The neighborhood in Marloth Park is even more charming than imagined...Our visit to Daisy's Den...

The bird feeder with two sections, into which we placed the two different seeds.  So far, no birds.  But as they say with bird feeders, one must be patient. 
"Sighting of the Day in the Bush"
We visited Gail and Mark on Sunday to discuss a story we'll be posting later this Friday about the stunning and heartwarming book Gail wrote, "Her Name is Missy," of their time in Liberia during the worst of the Ebola epidemic and her heroic rescue of a chimpanzee named Missy.  Please check back on Friday for the story.  We loved seeing the birds they feed at their home and holiday lodge located across a small road from the river.  The visit prompted us to purchase a bird feeder and seeds.

Yesterday afternoon, we decided to purchase a bird feeder, after our Sunday afternoon visit to Gail and Mark Fox at their holiday lodge and a lovely home overlooking the Crocodile River in Marloth Park, as we flipped over all the birds that visited their property.

After our exceptional experience with birds at our holiday home in Costa Rica many months ago, we were thrilled with the idea of attracting birds to our Marloth Park holiday home.
This decorative fountain is outside the door of Daisy's Den, a feed store in Marloth where we purchased the bird feeder and seeds.  The owner told us that some patrons will try to shut off the water!  Hahaha.
Once Josiah arrived to wash the veranda and clean the pool, during which we always get out of the way, it was a good time to hop in the little car to head to Daisy's Den where Mark and Gail purchase their seeds and supplies.
Daisy's Den and Wildlife Centre carries a wide array of animal feed and outdoor and indoor products appropriate for life in Marloth Park.
Our lives aren't always about the "big things." Many times we find great interest and joy in the "small things," such as in our visit to Daisy's Den. Tucked away at the end of one of a few shopping areas in Marloth Park, we remembered this shop from four years ago where we purchased pellets during our three-month stay which at the time had different owners.

Now with Mark (not Mark Fox) having purchased the property a few years ago, we were delighted to make purchases in the well-stocked and organized shop in an attempt to support local businesses.  This is always very important to us.
The owner, another Mark, has owned the popular shop for the past few years with his son John working with him.
Sure, at times, prices may be higher in local shops than those in the bigger cities and towns but when considering time, fuel and convenience is often a priority to us to play whatever small role we can in not only buying products from local shops but also in writing a little about them in the process, as in today's story.

We chatted with owner Mark and his son John, both of whom we'd met at the snake handling course on March 10th.  At the time we had no idea they owned Daisy's Den and were delighted to see them again.  Marloth Park is a small town, a Conservancy, distinct in its wildlife, people, and politics.
Daisy's Den also carried handmade crafts, many made by locals.  We spotted Gail's book, "Her Name in Missy" also for sale in the charming shop.
Yes, even in this remote natural setting, politics becomes a factor among many of the locals.  Opinions vary on how this unique environment should be managed and handled and at times, like most townships, not everyone agrees.
The shop carries a few items found in a pharmacy (including a few souvenirs) since it's a long drive to the pharmacy in Komatipoort.
However, during our overall year in the park, we choose to stay out of local government and it's highly charged politics.  We're here to learn about the wildlife, enjoy the companionship of the local people and immerse ourselves in other areas of Africa we'll visit from time to time.
There are household goods and a variety of lawn and garden chemicals and products.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time at Daisy's Den but were anxious to get back to our holiday home to hang the bird feeder.  Although there's a ladder here, I discouraged Tom from using it.  Instead, he used a long pole he's been using to scare off the baboons and gingerly placed the feeder on a branch as shown in the above photo.
We purchased two types of seeds hoping to attract a variety of birds.
In no time at all, the feeder was situated on a tree close to the veranda with easy viewing from our usual spots at the big table.  We won't miss a thing.  Hopefully, soon, we'll be able to enjoy more bird visitors than we've seen flying through the bush thus far.  We'll see how it goes.
We purchased the wooden bird feeder and two bags of seed at a cost of ZAR 215, (US $17.94).  We couldn't wait to get back to set it up.
Sharing our stories and photos along with way enhances our experiences in a way no words can describe.  We only hope our readers continue to enjoy the less-than-astounding aspects of life in the bush, the small stories and the simple pleasures that we encounter almost every day.
Located immediately next door to Daisy's Den is Mark's wife Tracy's sewing and embroidery shop.
May your day's simple pleasures bring you much joy.

