Wonderful evening with friends…More socializing ramping up soon…

Tom opened the side burner lid of the braai to find this frog residing in there. He moved her to a safer location before using the burner to heat water for coffee when the power was out.

With friends, Rita and Gerhard arriving in Marloth Park in less than a month and friends Don and Kathy arriving respectively in June and July, our social life will certainly be ramping up over the next several months. Covid-19 certainly has taken its toll on social activities since we arrived almost three months ago and we’re looking forward to the change.

As always, we’ve had loads of good times with Louise and Danie and last night was no exception. We so much love spending time with them and never miss an opportunity to do so. Last night was no exception. We all sat outside on the veranda until 10:00 pm entrenched in lively conversation with many stories to share, making it difficult to end the night.

A few hours later we spotted her sitting atop the edge of the extra tank of gas for the braai.

As it turned out we didn’t get to sleep until after midnight and as I often do, I awoke in the middle of the night, wide awake and unable to return to sleep. Finally, after a few hours, I drifted off and slept until 10:15 am, something I never do. By the time I showered and dressed, and tidied up a bit, it felt as if half the day had passed. It was 11:00 am by the time I finally made my coffee.

Now, with two male bushbucks in the garden, while Frank dines on his seeds on the veranda, it’s fairly hot with the sun shining and high humidity. Tom did all the dishes last night and put everything away this morning. I’ve washed and hung two loads of laundry on the indoor clothes rack. With plenty of leftovers, today will be an easy day.

Ms. Bushbuck was wondering if pellets were coming her way. She wasn’t disappointed.

My only task is getting today’s post uploaded. While in India, I spent the better part of each day going through old posts and making much-needed corrections, I haven’t done any more of these since we arrived in South Africa. I must admit that I’m having a hard time getting back to this daunting task when doing so reminds me of sitting in that hotel room for 10 months in India.

At some point, I will get back to it. At this point, I don’t feel like putting any pressure on myself to get back to this. It’s an amazing feeling to feel unencumbered and free until we have to decide again by June 30th, where we’ll go if President Ramaphosa doesn’t extend visas again for another 90 days, which we’re hoping. It all depends on the scope of Covid-19 at that time. During this pandemic, everything can change on a dime.

We were happy to see bushbuck Torn Ear return to the garden.

We’ve decided to wait until the last minute to make a decision. So far, vaccine distribution is extremely poor in South Africa as cases continue to rise. At some point, if we ever want to cruise again, we will have to return to the US for the vaccine since the likelihood of getting it here is remote.

After careful consideration, most likely we’ll return to our state of residency, Nevada first, get the vaccine, and then head to Minnesota to visit family. But, right now, after checking the availability of the vaccine in Nevada, appointments also appear to be impossible to book. We simply have to wait it out.

Two adorable females. The lower jaw of a buckbuck gyrates in a circular motion when chewing pellets.

Today will be a quiet day, which is always easy to enjoy in the bush. The sights and sounds of nature continue to provide us with considerable entertainment and curiosity. Several times each day, we investigate the facts surrounding some type of sighting or another that happens to appear before us. Each day, in its own way, is a new day rich in experience, full of wonder.

Tomorrow morning, after Tom has the rental car washed, we’ll head to Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger Airport to return the car we currently have and pick up the next one. It will be about a four-hour turnaround plus any additional time we may spend stopping to shop in Malelane. We’ll certainly make the most out of the outing, later returning to Marloth Park, happy to be back in our favorite place.

Have a fantastic day filled with wonders.

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

Six years ago today, the drive on the way to the Princeville Botanical Gardens is in itself a breathtaking experience. For more year-ago photos, please click here.

A wild start to day…All is under control now!…

Mom and baby elephant munching on the vegetation. We shot this photo from the veranda of the Mugg & Bean Restaurant in Lower Sabie in Kruger National Park.

With Louise and Danie coming tonight for sundowners and dinner, when the power went off before 8:00 am this morning, of course, I started thinking of how I’d prepare the food without the use of the electric oven. Everything I’d planned to make was to be cooked in the oven.

As soon as we were up and about, Tom ran out to purchase four bags of ice. When he returned I loaded up the chill box layering it with the perishables from the refrigerator, the items for tonight’s meal, and layered them in the unopened bags of ice, hoping the chill would last longer.

Baby elephant playing with another elephant in the Sabie River.

Also, I placed one bag of ice in a large metal bowl on a shelf in the refrigerator. This has worked well for us in the past as long as the ice stays frozen. I noticed the freezer was doing fine when I had to take out an item and it could conceivably keep the foods frozen for many hours to come.

I considered how I’d cook the main items we’d planned for the meal on the braai, as opposed to the oven, when some dishes simply cook better in the oven than on a grill, with a more consistent and even temperature. The braai would have been my only option and I contemplated the fact that everything wouldn’t be quite as well prepared as I’d planned. Plus, with three main dishes cooking on the grill at once, Tom would hardly have had time to socialize when he was busy tending to the food.

Elephants love to swim, using their trunks as snorkels. They are prolific swimmers.

Fortunately, the WiFi kept working during the outage. Most often it goes out within an hour or two of an outage since the towers run on batteries that don’t last long without electricity. I contemplated whether or not to post today when it was entirely possible, we’d have no connection in no time at all.

