First of many fantastic evenings with friends in the bush!!!…No bag yet…

Don and Rita toasting the occasion.

Last night, it was cold and dark on the veranda at Jabula Lodge and Restaurant, but the seven of us weren’t hindered at all by the weather. The food and service, as always, were superb, and the companionship was over the top. Finally, Kathy and I were together once again and well as my friend Rita.

The three of us girls sat at one end of the table, and the boys, Tom, Don, Gerhard, and their friend from Germany, Achim, came to visit them for a few weeks. It was a celebration of Gerhard’s birthday. He doesn’t care for cake, but Dawn and Lyn had decorated the table for the occasion.

Rita, Kathy, and me at the end of the table on the veranda.

Our gift to Gerhard? Four bales of prepaid Lucerne from Daisy’s Den, to be delivered whenever he and Rita decide.  On Wednesday, we stopped to purchase the bales, seeds for Frank and The Misses, hornbills, and a big bag of sweet potatoes for the wildlife. We included the receipt for the Lucerne in the birthday card with a note explaining the gift, included with Daisy’s Den’s business card, making the ordering as easy as a quick phone call.

Now, as I type this, we hear the funny little chirping of the mongoose who’ve arrived in a small band. Tom raced indoors to get his leftover rib bones from last night’s dinner. Mongooses are carnivores, and they like bones, but hilariously, they try to crack them open on big rocks in an attempt to get to the marrow. It’s rather funny to watch.

Tom, Gerhard, and Achim to the right. Happy birthday, Gerhard!

As for last night’s get-together, the conversation was delightful among the group as a whole and in the male and female groups. We had so much catching up to do after being gone for four weeks. It was wonderful to be back with our friends once again.

Kathy and Don are hosting a goodbye get-together this upcoming Wednesday at their riverfront bush home. We’re bringing our meat, the dessert; apple crisp served warm, topped with vanilla ice cream. Rita’s bringing the salad, and Kathy and Don will host the side dishes.  We all bring our beverages, which makes hosting a dinner party so much easier when planned this way.

Kathy and Don each ordered the jumbo prawns.

Today, another cool day with sunshine that will hopefully warm the day soon, we’ll stay in. I have to get back to work on post corrections which I’ve ignored for the past week. This morning upon arising very early, I got to work organizing things around the house.

Before we’d left, I filled a large tote with items I’d planned to go through once we returned, mostly old clothes I had to consider giving the heave-ho. It felt good to empty this huge container and make the proper decisions about disposing of old worn-out items. Also, I did three more loads of laundry, hung them on the clothes rack, and started chopping and dicing for tonight’s dinner, homemade taco salad.

This is Gerhards’ eisbein, a huge pork knuckle.

Since those flat little taco seasoning packets contain wheat and tons of chemicals, I found a good low-carb recipe for taco seasoning. It took only five minutes to measure and put together the various spices and shake them until blended. Soon, I’ll cook the big package of mince (90% hamburger meat) in a large pot atop the stove, adding the spices after the meat is cooked and drained.

While we were in the US, both of us enjoyed taco salads, which aren’t necessarily available in South Africa, other than in such big cities as Johannesburg or Cape Town. When making these salads, we don’t use prepackaged grated cheese, which also is infused with chemicals. Here’s an article on why pre-shredded grated cheese is not worth eating.

Now, I have to finish working on dinner and then get to work on corrections. In the meantime, I’m on hold with United Airlines for the 10th time to find out where our bag is and when it will be delivered since it didn’t arrive yesterday as promised. It’s frustrating, to say the least.

We’ll be back with more tomorrow! Have a pleasant Saturday!

Photo from one year ago today, July 31, 2020:

From the year-ago post while in lockdown in Mumbai, India, on day #130.A surprising close-up of what appeared to be a blue stalk from afar. For more, please click here.

Our bag is supposed to arrive today…We’ll see how that goes…I made a mistake about Tiny…

Little and his newly adopted family stop by for another visit. Pellets on the menu!!!

When we packed that duffel bag while still in Nevada, we included five new pairs of shoes for both of us. I tossed all my old shoes in our hotel room that Id replaced with the three new pairs, leaving me with only two spare worn-out pairs of shoes. Tom did the same, and now he, too, has only two pairs of shoes left.

If we don’t get that bag today as promised by United Airlines, we are up a creek when it comes to shoes. None of these brands and styles can be replaced here in South Africa. Our only option would be to buy them online in the US and have them shipped to us via DHL for more exorbitant costs.

Mom and Baby bushbuck which was born while we were gone. She is so tiny!

We also had our toiletries, including two Braun electric toothbrushes, newly ordered boxes of our business cards, new insulated mugs, and drink koozies, all valued at over US $25, ZAR 365, each, none of which are available for purchase in South Africa.

Also included were several new clothing items and underwear we both desperately needed. Do we trust that the bag will arrive? Not really. We’ll be pleasantly surprised if it does. We arranged for the bag delivered to Louise and Danie’s Info Centre, where they will be all day since the roads to our house might deter a driver from bringing it directly to us.

Baby bushbuck and an older youngster sharing pellets from the container which we use for the bushbucks, to keep the guinea-fowl from stealing all the pellets.