Photo from one year ago today, March 20, 2017:
Painted performers at Circular Quay in Sydney, Australia.  For more photos, please click here.

Health update...Figuring out solutions...

A kudu nursing her baby in our yard. 

"Sighting of the Day in the Bush"
A White Helmetstrike perching near an unknown species of a blackbird.
Since we settled in South Africa, we've had many of our readers inquiring as to how I've been feeling after the awful knee injury in Buenos Aires and my continuing gastrointestinal issues.  We both appreciate the inquiries and concern, always feeling our readers are so kind and in touch with what's going on with us.

First off, I don't like sounding like a medical mess.  Who does?  We all prefer to present a degree of health and wellness when we've made a concerted effort to be healthy, taking a certain amount of pride in good results.
This termite mound, one of many in the area, is over 2 meters (6 feet) tall.  A variety of animals eat the termites from the mound.
In a perfect world, we can waft into "old age" with a modicum of good health.  However, many of us due to heredity, history and past injuries are plagued with certain conditions that regardless of how hard we may try, continue to be a presence in our lives. Most of these "conditions" so to speak, only worsen as we age.

Since we began our travels almost 5½ years ago, I've been subject to three health situations, that regardless of how hard I tried, simply had to be dealt with the best way I could:  one, the problem with my gastrointestinal health from eating octopus in Fiji on Christmas Day, 2015; two, the injury to my spine in the pool in Bali which took five months to fully heal (no recurring problems); and three, the injury and subsequent infection in my knee from a fall in Buenos Aires in January, 2018, (since fully healed).
Ms. Warthog rolling around in the hay pile.
The only remaining issue has been gastrointestinal which originally became a case of H. Pylori (Helicobacter Pylori), gastritis and eventually ulcers which have plagued me consistently for over two years. 

The H. Pylori resolved after having had a blood test in Tasmania and being prescribed the usual "triple therapy" of big doses of two types of antibiotics and a proton pump inhibitor (PPI).  In many cases, even after this extensive treatment, one can end up with ulcers, which may require the continuation of a PPI indefinitely.
A  single mongoose gets an egg.  We purchased a container of 60 eggs for this purpose.
As a result, when I stopped taking the PPIs (omeprazole) while we were in Costa Rica I still was experiencing ulcer pain and knew I had to continue them for an extended period which is now over six months ago. 

After reading about serious side effects of taking PPIs long term, I've been determined to stop taking them when I wasn't specifically feeling any ulcer pain although I still had bouts of bloating, discomfort and other symptoms you can well imagine which can be a result of side effects of the pills. 
These tall cone-shaped structures act as scarecrows to keep birds away from banana trees.
Recently, I decided to stop the PPIs and see what happens.  Now, that we're settled here in South Africa and not traveling until May, this was a good time as any. 

As it turns out, stopping long-term (or short-term) treatment with PPIs causes a "rebound effect."  The gastrointestinal tract has been signaled by the drugs to stop producing stomach acid.  Without adequate stomach acid (hydrochloric acid, HCl) food is difficult to digest, causing bloating, pain and diarrhea,  constipation or both.  It's a catch 22.
With the grounds of our rental consisting mainly of low-lying bush, we don't expect giraffes to come into the yard unless they wander down the dirt driveway.  Giraffes prefer to graze where they don't have to be continually ducking trees and branches.  Subsequently, we drive around Marloth Park to find them.
Two weeks ago yesterday, on March 4th I abruptly stopped the pills.  With the way the pills are made, there's no way to taper the dose.  A week passed, no pain, no issues.  During the second week, the burning started which I must admit has been almost unbearable.  The reason for this is, without the drug, the stomach begins pumping excessive amounts of HCL to compensate for the lack of the drug. 

Eventually, the amazing body will generally correct itself and a normal and adequate amount of acid will be produced, sufficient enough to handle the assimilation and digestion of food.  Via comments on many medical sites, this process can take from two to six months to fully resolve.  I'm two weeks in.
Francolins often visit us.  They are shy, run very fast, fly very little and make lots of noise during the day and early evening.
It hasn't been easy but I have to stick with this.  After seeing three doctors for these issues in Tasmania, all with varying opinions and treatment options, I felt getting off this drug is of utmost importance, especially since I no longer feel any specific ulcer pain. 

