Part 2…Exciting birthday plans revealed…Please watch our video!!!..This is the fifth time my birthday was spent in the bush!…

Let me start with this. I’d planned on doing a comprehensive post on our elephant interaction yesterday morning at Kwa Madwala, with photos and stories from earlier days when it was open to the public. Today is a brutally hot and humid day with around 90F, 32C, but the dew point is 73. The air is so thick it’s almost hard to breathe, and I’m struggling to get motivated, a rarity for me.

Based on hard times over the past few years and the financial ravages of Covid-19, the formerly famous game reserve has been closed for almost two years. It has become rundown, requiring a massive renovation and restoration. Plans are in the works to bring this magical place back to life next year.

Tom touched the soft velvet-like skin on the back of the elephant’s ear while Louise waited to do the same.

Online is it described as follows:

“This unique hilltop camp is without a doubt the true pride of the Kruger Park south area. In 2000 the neighboring farms abandoned hunting which was very much in vogue and joined the vision in terms of eco-tourism, and the name was changed to Kwa Madwala, meaning ‘the place of the rock’ in Swazi.”

I’d hoped to find a website for the reserve, but unfortunately, their site is no longer active, and there was very little information online to aid in the preparation of today’s post. The guide at the property, one of two that introduced us to the two wild elephants, told a story about the property while I was engrossed in taking photos and watching the magnificent beasts.

Tom filled me in on the details today to help me share the remarkable story of the elephants and how they came to become such an integral part of the property.

Rita was sitting on his leg after he lay down.

There are seven elephants in the herd. Yesterday, we met two of them, a female and a larger male, brother and sister. Two calves were born in the past few years, a few years apart. Years ago, the plan in the area was to cull the elephants due to some economic reasons.

The elephants were rescued and moved to the bush near the reserve and placed in a boma while they were cared for and fed in an attempt to get them used to be around humans. It took over 18 months of loving and gentle care to watch the elephants change from hostile wild animals to gentle giant beasts, suitable to being around visitors and guests of the reserve.

Danie and Louise were hanging onto our elephant’s tusks.

No ropes, chains, or disciplinary instruments were used on the animals at any point. A thoughtful food reward program was instituted from the start, and in time, they associated humans with kindness and tasty fruits, vegetables, and pellets.

The female elephant, the first one shown, is 34 years old, and the male, her brother, is 30 years old. We couldn’t have enjoyed the experience more. When the elephants had enough of us, they wandered off after the handler jumped off and returned to grazing in the bush. They are not fenced or chained. What a fantastic experience!

Gerhard and Rita interact with the friendly and gentle elephant.

After the elephants left, Louise and Danie set up a fabulous brunch for us and Rita and Gerhard. There, at the picnic table on the resort’s veranda, the enjoyment of the special day continued with great food, drinks, and conversation. A special thanks to Louise and Danie for managing a way for us to get into this now-closed venue and be a part of this extraordinary experience. The elephants were happy to interact with humans and show off their skills once again. Such amazing animals. Such a fantastic day.

Louise and Danie served a delicious platter of low-carb treats. Even the crackers were low carb!

Wow! It was a fabulous birthday! Tomorrow, we’ll share Part 3 of my birthday celebrations when our group dined at Jabula and had one heck of a good time.

Thanks to our readers, family, and friends who sent me countless birthday wishes. It meant the world to me!

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

My birthday last year was also at Jabule with our dear friends Louise and Danie. They have a magical way of making every get-together special. For more, please click here.

Day #277 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…What a difference a day makes!…16 days and counting…

The intensity of the glow changed as the magma at the crater burst into many explosions.

Today’s photos were from this date in 2014 when we visited erupting Mount Kilauea with our kids and grandkids during their visit to join us on the Big Island, Hawaii, for the holidays. They were all so busy running around taking their photos, we never got a photo of all of us together that night, although we wish we had. For the story, please click here.

Last night, after a good night’s sleep, I felt much better, more upbeat, and positive. I certainly was feeling frustrated yesterday, especially while preparing the post, thinking of all of the mishaps on Christmas Day as described in detail here. I don’t believe I’ve ever whinged quite much in a position as I did in that post, not even on some of our most challenging days.

The trees impeded a portion of our views but ultimately gave us a better perspective of the glow.

