Life in the bush continues…It’s never dull…

Young kudu male scratching an itch.

As usual, we’re situated on the veranda. It’s surprisingly cool today, so cool a hoodie might be appropriate. It rained all night and is occasionally sprinkling now with very cloudy skies. We don’t mind a bit. Generally, this weather keeps the visitors away when they hunker down in the parklands undercover, often in large groups of their “own kind.”

So far this morning, the only visitors we’ve had were Frank and Friends and a single male bushbuck. Apparently, during the night, the thick-tailed bushbaby came by when one of the chairs at the big table was covered in bushbaby poop, as well as on the floor of the veranda. In bad weather, we don’t leave out any treats for her.

We were driving down Rissik St. In Komatipoort, a 20-minute drive from Marloth Park.

It doesn’t appear we’ll be able to take many photos today, although we still have many left from sunny and less-rainy days that we’ll continue to share until warm sunny days return. Based on the weather reports, it could be many days until this stormy period ends.

Last night, when Cyril Ramaphosa spoke during his weekly presidential talk regarding Covid-19, he lessened some restrictions taking South Africa from a Level 3 lockdown to Level 2. As a result of this change, the liquor ban has now been lifted, and liquor stores will be open in the next few days while restaurants will be able to serve alcohol to diners. We’ll be heading out to purchase our preferred beverages.

Farmers were offering their produce at an open market.

There are day and time restrictions that will remain in place regarding alcohol, such as liquor stores can only be open from Monday to Thursday, and restaurants will have to stop serving alcohol after 8:00 pm. That doesn’t necessarily make sense, but who’s to say what makes sense during times of Covid-19?

In addition, Cyril announced that millions of vaccine doses would arrive over the next several months. It appears we may be able to get the jab at some point within the next six to nine months. In the interim, we’ll continue to exercise caution when so few people are wearing masks, wearing masks properly as shown in the photo below, or making any effort to social distance.

There are numerous lower-cost markets in Komatipoort that many locals frequent. Note the typical mask-wearer with the mask below their nose.

With February here, it’s time for us to start thinking about where we’ll go when we leave South Africa for our visa stamps, allowing us another 90 days. At this point, we have to leave by April 9, 2021, a few days short of 90 days. We won’t be staying a full 90 days because the car rental places in Nelspruit at the airport are closed on the weekends.

Subsequently, we’ll have to arrange our comings and goings accordingly, never arriving at the NespruitMpumalanga/Kruger airport on the weekend. With our target departure date of April 9, we seriously need to start booking our departure plans. In reviewing options, only certain countries that will accept us arriving from South Africa, with its variant Covid-19 strains,

A young kudu male was wondering what was on the menu today.

Numerous countries have restrictions that won’t work for us. Thus, we’ve decided traveling to Tanzania non-stop from Johannesburg might be our best bet. All required is that we have a negative Covid-19 PCR test within 72 hours of our arrival. This is doable.

Handsome young face.

As for where in Tanzania we’ll go, what we’ll do, and where we’ll stay, we are looking into our options now. Tanzania has numerous options that appeal to us. Once we pin something down, we’ll certainly share it here.

Female kudu checking on what we’re doing that might impact her.

When Zef came to clean the house, we headed out to pick up bananas for the wildlife. At no cost, a local woman at a lovely home on the river has piles of bananas delivered from the banana farms and freely shares them with locals interested in feeding the wildlife. Tomorrow, we’ll report with photos of who stopped by to partake in our bananas.

A forkl of kudus, including a few young males and several females, one of whom may be his mother.

Happy day!

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

One of the two dining cars on the Maharajas Express Train, which we boarded one year ago today. For more, please click here.

Day #205 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Done…Done…Done…Consistency…

Tom, Anderson, and me, posing at the Kenya/Tanzania border marker, still smiling but not objecting when it was time to head back to the Masai Mara.

