Flight problems…Crocodile River photos…

This photo was taken from the veranda at Buckler’s Africa Restaurant with several waterbucks in the Crocodile River.

When we booked our flights to the USA a few months ago using a company called, Fareboom, we had nothing but trouble. The various flights along the way were canceled, and we ended up in a scuffle with Fareboom to get our money back. Finally, after a week of back and forth and several pricey phone calls with hours of frustration while on hold for hours, we got it resolved.

Waterbucks, like many other wildlife, huddle close to one another.

This time, a few weeks ago, we found good pricing at the site, eDreams, and alas, we experienced similar frustration. We booked the three flights to Phoenix: Nelspruit to Johannesburg; Johannesburg to Atlanta; Atlanta to Phoenix and all seemed to be fine. We receive a confirmation from eDreams and attempted to book our seats.

Waterbucks lounging in the sand at sunset.

When seats weren’t offered as “available at this time,” we didn’t give it much of a thought. We kept checking back. There have been occasions when we’ve traveled internationally that we haven’t been able to book our seats in advance and had to wait until we arrived at the check-in counter.

After over a week passed, we became concerned when we noticed our credit card hadn’t been charged. When checking during this period, we noticed their site showed, Your flight is processing.” Last night, at bedtime, I received an email from eDreams stating our flight had been canceled.

More waterbucks on the banks of the river.

Tired and ready to go to sleep, we both decided to wait until morning to rebook using the link on our site for Expedia, a company we’ve trusted and used on many occasions. The only difficulty we’ve had with Expedia was getting a refund from them for a canceled flight (by the airline, not by us) requiring we went to the airline directly to get the refund. During the worst of Covid, everything to do with travel was a mess (and sometimes, still is).

This morning, we rebooked the same flight at the same price and all went well. We’ve booked our seats for two of the legs of the flights but we’re never able to book seats in advance for South Africa AirLink which we’ll fly from Nelspruit to Joburg, a very short flight. These are only obtained at the check-in counter at the time of the flight.

Locals say, “The waterbuck’s behind looks like they just sat on a freshly painted white toilet seat.” Note the two cattle egrets who often hang out with wildlife.

Right now, when verifying our flights with Delta, it appears, the “ticket is processing. We’ll have to keep an eye on this to ensure our flights are booked. Weird, to say the least.

This morning, Tom went to the salon to see about getting in for a haircut, but they were booked and he’ll return tomorrow morning for his appointment. Tonight, we are heading to Flo and JiJi’s home in Komatipoort for sundowners, which will surely be another fun social evening. Soon, I’ll make an appetizer to bring.

The four of us thoroughly enjoyed the scene before our eyes.

Once again, this morning, the garden was packed with bushbucks looking for “breakfast.” Tom was busy serving them while I showered and dressed for the day. The weather is mild today. Yesterday, was 90F, 32C, but the high today will only be 72F, 22C, for a pleasant balmy day. It’s slightly overcast, with a 0% chance of precipitation, a perfect spring day in the bush.

A gregarious animal, the waterbuck may form herds consisting of six to 30 individuals. The various groups are the nursery herds, bachelor herds, and territorial males.

It’s hard to believe it’s September 1st already. How the time has flown since we arrived last January. By the time we leave in October, we’ll have been here for a total of nine months. Without a doubt, we’ll return at some point. For now, we watch and wait to see what happens with our five booked cruises, scheduled over the next almost 11 months. Once we know more about these cruises, we’ll be able to plan for the future.

Have a pleasant “hump day,” everyone, and be healthy.

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

This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in Mumbai, India on day #162. This is the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. For more photos, please click here.

The Minnesota visit continues…Photos from our journey…

Roomy seats in Business Class that entirely lay down. I have no idea what he was looking at.

We expected to be busier here than we’ve been, but with Covid-19 and most of our friends worried about being around us with us coming from South Africa, we haven’t had our calendar as complete as in past visits. We certainly understand their hesitancy. After all, as of today, it’s only been seven days since we were vaccinated. We have another seven days to go to ensure the two-week period for maximum safety after vaccination.

It was such a relief to be in Business Class, away from other passengers other than one another. My clothes were all bunched up while I was wearing several layers. We wore two masks on the plane.

We’re a little surprised by how careless people are here. Few, if any, wear face masks, and social distancing is not happening out and about, in stores or public locations. We have no idea if people are washing or sanitizing their hands, but we don’t see anyone using the provided sanitation stations available at the entrance to most shops.

But, when checking stats, we can certainly understand why Minnesotans aren’t interested or motivated in following Covid protocols.

Roomier Business Class area on the huge plane.

Stats for Minnesota, which is in the 19th position on Worldometer. Click here for details:

(Total cases, new cases, total deaths. There were no new cases or deaths as yesterday).

And yet, when we look at South Africa, which is in the 18th position worldwide, up from 20th a month ago.

With 21,427 new cases as of yesterday, of course, President Cyril Ramaphosa has ordered a recent ramped-up lockdown, including an alcohol ban. (Total cases, new cases, total deaths. 411 new deaths).

Tom was preparing to put on his compression socks for our upcoming 20 hours of flying time on the two longest legs of our journey to the USA. I had put mine on earlier in the day.

