Early morning trip to Nelspruit…

    Our guide was prepared to begin backing up as this male elephant in musth moved closer and closer to us. Musth or must is a periodic condition in bull elephants characterized by highly aggressive behavior and accompanied by a large rise in reproductive hormones. Testosterone levels in an elephant in musth can be on average 60 times greater than in the same elephant at other times.

Yesterday afternoon we got a message from the lawyer informing us we had an appointment at the immigration office at 8:30 this morning to submit our 50 pages of documents for our visa extensions. We thought we were bypassing this step by using the law firm to assist us for some odd reason.

Had we known this, we may have done the process independently. Although, they helped ensure we had everything in order. Now we wait for about 60 days for the approval. If granted, we will have to return to Nelspruit again to get out passports stamped with the new 90-day extension. It’s quite a confusing and time-consuming process.

Elephant carrying her trunk on her tusk. Early elephants had tusks, and one idea is that as tusks became longer, it was harder and harder for elephants to get their mouths to the ground to reach the grass. The trunk on their tusk helps them to reach more food and to eat more in a shorter time.

Going through this painstaking process and avoiding flying to another country with many Covid restrictions right now saved us about US $3000, ZAR 4642. In the realm of things, it will have been worth it. Once approved, we’ll be able to stay until April 22. But if our April 8 cruise doesn’t cancel, we will be on our way by April 1 or sooner.

Our eventual departure date will depend on the cruise line’s requirements based on our coming out of South Africa.The ship sails out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The US has more Covid/Omicron cases per capita than South Africa. It will be interesting to see how that rolls out.

Elephant crossing the dirt road, trunk high in the air, sniffing for food or threats.

Our appointment at the immigration office was scheduled for 10:45 am. We arrived an hour earlier than the appointment time when Tom suggested we go right up to the fifth floor to VSF Immigration anyway, rather than kill time walking around downtown Nelspruit. That decision proved to be a great idea. We were the only applicants at the check-in point outside the door or inside the facility when we arrived.

As I write this post in the car, we expect to be back in Marloth Park by noon. We expected to be waiting in chairs for hours as we had in 2018 when we applied for an extension at that time.

Only one tusk was showing from this view. Our guide explained that when the elephant’s ears are flapped over, as shown above, it indicates an older elephant, as the ear cartilage has aged.

All and all, it wasn’t too bad. Before we left this morning, I prepped all the veggies for dinner. Once I add photos to today’s post upon returning to the house, I’ll do some laundry and catch up on my walking for the day.

We were happy to see Frank and The Misses at the veranda door at the house. We hadn’t seen either of them in almost a week, and we’ve been wondering if they’ve been busy sitting on some eggs out in the bush. It would be delightful to see little Franks and The Misses sometime soon.

The sky cleared after pelting rain when we first started.

Tom is sitting at the table on the veranda watching US football on his laptop, and I’m indoors finishing up today’s post. My timer is set to remind me to walk every 20 minutes. It’s a good day, after all.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, January 18, 2021:

This was Tiny. We haven’t seen him since we returned from the US at the end of July. We miss him but have focused on energy on Little and other animals. For more photos, please click here.

Facing the facts and the potential risks…Recalling one year ago…Two days and counting…

This morning while I was in the kitchen, I saw Broken Horn in the front of the house in the driveway. With the kitchen windows closed (no screens), I called out his name. I ran to the back garden to see if he heard me and came around the back. This is what we saw, making us laugh out loud. He peeked his head around the side of the house to see if we were there. How can we not love these clever animals?

We’ve been discussing the possibility, which exists, that South Africa won’t let us use our new visa stamps for another 90 days. The laws surrounding this are vague and unclear. When we’ve left in the past, on one occasion, we were told we couldn’t “do this again” without applying for an extension.

Yesterday, four wildebeests stopped by (without Broken Horn, who is a loner), and after a long while, we finally saw Crooked Face and Hal along with two friends, Bart and Ben.

With a lack of support staff at South Africa’s immigration department, due to Covid-19, applying for an extension would be a waste of time. The only guarantee that we’d be able to get back in is if we flew back to the US and turned around and came back. But, we didn’t want to wear ourselves out for a quick return with little to no sleep for the two to three-day journey each way.

Although we’re flying to a non-bordering country as required, we may not be staying away long enough. But, the necessary time to be in another country is unclear. We’re taking a risk with five days. We knew the risk existed when we booked the five nights in Zambia.

It’s an anomaly that Crooked Face has a crooked face, but he’s delightful nonetheless.

What could potentially happen if they disapprove of our re-entry? From what we’ve determined, we could be told to immediately leave the country or be given seven days to collect our stuff and leave. With this in mind, we needed to discuss our options if we only had seven days to clear out.

Wildebeests make eye contact and react to our presence. Zebras, on the other hand, rarely make eye contact.

No, we’re not trying to be pessimistic about the situation, but we attempt to be realistic to avoid being shocked or terrified by this possibility. We won’t have everything we own with us. We’re each only bringing a duffle bag with some of our clothing. We’ll need to return pack the remainder of our stuff. Five days away doesn’t warrant more than that.

