Changing posting time…Heavenly…Settled into domestic life…

A snail we found on an exterior wall.

We’ve tried to accommodate early morning readers in the US, other countries and for those in all time zones throughout the world by scheduling automatic uploads at 3 am mountain time. The problem with continuing to do so requires me to write today for tomorrow’s post.

This boat takes tourists out for various adventures.

Life happens as it happens and we prefer to post each morning immediately after we’ve written a new post. As a result, today, you’ll see two posts. Going forward you’ll see a new post each day. You can continue to read each morning to see a new post from the prior morning.

By posting twice on October 17th, it enables us to avoid missing one day’s post as we strive to maintain continuity.

Tom walked toward our private beach near the breakwaters.

We apologize for the inconvenience but we’ve found it better to post in “real-time” as opposed to 24 hours before it is seen.  The news will be newer, the events more relevant time-wise. Thank you for your understanding.

The post you saw this morning was written last night on Thursday. As I write this now it’s early Friday morning.  Not much has transpired since last night other than at 9:30  pm we hunkered down to watch an episode of Hell’s Kitchen on my laptop. Perhaps boring to some but, it was fun for us!

The beach for our building only.  As nice as this is, we prefer to sun and fun by the pool.

Finally falling on our faces we headed to bed after 11. Oddly, the bedroom has no AC and the single unit in the living room is too far away to have any impact on cooling the bedroom. With the threat of Hurricane Ana still looming, supposedly heading our way tonight or tomorrow, the air is thick with heat and humidity.

We anticipated that sleeping would be difficult after 77 nights in AC comfort. In Madeira, the last vacation house in which we lived, the temperature rarely was higher than 75F, 24C during the day cooling down considerably at night.  With Maui daytime temperatures as high as 88F, 31C, it was still 79F, 26C when we went to bed, leaving us anticipating a fitful night.

Aside from our occasional fits of coughing, we slept well, finally cool enough to pull the covers over us in the middle of the night. Perhaps, once this storm passes it will cool down a few degrees.  Here are the average year-round temperatures for the general area:

Annual averages temperatures in Kaanapali Beach, which is approximately 20 minutes from our location

Awakening this morning, I was impatient to get up and get the day going. First things first, I turned on the burner for the whistling teapot, an item I drooled over when we first walked inside the condo. I haven’t had a real teapot to use for so long I can’t remember. 

We know we should be drinking Kona coffee while in Hawaii but with Tom cutting out sugar, starch, and carbs as of today, he has no interest in coffee without two spoons of sugar per cup. 

Views from the private beach.

In support of him, I won’t drink coffee as he’s supported me in my diligent observance of this way of eating.  Tea is a fine substitute for me. Of course, when the family arrives for Christmas, we’ll certainly have Kona coffee available. (I doubt Tom will stick with the plan over the holidays and will join in on the Kona coffee).

Another aspect of an easy life in this lovely condo is the ice. Although the freezer’s ice machine doesn’t work there are six ice cube trays. This means we’ll only have to make ice once per day. Add the huge pitcher we found, we’ll only have to make iced tea once a day

As we roamed the grounds at our building, we spotted this warning sign.

I couldn’t get the washer going fast enough. With only enough dirty laundry for one load, I was excited to use the stackable washer and dryer in the unit. We haven’t had a dryer in a vacation home since November 2013 in Scottsdale, Arizona as we busily prepared to leave the US. 

In a little over 75 minutes, the laundry was washed, dried, and put away. How wonderful! Ah, the simple things. They mean so much.

The surf outside our door.

As for Hurricane Ana, some of the news people are still calling her Tropical Storm Ana while others say, Hurricane Ana. Her winds are 70 MPH, heading our way. Once it hit 75 MPH which is expected today, she will officially be called Hurricane Ana. She has yet to hit the Big Island, her first target in the chain of islands. 

Also, the lava flow continues on the Big Island with little hope that the torrential rains will have any impact on the flow. 

A closer view of the flow front courtesy USGS HVO, burning vegetation at its flow margin.
The lava flow is currently 150 yards wide heading toward Pahoa, where we’ll live beginning December 1st. Helicopter operations to view the flow have been suspending due to Ana.

There’s always the good and the bad, the yin and the yang, and the ups and downs in life. Hawaii is no different in that manner than anyplace else in the world. We chose to spend this period of time on these lush tropical islands. With that comes a price to pay, as is the case with almost everything in life.

Happily, we pay that price, hoping in the long haul, the benefits outweigh the worrisome aspects. We’ll continue to stay in touch sharing what we discover along the way.

Have a safe and happy weekend.

                                                Photo from one year ago, October 17, 2013:
In today’s earlier post we included a photo for this date. With the above-described readjustment of uploading time, we included another photo from that date. For details of that post, please click here.

The chef at Camp Olonana made every effort to prepare delicious well-seasoned meals for me. He succeeded beyond expectations. For details from that day’s post, please click here.

Patience and persistent…A necessary aspect of traveling the world…

An outdoor lawn ornament store in Campanario.

We still haven’t pinned down a booking in New Zealand, although we may be close. We don’t post details about a possible booking until it is confirmed and the deposit has been received.

Whether this flower was wilted or grows this way, we’ll never know.

In a way, I’m getting worried that as we continue to inquire, many owners or managers either don’t respond or don’t like our long term rental of 89 days.

The hillside scenery is always captivating.

When we first started looking we were hopeful when we noticed many affordable possibilities, but our hopes were soon dashed when we continued to be unable to pin something down.

Lilies, perhaps?

We wait for a final response on one on which that I’m trying to hold my enthusiasm at bay. We agreed on price and terms, but we had to drop six days from 89 to 83 when we found a possible cruise we’ll take after living in New Zealand. 

The purest shade of blue, the sea.

We wrote back late yesterday when it was the middle of the night in New Zealand. With the 11 hour time difference, it’s tricky trying to communicate. By the time I went to bed at 10 pm here, it was 9 am there. I assumed I’d find an email in my inbox this morning when I awoke early this morning dashing downstairs to check my computer. Alas, there was none.

Thank you ocean, for providing such views!

Disappointed, I wrote back once more verifying that my prior message was received. I know I’m persistent.  Some would let it lie and patiently await a response. Not I. I dig and I dig deep. It’s my nature, always has been, always will be.

