Figuring solutions for potential obstacles…

Earl has been visiting each evening. Wildebeests are the only animals that poop in our garden. The rest go out into the bush.

The most imminent topic on our minds right now is getting our passports renewed as soon as we arrive in the US. We’ll arrive at our holiday home in the evening on April 30, hoping to get a good night’s sleep so we’ll be refreshed when we awake on Monday, May 1.

Once we get unpacked and settled that morning, we’ll begin applying for our new 10-year passports. We’ve decided to use a company in Washington, DC, since passport applications are also running behind in the US, again blaming the pandemic for this problem.

One of our kind readers, Cheryl, wrote to remind us by submitting a USA Today article about how the US is behind in processing applications. Although we were aware of this, which contributed to our concern about getting the passports on time for our cruise on August 1, we did considerable research.

Earl and Hal together in the garden.

We decided we needed to bite the bullet and pay for a passport/visa processing company to get them back on time. We will choose to receive the passports in 8 to 10 business days. The cost for this speedy service will be around US $1500, ZAR 27347 for both of us. We know this is an outrageous amount of money for this service.

You may ask, why did we wait so long? We’ve certainly known this date was coming up. If we don’t have the new passports on the sailing date, we wouldn’t be allowed to board the ship. We were informed we could apply in South Africa at the US Consulate. When their website wasn’t working to process our applications, we knew we had to devise another plan.

Then, suddenly, we were informed we had to leave early due to visa extension issues in South Africa, and everything changed. We should have done it while we were in the US in November, but we weren’t there long enough to receive them in time to fly back to South Africa. Ah, the dilemmas of world travel. We accept these realities and our responsibility for sometimes not being on the ball quite enough. Stuff happens.

Ruffles on the right side of the garden.

I can’t believe I managed to do the posts daily, let alone complicated paperwork. Most likely, I blame myself the most since I had a headache for 11 months since we got Covid-19 last April 20, and I couldn’t discipline myself sufficiently to get this done. I spent most days inactive and unmotivated.

The headache now? It’s gone! After a ten-day cycle of Prednisone and ingesting multiple allergy medications, I finally feel free of the headache. However, I am still feeling some allergy symptoms once I tapered off the drug while still taking all of the other meds. I feel confident once we leave the bush, my symptoms will improve significantly when free of all the dust, pollen, grasses, and dust mites prevalent in this area.

When we return in 14 months, it will be winter here when allergies aren’t quite as bad. We’ll see how that goes at that time. Once we return, we don’t plan to stay longer than six months simply when we aren’t interested in dealing with these immigration issues. We’ll do one visa “run” to get a new 90-day visa stamp, but we aren’t interested in doing more.

We’ve been taking our walks each morning after breakfast and are pleased we can increase the distance a little each day. Tom does fine and could walk for hours, but I still have problems with my legs hurting, making long distances an issue. Hopefully, as we walk more and more, this will improve. It feels good to be moving around once again.

Tonight, we’re off to Jabula for dinner. Tomorrow, we’ll have three weeks remaining until we depart, and we’ll continue to go right up until the last night since we leave on a Saturday. It will be unusual when dining out in Florida. Most likely, we’ll dine out twice a week while we’re there with over 100 restaurants from which to choose, all a golf cart drive away. That should be fun.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, April 22, 2022:

The new watch face on my Fitbit Sense. How appropriate is that? I didn’t walk much yesterday when I took this photo, and we were too busy with other tasks. For more, please click here.

Busy Monday…Time to do passport renewals…

An adorable young male kudu was resting in the shade. Notice his tiny spikes of budding horns. Cute, eh?

We have a lot of work to do today. Today’s post will be short and to the point, as opposed to my usual chattering on and on. We’ve already had breakfast, gone for our walk, and I’ve made a fresh salad for tonight’s dinner. Last night, we thoroughly enjoyed my slow-cooked lamb neck (I ate half of it) and Tom’s separate big pot of roasted short ribs; it was all finger-licking good.

It’s not easy to eat those two types of meat without using one’s fingers when the meat is tender and falling off the bone. When meat in South Africa is butchered, they leave on a lot of fat that locals savor as a specialty. As Americans, we’re used to well-trimmed meat with little fat and don’t quite have a taste for the fatty portions.

As a result, as we ate, we used our fingers, me more than Tom, to ensure we got every delectable portion of the meat minus the fatty parts. It was one of the tastiest dinners we’ve had lately, although many have been quite good. Louise and Danie introduced me to lamb neck when they invited me for dinner at their home while Tom was away. I loved it!

When Tom returned from the US, we went to the local meat market in the Bush Centre, and I was able to buy a lamb neck. It was ZAR 150, US $8.38, enough to feed me for two nights, unlike when I dined with Louise and Danie, and I ate the entire thing in one sitting! For me, it was like eating candy.

