Good news brings relief!…Newly named friends…What are QR codes?…

These three warthogs, we’ve named Bennie, Hennie and Lennie have started visiting us several times a day.

Note; It was one year ago today, that we headed to the airport in Mumbai, India, with airline tickets in hand, and we were turned away and refused entry to South Africa due to the border closings, never boarding the plane. It’s hard to believe that was one year ago.

Last night, the email message came through from iVisa informing us that our Kenya visas have been approved and processed. They are now in our inbox ready to print when we have to print many documents to bring with us to Kenya when we leave Marloth Park on April 8, 2021. We’ll enter Kenya on the 9ths and fly to the Maasai Mara on the 10th.

Everything we needed to prepare for the trip is done other than the printing. In a week or so, we’ll email Louise all the documents and she’ll print them all including a document from her that we’ll be renting for the next 90 days in Marloth Park. South Africa requires proof of a place to stay while in the country.

One odd thing we encountered during the visa acquisition process is that iVisa is that we received a QR code that looks like this, as indicated below.What is QR Code? Is it safe to scan QR codes | KasperskySince leaving the US in 2012 many companies, governments, and businesses started using a QR code, which is like a barcode that smartphones can read after installing a QR app on your phone or other devices. By scanning such a code (I don’t know what the above QR code reads. I downloaded this example online).

We’re assuming they are brothers from the same mother based on how well they get along.

While in the Marriott hotel during those long 10 months, while in Mumbai, India, they used such a QR code which, if we scanned the code using the QR code app on our phones, the hotel’s restaurant menu would come up, on our device. Earlier on, while touring India, our tour guide/driver’s car had complimentary WiFi. In order to access it, it was necessary to scan the QR code they had on a plastic-encased card kept in the car.

QR stands for “quick response.” For more details and the safety of using QR codes with your phone and device, see this article here. It clearly states the value and simplicity of using the QR codes.

Occasionally, they’ll rest separately, especially on hot, humid days.

Thus, when iVisa sent us a QR code stating in the email, that this code would bring up our already processed health questionnaire document as required by Kenya when we go through immigration upon entering the country. Apparently, iVisa filled out the form for us since we cannot open it by scanning it. When we go through immigration, Kenya will scan the QR code, review our health questionnaires and ask us if we have any Covid-10 symptoms, and provide proof of negative PCR tests which we’ll have done a few days before we depart.

So many new procedures are required to travel at this time, some seemingly worthwhile and others ridiculous and unnecessary. Only you can determine if traveling is worth all this “monkey business.” For us, we’ve decided, at this point, the answer is yes.

We still don’t know what we’ll do in July when the next 90 days end. We’ve decided to see how things go on the trip to Kenya after we return on April 14th. Also, we’re looking at where we can get the Covid-19 vaccine. It’s up in the air now if South Africa will allow foreign nationals to get the vaccine while in the country. We’ll see how that goes in the next few months.

When carefully observing these three warthogs, we’ve observed, they each have unique personalities.

For now, we can sit back and relax a little, while still maintaining safety protocols when out and about and around people, such as when shopping and dining out. Linda and Ken had planned to join us at Jabula Lodge and Restaurant for dinner tonight. However, based on the news they’ve read, traveling on the road from Johannesburg to Marloth Park is not safe today, due to a number of stoppages on the highway.

They plan to travel the five-hour drive tomorrow, if the situation improves, and then join us for dinner at our house on Monday evening as planned. However, in South Africa, everything can change on a dime, so we shall see how it goes. Tonight, we’ll have dinner at Jabula on our own, enjoying ourselves as we always do.

On occasion, only two will rest together. But, the three of them are always together from what we can determine. This is Hennie and Lennie.

Today, it’s a little cooler than past days, but it’s still very warm and humid. I started working out on the treadmill again today since the awful itching has been tempered and I am feeling better overall, especially after last night’s much-needed good sleep.

Yesterday there was no load shedding after the power was restored, but we did lose the WiFi signal for a few hours last night, preventing us from streaming our usual series. We stayed busy chatting and laughing and enjoying the quiet time together, as always.

This is Bennie and Hennie. They all seem to enjoy visiting us and hanging around the garden, long after we’ve stopped offering pellets.

May your day be filled with wonders. Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, March 20, 2020:

This hall at the temple site is used for weddings, arranged marriage meetings, relaxation, and prayer. For more photos, please click here.

Impossible visa documents…Have to use the pricey option…Lion and a snake…

May be an image of big cat and outdoors
Photo from Facebook taken by Marloth Park Honorary Rangers post. Fluffy, who lives in Lionspruit, which borders holiday home in the back, caught a python and ate it. Whoever thought a lion would eat a snake?

Note: Today’s lion photos were taken by the Marloth Park Honorary Rangers, a group of local specially trained and uniformed local residents who donate their time for the well-being of wildlife and vegetation here in Marloth Park. We applaud this dedicated group of local citizens who work hard each day to preserve this amazing environment.

We spent all afternoon for two days in an attempt to apply for an e-visa for Kenya from the government immigration website. No matter what I tried, changing and reducing the size and the file types of the photos and documents required to upload, it was all in vain. It simply would not work. I wrote to the immigration department and also called with no response.

