cherry pie out of the oven. With no regular pie tins, I am using tinfoil pans, which are flimsy in South Africa. I used two tins for each pie to make them slightly sturdier. We’ll see how that works out when we drive the pies to Kathy and Don’s later today on the very bumpy dirt roads in Marloth Park.

We’re scheduled to arrive at Kathy and Don’s home at 5:15 pm, 1715 hrs. At 7:00 pm 1900 hrs, Eskom, the electric company, will be instituting the second load shedding (power outage) since last night at 9:00 pm, 2100 hrs, which started right after we got home from Jabula. We’ll be dining in the dark.

Luckily, last night, we still had WiFi when the power went out and could stream a show in the dark. Before we dozed off, the power had come back on, 2½ hours later. Once again, tonight, it will be out until 11:30 pm, 2330 hrs. Depending on how late we stay at Kathy and Don, tonight might be a repeat of last night.

Last night we had a fun time at Jabula. A lovely couple from Scotland who lives in Marloth Park approached us while we sat at the bar before dinner with Rita and Gerhard. This couple greeted us warmly to tell us they’d been reading our posts for a long time.

They felt like they knew us after our detailed daily exposes. We all laughed at the irony of being at Jabula on the same night. We’ve experienced this many times as we’ve traveled worldwide, especially on cruise ships when people recognize us from our photos. It is these memorable interactions that make our travels all the more enjoyable.

There we sat with dear friends Rita and Gerhard, whom we also met due to our posts who stumbled across us on the web years ago. We love this! How lucky we are!!!

We’re hoping you’ll have a delightful weekend too. Be well. Be healthy. Be happy.

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

This photo was posted while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #200. While in Bali in 2016, the two Ketuts, our cooks, walked in bare feet in the rain-flooded road to the villa to make our dinner, leaving their motorbikes elsewhere on higher ground. For more photos, please click here.

Hoping it was Tiny!…Photo comparison…

Yesterday afternoon, when this warthog stopped by, we were hopeful that it was Tiny. After careful examination of the photo of Tiny shown below, we were certain he was not Tiny.

Since we returned from the US at the end of July, we haven’t seen Tiny, who, along with Little, was our favorite warthog. Expressive faces, eye contact, and response to the names we’ve given them, these two warthogs always make me smile. On the other hand, Tom isn’t quite as attached for me but has kept an eye out for Tiny when we haven’t seen him since we’d returned.

This is a photo of Tiny we posted on February 21, 2021. The differences between him and the pig we saw yesterday are distinct.  Note the eye bags, the size, and shape of the facial and temple warts, and of course, the size and shape of the tusks.

Little often visits two or three times a day, seldom missing a day. If we don’t see him during any day, we can always count on him stopping by around 4:00 pm, 1600 hrs. He loves to appear when we are sitting on the veranda, ensuring he gets our attention to toss him pellets. This always makes us laugh.

Day after day, we continually check every giant tusked warthog to see if it’s Tiny, keeping in mind many such animals look very similar. But over the years we’ve spent in Marloth Park, we have learned to 0observe identifying characteristics that distinguish one animal of a particular species from one another.

Such characteristics on warthogs include:

  • Size of tusks and variance in each tusk’s size
  • Size of facial warts on males on both their cheeks and temples. Females don’t have facial warts and small temple warts but have white whiskers in varying sizes that aid in identifying them.
  • Body size can vary considerably, but, along with the above, it helps identify warthogs.
  • Bags under the eyes, most prominent in older males
  • Personality – it’s easy to detect a particular warthog when they are overly timid or bossy (Little is bossy and persistent while Tiny was not) along with the other identifying characteristics
  • Appearing alone, as a twosome or with more warthogs, with “sounders” being as small as three, as large as ten or more. Often males are “friends” and graze the bush together and groom each other. It’s a rarity to see females together without piglets. Moms will often hang out with another mom and her young, supporting each other and even going as far as nursing each other’s piglets.

We must admit we are more interested in male warthogs based on their seemingly more quirky behavior. As I write this, there is a lone female in the garden, whom we call Lonely Girl. She is shy without much of a distinctive personality.  And yet, there are many male warthogs we see over a week that we can easily identify as a regular or a new visitor.

We only observe one or two new male visitors each week. They eat and wander off, never to return. Daily, we see “regulars,” all of whom we enjoy and seem to respond to their various names and the sounds of our voices. Tom isn’t as excited about warthogs as I am, but as mentioned above, when I am busy indoors, he keeps out watchful eye, always looking for Tiny.

Regardless of what I am doing, when he tells me there’s a large, sizeable-tusked warthog with huge, droopy warts on his face on the premises, I come running outside with the camera to see if it’s Tiny. Sadly, time after time, we’ve been disappointed.

Was he culled while we were away? We haven’t heard that warthogs have been culled in the past few months. Mostly, impalas and kudus were taken to Lionspruit to thin out the huge populations in Marloth Park and to provide food for the lions, Fluffy and Desi, who reside in Lionspruit, hence the name.