We find a certain charm in laundry hanging off the railings of houses. We do the same when we hang our sheets and use the rack for the smaller items.

In reality, it takes at least one of us to be persistent and somewhat pushy when traveling the world. Í will admit that my pushiness always includes a high level of diplomacy and kindness. Tom, on the other hand, is either too nice or gets frustrated deferring to me to handle uncomfortable situations.

The effort that homeowners make in preparing a picturesque garden astounds us.

When it comes to our safety or well being, Tom is as persistent and pushy as anyone can be. Perhaps, it may be stereotyping male and female roles.

After spending three months in South Africa observing animal behavior, I’ve come to accept that the female and male of any species have specific roles ingrained in their DNA and, strengths and weaknesses that should be treasured for their uniqueness and contribution in a working relationship. 

Some blooming flowers remain as the season winds down as in the case of this pretty hibiscus.

As a result, I wait, albeit not patiently, to hear back from the property owner or if not by tonight, we’ll go back to the drawing board to return to the search once again. We have the remainder of this month to get this accomplished and off of our minds. 

This branch was in the way of my shot, but I took it anyway.

By the time that we’ll be situated in our next vacation rental with time for searching, it will be October in Hawaii. For some goofy reason, I don’t think we’ll want to be sitting inside staring at our computers looking for a place in New Zealand when we arrive in Hawaii. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Photo from one year ago, July 2, 2013:

The long, narrow roads between the houses in Boveglio, Italy were too narrow for cars On occasion, we’d see a tiny car manage to squeeze through. The roads were very steep and a walk was a huge feat of endurance, as is the case in Madeira. For details from that day, please click here.

The progression of a moonlit night over Madeira…Scroll down to listen to a humorous Minnesota podcast where Tom’s is mentioned…A year ago trip to Ephesus, Turkey and a fashion show…

Last night’s view of the moon and the lights from our veranda over Campanario, Madeira. 

I often walk up the steep hill that begins outside our door, snapping photos along the way, puffing and panting less and less each time. The lack of activity in Morocco greatly reduced my level of fitness, now returning with painstaking effort. 

The moon making an appearance on Wednesday which ended up clouded over after dark.

I needed to do this hard work. With no health club nearby once again I’m left to my own resources in an effort to stay fit which is easier now that we do our own day-to-day housework, laundry, and cooking. Tom, prefers not to exercise at all, except for necessary walks.

Last night, the moon began its ascent over the top of the mountain.

His exercise (besides household tasks) consists of standing up several times a day, walking to the kitchen to get two more Oreo cookies, walking back to the sofa, sitting down, and eating them. Oh, how happy I’d be if he’d give up the gluten and sugar. 

It rose so quickly, we could hardly look away for a moment.

I only want him to be healthy in order to continue this journey for years to come. He’s betting on his good genes. Recently, I read that good genes only attribute to 10% of one’s health and longevity. The rest is based on lifestyle choices. Our meals are healthy but, I can’t control what he puts in his mouth in between. We don’t argue about this nor do I nag him. He knows.

Only a minute later, we had a full view.

Yesterday, after posting here, we busied ourselves checking airfares from Funchal, Madeira to Paris, France on July 31st, a mere 48 days from today. The quickest flight left us with only a 45 minutes layover between Funchal and Lisbon, not enough time to go through customs. 

Tom insisted I point the camera in the opposite direction over the sea to capture the colors in the sky as the sun set and the moon arose.

Instead, we booked the safer bet, the flight with a two-hour layover in Lisbon, arriving in Paris at 5:15. By the time we’ll get to our hotel, it may be 7:30 pm or later, after another long day of travel. Then, we’ll quickly shower and change, heading out for our first dinner in Paris. How exciting!

The sky began to darken as a puff of clouds swept into the moon’s view.

Many travel days are ahead of us over several months after we leave Madeira on July 31st, not settling into another “home” until October 5th when we disembark the cruise from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada to Oahu, Hawaii.

Again, Tom remembered to catch one last shot of the sunset on the opposite side of the island.

Again, we won’t be cooking our meals for a combined total of 66 days while dining in restaurants during a month of cruising and several weeks in hotels in Paris, London, Boston, and Vancouver.  

As the sky cleared we knew that soon the moon would too high to get any good shots.

In the interim, we’re loving life in Madeira, especially after last night’s full moon which will be reaching its peak tonight when we’ll be dining out at a higher elevation. Hopefully, another relatively cloudless sky will bring the moon into its full glory into our sight once again.

Our last shot of the evening as it made it way to the heavens.

A full moon on Friday the 13th may bring out the superstition in some. But, for us, it’s another opportunity to revel in the beauty of the world surrounding us as we remain grateful for each and every day.

Here’s the link to the humorous podcast from Minnesota from June 12, 2014, where Tom is mentioned. 

His mention comes up in the first five minutes of the first hour in the podcast, making it unnecessary to listen to the entire podcast.

Very funny!  

Photo from one year ago today, June 13, 2013:

Spending part of the day in Ephesus, Turkey was not as interesting as we’d hoped. Seeing ruins after ruins had finally begun to wear thin. After we left Ephesus, we were taken to a runway fashion show. What???? For details of that story, photos of Ephesus, and the fashion show, please click here.

Much to do…Retirement isn’t a free lunch….Photos from dinner in the souk…

A complimentary bowl of spicy olives is served when dining at Arabe restaurant.
There’s never a day that passes that doesn’t require tasks related to our travels. In reality, it’s comparable to a full time job. Fortunately, we don’t mind doing most of the tasks. Although, it’s easy to lie in bed early in the morning thinking about everything that must be handled, we try not to make ourselves crazy or worried with the responsibility of accomplishing them.
The overlook to the shops below from Terrasse des Espices Restaurant.

Let’s face it. There’s no free lunch. We all have many tasks in our daily lives continuing well into retirement, if not until the end of our lives should we be so fortunate to be able to continue to do our own tasks. 

For most of our readers, daily household tasks and maintenance preoccupy a good portion of each day. Add the responsibility of handling medical insurance, medications, health appointments, paying bills, grocery, and other shopping, visiting family and friends who are ill or in nursing homes, and entertaining family and friends, it is exhausting.