Thank goodness, when we’ll return to South Africa in 18 days, fully vaccinated but will remain cautious. The vaccine is no guarantee of total safety from the virus. However, we’ve read that 30 days after the jab, the protection from the vaccine increases exponentially. That’s a relief.

Besides, most of our local South African friends will not have been vaccinated by the time we return. Of course, we’re concerned for their safety when there are now over 35 active cases in Marloth Park, based on what we’ve heard so far, which may or may not be accurate.

We’ve been able to get the bulk of our shopping done while in the USA. Tom has some new clothes and shoes. I have ordered a few clothing items but still need a few pairs of jeans which, most likely, I’ll order online and have shipped to our mailing service in Nevada.

Tom’s takeaway (room service) meal at the hotel in Johannesburg when a new lockdown required all restaurants to be closed. (Reminiscent of our time in India, huh?)

Yesterday, I ordered a new camera, a newer model of the camera we had. My familiarity with that model made the most sense, especially since it has a few new features I’ll enjoy using. Also, from Amazon, I ordered two more pairs of shoes that I knew will fit without issue. More on that later.

We visited a DSW shoe warehouse while out and about, but I didn’t see anything that fit my criteria of being ultra-comfortable and washable. After all, shoes get very dirty in South Africa. At US Amazon, I had no trouble finding what I liked in my size.

This afternoon, we’re heading to Tom’s sister Mary’s house in Andover for a family barbecue. We stopped at Cub Foods and picked up a salad for me, brats for the grill with buns for Tom. This weekly barbecue was an event we attended when we were here in 2017 during the summer months. We hope to see even more members of his family.

My room service meal in Johannesburg. I gave Tom my rice but ate the chicken and veg.

If time allows for Greg, Camille, and family, we’ll visit them tomorrow morning and then head to Tom’s family’s weekly happy hour and dinner get-together at Billy’s Bar in Anoka.

Well, dear readers, that’s the only update I have for today. Please know that we’re very aware of our lack of photos. Some readers have asked for photos of family members. But, please keep in mind, not everyone wants their image posted online for “the world” to see. We get this and must respect their privacy.

Have a pleasant day! Stay safe wherever you may be.

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

These common Yellow Allamanda were growing like crazy in the garden of our holiday home in Fairlight, Australia, in 2017. For more photos, please click here.

Day #3…We’re on the move…A tolerable “red eye”…In Frankfurt now…

Elephants we recently spotted in Kruger National Park.

It’s 8:00 am Frankfurt time, at the same time zone as South Africa. Our Lufthansa flight landed at 5:45 am. Our next flight to Chicago takes off at 10:45 am. We’re inching our way to Minnesota with only two more flights to go, with two behind us since we left Marloth Park on Tuesday morning. In 16 hours, we’ll land in Minneapolis/St. Paul and be making our way to the vaccination center at the airport. Whew! What a daunting travel experience.

The letter “n” on my keyboard isn’t working again. I have to pound very hard to use it. Also, spell check doesn’t seem to catch everything I type. So please be aware that a few “n’s” may be missing in today’s post. Once we get settled in Minnesota, I’ll get back to work on this. Otherwise, I may have to purchase a new device while in the US.

The flight from Joburg to Frankfurt wasn’t too bad. We were able to purchase an upgrade to Business Class at the check-in counter for both of us for ZAR 16400, US $1152, which was well worth the added expense. We had the two seats in the center section with tons of leg and elbow room. The seats lay down to a comfortable bed with a fluffy sanitized pillow and an amply sized blanket.

My Fitbit says I only slept 1 hour and 53 minutes, but I know I slept another hour before midnight. Tom did about the same. A passenger passed away on the flight. The back and forth down the aisle by staff kept us light sleepers awake, along with the frequent interruptions by staff over the intercom, requesting assistance from a medical professional. We don’t believe anyone responded. The plane was only about 50% full, and thus less likely a doctor or nurse was on board. How sad.

The flight attendant didn’t wait to leave South Africa to offer alcoholic beverages, considering the current alcohol ban as of a few days ago. So in no time at all, I was served a nice glass of Australian red wine, and Tom had a cocktail. We settled in to watch a movie while we perused the printed menu for the three-course dinner options.

The food was good, fresh, and hot. Tom got to eat more bread, and I stayed true to my low-carb way of eating. There were several suitable options for me. Unfortunately, since Lufthansa is a German airline, there was a shortage of movies to watch that we either hadn’t seen or were in English.

By the time we dined and each watched a second, we both tried to drift off, although doing so, as mentioned above, wasn’t accessible amid all the commotion. A good night’s sleep in Minnesota will do us both good. The flight on the huge 747-8 two-story new plane was seamless. We never felt any turbulence, and take-off and landing were smooth. We’d definitely fly Business Class on this airline again in the future.

With little sleep, I don’t have a lot of steam to keep writing. So the next time you see us here will be tomorrow from our hotel in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. On Friday, we have a busy day meeting son Greg and family for lunch and Tom’s siblings for happy hour and dinner.

Thanks, dear readers, for following along with us! We appreciate every one of YOU!

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

While in Trinity Beach, Australia, we stopped at a fish shop by the beach. We’d never seen scallops in the shell. We can imagine a plate of six of these covered in an almond flour and Parmesan-crusted buttery topping. Tom likes scallops so this will be a no brainer. For more photos, please click here.