We were both so frustrated. There were dozens of other sites from which to apply but most of them were scam sites. It was too risky for us to proceed with one of those. Finally, we contacted the pricey US site, CIBT, which we’d used for a few visas in the past, mainly required for cruising. They are a reputable company, which is a must with less than a month left for us to leave for Kenya.

Had we known how difficult this would be we would have started the process a week ago. But, with the awful heat and humidity, it’s been challenging to be motivated. Today, I resigned myself to stay in the bedroom and get this done. Last night, due to the time difference, I called CIBT and they said I could email them the photos and documents for which they sent me a special email address.

We wondered how that tasted.

Their fees are high at US $179, ZAE 2672, per application plus the fee Kenya charges of US $51, ZAR 761, for a total of US $230, ZAR 3433 for each of us. Had we been able to apply at the Kenya Immigration site, we’d only have to pay the US $51, ZAR 761 each.

We expect that due to the pandemic, the government offices in Kenya aren’t open and no one is attending to their website or office inquiries. There’s no other explanation. Then again, we’ve had experiences with governmental offices and often have run into issues in some countries including in the USA. It’s not so unusual.

As soon as I upload today’s post, we’ll get to work on both of our applications at the same time, following each step of the way together. This is usually somewhat of a stressful process, one neither of us cares to do. Hopefully, by the end of today, we’ll have peace of mind and this will be done. We should receive the e-visa from CIBT within two weeks of submitting our application.

Over the past months, we’ve had a number of issues with our site. Our web people have been diligent in solving these myriad problems. Many of these issues don’t appear to you, our readers, but have an impact on me as I attempt to post each day. Of course, over this past almost year of the upgrade, we’ve been down for many days and many of you have been unable to read our new posts. We apologize for this inconvenience.

“It’s challenging getting this python eaten,” says Fluffy, one of two lions, including female Desi, in Lionspruit Wildlife Conservancy, which abuts our location. What a thrill to see these photos.

At this point, it’s looking as if most of the issues have been resolved and all should be fine going forward. That’s not to say we won’t have WiFi problems or any problems with the site going forward. Please know, that if our site is down, we are well aware of it and have notified our web people. Actually, WordPress sends me an email when there are problems.

The power just went out, due to load shedding. We are currently in the bedroom (no air-con working) with a fan blowing on us. The fan works off of the inverter, as does the WiFi. We have the blinds closed to keep the heat out until power returns in 2½ hours. Last night the load shedding started during the night from 3:00 am until 5:30 am. Thank goodness we have the fan.

Currently, the temperature is 95F, 35C at 11:00 am. It is expected to be 101F, 38C by 2:00 pm, 1400 hours. The humidity is through the roof. There are two more load shedding sessions today, resulting in 7½ hours without power on such a hot day. Oh well, as we said, this goes with the territory. This is Africa and we’re grateful to be here.

May you have a comfortable and safe day wherever you may be!

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

The town of Mahabalipuram is lined with shops with supplies for locals and also an endless array of tourist trinkets. For more photos, please click here.

The dreadful process of filling out forms…A zebra in a pool???…

We’ve yet to have a single visit, from a full-racked male kudu. The only way they can get into our garden is by walking on the driveway when the bush is too dense. This young male was able to make it through the bush to stop for a visit during sundowners on the veranda.

Each time we have to extend our visas, apply for visas or apply online for any government-mandated process, we dread it. Often, the forms are confusing, difficult to use, and don’t save partially completed forms, although, on their website, they clearly state that returning users can easily find their partially completed forms. Ha! Not always the case.

Yesterday, we started the necessary process of applying for our e-visas for entry into Kenya on April 9th. On January 1, 2021, Kenya switched from the easy visa-upon-arrival process with a mandatory online application. With many of the questions translated from other languages, often the questions in the form are ambiguous and confusing.

A female kudu and a male impala getting along well while eating pellets.

But, the worst part for us, mainly me, who will do both of our online applications, is now using a Chromebook instead of formerly using Windows. With Windows, all I had to do was find the appropriate travel documents in a folder on my desktop and we’d be good to go.

It’s not so easy with a Chromebook, regardless of how and where I save documents, to easily find them to grab and attach to an uploader in an online application. Believe me, I know how to do this. But when saving the documents needed such as airline tickets, hotel reservations, copies of passports, and proper headshot photos, those documents I properly saved are often missing and I can’t “grab” to upload them into the form.

Impalas are very shy around humans. We’ve been surprised to see so many visiting our garden.

Yesterday afternoon, I spent no less than two hours in dire frustration, in the 100F, 38C, heat, and humidity, and will have to go back and try again today. Just now, as we speak, I looked for the documents and found them where they should be in the “download” folder.

But, I have no doubt that when I start working on the form again, re-entering all I’ve already entered on 10 pages, they won’t be there. We often wonder how less experienced users could possibly get through this process. Often, they have to hire a company to do this for them at an additional cost over and above the US $102, ZAR 1558, fee (for both of us) charged by Kenya.

Impalas stay at a distance from the veranda.

Oh, I can’t wait to get this done and behind us. Tom, a less experienced user of Chromebook’s weird nuances, will be able to re-enter his personal information which was lost upon “save. Hopefully, after he re-enters it today it will all be there for me to log into his Kenya visa account and upload the documents from there also.