Complimentary bread sticks are provided at Arabe restaurant.  The price of cocktails is high in Morocco, as much as US $10 per cocktail. As a result, Tom doesn’t bother to drink any alcohol. With us dining out three or four times per week, him not drinking could easily be saving us over US $100 per week.

Although we have eliminated some of the above items from our “to do” list, since we no longer have a home, we have other tasks to perform that replace them, mostly wrapped around our continuing travels.

In other words, being retired is not being “retired’ from anything other than going to an outside job each day. The perception that many younger still working people may have is that life is free and easy. Ha! It’s hardly the case.

A pigeon we spotted while dining on the rooftop.  Their cooing sounds permeate the air in the riad each day, along with the crowing rooster who crows every 5 or 10 minutes.

Although at times I consider myself in the retired category, I am far from retired. I work half or more of each day with our website, writing, editing, taking photos, and generally being continually aware of the creation of the inspiration for the next story. That’s hardly retired. The fact that I enjoy doing so is incidental.

Add the financial management, record keeping and the daily task of handling of the budget, logging each penny spent, my days are full, leaving a little time for playing Gin with Tom, watching a few shows and of course, getting out to explore.

This is the usual crowd we must maneuver each time we go out to dine, get cash from an ATM, roam around the Big Square, or to exit the Medina in order flag get a taxi. 

This morning I spent an hour placing our few pills into our pill cases. Tom’s case holds two weeks of pills. Mine holds four weeks. The end result is that I have to do pills every two weeks. Now, this should be an easy task. I take a few prescriptions and Tom takes one. Adding the few vitamins and probiotics we have left and it seems that it shouldn’t take so long.

But, as time has moved on, we’ve used all of our US prescriptions and are now into the one year’s supply of the those we’ve purchased from ProgressiveRX, a reputable online pharmacy company. (They don’t take insurance).  Each pill they dispense is individually wrapped in foil requiring a huge amount of time to get each pill out of the right wrapping.

As we dined at Le Jardin, Mr. Turtle stopped by, hanging out for “crumb patrol.” Of course, we complied with his request for vegetable tidbits from our plates as he stared up at us, which he savored with delight, quickly snapping them up. He rested between bites at my feet.

Today, I unwrapped over 100 pills for the six weeks total of pills I placed collectively in the little cases. As I’ve aged, good grief, I’ve noticed my fingers are not as adept as they may have been 40 years ago. Small handiwork is not my forte. 

Also, several years ago I had surgery on my right thumb and it’s basically useless. Try unwrapping those tight little tin foil packs when right-handed and the right thumb doesn’t work. What a time consuming ordeal.

Mr. Turtle and his companion, another male, scour the floor of the restaurant all day, as customers come and go. The staff feeds them their usual diet of fresh greens but they particularly seem to like the cooked vegetables from our plates.

After performing this task this morning, I thought, “Why don’t I unwrap them all and put them in the plastic bottles I saved from the old pills?”  Simple reason. As we are stopped by airport or cruise security, we’ll fare better with them in the labeled foil packs than in the white plastic bottles I saved that I plan to toss before we leave Morocco.

This morning, I performed the pill task earlier than usual after being awakened at 5:00 am by the crowing rooster next door. He’s obviously going nuts now that its spring, continuing to crow throughout the day, until dark. 

Fresh produce is offered for sale at Le Jardin including these pretty oranges.

Looming in our minds has been the car and flight we still need to book for leaving here in 27 days which invariably proves to be a lengthy process when making every effort to get a good deal. We postponed booking these two items as we considered the possibility of leaving a few days earlier. Now, that we’ve re-framed our thinking, we’re content to stay until our departure date of the 15th of May.

In addition, we still have four more family members to book for Hawaii as we continue to watch rates on a daily basis. We plan to have their bookings completed by the first week of May.

Notice the two buds growing behind the flower.  Photo taken from a tree in Le Jardin a restaurant we’ve found that stays open at all hours.

Yesterday, we created a detailed spreadsheet listing all the places we’d like to visit in the next year including prices and details of possible cruises and the flights to travel to those locations, the cost of rent, rental cars, and other expenses. As a result, we created a budget for the next year. It feels great to have accomplished this task.

When realizing that the cost of our “wish list” was more than we’re comfortable spending, we knew that the next step in the process was to whittle it down to an acceptable level. That it itself is a time-consuming process.  However, that business-related part of me still enjoys creating and updating spreadsheets. Good thing. It’s definitely not within Tom’s skill set or desire to learn.

A hand-carved head on display at Le Jardin.

Assigning tasks to each of us helps to avoid redundancy. At the moment, Tom is researching future travels while I document his research. This works well for us. I’m researching the remaining flights for our family, while Tom keeps checking our booked cruises for rate changes. (If prices drop, we get the benefit of the lowered price, if done so prior to 90 days before sailing).

As a result of the division of tasks, neither of us, ever feels there is an imbalance in responsibility, very important in keeping peace when together around the clock. Resentment over the balance of responsibility is often a source of disharmony in relationships which has never been an issue for us.

As I shot this photo of this parakeet in a cage at Le Jardin, she shook her tail feathers.

Without a doubt, I spend more time “working” each day as I write and post photos. But, the fact that it is a pleasant task, doesn’t make it feel as if it’s work.

As much as life for retirees may seem like a walk in the park, most of yours and our days are filled with tasks and responsibilities, none of which we can easily ignore or postpone.

This guy refused to awaken from his nap while I took these photos.

Maybe next time our hard-working, still working, family members or friends comment about the “easy” lives of retirement, they can ask us how we spend our days. Then, perhaps, they may realize it is not as simple or easy as it appears. Sadly, they eventually find out how difficult it is when we get so old that we can no longer perform our own tasks, and they have to take over.

It’s for all of the reasons we must grab at every moment we can, finding joy, pleasure and meaning in our lives.  And, it’s for this very reason, that we find ourselves in Morocco in spring of 2014, living life to the fullest, the best way that we can.

Photo from one year ago today, April 18, 2013:

Photo Tom took from our balcony at sunrise, as our ship made it’s way to Sam Juan, Puerto Rico where it spent the day. For details of this date, please click here.