Day #2…We’re on the move…South Africa visas extended, again for foreign nationals…Vaccines provided in Marloth Park…

    A young male kudu sheltered in the shade to cool off in the heat.

So it goes. As of last night, a notice was online from South Africa immigration that visas for foreign nationals were extended once again, this time until September 30, 2021. Then on Facebook, we saw photos of seniors over 60 years of age getting their Covid-19 vaccines in Marloth Park. Oh well, this information became known to us once we had arrived in Johannesburg and we were situated in our hotel room.

In any case, we’re excited to see the family after a year and a half, and the trip indeed will be worthwhile and gratifying. We will return with a visa stamp taking us to October 26, 2021, and we’ll figure things out from there. Returning to South Africa fully vaccinated will also give us peace of mind, although we’ll continue to observe lockdown requirements and safety protocols.

If it weren’t for the long and challenging travel time, leaving and returning requiring almost two days, visiting the US would undoubtedly occur more frequently. But, it always seems as if we are very far away at any given time since we’re inclined to be interested in more remote locations, rather than a more leisurely trip to Europe, for example.

We’re often asked why we don’t spend more time in Europe. The answer for us is clear. We’ve already visited hundreds of historic buildings, including churches, museums, galleries, and such. We feel more inclined toward our preferences surrounding nature and wildlife and more unusual locations for the remainder of our years of world travel, less frequented by typical travelers.

Of course, with the pandemic in our midst, who’s to say where we’ll be able to travel in the future? For all of us passionate travelers, the options are limited at present and may continue to be so over the next several years, for all we know. Here again, only time will tell.

As for our drive to Nelspruit, the car rental drop-off, and the flight to Johannesburg, all was smooth and went as planned.  Airlink out of Nelspruit is a great airline, and we’ve always been happy with their flights and good service. But, unfortunately, since we’d booked the return flight at the end of July as one contiguous journey, Las Vegas (LAS) to Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger (MQP), we weren’t able to use the individual return flight from Joburg to Nelspruit.

We stopped at the Airlink counter yesterday, and they gave us a two-year credit for the return flight. That was great, even unexpected. Airlines are realizing that being more adaptable during Covid-19 will go a long way toward customer retention in the future.

Once we arrived at the hotel, Garden Court, it took a good 35 minutes to get checked in and a room key in Joburg. Several suitable Covid protocols were in place, but they never asked to see our negative PCR test results. We wondered what they’d do about food when all restaurants in South Africa are closed.

As it turned out, they have some arrangements for takeaway from a local restaurant, and our meals were delivered at 6:00 pm, 1800 hrs. We hadn’t eaten anything all day. Airlink had given us each a “boxed lunch” when we de-planed since no food service was allowed during the flight. We didn’t look at it until we checked into the hotel room.

There was a bag of salt/vinegar potato chips, candy, and two juice boxes. I don’t eat any of those items, and Tom snacked on both boxes throughout the evening. Dinner was mediocre, but what did we expect? I had two chicken legs and left the rice and veg. Tom had a steak (no steak knife), rice, and veg. He ate my rice along with his.

Our 9:30 am breakfast order lost. So we had to re-order again at 10:00 am. I ordered poached eggs, bacon, and sausage. Tom ordered fried eggs, plus cold cereal, muffins, toast, and hash browns. Hahaha! That’s my guy!

We requested a late checkout and arranged with the shuttle driver to take us back to the airport at 3:45 pm, 1545 hrs. So our flight isn’t until 7:00 pm, 1900 hrs, allowing us three hours before departure as required. The first flight to Frankfurt is 10 hours 35 minutes, followed by a five-hour layover in Frankfurt. Then, we’re off to Chicago on another 9 hours 15-minute flight.

Once we arrive in Chicago, we’ll have another layover of a few hours. Whew! It will be a long journey. But, this isn’t the first time we’ve had a long trip, nor will it be the last.

We’ll be back in touch during our layover in Frankfort.

Have a pleasant day and evening.

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

We walked past a grove of palm trees and evergreens in Trinity Beach, Australia, as we made our way to the beach. For more photos, please click here.

Load shedding shortly…Trying to hurry and get post uploaded…Rental car challenge…

This wildebeest came up onto the veranda to let us know he was looking for some pellets.

Who’s in the garden this morning?

  • 12 warthogs – inc. Little, Lonely Boy, Lonely Girl, Fred and Ethel, and others
  • 8 bushbucks – inc. Thick Neck, Bad Leg, Spikey, and others
  • 11 kudus – inc. Bossy, Baby Daddy, Medium Daddy, two youngsters, and others
  • 5 wildebeest – inc Crooked Face, Hal, and others
  • 32 helmeted guinea-fowl
  • 2 Frank and The Misses

Tom was chasing Little this morning, spraying him with water from an orange spray bottle to keep him away from Frank and The Misses’ birdseed in the little container on the veranda. He comes right up onto the veranda and eats from the container making an awful mess. Besides, he’s well-fed by us; pellets, carrots, and apples.