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2013 while on safari, staying at Camp Olonana in the Maasai Mara, Kenya. For more on this date, please click here.

Finally, we were able to stand at the marker that separates Kenya from Tanzania, which poses an excellent opportunity for all of us.

A popular expression frequently used by Indian people is “Done, done, done,” when asking them for assistance. They couldn’t be more eager to please. We appreciate them, their kindness, and their excellent service. Living in this hotel for so long with a frequent turnover of staff, leaving for a break for a few weeks to return to their homes to be with family, it’s no wonder consistency is not always possible.

I know I looked goofy with my Bugs Away hat, a scarf tied on my face. Honestly, I didn’t care. If I’d had a paper bag on hand, I’d have worn that. We did everything we could to keep the flies out of our noses, mouths, and ears.

Has anyone you know lived in a hotel for 205 days, unless, of course, they are a celebrity and make a hotel their permanent residency? We are no celebrities. And, if we were, we’d probably be in a much different situation. But, it’s only from the same services repeatedly, often due to the rotating staff, that inconsistencies become more prevalent and, subsequently, more evident after such an extended stay.

Unable to get as close as we’d like due to the rough terrain, we did our best to zoom in to get the following photos on the remaining wildebeests.

Tom says, “The only consistency is the inconsistency.” I’ve laughed each time he says this, always with the intent of dampening our momentary frustration.

They were increasing in numbers as we approached the border.

In many businesses throughout the world, consistency becomes a top priority. One can always count on the lettuce being in the same spot in the grocery store, the shoes in a specific area in a department store, the sunscreen on the same shelf in the pharmacy, and so on.

Although the sight of the two-plus million wildebeest would have been unbelievable, I began to wonder if doing so was as vital to me as it had been in the past. It may sound as if it’s a rationalization for not having been able to see it, but the flies were a huge deterrent for both of us. They were flying into our noses, mouths, and ears.  It wasn’t perfect.

In the restaurant business, if you formerly dined at, for example, the Cheesecake Factory for their strawberry cheesecake, you’d expect the same flavor, the same sized portion, the same taste, and at least for a time, the same price.

No more than a few minutes into the return drive, on our way back to Kenya, we spotted a mom and baby elephant, tails swishing batting off the flies. They, too, must feel the effects of the dung of millions of animals.

In our almost eight years of world travel, we’ve found a profound lack of consistency in dining when returning to the same establishments for a repeated menu item or, as in the case here in our lovely Mumbai hotel, ordering the same breakfast items and the same dinner items, day after day, which are often different in portion size, taste, and appearance almost every time they arrive by room service.

But if I don’t repeat this same order each day, after 205 days, something won’t be right. I’d love to say, “The usual, please.” My order changes from time to time as I fine-tune my diet to keep the carb count to a minimum. So, I realize I must be particular regarding my orders. It’s never the same two days in a row. Breakfast tends to be pretty consistent, although we often have to remind the restaurant when we call to make the bacon crispy instead of it swimming in grease when half done. Tom orders the same breakfast every day; cheese omelet, eight pieces of crispy bacon, and bananas every day and the same dinner every night.

After about an hour into the return drive, we saw the last of the wildebeest stragglers, facing a long walk home to the Serengeti in Tanzania. (80% of the Serengeti is in Tanzania, with the remaining 20% in Kenya).

It isn’t that they don’t want to please. They do more than anywhere we’ve been in the past. It boils down to the person taking the order, which varies from time to time, and the chefs preparing the food. Last night, only having ordered the same grilled boneless chicken legs, side orders of steamed broccoli, and spinach,  night after night, my dinner arrived with only half as much chicken as usual and twice as many vegetables. Go figure.

The giraffes walked along the hillside at our camp as we wearily strolled to the restaurant at Camp Olonana for late lunch, cold beverages, and time to regroup for the upcoming afternoon drive.