Much to our delight, while drinking our coffee while seated at the big table on the veranda, made with hot water that Tom heated on the side burner of the braai, the power popped back on. The way we know it’s back on is due to the fact Tom always turns on the outdoor fan. When the power returns, the fan starts running.

Elephants climbing out of the Sabie River in Kruger National Park.

Immediately, I got to work prepping the meal, warming the oven for the first item of slow-cooked smoked baby back ribs, and prepped the bacon-wrapped, Emmental stuffed chicken breasts. We’ll cook the jumbo prawns when they arrive. With a few side dishes, we’ll be good to go.

Now, while I’m cooling off in the bedroom with a little air-con after sweating profusely in the high humidity, I am preparing today’s post, sharing more photos from Kruger National Park. We can’t wait to return to the park and will do so next week. Our plan is to embark on a self-drive every week, especially on sunny days.

Elephants on the move.

Although it’s the weekend and our visitor count is usually lower than during the week, today was a good start to the day. We’ve had several visitors so far and look forward to more as the day progresses. Once I complete and upload today’s post, I’ll get back to work on prepping for tonight.

I don’t enjoy cooking as much as I did in years past, but we certainly love having guests for sundowners, starters, and dinner. In part, I think my diminished interest in cooking is due to the fact I don’t have all the cooking gadgets and serving pieces I had in my old life. Also, it’s often very hot and humid, like today, and sweating in the kitchen has an impact on my level of enjoyment. I suppose that’s to be expected.

Elephants crossing the paved road in Kruger National Park taken through the car’s windshield.

This morning, I spilled a little liquid from the bags of prawns onto the kitchen floor. Immediately, I wiped it up with hot soapy water. Less than 20 minutes later, while I was here in the bedroom cooling off, I could hear Tom busy in the kitchen, spraying with Doom and sweeping.

Apparently, my little spill attracted hundreds of ants from outside, who crawled under the front door to the spot on the floor where I’d spilled. When I asked him what happened, he explained about the hundreds of ants he killed and removed. I apologized for not cleaning the spot well enough, but he didn’t seem at all concerned.

Another Mom and Baby in the bush

This is the bush. It’s hot. It’s humid. And insects of many types are found inside the house daily. The power goes out regularly. The water stops flowing from time to time as it did last week. For many, these annoyances and inconveniences would be unbearable. For us, they are fair and reasonable trade-offs for the things that we do love.

Last night I jumped out of bed when some creepy crawler was walking on my neck. I got up, flicked it off, and then, shrugged it off, content I didn’t get bit. It’s the way it is. The bush. Nature’s paradise. What more could we ask for?

Be well.

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

Birdie, contemplating his day. For more photos, please click here.

Rental car complications…More Kruger National Park photos…

“This is a good place to rest my head.”

Some readers/friends have suggested we buy a car to keep in South Africa, rather than continue to rent. We appreciate the suggestion but, that just doesn’t work for us. We’d have to buy the car, putting out the cash, buy an insurance policy, and find a place to store it when we are away. This would cost considerably more than we’re paying for rentals now.

In reality, we don’t plan on living in South Africa long term. We will continue to visit every few years and stay as long as we can make the visa situation work. But, we still have lots of the world left to see. Once the pandemic settles down and/or we all settle into a “new normal” and when travel resumes more readily, we will be on our way.

Classic giraffe photo with blue sky in the background.

Where will we go? That remains to be seen based on the availability of travel throughout the world and of course, coupled with our ability to get the vaccine at some point. We’re especially looking forward to cruising again once we can get the vaccine hopefully within the next year. Everything is still up in the air.

As for rental cars, lately, we’ve noticed substantial price increases for cars from the Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger Airport, our closest and most convenient pickup and return location. Since the pandemic, all the rental car facilities in Nelspruit are closed on weekends which in itself is a challenge to ensure we pick up and return cars Monday through Friday. The contract for the car we have now will end on Sunday and yet they want to charge us for an extra day returning it on Monday. Go figure.

Giraffe munching on low-lying trees.

We’d arranged for another car from the site we often use, rentalcars.com, and received a confirmation after payment in full. Two days ago we received a notice from rentalcars.com that they are canceling our contract for the new rental period since they don’t have “that particular car” and offered us another car at a 30% increase in price. We refused that car.

Then we called Budget about our current contract to see if they could help us by extending our current until June 30th. It was literally impossible to speak to someone who knew what to do. We kept getting disconnected or someone would come on the line and direct us to another phone number. We’d call the other number and they’d direct us back to the original contact person.

Giraffe among dead trees in Kruger National Park.

Finally, we gave up and started all over again. After multiple tries, we finally located an affordable car at Thrifty at the Nelspruit Airport for pickup on Monday. Then we called Budget again last night to find out what they’d charge us for the extra day. No one knew. After multiple calls, we gave up.

We told them we’d be there by noon on Monday to drop off the car and find out at that time, the fee for the extra day. They could easily gouge us, but from past experience, extra days are usually prorated from the prior contract rate. If it’s more than that, you can be assured we’ll handle it. We’ve always found that kindness and patience work better than hostility. We will figure it out.

View from the bridge of the Verhami Dam.