Oddly, getting it “off my chest” here provided me with a modicum of relief that has followed me well into today, and I am fine once again, hopeful, optimistic, and my usual chipper self. It didn’t hurt to read that South Africa stated that the new supposed more lethal variance of Covid-19 is not an issue at this point.

It’s incredible how our emotions are impacted by poor sleep. We’ve particularly noticed this on long travel days when we may be flying in the middle of the night, resulting in a layover for several hours to board another long flight. Many of those travel days often resulted in 24 hours or more with little to no sleep.

The glow was in its full glory. What a sight to behold!

Neither of us can sleep sitting up on a flight, although we may be able to doze off in short spurts for an hour or two. In our youth, staying up all night wasn’t as tricky. A short nap the next day would put us back on track. But, as we’ve aged, we find those up-all-night scenarios have a significant impact on how we feel until, again, we can sleep through the night.

The most challenging lack of sleep experience we’ve had in our travels was on December 1, 2013 (see the post here), when we flew from Mombasa, Kenya to Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger with one nightmarish situation after another. By the time we arrived in Marloth Park, we’d been traveling for over 30 hours.

The crowd roared with excitement as it exploded.

The level of exhaustion at the end of that trip was beyond anything either of us had ever experienced. But, arriving in Marloth Park after the hour-long ride from the airport to discover a plethora of wildlife wandering the bush and the dirt roads sent us into such a state of ecstasy, we forgot all about being tired.

I don’t expect our enthusiasm to be much different now. However, it may even be exacerbated by the fact that we were finally able to leave this confinement in Mumbai, India, after almost ten months, to be back in our “happy place.”

Preferring not to use any flash to avoid disturbing others, Tom was a little muted in this photo. 

Our scheduled flight with Emirates Airlines on January 12th from Mumbai to Johannesburg is still booked today. We’ll continue to watch each day for any potential changes. If there were to be any changes, we’re hoping to know before we head to the airport in the middle of the night. We’ll surely be keeping an eye out, several times a day, over the next 16 days.

We’re excited to share today’s repeated photos from our visit to the lava-flowing Mount Kilauea while our kids and grandkids visited us in Hawaii in 2014. What a fantastic experience for all of us! How many adults and kids have an opportunity in their entire lifetime to see lava flowing? It was an adventure.

Shortly before the sun went down, we were separated from the family and unable to get a group photo as we’d hoped. Instead, Tom took this of me and the telescope. 

As we reviewed past experiences in these months of repeated photos, we realized how extensive our travels have been and the myriad of past adventures we’ve had along the way. If by no fault of our own, we had to end this journey due to Covid-19 limitations, we comfort ourselves in the knowledge that we’ve been blessed to see more than we ever dreamed possible in a lifetime.

As Tom always says, “We are humbled and blessed.” So true. So very true.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, December 27, 2019:

This photo was posted on this date in 2014 and again, one year ago today, when our family visited Mount Kilauea on the Big Island of Hawaii. This was my favorite shot of the evening with the backdrop of the glow of the lava. For more, please click here.

OMG!…It doesn’t get any better than this!…Quite a “Sighting of the Day in the Bush!”…

Soon, there were nine until the tenth arrived.  At this point, the three warthogs were on the scene, a mom, an auntie, and a tiny baby.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Today’s sighting of the day in the bush couldn’t be more befitting of what life is like in Marloth Park. Please check out this video when ten zebras, three warthogs, and two kudus came to call.

There are fewer visitors over the weekends when tourists flock to Marloth Park, staying in holiday homes or one of many lodges in the park. They too feed the wildlife that visits their surroundings, and often with the extra cars and added weekend noise, many of the nature take cover and don’t come around as much.

They don’t waste any time letting us know they’d like some pellets.

Usually, by Monday or Tuesday morning, we begin seeing them again. Besides humankind, on both Saturday and Sunday, that’s not to say we don’t have visitors over the weekend. Many animals visit us on weekends, just not as many as during the weekdays.

We tossed out a few handfuls, and they were all over it.

Based on the fact we spend 14 to 15 hours a day on the veranda, less our almost daily drives in the park, visits to Kruger (upcoming again this week), trips into town for shopping and appointments. Time spent socializing. The wildlife has come to realize. We’re an easy mark for pellets, apples, and carrots most of the time.

In a matter of moments, more zebras arrived in the yard.  Check out the young one in the back center of the photo.

