Hiding in the bathroom during tornado warnings!…A delightful surprise from a local reader/friend!!!…Three days and counting…

What a fantastic surprise and treat. I couldn’t be more grateful to friend/reader Joanette for her thoughtfulness.

We were watching another episode of Outlander. With Tom’s bad hearing and now stuffy head, we had the streaming show on the TV loud. Surprisingly, these rooms in the hotel are fairly sound-proof. But I heard some strange noises outside,  sounding like a train.

Immediately, I jumped up from the bed, and then we heard the sirens. Tornadoes had been sighted in Eden Prairie, exactly where we are located. Indeed, we were in the midst of a severe weather warning, requiring everyone to take shelter. We turned off the streaming show to get to the news.

This container is filled with delicious low-carb chocolate muffins. Note the recipe on top by zooming in.

Opening the door when I heard noises in the hallway, I saw no less than 20 people sitting on the corridor floor, their backs to the wall, waiting out the storm. We decided to stay in the room but moved all the “important” stuff into the windowless bathroom where we’d be safe from flying glass or worse if this hotel complex were to be hit directly.

We couldn’t get a good stream on our phones or laptops with weather reports. When the sirens ended, we returned to the room and checked the TV for weather reports which continued for hours. Winds in the range of 80 to 90 mph (128 km to 145 kph) came through along with some “touching down,” but fortunately not enough to do much damage other than to roofs and trees).

We sighed with relief. It had been a while since we encountered such a tornado-producing storm. It had been almost ten years ago when we still lived in Minnesota. Severe spring and summer storms are common in Minnesota and the midwest. Entire towns are wiped out due to significant tornadoes.

The bag of sugar-free chocolate chips will come in handy when we return to Marloth Park.

In any case, last night’s storm died down, and we could finish watching our show until we were ready to go to sleep. More of the same caliber storms are predicted for today, so we’ll keep an eye out and take shelter again if necessary.

Yesterday, Joanette, a long-time reader/friend who lives in the Minneapolis area, sent me an email stating she was stopping by with a container of low-carb chocolate muffins she’d made. I was blown away by her generosity and thoughtfulness. We’ve been sitting in this hotel room for the past 11 days, and a treat like this means the world to me.

Joanette had included this lovely card with a special message on the inside and the back. See below.

I explained we wouldn’t see her when she and her hubby came to the hotel. We didn’t want to take any chances whatsoever, for them, for us. But, when the front desk called at noon, saying a package had been delivered for me, I swooned with delight.  Joanette included a good-sized container of the most delicious low carb (2 grams each) chocolate muffin, but she included a thoughtful card, a bag of sugar-free chocolate chips, and a beautiful card, photos of which I’ve included here today.

It was hard for me not to try the muffins all day, but I resisted and waited until after dinner, when I made a dessert-like ritual of putting two muffins on the glass plate and savoring every bite. Tom doesn’t do well eating dark chocolate, so he won’t eat any of the muffins, which is a plus for me.

In 2017, we met Joanette for the first time when we had a get-together here in Minneapolis for our local readers. She brought me one of those muffins on that occasion, knowing I followed a low carb/keto way of eating. Since I can’t get all of the ingredients in most countries, I never made them, although I often thought about that muffin when craving something chocolate. I devoured that single muffin that night, and she remembered how much I loved it.

This message, on the back of the card, reminded us of our lives, always on a mission to adapt to circumstances, regardless of how hard they may be. We’ve used pool water on many occasions to flush the toilet!

Now in the tiny kitchen is a container stocked with the chocolate muffins (minus the two I ate last night), and it’s such a treat for me. It couldn’t have come at a better time. Thank you, Joanette!!! You are a kind and generous soul!!!

Now, Thursday, we are only three days from departing for Las Vegas. Tom started the Cortisone today, as prescribed, in addition to day three of two antibiotics, along with the other medications. Hopefully, this medication will escalate his recovery to another level, making it possible for us to fly to Las Vegas on Sunday afternoon. He says if we were leaving today, he could do it. But, I am happy it’s not for another three days, giving him more time to recover. He’s got a long way to go to recover.

When the housekeeper cleans our room today, we’ll head back to Cub Foods for a few more items to get us through the next three days so we won’t have to go out to eat or do takeaway. We haven’t had a single meal in a restaurant since we got off the ship infected with Covid-19, on April 21, over three weeks ago.

Since we can’t see family, I can’t wait to return to Marloth Park to make a tasty, healthy dinner with a big side salad to savor while seated on the veranda overlooking the garden, watching an entirely new batch of wildlife stopping by to check us out. New wildlife friends will be made, new names will be introduced, and if “safari luck” prevails, we may see a few familiar wildlife friends from our last house in the bush.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, May 12, 2021:

What an interesting bird! It’s a spooned-billed stork we spotted at Sunset Dam in Kruger National Park. For more, please click here.

Second Covid test is positive…No cruise for us…Now what?…

Tom placed four bananas in the window to ripen. This reminded us of the ten months we spent in lockdown in Mumbai, India in 2020 when Tom was served four bananas a day, often unripened like these. Yikes!

After a fitful night of coughing, I somehow managed to drag myself out of bed, shower, dress, and begin the process of taking one more online Covid-19 test, which requires contacting a live person through the Navica app and eMed, monitoring the test with me.