After dinner, we sat outdoors for a while until the mozzies got bad and then headed indoors to stream a few shows and call it a night. Since today, I took the last dose of Prednisone; my sleep has been fitful the past ten days since I started the medication. It tends to cause insomnia. Last night, I slept through the night for a total of 7 hours and 38 minutes, according to my Fitbit. This is the most sleep I’ve had in weeks.

Nina, Norman, and Natalie have been in the garden several times each day. Note the two kudus in the background.

This morning on our walk, I noticed I had more stamina for the first time, and we went a little further. After being immobile this past year with this head and sinus thing, I spent too much time lounging, never getting much exercise. I feel more confident walking fast and getting my heart rate up after knowing my cardiac condition is excellent after Friday’s stress test. Gosh, peace of mind is worth everything.

For many, a spiritual aspect of our lives is vital to our sense of well-being. We always say if one has their health, they have everything, but as seniors who’ve lived long and full lives, we know this is only true in part. Many other life circumstances make us feel like we have everything; good relationships, financial stability, an active social life, mental health, physical health, and well-being.

If one of these above areas is lacking, we can find ourselves unhappy and distraught, even if we have good health. Occasionally, any of us may be wrought with sorrow associated with the loss of any of the above. As resilient human beings, we have it within our power through love, support, spiritual resources, and sheer will and determination to overcome such sorrows in time.

It’s not easy, by no means, but we all possess the ability to learn, to grow, to recover. and eventually, to move on. When I think back to times when the challenges felt like they were too many to conquer, somehow, most often out of a sense of responsibility, I muddled my way through, as all of you have done at different times in your lives as well.

Now, we’re off to work on the passports, and we’ll be back with more tomorrow.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, April 3, 2022:

Tom and Lois (who visited us in Marloth Park in October 2018) and the two of us at the biker bar, Nav-A-Gator Bar and Grill, in Arcadia, Florida. For more photos, please click here.

Notice from attorneys…What???…Makes no sense…

Two hornbills take turns eating seeds from the feeder ledge.

Late yesterday, we received this letter from our attorney handling the visa extensions. It reads as follows:

We hope this finds you well.  

  1. “This email is to inform you of the attached Circular, which was published today.  
  2. The Circular as published does not appear to uniformly apply to all categories of applicants, nor is it clear with respect to the abandonment of applications on departure.
  3. Since the declaration of a national State of Disaster in 2020, various Directions, Directives, and Circulars have been published, often requiring careful interpretation of their language as applicable to individual circumstances.  In some instances, as in the current case, interpretation must be deferred until after we obtain specific clarifications from the DHA. 
  4. While we always invite all our clients to communicate with us directly should any query arise in terms of delays, their status and/or ability to travel out of SA rather than relying on hearsay and information distributed on social media and/or unverified sources we anticipate and acknowledge in advance that some questions will not be answerable by 31 March 2023.”

From there, the entire attached document from Home Affairs was included, which may be viewed by clicking the link below:

DHA Circular 29 March 2023

What we are supposed to do from here is vague. The question we have now is: Do we have to leave by April 30? Or can we stay until the day our extension may have been approved or longer? The answers are totally unclear. I copied and pasted the sections in question directly from the documents as follows:

“b) Applicants whose visa applications are still pending: Longterm visa holders (Work, Business, Study, Relative, and Accompany spouse) who form part of the 62692 visa backlog applications be granted a temporary extension until 31 December 2023 of the current visa status. Applicants are not allowed to engage in any activity other than what the visa conditions provide for. For those who wish to abandon their visa applications and depart from South Africa when able to do so, they should be allowed to exit at a port of entry before or on 31 December 2023 without being declared undesirable in terms of section 30(1)(h) the Immigration Act, read with regulation 27(3) of the Immigration Regulations. NonVisa exempted applicants who traveled out of the country with a receipt are required to apply for a visitor’s visa, which will allow them entry into the country to await the outcome of their visa extension. 

c) Short-term visa holders whose visa validity was issued for less than 90 days and who have not received their visa extension outcome by 31 March 2023 must please make the necessary arrangements to depart on or before 30 April 2023 to avoid being declared undesirable.”

Little Johnny is such an adorable young male bushbuck.

Leaving by April 30 creates unplanned added travel expenses along with any other issues relative to leaving early. Our rent and rental car are paid until June 8. It’s good that we haven’t prepaid any bookings yet and have been dragging our feet to see what happens before committing to anything.

So, all we do from here is wait to hear back from the law firm as to how this confusing situation applies to us and proceed from there. Whatever the outcome, we will figure out a plan that works for us. Sure, were could go to Scotland and wait it out until the cruise in August.

Little Johnny was standing by the veranda table, waiting for us to come outdoors.

But, we’ve found it to be so expensive there, we’d definitely be stretching our budget. Most tourists who go to the UK and Europe stay for short periods, not months. All we can do from here is “play it by ear” until we hear back from the law firm on their interpretation of these vague and uncertain requirements.

By no means are we stressed about this, but we would like to be able to know where we may be going 30 days from today if that’s the case. If we can stay until December, most likely, we’ll stay until July if Louise has a house for us. We won’t bother her with questions until we know exactly what we must do.