Talk about sweating in this weather! It’s only 10:30 right now in Marloth Park and it’s already 90F, 32C with high humidity, all of which is rising rapidly. It won’t be until after about 5:00 pm, 1700 hours, that we’ll feel the temperature drop slightly. Yesterday Tom read that the “wind chill” was 110F, 43.3C. We had no idea wind chill factors were considered for hot weather as well as for cold temperatures.

Adorable young male bushbuck checks out the grassy area in our garden waiting for Tom, in the red shirt, to toss him a few pellets.

Last night, the air-con in our bedroom simply couldn’t keep up with the heat. It was necessary to also use one of the two standing fans in our bedroom, aimed directly at us. It never really cooled down much during the night. Even our wildlife friends stay away during the heat. They hunker down in the shade of the bush, close to water holes. It must be so hard for them.

Yesterday there was a Facebook story under Marloth Park Sighting Group, that was mind-boggling as follows:

“ATTENTION POOL OWNERS: Last week Thursday, driving up Berghaan Rd, I was flagged down by a resident/visitor of a house with a newly built swimming pool. The gentleman was FRANTIC, and I soon learned that he was deaf, as is his partner, neither could speak either. Turning into the driveway, I was greeted by the sight of an adult zebra, in the pool, but totally exhausted, his neck and head out of the water, kind of hanging over the side, as the gentleman, who was EXHAUSTED, and two young builders from the next-door house, had managed to get zebra to the side of the pool. I don’t know how long it was going on before I arrived, but jumped into action, looped my bakkie (a pickup truck) tow strap around zebra’s neck, and with the help of the builders, directed zebra around to the shallow end where it could stand, and where we could lead it to the steps. This worked!! Three minutes after I arrived zebra was out of the water and on its feet…..
Firstly, the pool was too deep for adult zebra to stand, secondly, the pool should be fenced. Should it not just be common sense to fence a pool in a nature reserve?? Hate to think what would’ve happened had I not driven by when I did. Occupants of the house were inside, both deaf, no idea about the drama outside. Luckily the builders were awake…”
Bushbucks have such adorable faces!
Fortunately, the zebra was rescued by the kind and creative people who immediately went into action. The zebra seemed fine and dashed off. And yes, there are pools at most houses in the bush, mostly splash pools used to cool off in hot weather, days like today, and few, if any are fenced.
That’s a matter for another day. Fences are frowned upon in the bush, preventing the wildlife from freely foraging as they wander about the park. But, there are circumstances under which a fence may be sensible, providing safety for humans and animals alike.
Tiny sitting in front of his favorite tree stump.
Our pool, yet to be used by us, is shallow, above ground, encased, and surrounded by a cement wall. It would be unlikely an animal could fall in without climbing over the wall, tricky to do at best. Plus, it’s shallow, as is the case of most splash pools in the bush. We’re thrilled to hear the zebra was safely rescued. Life in the bush has always been interesting and often unusual.
Have a lovely day.
Photo from one year ago today, March 10, 2020:
“Krishna’s Butterball (also known as Vaan Irai Kal and Krishna’s Gigantic Butterball) is a gigantic granite boulder that rests on a short incline in the historical coastal resort town of Mamallapuram in Tamil Nadu state of India. Since it is part of the Group of Monuments at Mamallapuram, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, built during 7th- and 8th-century CE as Hindu religious monuments by the Pallava dynasty, it is a popular tourist attraction. It is listed as a protected national monument by the Archeological Survey of India. It is best viewed at sunrise from northwest to southeast or at sundown from northeast to southwest when the panorama is bathed in magical golden hues.” Our guide explained that at one time, centuries ago, the locals tried to move this boulder using elephants but it wouldn’t budge. For more photos, please click here.

Planning for the future…Uncertainty in times of Covid-19…

It’s surprising how well they get along when sharing the raw scrambled eggs.

Ah, it’s a new day, and it’s more perfect than it’s been in a while. The sun is shining. The temperature is moderate with low humidity. Late yesterday, our site was down for a few hours but now it is working again. Why this happens is beyond me. All I know is our web people quickly respond to resolve it.

My question? Is WordPress unstable? Is our web hosting company Hostinger, a huge worldwide provider, unstable? I can’t seem to get a definitive answer to these questions. But, this continues to happen from time to time. If you see we’re down, please check back later, knowing our web people are working to find a permanent solution. We always know when this happens, since WordPress sends me a message. Immediately, regardless of where we are and what we’re doing, we report it.

Our site is huge with well over 3000 posts and 40,000 photos. This may be a contributing factor. One may say, well, Amazon is a thousand times larger than us and they don’t go down. Well, they are spending millions of dollars a year to maintain their site. Obviously, we are not. Since we make so little revenue from our site, recently we added more advertising in an attempt to offset some of our web-related expenses.

This mongoose must have stared at us for an hour, watching our every move.

Also, we are in the process of monetizing our YouTube page. We’d hoped we’d never have to do this, but with all these added web expenses we had no choice. Of course, none of this impacts our readers, other than an occasional click to rid yourself of the necessity of viewing an ad. You aren’t obligated to use our advertisers, (but we appreciate it if you do) nor do you have to pay to access our site. This won’t change.

You can access our YouTube videos at this link. It’s easy to sign up if you’d like to become a subscriber. You may enjoy going back and seeing our old videos from all over the world. In the future, we’ll be making a concerted effort to try to upload more and more videos.