So, at the moment, we have a car selected from Thrifty with full insurance for under US $1400 for the next 79 days, averaging at ZAR 248, US $17 a day, higher than we usually pay but still a good price. The fact the insurance is included prevents us from having to return the car every 30 days since our credit cards only cover the insurance for the first 30 days of any car rental contract.

Hippo up for some air. Hippopotamuses love water, which is why the Greeks named them the “river horse.” Hippos spend up to 16 hours a day submerged in rivers and lakes to keep their massive bodies cool under the hot African sun. Hippos are graceful in the water, good swimmers, and can hold their breath underwater for up to five minutes.

Thus, we’ll make the almost three-hour round trip drive to Nelspruit on Monday, returning with the new car from Thrifty. We’d intended to grocery shop on the return drive at the fabulous Spar Market in Malelane but when we ran out of food yesterday, we headed to Komatipoort and purchased enough groceries to last for at least the next 10 days.

Elephants on the move on a path in Kruger National Park.

Today is sunny and a little warm with a high expected of only 87F, 31C. As always, the humidity is high making it feel warmer. All is quite well here. We are content as we could be.

We hope you are also. Be well.

Photo from one year ago, April 9, 2020:

Year ago posts were all taken from older posts while in lockdown in Mumbai, India. Please excuse the repetition. Hanalei Bay on a sunny day, taken from our condo in Princeville in Kauai, Hawaii. For more photos, please click here.

First trip to Kruger National Park in 2021!!!…New photos!…

It’s estimated an aggressive hippo sharp teeth kills 500 people a year in Africa. Hippos can crush a human to death with their weight ranging anywhere from 3,000 to 9,000 pounds. But, they are amazing to see in the wild. Note the oxpeckers on the hide of the hippo on the right

Yesterday, after uploading the post, I suggested to Tom that we head to Kruger National Park and purchase our year-long Wild Card, which allows us to enter Kruger as often as we’d like for the next 12 months. With most of the Easter weekend visitors and holidaymakers apparently gone, we figured it would be a good time to go.

We could have applied online, but the website was cumbersome, so we decided to do it “the old way” and appear in person. It proved to be a good decision. We were the only applicants in the Crocodile Gate office, resulting in no waiting. We were well masked, gloved, and brought our own pen for any necessary filling out of documents or signatures.

At the Verhami Dam, we spotted this “bloat” of hippos munching on the tall grass.

Although we were the only visitors in the office, it took at least 30 minutes for the purchase to be completed and for us to finally head back to our car. Of course, with a temporary pass in hand, we decided to go into the park right away. It was midday and we were well aware the sightings could be minimal.

We hadn’t been in the park since January 2019 before I had open-heart surgery. There was no way I could have been bouncing around on the bumpy roads after the surgery when we finally left South Africa after three months of recovery in May 2019. We’d missed it.

We wanted to yell out, “Pick up your head” but were satisfied when the hippo in the main photo did so.

Generally, early morning can be the best time to do a game drive, in our case, what is referred to as a self-drive. Although, in the car, we weren’t as high up as one would be on a professional game drive vehicle with a guide. We kept a watchful eye as we meandered down the roads, to see what we could find. As usual, we weren’t disappointed.

Not every tourist that enters the park is determined to see the “Big Five.” Sure, it’s great to spot a leopard, lion, cape buffalo, elephant, and rhino. But, for us, we never focus on such a lofty goal. We’ve seen the Big Five more times than we can count. At this point, although fun to see, it’s not a priority for us.

Zebra traffic on the main road.

We’re always looking for good photo ops, regardless of the species and for us, it proved to be as productive a day as any. Over the next several days we’ll be posting our photos and of course, over the next months, returning to the park regularly.

As for the application for the Wild Card, which resulted in a cost of US $352, ZAR 5100, for foreign nationals, the application process had to be completed once back at the house, requiring we call a phone number, speak to a representative and give them the code we got on the receipt.

We waited patiently until they moved over into the grass.

We won’t actually receive a card. Instead, this morning shortly after I spoke to the representative, we received an email with a confirmation letter that we must carry with us in order to enter the park. Plus, each time we go, we have to fill out another form with personal and passport information. Lots of steps.

In any case, we certainly enjoyed driving through the park. Deciding to go on short notice, we didn’t eat lunch at the popular Mugg & Bean, located in Lower Sabi on the Sabi River, although we stopped for a bathroom break and to check out the action on the Sabi River from the restaurant.

It was quite a day for zebra sightings.

We’d already defrosted and prepared bacon-wrapped fillet mignon for dinner and knew, if we ate lunch, we’d never be hungry by dinnertime. We only eat one meal a day, only due to the fact, that our way of eating totally diminishes our appetites until 24 hours later.

Long ago, we both decided that we wouldn’t eat unless we were hungry. Thirty days prior to leaving India, Tom began the process of losing weight he gained stuck in that hotel room, eating four bananas, toast, and pasta, day after day.  He has since lost 25 pounds, 11.3 kg, and I, too, had lost 25 pounds, 11.3 kg, while in India, after changing our diets further.

Crocodiles are always scary-looking, in the water and out.

It’s hard for us to believe that combined, we’ve lost 50 pounds, 22.7 kg, of unnecessary weight in the past several months, greatly improving our health. We both feel committed to maintaining our current way of eating, weight, and resulting in better health with the new changes. We both feel great and love fitting into our minimal wardrobes.