Lilac, of Tulip and Lilac, resting in the garden.

Today, I’m busy with laundry and prepping tonight’s dinner, along with both of us reviewing potential options once we know more about our timetable.

Tomorrow, we’re off to Komatipoort to Doc Theo for our cardiac stress tests. I’ll be glad when this is over, and hopefully, we both get good results, along with Tom’s test results.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, March 30, 2022:

Another beautiful sunny day in Florida! For more photos, please click here.

Part 2…A shocking and totally unexpected situation…We aren’t in Seychelles on the cruise…What???…

This morning, there was ice on the windows of the little car. Tom had to use the provided scraper to scrape off the ice.

The first question we asked when we discovered we weren’t getting on the flight was, “What about our luggage?” At that point, it was already on the plane to Seychelles.  The rep assured us our luggage would be removed from the aircraft since luggage is never sent without the passengers on the flight due to security risks. We were assured we could pick up our bags the next day.

After hearing the bad news as we stood at the Ethiopian Air check-in counter, Tom and I looked at one another for a minute, each lost in our thoughts of what we’d do next. As Tom called it, we both had the same idea, “Plan B.” There can always be a Plan B.

He spoke first, “Let’s go to Plan B.”

“And, what is Plan B?” I asked, knowing full well what his answer would be.

He replied, “We have no choice but to go to the US, which will ensure reentry into South Africa with a new 90-day visa stamp.” I nodded in agreement. We had to get out of the country and do so quickly. There was no time, only 26 hours until we became “undesirables” in South Africa.

There were no immediately available flights to the US. Our only option was to get a hotel room and search for the next flight to Minneapolis. We hadn’t seen our family members when we were in Minnesota only six months ago due to being sick with Omicron. Now, not infectious by any means, we could at least see the family in Minnesota, although it didn’t make sense to also visit Richard in Nevada on this trip with the holiday season in full bloom.

We’d stay a few weeks and head back to Marloth Park less than two weeks later. Immediately we tried booking a room at the Johannesburg airport hotel, City Lodge, where we’d stayed on previous occasions, but the reservation wouldn’t go through. We thought it was due to the weak WiFi signal. We were SOL. We decided to trek the long distance inside the airport in hopes of getting a room. The hotel was indeed totally booked. They arranged a taxi to take us to their sister hotel, about a 15-minute drive (at our expense), and within minutes after arrival, we could check into a room.

This morning the temperature was 32F, 0C, with snow expected tomorrow. Photos will follow as we try to get back into the groove of taking photos.

We were situated in the room by 1:00 am on November 25, with 23 hours to go until our visas expired. Under the circumstances, neither of us was hungry but had we been; no food was available that late at night. Neither of us had eaten anything since early that morning in Marloth Park.

When I walked into the room, the first thing I said to Tom…and I may add, the first whining I did, was to say, “I don’t have any pajamas.” I always wear pj’s of one sort or another to bed. I’d have to sleep in my day-old underwear, an unpleasant thought. Tom gave me an overly grumpy look and growled. I hadn’t even packed toothpaste, deodorant, or other toiletries, using most of the space in my carry-on bag for all the medications I’d been taking for sinus problems. I didn’t complain further.

Oddly, when I packed the carry-on bag, I included enough medication to last a month, assuming anything could happen, and I’d hate to have to get to a doctor for my handful of regular medicines.

So, we got undressed and under the covers, cold from being tired, and began searching online for flights. We spent no less than two hours trying to book flights, a hotel, and a rental car. We ended up speaking to a rep at CheapOAir, and wow…did we run into problems, one after another. Finally, by 3:00 am, we had it all booked, and Tom turned over to get some sleep.

At 3:10 am, I received an email from CheapOAir, stating that all three of our reservations for air, hotel, and car had been canceled for no apparent reason. I looked up the credit card we’d used, and the charges were listed under “pending.” I was wide awake but played with my phone to lull me off to sleep, which usually works.

I was able to get in contact via chat with another rep from CheapOAir, and she resolved the issue by confirming by email that the cancelation email had been an error on their end and that all of our reservations arrived once again with confirmation numbers. I didn’t wake Tom up to tell him about this recent event. Why bother him? When we awoke a few hours later, I told him what had happened.

With reservations in place and our 16-hour flights from Joburg to Newark, we were scheduled to depart at 10:30 pm, only 90 minutes before “undesirables” status. That was cutting it close. What if the plane arrived late at the gate? We decided not to even think about this. We’d had enough stress for one day.

When we went to breakfast in the hotel, we asked if we could pay for a late checkout until 6:30 pm, 1830 hrs,  to which they agreed to charge us Zar 840, US $49, which was well worth it, rather than spending more hours waiting in the airport. After breakfast, we returned to the room to handle some of the issues we’d yet to face, such as canceling the cruise, getting our bags, and miscellaneous odds and ends.