The burning sensation of the excess acid my body is pumping to compensate for no longer shutting down acid production from the medication, comes and goes throughout the day and night.  In the past week, I haven't slept more than five hours at night and often find myself pacing in an attempt to stop the discomfort.
We may not see them each time we take a drive but we're always thrilled when we do.
Nothing I eat or drink makes any difference although I am trying a low acid, bland diet within the framework of my usual way of eating.  Last night, I had mildly seasoned sauteed liver, onions, mushrooms and steamed vegetables for dinner while Tom enjoyed homemade low carb pizza.  We'll have leftovers tonight.

Hopefully each day it will become a little easier. I'm hoping it won't require the two or more months to work itself out.  In the interim, we're staying upbeat and busy with many social events and activities, all of which are a good distraction. 
We've only had one wildebeest visitor to date but have seen oother in Marloth and Kruger.
No words can describe how much I'm looking forward to being free of this.  But there's no better place to be during this time...loving life in Marloth Park, among our animal and human friends, all of whom provide a plethora of "feel good" hormones that certainly aid in the recovery.

So, there it is dear readers, the answer to the thoughtful inquiries many of you have kindly sent our way, the answers in one fell swoop.  Tom, as usual, is lovingly supportive and has the uncanny ability to keep me laughing, living in the moment and looking optimistically to the future.
Vervet monkey are prolific in Marloth Park and are considerably less destructive than baboons.
May each of you enjoy good health and a sense of well-being.  As we all know, above all else, nothing is more important than making every effort to maintain good health.

Photo from one year ago today, March 19, 2017:
Cloudy night at the Sydney Opera House when we attended an opera we'd booked well in advance for great seats.  For more photos, please click here.

Part 2...Harrowing, exciting and frustrating day in Kruger National Park...A staple gun dictated "safari luck!"

This baby zebra leaned into mom as we stopped for a photo.  For all we knew, we could have been the first humans she'd ever seen.
"Sighting of the Day in the Bush"
Shortly after we returned several kudus stopped by to say hello.
In order to make heads or tails of today's story, it is important to read yesterday's post which may be found here.  Today's post is obviously a continuation of our harrowing and yet exciting day in Kruger National Park and yesterday's post explains the comment in the heading, "a staple gun dictated "safari luck..."

In one of yesterday's closing paragraph's we wrote: "But tomorrow, we'll share the balance, a story of making mistakes, taking wrong roads and choosing a ridiculous shortcut that only cost us more time and frustration, all of which, we must admit, was softened by this scene of the elephants...",

Zebras and baby wandering down the dirt road.
And mistakes we made that day one of which was venturing out on those awful dirt roads in a highly unsuitable little car which simply was designed to take the battering of the washboard roads, not unlike its passengers during the harrowing drive.

At several points on the dirt roads, we heard a rattling in the car, even at the low speeds we were traveling that sounded as if something was going to fall out or off of the car. 

A male zebra, posing for a photo.
We both stayed as calm as we could but were thinking the same thing...what if the older little car broke down and we were stranded on this remote road?  Yes, we had a SIM card in my phone which was almost fully charged (the phone charger outlet in the car doesn't work).  And there was an emergency phone number we could have called in the back in the park's map book.

But, the thought of sitting in a broken down rental car waiting to be rescued was not appealing to either of us.  Even while Tom slowed to a snail's pace, the rattling continued.  So we continued on, stopping only when we finally made it to the gate after driving for hours, in order to travel the mere 60 km (37 miles) to reach the Malelane Gate. Turning in our paperwork and getting on a paved road couldn't have been more of a relief.

After we spotted the elephants crossing the road after we'd decided to head to the Malelane Gate when the Crocodile Bridge was blocked for hours by a stuck boat trailer, we encountered this lone giraffe.
We'd never entered or exited Kruger at the Malelane Gate.  As a matter of fact, we hadn't been to Malelane since our arrival in South Africa over five weeks ago.  Four years ago, we had a great dinner there while chickens wandered about the interior of the restaurant.  We remembered that about Malelane.  (See that link here from December 22, 2013)

Once outside the gate, we watched for roadsigns indicating how to return to Marloth.  We saw one sign that read Komatipoort and that seemed the right direction for us.  Somehow we missed the sign for N4.