Tonight, when I order the same dinner again, but this time I’ll mention “More chicken please.” I won’t say, “Fewer vegetables, please.” If I do, I’ll get too tiny a portion of each of these two vegetables. Instead, I’ll eat whatever I get.

I’ve stopped requesting my vegetables to be sauteed with garlic. They know I don’t use any vegetable oils, and I’ve asked that they only use butter to prepare my food, but everything was always swimming in butter, maybe the equivalent of three or four tablespoons. Now, I order the butter on the side and use about one tablespoon between my two vegetables.

The Maasai gathered up their cows to return them to the village’s security, close to our camp, away from the risk of attack.

It’s the same thing when cleaning our room. The towel count became consistent after about two months, so we’re good there. I suggested they don’t change our sheets daily to every other three days, which is OK with us, but they continue to change the sheets daily. I’ve stopped asking.

The “Retired Generals” lined up to welcome us back to the Maasai Mara.

We don’t use their lotion and ask they don’t leave tubes of lotion. The counter space in the bathroom is limited. With no drawers or a medicine cabinet, we leave all of the toiletries we use on the countertop. This will never be resolved.

But, more importantly, we’ve requested with hotel management that all room cleaners have been staying overnight in the hotel for no less than three weeks. If they contracted the virus on their off days, they could easily infect us when spending 30 minutes in our tiny room each day.

And then, there were elephants lumbering across the road only feet from our vehicle.

Invariably, even with their masks on, I’ve learned to recognize their hairstyles (all men), and over and over again, I end up asking, “How long have you been staying in the hotel?” They say fifty percent of the time, considerably less than three weeks, many less than one week. We prevent those cleaners from entering our room, asking them to find someone who has been here for three weeks or longer. They always comply, eager to please.

Oddly, keeping tabs on all of this is practically a job in itself. After all these months in lockdown, we’re desperately trying to ensure we don’t become infected. Over and over again, it’s repeated on the local news that there are no available hospital beds or ICU beds available in any hospital in Mumbai. That certainly is a frightening thought.

As the landscape became less cluttered and the flies no longer nipped at us, we were happy to be returning to the Maasai Mara.

Today, listening on to a podcast with Minnesota’s well-known virologist, Dr. Michael Osterholm, he said Minnesota, North and South Dakota, and Wisconsin are only days away from running out of hospital beds, the main reason, along with the rising numbers of cases, we have no interest in returning to the US at this time.

Instead, we stay hunkered down in Mumbai, not in a state of angst, but a state of acceptance, that we could be here for many more months to come. If somehow, we could pin down “consistency,” it might become a little easier…or not.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, October 14, 2019:

Tom’s lunch at a restaurant in Chepstow, Wales. He’d undoubtedly enjoy this now! For more photos, please click here.

A step in the right direction…Domestic flights in India beginning on May 25…

Playful elephants on the Sabie River in Kruger National Park.

Note: To all of our readers visiting our site via a smartphone, please click the “View web version” tab under the word “Home” at the bottom of the page to access the web version enabling you to access all of our archives on the right side of the page. We’ll be updating our site in a few months, making these extra steps unnecessary. Thank you.

Today’s photos are from May 21, 2019, from Connemara, Ireland. Please click here for more details.

This morning’s news announced the reopening of some airports in India for domestic flights. This is a step in the direction for the same for international flights sometime down the road.

We love the reflection of clouds in the water as we drive through the countryside.

However, it’s impossible to predict when this may occur based on the original transmission of Covid-19 traced to passengers entering the country from other countries.

The US has allowed some domestic flights from the onset of the lockdown, but here again, it could be many months before international flights will begin. As for South Africa, our preferred next destination, there is no indication of its borders opening anytime soon.

As for Madagascar, it appears they may reopen their borders in the next 60 days. Tanzania will be opening its borders for international travelers within a week. This leaves us with a good option for staying in one of these countries, enjoying its vast array of wildlife while we await the reopening of borders in South Africa.