T75

I can’t help but laugh when this happens, although I say, “Little, don’t eat the seeds each time.” Pigs are smart and can quickly learn commands, not unlike a dog. Pigs are listed as smarter than dogs, as the 6th most intelligent land animals on the planet.

I suppose it’s one of the reasons I like warthogs so much. They make eye contact and respond to being spoken to, tilting their heads, stomping their feet, and moving about in animated ways, easily indicating they are paying attention. Of course, we laugh at every instance! I know it’s hard to believe but, if my favorite warthogs are anywhere in the area, they come when responding to my voice.

T75

Now, of course, we’re wondering what happens when we are gone for almost a month, leaving Marloth Park in a mere 18 days on June 29th. Even the wildebeests who frequently visit have begun responding to my voice. Surely, all of these animals will return not long after we do, at the end of July.

Now that my cough is finally improving, I feel more at ease about traveling to the US and, a day or two later, getting a Covid vaccine. It appears we’ll be able to make an appointment for the jab before we even leave Marloth Park, which will give us peace of mind.

Included in today’s photos are a few shots of the porcupine from last night’s trail cam that we were thrilled to see once again. Unfortunately, there was only one, not two, as the previous time, but the one is fine for us. Any chance we have for photos of the more unusual visitors is always extraordinary.

They didn’t take their eyes off us until we offered them the pellets.

We’ve been trying to get Thrifty Car Rental located in Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger Airport to return the rental car on the day we leave rather than today on June 11th. This is because Tom had driven back to Nelspruit a month ago for the mandatory car inspection, and we didn’t want him to have to make that half-day round trip once again.

Speaking to the manager of Thrifty a few weeks ago, we got him to agree to us sending him dated photos and a video of the car to avoid the long trip. He hesitantly agreed. First thing this morning, we headed outdoors with the camera in hand to take the photos.

But, it’s not as easy as you’d think. Taking photos on a camera and then loading them on Google Drive to attach and send via WhatsApp wasn’t as easy as you’d think. The images didn’t roll over to Google Drive as quickly as we needed, and I spent no less than 90 minutes figuring out a workaround. Load shedding was around the corner.

Tom stayed busy for quite a while tossing pellets to these five wildebeests.

Finally, I called the manager and asked if we could email the photos, make a video of the car, and send him the link. He agreed. Finally, we got it all done and sent everything to him only 30 minutes before load shedding started when WiFi would also be out.

We anticipated we wouldn’t hear back from him that he approved the photos and video until the power came back a few hours later. But, much to our relief, he sent a message stating he approved the photos and video and we could keep the car until June 29th. Of course, we’d already paid through June 30th, but Thrifty required the vehicle be returned for an inspection every 30 days, something we’d never experienced in the past.

Tom didn’t have to drive to Nelspruit today, and we could relax about the car, one less thing on our minds with so little time remaining until we leave South Africa. Whew! What a relief!

They scattered throughout the garden to get every last pellet.

The load shedding period ended by 1:08 pm, 1308 hrs., 22 minutes earlier than expected. Finally, I was able to get back to work finishing today’s post and getting it uploaded by 2:30 pm, 1430 hrs, another relief!

Today, we’re staying in, cooking on the braai, and enjoying a quiet evening with the animals, for as long as we can stay outdoors in the chilly air.

We changed our usual reservation for Jabula Lodge and Restaurant on Friday evenings with Rita and Gerhard to tomorrow, since today they were busy with the new vehicle they purchased and dropping off their rental car in Nelspruit. So instead, we’ll all meet at Jabula on Saturday for another enjoyable evening.

Be well.

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

The contrast between old and new is breathtaking in Istanbul. For more photos, please click here.

The booking process has changed over the years…The itinerary for our US visit in 3 weeks…

Who’s in the garden this morning?

  • 13 warthogs – inc. Little, Tiny, Lonely Girl, Fred and Ethel, The Imposter, Peter, Paul and Mary, and others
  • 6 bushbucks – inc. Thick Neck, Bad Leg, Spikey, and others
  • 10 kudus – inc. Little Daddy, Bossy, Baby Daddy, Medium Daddy
  • 2 wildebeest – inc Broken Horn, Old Face,
  • 2 Frank and The Misses

Note: Included above is our video mentioned in yesterday’s post. As it turned out, only a few minutes after making this video, two more bushbucks appeared for a total of 10. What a fantastic start to a chilly morning in the bush!

On our way to the river, we encountered a dazzle of zebras.

At the beginning of our world travels in 2012, when we first started booking holiday homes, flights, and rental cars, the process was very different than it is now. At times, it was slow and cumbersome with inconsistent methods, including sketchy confirmations when we were done booking.

It’s a whole new world now. Websites are working more efficiently, and the booking process is easier than ever in the past. That’s not to say we don’t encounter problems. We do. But they are minimal and often quickly resolved,

Great message on this sign on the fence at Two Trees Crocodile River viewing location.

Over the past three days, we’ve been busy planning and booking the following for our trip to the US, leaving in a mere three weeks from today.