In the interim, we grocery shopped in Komatipoort. We had hoped to go to the liquor store for light wine for me and brandy for Tom but based on the current lockdown in South Africa, liquor sales were suspended from Friday through Sunday, in an attempt to inhibit heavy liquor use over the weekends. When people drink heavily, there are more accidents and injuries, resulting in more of a need for more emergency services and hospital visits during these times of Covid. At least the total ban ended the day after we arrived.

Today was the first time we shopped since our return from the US, although Louise shopped for us for basic supplies on Monday. But, we still needed many items and ingredients for recipes I’d like to make over the next week or two. After today’s extensive shopping we’re probably good for the next ten days, depending on how often we eat out.

Hal and Blue Gnu are coming onto the veranda.

Now, that we’re both rested and recovered from the long travel period from the US to South Africa, we can begin to socialize, starting tonight with a get-together planned for tonight at Jabula to celebrate Gerhard’s birthday. It will be a small group of seven, but tonight, finally, I get to see my dear friend Kathy, who arrived here in the bush a few weeks ago, and Rita and Gerhard, whom we also missed during our time away.

I made a mistake about Tiny. We have not seen him. Instead, I’d mistaken a Tiny look-alike, whom we called The Imposter before we left. In my enthusiasm, I wanted to believe it was him. But, when The Imposter was here with his friend Narrow for quite some time, we both realized it wasn’t Tiny.

We love wildebeest. The expressions on their faces is priceless

Good grief. Not to sound species-specific profiling, but many of the animals do look alike. Often it’s the most subtle of markings and traits that enable us to determine who is who. Although massive, I should have picked it up that The Imposter wasn’t as big as Tiny, nor were the size of warts on his temples.

Now, we wait with bated breath for the real Tiny to return to us. It could be days, weeks or months, or even never. We lost Tusker when we were at the Orange house, and he never returned after Basket scared him away, declaring his territory. A similar scenario could have transpired in the four weeks we were gone. Also, warthogs are often hit by cars on Olifant Road, the main paved road in Marloth Park.

As in the past, Broken Horn stops by each day.

We’ll be sad if Tiny doesn’t return, but we realize this is the bush, and anything can happen to these majestic animals living in the wild.

We hope all of our readers are safe from harm and still managing to cope with the throes of Covid, still facing all of us worldwide.

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

This photo is from the year-ago post while in lockdown in Mumbai, India, on day #129. Check out the size of the fish and steak portions. Tom was craving peanuts, and we added a few packages to the stash. The brats in the bottom right of the photo are gluten, grain, and sugar-free. The total cost for this haul was US $109,38, ZAR 1595. For more photos, please click here.

Busy morning in the bush!…Trip to Malalane to the dentist and more…No bag yet!…

    When we returned from Malalane, these mongoose and more were awaiting us in the garden. Quickly, Tom began beating some eggs for them.

Tom caught a bad cold on the plane, which has been improving rapidly over the past 24 hours. He took cough medicine with codeine at night, which helps for about three hours, and an antihistamine every 12 hours. With us both suffering from severe lack of sleep from the nine-hour time difference, more than anything, we both needed a good night’s sleep.

As was the case when we arrived in Minnesota, it took three or four nights until we finally got the sleep we needed. Last night, three nights after our arrival, we were each able to sleep for eight hours. Today, now at almost 2:00 pm, 1400 hrs, we both feel a little like taking a nap, which, when done here today, we may do. I am not one for naps, but the past few days, it’s been tempting.

We are well aware that mongoose may carry rabies and also may bite, causing severe infections. We proceed with caution around them.

At the end of June, I had a root canal treatment done by fabulous Dr. Singh, the favored oral surgeon of all of our local friends. The tooth had been infected, as I thought, and Dr. Singh suggested I take antibiotics. After taking antibiotics a few times in the past year, I declined to take them and was willing to wait it out.

Tom brought out the big pan of scrambled eggs, which they love.

After having the procedure a week before we left for the US, I had pain that seemed to last for days. Finally, it tapered off, and I was only left with tenderness when I brushed my teeth. Before leaving the US to return to South Africa, I contacted Dr. Singh to ask if the ongoing pain was an issue. He suggested I come in so he could check it. That’s precisely what we did this morning.

The tooth is healing, and he suggested we wait until the pain is gone to do the crown. I have another tooth that could use a new crown, so sometime in the next month or so, I’ll return and have both crowns done, requiring two appointments. Dental work is so inexpensive here; it makes sense to get these done while here.

A pile of mongoose eating raw scrambled eggs from the pan.

On another note, included in our missing bag was a new pair of jeans I’d purchased while in the US. At this point, I don’t have a single pair of jeans. After the dentist, we stopped at a local shop in Malalane, and I purchased one pair of jeans and two warm shirts, both suitable for cold weather.

It wasn’t easy to find a pair that fit me right. Sizing is very different here. But, after trying on several pairs, I managed to find something suitable. Also, I bought two warm tops that will be useful when we go out at night when the temperature drops, and it’s so cold.

What a joy to see Broken Horn once again. It only took him three days to find his way back to us.

Buildings and houses aren’t heated in South Africa since the winter season is short, and then the rest of the months are hot and humid. When we’ve been so tired over the past several days and nights and feeling especially cold, we had to bundle up with blankets to get comfortable. I’ve even worn socks to bed.