A warthog family on the rough dirt road on the way to the Malelane Gate.
After the awful drive, we were exhausted and distracted.  Plus, there are very few road signs that point to Marloth Park.  Why we stayed on the main highway R570, we'll never know, when in fact we needed N4.

We drove for over 32 km (20 miles) one way in error before we realized, in the pouring rain, that we didn't recognize any of the names of upcoming towns such as Pig's Peak and Jeppes Reef.  We'd driven almost all the way to Swaziland!  Now we had to backtrack the 32 km to return to Malelane to get to N4 and on to Marloth Park.

This warthog appears to have been rolling in mud as she hangs out with male impala.
Suddenly, it dawned on me that we did have a map in the glovebox.  For some reason, we thought we only had maps for Marloth Park and Kruger.  In checking out the map, we realized our error.  Oh, what a day!

We noticed on the map that we'd pass Hectorspruit, a small town between Malelane and Marloth.  Once on road heading back N4 we encountered a sign that indicated a road to Hectorspruit which was a shortcut, according to the map.  Big mistake!
The rough washboard road seemed as if it would never end. It took us hours to get out of the park.
If we thought the washboard dirt roads in Kruger were bad, we were in for a big surprise.  The road from R570 to Hectorspruit to N4 was by far, the worst paved road we'd ever driven on of all of the above. 

Talk about potholes!   There were deep potholes every meter (every few feet), many we couldn't see until a tire dropped into one after another, with nowhere else on the road or the shoulder to drive and for us, after the harrowing day, no turning back.

More elephants spotted at quite a distance.  We continued on the road.
During that horrific half hour drive, we bounced, rattled and practically rolled in the pothole clusters that occupied the entire road.  Only our friends and readers in this area can grasp the severity of this road had they ever had the misfortune to travel on it.

Yes, we know, this is Africa and certainly, our comments aren't tendered as complaints.  However, they are tendered as to our own failure to more diligently find our way back to Marloth Park.
A few more elephant photos we'd yet to share in yesterday's post.
Finally, we reached N4 and easily found our way back to Marloth Park.  By the time we pulled into the driveway, it was almost 4:30 pm.  We'd yet to put a dent in the day's post.  We still had to shower again and clean up to go out to Jabula for dinner as intended.

We decided to ditch our dinner plans, stay in and make bacon and eggs for dinner (nothing was defrosted) and spend the evening on the veranda.  At one point, the much-needed rain and wind drove us indoors. But a few hours later we had finished and uploaded the post, cooked our feeble dinner and were able to dine outdoors during the balance of the soaking rain.

We couldn't believe how many there were, as many as 30 to 40.
 Whew!  We were grateful we'd seen the elephants crossing the road which most certainly softened the blow of the remainder of the day.  We're curious as to when and how they got that boat and trailer stuck on the Crocodile Bridge moving again.  If you've heard anything, please let us know.

Last night in celebration of St. Patrick's Day (Tom is Irish) we headed to Jabula for a very pleasant evening, running into friends, making new friends, enjoying the chatter with owner Dawn and helper Lynn, suddenly finding ourselves retelling this story, only to find locals practically rolling on the floor in laughter over our mishaps on the road.

A hornbill in a tree.  We spotted dozens of hornbills in Kruger.
We're both easily able to laugh at ourselves, and laugh we did along with everyone else.  Could the hard parts of these scenarios have been prevented? 
Should we have waited at the Crocodile Bridge for what may have been hours in order to have been able to get through?  We'll never know.

Should we have paid more attention to where we were in the rainstorm when we exited the Malelane Gate?  Sure. Should we have avoided the pothole detour and driven further back to Malelane to get to N4? Absolutely.

A lone male impala stares as we pass by.
So here's our story folks.  Today at 2:00, we'll visit the home of locals we've met that have quite a story to share which we'll be posting here in a few days.
Tonight, on this perfect weather day, we're making pizza and look forward to dining on the veranda while we wait for visitors to stop by.

Happy day!

Photo from one year ago today, March 18, 2017:

Visitors sitting on the steps of the Sydney Opera House enjoying the view.  We had taken the Manly Ferry to come see the opera we'd booked but arrived one day too early. AT that point we were preoccupied with our illegal immigrant status possibly attributing to the error. Thank goodness it wasn't one day too late.  For details, please click here.