  • June 29, 2021 – Flight from Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger to Johannesburg, South Africa
  • June 29, 2021 – Hotel in Johannesburg (awaiting next day’s flight)
  • June 30, 2021 – Flight from Johannesburg to Minneapolis, Minnesota, US
  • July 1, 2021 – Rental car upon arrival in Minnesota
  • July 1, 2021 – Hotel in Eden Prairie, Minnesota
  • July 16, 2021 –  Drive to Milwaukee, Wisconsin – Hotel yet to be booked
  • July 18, 2021 – Return Drive from Milwaukee to Minneapolis, Minnesota, for an upcoming flight
  • July 18, 2021 – Flight to Las Vegas, McCarran Airport
  • July 18, 2021 – Hotel at Green Valley Ranch, Henderson, Nevada
  • July 24, 2021 – Flight from Las Vegas to Johannesburg, South Africa
  • July 26, 2021 – Flight from Johannesburg to Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger
  • July 26, 2021 – Return Drive to Marloth Park, arriving late afternoon

    More elephant photos from our visit to the Crocodile River.

As mentioned above, we’ve found that booking all of these flights, cars and venues are considerably easier than they were in the past. In some cases, the payment process may require a few steps to verify the use of a credit card which we don’t mind. Our credit card numbers have been stolen on several occasions, requiring that we find a way to receive a new card, which is tricky in some locations.

For most of our travels, we’ve used either of two credit cards, one of Tom’s and one of mine, that both accumulate tons of points for travel, which we often use to pay down a new balance, rather than specify it for a particular event. So for us, it’s the best way to take advantage of accrued points.

The majestic elephant never disappoints.

After our extended stay in the hotel in India, using Hotels.com on our site, we accumulated many credits we’re using for the hotels in the US. Every ten nights that we stayed in that hotel which we booked through Hotels.com, we earned one free night, which is limited to the average dollar amount spent for previous hotel rooms. Based on the fact that the hotel in Mumbai averaged around US $100, ZAR 1359 per night, our credits are limited based on the high cost of hotels in the US.

After totaling all of our expenses, including still paying rent for this house in Marloth Park, we’ll easily spend US $10,000, ZAR 135942, for the 28 days, averaging US $357, ZAR 4853, per day. Of course, we will be keeping track of all of our expenses and include them here at the end of our stay.

No doubt, birds are used to being fed while humans watch the action on the river.

Meals will be a considerable expense during the trip. Fortunately, our hotel in Minnesota has a kitchen. That’s not to say I will be cooking all of our meals. Breakfast is included in the hotel. But, I can easily see us heading to Costco to purchase a few dinners from time to time.

In Las Vegas/Henderson, we’ll be staying at the fabulous Green Valley Ranch Hotel, Spa, and Casino, where breakfast is not included. With numerous restaurants within walking distance, we will indeed have trouble finding a good spot for breakfast. Most likely, we’ll be dining out most nights with Richard and friends. It will all work out.

More entertaining us in hopes of being fed. Next time, we’ll bring birdseed.

As for today, we’re staying put. There is an endless stream of wildlife to entertain us. We’re making a big pot of slow-cooked short ribs for dinner. And, after the past few days, busy booking for the trip, I need to spend some serious time getting caught up doing post corrections. Unfortunately, I doubt I will have time to be doing edits while we’re in the US, so I’d like to double up for the next three weeks until we depart.

We hope you have a fantastic day!

P.S. I have been inside trying to stay warm for the past hour, in the bedroom, with the door closed. I opened the bedroom door to check out the action in the garden, to find Frank wandering around inside the house. LMAO!!! Frank, what a guy!

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

While on a walk in the neighborhood in Sumbersari, Bali, in 2016, we spotted this friendly neighbor (she spoke no English) making bowls as shown that are used for offerings at the Hindu temples. For more photos, please click here.

Rainy Sunday morning…Will our plans for the river be dashed?…A decision is made…

Wildebeests in the driveway near the rental car.

Who’s in the garden this morning?

  • 9 warthogs – inc. Little, Lonely Girl, and others
  • 12 bushbucks – inc. Thick Neck, Bad Leg,
  • 6 helmeted guinea-fowl
  • 1 kudu- inc. Medium Daddy
  • 3 hornbills – banging on the kitchen window for hours
  • 2 Frank and The Misses

With plans for river sightings with Rita and Gerhard today at 3:00 pm, a rainy morning may indicate that we won’t be heading out today. Anxious for new photos to share here, after a steady stream of regulars in the garden, day after day (which we love but our readers may not), we have been looking forward to seeing our friends again with an opportunity to take big game photos.

The wildlife tends to hunker down on rainy and windy days, so if we go, regardless of the weather, we may not see much action on the river today. However, right now and last night, we could hear lions Fluffy and Desi roaring in Lionspruit, which abuts the end of our back garden. We’ve listened to that roar over and over again, and it always makes us smile. What an exquisite sound!

Hornbills next to the veranda enjoying Frank’s seeds.

It’s not only the photos and videos we take that make this experience so delightful. The sounds, day and night, are thrilling and at the same time heartwarming; whether it’s birds or animals, it all sends a chill down our spines. So many of these sounds may be heard when viewing any of our videos, over and above my endless chatter describing the current scene in view.

Of course, our big concern is that our readers will become bored with photos of warthogs, bushbucks, and kudus and lose interest in our site. So we always strive to “shake it up,” but with the limitations for travel due to Covid-19, we’re fast running out of new and exciting photos.