Soon, we’re off for Komatipoort for grocery shopping and to purchase some pellets, Now that the Easter alcohol ban has lifted, we’ll restock a few items.

More photos from Kruger will be posted tomorrow.

Hope you have a pleasant day and that all is well your way!

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

A Brown Gecko is hanging out in this plant with sharp thorns, a safe hiding spot for sure. For more year-ago photos, please click here.

Finally, I saw it!!!…Last night’s outstanding visitor…

Handsome male impala.

Sure, I wish I could have taken a photo of last night’s porcupine. Tom was doing the dishes while I was in the bedroom setting up a show for us to stream when quietly, he opened the bedroom door and signaled to me to follow him. He’d happened to peer out the sliding door with the garden light on, to see if any visitors were in the garden in the dark and spotted the porcupine for the fifth time.

Once our night vision trail cam arrives, we will be able to share photos of our visiting porcupine. We wondered why she starts out in the same spot each time Tom has seen her, realizing it was a place next to the edge of the veranda where we often leave seeds for Frank and The Misses.

A medical clinic opened up this month in Marloth Park, ideal for emergency treatments.

When searching online for porcupine sources of food, we discovered the following:

“In the winter, they primarily eat evergreen needles and the inner bark of trees, often feeding heavily on a single tree causing damage or death to the tree. In the spring and summer, porcupines shift to eating berries, seeds, grasses, leaves, roots, and stems.”

Apparently, the seeds we left for Frank at night have attracted her and are the reason she’s returned time and again. Tom has kept a watchful eye out for her since his first of five sightings beginning a few months ago, hoping to be able to show her to me. Last night was indeed a treat for me.

A creek running through Marloth Park.

I was totally in awe of what my eyes beheld. She had her quills fully extended and she was much larger than I’d anticipated. She disappeared into the bush in a matter of seconds with no time for me to prepare the camera for a nighttime shot. Thus, we’re awfully excited about the prospect of the trail cam arriving in the next month or two.

As for yesterday, I had the wonderful treat of a long conversation on Facebook Messenger with my dear friend Karen, who’s now moved to her fabulous home in Florida from Minnesota. It was Karen and Rich with whom we stayed when visiting Minnesota in 2019. We rarely stay with anyone while traveling, but it’s been so comfortable staying with them, we didn’t hesitate to do so again.

At some point in the future, we’ll visit them in Florida, although they are planning to visit us here in Marloth Park sometime in the next year when the timing is right when international travel eases a bit. We plan to move into one of Louise’s larger houses for the almost three weeks they plan to be here. (Our current house is too small for four adults).  It’s not worth coming all this way, halfway around the world, for a short stay.

The Marloth Park Water Treatment Plant.

Tomorrow, Tom will take the little rental car to the Marlothi shopping center’s car wash for a thorough cleaning, both inside and out, which car rental companies require in South Africa before returning vehicles, or an additional charge will be imposed.  On Friday, we’ll return the car to the Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger Airport to collect another vehicle for the next 82 days.

It’s about a 75-minute drive each way. After we collect the car we plan to stop in Malelane on the return drive to do our grocery shopping at the fantastic Spar Market, which is packed with goodies for our way of eating. It will be a fun outing. Next week after the traffic lessens in Kruger National Park, we’ll head to the park for a much-anticipated self-drive in search of amazing wildlife and lunch at the popular Mugg & Bean in Lower Sabie. We can hardly wait. The Easter crowds are gradually diminishing with less and less traffic in Marloth Park.

A lovely animal on the side of the road.

Following is a video we found on Facebook with a kudu attacking a man who got too close to the massive mature male. The animals we love so much are wild and it’s never safe to attempt to touch them or get too close. I hope this video comes up for you. Please see here:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/377035355798904/permalink/1901623916673366/

Have a fantastic day.

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

Actually, this is the only health food store, Healthy Hut, within a half-hour drive from our holiday home in Kauai, Hawaii in 2015. The inventory was ripe with fresh, locally grown organic produce, grass-fed meats, free-range chickens and eggs, and food and health supplies one would find in a much larger location in a big city. Pricey? Yep! For the full story from six years ago today, please click here. For the year-ago post, please click here.

Almost every day something amazing transpires in the bush…See the latest…”Pig in a Pond”…

I.B. (Itchy Butt) laying in the wet, muddy cement pond, attempting to ease the itching.

Here’s our new video of “Pig in the Pond”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yw4uSqCK_1o

If we wait patiently, it will happen. Just when we think we don’t have enough photos to share here, something amazing happens in the bush and once again, we’re in business, ready to post a new story with accompanying photos. Late yesterday afternoon was no exception.

OK, I get it. You may be tired of hearing about warthogs and their hysterical antics. But, the reality remains…we see more warthogs at this particular house in the bush than we’d seen in past houses in 2013/2014, 2018/2019. Undoubtedly, we’ve embraced this fact and named most of the pigs, many due to their physical characteristics or peculiar behavior.

The cool water, on a cool day, must have made him feel better.

Today, we introduce you to I.B., short for “Itchy Butt.” We’ve never seen anything like it. Yes, we’ve had a Pig in the Pond in 2018/2019, when Little, whom we seldom see now, since Tiny, has become “King of the Garden” entered the pond and we wrote a story about him, entitled, “Pig in the Pond, Pig on the Porch, Pig in the Parlor. See that post here.