Right now, as I prepare today’s post, Tom is researching flights for our exit on April 9th for the much-needed visa stamps when our current visas expire on April 12th. We have to leave a few days earlier than our visa ends, since the car rental facilities at the local airport, Nelspruit/Kruger/Mpumalanga, are closed on the weekends. Thus, we’ll leave before and after a weekend.

Tom brought out the pan with the raw scrambled eggs and of course, they gobbled them up in a matter of seconds.

As for what we’ve chosen to do when required to leave South Africa, by tomorrow, we should have a plan in place and we’ll share all the details here.

As we’ve sat here over the past hour, the sun has become hidden behind white fluffy clouds. It may rain after all. We’ve been watching the weather and the condition of dirt roads in order to embark on a drive through Marloth Park and eventually to Kruger National Park.

The outdoor restaurant at Lower Sabie, the Mugg & Bean has been closed for the past few months. When traveling to Kruger it’s a practical spot to stop for a bathroom break and brunch. There are no public restrooms in the park other than resorts, camps, and restaurants. To spend several hours in the park without a bathroom break can be a challenging premise.

They are so cute, playful, and funny, we always enjoy their visits. Besides, they are a deterrent to snakes since they may attack them and are resistant to the venom.

Plus, it’s awfully fun to be on a self-drive in this massive national park and be able to stop at a restaurant overlooking the Sabie River, often rife with wildlife, a view to be savored while dining. Photo ops are abundant in this area. Soon, we’ll go on a day’s outing, as the dirt roads dry up more and more, not only here in Marloth Park but also in Kruger.

Today, we’ll spend the bulk of the day booking plans for April 9th, firming up all the details. A vital aspect of booking any travel plan at this point is to become well aware of Covid-19 requirements and restrictions. No traveler would want to discover, upon arriving in another country, that a 14-day quarantine was required. This would be a fiasco.

They tend to rest piled atop one another with an occasional little head peeking out from under the pile.

Otherwise, all is well. We’re cheerful, although zeroed in on booking the upcoming travels and will feel a great sense of relief once we’ve completed booking every aspect of this upcoming trip.

Enjoy your day!

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

The bulky gaur, a rare type of buffalo, found in India. For more photos, please click here.

Day #271 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Where will we go for visa stamps while in South Africa?…

“Puerto Madryn (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈpweɾto ˈmaðɾin]Welsh: Porth Madryn) is a city in the province of Chubut in Argentina, Patagonia. It is the capital of the Biedma Department and has about 93,995 inhabitants according to the last census in 2010.”

We toured the oceanfront village on foot on this date in 2017.

Today’s photos are from this date in 2017 while visiting the port of call, Puerto Madryn, while on a South America cruise nearing the end. For more details, please click here.

Unfortunately, as many of our long time readers are well aware, we can only stay in South Africa for 90 consecutive days. With our desire to stay in Marloth Park as long as possible over the next year, this will require that we leave the country and/or apply for an extension as often as three times.

Another abandoned seafaring boat on the beach in Puerto Madryn.

We have a cruise booked for next November, sailing out of Lisbon, Portugal, that sails along the western coast of Africa, ending in Cape Town, South Africa, enabling us to return to Marloth Park once again. Will this cruise be canceled? At this point, we have no idea.

If it is, we may want to stay in Africa longer, visiting other countries every three months for the visa stamp, allowing us to stay another 90-day segment at a time. Our three months on this upcoming trip for which we depart on January 12, 2021, arriving in Johannesburg before midnight, leaves us with the requirement of departing again by April 10, 2021, 89 days later. We leave a day earlier than the 90 days, in the event of a potential layover in Johannesburg that may take us into the 90th day.

This could have been a street in any beach town.

The tricky part about flying out of South Africa and avoiding the five to six-hour drive to the airport in Johannesburg, an area with a certain risk of carjackings and corrupt police, is to fly from Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger airport (an hour from Marloth Park), fly to Johannesburg and go anywhere in the world from there, often with multiple layovers.

Unfortunately, the tiny airport, which considers itself an “international” airport, actually only flies to two countries besides South Africa, including Zambia which we already visited twice in 2018 on two very enjoyable tours of Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia and also Mozambique (which borders SA and won’t provide us with a usable visa stamp). At this point, returning to Zambia to drive to other countries holds little appeal to either of us when we’ve already visited the sightseeing highlights of Chobe National Park, Chobe River, Victoria Falls from Zambia, and also the Zimbabwe sides, Zambezi River cruise, and more.

Statue at Puerto Madryn Beach.

No doubt, we enjoyed the two trips, but returning doesn’t make sense. We don’t look forward to flying to Johannesburg to go anywhere else. However, we have no choice but to do so. One of those three above-mentioned visa stamp requirements will most likely result in us applying for one extension during this period which we’d done once in 2018. It’s all tricky, costly, and time-consuming. Traveling to a country bordering South Africa doesn’t count as “leaving the country.”

But, for us, the monkey business (no pun intended) is worth it. With the low cost of living in Africa, compared to most other parts of the world, we can comfortably budget the added costs for these side trips. Plus, it gives us an opportunity to visit other countries and expand our horizons.

A whale carving at the beach.