When we hadn’t heard anything about the bags, Tom decided to head back to the airport to see if they’d brought the two large duffle bags to the missing baggage department. Our bags were nowhere to be found. They proved to be on their way to Seychelles. He left the hotel at 12:20 pm, 1220 hrs, and didn’t return until three hours later.

He filed a claim, only to discover there was no way they’d send the bags to the US. They’d only forward them to Nelspruit, South Africa, sometime around December 10. We’d have to arrange to pick them up in Nelspruit if the bags were found. They agreed to contact us when the bags were on their way to us.

This happened to us the last time we came to the US, and we had to pay a delivery service to collect the bags in Nelspruit and bring them to us in Marloth Park. Fine. If the bags are found, we’ll be thrilled to arrange that.

So, we were boarding the flight to Newark, New Jersey, with no bags on board other than a few carry-on bags with our digital equipment and the medications. We were heading to the US with nothing but clothes on our backs, shoes on our feet, and wearing dirty underwear. We’d figure this out when we arrived in MSP.

The 16-hour flight was one of the hardest for me ever. I couldn’t get comfortable in my tiny seat and spent the entire time watching fewer than eight movies. My favorite was the new Tom Cruise Top Gun movie; I barely remember the rest. I nodded off several times for only a few minutes each time. Tom and I couldn’t sit together, but he often came back to check on him. We were both wearing compression stockings. I made of point of getting up and going to the bathroom every few hours.

We had a three-hour layover in Newark, but the time passed quickly. Before we knew it, we were on our way to MSP, arriving at about 12:30 pm. We took a shuttle to the car rental facility distant from the airport, but the service and car we booked were excellent at Ace. Shortly later, we were on the road, heading to Target to buy some emergency clothes and toiletries. It was Saturday afternoon, about 53 hours since we’d left Marloth Park.

I barely remember the time we spent in Target. We were exhausted and had trouble thinking, but nary a complaint crossed our lips during the shopping expedition. It would have been fun if we hadn’t been so tired. Everything we purchased fit us and would suffice for the days until we left to return to South Africa on December 8.

Once at our lovely hotel in Eden Prairie, we unloaded our new clothes, removed the tags, and showered. What a relief that was. I purchased two pairs of warm pajamas and couldn’t wait to get into them quickly enough, adding a pair of new socks to the equation. By 6:30 pm, I was in bed, falling asleep in only minutes. Tom wasn’t far behind. We slept for over eight hours and felt much better in the morning.

The story continues with a few new challenges, which we’ll share as we go along. We have no delusions about our responsibility in not investigating further to discover the requirement of this form. However, we’d checked the US State Department’s website for requirements for US citizens to enter Seychelles and read, “visa provided upon entry.”

Also, we had asked the tour company for any documents needed, and they said none other than what we’d provided. It’s hard to believe that after ten years, we still have lessons to learn, but, like life itself, regardless of how long we live, we still learn more and more each day.

After Covid, so much has changed in how documentation enters many countries. We may have become lazy in “assuming” we had everything we needed. We realize we need to be more proactive and mindful than ever and will do so in the future as we make new travel plans.

And so the story continues with more positive updates from these first few days we’ve spent with family. Delightful! Perhaps it was meant to be.

Photo from one year ago today, November 28, 2021:

Mom and three piglets often stop by. Is this the same mom we’ve seen this year with new babies? It certainly looks like her. with those perfectly formed tusks. Be well. For more, please click here.

Immigration has an answer for us…

Dung beetles are fascinating little creatures. We spotted this one in the garden yesterday morning.

Yesterday afternoon, we received an email from the law firm representing us in our request for a visa extension that the decision has been made. Since the South African immigration department is backlogged, we had to use an attorney. If we attempted to file independently, we may never have received an answer in time and would have overstayed.

We’d be banned from the country for five years if we overstayed and subject to fines. We are prepared for this possibility. If our extension is rejected, we’ll have seven days to leave the country. If that transpires, we will head to Florida early to wait for our cruise on April 8.

While seated at the table on the veranda, I spotted him at quite a distance. In this photo, he was trying to figure out how to get away from wildebeest Hal’s legs, fearful he’d be stepped on. He safely made it past Hal.

Most likely, we will be approved. Why would they turn us down? We are spending money in their country and not causing any problems. We don’t use their medical system without payment, although we did receive a no-cost vaccination booster. We offered to pay, and they refused.

Friday morning at 10:15 is our scheduled appointment to appear at the immigration office in Nelspruit to each open our sealed envelopes. Once again, we’ll make the harrowing three-hour round trip drive, head to the immigration office, wait for our turn to open the two sealed envelopes, one for each of us, to see if we’ve been approved and the date we have to leave.

On average, dung beetles can handle a dung ball 50 times their weight.

The last time we filed for an extension was in 2018 when we were each given different visa expiration dates. Go figure. Our applications were entered as a couple. Why would we leave on different dates? Instead, we left earlier so one of us wouldn’t be considered “undesirable” for overstaying by a few days.