I knew it would be positive the second time we did the self-test in the past 24 hours. I still have many Covid-19 symptoms, whether Omicron or another variant. My throat is red and raw, my voice gravely and unrecognizable, and the cough…Well, the cough…It’s brutal.

It’s only been four days since I first tested positive on the ship. The tiredness is still prevalent, but the achy painfulness has waned, the headache and the feverish sensation that lasted for days. What did we expect?

Even if I tested negative today, I wondered how I could possibly get on the Queen Mary 2, manage to walk the long corridors, dress for dinner, and participate in events and fancy dinners. I could barely keep my head up to eat a few bites for breakfast this morning. It has hit me hard.

No, I don’t need to go to a doctor or hospital. I had a worse virus in South Africa in 2021 when I had trouble breathing and yet had a negative Covid test. The electric nebulizer and medication are helping tremendously, and today, for the first time since this began almost a week ago, I feel like the dry cough is loosening up a bit.

This also reminds us of those ten months in India with not much view from the hotel room window.

When I can get a negative test, we can fly to the US, which is up for grabs. Since we had to cancel today’s cruise on the Queen Mary 2, we’ll now have to fly to Minnesota from Southampton once I can manage a negative test. Tom is well on the mend. We didn’t use another test on him since his symptoms were almost gone. If one of us tested positive we couldn’t go on the cruise anyway. Why use up another test kit?

We will not wait for the next sailing on May 8th. If I test negative within a week, we’ll arrive in Minneapolis by May 1 as planned, head to Nevada on May 15, and then fly from Nevada to South Africa on May 22. We’d lose all the bookings we made in the US during May since we’d have to move fights, hotels, etc. Most likely, we’ll lose the airfare from New York to Minneapolis anyway. We didn’t want to compound the situation.

At this point, until I test negative, we can’t plan anything. We extended this hotel room for four more nights when I will test again. If it’s still positive at that point, we’ll extend it again. There’s nothing else we can do. It’s out of our control. In the interim, I’m resting, eating healthy foods, and treating the symptoms to the best of my ability.

They say Omicron is like a bad cold, at worst. It is not like any cold I’ve ever had. It’s sneaky. It’s insidious. And for some, it’s relentless. I only hope it is over soon.

This morning, when we couldn’t reach a live person at Cunard Cruise Line to report we won’t be going on the cruise, Tom decided to walk to the port to report it to a representative. We were concerned about them not perceiving us as a “no show,” negating our opportunity for a future cruise credit which they promise for positive Covid results.

Tom just now returned after a frustrating time at the port but managed to show my test results and our cruise documents to a representative who hopefully will document our reasons for not boarding.

We will keep you updated as we work our way through yet another challenging time in our world travels. Nope, we’re not considering giving up! (In case you were wondering).

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, April 24, 2021:

Everybody was busy munching on Big Daddy’s fallen tree. For more photos, please click here.

Part 1…You can run, but you can’t hide…We couldn’t escape it!…

The chef was generous with my lobster portions, considering that’s all I ate, no starters, no salad, no starchy sides, and no dessert. It was delicious.

No, we didn’t wear a mask while aboard the ship. But, we never went into an elevator with more than a few people. We never attended the nightly entertainment shows or daily seminars. We sat at the dining tables for two. However, we did converse with other passengers nearby.

We made many friends and sat next to them at night in the bars, often deep in conversation. We danced, laughed, and engaged in fascinating and often lengthy discussions. We had a fantastic time. We were about to classify this cruise on Celebrity Silhouette from Fort Lauderdale to Southampton as one of our most socially fun and memorable cruises in the past 9½ years since we began our world travels.

It was cruise #25, indeed a worthy milestone, but now, with great disappointment, we’ll remember it as our first cruise as the pandemic was losing ground. Would you believe that we tested positive for Covid on the final day at sea yesterday?

We had a few warning signs but dismissed them, thinking, “Oh no, we don’t have Covid.” First, Tom was eating a lot of bread and often gets acid reflux when eating any foods with gluten. At night, his coughing would stop when he took an antacid, so we never associated it with Covid. He quit eating bread and seemed to improve significantly. We never gave it another thought.

We both often get allergy symptoms with repeated sneezing and occasional runny noses. Again, we thought nothing of it. We felt fine otherwise, especially when it would stop after a few minutes, as it often did.

After dancing at the silent disco on Monday night, we headed to our cabin around 1:00 am. I felt shaky, as if I had high blood pressure. Most people don’t get symptoms when their blood pressure is high, but I do. Plus, recently, Dr. Theo in Komatipoort, South Africa, put me on a newer medication that didn’t keep it as low as my prior medication, which I’d taken for 20 years.

I shouldn’t have switched to the new drug until after we returned. I started it about a month before we left, and all seemed fine, but I was experiencing occasional spikes and planned to discuss this with him upon our return. When I checked my blood pressure on Monday night, it was through the roof, and my pulse was very high.

I tried to relax to get the numbers down, but they were too high for comfort, even after a few hours. Luckily, I’d packed my old medication and took my old dose. Everything was normal again a few hours later, but I didn’t feel like myself. I barely slept a wink that night.

Of course, I was anxious about this weird event and attributed it to an excess of dancing and the two glasses of red wine I’d had that night. In South Africa, I only drink very-low alcohol wine produced in South Africa, none of which they had on the ship. But I’d spaced myself and hoped it would be ok. Apparently not, I surmised. Later, I read that Covid can cause a spike in blood pressure and pulse rate in those with cardiovascular diseases, such as me.