In the past few days, being hopeful that we’ll be able to leave India in 24 days, we’ve been researching flights for possible countries in Africa we’d like to visit. A few considerations are Zanzibar, (Tanzania), Madagascar, Reunion Island, and more, all of which require flying out of Johannesburg, which we finally accept as the only way we make this work.

The island of Zanzibar in Tanzania is probably our first choice since we don’t want to embark on any 24-hour travel times. Now, we begin the process of searching as to what’s available in the way of hotels or holiday homes, depending on how long we may decide to stay, which is up in the air at this point. We’ve accumulated quite a few free hotel nights by using on our site which we can save for such a trip.

Typical apartment building in Puerto Madryn.

A few years ago, we were determined to see the gorillas in Rwanda or Uganda. However, after the diagnosis of severe cardiovascular disease, it doesn’t make sense for us to go to such a remote location, which requires a challenging mountain trek. Sure, my stamina has greatly improved walking so much for the past nine months, but it hasn’t reversed my condition and such an expedition might be foolhardy.

There’s still plenty of world left for us to see, traveling to locations that won’t be outrageously physically challenging. Walking, we can do. Steep mountain treks may be out of the question. We both accept this reality.

Protesters marching on the beach boulevard.

Once we get situated in South Africa, we’ll book our plans for April and be able to rest easy for the remaining days of our stay in Marloth Park, until again, we’ll hopefully be able to return.

There was a big party in the hotel last night with a DJ resulting in loud thumping music until 11:15 pm. It settled down shortly thereafter when finally, we were able to sleep barring the sounds of doors slamming next door to our room for several hours, Oh, well. Soon enough.

Stay healthy, safe, and content amid the madness that continues to rage throughout the world.

Photo from one year ago today, December 19, 2019:


Photo from this date in 2013 which was reposted one year ago today: Of the nine members of this warthog family, there were two moms; one with four babies and the other with three babies. From watching this family almost daily over a period of 18 days, we believe the mom shown above is the mom of the three babies, which if you look closely are all nursing. (It was hard to see the third piglet). Thus, the baby on which she is resting her chin belongs to the other mom who is nearby and seems comfortable with this situation. We couldn’t have laughed more when the fourth baby, whether hers or not, provided this neck resting spot. For more photos from this date, one year ago, 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.

Snow storm in Minnesota!…Dinner with kids…New photos!…One day and counting…

Last night at dinner with granddaughter Maisie at Pinstripes in Edina.

Last night we had a fabulous evening with son Greg and grandchildren Maisie, Miles, and Madighan at Pinstripes Restaurant in Edina. Unfortunately, Camille was unable to join us. We had little fun gifts for the kids, and I’d brought a bag of clothes for Maisie. She’s still quite a bit smaller than I am, but she’s embraced some of my things.

The snow had yet to fall at 6:00 PM, although it was predicted to start earlier. The drive was slow at rush hour, but we arrived at the restaurant in no time at all.

It was a particular time with the kids. Without the distractions at their home, we had their undivided attention allowing for plenty of playful and thoughtful conversation and laughter. We’re grateful we had this particular time with them and Greg.

Last night, with granddaughter Madighan.

Afterward, we headed back to Karen and Rich’s home. Rich made room in the garage for Tom to park Camille’s minivan inside, a perfect decision after last night’s heavy snowfall.

The snow finally began to fall around 9:00 pm when we were all safely inside and off the slippery roads. When we went to bed, the windows without shades reflected the ambient light from the falling snow eliciting many memories from our old lives.

Last night with grandson Miles.

As tricky as driving in the snow, something magical about a fluffy snowfall, especially during the holiday season. No regrets…just reminiscent about past times.

Yesterday afternoon, my friend Chere and I drove to the Twin Cities Premium Outlet Mall in Eagan to shop for Tom at the Tommy Hilfiger store. Two lovely salespeople, Edina (her name is the same as the city as mentioned above) and Jill, both helped in ways we never imagined possible. We couldn’t have had more fun.

Tom’s new clothes from Tommy Hilfiger. Over $700 in merchandise was purchased for $286 at the Twin Cities Outlet Mall in Eagan.

At the last minute, when checking out, Jill helped with a 20% online discount coupon making the total sales amount all the more palatable. The store should be proud of these two dedicated staff members, focused on customer satisfaction and service. It couldn’t have been a more enjoyable process.

This morning we put together a big bag of clothing and dropped it off at the Goodwill store. As it turned out, every item I purchased fit Tom perfectly, and he was pleased with his new things. Whew! We’re moving forward with many new items in our luggage.

About 8 inches of snow fell in Eden Prairie overnight.

We’re almost completely packed for tomorrow’s departure for Las Vegas, this time flying out of Terminal 2 on Sun Country Airlines, our only nonstop option on Thanksgiving Day. Son Greg will drop us off around 2:30 pm for our 4:00 pm flight.

In the morning, Tom will load up the minivan with our bags, and in the early afternoon, we’ll drive to Greg’s to say goodbye, drop off the coats we borrowed, deliver the pumpkin pie I baked today and be on our way.
Nothing is as pretty as the freshly fallen snow.

As soon as I upload this post, I’ll be heading to the kitchen to bake the pumpkin pie I promised to make for their Thanksgiving dinner. We wish we could have stayed to have Thanksgiving with them, but it wasn’t possible with my severe allergy to cats. Thus, tomorrow on Thanksgiving Day, we fly away.