Part 1...Harrowing, exciting and frustrating day in Kruger National Park...A staple gun dictated "safari luck!"

Upon approaching this scene we weren't quite certain what was going on.
"Sighting of the Day in the Bush"
Vultures in a tree in Kruger on the lookout for a meal.

Vultures relaxing after a meal in Kruger.
After working on yesterday's post for only a short while and, with the sun shining on a cooler day, we said, "What the heck! Let's head out to Kruger for a few hours and see what we can find! We'll finish the post when we return by 1:00 pm or so."

By 10:00 am we were on the road. On our past entries into Kruger, we found two to three hours was plenty of time to see some wildlife, take photos and return back to our entrance point, known as the Crocodile Bridge Gate.

Upon closer inspection it was apparent, the boat trailer couldn't fit across the Crocodile Bridge, our means of exit after a day in the park.
There are nine entrance gates to Kruger, each of which is many kilometers from one another.  If one enters in one location, unless they have plans for another area, generally they exit from the same gates. 

However, like us four years ago, on our way to the Blyde River Canyon, we exited from a gate considerably further north than our entrance point at the Crocodile River which is close to Marloth Park. 
Lots of lookie-loos stopped to view and comment on the situation.  There was no way anyone was getting in our out of Kruger via this bridge based on this scenario.
It takes approximately eight minutes from Marloth Park, based on our current location and another 12 minutes to reach the Crocodile River gate.  This 20-minute drive seems to pass quickly while we chatter with enthusiasm over entering Kruger once again.

Since we recently purchased an annual pass, that pays for itself after six uses, we have no doubt, it will have been a worthwhile purchase during our remaining 12 months (off and on) in Marloth Park.
This was the first of over 30 elephants we watched cross the road.  In the distance, difficult to see was the most enormous matriarch we'd ever seen.  Had we been 10 minutes earlier, we may have seen her. 
Why would we go to Kruger as opposed to staying in Marloth Park when we have so much wildlife right before our eyes?  If you're one of our many newer readers, we'll explain.  In Marloth, generally, we don't have the big five; elephant, lion, cape buffalo, leopard and rhino.
Had we been 10 minutes later, we'd have missed the entire parade of elephants crossing the road.

However, from time to time, lions enter Marloth Park as they have most recently so all residents must keep an eye and ear out to ensure their safety.  There's always been a ban on walking in Marloth after dark which is of particular importance right now. 
There were numerous babies of varying ages in the "parade" of elephants.  We were so close, little to no zoom was required to capture these photos.
Based on the lion attack story we posted this past week on March 11th, about Jonas who was attacked by such a lion years ago, one can never be too cautious.  Click here if you missed that post.

By 10:20 we presented our "documents" at the Crocodile entrance gate and after the usual five minute processing time including inspecting the trunk for guns, alcohol or harmful substances, the bar was lifted and we gained access to the park.
At first, we thought there may be a dozen but they kept coming and coming.
There are many options of which roads one can choose in the park but there are only a few paved roads, which to complete in a full circle may require a full day of driving to end up back at the entrance.  As a result, we like many others, choose to embark upon some of the bumpy dirt roads.

Is the viewing better on the dirt roads?  Not necessarily.  The wildlife may be close to the paved road or any of the myriad bumpy dirt roads.  It's not as if the animals prefer one road or another, when often they are on the roads for only a short period of time, preferring to head back into the bush for food, shelter and for safety.
Only one other car enjoyed the experience with us.  We were on a very bumpy dirt road many visitors to the park may have avoided.
By about noon, after we'd seen only a bit of wildlife, mostly impala, of which we have many in Marloth Park, we felt that our usual "safari luck" may not present and for once, we were about to experience less than a successful day.  We accepted this fact, acknowledging that sooner or later such a day would occur.

With a map in hand, we planned our route to make a full circle leading us back to the Crocodile Bridge gate with a plan to get back "home" in plenty of time to complete the day's post, and head to Jabula in time for happy hour and dinner. 
We practically held our breath as they made their way across the dirt road.
Little did we know what lies ahead.  First off, the bumpy dirt road we'd chosen for the route was in poor shape with what Tom referred to as a "washboard" surface.  Oh, good grief!  It was bumpy indeed.