Yellow irises were growing wild in the countryside.  Please click here for information on the wild yellow irises in Ireland that often grow along the road. 

Madagascar and Tanzania allow a 90-day visa on arrival. Suppose South Africa’s borders aren’t open after 90-days or 180-days in these two countries (and others). In that case, we can visit other islands near Africa’s eastern border or other countries within Africa such as Namibia, Botswana, and Uganda, depending upon the degree of outbreaks in those countries.

In the interim, liquor shops have reopened in some areas in India for “home delivery” only. No pubs will be open, nor will bars available in hotels. Since we’ve gone so long without a drink, at this point, we won’t bother. 

Besides, having beer and wine delivered to the hotel in lockdown with a guard at a distant gate would be cumbersome. We’ve decided we’ll wait until we get to our following location, which could be many months from now. 

A little sheep family was resting near the road.

It’s interesting to read the comments our readers have sent. As we’ve mentioned in past posts, the most common word we receive is, “Why don’t you seek repatriation to the US and get out of this odd situation?”
We appreciate your comments and suggestions.

Another question we received yesterday was, “Can you fly to another city in India” while you wait?”

There would be no point in us considering either of these scenarios. No city in India would offer a safer, more comfortable environment than where we are staying now in this quality hotel. It would make no sense to fly any more than necessary to leave India when it’s allowed ultimately.

We anticipate the flight out of here with a certain sense of dread, as grateful as we’ll be to be on the move. The required five or six-hour early arrival at the airport, wearing a mask and gloves for such an extended period, the medical checks, the luggage fees, and of course, the long and laborious flight.

As we approached the town of Clifden, we noticed several apartments and townhouses on the inlet.  Clifden, our area to shop, only has a population of 1,597. “Clifden is a coastal town in County Galway, Ireland, in the region of Connemara, located on the Owenglin River where it flows into Clifden Bay. As the largest town in the region, it is often referred to as “the Capital of Connemara.” Frequented by tourists, Clifden is linked to Galway city by the N59.”

But, there doesn’t appear there will be any other options. We’ve got into the possibility of an upcoming cruise on a small ship sailing out of Mumbai at some point, but only if it brings us closer to a destination we prefer. This is highly unlikely.

It’s not as if we are overly picky about where we choose to go from here. The country has to have open borders, adequate incoming international flights, and not be a hotbed of Covid-19 at the time. 

We accept the reality that we may be required to be quarantined for 14-days (or more) once we arrive in any country significantly since India’s number of cases is rising rapidly and…we are US citizens, the biggest hotbed in the world.

Ah, by no means is this situation manageable, nor will it be when we have some serious decisions to make. But, the one thing we know for sure, it would have made no sense for us to return to the US when flights were offered for stranded citizens.

This precious photo was my favorite of the day.

Where would we have gone? We have no home. Many holiday homeowners are refusing to rent their properties during the times of Covid-19. Hotels and meals are twice as expensive as we’re paying here or will pay in other parts of the world.

I’m high risk. We have no insurance in the US except Part A Medicare, which isn’t nearly enough to cover costs if either of us were to become infected. Our international insurance covers everything with only a $250 deductible.

The reasons are apparent. But, we thank everyone who has taken the time to write and offer suggestions and will continue to respond to your requests.

Yesterday, we crossed this single-lane bridge on the way to Clifden. We can take a few different routes from here to Clifden and will change it up each week.

The weeks seem to fly by quickly, especially from weekend to weekend. Often, when we comment on what day of the week it is, we’re both surprised it’s Friday or Saturday once again.

Regardless of all of this, we continue to have hope for the world, India, our own country, fur readers/family/friends, and for ourselves that eventually this too shall pass and a new world will begin to emerge.

Stay safe. Stay hopeful.

Photo from one year ago today, May 21, 2019:

Donkeys are highly regarded in Ireland to the point there are special programs available to adopt and a specialized Donkey Sanctuary in Cork, Ireland. For more photos, please click here.