Road trip begins tomorrow monring at 8:00 am…Atlas Mountains…Sahara Desert…Time change in Morocco…No clue…

The pointy-toed shoes remind us of magic carpets and flowing gowns typical of the perception of Morocco which is not too far from reality…minus the flying carpet, of course.

This morning, Samir stopped by to discuss our upcoming trip. As a matter of fact, he asked if we knew there had been a time change by one hour, four days ago. We did not know! We wondered why we were called to dinner at 5:30 last night, an hour earlier than our usual 6:30 PM. We proceed to go to the table on several occasions mentioning how nice it was to eat while it was still so light! Go figure. How would we have known?

Tomorrow morning at 8:00 am, Adil will come to get us to lead us through the shortcut to Mohamed’s awaiting new white SUV who will be our driver over the next three days as we explore the Atlas Mountains and the Sahara Desert.

These shoes looked comfy in soft leather, particularly the rounded toes styles. I’d certainly buy a pair if I had the room.

For two nights we’ll be staying in two different hotels, at varying elevations in the mountains. Although I have no interest in going to the highest points in the mountains at over 13,000 feet, we’ll certainly be at higher elevations than either of has traveled in many years.

Our hope is that we’ll have no trouble adapting to the elevation. But, “they,” say the elevation randomly has an effect on people, some with little consequence and others who become very ill with AMS (acute mountain sickness) when reaching altitudes above 8000 feet, 2400 meters.

This was the pile of belts from which I selected the black one on the top.  The shop owner installed a buckle that I’d chosen from a bag full of buckles. You’ll see me wearing this belt in future photos. I’ve found that a belt and a little costume jewelry can dress up an otherwise boring outfit.

At this point, with Samir making all the arrangements, we have no clue how high up we’ll be traveling.  Tomorrow, we’ll find out how high up we are able to travel. We’ve decided it we become ill, we’ll immediately return to a lower elevation.
This morning, it took me all of 10 minutes to pack with only the necessity to add the toiletries I’ll use in the morning. My current minimal wardrobe makes packing easier than ever for such a short trip. The same goes for Tom who is also down to a skeleton clothing supply.

This style of shoe is commonly worn by the locals, ideal for slippers but, there are very thin for walking any distances.

Getting away for a few days will serve us well, as we’re almost halfway through our time in Morocco, a time in all of our two to three months stays, that we decide its time to getaway. This is no different than the vast population who live in their permanent home most of the year, occasionally deciding to go away for a few days.

Over the past week or so we’ve begun booking flights for our 13 family members meeting us in Hawaii in December in less than eight months. With holiday season airline tickets selling quickly, we’ve worked fast and furiously to lock in the flights. So far, we’ve purchased nine tickets with four more to go. It will be a huge relief to have this part out of the way. 

These colorful bowls are often used for serving food.  One might be concerned about lead content when unsure of the materials used in making these.

Next week, we’ll book our flights to Madeira only a month away and also a rental car for our 75 days on the island. With “island” rates comparable to Hawaii (for which we’ll also book a rental car next week), we’ll pay a premium. The house in the hills of the mountainous island of Madeira would make using taxis impractical and cumbersome. 

Right now, we’re experiencing huge expenses: upcoming flights, cars, rental fees, and our trip away for a few days, all of which add up quickly. No less than three or four times a day, we consult our budget, adding new expenses as they occur, checking, and rechecking. 

Outside the Medina, in the new city, we encountered many ice cream shops. The flavors are appealing to me (viewing purposes only). If Tom were to order some, most likely, he’d choose boring vanilla.

Traveling as we do requires constant diligence in planning and documenting expenses, never for a moment feeling we don’t have a handle on our current financial situation. This is not unlike those budget-minded individuals, that may be in the minority, that keep track of expenses in their daily lives.

These creamy swirls made my mouth water.  Tom reminds me that I’m a food voyeur.

Honestly, in our old lives, I didn’t keep track of our day to day expenses on a separate spreadsheet, documenting every dollar spent in every category. I’d set up our bank account to record expenses but not to the finite detail we do now. 

Although, at many times in our old lives, I’d promised myself I would create a budget and stick to it. Ha! How many of us have thought about doing that? Many. How many have actually done it? Few. Very few.

Back at the Medina, we made our way to the souks for our return walk. 

We usually upload a post by noon, our time here in Morocco which may reach you in the morning, depending on your current location. While we’re away, you should be able to see a post by Thursday evening.

In the event there is no post on Thursday, please understand that it may be due to a poor or non-existent WiFi signal at the hotel. We’ve been told the signal will be fine but as we know from experience, it may not be able to upload our site with photos. Even in the remote Maasai Mara while on safari all day we were able to post with photos in the evening.

Hopefully, we’ll “see” you tomorrow!  Until then…

Photo from one year ago, April 9, 2013:

No photos were posted from one year ago today, April 9, 2013, our travel day from Belize to the cruise ship. Instead, we’re posting a photo from March 8, 2013, which we’d yet to repost. 

Gosh, we were tan! Now, we’re pasty white without a single sunning day in months. This photo is from March 8, 2013, when we’d been in Placencia, Belize for over a month, after spending one hour in the warmth of the sun each day.  For details of that date, please click here.

A rewarding final game drive in Kruger National Park…Tomorrow, we’ll share the most romantic bush braai ever…Photos and more photos…

Yesterday, while waiting outside the African Reunion House for our ride to the Crocodile Bridge Gate for the upcoming game drive and bush braai, we spotted this Golden Orb Spider and her web which is gold in the sunlight. The colors in the background are the designs painted on the outside of the house.  Moments after taking this photo, Tom accidentally walked into the web, taking over half of it down. I was sorry for the spider but couldn’t help but laugh as he was flailing his arms to get the web off of him. Today, she’s still hanging onto her web, although, it’s considerably smaller. 

Error correction from yesterday’s post:  With the assistance of local friends, the photo I referred to as a Duiker was actually a Bushbuck. In addition, we’ve added the names of all the bird photos in the post, three of which we didn’t know. Thanks to Lynne and Mick once again!  Please check yesterday’s post which has since been amended, by scrolling down on today’s post if you’re curious about the bird names.

Spotting wildlife, such as this wildebeest in Kruger National Park is different from the Masai Mara where we could literally drive across the bush to get up close and personal. Kruger is a combination of paved and dirt roads. Off-road driving is forbidden often preventing closeup photos unless the animals are close to or on the road. Many visitors to Kruger are able to see the Big Five close to the road at times. We did the best we could from afar. But, we were having so much fun, we weren’t disappointed. 