Little not only entered the pond, but he also came up the seven slippery steps to the veranda (the porch) and entered the living room (thus, the parlor). We continue to laugh over that story even a few years later. And now, this new pig, who arrived late yesterday afternoon with a severe itch, spent considerable time in our cement pond.

He repositioned himself in an attempt to feel better, scratching his hind-end on the sand.

During the first few months since we arrived in Marloth Park in 2021, it rained non-stop for days and days, leaving mosquitoes breeding in every pool of water, including cement ponds. The cement pond outside our bedroom window was filled with vegetation, creating an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Moses, an employee of Louise and Danie, stopped by one day and emptied the pond’s vegetation and water, filling it with sand. Well, it continued to rain and the cement pond filled with water once again. No doubt, more mosquitoes are breeding in the pond, although the small amount of water continues to evaporate during the past dry weeks.

Nothing seemed to help relieve the itching.

Yesterday afternoon, as we lounged on the veranda, watching a variety of animals stop by, including bushbucks, kudus, Frank and The Misses, and of course, numerous warthogs. I’d stepped inside to put away the laundry when I heard Tom yell out to me, “Get the camera! Pig in the pond!”

And there was I.B., rolling around in the mud and remaining water in the cement pond mainly attempting to scratch his itchy hindquarters. He was on a mission, scratching against the boulders lining the pond, using the sand at the bottom to scratch, and later when he exited the pond, he practically visited every surface in the garden to help him get a satisfactory scratch. During a period of one hour, he entered the pond three times, exhibiting the same behavior on each occasion.

Finally, he climbed out of the cement pond.

Of course, we felt sorry for him. There was nothing we could do to help him. When warthogs have medical issues, the rangers don’t attend to them. There are many warthogs in Marloth Park and their healthy and sturdy constitutions preventing the park from providing medical care for them. After all, this is nature. They usually recover from most injuries and illnesses on their own. It’s a rare occasion that a carcass of a warthog is discovered in the bush.

He tried scratching on the pebbles, and big rocks in the garden.

If they have life-threatening injuries or illness, typically, they are found and euthanized and delivered to Lionspruit for Dezi and Fluffy’s next meal. Marloth Park residents are good at informing the rangers when such serious situations incur. But, an itchy butt is not necessarily a life-threatening situation. After we’d taken photos of his bloody behind, when he returned this morning, it looked so much better. We were relieved to see the improvement.

After all his efforts over a period of over an hour, his hind-end was red and bleeding.

It’s an amazing experience to watch wildlife all day and evening, learning their behavior, their nuances, and their special needs. Observing the behavior of wildlife is a rare opportunity and experience. Watching wildlife in zoos doesn’t provide such an opportunity. It’s only a feature of being in the wild among them, watching them and interacting with them, day after day. For this, we are humbled and grateful.

While all of this was going on, another warthog took a nap using a rock as a pillow.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, April 6, 2020:

Beautiful orchid we spotted in our travels from this post. For the year-ago post, please click here.

Happy Easter to those who celebrate…Long ago memories…

Our boy Tiny, lounging in the garden after eating lots of pellets. As big as he is, he can consume lots of pellets. Note, the cute pose. That’s our boy!

Easter was one of our favorite holidays in our old lives. We made Easter baskets for each family member and their pets in beautiful woven baskets with ribbons, name tags, and chock full of goodies suitable for each one. We’d line them up, usually about 17 or more baskets, on our huge dining room table and most years, the kids and later grandchildren came to enjoy their personalized bounty.,

We played games along with an Easter egg hunt, with decorated eggs and plastic eggs filled with money. If the weather was bad, which it often was most years, all of the activities occurred indoors, which never put a damper on it for any of us.  After the festivities ended, we had the same brunch each year consisting of brunch egg flan, bacon, sausage, hash browns, fresh fruit, homemade muffins, or cinnamon rolls along with juices and coffee. It was quite a feast enjoyed by all.

Here is the link to our last Easter in Minnesota in 2012, before we began our year’s long journey to travel the world.

A forkl of kudus stopped by for a morning snack.

Even after I began eating a keto diet in 2011, I made a few appropriate items perfect for me. Then again, it was only a year and a half later than we began our world journey and Easter celebrations as we knew it, no longer were a part of our life. Our adult children, by this point, had begun to integrate their own traditions into each of their respective families.

Of course, we miss everyone and certainly miss the celebration we spent days, if not weeks preparing for this special religious holiday. Amid all the pomp and circumstance, we never forgot the meaning of the celebration of Easter.

Today, in this new life, nine years later, what remains with us is the great memories along with the observance of the spiritual significance. We don’t prepare a special meal, especially since it’s just the two of us, as well as our way of eating. Tonight, we’ll both have  bun-less burgers with bacon, cheese, and white rice on the side for Tom. My side dish, most likely, will be hard-boiled or scrambled eggs on the side, a perfect option for us.

The kudus love pellets along with the attention we give them.

As usual, we’ll dine on the veranda, watching nature as our source of entertainment, reveling in the wonders that surround us in the bush. No regrets. No sadness, just a pure and simple joy to be alive, to be together, and to be safe in this majestic wildlife paradise.