We don’t have room in our bags for bathrobes, resulting in frigid mornings when showering and getting dressed. While in the hotel overnight in Joburg on Sunday, there was no hot water, and we both had to take cold showers that morning we left. That was one chilly morning! Fortunately, I have fashioned some leggings and long-sleeved tee-shirts into what I use as pajamas.

Several kudus stopped by this morning. More and more are returning each day.

Today, we all are pleasantly surprised with a warm day. Right now, it is 82F, 28C, and it’s perfect. No doubt, by tonight, the temperatures will drop again to a low of 59F, 15C. Although that doesn’t sound very cold, it feels very cool when there’s no heat indoors. The past several days have been 10 degrees cooler. Our teeth were chattering.

Last night, Tom fell asleep at 7:00 am, 1900 hrs. I stayed awake until 10:30 pm, 2230 hrs, or later trying to fend off the temptation to fall asleep for as long as I could. It worked; although I awoke at 1:00 am and stayed awake for 90 minutes, Tom had to wake me this morning for the dentist appointment. It is good to feel like my “old self.”

Together, Frank and The Misses are back.

As for the missing bag, last night I called United Airlines again to hear the same report. The bag is on its way to us. But, we don’t feel confident when today is the fourth day since the bag was lost in Newark or Johannesburg. We can only wait and see what transpires.

Many more of our old animal friends have been dropping by. This morning we saw Broken Horn, many bushbucks, mongoose, and several kudus. A short while ago, Frank and The Misses were here eating seeds and drinking water from their little container. We didn’t see Little or Tiny yesterday but hopefully, this late afternoon, they will return. Each day is filled with surprises!

Have a pleasant day and evening and be well.

Photo from one year ago today, July 29, 2020:

From the year-ago post on this date while on day #128 in lockdown in Mumbai, India. We were at the Kampong Cham Temple in Cambodia on this date in 2016. For more photos, please click here.

Perfect bush home upon arrival…No lost bag yet…But, lots of visitors coming to see us!…

Little seems to have adopted a family of three, a mom and two growing piglets with whom he happily shares pellets.

When we entered our bush home on Monday, we were happy to see how it looked and smelled after a deep cleaning was executed while we were away by Vusi and Zef, our two much-appreciated household helpers. Not only was every space neatly organized, and cleaned but the house even smelled fresh.

Living in the bush with all the wildlife, every space is subject to accumulating excessive amounts of dust, including pellet dust, dust from the dirt in the garden, soot from burning sugar cane, and the usual collection of dust from human occupants. Now, of course, once we unpacked, we cluttered the house again with papers and receipts to process in the next few days.

Tiny seemed happy to see us, although he hesitated for a moment to ensure it was us. He is very shy, unlike Little. We are thrilled to see him once again!

For us, returning from such a trip is more than just unpacking, doing laundry, and putting things away. There are countless papers to deal with, especially since we have to file claims for lost luggage. Our missing bag with all of our new items did n.ot arrive yesterday as they’d stated it would.

This morning I called United Airlines lost baggage department and found it was still at the airport and yet sent out for delivery. The rep requested a quick turnaround, and hopefully, it will soon be on the move, arriving in the next few days. They insisted it isn’t lost and will it will eventually arrive.

I swooned with delight to see Frank return. We spotted him in the garden, called for him, and he came running right to his container of seeds. Once again, his two to three daily visits will continue. No sighting of The Misses yet, but maybe soon.

Once the ba arrives, we are entitled to compensation for the inconvenience and concern. We’ll have to call back to determine exactly what that is since online, and there are conflicting references to such compensation. We’ll see how that rolls out.

As for our visitors, they’ve been returning, one after another, each eliciting an enthusiastic response from us,  with pellets tossed to them with gusto. Not all of our favorites have returned, but both Little and Tiny, our two favorite warthogs, arrived yesterday. It’s lovely to see them again.

Mongoose have visited four times in the past 24 hours. We always enjoy their cute antics.

If a pig can look happy, they both looked delighted to see us. No, it wasn’t a smile on their faces but instead a little kicking up of heels and easily approaching the veranda. Tiny was always shy in coming too close but, Little neer hesitated to get up close and personal. I couldn’t have been more relieved and delighted to see them once again.

They’ve yet to return today, but it’s still early, and we fully anticipate they will return later in the day, often close to 4:00 pm. Ah, the joys of the bush.

This is Little, my boy, and favorite warthog since 2018. The fact that he found us here, a few miles from the Orange house, is a miracle. But,\ pigs are smart.

Of course, I flipped out with joy when Frank came running when we called him to partake of seeds we placed in the usual location on the veranda. Even without his daily diet of seeds suddenly taken away for four weeks, he looked healthy and happy to see us as well. The Misses was nowhere to be found. Perhaps, she’s sitting on some eggs during these cold winter days.

Gosh, it’s good to be back. Our friends are giving us a few days to recover from the long journey, but we’ll see them soon. Tom’s been a little under the weather with a cough since we left the US and these few quiet days are good for him. We still have yet to get onto a good sleep schedule. Last night, I was awake for four hours during the night, feeling groggy when it was time to get up.

Although very pushy and determined to monopolize the pellet show, Bossy is also very pretty and sweet.