Tom’s Baked Alaska made my mouth water, but I didn’t taste it. He enjoyed every morsel. I am always content to “look at it,” so Tom calls me a “food voyeur.”

I awoke early after the awful night, feeling exhausted from not sleeping, attributing my lackluster demeanor to sleep deprivation. On Tuesday evening, I only drank Sprite Zero, and we headed straight to our cabin after enjoying dinner with a lovely couple at the following table, three feet (one meter) from us.

My Fitbit indicated I slept for eight hours on Tuesday night which generally would be sufficient to make me feel great. Wednesday morning, I awoke with a horrific sore throat. It was then that I told Tom I needed to get tested for Covid since the sore throat was a red flag. I headed to the doctor’s clinic on deck 2 wearing my mask.  When the nurse spotted me and asked what my issue was, I explained I needed a Covid test. She sent me back to our cabin and told me to wait until the doctor contacted me by phone.

A short time later, Tom arrived, and I explained we both needed to be tested. Shortly after, the doctor called, asking how we were feeling and our vaccination and booster status. Since July, we’d had both when we returned to the US for a month to see family and be vaccinated.

A few months ago, we were able to get boosted in Komatipoort at the booster station outside the Spar Market. We both felt at ease that we were well protected. But were we?

The doctor arrived at our cabin, fully decked out in PPE, and took the painful swabs of our nasal passages. Tom had the antigen test, and I had the PCR test. At this point, Tom had no symptoms, but I was feeling quite unwell. The doctor called to tell us we were both positive and stay in the cabin an hour later. Guest relations would contact us next with instructions.

They called, telling us to pack everything in our cabin within the hour. We were moved to quarantine level six with all the other Covid patients. I was feeling awful. Packing wasn’t easy, but I muddled my way through it, and an hour later, three fully protected attendants arrived and moved us to another balcony cabin. We walked through the “bowels” of the ship to avoid being near any passengers. It felt weird.

Once situated in the new cabin, which was sparse with the usual toiletries and items we enjoyed using in our prior cabin, the challenge of food and beverages began. It was a total fiasco. They said they didn’t have any Sprite Zero left on the ship. We even had trouble getting sufficient water bottles and ice to get us through the night.

This morning, the coffee and food orders were wrong. Room service couldn’t get our food orders right, and we were sorely disappointed. I wasn’t hungry but knew I needed to eat. Tom was feeling fine. His food order was also a mess. We were ready to get off the ship and to our hotel in Southampton.

Tomorrow in Part 2, we’ll share what we plan to do if we still test positive on Saturday, the day we’re required to take a Covid test before boarding the Queen Mary 2. If that’s the case, it will be quite the challenge to see if and how we can change everything. Oh, dear. This situation is indeed a challenge.

We plan to spend the next few days in our hotel room in Southampton (hmmm…sound familiar?) while working on our recovery, eating good food, drinking lots of water, resting, and staying in touch with all of you. We are sitting in the hotel lobby waiting for a possible four hours to get checked into our room. Almost two hours have passed so far. But, as always, we are hopeful.

I am looking forward to lying down. But I put the time to good use, writing today’s post.

We avoided Covid for over two years. Considering the amount of travel we’ve done, we’re lucky it didn’t get us when it was the Delta variant. Now, with Omicron, whichever variant we may have, we hope to recover soon.

Be safe. Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, April 21, 2021:

Many zebra butts were facing us this morning as they clamored over the pellets Tom tossed into the garden. For more photos, please click here.

Summer solstice today in the Southern Hemisphere..Again, we made a decision about our visas expiring in a month…

Impala with an oxpecker in Kruger National Park.

This morning, when checking the news for any relevant topics to share today, other than the news-hogging Omicron variant, I stumbled across several articles about today being the official start date for summer in South Africa. It was nice to see headlines about something other than Covid-19, which is monopolizing headlines worldwide.

Impalas on the side of the road as we passed.

To stay on top of things, I read several news reports from worldwide sources. I tend to particularly like news from the UK and South Africa, both of which seem to be most relevant to us during our time in this country. The UK media tends to report on activities in South Africa, especially now when many tourists from the UK often visit SA during the holiday season. Of course, travel has been dramatically tempered since the onset of Omicron, which is raging in the UK right now.

Also, at this time, we’re paying particular attention to news directly out of South Africa to see if President Ramphosa will extend visas for foreign nationals, which will directly impact us.

Baby impala, perhap only days old.

However, at this time, to be safe with our visas expiring in a little over a month, we had decided to use the services of the law firm in Cape Town that we used to obtain a waiver after we were banned from the country for five years when we overstayed by 90 days when I had emergency open-heart surgery.

The law firm did an excellent job for us when we contracted their services in May 2019 while we were in Ireland, and they could handle everything remotely. We feel confident using them again. As a matter of fact, Gerhardt and Rita used this same firm with our recommendation when they applied for their four-year retirement visa while in the US.

Zebras near the Verhami Dam.

We considered applying for the South Africa four-year retirement visa but doing so requires an extended stay in the US which didn’t work for us. Foreign nationals cannot apply for an extended visa while in South Africa. Subsequently, in the past few days, we decided to go ahead and apply for a 90-day extension with the law firm, which will take us to the end of March (and beyond until April 23, if need be).