Then again, I have been under the weather for almost three weeks, continuing to cough, and haven’t felt like doing much of anything other than sitting on the veranda watching our furry friends stop by for a warm “hello” and, of course, pellets, carrots, apples, and cabbage.

A dark-capped bulbul. Sorry for the blurry photo. They don’t stay still for a good shot.

Well, folks, maybe it will get more interesting coming up here in 23 days when we are finally leaving South Africa for about a little over three weeks to return to the US for several reasons; 1. to see our family members in Minnesota, Nevada ad Wisconsin; 2. to get the Covid-19 J & J  vaccine, which is readily available at many locations in the Twin Cities; and 3. to get that darned visa stamp we so much need, when our visas expire on June 30th.

It doesn’t seem realistic that SA President Cyril Ramaphosa will be extending visas for foreign nationals again in the next 24 days. He extended visas last time at the beginning of a month to June 30th, not at the end, as we need at this point. So it’s doubtful the dates will coincide with our needs.

Thus, yesterday afternoon, we began booking rental cars and hotels for our already-in-place flight from Johannesburg to Minneapolis on June 30th with Lufthansa Airlines. So all we have left to book is:

  1. A round trip flight from Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger to Joburg
  2. A one-way flight from Minneapolis to Las Vegas to visit to son Richard
  3. A return flight from Las Vegas to Joburg

    Warthogs and mongoose get along well, paying little attention to one another.

We have yet to book the Las Vegas/Henderson hotel, which we’ll do today, planning on staying at the Green Valley Ranch Spa and Casino in Henderson, which is close to Richard‘s home. Unfortunately, we will be in Las Vegas during the hottest month of the year, so we won’t spend much time outdoors if we can help it.

As for visiting Tom’s dear sister, Sister Beth, a nun in a nursing home in Milwaukee, we will drive from Minneapolis, returning a few days later to fly to Las Vegas from there. We’ll see Sister Beth, and then Tom wants to visit a few cemeteries for his Ancestry stuff.

It will be a busy time, and we hope to take many photos along the way. But, of course, we’ll continue to post each day, even during the long travel days while on long layovers.

At this point, regardless of the visa scenario changing again for foreign nationals in South Africa, we’re committed to leaving Marloth Park on June 29th to begin the long journey to the US. We hope to get our J & J vaccine on July 2, which we plan to book before leaving here.

We’ll be back with more tomorrow, including what we’ll be doing with our vacation home during our absence. Also, the rain stopped, and the sun came out. It looks like we’ll be able to go to the river today, after all!

Have a fantastic Sunday!

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

While in Campanaria, Madeira, Portugal, we heard the music coming from the fish guy’s truck and raced up the hill to meet him. He held up a tuna for us to inspect. It was smaller than some of the others but this size was perfect. It weighed 7.7 kg, 17 pounds, and the cost was INR 2569, US $34. He cut them into portion-sized pieces, wrapping each piece individually. For more photos, please click here.

We didn’t come all this way to leave and not get back in..

Check out Torn Ear’s horns covered in mud. He may have been showing off his digging skills for the females during the rutting season.

Flight schedules are changing rapidly. We watch for information daily noting any changes. A friend in the US, planning on coming to South Africa in a few weeks, found his flight was canceled. Will he be able to rebook another flight? It’s hard to say if these types of scenarios will impact us going forward..

But, we stay well informed of the issues. We’re also aware that wherever we may go, if we have to leave on June 30th for a visa stamp, we may not be able to get back into South Africa. We experienced this when we were in India. It may not be any different in the next almost two months, when on June 30th, we have to hightail out of South Africa for a visa stamp.

We still have a booked flight to the US on June 30th but most likely we’ll change it unless we have no choice but to return due to Covid-19 conditions worldwide.

Handsome male impala.

As we’ve reiterated, we do not want to travel the outrageous distance to the US, with flights and layovers lasting over 24 hours. At this point, with Covid-19 still raging throughout the world, we don’t want to take the risk. It’s possible, but unlikely, we’ll have been able to get the vaccine here in South Africa by June 30th.

But, even so, with the vaccine, it appears there are still risks associated with Covid-19. The question becomes, do we want to take those risks on such a long travel day and then, risk not being able to get back into South Africa?

Two male wildebeest stopped by for pellets.

When we think of and discuss what we went through to get out of India unscathed, for which we are very grateful, based on what’s happening in India now with almost 400,000 new cases a day, we don’t want to be in a similar position once again, filled with a sense of uncertainty coupled with a degree of apprehension and fear.

In general, the uncertainty of travel leaves us in a precarious position. We don’t want to “throw in the towel” and give up this life we’ve become so accustomed to, which has brought us great joy and contentment. Even now that the 10 months in lockdown in India ended almost four months ago, we don’t feel traumatized by that experience. We learned a lot about ourselves, one another and us as a couple, a knowledge we will carry with us into the future.

Another male impala watching the action in the garden.

As we consider that we spent those 10 months in that hotel room in Mumbai, it’s difficult to comprehend that those 10 months constituted 9.9% of the entire time we’ve been traveling the world. However, like all of our experiences, good and bad, we have incorporated them into the realm of our full experience and to date, we have no regrets.