The little car rattled more than I'd ever heard a car rattle, at a few points, even amid Tom's careful driving, sounded as it was ready to fall apart and leave itself on the road in a pile of cheap metal. 
This elephant to the left turned to look at us, wondering if we were a threat.  We were prepared to back up at any moment.
The fact we hadn't seen much in the way of wildlife to fuel our enthusiasm, the car's five-speed transmission, coupled with the outrageous road made for one unpleasant drive.  But, oh, this wasn't the worst of it.  Wait, more is yet to come.

Finally, once we exited the gate and neared the bridge, we couldn't believe the scene before our eyes.  The one-way narrow bridge was totally blocked by a car hauling a boat and trailer became stuck between the low support posts, intended to keep vehicles from driving off the bridge into the dangerous Crocodile River (hence, it's name).  The trailer's wheels were wider than the bridge itself.
After several had passed, she turned to look at us directly.  Had she started moving toward us, we'd have high-tailed out of there.  Elephants have been known to topple over cars, crushing them in the process.
When we arrived at the scene we were one of maybe three vehicles hoping to cross.  Within about 10 minutes, there were 12 to 15 vehicles lined up with drivers and passengers getting out to check out the situation and perhaps, offer their two-cents worth of advice, none of which would be effective without some major equipment coming to the scene.

We waited, waited and waited.  There was no way any of us would be getting across this bridge in anytime soon.  We had a decision to make...sit here and wait for what certainly would be hours or attempt to get out of the park via another route, the closest gate being Malelane Gate, 60 kilometers (37 miles) from our current location. 
She kept watch as more came across the road.
On the slow unpaved roads, we expected the drive would take an extra 90 minutes.  Plus, when we exited through the Malelane Gate, we'd have another 49 kilometers (30.5 miles) to return to Marloth Park.  Most likely we'd be back at our place by 2:00 pm or so.  We decided to leave rather than sit for hours at the blocked Crocodile Bridge.

Then, of course, we had to regain entrance into the park.  The person handling documents didn't speak English well and had trouble understanding why we needed to get back into the park in order to exit via Malelane. 
Although not the matriarch she may have been second-in-command.  When she saw this tiny elephant and another baby crossing she focused even more.
Finally, the gate agent figured it out and he dug out our original documents but needed to staple the paperwork together. There were no staples in his staple gun, nor in the next booth, nor in the next booth and after about five or six minutes, he rousted up some staples. It was this influenced an upcoming next experience.

Little did we know or anticipate that the dirt roads we had to take to get to the Malelane Gate were considerably worse than the bumpy dirt roads we'd experienced earlier.  I can honestly say, we've never traveled on "washboard" road to this extent.  If I thought the car was falling apart earlier, this was twice as bad.  We couldn't wait for the long ride to end.
Once she saw they were safe she backed off, joining the others on the left side of the road.  We'd practically held our breath during the entire crossing, thrilled and excited for the experience.
But then...amid our frustration (no, Tom didn't get overly grumpy but then, I wasn't necessarily "overly bubbly" although we both were staying on an even keel), safari luck kicked in and before our eyes, a scene we'd experienced four years ago and had dreamed of seeing once again, lie before our eyes...the dozens of elephants crossing the road as shown in today's photos.

Had it not been for the delay in finding the staples, we would have missed it.  We couldn't stop smiling while rapidly taking photos as we watched this magical scene transpire before us.  Of course, the first thing we said, "Safari luck rewarded us for the harrowing drive and the delays at the Crocodile Bridge."
Mom and baby wildebeest walking along the road.
The story doesn't end here.  But tomorrow, we'll share the balance, a story of making mistakes, taking wrong roads and choosing a ridiculous shortcut that only cost us more time and frustration, all of which, we must admit, was softened by this scene of the elephants, all due to a staple gun's missing staples. 

We never made it to Jabula for dinner last night.  We'll go tonight instead.  After all, I'm married to an Irishman and today is St. Patrick's Day (also son Richard's birthday.  Happy b'day Richard!) and surely we'll have some fun at Jabula tonight!

Happy St. Patrick's Day to all who celebrate and be safe in the process!

Photo from one year ago today, March 17, 2017:
This cockatoo stopped by for a visit, alighting atop Bob's medicinal Papaw tree in the yard.  For more photos, please click here.