Vusi came this morning, cleaned the house and veranda, and delivered the chicken and mince Louise had stored for us in her freezer during the power outage. To be safe, I am baking the chicken in the oven right now, which, when cooled, I’ll shred and freeze for future use in a variety of dishes. Gosh, it’s good to be back. I know I repeated it, but it simply is a pleasure to be back here where we belong.

Thanks to all of our readers for hanging in there with us during our break away. Have a fantastic day!

Photo from one year ago today, July 28, 2020:

Our photo of the Blood Moon from July 27, 2018, was taken from our garden in Marloth Park in 2018 and was posted one year ago today, while in lockdown on day #127, in Mumbai, India. For more photos, please click here.

We made it back to the bush…minus one bag…

Little is back!!! We are excited to see him again! No Tiny yet, but maybe soon.

We are undoubtedly thrilled to be back safely after the long journey, no worse for the wear. The return trip wasn’t easy, especially the long 15-hour flight and the myriad connections. Sleep was elusive on the plane and neither of us slept a wink during the time we spent in the airport hotel in Joburg. At midnight, it was daytime to us and there was no way we could fall asleep. It was a long and fitful night.

In Joburg, our huge new duffel bag was lost and has yet to arrive. We filed a claim but no word yet, three days later. This bag contained all of the new items we purchased in the US. We aren’t hopeful

Tom’s yellow bag was found in Joburg and was delivered last night. At this point, we are out only one of our previous three missing bags. If it isn’t found in the next few days or so we will have to file for reimbursement

But, replacing the items will be time-consuming and require a shipment to South Africa which is always a frustrating scenario. We will figure that out in the next few days, confident that when all is said and done it will be fine. It’s only stuff, after all

Mom and Baby Bushbuck! She must have brought this baby out of hiding while we were in the US.

Regardless of the tiredness and inconveniences, we are thrilled to have had such a great experience in the US and are now thrilled to be back in our slice of Paradise, Marloth Park. As I write this now, situated at the table on the veranda, the power has been out since last night, only hours after we arrived and shortly after we returned home from dinner at Jabula.

Louise had grocery shopped for us, but I didn’t have the energy to prepare a meal, although we’ll do so tonight. Now with no power, and our perishables in Louise”s freezer, we’ve decided to eat eggs and bacon for tonight’s dinner, easily made on the separate burner on the braai. The electric oven won’t do us much good. Hopefully, the power will return by tonight and we will begin to get back in the groove of life in the bush.

Right now. I am preparing this post on my phone using pricey data from Google Fi since, when the power goes off here, we also lose the WiFi signal.

Some of our animals have returned, but few favorites other than eight adorable bushbucks including a few new babies we’ve seen Peter. Paul and Mary, Bossy, and one new warthog we have named. Broken Tusk or BT, not to be confused with wildebeest, Broken Horn who’s yet to return.

Mongoose drinking from the birdbath. Later, we gave them a pan of eggs. It was a thrill to hear their funny chirping.

Little just showed up! Yeah. Maybe Tiny will be here at sundowner time as always! Plus, I called to discover our third missing bag is on its way to us. We’d already received missing bag #1 (while in Minnesota) and mission bag #2 (which was delivered to Louise’s last night) and soon bag #3, the missing duffel bag, with all the new items will arrive. This is the first time in almost nine years of travel that we’ve lost a bag, let alone three!

And, even more, good news…the power just came back on!!! Yes, good news we surely appreciate!

Enjoy our new photos, many more are coming tomorrow of new sightings of old friends.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, July 27, 2020:

From the year-ago post on day #125 while in lockdown in Mumbai, India I wrote, “OK, folks here’s a new one for you. This is a “bask” of crocodiles!” For more photos, please click here.

Trouble with airline app…Goofy Covid-19 testing in Nevada…Inconsistencies…One day and counting…

Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, close to the strip, serves as the home stadium for the Las Vegas Raiders of the National Football League and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Rebels college football team.

The process of checking in for tomorrow’s international flight from Las Vegas (LAS) to Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger (MQP) is not as easy as going online and checking in on United’s website. They insist on their site that for “our convenience,” we must use their app, which we did, carefully following all the instructions.

We successfully uploaded photos of our passports, copies of our negative Covid-19 test results from yesterday’s testing. Doing so should have produced two boarding passes for the hotel concierge to print for us or use on our phones. No such luck! We cannot avoid checking in at a kiosk or the United Airlines desk, which often results in an hour in a queue.

OK, so that’s the way it is. We can do nothing because United’s app isn’t working as efficiently as it should. That fact was even addressed on the app, mentioning they are working to improve it. Go figure. Why require that we use it? That’s enough about that. Let’s get to yesterday’s peculiar Covid-19 testing experience in Henderson, Nevada.

View of only a small portion of the Las Vegas strip as seen from the highway.

It was tricky to find a Covid-19 testing site with results provided in 24-hours. We booked both appointments at a nearby CVS Pharmacy location, ten minutes apart. Yesterday morning, the text confirmations came in for two different locations, one for Tom, with the other for me at a CVS location a few miles away. That made no sense to us. Why couldn’t they be at the same location which we’d specifically requested?

With the two appointments 10 minutes apart, we didn’t see how we’d arrive in time with traffic so bad in the area at noon. Instead, we decided to show up for Tom’s  11:50 appointment 30 minutes earlier to see if they’d do both of us. There were no other customers in line at the Covid-19 testing window (for a touchless test).