Sure, it would be great to be sharing this and other holidays with family and friends. But, we chose this life so long ago and continue to revel in its wonders, knowing there is still much world for us to explore in times to come, hopefully, when and if, the pandemic settles down throughout the world. Do we see this on the horizon?

Right now, it’s impossible to predict. Even the so-called experts don’t have a clue; when it could end, how long the vaccine will continue to provide protection, and when the world of travel will resume to its former “normal” patterns. We simply don’t know.

Three bushbucks in the garden waiting for the warthogs to leave so they can partake of the pellets.

We aren’t sad at all being alone in the bush today on Easter. The weather is cool with a high of 82F, 27C with overcast skies, moderate humidity, and no breeze whatsoever. We’ve had a few visitors this morning, mostly warthogs and bushbucks who visit more often than any other wildlife. We can’t go out for a drive to search for photo ops with the roads packed with tourists doing the same.

During the holiday seasons,  Kruger National Park is fully booked with appointments that are necessary in order to enter, In the few weeks, we’ll get our Wild Card to enter Kruger at our leisure during off-peak times with no appointment necessary. During these first three months, we’ve never visited Kruger. With all the rain and muddy, impassable roads and many days where our entrance point of Crocodile Bridge was flooded, we never attempted to go. These next three months will be different.

Narrow and The Imposter in the side yard hoping for more pellets.

For some odd reason, we feel more settled in and at ease now with immigration issues not hanging over our heads at the moment and the comfort of knowing we can freely stay until June 30, 2021, without issue. We’ve decided to wait until the last minute to see if President Cyril Ramphosa extends visas yet again in June. We can always get a flight out of here and back with only a few days of advance planning.

May all of you who celebrate Easter, Passover, and other holidays throughout the world this month, have a pleasing and meaningful experience while you continue to stay safe and healthy.

 Photo from one year ago today, April 4, 2020.

While in Kauai, Hawaii on this date, five years ago, we speculated, based on appearance, that there’s some sort of permanent pouch beneath this shedding skin of this Green Anole.  We had difficulty finding details on the shedding process of these lizards. For more on this post from six years ago on this date, please click here. For the year-ago post, please click here.

Life in the bush during the busy Easter weekend…Happy Easter to those who observe!…

A zebra friend came up onto the veranda to say hello!

We plan to stay put over the busy Easter weekend in the bush. It’s surprising how many vehicles are zooming up and down the paved road in Marloth Park, many with little mindfulness of the precious wildlife often crossing the road. As much as the property owners deserve and appreciate their holiday rentals being booked this weekend, we all hold our breath, hoping everyone will appreciate the majesty and delicate balance in the bush.

We were surprised to see many wildlife visitors this morning, which is unusual during times where many tourists are in the park. Often, they find their way to the bush houses where tourists may (or may not) be feeding them “human” food which like our pets, is often preferred over their species-specific diet, in this case, the vegetation nature has to offer supplemented by ranger approved natural-vegetation pellets.

Zebra’s tails appear to be braided..

Starchy foods like corn, fried potatoes, and chips can be damaging to their digestive systems, let alone candy, and sugary treats. For many, avoiding the cost of purchasing pellets is easily accomplished by feeding the animals cheap human junk food. A 40 kg, 88-pound bag of pellets generally runs around ZAR 250, US $17, more than most tourists are willing to pay.

Smaller bags of pellets are sold at Daisy’s Den here in the park, for considerably less. The larger bags usually last us almost a week. If tourists are only here over the weekend, the smaller bags could easily keep them busy feeding the wildlife during their stay.

Don’t eat the seeds!

I easily recall taking my kids to the zoo, (a lifetime ago) and hesitating to spend ZAR 73, US $5 for a bag of feed for the animals, (but always purchased them anyway). We can only hope the tourists purchase the smaller bags and enjoy feeding the wildlife.

Also, another huge area of concern in the park during busy holidays, as mentioned above, is speeding on the main paved road, Olifant, and also on the uneven dirt roads throughout the park and Seekoei Road, along the Crocodile River.

Each holiday season, several animals are hit by cars resulting in death or the necessity of euthanasia. We can only imagine how horrible this is for the rangers, who work so hard to protect the wildlife, who have to “put down” innocent animals who’ve been injured by careless, speeding drivers. No doubt, accidents do happen, when animals may dart out onto the road, even when drivers are observing the speed limit. We have seen how easily this could happen.

“I want a crack at those seeds when he’s done!”

Last night, Friday, on our return from dinner at Jabula Lodge and Restaurant, many vehicles flew by us on Olifant as we slowly meandered down the road on our way back home. With their windows down, loud music blared from one of the vehicles. This is the bush, a quiet place to relax, unwind and be one with nature.

Loud music and noisy talking, imposing on the quiet so many visitors and locals cherish as a respite from life in the big city, doesn’t fit in here. And yet, night after night, especially during holiday periods, property owners are notified of raucous behavior at a holiday rental. Now, fines are being imposed upon by the municipality to the owners when this occurs which may or may not be charged back to the renters.

“Ah, my turn!”

We’re very grateful we’re in a secluded area close to the Lionspruit fence. Not only do we hear Dezi and Fluffy roaring at night, but we rarely hear any loud human sounds. When we lived at the Orange house in 2018/2019, we were often astounded by the noise surrounding us on the weekends, especially during holiday weekends.