We’ve decided that “safari luck” presents itself in many ways. It no longer revolves around seeing the Big Five on a game drive. For us, it extends to many areas of our lives:  a good time, safe travels, avoiding snakes and other poisonous creatures, meeting new people negotiating a good price on a future vacation home, or simply having a fulfilling day.

These two hippos popped up their heads as we drove across the bridge.

It may sound as if I’m rationalizing the fact that we didn’t see any lions on last night’s game drive. Perhaps I am. But, we had a great time beginning with the moment the driver picked us up at 3:30 pm for the drive to Crocodile Gate, the entrance to Kruger National Park, when we rode along with a delightful couple from Australia, Tiffany, and John, with whom we spent most of the evening.

This baby impala was no more than a few weeks old. It was alone, lost from its mother. We watched for quite a while, hoping the mom would return, only to be saddened when she didn’t. Hopefully, another mom would adopt her which often occurs.
This baby impala, only a few weeks old, starting approaching our vehicle and Excellent shooed her off, to avoid her learning that the road was safe.

Returning home close to midnight, we were shocked at how late it was after never asking Tom the time, indicating a fabulous experience was in process. As they say, “time flies when you’re having fun.” And fun, we had. That was “safari luck.”

From a considerable distance, we spotted this Goliath Heron.

A total of eight guests loaded into the game vehicle once we arrived in the park, all the rest of whom were residents of Marloth Park who definitely know how to have a good time. 

This muddy cape buffalo watched us approach.

Annoyed by our presence, he and a few other Retired Generals moseyed on down the road, taking their time.

Endless comments and laughter ensued in the vehicle during the three and a half hours of the drive. Our guide and driver, Excellent (yep, that’s his name) was not only informative but very entertaining. At times, we were all singing “oldies.

This giraffe’s cheeks were filled with vegetation she’d gathered from the treetops. What appears to be horns at the top of a giraffe’s head is called ossicones which are hairy at the ends in the female and bald at the ends in the male. The males use the ossicones in fighting during the mating season, which wears off the hairs.

Nope, we didn’t see lions or leopards, two of the Big Five. But, we did see three of the Big 5: rhinos (at too far of a distance for photos), elephants, and cape buffaloes, as shown in the photos here today. We were content with that. 

 Often birds sit atop high bare branches on the lookout for food.
Later, we’ll post the names of these birds after doing some research. 
 Although we enjoy taking photos of birds, we seldom know what they are which is frustrating. Our guide Excellent, pointed out many varieties. We’ve found it difficult to remember the names of each of the birds to match with our photos. Many bird enthusiasts keep paper and pen handy.

At around 7:30, we drove into the bush braai area for the one-day-late-due-to-rain romantic Valentine’s Day Bush Braai, hosted by Louise and Danie, an event we’ll always remember. 

As the sun began to set, we spotted these elephants and a baby.
In many areas in Kruger National Park, many of the trees have been taken down by the elephants. However, they leave the Marula tree intact since it bears fruit that they eat. In South Africa, a popular after-dinner liqueur is Amarula (the letter a is added to the beginning of the word to connote the liqueur, not the fruit) which was served last after the romantic bush braai. Laden with sugar, once again, I had to pass on this drink. Tom thoroughly enjoyed both of ours.

Tomorrow, we’ll post photos of what we’d imagine being the most extraordinary bush braai ever held in South Africa; the food, the décor, the guests, and the experience of being surrounded by lions, hippos, elephants and more, while “‘Lucky,” a military guard with a rifle and spotlight, continually scanned the perimeter to ensure our safety.

The vultures, checking for dinner at the end of the day.

A safe evening in the dark with wild animals all around us in itself is “safari luck” which surely we experienced on this special day!

This was only the beginning as the sun began to set giving all of us the opportunity to take photos of the most amazing sunset that we’ve seen in our almost three months in South Africa, all of which we’ll share tomorrow along with photos of the romantic bush braai. Amazing!

Guests for breakfast at African Reunion House…Visitors in the bush…What more could we want?.

Yesterday, late afternoon, we had our first visitors to African Reunion House.  “They” say the number of visitors increases the longer humans stay at a house in Marloth Park. 

We sat at the end of the table and the seat to the left to allow our guests a great view of the pool and the bush.

Much to our delight, a warthog family of four stopped by, not a family that we recognized, although the little house is only a few short blocks away. It is easy to identify the moms and babies when they each have their own distinct features, as humans.

The bedroom we chose to use at African Reunion House on the main floor overlooking the veranda.

They visited only seconds after Okee Dokee stopped by to drop off a flash drive that she had purchased for me in the town of Malelane, for me to use to make Windows 8.1 reboot set for this new computer which I had yet to do. Not wanting to carry four discs with us as we travel, a flash drive was a more sensible option. 

The king-sized bed has provided a great night’s sleep for both of us. The comfortable mattress, bedding, size, and coolness of the room have been highly instrumental in uninterrupted sleep.

When she and I shopped yesterday morning in Komatipoort, we stopped in an office supply store to discover they didn’t carry anything over 8G. I’d decided we’d buy one to be included in our next supply order to be shipped to Morocco shortly after we arrive.

The addition of this zebra backside only adds to the gorgeous décor in not only this bedroom but is carried throughout the entire house.

Lo and behold, Okee Dokee, who originally was suggested to us by Louise and Danie, never ceases to amaze us, called me from a computer shop while out and about, asking if I wanted her to purchase it. Unreal. A few hours later she appeared at the door, 32G flash drive in hand.  Reimbursing her promptly, she stayed for a while for a much deserved cold drink. 

This soaking tub is located in the bedroom we chose.  It’s unlikely I will use it when there’s a special Jacuzzi room upstairs that is outrageously appealing.  Tomorrow, we’ll post photos of that special area.

We’re lucky to have met such wonderful people in Marloth Park. And, as we sit here now overlooking the lush greenery of the bush, our breakfast guests having left for Kruger National Park in the afternoon, we are once again reminded of how fortunate we have been to have the opportunity to enjoy new friends and, another luxury home.