Tomorrow, we’ll share the details of today’s cardiology appointment and our final goodbye from Minnesota.

This morning’s snow.

May those of you who celebrate Thanksgiving revel in the preparations and the ultimately, the fantastic meal. We’ll be sharing Thanksgiving dinner with son Richard in Henderson, Nevada, tomorrow evening.

Photo from one year ago today, November 27, 2018:

A tower of giraffes crossing the paved road in Kruger. How magical? Be well. For more photos, please click here.

Ratcheting up the research…Holidaymakers moving in…Piglets in the pond!…

Mom and the piglet are enjoying the cement pond on a hot day.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

This is “Little” on his usual mission of getting our attention to come outside and give him some pellets. If we don’t respond, he enters the house. Very funny!

Our one year in Marloth Park is rapidly coming to a close. We’ve decided to spend one night, February 14th, Valentine’s Day, in Nelspruit to avoid early morning traffic on the 15th, the day we must exit South Africa. It’s hard to believe in 71 days, and we’ll be leaving Marloth Park to drive to Nelspruit for the flight to Nairobi, Kenya, departing early the following morning.

If you missed our story as to why we must leave on the 15th as opposed to the planned February 20th initially, please click here for yesterday’s post. It’s all clearly explained there.

As it turns out, we won’t have to travel on my birthday after all and will spend it doing something exceptional while in Kenya. Details will follow once we get everything booked.

Mom warthog gets into the cement pond to cool off.  Now, the piglets follow her.

Speaking of bookings, we need to get to work now that we have a definitive answer on our immigration status. We’d left many loose ends in the itinerary, and the time has come to get these items booked.

With the ongoing power outages, spending time online is tricky. By the time we manage photos and prepare and upload the day’s post, the power goes out again, usually for 2½ hours. During these periods, we have no internet access.

According to the Eskom load shedding schedule, the power should be out about 7½ hours every 24 hours. Fortunately, and not surprisingly, the schedule isn’t precise, and often a time slot for an outage is ignored, and we have full power and WiFi. Go figure.  

Piglets were climbing out of the cement pond.

We’re managing to work around it, as are other residents throughout this country, not just here in Marloth Park. With the continuing heat and humidity, it’s even more uncomfortable when we can’t use a fan, especially when our surroundings are still and windless, resulting in a long 2½ hours.

But this is Africa, and we’re making the best of it, planning social events, cooking our meals, dining out with friends (tonight with Uschi and Evan, tomorrow with Rita and Gerhard), and attempting to ignore the inconveniences.

The holidaymakers are beginning to filter into the park now as we see more and more vehicles on the roads each day. Soon, every holiday rental and most bush homes will be filled, the noise will ensue, underage kids will be driving vehicles in this relatively un-policed area, and maniacs will be driving fast on Olifant Street (the paved road), killing the precious wildlife.

With the heat evaporating the water in the pond, between cleanings, Tom refills it for easy access for wildlife being able to reach for a drink.  So far, the only animals we’ve seen enter the pond are the warthogs.

No pun intended…it’s the nature of the beast. Not everyone who comes to stay in Marloth Park possesses the love and respect for this magical place, its rules, and its wildlife. This is so sad and disheartening.

Among the rest of us dedicated to this paradise, we’ll continue to respect the laws and treat the wildlife with dignity and respect. We’ve heard tales of humans feeding wildlife marshmallows, potato chips, and other human junk food. If it’s not good for us, why would we assume it’s good for them?

During this Christmas season, as in the past six years, we don’t have a tree, wrap gifts, bake cookies, or plan holiday parties, although we’ll attend a few. I’ll bake some treats to share at Christmas and make a few special items for Tom’s upcoming birthday on December 23rd.

Back onto the dirt, everyone is cooler and refreshed.

I’d considered a party or get-together for his birthday, but he reminded me how busy a time it is for everyone else with their usual holiday festivities. To burden others with a party the day before Christmas Eve was unfair. I relented, and we decided to make it a party for two.

This leaves us plenty of time in December to get to work booking the following for our upcoming travels:

  • Hotel in Kenya for seven nights, arriving February 15, 2019, and departing for the booked photography tour on February 22, 2019  (tour ended on March 7, 2019
  • Flight from Nairobi to Santiago, Chile on March 8, 2019
  • Transportation from Santiago, Chile to San Antonio, Chile (the location of the cruise port) 
  • Hotel in Santiago, Chile from March 8, 2019, to March 24, 2019, when our 15-night cruise departs from San Antonio, Chile, and sails to San Diego, California
  • Flight from San Diego, California to Minneapolis, Minnesota* on April 8, 2019
  • Rental car in Minnesota from April 8, 2019, to April 25, 2019
  • Flight from Minnesota to Fort Lauderdale to board the next cruise to Copenhagen on April 25, 2019, cruise departed on April 26, 2019
  • Flight from Copenhagen to Dublin, Ireland on May 12, 2019
  • Rental car in Dublin, Ireland on May 12, 2019, and drive to Connemara, Ireland, where we’ll stay in a holiday home until August 9, 2019 (booked and deposit paid)
    Two giraffes were walking along a dirt path in the park.

*The hotel in Minnesota is already booked and partially paid, with the balance due upon arrival.