I always dread the drive to Nelspruit, especially through the gorge where giant semis hog the two-lane road. Thank goodness South Africans are courteous drivers who move over onto the shoulder to allow faster vehicles to pass. We’ve never seen this anywhere else in the world. Drivers are thoughtful. We’ve yet to see any road rage. Instead, there are other issues on the roads here, such as shootings and carjackings. Then again, these have become commonplace in the US as well, including in Minnesota, where we lived.

Every so often, he fell off his ball and landed on his back. Struggling for a few minutes, he managed to right himself and start again.

This morning, I am rushing, trying to get the post done, and walking as much as possible. Rita is picking me up in an hour for us to have pedicures together at the lovely little spa in Marloth Park. We’ll be gone a few hours, so I will have to catch up on the walking when I return a few hours later. Right now, I have the timer set to walk every 15 minutes.

Already this morning, I folded all of the laundry on the rack, made the salad for tonight’s dinner, worked on the documents for Friday’s trip to immigration, and walked two miles in the house. Friday, we’ll be gone from 8:00 am until noon. Friday afternoon, when we return, I’ll be swamped catching up, doing the post with the outcome of the immigration office visit, and somehow manage to walk almost 4 miles,  6.4 km.

Some may say, “Give it a break! Take a day off!” But, I am doing this to save my life. There are no days off when that’s the objective.

His objective is to find a mate. Two “rolling” beetles, a male and a female, will roll and bury a ball of dung for food storage or to make a brood ball. The male is typically tasked with rolling the ball, with the female often hitching a ride on the ball. When they reach a soft spot in the soil, they bury the ball and mate underground. After preparing the ball, the female will lay eggs inside the ball. Some species will stay behind to safeguard their offspring; others will leave the eggs to hatch, with the larvae feeding on the dung

Otherwise, all is fine. Tomorrow morning at 9:00, I am going to Stoep Cafe for breakfast with Rita. At 11:00 pm, Tom and I have teeth cleaning appointments at the dental office next door to the cafe. Tom will arrive at that time, have his teeth cleaned, and then we’ll shop at the market and pharmacy.

On Friday night, friends Lynne and Mick, whom we haven’t seen since 2019, will meet the four of us for dinner at Jabula. We have no plans yet for Saturday night, but something will likely pop up.

Have a pleasant day and evening, wherever you may be.

Photo from one year ago today, February 9, 2021:

Bossy (before she was pregnant) and a friend, partaking of pellets. For more photos, please click here.

The immigration issues unfolded…Hearts pounding, holding our breath!…

There’s our boy, Broken Horn. He was so happy to see us he was shaking his head and moving his feet up and down. Funny, boy!

The flight from Livingstone was delayed. We later discovered it was due to a mechanical issue before it took off for Zambia. As we sat in the cafe at the airport, we were only concerned about the delay in the event we wouldn’t get to Nelspruit in time to hit the road, the dangerous N4, before dark.

It’s never wise to travel on this two-lane highway at night due to heavy truck traffic and carjacking risks. If our flight didn’t arrive at the Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger Airport by 5:30 pm, 1730 hrs, we’d have no choice but to book a hotel room for the night. Sunset was at 6:05 pm, 1805 hrs, and with the usual 90 minutes required to make the drive to Marloth Park, at no point during such a drive would being on the road in the dark be worth the risk.

Broken Horn and Bad Eye. Her eye has healed nicely.

Finally, after an hour-long wait, the plane arrived and prepped for our flight. By 2:30 pm, 1430 hrs, we were on the runway with only six passengers, including the two of us. It took off with the lowest number of passengers we’d experienced on this particular small jet with Airlink.

The flight was smooth and uneventful, and we arrived in Nelspruit by 4:00 pm, 1600 hrs. All we had to do at that point was get through immigration without a hitch, collect our two duffle bags, pick up the rental car and hopefully be on our way. We approached the immigration desk with passports, documents, PCR tests, and proof of rental in hand, hearts pounding, hoping for the best.

Four female kudus are regular visitors. They wasted no time visiting us today.

The immigration officer was immediately well aware we’d done a “visa run” often frowned upon. With the thought that we’ve been classified as “undesirables” twice in these past nine years of travel, we were prepared for the worst. The first time was in Australia in 2017 when we made the mistake of “assuming” going on a cruise out of Sydney, visiting other countries, with the cruise ending in Sydney, only to discover we’d “overstayed.”

After days of stress, documents and worry, we finally were able to work it out with the Australian immigration department to stay until our next cruise a month later that had us officially leaving Australia.

One Tusk and Lonely Girl were happy to see us too, especially when we tossed pellets.

The next time we were “undesirable” was after we had no choice but to overstay after I’d had open-heart surgery in February 2019. We were banned from South Africa for five years, requiring us to hire a lawyer to lift the ban, successful many months later.

Had we not had these two scary experiences,  yesterday we may not have been so apprehensive when we tried to re-enter South Africa. After all, we’ve been here since January 2021 and hoped to stay until January 23, 2022. When the immigration officer carefully examined our passports, checked our records on his computer, he asked one question:

“When are you returning to the US?”