I chose this bedroom for showering and dressing in the mornings to avoid waking Tom, who usually stays up an hour later than I and sleeps in a little longer in the mornings. This beautiful bedroom has an en suite bathroom with a double shower.

Entertaining guests in African Reunion House was seamless with all the amenities for setting a lovely table and cooking a great breakfast. 

The formal dining room off of the kitchen, seats eight.  Dining outdoors each night its doubtful we’ll dine at this table. Instead, we’ve used it for my now-defunct laptop as shown. 

Ken had recently gone gluten-free making it easy and familiar to make an entirely gluten-free meal consisting of GF Coconut Flour Pancakes (click for link to the recipe we posted some time ago), scrambled eggs with cheese and onions, bacon (referred to as “streaky bacon” in South Africa), orange juice and fresh fruit. 

This tree frog on the rafters on the veranda has been watching us all day, occasionally sticking out his tongue in a feeble attempt to grasp a flying insect.  We laughed at how he has his front legs tucked under himself.
 Of course, I don’t drink juice or eat fruit due to the low carb aspect of my way of eating. It had been a long time since we’d cooked breakfast which turned out to be a very pleasurable meal, added to the enjoyment of the companionship of our guests.
Local art is highlighted throughout African Reunion House.

Ah, the simple things in life hold so much more meaning to us now than they ever in the past. 

The work of a local artist is a fine addition to the dining area.

And even then, we found great pleasure in the gathering of family and friends. I suppose the difference now is based on how little we take for granted in this life; the kindness of a friend or a stranger, a thoughtful gesture, four linen napkins delivered by Louise, and the peaceful beauty of this new environment, now our third house in Marloth Park.

Danie handcrafted the bar and the bar stools. Both Louise and Danie are creative and artistic.
African Reunion House is difficult to compare to Khaya Umdani. They each possess their own unique features and appeal. Would we choose one over the other? As difficult it was for us to choose which bedroom we’d sleep in, it would be impossible to decide which of the two houses we’d select. As a tourist, the only necessary consideration would be sleeping capacity. 
The door free cabinets makes finding items in the kitchen easy.

While Khaya Umdani can sleep eight to ten guests, African Reunion House can accommodate eight guests, each with two guests per bedroom. For us, both houses have been perfect. We love the spacious feeling, although we tend to use only the bedrooms, kitchen, and verandas.

We feel as if we are on vacation/holiday until we return to the little house containing the rest of our belongings, and to begin packing to leave Marloth Park in a mere 17 days. How did three months pass so quickly?

As “they” say, “Time flies when you’re having fun!”

Tomorrow, we’ll be back with more photos including the “surprise room” upstairs and more wildlife photos as we begin to wind down our time in Marloth Park.

An evening with friends in the bush…A dangerous Black Mamba story…Moving day today…Goodbye Khaya Umdani…An adorable video!

Some years ago, in the evening Linda, alone while sitting on the veranda at their home in Marloth Park, heard what sounded like a scream. She immediately went inside the house, locking the door behind her. The next morning, she wandered through their property to find the remains of this impala, who’d been attacked by a leopard, as confirmed by the Park Rangers whom she called to assist. All that remained of the impala was this skull that they’ve displayed in their yard as a reminder that there are wild animals in this area and one must always exercise caution.

The commonality we share with people we’ve met in Marloth Park is the profound love of nature and wildlife, like none we’ve seen before and most likely, will ever experience again.

Ken lit the fire in the braaii, using a combination of charcoal and wood. After dinner, he added more wood to keep it up like a bonfire while we remained outdoors the entire evening.

Last night this was exemplified while dining at the lovely bush home of our new friends, Linda and Ken. As typical in South Africa, a braai was on the evening’s agenda, only delayed by the constant chatter among the four of us.

In the past year, Linda and Ken found this huge skin shed by the dreaded Black Mamba that was hanging from the thatched roof over a second-story veranda. Up close, we could see it’s head in detail. Yikes.

Ken, a phenomenal photographer made us drool over his plethora of wildlife photos, inspiring us to bite the bullet and purchase a more sophisticated SLR camera and spend the time necessary to learn to use it. 

Linda and Ken like to fill this standing trough with birdseed and pellets for visiting wildlife. Having only returned from their other home on Friday, they’d yet to see many visitors. They explained that once they’ve been back for three days or so, the wildlife comes to call.  As we sat outdoors the entire evening, there was an abundance of birds and toward the end of the evening, we saw a Genet, a cat-like animal we’d yet to see, which moved too quickly for a photo.

Alas, I tried holding up one of his two cameras last night, only to be disappointed, when my bad shoulder prevented me from holding it up for less than 30 seconds. As much as I love taking photos, this is my reality, which I accept, with the hope and expectation that as technology advances, a lightweight, quality camera will become available in a size and weight I can manage.  

Tom and Ken in my blurry photo as they cooked the steaks on the braai. Wish I’d held the camera steady for a better shot.
This morning Linda and Ken stopped by and we proudly showed off Khaya Umdani as we prepare to leave in a few hours. Once again, we instantly engaged in lively and animated conversation, especially when  Louise and Danie stopped by to see how we’re doing. 

That very commonality becomes so clear when residents of Marloth Park meet other residents immediately having this special interest that only this unique area can provide.

Another skull found in Linda and Ken’s garden from a duiker.

Where are we going? Not back to the little house. Our generous hosts, Louise and Danie have opened up yet another fine property for us to enjoy as our time in Marloth Park winds down. How did we get so lucky?

Although Tom isn’t thrilled about moving quite so often, once we’re unpacked and settled in, the sense of comfort and familiarity will appease him, as it always does, putting him at ease. For me, it’s all an adventure and I love every moment. I don’t even mind the packing and unpacking anymore when it creates a familiar sense of organization and order that I gave up so long ago.

Khaya Umdani was an ethereal dream, 10 full days of the ultimate in comfort and style enhanced by the endless sounds and sights of nature at our doorstep as shown in our photos. It couldn’t have been more perfect.  Absolutely nothing was out of order, annoying or difficult. 

At Khaya Umdani, we enjoyed no less than 10 various warthog families, all of which learned to come to the left side of the pool if they were to get any pellet treats. They learned quickly, making us laugh.