Why pay for a law firm to assist us? Right now, the immigration department is so backlogged with applications, we will get a faster result if we use a law firm.

Zebras seeking shelter from the sun under a bush,

At this point, we still don’t know if our booked transatlantic cruise to the UK will sail on April 8th. The final payment will be taken from our credit card online at Costco on Christmas Day. We were hoping that Celebrity Cruise Line would do so before the final payment is due if they ended up canceling the cruise.

However, many cruise lines require full payment on the original final payment due date, even if they intend to cancel the cruise in a few months due to the pandemic. This provides them the free use of our money for many months while we end up having to wait for a refund for months after they cancel the cruise. It can take three to four months to get a refund after the cruise is canceled. It’s the nature of the beast.

A newborn wildebeest suckling.

Based on what’s happening in the UK right now with the Omicron wildfire of cases, we’re expecting the cruise will be canceled. Based on stats from the website Worldometer, yesterday, the UK, with a population of 68,409,000, had 91,743 new cases. For comparison’s sake, the US had 143,530 new cases, also yesterday, with a population of 333,850,090, which continues to have the highest numbers of cases and deaths worldwide.

Yes, I know these numbers can easily be skewed. After all, humans are entering the information. Does a person who goes to the hospital with a fatal heart attack become a Covid statistic when they also happen to have Covid-19 at the time of death? Sure, there’s plenty of this going on, especially when many countries provide hospital remuneration when patients die from the virus.

Wildebeests resting near Verhami Dam.

But, we have nothing else to go on, and perhaps these stats serve as a guide to what’s happening throughout the world. I can only imagine how many cases aren’t reported in most parts of the world. Not everyone who gets Covid019 gets tested or goes to a medical facility for treatment. It’s not foolhardy to speculate that more than half, if not more, of the cases, go unreported.

We live in precarious times. We can’t anticipate what the future holds, even based on daily living. All we can do now is continue to strive toward good health, fulfilling relationships with family and friends, kindness to others and our world, and fiscal responsibility to the best of our ability.

May this holiday season remind us of our blessings and those areas of life for which we can be grateful.

Photo from one year ago today, December 21, 2020:

This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #263. In December 2019, we were preparing to enter the stadium for the Las Vegas Golden Knights game with my son Richard. Thanks, Richard, it was an enjoyable night! Here‘s the post from that night. For more photos, please click here.

Hello, Monday morning…Tom’s birthday week and Christmas…

The elephant on the left is resting his trunk on his tusk.  

Tom’s birthday couldn’t be at a more inconvenient time. In this life, it’s less of an issue that his birthday is on December 23. We don’t have a lot going on right now. However, in our old lives, it wasn’t easy to figure out how to celebrate his birthday with anyone other than ourselves when everyone was so busy getting ready for Christmas.

Two giant elephants in Kruger National Park.

In the early years, when our adult kids were younger and didn’t have families of their own, they’d join us for his birthday celebration, whether it was out to dinner or a full-blown party. Over the years, as their families grew along with work responsibilities, it wasn’t always possible for them to join us on the day of his birthday, so close to Christmas.

This could be a mom and two calves from different birthing seasons or other scenarios.

Ironically, out of five houses on our peninsula, the men in every other house also had a birthday on December 23, our dear friends and neighbors Doug and Chip, and then, of course, Tom. Doug and Jamie have a large family, so we couldn’t celebrate with him.

A mom and baby were moving along in the bush.

For many years we celebrated with Chip and Sue, who over the years, we’d become very close. Our dear Chip passed away shortly before we left for our travels in 2012, but surely we’ll send Doug a birthday greeting as we’ve done each year since we’ve been gone. There are many great memories of those days.

Elephants don’t hesitate to be close to one another.

In Marloth Park, South Africa, we have celebrated three of Tom’s birthdays in the bush. With most of our friends gone during the hot summer months, it made no sense to plan a get-together to celebrate his 69th birthday. Thus, we made a reservation for Thursday, the 23rd, for the two of us, and we’ll celebrate at the bar at Jabula. There’s no doubt that whoever joins us at the bar will celebrate with us, Dawn, Leon, Lyn, and their new assistant David.

Tom is delighted with this plan, especially when he knows upon our return on Thursday night, his favorite dessert, a homemade German Chocolate Cake, will be waiting for him. I plan to bake it from scratch on Thursday morning. Since he’ll be the only one eating it, it may last him through Christmas, even if he cuts the three-layer cake into six huge portions, which I am sure he’ll do. He may even eat more than one piece per day!

A mom and a youngster.

Now will be the first time I have baked this cake for him since we left the US. In most countries, the ingredients weren’t available to make the cake. Oddly, this time, at the Spar Market, I was able to find everything I needed for the recipe.

Grazing in the dense vegetation.

It may seem weird to be so enthused about a cake. But, after being gone from the US for over nine years, I can surely understand why it’s so appealing to him. Besides, it’s the best birthday gift I can give him since we never have room in our luggage for gifts from each other.

We hope all of you who celebrate Christmas are enjoying activities, socializing, and preparations for the upcoming Christmas and New Year’s week with your friends and loved ones. Although most of our friends and family are far away, we’ve been staying in close touch with everyone via text and WhatsApp. Doing so never makes us feel as if we are too far away.