As usual, Lonely Girl arrived alone. She appears to be pregnant.

Without hesitation, Tom held up a copy of our return ticket to Tampa, Florida, USA, dated January 23, 2022. He read it carefully, pulled out his stamp, and proceeded to stamp each of our passports, writing that date as our final day without saying another word.

With only six passengers on the plane, the bags came up quickly. We struggled to keep from cheering instead of walking away briskly to collect our bags which were already waiting for us on the carousel in the next room. Tom grabbed a trolley, the bags, and we were on our way to the rental car area. By 5:00 pm, 1700 hrs, we were on the road.

Female kudus (including Bad Eye), along with Broken Horn, harmoniously shared pellets.

How did we get away with staying in South Africa for so long after receiving our original 90 days upon entry?

  1. President Ramaphosa issued a visa waiver for those who’d arrived around the time we had – 90 days.
  2. We went to the US for a month and received another new visa – 90 days
  3. Yesterday’s new visa was issued for traveling to Zambia, luckily accepted – 90 days

Until darkness fell, Tom drove fast and aggressively, never forsaking the law or safety with only a short time. We pulled into the Gate 2 entrance to Marloth Park 70 minutes after we left the airport. Safari luck? Perhaps. In any case, we are grateful.

Once back at the house, which smelled clean after the spring cleaning Zef and Vusi did in our absence, we quickly unpacked, plugged in our equipment, freshened up a bit, and made our way to Jabula, where Dawn and Leon greeted us with the warmest of hugs. It was great to see them again, and we all sat at the bar, listening to great music while Dawn ran back and forth serving customers. We didn’t head out the door until 9:30, 2230 hrs.

A good night’s sleep was had by both of us. I awoke at 5:00 am, chomping at the bit to get outside to welcome our furry friends back into our lives. But, I stayed in bed to avoid awakening Tom. Throughout the day, they’ve returned, one after another making us laugh over their apparent enthusiasm at seeing us back here. We’ve yet to see Frank and Little but give it a few more hours, and I imagine we’ll see them too.

We couldn’t be happier to be back among our human and animal friends. Life is good.

Have a spectacular day!

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

This screenshot was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #218. I received this message from Fitbit that I’ve earned my India walking badge. For more, please click here.

Our visas expire at the end of October…What will we do?…

As we were driving down a dirt road. we stopped for “traffic.”

In two weeks, we must decide if we will apply for a visa extension at the end of October when our visas expire or, we are prepared to travel to another country in Africa? With countless Covid restrictions in many countries, we must keep checking back for any countries we may choose to visit for new 90-day visa stamps when we re-enter South Africa.

Also, as more and more cases of the variant cripple South Africa, we have to consider if we can re-enter South Africa from another African country. Having been vaccinated helps, and of course, most countries require PCR tests to enter along with the required test to re-enter South Africa.

Broken Horn stopped by this morning after making his way through the dry, dense bush to our garden. He ate pellets and apple peels.

We ask ourselves how many more three-month periods we’re willing to do this back and forth. We’ll have been here almost one year (less the recent four-week visit to the US). The only thing holding us back at this point is the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions throughout the world.

Our dear friends Karen and Rich are getting married on February 11, 2022. We are seriously considering returning to the US for their wedding. We have a series of cruises in and around Japan planned, the first of which embarks on February 27th from Singapore.

A few days before embarking, we could fly from Florida to Singapore for the embarkation. However, at this point, we believe these three cruises will be canceled. We won’t know for a few months. Once we know, we can decide if we’ll go to Florida for the wedding but need to make a plan from that point as to what we’ll do going forward. Again, this will be entirely determined by the status of Covid-19 throughout the world.

He turned while we waited patiently for him to clear the road.

Beyond the three cruises in and around Japan, the only definitive plan we have in place are the two cruises (back-to-back) we recently booked for the Black Sea, a location that’s been on Tom’s mind for quite some time. These are the two cruises we booked while in the US through Costco, which sail out of Istanbul with the second of back to back, ending in Athens, which provides us with many options for where we could spend some time at the end summer and early fall.

We’re anticipating these July cruises will transpire, as opposed to those in February. This is a lot to think about, but, at this point, neither of us is worried about what will and won’t happen in the way of these five cruises over the next 11 months. As always, we’ll figure it all out. We choose not to feel any stress about these future cruises.

Nor are we stressed about the end of October. We feel confident, now that the Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger Airport is open again for flights to Zambia, in the worst case, we’ll fly there for the third time, finding some exciting safari adventures, to spend a week in the country, with Botswana and Zimbabwe as additional possibilities.

Ostrich was crossing the road. Again, we waited patiently for her to travel.

At this point, we aren’t interested in flying out of Johannesburg to a distant location and then returning. Those long flights and time changes did a number on both of us this time when we both got sick with some unknown virus shortly after our return. No doubt, our immune systems were lacking due to a lack of sleep for several days.