They would not allow both of us to have a test at that first location. However, the testing person allowed Tom to have his test immediately, leaving us ample time to make it for my noon appointment at the second location. Tom performed his test while in the car, carefully following the instructions as the testing person spoke through a microphone, comparable to a drive-thru window at a McDonald’s.

As soon as his test was completed, we asked the testing person if we’d have the results in 24 hours. He said most likely we would. We left, hopeful the results would arrive on time before our flight on Saturday. After all, it was only Thursday. We took off and arrived on time for my noon appointment.

Partial view of some of the grounds at Green Valley Ranch Resort and Spa.

I also did my test from the car, expecting the same, if not identical touchless manner.  Oh no, that was not the case. The instructions the testing person spewed from the McDonald’s-type window were entirely different from those Tom received only minutes ago. The steps in which I was to swab my nostrils were completely different from Tom’s instructions.  Again, go figure. I won’t get into the details, but it seemed different enough to potentially end in a different result (or maybe not), especially if the results were positive, which were not in our case.

Before we drove away, again, we asked the testing person when we’d get the result. He said, “Three to five days.” I immediately responded, explaining how the previous CVS Pharmacy testing person sounded confident we’d have the results in 24 hours. I explained we had a flight to catch in 48 hours. Good grief, if the tiny lab in Komatpoort could get results in 24 hours, surely the modern, upscale town of Henderson could do the same.

He put a little slip of paper in my “envelope” that said “priority” but stated there was no guarantee.  We drove away, frustrated and uncertain if we’d have the results on time. We’d considered arranging another test, perhaps a “rapid test,” somewhere else when we went back to the hotel.

Back in our hotel room, I began a mad search for other options. There were none. If we were to try for a rapid test, we’d have to pay upwards US $150 per person. We decided we had no choice but to “wing it.” Maybe we’d get lucky, and the results would come in today.

The pool at the resort.

Much to our relief, both of our negative test results arrived by text in the middle of the night, which I noticed as soon as I awoke this morning. Whew! Safari luck continues in Las Vegas!!! We asked the concierge desk staff to print the necessary copies for the flight.

We’re still wondering why the process, supposedly fairly universal, would be different at two locations and why the results couldn’t be assured within 24 hours, especially when there were no people in the queue. We’ll never know. Fortunately, the tests here were free, whereas Komatipoort was priced at ZAR 850, US $57.26 per person.

In any case, tomorrow, we leave Las Vegas to begin the long journey back to Marloth Park. If we make the 46-minute connection tomorrow at 8:45 pm, in Newark, New Jersey, to board the 15-hour flight to Johannesburg, we’ll be thrilled. If not, it will be 24-hours later until the next flight. Just in case we have to spend the night in Newark, we’re bringing clean underwear and a few toiletries.

This morning we sat at a table outdoors, enjoying the views. It hasn’t been unbearably hot while here, averaging around 100F, 38C each day.

We won’t have time to post in Newark, so you may not hear from us until we arrive in Johannesburg, where we may have to spend the night. If we make the flight, I’ll post a notice that we made it while waiting for the plane to take off. If we don’t make the connection, we’ll have plenty of time for a new post while we wait for the 24 hours to pass.

We will not, under any circumstances, drive on the N4 Highway in the dark which may require another overnight in Nelspruit if we can’t get on an early enough flight to allow ample time for the 90-minute drive to Marloth Park.

This particular flight is rife with uncertainties, all hinging on our ability to make the flight in Newark on time.

Ah, the life of wildly determined world travelers! It’s always filled with change and challenges. But, we continue on with happiness in our hearts and hope for the future for all of us.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, July 23, 2020:

From the post on today’s date on day #122 in lockdown in Mumbai, India, we added instructions to make our low-carb, bread-free subway sandwich. It’s essential to wash the dirt off of lettuce. If it is organic, thorough rinsing removes dirt and tiny green worms, which we’ve found on the organic produce in Italy, where we were at the time of these photos. If it’s not organic, be careful, repeatedly rinsing in cold water, which may remove some pesticides. Usually, we dry it with a clean white kitchen towel or paper towels, wrapping the leftover lettuce in the white towel, and placing it in the fridge in the towel, which will keep it fresh for days. For the recipe below, wash and dry eight large romaine lettuce leaves; usually, the largest leaves closest to the outside of the bunch. For the balance of the instructions, please click here.

Covid-19 tests today…Two days and counting…

A gorgeous rhododendron on the tour of the Princeville, Hawaii Botanical Garden in 2015.

Sorry, but we don’t have any new photos today. We didn’t have an opportunity to take photos, and I’d decided to wait until we get back to Marloth Park to set up my new camera, which we picked up at the mailing service on Tuesday. Tomorrow, we’ll return to the mailing service for the last time to pick up a few remaining items we’ve ordered from Amazon this week.

Last night, we joined Richard and his GF for dinner at their home and had a lovely evening sipping Michelob Ultra Light beer (low carb) while he made chicken kabobs on the outdoor grill. It was fun sitting at the outdoor table by the pool on a perfect evening that wasn’t too hot. When the salad, broccoli, and kabobs were done, we went indoors to eat at the dining room table for a lovely dinner and lively conversation and laughter.