A baby elephant was sleeping in the grass.

Today is a quiet day. It’s started warming up again, but it’s still not as hot as a few weeks ago. We’re enjoying this cooler period, although it will begin to heat up again in a few days. We’re prepared for whatever may come our way. As long as we have each other and good health, we can handle any inconveniences that come our way.

Enjoy the season!

Photo from one year ago today, December 20, 2020:

This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #272. We were thrilled to be able to watch the nightly Hindu ceremony on the Ganges River in Varanasi, India. Smoke from the fire rituals wafted through the air. For more, please click here.

An outrageously fun night at Jabula…A mind blowing coincidence…

We were at Moholoholo Rehabilitation Center in 2014 and had an opportunity to interact with this cheetah, their mascot. If we had any apprehension, which we didn’t, the fact that he was “purring” welcomed our touch. See this link for the original post, and please read our story below for the significance of posting this photo today.

We arrived at Jabula at 5:00 pm, 1700 hrs, our usual time. We were a little apprehensive about going at all due to the number of holidaymakers in Marloth Park during the holiday season. Under normal circumstances, we wouldn’t have been concerned about crowds. But in light of Covid-19 and the Omicron variant, I thought about it several times during the day. Will it be safe to be inside the bar that can become packed with party-goers during holiday times?

Our usual seats at the bar were taken when we arrived, but during the entire time, three hours, there was never more than 10 or 12 hovering near and around the bar. I sat at the furthest end with no possibility of anyone sitting next to me but Tom. We decided we’d eat at the bar when we ordered our food after a few hours.

But, in the interim, we met some fabulous people and caught up with Sindee and Bruce, who have invited us for Christmas dinner at their home. There will only be 11 of us, a manageable number. When dining at a home in the bush, drinks, and meals are often served outdoors. We anticipate this will be the case on Christmas Day.

The conscientious guide ensured our safety. But, we had no fear.

First, we met a lovely group of three, including Gabby, her brother, and sister-in-law. Gabby works for SanParks, the park system in South Africa. We had a fantastic talk about marketing, our website, our mutual love of wildlife, and Marloth Park.

Gabby has been coming here for 30 years and is as excited by wildlife as we are, especially with her job with such easy access to national parks. She has many interesting videos on YouTube. You can see them here at this link. Hopefully, we’ll have an opportunity to talk again in the future. We certainly hit it off!

After a while, the three of them left, and two men moved in and occupied their seats. Rico sat at the bar on Tom’s right, and immediately the two of them started chatting. In no time at all, they were like long-lost friends. That’s the magic of Marloth Park.

Rico is a fun and animated guy. I leaned in to hear the conversation and pick up pieces here and there. At one point, Rico told us that his son works for Moholoholo Rehabilitation Center, which we visited in 2014 when we did the Panorama Route, which is a self-driving tour with many sights to see along the way. We had a wonderful time on the route and stayed overnight at a fabulous resort, making memories we’ll always treasure.

While he and Tom continued talking, I looked up our post on my phone from our time at Moholoholo Rehabilitation Center. After thumbing through a few posts, I stumbled across the above two photos when we had an interaction with the center’s mascot. This rehabilitated cheetah couldn’t return to the wild based on injuries he’d incurred at a young age. He’d never learned to hunt and fend for himself. Instead, he became the center’s mascot.

I leaned forward and showed Rico and Tom the photos from our post from January 19, 2014, almost eight years ago. Rico practically screamed when he exclaimed, “That’s my son in those photos!!!?

Oh, my goodness! We were aghast! What a coincidence that eight years ago, we’d taken photos of the cheetah and Rico’s son. It’s a small world, after all, like the song, here on YouTube. When I opened the song and read the lyrics as listed below, I was reminded of how small the world really is and how grateful we are to have met so many wonderful people along the way:

It’s a world of laughter
A world of tears
It’s a world of hopes
And a world of fears
There’s so much that we share
That it’s time we’re aware
It’s a small world after all
It’s a small world after all
It’s a small world after all
It’s a small world after all
It’s a small, small world
There is just one moon
And one golden sun
And a smile means
Friendship to ev’ryone
Though the mountains divide
And the oceans are wide
It’s a small world after all
It’s a small world after all
It’s a small world after all
It’s a small world after all
It’s a small, small world

Have a fantastic day!

Photo from one year ago today, December 19, 2020:

This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #271. “Puerto Madryn (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈpweɾto ˈmaðɾin]Welsh: Porth Madryn) is a city in the province of Chubut in Argentina, Patagonia. It is the capital of the Biedma Department and has about 93,995 inhabitants according to the last census in 2010.”We toured the oceanfront village on foot on this date in 2017. For more photos, please click here.

Omicron…We can’t ignore what’s happening in South Africa and the world…More Kruger photos…

Open mouth crocodile on the bank of the Sabie River. Crocs don’t have sweat glands. Instead, they open their mouths to cool off.

It would be easy for us to ignore what is happening with Omicron throughout the world and for us here in South Africa. Sure, we could write about “travel” and travel-related topics or continue with the mindless drivel of our day-to-day activities while living in the bush.

But, we can’t possibly ignore what’s going on in South Africa and throughout the world in many countries as Omicron spreads like wildfire, doubling every two days. We have no doubt you’ve seen endless news reports on this topic and most likely would prefer not to read it here.