Yesterday, Tom hollered out to me when I was in the house, “Hurry,” he said, “There’s a large pig with big tusks in the garden.” I grabbed my phone to quickly bring up a photo of Tiny I have on my home screen. I was extremely excited that it was him upon first inspection.

However, when comparing the photo of Tiny with the new visitor, we both sadly realized it wasn’t him. Now, we wonder if we’ll ever see him again in our remaining three and a half months in Marloth Park. It’s hard to say. He was huge, and he looked very old. He could easily have died from old age or illness, been hit by a car, or made his way under the fence into Kruger National Park, never to return. We’ll never know. He, like Little, was a loner.

On occasion, Little appears with the same female and two fast-growing female piglets. We referred to them as his “family” since the otherwise greedy pig doesn’t share food with anyone but them. Like many animals in the wild, generally, fathers don’t participate in the upbringing of their young. It’s always fun to see ostriches, who can remain as a mating pair for life, and the dad is equally responsible for rearing the chicks.

In any case, we’ll continue to keep an eye out for Tiny and hope we’ll be able to post a new photo of him if and when he returns.

Have a fantastic weekend!

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

This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #199. Like all animals in the wild, this female lion is constantly on the lookout for the next meal to feed her cubs, who were lying under this tree. For more photos, please click here.

Whew!…Lots of paperwork to go on a boat…

Once again, the male bushbuck in the background might be this baby’s dad since he is often with the mom, as shown at the forefront of this photo.

When we started booking the houseboat tour on the Chobe/Zambezi River, we expected there would be a certain amount of paperwork. But, little did we realize how time-consuming it would be for both Louise and ultimately for us. With Covid-19 issues addressing entering into three countries on this one trip, it’s a paperwork nightmare, and bless her heart, Louise has done everything she can to make it as seamless as possible for us. We appreciate her hard work.

Then, we ran into the issue of payment. Not only is there a comprehensive contract for the three-night houseboat tour, but it was accompanied by a lengthy questionnaire we had to complete and submit. On the forms, they requested payment by bank transfer.

If you’ve been reading our posts over the past several years, you know we are adamantly opposed to bank transfers. But, as it turns out, our bank refuses to allow bank transfers to certain countries, including most of those on the African continent, due to excessive amounts of fraud. Thus, we always pay with credit cards. Plus, we get lots of points when we use certain cards.

Louise worked it out, and the company agreed to accept a credit card, although they are charging us a 4% fee of the total price, which resulted in a total cost for the boat of ZAR 31585, US $2114. However, transportation from our hotel in Zambia to the various borders and then returning to the hotel four days later is included. We paid a premium for that service, but undoubtedly, there less risk of timing errors and confusion.

A one-month-old baby bushbuck is behind her mom in this photo. We tried for a better photo, but she was timid and wouldn’t stay still for a moment.

Also, the cost of the four Covid tests is included. We’ll need the only additional Covid test from the hotel on October 25th, when we return from the boat, to be used for our return entry into South Africa. Whew! What a lot of monkey business Covid has created for travel.

We run the risk that the entire thing could be called off at the last-minute if new Covid restrictions are implemented or changed between now and then.

Our round-trip flight from Nelspruit to Livingstone, Zambia, is ZAR 19274, US $1289. In total, with tips, two nights’ meals when at the hotel;  the small amounts we paid for the two nights in the hotel, using our points; transportation to and from the airport, should be, at most ZAR 58809, US $4000.

Although this is expensive for a total of five nights away, it’s a whole lot less than it would have cost us to return to the US for three months, instead of living here in South Africa, where it cost so much less. At least we’ll get our visas stamped and can relax over the remaining three months we’ll spend here.

This morning, nine bushbucks stopped by. We gave them carrots, cabbage, and pellets.

Travel planning is always time-consuming in one way or another, as you travelers out there so well know. Planning one trip can take days, let alone planning for an entire life of world travel, such as we do. But, if we had a house and lived in one location, we’d be mowing the lawn, shoveling snow, painting and making repairs around the house, getting cars serviced, sending Christmas cards, decorating for Christmas, and other holidays, baking, cooking, house cleaning and more.

Life is filled with trade-offs. For us, the simplicity of those times allows us to kick back and relax without a care in the world, while at the same time, we’re embracing other cultures, other scenery, wildlife, oceans, mountains, plains, and savannahs, we couldn’t be more content. And…grateful.

May your bliss and ours continue.

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

Oxpeckers can dig into the flesh of animals to extract parasites
This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #198. Oxpeckers can dig into the flesh of animals to extract parasites, ticks, and other insects that may burrow under their skin, as is the case of this kudu. Sadly once the insect is extracted, the oxpecker may continue to peck at the injured site, making matters worse. The photo was taken in Marloth Park, South Africa, in 2018. For more photos, please click here.