Every possible amenity was on hand; the finest of quality, offering the utmost of functionality and an abundance of eye appeal. From the dishes to the placemats to the bedding and towels, nothing was spared. From Zeff’s daily presence, quietly and unobtrusively in the background, every possible need was met with warmth and enthusiasm.

A few days ago we took this adorable video.  Please watch for a heartwarming chuckle!

In a way, it’s not easy to leave Khaya Umdani. But, we know, having previously seen the house we’re moving to, we’ll be equally at home once we settle in. For me, the bigger issue is the reality that we’re leaving Marloth Park in 19 days. Never in the past, when preparing to leave other countries have I felt such angst about leaving. 

The animals, the people, it will be hard to say goodbye. I can only hope that someday we can return to Africa, to Marloth Park, to visit Capetown, to finally see Victoria Falls, and to once again possess this powerful feeling of belonging to this land.

For now, we’re not done in Africa when soon we’ll head to Morocco, expanding our horizons, further building our experience and knowledge of this continent, so far removed from our past reality and today, so forefront in our hearts and minds.

Back to my old ways…Inspired by Khaya Umdani, a look inside the cupboards…Food photos…Visitors…and more…

Hand carved African decorator items are tastefully displayed in Khaya Umdani.
Vegetation native to South Africa grows freely without little care or maintenance.
There in the side yard, outside the master bedroom door, was this lovely Bird of Paradise that had bloomed since we arrived on Thursday. This morning we noticed a second bloom.
Less than 48 hours ago, we temporarily moved into this exquisite six-bedroom, five-bathroom home in Marloth Park, known as Khaya Umdami (houses are named in Africa and some other parts of the world), and instantly I fall back into my old patterns of thinking, “Shall we invite company for dinner?” and, “What shall I wear?” These are two questions that haven’t crossed my lips in a very long time
Besides, I don’t have enough clothing left to make what I wear ever an issue. I wear what is clean and available. Style is out the window!
When Louise and Danie renovated Khaya Umdami, this sixth bedroom was a part of the renovation. During the construction period, baby warthogs entered of their own volition and slept in the en suite bathroom’s shower at night. In the morning, they’d have to scoot them out. Thus, the name of this bedroom accessed via the veranda.

The warthog room as all of the other five bedrooms has its own unique décor and stone en suite bathroom. Amenities include its own refrigerator as shown in the far right.

In our old lives Tom often referred to my “linen napkin lifestyle” which obviously, I’ve let go since the beginning of our world travels. Not only have I let it go but I’ve found myself content with the dishtowel on my lap as we dine on the same 10 things we cook for dinner, over and over again. 
Nope, there were no hippos visiting this room. But, at night one can hear the gurgling sounds of the hippos emanated from the nearby Crocodile River.
Mosquito netting  as shown in the hippo room is commonly placed around beds in Africa. Although, after two months in Marloth Park we’ve yet to use the netting. Keeping the bedroom door closed during the day prevents insects from entering. Plus, the bedrooms have air conditioning, which further reduces the presence of mosquitoes.  I recall being concerned about mosquitoes when booking with Louise and Danie for Marloth Park. They haven’t been an issue, using a bit of repellent each day, even for me, a mosquito magnet.
This soaking tub in the hippo room is appealing after a bush braai (fabulous food!) which includes a game drive in the late afternoon, hosted by Louise and Danie. We know from personal experience!

My lifetime interest as a “foodie” has all but disappeared as we’ve discovered that special ingredients conducive to my way of eating become more and more difficult to find as we’ve traveled the world. A former dessert baking aficionado, I’ve since given up grains, starch, and sugar, leaving few options for desserts so we stick to nuts, nuts, and more nuts, which are prolific in Africa, some of the best in the world.

The Kingfisher room is named for the frequent sighting of the Kingfisher bird, often seen through the window of this room on a nearby tree. Our eyes are peeled in that direction.
The Kingfisher room has a bathroom with a stone shower a few steps outside the door which may be used as its own private bath or shared with guests while mulling on the main floor.

With planning last night’s dinner imminent, it didn’t take long for me to search the cupboards and drawers in Khaya Umdami in search of linen napkins, suddenly no longer content with a dishtowel in place of a neatly pressed linen napkin.

The well-stocked kitchen was calling me as I began searching through cabinets and drawers to enhance last night’s dinner place settings.
The only mess in this cupboard is our stuff on the middle shelf which we brought over from the smaller house.
The beautiful dinnerware made an attractive place setting possible for our dinner.
This organized cupboard holds a wide array of wine and beverage glasses.
With little access to plastic containers for over a year, this tidy cupboard held particular appeal.
More pots, pans, and baking and cooking supplies, more than we’ve had anywhere we’ve lived since leaving the US. Look! There are even two graters!

So, last night, we grilled the two chickens we’d brought with us on the spit of the traditional, non-braai, gas grill so readily familiar to us for a wonderful nostalgic dinner on cloth placemats with linen napkins, proper place settings and the peculiar knowledge that here in Khaya Umdami we need not even wash our own dishes, leaving them for household staff to handle the next day. How decadent!

Our simple place setting fulfilled all of my expectations for a dinner outdoors last night. 
There is was our first outdoor grilled dinner since leaving the US. None of our past vacation/holiday homes had outdoor grills that we’ve found suitable. This was a rare treat. Wrapped in foil on the side grate is the chicken gizzards and livers which I’ll eat with tonight’s repeat dinner. Tom only eats white meat and I like dark meat, making a whole chicken perfect for us. Zeff cleaned it this morning and, did all the dishes! Oh, good grief!
This was Tom’s plate of food.  Mine was identical except piled high with the various bones and dark meat parts. We’d cooked the chickens for 90 minutes, on high for the first 20 minutes, and on low for the remaining time. The chicken was moist and delicious. As usual, we had our favorite low carb, sugar-free coleslaw, a daily staple which we love.

Soon, we’ll return to the smaller house, and once again, we’ll return to using dishtowels as a linen napkin and to my bigger concerns expressed to Tom dozens of times each day, “Did you hear something?” or, “Did you see something?” Of course, these questions revolve around our intense interest in seeing more wildlife, any wildlife actually! Pigs, striped horses, or poop rolling beetles! We love them all!