But, over these past nine years of writing these posts, we always promised to “tell it like it is,” and we have diligently done so since the first post we uploaded in March 2012, only three months short of ten years ago. Please, dear readers, understand that sharing what we know, if doing so saves one life or one serious case of the virus, it will have been worth it. It is from that perspective that we write this today.

Another photo of a hippo mom and baby.

No politicization is included or intended here. This is entirely from our perspective, based on the research we’re conducting now and how and when it may impact our lives in the future. After all, in only 113 days, we hope to board a ship from Fort4 Lauderdale, Florida, to sail across the Atlantic Ocean for a two-month stay in and around the UK until the next cruise on June 29, 2022, sailing out of Istanbul.

At this point, Omicron is infecting the world so rapidly that everything could change in the next 30 days. But, in 38 days, we have to figure out what we’ll be doing about extending our visas. Do we dare fly to another country in Africa for a visa stamp and risk becoming infected if President Cyril Pamaphosa doesn’t extend visas for foreign nationals?

Baby elephant resting in the grass.

Based on the fact the borders are still open, in light of the rapid increase of Omicron, we seriously doubt he’ll be extending visas for foreign nationals. He’s getting a lot of pressure about new lockdowns after the already developing country has suffered so much loss over the past two years of the pandemic.

We have some tough decisions ahead of us. Returning now to the US is not on the table when we see the number of cases escalating there daily. This chart from the stats presented on the website, Worldometer, certainly impacts our plans. See the stats on the screenshot I made with yesterday’s numbers:

Please zoom in to see these numbers in detail. I removed some of the columns to fit on the page for this chart.

Some scientists and immunologists are predicting there will be 1,000,000 cases per day in the UK by January. The US will follow shortly behind. And, as far as South Africa is concerned, 35% of all Covid-19 tests are positive for Omicron, and 90% of all cases of Covid-19 are Omicron cases, even in the fully vaccinated. There are claims that contracting Omicron results in a less severe illness with fewer hospitalizations and deaths.

But, uncertainty about that immunity provided by Omicron, when science isn’t definitive, about whether or not the variant is less severe or that those getting it may already have some protection from prior exposure and vaccines.

Elephants were grazing in the park.

There are many theories that Omicron could be the end of the pandemic when most of the world’s population becomes infected, which may provide herd immunity? Is this variant the magic bullet that may give the herd immunity, the world so desperately needs to end the pandemic?. Not enough is known at this time to answer all of these questions.

But, as world travelers anxious to get back “out there,” we wait in anticipation of more definitive science and what travel restrictions may impact us.

Rapids on the Sabie River in Kruger National Park.

This has been a tough couple of years for all of us. We are saddened by the loss of life and lingering illness many have experienced. My sister has been suffering from long-haul Covid for the past 16 months, along with one in four patients undergoing the same worldwide. We are saddened by the financial strife experienced by business owners and workers during extensive lockdown and restrictions, including our friends here in South Africa, the US, and the world.

For now, what can we do? Avoid crowds? Wear masks? Maintain social distancing, which is now more confusing than ever, when the fully vaccinated spread Omicron? There’s no easy answer, but we’ve decided to remain vigilant in doing everything possible. But, we have no desire to stay in lockdown, totally isolated from other people.

Yellow-billed stork.

We have two outdoor parties we’re planning to attend; Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. Are we prepared to discontinue our Friday night dinners at Jabula? No! It’s always a highlight of our week.

Take care of yourselves the best way you can as we watch how this variant rolls out.

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

This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #268. A cave we spotted at Cape Horn on our way to Ushuaia, Argentina. For more photos, please click here.

Hot! Hot! Hot!…Omicron on the rise in South Africa, and worldwide…

A dung beetle and his mate atop the ball of dung while he pushes with his back legs to move the ball along. What a fantastic sighting!

I am in the bedroom at almost noon with the air con and the fan on, trying to cool down. I spent over an hour in the kitchen preparing tonight’s dinner while it was 97F, 36C with outrageous high humidity. It will top 100F, 38C, or more on a bright sunny day in an hour or so.

With no air-con anywhere in the house except for the two bedrooms, it is the only place to hide away to cool off. I’d never tackle such a cooking challenge in this heat without air-con in my old life. It would have warranted a dinner out, for sure. But, in Marloth Park, many of the restaurants don’t have suitable cooling with doors always wide open, so there’s little relief to be found there.

Mongoose hanging around the edge of the veranda..

The dinner I’m preparing today requires a trip to the little local market to purchase mushrooms, lettuce, and tomatoes. We’ll have a low-carb dish called Low Carb Mushroom Burger Scramble, a favorite, although it presents as one-pan winter comfort food. But, this morning, I made two pans, one for each of us, enough to last for three dinners.

Thus, regardless of continuing heat, I won’t have to cook for the next few days, only making a salad and rice for Tom. That’s a good plan, especially since we’d like to go to Kruger in the next few days, once the temperature drops, which is expected by Tuesday or Wednesday before all the holidaymakers arrive for the Christmas holiday when Kruger will be packed.

We drove past a few giraffes while out exploring.