On a day like today, we’ll be gone from 12:30 to 7:00 pm for two planned events, both of which we’ll share with photos in tomorrow’s post. Our dinners are already prepared, ready to be reheated, and by 7:15 this evening, we’ll be back on the veranda prepared to begin “watching and waiting” once again.

This zebra came up to the veranda, licked my bare toe to let me know she wanted more.  I complied, cutting up several apples for her and the others.

For us, avid wildlife observers and prominent commentators in one form or another, we never seem to become bored with this interminable hobby that is a way of life as we live in what we’ll always refer to as “this magical place.”

Their stiff upright manes are an indicator of good health.

We’d love to hear if any of our readers have been to or heard of such a place anywhere on this earth, where one could live for a few months at a time, socializing with beautiful people and embracing daily life surrounding by visiting wildlife.

There was plenty of kicking taking place as they competed for the pellets and apples.

If you know of such a place, please let us know. We’ll want to go there! But, as the well-traveled residents of Marloth Park always say, “There is no place on earth quite like this place.”

The three warthogs held their ground, refusing to let the feisty zebras intimidate them. Tom made sure to toss plenty of pellets toward them.

Sure, many locations throughout the world offer sightings of bears, moose, antelope, whales, endless varieties of birds, farm animals, and on and on. But, as we perused this world so far (not even the “tip of the iceberg” so far), we haven’t encountered anything comparable to Marloth Park.

The youngest of the dazzle of zebras (yep, dazzle) got in on the action without hesitation.

In a way, it reminds me of when I was a child, and we visited Disneyland, only about 35 minutes (much longer now with more traffic) from where I grew up in Long Beach, California. There was one exciting moment after another, and as a kid, it was easy to feel I’d never get enough.

The cement pond is a favorite spot from which to drink after eating the dry pellets.

And, although this place isn’t “manufactured or artificial” (except for the homes, lodges, and few shops), this wildlife environment was here long before the people. For me, it feels like Disneyland every day, one wonder after another.

The young zebra rarely moved from the others to allow for a good photo.

For Tom, who’s a little more reserved in his outward display of enthusiasm, he too is caught up in the wonder of it all, especially when a few days ago, he was responsible for discovering and booking the upcoming cruise back to Africa in November/December 2020. Click here for the details if you missed the post describing that cruise.

Tom mentioned these three had been by earlier in the morning while I was getting dressed. I was thrilled to see them return to check out the little one.

On February 11, 2018, coming back here this time was a gift from Tom for my 70th birthday on February 20th, knowing how anxious I was to return. But, now returning in 2020 is not only for me. He, too, is fully engaged and loving the life we live here.

Two female kudus came prancing into the yard to check out the activity. When the zebras wouldn’t allow them in on the pellets, they left.  No doubt, they’ll return later.

No, we won’t eventually move here as many have asked. We have no plans to permanently “live” anywhere. Nor will we stay so long next time. We’ll stay the 90 days allowed by a South African visa and be on our way. 

This time, we wanted to see Victoria Falls on both sides from Zambia and Zimbabwe, safari in Chobe National Park, the Chobe River and, cruise on the Zambezi River. Mission accomplished.  

When we book plans for our next 90-day required exit in August, we’ll share all the details at the time of booking and while we’re on that next adventure. However, we don’t need to travel from Marloth Park, South Africa, for an experience. 

The kudus left, deciding a few pellets weren’t worth a kick from a zebra.

We need only open the giant wooden doors to our lovely holiday bush home on a morning like this to behold a scene such as this morning’s and, the adventure has just begun.

Thank you to all of our readers for sharing this particular time with us. All of you have given us such purpose as we document all of these magical moments. Without YOU, we may have smiled, laughed, and taken a few photos along the way. 

With YOU, it’s immemorial, as we feel dedicated and determined to document this life we lead 365 days a year.

Have a pleasant Monday!

Photo from one year ago today, June 4, 2017:

As we continued to have quality time in Minnesota with family and friends, we added more photos of Butchart Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia.  We didn’t want those we love to feel every get-together was a photo op posted online. For more garden photos, please click here.

Oh, oh, we screwed up again!….Photos from the Sydney Opera House…

There are many interesting dining spots with exquisite views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House walk.