This covers our booking needs for the next eight months. Once we’ve put all of this together, we’ll update and fine-tune our spreadsheet with all the new expenses.
I hope you have a spectacular Wednesday!

Photo from one year ago today, December 5, 2017:

In Pisco, Peru, this pelican was trained to entertain tourists as the man passed around a cup. For more photos, please click here.

There’s always a recipe for a solution…Cost and convenience are often the vital ingredients…

This fluffy little one captured our hearts.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Baby zebra are sticking close to mom during nighttime activities.

I don’t know where to begin. It’s a convoluted story of inconsistencies, inaccuracies, and rampant incompetency in one manner or another. My intent is not to bash South Africa’s governmental procedures. 

Instead, I reach out to you, our valued and loyal worldwide readers, to share our story and to alert those of you who may consider a long-term stay in this country.

Don’t get me wrong…we’re grateful for the exquisite almost 10 months we’ve spent in the country in this isolated little world of paradise in the bush, Marloth Park.  

It’s not like this everywhere in the country, animals roaming free as one might expect countrywide. There are conservancies, game reserves, national parks, and designated wildlife areas for that.  

The dry bush will brighten once the rainy season takes off.

The uniqueness of Marloth Park was the motivator for us to visit and subsequently return this past February. Our future itinerary has us returning in about two years from now, but only for the allowed 90 days, no more. We never want to deal with immigration issues again.

I won’t reiterate the beginning of the story and the massive pile of documents we prepared to accommodate a request for a visa extension to February 20, 2019, the day we’d been advised to book a flight out of here to Nairobi, Kenya, for our next adventure. If you’ll click this link here, that portion of the story is told in its entirety.

But, it was the culmination of the complicated process that hovered in our minds as we wondered as to the outcome since September when we first applied, as it turned out, way too early, upon advice from others and ended up starting all over again on October 24th when we returned to Nelspruit the second time to apply.

While there in September, a rep made a handwritten notation on our document copy that we were to return on October 24th (still have this document), giving ample time for the file to be reviewed and meeting our planned departure date of February 20, 2019.

Waterbucks grazing by the river’s edge.

Part of the application process required two departing South Africa-airline tickets for ZAR 15461 (US $1132) for that date which we purchased at the time of making the first application in September.

Stay with me. We’re getting there. When we returned on October 24th, going through all the forms with the reps at the VFS Immigration office, we were told everything was in order. We were told to start checking online after three weeks to see when the response would be ready.

For those of you who read the prior posts, we indicated we’d have to appear once again once the notification indicated we were ready to see the answer in a sealed envelope, which we’d open in front of the immigration rep.  

If we didn’t like the answer, the only available process was to reapply once again. This was not an option for us. Our visas had already expired on November 21st.  We weren’t in a particularly good position for “negotiating,” which, in any case, is not a part of the process regardless of circumstances.

A lone giraffe was munching on treetops.

We took off for Nelspruit yesterday morning, typically a 75 to 90 minutes drive where many trucks and vehicles jockey for space on the highway. We were told to arrive anywhere between 10:00 am and 1500 hours (3:00 pm).  

Once we were “scanned” by the security guard, we entered the waiting area, lined up several rows of chairs. All the seats were filled, and we had to wait, standing, in the back of the chairs section. As each person was called, everyone in the chairs moved over to the next available chair, kind of like a musical chairs thing.

Much to our surprise, the line moved more quickly than during our two other visits.  Within 40 minutes, we were standing at the counter awaiting our news.  Tom was handed his sealed envelope first. Gingerly, he opened the envelope and immediately we were bost aghast. He was granted an extension but only until February 15th.

We have paid our rent here to February 20th, paid for a rental car to February 20th, and paid for the two airline tickets for February 20th. We tried to explain that it was their manager who’d told us to return on October 24th, allowing us ample time for the requested February 20th departure date.

Waterbucks live close to the river, grazing on its green lusher vegetation than in other areas of the bush, where everything is dried up during this year’s low-rain period.

We even showed her the handwritten notes she’d made on the document telling us to return on October 24th. She dismissed this written statement saying what she wrote was irrelevant. The government’s decision is all that matters, regardless of the number of days.

Then the weirdest thing happened.  I opened my envelope and was given until February 21, 2019. Our files were linked as a married couple. Why the six-day difference? All kinds of thoughts ran through our heads. No matter what we said, the only option they suggested was to start all over.  

There was no way we were going to pay the fees ZAR 3500 (US $256) again and start over the lengthy and detailed paperwork process, all the while taking the risk that nothing would change.

We walked out the door, neither of us talking, and made our way to the parking ramp, thoughts racing through our heads. On the return drive, we reviewed our options, but Tom, bordering on “overly grumpy,” was more engrossed in his driving in traffic than a lengthy discussion over our options.

On Sunday night, while situated on the veranda, speaking on Skype with my dear friend Karen in Minnesota, a dazzle of zebras appeared.

Instead of pressing him, I wrote the text for yesterday’s post on an offline app on my phone, determined to get it uploaded before the power went out due to “load shedding” again at 1500 hours (3:00 om).  

As soon as we returned, I immediately got to work on the post, albeit with less than my usual enthusiastic demeanor. Miss Overly Bubby wasn’t in. I rushed to get it done, but the power went out earlier than expected, and I couldn’t upload it until after 1730 hours (5:30 pm). Sorry for the delay.