It is hard to spot much wildlife during ultra-hot days. Even our usual wildlife visitors to our garden are sparse on the hot days. This morning, several bushbucks, two sets of Mom and Piglets, and Broken Horn stopped by. But now, as the day wears on and the temperature rises, the only visitor we’re seeing is Frank and The Misses, who stop by once every three or four hours. They, like us, tend to stay undercover when it’s so hot.

After returning from the little market, they stood at the screen door to the veranda, looking inside the house, wondering where we’d gone. We always laugh when we see them there, walking back and forth impatiently from time to time. We love those birds! Who would think we’d adore these chicken-like creatures as much as we do?

Broken Horn is always welcomed in our garden.

A few minutes ago, Tom called out to me. The mongooses were here! Lately, they have been stopping by each day. We had bones left from Tom’s ribs from last night’s dinner at Jabula, which they always love and also paloney. Tom cut up the paloney into bite-sized pieces and tossed them into the garden, far enough apart to prevent them from fighting over the food.

Based on numerous reliable sources online, the variant Omicron is rising in South Africa, doubling every 2½ days. This is also occurring in many other parts of the world. It’s possible that soon, all cases of Covid-19 in South Africa will be Omicron. If that is factual, with lesser illness from this variant, this could be a good sign. We are hopeful but remain diligent in our efforts to stay healthy.

Giraffe’s legs and hooves are fascinating.

Today will be a quiet day for us. Most likely, we’ll spend the next few hours cooling off in the bedroom. By 4:00 pm, 1600 hrs, when the temperature begins to drop, we’ll head outdoors and enjoy a few hours on the veranda, although according to the weather report, it won’t get below 90F, 32C, until after 7:00 pm, 1900 hrs.

Tonight, we’ll hunker down in the cool of the bedroom, streaming a few shows such as Dexter, New Blood, and Yellowstone. We hope you have a pleasant Sunday during the holiday season and always.

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

This photo was posted one year ago while we were in lockdown in Mumbai, India, on day #264. Just like that, the zebra was on the veranda at the Orange house in 2018. For more photos, please click here.

Lions still in Marloth Park…Flights, canceling to and from South Africa…What shall we do?

When Melissa Grobler of Dubai, currently staying in  Marloth Park with her mom, a resident, captured these lion photos, this morning we were enthralled. Melissa managed to witness this fantastic sighting of one of the female lions known to roam the streets of Marloth Park.

Finally, this morning, photos were taken of one of the lions that have been spotted in Marloth Park over the past few months and subsequently, posted on Facebook. These are the first photos we’ve seen of the lions. I contacted the photographer, Melissa Grobler, who is currently staying in the park for a few months, visiting her mom, a resident, asking if we could use her photos. She was thrilled to share.

After all the comments we’ve read about numerous sightings since the lions were originally spotted, with no supporting photos, we began to wonder if these elusive carnivore beasts were actually staying here. Often, at night, humans perceive certain animals to be roaming the bush, other than those we see regularly, At times, at night, we’ve often thought we’ve seen something when perhaps the light and the night tricked our eyes.

Melissa did this drawing to outline the shape of the lion she spotted in the bush.

In this day and age, with the advent of rampant cellphone and camera use, we longed to see an actual photo of a lion in the park. It’s not that we doubted their existence here, especially when, in this day and age, rangers and many locals have spotted them, over and over again. But, as they say, “a picture is worth a thousand words” and Melissa hit the jackpot this morning.

So, for all the naysayers, here are some good photos of the lions, keeping in mind they don’t care to be around humans and may be extremely poor subjects when hiding in the bush, and mostly making appearances at night in the dark when they are on the hunt for their next meal. Obviously, the pickings are good in Marloth Park with so many animals a part of this unusual wildlife conservancy,

You may have to squint your eyes to see the lion in this photo.

On to other matters…This morning at 6:00 am, I received an email from Expedia, that our flight from Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger to Tampa, Florida had been canceled by Delta Airlines. Apparently, Delta isn’t interested in flying to and from South Africa, in light of Omicron, the newest Covid-19 variant.

Although, so far, reports are showing this variant is no more lethal than other variants, a worldwide panic ensued and many countries locked their borders to South Africa as well as airlines suspending flights. In this prior post, we commented how we’ve canceled our plans to attend our dear friends, Karen and Rich’s wedding in Florida on February 11th.

We were sad and disappointed to be missing this event, which after the wedding, we’d planned to stay in Florida for an upcoming cruise sailing out of Fort Lauderdale on April 8, 2022. After a month-long stay with Karen and Rich at their oceanfront home, we’d also planned to spend time driving through Florida, visiting friends that have relocated to various oceanside areas in the warm weather state.

It’s been a thrill to see these photos. We can only thank Melissa for capturing these photos.

With everyone’s justified concerns about Omicron, we won’t be seeing our friends after all. If the trans-Atlantic cruise actually sails, we’ll come to Florida two weeks earlier and self-quarantine, not seeing any of our friends during this period. From there, we’ll board the cruise. But, by the end of March, new rules may be in place about mandatory quarantine for anyone arriving from South Africa, whether US citizens or not. Only time will tell.

When we decided to cancel our trip to the wedding, we left our flight, departing on January 22, 2022, in place. With Delta, we had until the end of December to move the flight to a different ending point and date without penalty. A few days ago, when I’d made a to-do list on this post, it included moving this flight. Now, this has been taken care of by Delta canceling the flight and offering us a full refund.