When we embarked on this journey on October 31, 2012, we didn’t consider it would be easy. But anyone can look back at their prior nine years and surely there have been “ups and downs.” That’s the nature of life itself. Some of the hardships and heartbreaks we’ve experienced during this time, would have presented themselves, regardless of where we lived at any given moment.

He stayed around for quite a while looking for pellets.

It’s been no harder, nor any easier for us than for anyone: sorrow, illness, loss of loved ones, and substantial unexpected expenses, Covid-19 hasn’t made it easier for any of us. And yet, we as a race, as humans, strive to make our way through these difficult times with grace, with dignity and with compassion.

And, we can’t forget gratefulness. For those of us who by chance or not, have escaped becoming deathly ill from the virus, gratefulness must remain our state of being, to get us through this next phase, whatever that may be. None of us knows what the future holds. We can only speculate based on historical data, speculation and our personal beliefs.

Tiny and Mrs. Tiny nose to nose, kissing while Lonely Boy is looking on.

Ultimately, we carry on, with love, and hope in our hearts that our family members, friends, and readers stay safe; free from illness, free from harm and free from the many dangers facing us in these precarious times. Upon reflection, sometimes it feels as if we are living in a dystopian movie. At times, none of this seems real. On occasion, we shake our heads in dire wonder if this is really our world today. Sadly, dear readers, it is.

We’d hoped to go to Kruger National Park today but, it was so busy in the garden with dozens of visitors, we decided to wait until another day.

May we all stay strong, healthy and in touch with our surroundings.

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

Giraffes in the bush in the neighborhood. For more, please click here.

Frustrating road trip…Rental car pickup, not so much to our liking…

Two oxpeckers on the back of a female kudu ready to start pecking at her coat for insects or injuries.

It’s a long and trying drive to the Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger Airport, several kilometers outside the city. There’s considerable traffic on the N4 Highway with frequent stops for road and now, bridge construction. Trucks often line the two-lane road slowing the flow of traffic.

A fantastic aspect of driving on South Africa’s highways is the fact that drivers, including truck drivers, move to the far left to allow drivers behind them to pass. We’d never seen this thoughtful driving behavior anywhere else in the world. Also, fairly often there are passing lanes marked on the road, also adding to the flow of traffic.

Another kudu with three oxpeckers on her back and neck. See the warthog checking out the action for the photo.  They often manage to photobomb our shots.

Tom is a great driver and although I usually feel at ease as a passenger, this particular highway, amid these benefits, still can be a nail-biter at times. It took no less than 90 minutes each way plus another hour at the airport returning one car with Budget and collecting another car with Thrifty. That was our big mistake. We shouldn’t have booked with Thrifty had we known what we’d encounter.

However, with the pricing 33% less than Budget (prices change daily) it was irresistible to use them. Upon our arrival at the Thrifty counter, we were informed we must return the car every 30 days to have it inspected, although our confirmed contract was for 79 days. Of course, we didn’t know this when we booked the car. Next time, we’ll call and ask about their policy, which we’ve never had to do in the past eight-plus years.

On her neck.

Could Covid-19 have been responsible for them changing their policies? Who knows?  So much has changed in regards to travel in the past 14 months since this pandemic nightmare began, it has become necessary to check and recheck all terms and conditions in regard to any aspect of travel.

We plan to research to see if there’s an alternative and if we can cancel that contract without a penalty and return to Budget when they post lower pricing from time to time. We’re both frustrated about having to spend no less than four hours every 30 days to return the car for inspection.

Oxpeckers jump around the animal’s body quickly. They seem to particularly like kudus.

As I was writing this post, I stopped for a few minutes to check with rentalcars.com. No refunds are allowed once the car is picked up. We are stuck with this car that is old with over 40,000 km, smaller, and more difficult to maneuver on the bumpy roads in Marloth Park and Kruger National Park.  Herein lies the reality, “You get what you pay for” especially when it comes to car rentals.

As it turned out, we didn’t return to the house until almost 3:00 pm, 1500 hours, having left the house at 10:30 am. In essence, this process resulted in almost a full day away from enjoying precious time in the bush. On the return drive, we decided against the planned shopping in Malalane, after all, and headed straight back to Marloth Park. We’d already shopped in Komati on Monday and we’d be fine until next week when we return.

It was great to see an oxpecker partaking in our birdbath. Tom makes sure it has fresh water each day.

As world travelers who continue to use a wide array of travel services, even during the pandemic, we learn something new almost every day. No doubt, it’s more work now to plan ahead, than ever in the past. At this point, we’ll be waiting until the last minute to see what we’ll need to do to get our visas stamped by June 30, 2021.

The world is still in flux and will be so for years to come. Also, right now, we’re relieved we didn’t go to Minneapolis this week as previously planned. We’d be there now during enhanced rioting, carjacking, and shootings. Many members of Tom’s family live near some of the areas included in this challenging time for the city and its people. We pray for the safety of our family members, friends, and residents of the city and suburbs impacted by this strife.

We’ve seen bushbuck, Torn Ear, three days in a row.

Today, sunny and warm, we’ll stay put outdoors on the veranda, cherishing each visitor that stops by. So far, this morning, we’ve had mongoose, kudus, bushbucks, warthogs, and of course, as always, Frank and The Misses. Surely, more will come by before day’s end.