Most people find the wildebeest, also known as a gnu, to be quite homely. We see them be quite handsome.

We haven’t overstayed at any point since we arrived here last January. The only time we overstayed was when I had open-heart surgery in February 2019, and we had to wait 90 days for me to recover sufficiently to fly on the long flights. At that time, as mentioned in past posts, we were considered undesirables even with all of our doctor’s letters and medical documents. We wouldn’t have been able to reenter South Africa for five years.

We decided to hire a law firm in SA to represent us in getting a waiver; After considerable time, paperwork and expense, we were granted a waiver allowing us to return at any time. We were relieved and grateful to have the ban lifted.

They stayed for quite a while, partaking in our generous offering of pellets.

So, now, with a sense of uncertainty, we are off to Zambia in two days. Today, at 2:00 pm, we head to the Marloth Park medical clinic for Covid-19 PCR tests, another of which we’ll be required to get before leaving Zambia on October 26th. The Marriott hotel will make the arrangement for us to get the tests in hand before we depart.

On another note, today, while preparing the “year ago photo below,” I ended up rereading the entire post here, It was day #210, and our frustration level was over the top. The inconsistency of the taste, portions and preparation of our meals was outrageously inconsistent.

They interact freely with one another, giving little nudges and making body contact in a caring manner.

It was on this date that Tom decided to stop eating dinner. He couldn’t eat one more night of chicken penne pasta with white sauce. He wanted to try no other options when the flavor was Indian, even without added species and sauces. It’s hard to believe at that point that we still had three more months to go until we could escape.

Wildebeests are large animals weighing as much as 180 kg, 400 pounds, and one must maintain a safe distance. They don’t appear aggressive but can inadvertently injure humans with their massive horns and weight.

I started packing this morning and will wrap it up tomorrow.  Tom will pack his bag tomorrow. We have jeans drying outdoors on the veranda since they’d never dry inside in three days on the rack with the high humidity and delightfully cool weather. It’s hot in Zambia right now, and we will pack accordingly. No jackets and sweatshirts will be required for this trip.

That’s it for today, dear readers. We hope you all have a relaxed and comfortable day.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, October 19, 2020:

This photo of Matafoo’s Resort in Kenya was posted one year ago while in a hotel in lockdown in Mumbai, India, on day #210. The sunbathers left as the sun began to set, and we moved to the restaurant for dinner. For more photos, please click here.

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

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

Note: One year ago today, 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 was 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 | Kaspersky Since leaving the US in 2012, many companies, governments, and businesses have started using a QR code, like a barcode that smartphones can read after installing a QR app on your phone or other devices. 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.

Earlier on, while touring India, our tour guide/driver’s car had complimentary WiFi. To access it, it was necessary to scan the QR code they had on a plastic-encased card kept in the vehicle. While in the Marriott hotel during those long ten 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.

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

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. 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, 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 now, 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 from Johannesburg to Marloth Park is not safe today due to several 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 hot and humid. I started working 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…

We spent all afternoon for two days attempting 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 must have less than a month left 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 particular email address.

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. If we could apply at the Kenya Immigration site, we’d only have to pay the US $51, ZAR 761 each.

We expect that the government offices in Kenya aren’t open due to the pandemic, 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 simultaneously, 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 several 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 impact 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.

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 we are well aware of our site and have notified our web people if our site is down. 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. Today, there are two more load shedding sessions, 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 relaxing 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. They can only get into our garden by walking on the driveway when the bush is too dense. This young male could make it through the bush to stop for a visit during sundowners on the veranda.

We dread it each time we have to extend our visas, apply for permits, or apply online for any government-mandated process. Often, the forms are confusing, difficult to use, and don’t save partially completed forms. However, their website clearly states 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, the questions in the form are often ambiguous and confusing.

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

But, the worst part for us, mainly me, who will make 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. I know how to do this. But when saving the documents needed, such as airline tickets, hotel reservations, copies of passports, and decent 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 do not doubt that when I start working on the form again, re-entering all I’ve already entered on ten pages, they won’t be there. We often wonder how less experienced users could 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, the 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 couldn’t keep up with the heat. It was also necessary to 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 exhausted, his neck and head out of the water, 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 I 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, the 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, with 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, mainly 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, circumstances under which a wall may be sensible, providing safety for humans and animals alike.
Tiny is 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 fence, 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 exciting 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 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 substantial worldwide provider, dangerous? 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. We are not. Since we make so little revenue from our site, recently, we added more advertising 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 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, we should have a plan in place by tomorrow, and we’ll share all the details here.

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

There are no public restrooms in the park other than resorts, camps, and restaurants. The outdoor restaurant at Lower Sabie, the Mugg & Bean, has been closed for the past few months. When traveling to Kruger, it’s a suitable spot to stop for a bathroom break and brunch. Spending several hours in the garden 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 enjoyable 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. Upon arriving in another country, no traveler would want to discover 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, is 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 Hotels.com 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.