Tom is almost 100% recovered, and I’m shortly behind him. We both still have a cough but find it less and less each day. What a relief! I no longer need to sleep ten or more hours each night, nor am I awakening during the night, coughing and sneezing.

Today is the official day of National Women’s Day in South Africa. There still are many tourists in Marloth Park, most likely leaving late today or tomorrow. Once they leave, most of our favorite animals will return. Nope. No Tiny yet. Over this long holiday weekend, we’ve seen many bushbucks, Broken Horn, Frank and The Misses and warthogs, Little, Peter, Paul and Mary, and One Tusk.

We are looking forward to many more returning in the next few days.

Well, folks, that’s it for today. We’ll keep you updated on our future travel plans as they roll out over the next several months.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today,  August 9, 2020:

This photo is from the year-ago post while in lockdown in Mumbai, India, on day #139. This photo was taken in Paris in 2014 while we were o a luxury diner cruise on the River Seine. As soon as we were seated, we were served these little French pastries and champagne. Tom ate all four of these pastries plus three of the white buns. I didn’t try the buns but took a few sips of the delicious champagne. For more photos, please click here.

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

Young kudu male scratching an itch.

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

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

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

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

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

Farmers were offering their produce at an open market.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Handsome young face.

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

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

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

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

Happy day!

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

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

Time flies…Emotions remain…Visa waiver attorney located…

One year ago today, we continued to have such a fantastic weekend celebrating Don’s birthday while staying at their gorgeous home in Pretoria. This photo was taken at a Mexican restaurant with 10 of us in attendance, again celebrating Don’s birthday. For more photos, please click here.

Time flies. It’s mind-boggling when we refer back to an event from one year ago when in actuality, it seems as if it was only yesterday. I often wonder if it felt the same years ago when we were younger. It’s easy to remember events. It’s not always easy to remember how we felt during “ordinary” times.

During periods of sorrow, worry and stress, we can easily recall our feelings many years back. During periods when life was relatively uneventful, we struggle to remember how we felt at the time. It’s ironic. 

It’s no wonder any of us can fall prey to becoming emotionally engaged in less desirable-times-past, carrying them as baggage into the future. This past year will be decorated in my mind for years to come, regardless of how well I’m feeling physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

The only baggage I want to carry with me into the future is our single suitcases filled with clothing and shoes, our third bag of supplies, and three miscellaneous carry-on bags.

No doubt, my level of ease, comfort, and happiness has been tempered. Will I ever return to those carefree days? By no means am I down or depressed? I feel optimistic about the future. There’s so much ahead of us, bringing both of us a powerful sense of anticipation, joy, and contentment.

But, the facts remain. Can we visit some of the highly remote areas we’d considered in the past, far from quality medical care? Are we at risk during month-long cruises or during extended periods in rural areas in countries where medical care is questionable?

We wish we had an easy answer. As we plan the over six months, we have to fill in and around Europe before the cruise ends in Cape Town, South Africa. We considered many facts on December 2, 2020.

Hanging over our heads is the visa waiver issue in South Africa (resulting from overstaying our visas due to my heart surgery in February, requiring us to stay an additional almost three months). 

If this issue isn’t resolved by the time the ship is ready to set sail, we won’t board or. We’d have significant problems at the end of the cruise. Of course, we won’t take that risk.

Instead, in the past 24 hours, we have contacted an immigration attorney in South Africa who is working on our file. The firm has a 98% success rate of resolving immigration issues such as these. The fee for services is ZAR (Rand) 30000, which translates to US $2,101. 

We’ve decided to move forward rather than be banned from South Africa until 2024. Plus, we don’t want an “undesirable” status to be a part of our passport records.

The law firm estimates it will take eight to twelve weeks to get the issue resolved. It will be fantastic to have this behind us. We’ve provided the law firm with all of the necessary documents, and they will send us a contract with a statement for services which we’ll handle this week to proceed with the process.

There’s no such thing as a “free lunch,” as the saying goes. Everything in life has its pluses and minuses, its rewards, and its consequences. But, how we choose to handle the challenges ultimately determines the quality of our lives.

As we move forward into this next phase of our lives, of our world travels, we strive to do so with the determination, the hope, and the joy we so much enjoyed in the past, long before we were faced with these challenges.

In a mere 22 days, we’ll continue on our long and fruitful journey, hopefully with many more years to come.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, January 7, 2019:

Last year on this date, our party of 10 consisted of (from left to right) Kathy, Linda, Tom,  Don, Keith, Ken, Cynthia, Robin and Karen with me taking the photo. For more photos, please click here.

Next trip planned for visa 90-day visa stamp…Off to Kruger to see old friends…

Mongooses stay close to one another, often seen grooming and cuddling one another.

“Sighting of the Day in The Bush”

We love all the wildlife in Marloth and Kruger Parks, but baboons are our least favorite. They are intelligent and destructive, as are the Vervet monkeys mentioned in yesterday’s post that entered our house. Baboons are much more robust and larger than Vervet monkeys.