Back at our hotel by 10:30 pm and with a plan to see them again tomorrow night at a Mexican Restaurant we loved last time we were here, today we’re on our own for a busy day. At 11:20, we’ll leave the hotel to head to the CVS Pharmacy, where at their Minute Clinic, we’ll stay in the car for our drive-up Covid tests. We should have the results by Saturday morning, the day we leave.

After picking up a few items for a few South African friends, we’ll head to Old Navy for me to purchase a pair of jeans which I’ll have to try on. Sizing has changed in the past nine years since we’ve been gone, and I can’t be sure my usual size will be right. I really don’t enjoy trying on clothes, but it’s a must. I tossed my last worn-out pair of jeans in the hotel room in Milwaukee.

Tom will have to entertain himself while I shop. But somehow, he manages to stay busy while I shop for anything. He prefers not even to enter a store if he can help it. Then again, if he went into a Fleet Farm store to buy his jelly candies, I’d wait in the car for him.

On this trip, I’m replacing my worn-out shoes. Tom has done the same and actually threw out the awful big black tennis shoes he’s been wearing the past few years for the updated, stylish Cole Haan shoes he’d purchased in Minnesota. I no longer wear tennis shoes since I find them not as comfortable as my leather Keds. They are lighter weight and more comfortable. Plus, I prefer white, and tennis shoes are hard to keep clean in the bush. The white leather Keds can go into the washing machine for a sparkling result and to later dry outdoors in less than a day.

Ease and convenience are important for us in everything we wear and use. Whatever we purchase in the US is done so with this in mind. We’ve found that we don’t have much luck purchasing clothing or shoes that meet our expectations in most countries other than the US. Durability, ease of cleaning and washing, and comfort are always of the utmost importance.

After today, the shopping will be done, and packing will be on our minds. My bag is packed except for the new items I’ll purchase today and miscellaneous items we’re picking up at the mailing service tomorrow. On Saturday, we’ll load up the few toiletries, and we’ll both be good to go.

With a 20% off coupon for any restaurant in the resort, most likely, we’ll dine here tonight for the first and last time. Breakfasts have been excellent. We anticipate dinner will be equally good.

Now, as our US visit winds down, it’s impossible not to start thinking about the animals we left behind. Will Little, Tiny, Broken Horn, Bossy, Bog Daddy, Stingy, Torn Ear, Thick Neck, Benny, Henny, Lenny and Penny, Sigfried and Roy, and of course, Frank and The Misses (and many others) still be there waiting for us to return. Only time will tell. I assure you, the first thing I’ll do is open the door to the veranda and call their names, practically holding my breath in anticipation.

We’ve had a fantastic visit, but Africa is calling me, as it always does, no matter how far away we may be.

Be well. Be happy. Be safe.

Photo from one year ago today, July 22, 2020:

From the post, one year ago, while in lockdown in Mumbai, India, day #121, of the blossoms on a banana tree. “The inflorescence is a complex structure that includes the flowers that will develop into fruits.” The hanging pink and yellowish protrusions are the flowers. Mother Nature is amazing! For more, please click here.

Enjoying relaxing and quiet times, too…Three days and counting…

Green Valley Ranch Resort and Spa is a fabulous property. When we return to Las Vegas in years to come, we’d love to stay here again.

Since we arrived in the US on July 1st, the time has flown by so quickly that we can hardly believe it. Hey, “Father Time,” slow down! We still have lots of life to live, and it’s moving way too quickly for our liking. We arrived here three weeks ago and now are left with only three more days until departure.

But, as we prepare to depart, we feel comfortable with the quality of the time spent in the US with our family members and a few friends. Now, as the days dwindle toward departure, we are reminiscing about the good times we’ve had, with more to come over the next few evenings.

Tonight, we’re heading to Richard‘s home for dinner at 7:00 pm. While there, we’ll use his washer and dryer to do one load of laundry since there are no laundry facilities in this hotel other than pricey laundry service, which we seldom use other than as necessary on cruises.

Last night we were on our own. After eating out so many nights, we decided on takeaway with the many options available in the hotel’s food court. We found an Asian restaurant with several stir-fried, non-battered options that work for me. It will be a long time before we have access to Asian food again. We’ve never seen an Asian restaurant anywhere in South Africa, other than in the big cities.

We set up a small table and two chairs in our room to use as a dining area while we streamed an episode of Shark Tank as we ate our delicious food. We chatted while eating since we’d already seen the older episode and thoroughly enjoyed the meal and each other’s company.

Green Valley Ranch Resort and Spa is huge, with 496 rooms and massive grounds.

The remainder of the evening flew by as we easily entertained ourselves, talking and streaming a few more shows. Later, sleep was elusive. Several times during the night, we were both awake, looking at our phones. At one point, from sheer desperation, I got up and took an aspirin. I didn’t have a headache or any pain, but on a rare occasion, I take one aspirin since it makes me sleepy. It worked, and by 1:00 am, I drifted off. Tom said he did the same without the aspirin.

Today, we’re staying in, continuing to research the future, which, at this point, is still vague and uncertain regarding Covid-19. It’s unbelievable how many states in the US and other countries are experiencing spikes in cases over the past week.

Today, I have been chatting back and forth via text with several of our friends in South Africa. Somehow, they manage well with the Level 4 lockdown, including an alcohol ban and mask-wearing anywhere out in public. Once we return, we’ll follow suit with mask-wearing while proceeding with caution in public places.