At 5:30, we set up the veranda for the evening, made ourselves a “sundowner,” and sat down to discuss our options. They included the following:

  • Reapply and start the entire process all over again with no guarantees. We tossed this idea out the window.
  • Tom could leave and go to Kenya on the 15th while I stayed alone in Marloth Park, using one of the two non-refundable flights from Nelspruit to Nairobi on February 20th (my birthday). This raised many questions: hotel for Tom, transportation for me to the airport, being alone for the five nights until February 20th when I could depart, traveling apart, handing luggage…and on and on.  We tossed this idea out the window.
  • The rep told us Tom could go to Mozambique by car and see if he could end up with the extra five days. This was a very risky idea. When would he go? He could easily have ended up with no more than what he has or even less, depending on what transpired at the border.  We tossed this idea out the window.
  • We could try to get some form of credit from the airline to change our travel day to February 15th, change our end-of-rental date to February 15th, change our car rental period to February 15 and clear out of South Africa. We decided this was our only option, with both departing on February 15th, regardless of the cost or inconvenience.
There was a total of nine zebras, including the baby.

Immediately, we got to work on on our website to see what we could first accomplish with the tickets. In all these six years of world travel, we’ve never canceled or changed a single flight. Somehow the preplanning has always worked for us.

We knew that flights were non-refundable but never encountered an opportunity or desire to change a flight.  The website offered such an opportunity, and for a total of ZAR 2156 (US $159), we changed our tickets to February 15th.  We were relieved.

We want to book hotel accommodations in Kenya which we’ll do this month. Not having done so was one more minor step to handle. From here, we’ll see about our rent and early return of the rental car, both of which should save us a little more to apply to the added cost of the extra five days in Kenya.
Whew! What a relief! Drama averted. Immigration issues are averted, and a massive lesson learned: When we return to South Africa in years to come, we’ll only stay 90 days. Period.
Preoccupied with my phone call, I couldn’t get a photo of all nine at once.

We skated through the first three 90-day periods by leaving the country twice to travel to Zambia to get another 90-day visa each time. We just weren’t able to pull it off the third time. These two one-week trips cost us upwards of ZAR 111628 (US $8232).  Surely if we’d tried traveling out the country once again, we’d have incurred similar costs with no guaranty on the ability to return.

And so it goes. We’re good again. Cheerful, but hot in the temps above 40C (104F). And, we’re back in sync with our otherwise pleasing lifestyle and of course, with one another.

Today, we’ll lay low in the heat and humidity, but who knows what tomorrow may bring.

Happy, healthy day to all.

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

Children were playing at the beach with views of colorful fishing vessels in Pisco, Peru. These boats remind us of the colorful fishing boats in Negara, Bali. (See that link here). For more details from the one year ago post, please click here.

Immigration day from hell…Solutions rolling around in our minds…More tomorrow…

She was reaching for the treetops.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Three very young impalas in the bush.

It would have been easy to sit down and pen today’s post if the South Africa immigration issue had been resolved as we’d hoped. The realities of world travel dictate that sometimes, things don’t go as we’d hoped. Attitude adjustments are in constant flux.

Unfortunately, this morning’s trip to the immigration office in Nelspruit didn’t go well after we’d received the online notice to appear, and we are in a quandary as to how to proceed from here. Our options are few. Our frustrations are many.
Giraffes are fortunate during the dry season.  There’s no competition for the leaves in the treetops.

Due to a myriad of ill advice, government incompetence, bureaucracy, and inconsistency, today’s visit to the immigration office was both frustrating and disappointing.

When we returned to the house a short time ago facing another power shutdown in the next half hour, I felt rushed and out-of-sorts to write an upbeat article about life in the bush.

Instead, I apologize for a less-than-cheerful rendition of where we’re at the moment and where we’ll be in months to come based on today’s outcome.

Cheeks filled with vegetation.

Inconvenience coupled with unexpected expenses is a bitch. My usual overly bubbly self continues to nudge me into settling down and seeing the bright side.  Isn’t there always some semblance of a bright side in these kinds of situations?

Good grief, I’m not implying there’s any modicum of a bright side in lousy health, injury, and personal loss, although some special people manage to find a means to rebound regardless of strife.

But, when it comes to business-type situations and functions of daily life, generally speaking, there are lessons to be learned that may prepare us for the “next time.” We need to hold on to those lessons!
Giraffe along the road.

I need to settle down for the remainder of the day as we discuss our options to come up with a suitable plan that we can live with. By no means is this situation untenable, nor a significant crisis. It’s more annoying than anything. We’ll get over it.

But, for today, I must reserve going into the details until such time in the next 24-hours that we’ve had an opportunity to review our options and come to a logical and practical solution.

We’ll be back with a much more enlightened demeanor by tomorrow’s post. For tonight, we’ll still enjoy another warm night on the veranda, loving our wildlife friends with their playful and entertaining antics.

Have a pleasant evening!

Photo from one year ago today, December 3, 2017:

It was an evening “chic” night, and we entered the elevator with other passengers. One of the passengers grabbed my camera off my shoulder and shot these “feet photos.”  We all howled when this occurred, and here’s the funny photo! For more photos, please click here.