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.

Day #4…We’re “back in the USA!”…

Mongoose and kudus in the side garden,  munching on treats we tossed their way.

The lyrics to the song written by Chuck Berry, “Back in the USA,” (see the link here), are as follows and rings true today in many ways;  “Chuck Berry first issued the song on Chess Records in 1959 as a single which reached number 37 in the Billboard Hot 100. The song’s lyrics were supposedly written based upon Berry returning to the United States following a trip to Australia and witnessing the living standards of Australian Aborigines.”

Lyrics
“I woke up to a bitter storm (bitter year)
And Noah’s Ark came washed up on the shore
The riot gear has lined the dawn (bitter year)
Like dogs that shit on your neighbor’s lawn
Let freedom ring with all the crazies on parade
Let them eat poison, and it tastes like lemonade
Back in the USA for a small town serenade
With fireworks on display
Tonight, it’s a hero’s welcome home
And there’s no place to go
And I’m taking it to the grave
Back in the USA
The saddest story ever told (bitter year)
Is feeling safe in our suburban homes
Like soldiers of an endless war (bitter year)
And every church can have a liquor store
Let freedom ring with all the crazies on parade
Let them eat poison, and it tastes like lemonade
Back in the USA for a small town serenade
With fireworks on display
Tonight, it’s a hero’s welcome home
And there’s no place to go
And I’m taking it to the grave
Back in the USA”
Many of these words remind me of the trials and challenges most of us faced during the past 18 months of the pandemic. The music to this song is an “earworm” playing over and over again in my head, as we both deal with a severe lack of sleep since Tuesday night, In total, we each may have slept only  10 to 12 hours, and we’re both feeling the brunt of the long journey.
I knew that preparing a post today wasn’t going to be easy. So, on the last leg from Chicago to Minneapolis, I wrote the following on my phone when I had a sudden burst of energy. Doing so made the short 55-minute flight fly by quickly and read as follows:

“I wrote today’s post while on the flight yesterday afternoon from Chicago to Minneapolis. Packed like sardines on the United Airlines Airbus with nary an empty seat, we should be landing in MSP in less than 90 minutes.

Our long journey, albeit tiring, was moving along seamlessly until we arrived in Chicago. Several things went wrong, and honestly, aside from the loss of Tom’s suitcase, it’s not worth getting into each one of the other issues.
Facing time constraints with our upcoming Covid-19 vaccines scheduled for 5:45 at the MSP airport, the inconvenience of filing a claim for the lost luggage put us in a severe time crunch.  Maneuvering back and forth to the vaccine center in the terminal and baggage claim area will keep us busy.
The 5:45 pm vaccine times for both of us is a priority over filing the claim. We’ll have to juggle picking up my one bag, making the lost luggage claim, and keeping the vaccine appointments. On an average day, this would be no big deal. After traveling for three days with only a few hour’s sleep, we’re both raggedy and out of sorts.
I haven’t eaten anything all day, and Tom ate high-carb, primarily junk food. We need a shower, good food, clean clothes, and sleep. (Oh yeah, Tom doesn’t have any clothes other than what he’s worn since Tuesday morning when we left Marloth Park).
We’ll see how all of that goes. Now, if we can get the vaccine without incident, I won’t complain too loudly. Tom, sitting across the aisle from me in the “sardine can,” reminded me, “Eight years, eight months, and we never lost a bag!”
I laughed! We have been pretty lucky, haven’t we?
Ah, after a good night’s sleep and food, our attitudes will change exponentially. We’ll report back as to how all of this evolved in tomorrow’s post. Please check back for the update.”
We’re at “tomorrow,” and we wanted to update our readers on our receiving the J & J vaccine, surprisingly in the airport upon arrival. Before heading to the luggage area, since we didn’t have enough time to do both, we made our way with our two carry-on bags to see if we could be vaccinated a few minutes earlier than the 5:45 appointment time.
The two very professional nurses were delighted to have some vaccine recipients. They mentioned, ” business has been slow with few passengers interested in getting the vaccine. In the early part of June, when they first started offering the jabs, they were busy. But, in the entire 45 minutes, we were with them, including a 30 minutes waiting period after the jab, not another patient appeared.
As it turned out, we chatted with them during our waiting period, and the time flew by. It didn’t allow us to be concerned or worry about possible side effects. Neither of us experienced a thing. Even today, as tired as we are, we have not had a single twinge of any reaction or side effect.
When done, we headed to the baggage area, picked up my bag, and filed a claim for Tom’s. They have no idea when his bag will arrive. Today, he has to buy some clothes, after wearing the same things since Tuesday. I couldn’t get my clothes off fast enough to sit on the bed and eat my Chipotle bowl. Oh, what a treat that was! Tom did Wendy’s.
Dining around here will be easy. We’re in an area where there are tons of takeaway and eat-in restaurants. Plus, we’re across the road from Eden Prairie Shopping Mall, making it easy for any shopping we need to do, particularly the clothes Tom needs to buy today until his suitcase arrives if it does at all.
That’s it for today. We’ll be back tomorrow with some unusual details about our hotel. Please check back.
Photo from one year ago today, June 2, 2020:
This flock of ostriches is often found in a particular area near the river we often visit when on daily drives. Note the chick on the far left. For more photos, please click here.

Wonderful evening with friends…More socializing ramping up soon…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a fantastic day filled with wonders.

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

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

Serious travel dilemma…What shall we do?…

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

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

Peter, Paul, and Mary visit us often.

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

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

This leaf-like insect stopped by for another visit.

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

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

Encountering giraffes on our way to Jabula for dinner.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please check back tomorrow!

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

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