Another area of concern is how many drivers allow their children to not only sit on their laps while driving through the park but, at times, we’ve observed pre-teen children and younger actually driving the vehicles. This is not only dangerous for the children and passengers in the vehicle but also for wildlife and those out on walks to enjoy the exquisite nature this unique paradise has to offer.

This zebra’s ankles and hooves appear to be deformed from aging.

It’s not unusual to see vehicles packed with passengers with many riding on the open tailgate. Imagine, the driver having to stop quickly to avoid hitting an animal or human and the risk to those human lives in the process.

Then, of course, this all leads to Covid-19, mask-wearing and social distancing. We hesitated to go to Jabula last night considering the potentially large holiday crowds. Although there was more of a crowd than usual, we felt safe at an outdoor table, distanced from other guests, and with the staff wearing masks properly. We make a point of avoiding the use of the restroom or tight spaces when out.

They certainly enjoyed the pellets in the garden.

Nothing is perfect. We certainly aren’t and don’t profess to be. We can only choose to do our part to protect this special environment for as long as we’re allowed to be here. We chose this magical place, as have many locals and tourists alike, to surround ourselves in the mystery, fascination, and pure pleasure of embracing nature in a way we never dreamed possible.

For those who are here during holiday seasons and all other periods throughout the year, please join us in the commitment to keep this amazing place safe for wildlife and for human life in everything we do.

Happy Easter and Happy Passover to those who celebrate. And to our friends in India, may you enjoy observing Ambedkar Jayanti, upcoming on April 14th. Be safe. Be well.

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

Tom in front of the Taj Mahal. For more photos, please click here.

A decision has been made and executed…See here for details…

Two male zebras standing at the veranda table looking for pellets. Of course, we didn’t waste any time accommodating them.

There were several issues in our minds over the past several days that were haunting us after deciding to go to the US after our Kenya trip was canceled due to new lockdown measures for the country, preventing us from making the much-desired trip to the Maasai Mara to stay at Little Governors Camp.

Within 24 hours of being informed that we wouldn’t be able to go to Kenya, we quickly canceled everything and booked traveling to the USA with hopes of getting the Covid-19 vaccine while there. Plus, our visas would expire on April 12th and we needed to hastily leave South Africa by that date. With many countries in Africa and throughout the world, experiencing a variety of lockdown issues and problems due to the pandemic, going to the US seemed to be the most logical solution at the time.

Two visiting males zebras, hanging out in the shade on a hot day.

Perhaps, we acted too quickly without thinking it out carefully. Who would have thought that returning to Minnesota for 15 days, Nevada for a week, including a possible visit to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to visit Tom’s Sister Beth wouldn’t work out? After booking everything necessary for the US, including flights, cars, and hotels, we called the health care facility where Sister Beth resides to discover a vaccine was required for all visitors to see the patients, received at least two weeks earlier.

Immediately, we researched heavily for how we could get a vaccine in Minnesota on April 12th, a day after our arrival. We spent two full days online and couldn’t find a single appointment for that date or any other dates for that matter. Since we were only staying in Minnesota for 15 days and would need to quarantine for at least 10 days and be tested, after the 37 hour travel day, we started questioning our decision to travel to the US.

If we didn’t quarantine, we’d risk infecting our family members, many of whom are over 80 years old. Since we have no US physical address and no US insurance (only international, which doesn’t include the US) what may be free to permanent residents, would cost us considerable sums. But that wasn’t the main factor. We were worried about not having time to quarantine and the possibility of infecting our family members.

What a great way to start the day while making coffee…zebras by the carport!

Also, we must admit, the thought of spending hours hanging out at the Johannesburg airport, also concerned us when we’ve seen many passengers at the airport without wearing a mask or properly wearing a mask. When we arrived in South Africa on January 12, we couldn’t help but notice the carelessness of passengers, although the staff appeared diligent in mask-wearing and social distancing.

We feared infecting our family members, our primary reason for canceling our trip to the US. But, also we didn’t want to be exposed ourselves, either when we’d be spending over eight hours hanging around the Johannesburg airport awaiting our flight or other layovers necessary in Frankfort, Germany, and Chicago, Illinois.

When we saw how unlikely it would be to get the vaccine in Minnesota and to be able to wait the necessary two weeks for efficacy and to protect our loved ones in the interim, we decided another destination, more conveniently located might be necessary.

This one decided to lay down in the shade.

While researching online, we received a text from a local Marloth Park friend, Andrew, who told us he’d seen an article stating that South African President Cyril Ramaphosa had extended all visas for those who’d entered South Africa prior to March 15, 2021. We confirmed the information on the country’s immigration site and it indeed was true and included us.

Perhaps, our hasty plan to visit the US was not meant to be after all. If we didn’t have to leave, we’d have time to plan for the future and when, in fact, it will be safer to return to the US to see family, putting no one at risk by our presence. Also, although sketchy at this point, vaccines, including the South Africa variant, may become available here in the next several months. If we could get the vaccine here, traveling to the US would be a non-issue.

So, immediately, we got to work canceling everything we’d already booked for the US. Fortunately, the airlines gave us credit to use for future flights which work well for us and as it turned out, we didn’t lose money for our hasty bookings. This was only days after canceling everything for Kenya.

They came up onto the veranda and we were able to check out his whiskers!