Other than small get-togethers with close friends, several of whom are now vaccinated, we’ll follow the Covid-19 requirements and be extra careful when heading to Komatipoort to shop for groceries. The small town is a hotbed of Covid-19 and has been so all along.

This resort is beautifully decorated and appealing to the eye.

Tomorrow morning, we go for our Covid-19 PCR tests at a drive-up Minute Clinic at a nearby CVS pharmacy, required for us to enter South Africa, even though we’ve been vaccinated. We’d have preferred to get the test on Friday, but there was nowhere in this entire city that offered 24-hour results.

All of the regular PCR testing sites only offered 48-hour turnarounds. This is cutting it close for us since South Africa requires the PCR test to be completed no more than 72 hours before entering the country. There’s a rapid test available, but we were concerned that South Africa wouldn’t accept the rapid test when all the information online specifically stated it must be a PCR test, not a rapid test. We didn’t want to take any chances.

Calling the airlines to check on this is pointless since it requires two to three hours on hold on the phone to get through to a representative. No thanks.

That’s it for today, folks. We’ll be back with more tomorrow.

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

This photo is from our post on Day #120 while in lockdown in Mumbai, India, one year ago. Most beaches are rocky in Madeira, Portugal. Wooden planks are provided for sunbathers to avoid sitting on the rocks. On many beaches, these thatched umbrellas are also provided. For more, please click here.

Dinner with Richard…How to play a slot machine has changed due to Covid-19…

A small glimpse of the Las Vegas Strip through the car’s windshield.

We had such a fine evening last night with Richard and his lovely GF. They prefer not to have their photos online, which we fully respect and understand. We had a fantastic evening with the two of them, first having drinks at the Claim Jumper and later heading a short distance to one of my favorite places for salads, The Cheesecake Factory.

It was an evening with lots of enthusiastic conversation and laughter. What a joy it is to see them after 20 months away! We’ll see them a few more times this week as their schedules allow.

Alternate view of the strip from the highway.

When I saw they had a low-carb, sugar-free cheesecake on their menu, I had to control myself to keep from ordering it. Once we return to South Africa, I will make two such pies, one for me and another for Louise and Danie, who also eat the way I do, occasionally having such a low-carb treat.  At least if I make it, I am confident of the ingredients. Tom doesn’t care for it. But I can’t seem to get it out of my mind.

Also, I will make dear friend Don a cherry pie. Kathy brought the cherry pie filling with her to South Africa from the US, along with two cans of pumpkin pie filling. We’ll all be enjoying some sweet treats shortly after we arrive. It will be fun to make these pies for everyone and enjoy a bit of my own favorite low-carb cheese pie.

Another view of the Las Vegas Strip from the highway.

Once we are situated in our bush house, and after I make the cheese pie and make apple crisp for Tom and we’ve finished them off, we’ll both begin our strict way of eating to lose the few pounds we gained in the US, three for me and five for Tom. In a month from now, we’ll both be back to where we were.

Right now, we are walking about 8,000 to 10,000 steps a day, going back and forth to the parking garage, to breakfast, and to other areas of the resort to take photos. It feels great to walk long distances on even surfaces. This is precisely what we needed after being relatively stationary in Minnesota and Milwaukee.

The food court in the hotel is for those preferring a quick meal and lower cost.

When we return to Marloth Park in less than a week, we have decided to start walking more. Based on the problems with my legs after two surgeries on each leg and the resulting nerve damage, walking isn’t as easy for me now as it used to be. We may have to drive somewhere in the park to find level surfaces for walking. The uneven, unpaved, gravel roads in Marloth Park cause walking hazards, which could easily result in a fall. As always, we’ll figure it out.

After last night’s enjoyable dinner, we returned to our hotel. But, while on the way back to our room, we had to walk through the casino. As we did so, we stopped at a slot machine with a beautiful display of African animals. I said to Tom, “Let’s try this. Maybe we’ll have “safari luck.”

Pizza is a popular item in Las Vegas.

Before Covid, it was easy to use a slot machine with bills and coins. It took a mere $3 to realize doing so was a waste of time and money. Not the case now. Sure, you can enter paper bills but no coins whatsoever. If you win a certain amount, you have to take the paper receipt to a cashier to get the actual monetary amount. That was the first thing we noticed.

If players don’t want to find a cashier station, it is easy for them to put the receipt back into the slot in the machine, which encourages them to play more and subsequently lose more. It’s a hook! No wonder gambling is addictive.

All of the slot machines had a similar payout system as described here today.

When I entered $1 into the slot, there was only an option to bet $.75. Left with a paltry $.25 made me put more money in the machine to use up the $.25. This went on and on, never giving me an option to bet the total value of the cash-out slip. Of course, I quit playing immediately, already feeling the throes of being unable to stop. No, thank you. We’d rather spend money on future travels, not on the remote possibilities of prospective winnings.

Back to our room, we both had a good night’s sleep. This morning after another fine breakfast, costing $35 with tax and tip, we headed to the distant parking ramp to drive 25 minutes to our mailing service to collect the items we’d received thus far. On Friday, we’ll return one more time since we’re awaiting a few more items, including one more replacement credit card with more travel perks suitable for our needs.