Today’s post will be done quickly! At 9:00 am, we’re taking off for Kruger National Park to meet up with friends Cathi and Rick from Kauai, Hawaii. This will be the first time we’ll see them since early 2015 when we spent four months on the island making new friends over the extended period, many of whom we’ve stayed in close touch with.

Waterbucks are often found along the Crocodile River, frequently accompanied by a cattle egret who feeds off their “leftovers.”

Our original plan was to meet Cathi and Rick in Lower Sabie at noon, but we received a message last night asking if we could make it by 11:00 am instead. As usual, getting up early, I felt determined to get today’s post done and uploaded before leaving at 9:00 am. 

As of this writing, I have about one hour to rush through and get it done. If you spot errors, please bear with us. We’ll correct them upon our return later in the day. 

One of our most frequent visitors is the bushbuck, more often females than males. The females, without antlers, are gentle and graceful. It has been reported that male bushbucks can attack hunters when provoked and cause severe injury or death.

One may ask, “Why not do the post when we return?” This makes sense, but we don’t expect to return until 4:00 pm or so, and at that point, we’ll have to make dinner and set up the veranda for  our usual “night-time watching.” 

Neither of us likes to rush. We’re always the early birds. Our friends Kathy and Don asked, “Why are you always the first ones to arrive?”

Male bushbucks are cautious around humans and seldom relax in our presence.  This particular male feels comfortable that we aren’t seen as a threat and often lounges in the yard.

The answer to this question easily falls into our continuing plan of avoiding stress in our lives of world travel. Rushing last minute creates stress. As a result, we make every effort, regardless of the circumstances, to either being right on time or a few minutes early, when possible.

Often, we arrive at airports a half-hour before necessary, which is an environment that can be wrought with stress and frustration. We’d rather quietly wait for an event to begin than be rushing, under stress, to get out the door. We’d instead grab a beverage at a Wi-Fi restaurant and relax waiting for our flight than staring at the clock, worrying we won’t be on time.

A wildebeest is a rare visitor to our yard. 

Speaking of airports, on Friday, we paid for and booked our next trip out of South Africa on August 16th, the last day of our 90-day visa, which we’ll need to renew to stay in South Africa.

As explained in prior posts, South Africa doesn’t allow foreigners to visit any surrounding countries to re-enter for a new visa stamp. It’s vague in the law if even leaving for a non-bordering country entitles a visitor to re-enter for a unique 90-day visa (for some passports, not all). 

The recent full moon.

A few weeks ago, we found we were able to re-enter immigration at the airport in Nelspruit for a new 90-day visa when we’d gone to Zambia for multiple tours (Victoria Falls, Chobe, Zambezi River) for a period of one week.

If we’d gone to another country requiring going through immigration in Johannesburg, we might not have been allowed to re-enter. Our best bet was the small airport in Nelspruit, which only has one direct international route to Zambia…was our best bet. 

Hornbills spend considerable time visiting especially when they love spending time feeding on our bird feeder. It appears she has a seed in her mouth.

Based on our particular circumstances, we decided we’d have no choice but to return to Zambia to fly out of and back into Nelspruit Mpumalanga Kruger Airport. We’ve accepted this reality along with the cost necessary for yet another similar trip.

We’re leaving on August 16th and returning on August 23rd. We got a  great deal on a package with Expedia on our site for a total cost of the roundtrip flight for both of us, including a week-long stay at the same hotel (which we found to be quite good) for a total of ZAR 21,946 (US $1680), less than we paid last time.

What will we do again in Zambia? More tours. When we only spent the morning in Chobe National Park, we were sorely disappointed when the safari ended. We longed to see more. This will be our opportunity to return to this special place which over 30,000 elephants make their home.

The mating season continues.  Warthogs hang around with females and their offspring with high hopes.  The males make a train-like sound when they feel particularly amorous.

We’ll have no shortage of ways to stay busy when four countries come together at the Zambezi River in Zambia. We’ll plan everything once we arrive.

For now, we can sit back and relax and continue to enjoy our next few months until we have to figure this out one more time in November. In February, after the next 90 days, we’ll be off to Kenya, not needing a visa extension again.

With time moving on here, I need to wrap this up. Hopefully, tomorrow, we’ll have plenty of great photos to share from today’s self-drive through Kruger. Once again, we feel the anticipation and excitement of going into Kruger, especially when we have the opportunity to see old friends.

Have a fantastic day! 

Photo from one year ago today, June 10, 2017:

One year ago, tonight was Minnesota, “Meet & Greet,” where we had an opportunity to meet some of our Minnesota readers and other friends. It was a great night.  For that post: “Marie and Bill started following us at the beginning of our posts which started in March 2012. It was Marie who inspired the fabulous idea of the “Meet & Greet.” Thanks, Marie and Bill!  It was wonderful to meet you in person at long last and fun to meet another couple who are “glued at the hip” like us!” For more photos from the event, please click here.