We feel relieved and confident we did the right thing; right for our family, right for us. Next, the challenge was, would this house still be available for us now. Immediately, we contacted Louise and she assured us there was no problem. We could stay as long as we’d like.

I’d already packed my clothes and today, I will put everything back into the drawers. Last night, we contacted all of our family members that we aren’t coming after all. They totally understood and we all look forward to a time when a visit is appropriate for all of us.

Thank you to all of our readers, friends, and family members who so thoughtfully sent us information on how to find bookings for the vaccine in Minnesota, most of which we’d already discovered after days of researching online. But, even if we could have been vaccinated the day we arrived, we still had the two-week waiting period to ensure efficacy when we were staying only 15 days anyway. It just wouldn’t work one way or another. The handwriting was on the wall.

After they came around the back to the garden, they were joined by a warthog, Lonely Guy, and an impala.

Are we overly cautious? Perhaps. But a little inconvenience is worth a lot of life!!! We’re disappointed we won’t see our family next week, but we’re confident we did the right thing. Many throughout the world haven’t seen their distant family members since this all began. We are no exception.

Besides, this morning while peeking out the kitchen window while making my coffee, two zebras were in the carport driveway, one laying down, another standing by the car as shown in today’s photos. When they saw me they walked around to the back of the house to the garden and on the veranda looking for pellets. Who can dispute the loveliness of such an event? Living in the bush has its many rewards! We are in awe. We are grateful.

Be well.

P.S. The correction of the spelling of the word “Archives” on our site has not yet been corrected, Covid-19 hit the staff of our web development company and they are unavailable at this time.

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

This photo is from six years ago while we were in Kauai, Hawaii. Click here for the link. This scene made us squeal with delight!  How magical!  For the year-ago post, please click here.

Serious travel dilemma…What shall we do?…

Narrow and The Imposter, who imitates Tiny, but Tiny overpowers him, hence the name.

As we approached the seven-day countdown of leaving Marloth Park, we’ve encountered a serious problem. After spending hours online, we cannot find a location in Minnesota where we can get the Covid-19 vaccine, including any-type let alone the Johnson and Johnson single dose, which we’d prefer, that we’ve heard is more effective against the South African variants.

Peter, Paul, and Mary visit us often.

Since Minnesota recently opened up the vaccine for those over 16 years old, including seniors, we didn’t realize how difficult it would be to get the vaccine when we arrived in Minnesota. It looks a little easier in Nevada but that doesn’t help us for the time we’d hoped to spend with family in Minnesota.

Plus, we noticed that Covid tests in the US are US $385, ZAR 5664, per person since we don’t have US insurance. We only have international insurance, which won’t pay in the US. We’d hoped to get tested every few days while in Minnesota visiting family. We’d also hoped to get the vaccine and be tested every few days to be safe when visiting family. But at these prices, it makes no sense to get tested three times a week. That’s outrageous!

This leaf-like insect stopped by for another visit.

After checking dozens of sites with varying information, we found that the best time to book appointments in Minnesota is between midnight and 4:00 am, their time. This morning, we bolted out of bed in plenty of time to begin the search during their suggested time frame based on the time difference. Nothing was available anywhere in Minnesota

Some sites stated that appointments aren’t booking out any further than April 7th, but even in that case, no appointments were available for any upcoming dates. It’s not looking good.

Encountering giraffes on our way to Jabula for dinner.

Our concerns about infecting our family and/or being quarantined for 10 days after we arrive, make this a very difficult scenario. We’d only planned to stay for 15 days. We are in a tough situation. Many of Tom’s family members, whom we’d see, the majority of which are in their 80s and 90s years. We cannot risk infecting them or even other family members.

Of course, our risks of getting the virus are exponentially higher after traveling for 37 hours, spending over 12 hours waiting in airports, and the remainder of the time spent in flight than one would spend during a one-leg flight. When we arrived in South Africa on January 13th, we’d spent 59 hours in transit.

Zebras prefer to drink from the pool as opposed to the birdbath.

We’d hoped to visit Tom’s sister, Sister Beth, who is a nun in a nursing home, in Milwaukee during our stay. Now, that is entirely off the table. Also, Tom’s eldest brother Jerome is in a nursing facility and the same requirements for visitors are in place. We’d be unable to visit either of these siblings, let alone the others who, as mentioned, are senior citizens as well.

Sure, we should have done more research before booking a return to the US. But, who knew we wouldn’t be able to get a Covid-19 vaccine and also have no choice but to pay these outrageous sums for frequent tests. A test here in South Africa is US $50, ZAR 735.

Tiny, searching along the perimeter of the garden for a possible stray pellet.

Of course, we are in a quandary, unsure, at this point of our next step. We will report back tomorrow, which, by then, definitively, we will have made a more comprehensive decision, safe for all of our family members and ourselves.

These are times of Covid-19. Everything we knew is different than in our old lives. We must proceed with caution and concern for others and for ourselves. As for the visa issue, we are less concerned in that area. The South Africa immigration department has extended all recent visas to June 30, 2021. But, that wouldn’t be an issue beneficial to us since our intent has been to get the vaccine in Minnesota and see family.

Please check back tomorrow!

Photo from one year ago today, April 1, 2020:

There was always a chicken on the beach in Kauai. For more year ago photos, please click here.