Romantic Lion Couple Mating Ritual…MAY NOT BE SUITABLE FOR YOUNG CHILDREN…

It was a perfect morning. The Romantic Lion Couple appeared casual and at ease under the shade of this tree. But, the air was filled with passionate tension.
Billows of fluffy clouds scattered the ocean blue sky. The air was fresh and cool washing a chill over us as we wriggled our butts in the vehicle into in our usual blanket-covered seats with cushy down pillows for back support. 
Dozing off and on, they both were oblivious to us such a short distance away.
Bundled in our parkas, hats on our heads, we were all raring to go. The bush breakfast behind us, our bellies full, “the tire pressure was checked” and a slight buzz of caffeine permeated our eager brains, anxious for another treasure in the bush. 
The female, occasionally opened an eye, checking out his next move.
It didn’t take Anderson long to fulfill our hopes of more wonders, as he suddenly stopped the Land Cruiser with a slight jolt, quickly grabbing his powerful binoculars. Quiet and intense, he searched the horizon, seconds later saying, “We’re on the move!” 
 Although he appeared relaxed, he was well aware of the task at hand, politely awaiting the perfect opportunity.
Minutes later parked 25 feet from this tree, we practically held our breath to remain quiet, keeping our hands and cameras inside the Land Cruiser, willing to wait however long it took for the events to unfold. 
“She likes me.  She really likes me!”  He looked at us as if seeking approval to move along.
There were two or three other safari vehicles for Anderson to maneuver around to get as close as possible. His ability to graciously position us to the best vantage point always pleased us. Once again, we expressed our gratitude to him, this time in whispered tones.
“I think it’s time to get this show on the road!”
Determined to eventually continue on to Tanzania (me, the most excited about that prospect), seeing these two lions gave me a sense that if we would choose to watch this all day, I’d willingly forego Tanzania. 
To be witness to the beauty of procreation in the wild with the majestic lions was not to be missed. Nothing could drag us away.
 Actively engaged in mating before our eyes.
One might assume that to observe this fact of life in the flesh was based on our own voyeurism. Not the case. We watched this event with the same enthusiasm and interest we’d felt watching the hunt, the lion in the tree, the lion family living in the culvert, the elusive rhinos, and more.
I must admit, we all made a few rather hilarious comments in whispered tones as the activities unfolded, none of which will be shared here. We are human after all. David was videotaping while Tom particularly launched a few hilarious zingers which now were on David’s video to later be removed (or not). 
Afterward, he moved back to the tree in his usual spot, perhaps contemplating his next move.

We all had to cover our mouths with our hands to muffle our laughter. Anderson laughed along with us, although most assuredly, he’d heard such comments in the past.

Settling in for what could prove to be a long wait, once again we all became quiet and entranced in the beauty of nature, our environment, the gift of the opportunity to see such life, and death, around us over these few days. 
 He went back for another round while she quietly cooperated.  Anderson explained this process could go on for hours. We’d anticipated he might bite her, growl, or be aggressive in some manner. But, he quietly and gently pursued her, an exquisite sight to behold. We decided to move along to leave to Romantic Lion couple with privacy and for us to continue with our plans to drive to the border of Kenya and Tanzania.
We were pleasantly surprised when The Romantic Lion Couple wasted no time in giving us exactly what we’d hoped to see, as evidenced in these photos, Mother Nature at her finest, creating life.  
Their tree on the left, we drove away, with those same smiles on our faces knowing that for some magical reason, we had a safari that couldn’t have been more perfect, more fulfilling, more life-changing than the 21 1/2 hours we spent with Anderson in that sturdy Land Cruiser, bouncing too high heaven, feeling lucky, so lucky!
After 40 minutes, we were all ready to move on. Tanzania here we come, flies and all (story and photos shown in yesterday’s post on October 14, 2013).
And we’re still not done…