Tonight, with no big plans on the horizon, we’ll wait and see what rolls out.

Have a fabulous day and be well.

Photo from one year ago today, July 20, 2021:

Te handed off the camera in Boveglio, Italy, to a kind gentleman who took this blurry photo in the square when we were invited to a party. This photo was posted one year ago will on day #119 in lockdown in Mumbai, India. For more photos, please click here.

Las Vegas is unlike anywhere else in the world…What a city!…What a nightlife!…

The pool view from our room at Green Valley Ranch Resort & Spa in Henderson, Nevada, is only minutes from Las Vegas.

It’s such fun to be staying at the beautiful Green Valley Ranch Resort & Spa in Henderson, Nevada, located across a highway from son Richard’s gated community. The lights, the luxury, the glamour, and the food are always over-the-top in this sparkling city of lights and addictive pleasures. Thank goodness, we don’t gamble. We both gave up giving money to casinos many moons ago.

We are thrilled with our lovely, well-appointed hotel room.

But, getting here yesterday was quite a challenge. We didn’t get to our hotel room until 1:00 am this morning, which was 3:00 am to us based on Minnesota time. We were both anxious to get a good night’s sleep but awoke at our usual early time, close to 6:00 am. After less than  5 hours of sleep, we are surprised how energized we feel today.

There was ample space to open our bags and avoid unpacking which we prefer. We’ve become quite good at living out of a suitcase.

Not only will it be wonderful to see son Richard and his GF, but we’ll be able to pick up our mail with many items we’d purchased from Amazon, to refill our supplies, including two pairs of shoes and a few clothing items for me. Tomorrow, after uploading the day’s post, we’ll head to North Las Vegas to our mailing service to collect the many valuable items, including our new camera.

Unusual-looking cakes on display in the casino.

Of course, we’ll have to repack our bags to make everything fit, but Tom included one of our newer empty duffel bags in his suitcase that we’d purchased to go on the later canceled trip to Kenya months ago (due to Covid-19 lockdown) that required cloth duffel bags for the small airplane.

Taste-tempting treats for sale at the Lucky Penny Restaurant.

Yesterday’s trip from Milwaukee back to Minneapolis was a traffic nightmare. Our flight, scheduled for 9:20 pm (Minnesota time), seemed like a shoo-in when we left Sister Beth in the morning after our second visit, headed back to our hotel to pack, and we were on the road by 1:00 pm after requesting a late check-out.

Tom’s colossal ham steak, eggs, and hash browns breakfast. I gave him my fruit.

Traffic from Wisconsin to Minnesota on I-94 was at a standstill on several occasions.  We barely made it to the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport within the required two hours. Once at the airport, check-in queues and baggage processing were long and slow, when curbside SkyCap check-in was no longer available due to Covid.

My breakfast of flourless egg-white wraps containing chicken, avocado, and cheese, topped with pickled onions. Delicious!

Going through security took another 25 minutes. Since I hadn’t eaten a thing all day, we’d hoped to eat at the airport. Many of the usual restaurants were closed due to Covid with lack of support staff. The only restaurant suitable for my eating was Buffalo Wild Wings, which also had a long queue and closed 40 minutes later.

As we entered the casino…

It was rush, rush, rush. We made it to our gate on time to find the Delta flight overbooked with offers of $500 gift cards for passengers willing to forfeit their seats. That wasn’t for us. We weren’t in the mood to wait for almost four hours for the next flight.

Due to touchless gambling, machines such as this don’t accept cash instead of using only pre-purchased cards.

But, the real chaos began in Las Vegas when we waited in a line of hundreds of people to take the shuttle to the car rental facility a few miles from the airport. It took another hour to be processed at Budget Car Rental, pushing our bags around when there were no luggage trolleys nearby. We never liked Las Vegas McCarran Airport for these and more reasons. From the time we landed until we reached our nearby hotel (10 minutes from the airport),  2½ has passed. Ridiculous.

Casinos are a playground for adults with every imaginable game of chance.

This morning, we bolted out of bed with a new attitude, showered and dressed in our lovely upscale hotel room, and headed to breakfast at the hotel’s casual restaurant, the Lucky Penny. Photos shown here today are delicious breakfast meals that convinced us that we don’t need to go any further for breakfast over the next few mornings until we leave for South Africa on Saturday.

Waterfalls are built into the walls of a restaurant.

This morning, “I got a text!” (as they say on Love Island, a goofy matchmaking series we’ve watched on a few occasions) from Richard to meet them for dinner at the Claim Jumper restaurant only two miles from here. We’re both looking forward to seeing them, after 20 months since the last time we were here, arriving on Thanksgiving afternoon when we later had Thanksgiving dinner with Richard at the same restaurant where we dined this morning, formerly called the Grand Cafe. Quite nice.

Enjoy our fun Las Vegas-type photos, and we’ll be back with more as the week progresses.

Have a fantastic Monday, everyone!

Photo from one year ago today, July 18, 2020:

One year ago today, I’d posted this photo on this date, which was day #117 in lockdown in Mumbai, India. Here’s what I’d purchased from a local vegetable truck in Boveglio, Italy, in  2013, for a total of Euro $4.09, US $5.33. Prices were better at the grocery store, but the freshness and convenience made it worth paying more. For more, please click here.