This morning after receiving the email, I requested a refund for the flight and we’ll book our exit out of here when we know more. Is the cruise going to sail in April? Will there be flights out of South Africa by then? What will we do about our visas expiring on January 24th? This all remains to be seen.

In the interim, we’ll be contacting all of our friends in Florida, telling them not to worry about being near us since we won’t be seeing them after all. Our biggest concern beyond that is what we’ll do about our expiring visas in January? We may have no choice but to return to Zambia for another short stay and another visa stamp. Will immigration allow us to make this trip once again? Or, will President Cyril Ramaphosa issue another visa extension for foreign nationals based on this Omicron situation?

Only time will tell. In the interim, we will stay positive and aren’t as worried as one may think. We’ll continue to enjoy our time in the bush and see how it all rolls out.

Today, we’re reveling in the lion photos and the excitement each day of wildlife visiting our garden.

Happy day!

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

This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #260. We were with friends Lisa and Barry, enjoying one last night together on the ship in a private sitting in the wine room. For more photos, please click here.

Everything could change for us with the new Covid-19 variant, Omicron…

A beautiful red-billed stork.

Last night, our dear friends Karen  (and fiance  Ruch) texted us, whose wedding we are booked to attend on February 11, 2022, in Apollo Beach, Florida. We have a flight booked from South Africa to arrive in Florida on January 24, 2022.

We had planned to stay at their home, per their enthusiastic invitation, before the wedding, upon our arrival on January 24, and after the wedding, as well. The four of us have such a great time together. We’ve been looking forward to spending this time with them.

We rarely stay at the homes of friends when we travel. We prefer not to invade the space of friends or family members.  Also, we have our own routine that is best served when we’re on our own in a holiday home or hotel. However, staying with Karen and Rich on past occasions confirmed we are ideally suited to spend time together when we stayed with them in the past.

Three giraffes by the Crocodile River.

However, last night, Karen’s concerns were well-founded. Suppose we came to their home on January 24 and had contracted the Covid-19 variant Omicron while in South Africa. In that case, we could infect them and totally ruin their wedding and, also possibly infect the many guests arriving from far and wide to attend their wedding, many of whom are over 80 years old with precarious health as it is.

There’s no way we’d put this kind of stress on them at this critical time in their lives. After chatting back and forth, we realized our only option is to self-quarantine from the day we arrive in Florida until the time of the wedding, of course, testing on the last few days. That would be a total of 18 days in a hotel in Florida, somewhere close to Tampa.

But, now, as we listen to the news and conduct research, our quarantine plan may prove to be a moot point. As more and more flights are canceled to travelers entering South Africa, what easily could happen by January 24 is a simple and probable fact…our flight could be canceled.

A blacksmith plover was near the fence between Marloth Park and Kruger National Park.

If airlines don’t transport passengers from Point A to Point B and bacn, the lack of flights out of South Africa will be a natural occurrence even with borders open. We could end up in the same situation as we were in India. The only flights available for US citizens leaving South Africa could be repatriation flights, which cost thousands and thousands of dollars per passenger, many as much as ten times (or more) the typical flight fare.

A repatriation flight for these exorbitant rates didn’t appeal to us when we were in lockdown in India and doesn’t appeal to us now. Here, we can stay put comfortably in a house, cook our meals, be outdoors and continue to live somewhat of a normal life.

We’ll know more when President Ramaphosa speaks to the nation on Sunday (tomorrow) night. Will he shut down the country as he’d done in March 2020, banning restaurants and other businesses from operating normally, banning the sale of alcohol, forbidding public or private gatherings? The holiday season is rapidly approaching. How will that be handled?

Impalas were grazing on the opposite side of the Crocodile River.

We’ll know a little more after Ramaphosa’s speech tomorrow but won’t know the full impact until the severity of the Omicron variant is fully understood. Immunologists could take weeks/months to determine the severity of this strain, allowing politicians/leaders to make decisions about travel to and from their countries.

Pfizer has stated they need two weeks to see if they need to tweak the vaccine to work with this new stain. Hopefully, soon, we’ll know. But, this won’t be available to us here.

So here we are again. Uncertainty. Will the President extend visas for foreign nationals currently staying in South Africa? That in itself is a significant factor for us. But, in any case, if we can fly to the US on January 24, 2022, we’ll have no choice but to quarantine upon our arrival in Florida.

Giraffes now have plenty of vegetation in the treetops.

Today, to be safe, we’ll book a  fully refundable hotel for the 18 nights and play it by ear from there. Undoubtedly, President Ramaphosa will speak several times over the next few months, from which we’ll be able to decide the future.

This morning, like many other South African and visitors, we headed to the liquor store to stock up on wine for me and Brandy for Tom. The TOPS liquor store and the Spar market in Komatipoort, where wine is sold, were packed with shoppers.  We weren’t the only ones motivated to stock up on our favorite sundowner beverages. We don’t drink much quantity but didn’t want to run out.  During those ten months in lockdown in the hotel in India, I never had a single glass of wine, and Tom never had a Brandy.

We’ll keep you updated here as we discover more and more in the weeks to come.

Stay safe.

Photo from one year ago  today< November 27, 2020:

This photo was posted one year ago today while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #249. Note our talk scheduled at 11:15 am on the ship activities program. We did a two-day seminar on the ship on traveling the world. For more, please click here.