After all these years of meticulously planning our travels, we’ve screwed up once again, once for our current dreadful immigration status in Australia and again, my error only, on the night we’d booked tickets for the Sydney Opera House…I failed in carefully reading our ticket confirmation to discover it was on Sunday night, not Saturday.

This was Tom before he knew we’d arrived at the opera on the wrong date. The ship in the background is the Emerald Princess, a line we’ve never experienced.

I’d booked the tickets last April, receiving an online confirmation which I’d copied and pasted into my online calendar, placing it under Saturday, not Sunday. If I’d reviewed it carefully lately, as I should have, it would have been easy to determine the tickets were for Sunday night (tonight), not last night.

The Opera Quay building along the walk.

Off we went with Bob dropping us at the Manly Ferry in the pouring rain with umbrellas and parkas keeping us relatively dry. We waited for 15 minutes for the ferry and boarded for the 30-minute ride in rough waters due to the stormy conditions.

As we approached the Sydney Opera House, we noticed almost everyone had a camera or phone in hand.

Upon arrival at Circular Quay in Sydney, the sun had peeked out, and we walked for 20 minutes on the esplanade along the bay to the opera house. Then, climbing the zillions of steps to the entrance, we found our way to the ticket office, where our tickets were awaiting us.

There’s no doubt that after dark, these tables will be filled with diners.

Alas, we were informed that the opera for which we’d purchased tickets didn’t occur until today. So we were one day early. Oh, my. Mr. Overly Grumpy reared his ugly head for about 10 minutes while I racked my brain as to how I could make such an error. 

Bennelong Lawn, Royal Botanic Gardens is located next to the Sydney Opera House.

I could have made all the excuses in the world, such as not feeling quite well yet, the immigration thing, the missing package from the US, and my sister’s recent possibility of recurring cancer (a scare, after all) that kept my brain flooded with worries during the recent cruise and since our arrival one week ago.

I was dressed too warm for the humid weather.

But excuses always fail me. I tend to leave them in the dust instead of simply admitting my mistake and cheerfully, in my usual “overly bubbly” manner, move on. But, unfortunately, Mr. Grumpy was having none of that. For 10 minutes, he was rather annoying. 

Visitors sitting on the steps of the Sydney Opera House enjoying the view.

Suddenly, I suggested we make it fun that we were already in Sydney and enjoy the amazing area and views of the bay, Circular Quay, the Opera House, and the people watching. “How about if we go to dinner, have a drink, smile, and have a good time?” I asked. He was game.

Moments later, we were seated in a lovely restaurant, Searock Grill, with mouth-watering smells wafting through the air, ordering a beer for Tom and a wine for me, while the mood became uplifting and cheerful. After all, this was no big deal in the realm of things.

Grilled chicken salad with tomatoes, radishes, and sprouts with a side of garlic aioli.

I apologized for my error. Tom apologized for being “overly grumpy,” and we ended up having a great time.  Today, we’ll return to the Manly Ferry to give it another try. This time, we’ll take the local bus to the ferry since Bob isn’t available. 

Tom’s double filet fish and chips. He ordered ketchup on the side for the chips.

We plan to dine early again, before the 5 pm opera, since it’s less crowded in the restaurants. Lately, with my condition, dining earlier rather than later seems to serve me well with less discomfort into the evening. 

Tom’s beer, Great Northern Brewing Co., was named the same as one of the predecessor railroads he worked for many moons ago.

Oddly enough, we’d like to return to the same restaurant today after we’d read menus for every restaurant along the esplanade. Yesterday’s restaurant was easily able to accommodate my diet with a delicious grilled chicken salad along with a satisfying plate of fish and chips for Tom, photos of which are included here today.

Ferry arriving at the wharf.  There’s a constant flow of ferries heading to and fro many areas around the bay.

Based on the early arrival time, we were allowed the benefit of the lunch menu pricing, and our total bill with one glass of beer, one glass of wine, and our two meals totaled AU 50.60, US $38.92!  The same items were priced about 40% higher after 5:00 pm. That works for us!

This is the pier where we boarded our past six cruises with hopefully, one more to go with the immigration situation hopefully resolved.

After dinner, we enjoyed the leisurely walk back to Wharf #3 with only a short wait for the next ferry. Back at our cozy house in Fairlight, we settled in for the remainder of the evening, watched a few shows, and dozed off by 11:00 pm.