Happy day!

Photos from one year ago today, April 13, 2020:

Jackfruit is known for its health benefits.  See this link for nutritional details. This photo was posted at this link on April 13, 2015. For the year-ago post, please click here.

How do we perceive the current situation?…Returning to the US…Nine days and counting…

Last night, we had another visit from the thick-tailed bushbaby.

It’s somewhat of a weird feeling, knowing we’re leaving for the US in a mere nine days. In the past, we knew well in advance, that we were returning to our home country for a visit, often many months or even a year before our pending arrival. Those periods of time gave us an opportunity to plan our re-entry and mentally prepare ourselves for the temporary return to our former way of life.

Everyday life in a big city has been absent in our lives for over a year when we left for India in January, 2020 and ended up in a lockdown. Spending those 10 months in the hotel in India left us free of the day-to-day annoyances when we were so isolated. Returning to the US now will be an entirely different scenario in light of Covid-19. We don’t quite know what to expect.

She was a little tentative about jumping down to the floor of the veranda. The lure of the treat was irresistible.

I suppose that’s been the case for people all over the world during the past year of the pandemic and subsequent lockdown in many countries. Many have totally isolated themselves from the day-to-day commotion associated with “normal” life as opposed to the lives we’ve all experienced during the pandemic. Will we ever live those lives again? It’s hard to say.

While we were in India, we flatly refused to return to the US. No matter what, we were going to stick it out. There were too many cases of the virus and an obvious lack of precautions by many who believed they were exempt from its wrath. Now, here we are returning, contrary to our former beliefs.

We put a little bit of sour cream down for her and she loved it.

What drives us to change our minds at this point? One simple reason…the vaccine. We need to get it done if we intend to continue to travel as opposed to isolating ourselves in a lifestyle we aren’t interested in experiencing  Sure, we’re looking forward to seeing our family members. That’s a given.

In any case, we’d planned to be back in the US in May, 2022, a little over a year from now, when we would have been entering the US via cruise ship to Seattle, Washington. Now, that’s totally up-in-the-air. Who knows if any of our booked four cruises while actually transpire beginning on November 30, 2021 and ending on May 7, 2022? None of these may actually sail.

Ms Bossy, who’s pregnant, which doesn’t show in this photo, is so “in-our-faces. She’s outrageously persistent. But, we thoroughly enjoy her daily visits.

However, if any of these cruises do, in fact, sail as planned, there is no doubt in our minds that we’ll need to be vaccinated in order to board any or all of them. That’s the way traveling into the future is rolling out, whether we like it or not. We realize the vaccine is not a 100% guarantee we’ll be safe or if we’ll need boosters down the road. Science has yet to determine how long the vaccines will last.

In any case, whatever transpires, we’ll continue to stay well informed to ensure we know exactly what we need to do to carry on. Often family and friends write to us with news about Covid-19, in a thoughtful way, assuming we don’t have access to the latest news and science. But, we do, as readily and as frequently as any of you in any countries throughout the world, including in the USA.

We always say to the pigs, “Don’t eat the seeds.” Some listen, others do not.

We’ve learned, as many of you have, how to filter out “fake news” and controversies that have continually surrounded this seeming politicized pandemic. To us, good science, often difficult to decipher, is all we have to go on. Of course, we consider sources of information above all, when making any decisions for our lives. We avoid politically charged sources of information, preferring to lean toward solid science from sources we’ve come to trust.

We don’t consider Facebook and other social media as reliable sources of medical information. So much of that can be manipulated as scare tactics to appeal to certain groups. If we read an article that peaks our interest in Facebook, we immediately search for reliable studies and information which is generally available to the public.

We each have the option to choose how we receive and decipher that which we read online, including all of you when reading our posts. We make every effort to provide clear and concise information here in each day’s post But, we too, aren’t exempt from making an error or misstating something we’ve discovered. It’s up to each one of us to do our own research to bring us to a point of feeling well-informed and educated. It’s a work in progress, potentially imperfect.

Ms. Bossy and Mary, of Peter, Paul and Mary, are getting along as they share the pellets.

This morning we headed to Komatipoort for our last shopping trip and to purchase our last bag of pellets. We purchased very few groceries, after taking a careful inventory of what we have on hand. We’ll be dining one last time at Jabula Lodge & Restaurant on Friday night, leaving us with only seven meals ahead of us that we’ll prepare. Tonight, we have it covered with bacon wrapped fillet mignon. We have one more big hunk of delicious tenderloin in the freezer that will get us through two more nights. We don’t mind a bit.

If we get low on something we can always run to the local meat market to pick something up. In the interim, we’re focused on eating everything we have on hand with no perishable food remaining when we leave on April 8th.

All is good. We have peace of mind and don’t feel stressed at all. Of course, once we’ve accomplished the long journey and receive our vaccines, we’ll have even more peace of mind.

Be well. Continue to be safe.

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

The wonderful staff serving us at the Courtyard by Marriott Mumbai International Airport. They couldn’t have been more attentive and concerned about our needs and those of the other stranded foreign nationals staying at the hotel during this difficult time. Thank you, dear staff members, for taking such good care of us, including taking everyone’s temperature this morning. For more, please click here.