This was a first for us, a mom warthog with long brown hair. She was kneeling to eat after I tossed some pellets. Their knees are particularly calloused so they can easily kneel when eating. Their snouts make it difficult for them to eat fully standing.

For now, as we languish in this special property, we revel in its stories, its amenities, it’s a magical way of being incorporated into the bush, its lush vegetation and, its wildlife, offering a cocoon of comfort and wonder that only Marloth Park, South Africa can offer.

A young male impala checked us out before venturing to Khaya Umdami‘s private watering hole.

Yesterday afternoon, Danie stopped by offering that he and Louise teach us to braai on the open wood fire here at Khaya Umdami, the true South African way, a lesson we must learn before departing in 27 days. We heartily agreed with considerable enthusiasm and an abundance of appreciation for yet another amazing experience in the bush.

We held our breath waiting for him to take a drink, not to disappoint.

Ha! It looks as if company may be coming for dinner after all!  Get out the linen napkins! And, if only for a little while, take me back to my linen napkin ways!

Note Tomorrow, the unbelievable master bedroom befitting a king and queen, the “outdoor” bedroom, and more wildlife photos we’ve taken in the past few days at Khaya Umdami.  Our driver, Okee Dokee, is out of town for the weekend. But, we’re so content that we have little desire to leave.

The majestic elephant… Surprising facts…. Up close and personal… Interacting at a sanctuary…

We ducked our heads under Casper’s chin. Our faces hurt from smiling the entire time we were with the two Elephants at the Elephant Sanctuary. After our experiences the prior day in Kruger National Park, learning more about these massive animals was timely.

After the 5½ hour extraordinary experience in Kruger National Park, mostly with the elephants, it was a perfect segue to stop to the Elephant Sanctuary in the town of Hazyview before heading to the Blyde River Canyon Lodge, located near the town of Hoedspruit South Africa.

Every aspect of the Elephant anatomy was perfected created to be suitable for their massive size and environment. In many ways, their anatomical structure was not unlike humans. Males don’t mature for mating until 25 years old or more. They must develop size and stature in order to defend themselves in the pursuit of the female. Who knew?

Having seen so many elephants in Kruger National Park, we had numerous questions as to their behavior and this was the perfect place to have all of them answered.

I’d never held an elephant’s trunk. The trunk has nostrils and is used as straw or sucking water to be placed into the mouth. A valve keeps the water in place until released into the mouth.
Tom fed Casper a handful of pellets by dropping them into the opening in his trunk. He then placed them into his mouth. The trunk is used for breathing, placing food and water into his mouth, and as an appendage for lifting and holding. The Elephant is unable to breathe through his mouth.

Without a reservation for the Elephant Sanctuary, it was ironic that we arrived 10 minutes before the group tour was to begin, one of only two in the afternoons. Quickly paying a minimal fee, we entered the facility entranced by the exquisite vegetation, cleanliness, and organization of the staff and the grounds.

We both had an opportunity to take our elephant for a walk. Tom walked with Casper, the larger of the two while I walked with Gita, another male. Seventy percent of the elephant’s massive weight is supported by the front two legs. The back legs are for balancing. 

With many misconceptions about elephant behavior, the first step in the educational hands-on event was a classroom-like setting, outdoors, of course, to become familiarized not only with elephant behavior but also with their anatomy.  

Our Elephants “kissed” our necks. (My kissing photo was too blurry to post). They were “slurpy” kisses leaving mud and grit on our necks. But, we didn’t care. The female head of a herd of elephants is called the “Matriarch.” She will manage the mating of the younger females who give birth no more often than once every five years.

Our well versed and articulate guide didn’t waste a minute explaining every aspect of their anatomical structure, internal and sexual organs, mating rituals, the birthing process, and the growth and maturity cycles, all of which proved to be much different than we’d expected.

Tom, touching Casper’s tongue and mouth. Whoever does this? Casper seemed quite content with all of the attention. Large congregations of elephants occur more frequently in Africa. The purpose of the family units to feed, nurture, and protect the babies. This was evident in our photos of the huge number of elephants crossing the road in Kruger Park as shown in yesterday’s post.

Earlier in the day while in Kruger Park, encountering dozens of elephants crossing the road, we had the misconception that a lead male was included in the group of moms and babies when in fact it was a huge female, often the leader of the family, the matriarch. 

My elephant, Gita, a smaller male, hung onto Casper’s tail as they walked in front of us.

Once the male impregnates the female, he is no longer a part of the “family.” He’ll wander off to join with other males, to eat, to grow, and to fight for mating purposes. He has none of the nurturing instincts of the female. In a way, that knowledge was disappointing. We often have the perception that many animals mate for life and that’s simply not the case for a majority of species.

Tom touched the coarse pad of Casper’s foot. I had done the same. We both were impressed by the structure of the elephants, every aspect of their bodies having a distinct purpose.

After our “lessons” we walked through the dense jungle along a dirt path to an open area with benches where we would soon get up close and personal with two rescued elephants. With several locations in various parts of South Africa, the objective of the Elephant Sanctuary is to rescue elephants.  

Once returned to health and well being, they serve as ambassadors of education to inform the public of the need to respect and preserve their dwindling wildlife habitat throughout Africa, all due to man’s invasion of their space.  

The two elephants with whom we interacted, could easily return to the wild.  They aren’t caged or housed in any manner. But they have chosen the safety of this lush territory, eating off the land and enjoying the interaction with the people they’ve come to know and love. It was enchanting to be a part of this educational and interactive opportunity.

Interacting with elephants taught us so much about their behavior, their anatomy, and their life cycle proving that we had many misconceptions when observing them in the wild. Bulls will mate with as many as 30 females in a mating season.

As these photos so well tell the story of our time at the Elephant Sanctuary, we can only add that we wish we’d have had the knowledge we acquired in those few hours when we encountered the Elephants in Kruger National Park. We’d have had an entirely different perspective.

But then again, I imagine we’ll see the magnificent creatures another time before we leave South Africa. We hope so.

Note: Tonight, we’ll be back in Marloth Park having ended our three day holiday. The next story in this sequence to be posted on Sunday will be our visit to the Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre with more up close and personal photos of lions and other wildlife rescued when injured, poisoned, or suffering from an illness, including a photo of Tom being bombarded by two enormous vultures while trying to feed one of them a piece of raw meat! Unreal.