Happy face back on…

We’ll be back tomorrow with the results of our second foray to the Sydney Opera House, hopefully getting it right this time!

Happy day!

Photo from one year ago today, March 19, 2016:

The beach in Opunake, New Zealand, one year ago. We’ve experienced plenty of rainy weather in our world travels. But, we try to take it in stride and make the best of it. As indicated in today’s post, bad weather prevents us from planning activities, although we may not venture out if our plans are open.  For more details, please click here.

Zika Virus…A bearing on our future travels? Photos from a trip to the beach…

Many signs and names of towns are based on the indigenous inhabitants of New Zealand, the Māori whose’s language has had official language status, with the right to use it in legal settings such as in court, since the Maori Language Act 1987. There are around 70,000 native speakers of Maori out of a population of over 500,000 Māori people, with 161,000 of the country’s 4 million residents claiming conversational ability in Māori.”

The Zika virus is rapidly spreading throughout the world with the majority of cases in South America, particularly in Brazil with over one million cases and growing out of control. 

Here’s more information on the Zika virus from the US’s Center for Disease Control (CDC).

It’s easy to expect beaches throughout the world to be sandy, and pristine with blue waters.  Many beaches such as in New Zealand and Australia aren’t blue due to the interaction of light and particles present in the water. When there are mineral sediments lights from the blue spectrum are absorbed by the particles, thus the water appears to be brown.  Also, not all beaches have the soft, fine sand, we found in Belize and Hawaii.

No doubt this virus will spread to other countries in South America and throughout the world unless drastic measures are taken to control it. What those measures may be at this point are unknown and under research in many laboratories worldwide. 

Low tide is more evident on many beaches, but not all.

Will a vaccine, cure or remedy be available by 2017 when we head to South America? At this point, we have no idea, but continue to watch the news for updates. Will we change our plans to spend as much as two years in South America from 2017 to 2019?

As we’ve traveled continents, island nations, and many countries we’ve heard of a variety of viruses that may infect locals and travelers alike. We don’t take any of these illnesses lightly. That’s what precipitated our having as many as 18 vaccinations before we left the US which we’ll update as needed over time.

With many surfers attracted to this area, a lifeguard is on duty, well equipped for rescue.

However, new viruses continue to develop throughout the world and our exposure is no doubt enhanced as we traveled to potentially infected countries. We’ve already visited several of the countries on the currently “infected” list. 

Surfers awaiting an opportunity.

Now, as we’ve begun to book travel to South America, there’s no doubt we’ve given the Vika virus consideration as to the impact it may have on us visiting such countries as Brazil. 

How else might we travel the Amazon River in Brazil and eventually, the top priority on our list…the Pantanal, the most wildlife diverse wetlands areas in the world (talk about mosquitoes!). 

Pretty cloud formation on a very cloudy day.  Note distant airplane and boat in left of photo.

At this point, after considerable discussion and information gathering, we’ve decided to continue with our plans.  It’s not as if we can say, “Oh, let’s wait and go in 10 years?” In twelve years I’ll be 80 years old and Tom will be 75.  Will we have the health and stamina we now have to continue? There’s no way of knowing.

Campgrounds are located at the end of the road at Oakura Beach with an onsite office for booking space.

If we were young, putting off South America would be practical. We’re not. The clock is ticking, whether we like it or not, as it is for everyone. It just so happens we’re closer to the final hour along with all the others our age throughout the world, many of us who have “things to do” and “places to see” before it’s too late.

There are permanent and temporary sites for caravans (motorhomes) and travel trailer type homes.

Continuing with our desire of visiting each continent before it is too late, doesn’t dissipate with news of a virus that based on information to date, is not life threatening for adults who aren’t pregnant. 

If this virus was comparable to the deadly Ebola virus, we’d definitely change our plans. If at any point the virus is considered life threatening to older adults, we’ll certainly reassess our views, changing plans if necessary.

Small sleeping tent sites are available for a fee which includes multiple facilities.

For now, we trek on, with hope in our hearts for a resolution for those living in infected countries and for our ongoing safety as we continue our journey.

Have a lovely weekend.

Photos from one year ago today, January 30, 2015:

The colors in the tunnels at Tunnels Beach were varied when we visited the Napali Coast in Kauai. For more details, please click here.