Khaya Umdani...An exquisite opportunity...A respite in another area in Marloth Park...Our temporary new home...

Khaya Umdani is a six bedroom, five bathroom stunning bush home fully embracing the integrity of African culture while providing a luxury environment befitting the expectations of both the seasoned traveler and those less traveled, seeking the comforts of stylish and easy living.
It's not that we weren't happy in the other house.  We were rather content.  But, our fabulous hosts, Louise and Danie suggested we experience a few of their other properties to review and share with our worldwide readership. Over the next several days, we'll share our experiences as residents of Khaya Umdani.

We couldn't have been more thrilled and appreciative for this opportunity, especially after we arrived at 10:30 yesterday morning for Louise's expert tour of this upscale home, most likely one of the most desirable properties in Marloth Park.
This veranda is where we'll spend our time for easy viewing of the massive grounds, a combination of dense bush with a few open spaces for wildlife to run. This shot reminds me of a scene in the movie "Out of Africa" which we watched a few months ago while in Kenya.
Nothing was spared in the design and d├ęcor of this luxury home with six bedrooms, five of which have en suite bathrooms.  Each bedroom is aptly named befitting this unique bush location and in some cases, includes a story surrounding past wildlife experiences on the property which we'll share soon.

Packing yet again, including clothing, toiletries, food for meals, drinks, snacks and digital equipment was challenging in yesterday's heat and humidity apparently typical as South Africa moves into February, comparable to August in the northern hemisphere. Today, it's cool and pleasant after last night's rains.
This is the over sized eight person take where we're sitting as we write here now, overlooking the 'double pool" with a shallow and deeper depth suitable for all.  Chaise lounges to the left await us as soon as the sun appears after a much needed rainy night. 
Once we were unpacked, securing all of our food supplies from a potential monkey invasion, Danie stopped by to ensure all of our needs and comforts were met, showing us how to use the first gas grill we've had access to since leaving the US many moons ago. 

We brought along two frozen uncooked chickens and we were delighted to see an "American" type grill over which we all laughed as Danie removed the cover. The convenient modern kitchen has every possible amenity including a wine cooler, a dishwasher and a wide array of small kitchen appliances, few of which we've had in any of our vacation homes outside the US.
To the left is the open braai (fire pit) suitable for cooking or a bonfire with a stone seating area.  To the right, is an enclosed wood burning braai with a stainless steel sink and every possible rack and utensil.  The yard is this area is "gently" fenced to keep nosy visitors from occupying this area while preparing meals.
In addition, the cupboards were impeccably stocked with spices, coffee, teas and every imaginable dish, knife, flatware, bowl, container and pot befitting the most ambitious cook. 

Tomorrow, we'll share photos of the well stocked interior of the cabinets, an unbelievable sight to see. (We're waiting for the sun to appear for brighter interior photos).  Only Louise's fine taste and detail orientated demeanor could create such pleasing and useful spaces. 
And for the less savvy braai cooks, here is the "traditional" and delightfully familiar gas grill on which we'll cook tonight's dinner, roasted chickens on the electric spit. 
In South Africa, the wood fired open braai (fire pit) is a daily means of cooking that for most citizens, is more of a tradition than a necessity, a reason for friends to gather to partake of the local beer and wine, for which South Africa is known.  Add a variety of delicious grilled and stewed grass fed meats, a few starchy side dishes and a South African meal is ready to enjoy.

Khayi Umdani offers features we experienced, in part, during our past two months in Marloth Park including daily maid service, dish washing if desired, laundry service and maintenance.  Every possible means of providing relaxation and comfort is afforded it's guests. 

The attention to detail in the finest of amenities is reflected in the lovely locally made table on the veranda.
Louise suggested we leave our breakfast or prior night's dishes for the staff to handle the next morning.  We never leave dirty dishes overnight. But, the staff is on hire in any case and prefer to be kept busy than standing around from 7:30 am to 2:30 pm each day as they work about the house attending to every detail.  They are unobtrusive, quiet and respectful, never causing us to feel that they are underfoot.

With Zeff only coming to the other house twice a week, we were more than satisfied.  Knowing how much we've liked him, Louise and Danie ensured he'll be here for us during our time in Khaya Umdani.  What service!  The quality of service provided by Louise and Danie and their staff, fined tuned to perfection, is comparable to that which one would find in the finest of five star resorts and hotels.  That quality of service follows through from our smaller house, all the way to Khaya Umdani and other fine properties owned and managed by Louise and Danie.
The natural stone pool is meticulously maintained daily.  The water is crystal clear.
Already scheduled to dine out when we moved in on Thursday, I had wished we were dining in.  The moment we feasted our eyes on the massive dining room table with seating for 10, we knew a home cooked meal was imminent.  Also, the square oversized dining table for eight on the veranda holds an enormous appeal for us, where we're seated now as we write here.  The temperature has cooled and we're blissfully relaxed.

Today, we're sharing exterior photos of the house with interior photos following over the next several days.  Tonight, once the beautifully appointed dinnerware is filled with our homemade "grilled chicken," veggies and salad, we'll take photos to share in Saturday's post along with more photos of this exquisite vacation/holiday home as we experience the endless areas offering the utmost of comfort, style, space and amenities. 
These sturdy swing chairs are actually very comfortable.
So far, we've seen a number of warthog families, tentatively approaching us  curious as to our motives.  Soon, they'll see that we respect their environment and that they need not fear our presence.
The private watering hold attracts wildlife from all over the area.  During heavy rains this "creek" is filled with water. 
As always, our eyes continue to scan the grounds for even the slightest movement, anticipating full well, that more visitors will arrive in these surroundings. Although, we're only a few miles/meters from the other house, perhaps a few of our favorites will wander our way.  One never knows!

Our first warthog visitor with two babies, the mom giving me "the look" that says, "Did you bring any pellets with you?"  "Yes," I said, "We certainly did," as I ran to the kitchen for a handful.  Khayi Umdani...heavenly!

Flight info from South Africa to Marrakesh, Morocco...29 hours of travel time if no delays...Yikes! We're moving to a new house for the weekend...details tomorrow...

02/28/2014 - Departure   2 stops
Total travel time: 19 h 50 m
custom air icon
8 h 0 m 
JNB  9:45pm
Terminal B
CAI  5:45am +1 day  
Terminal 3
Egyptair 840
Economy/Coach (Q) | Seat 28K, 28H | Confirm or change seats with the airline*
Layover: 3 h 25 m
custom air icon
6 h 0 m 
CAI  9:10am
Terminal 3
CMN  1:10pm  
Terminal 2
Egyptair 847
Economy/Coach (Q) | Seat 24K, 24J | Confirm or change seats with the airline*
Layover: 1 h 45 m
custom air icon
0 h 40 m 
CMN  2:55pm
Terminal 1
RAK  3:35pm  
Terminal 1
(Arrives on 03/01/2014)
Royal Air Maroc 803
Economy/Coach (U) | Confirm seats with the airline *

Price Summary
Traveler 1: Adult
Taxes & Fees
Traveler 2: Adult
Taxes & Fees
Expedia Booking Fee
Total: US $1,437.40
ZAR $15,305 

In order to begin the above flight for our trip to Marrakesh, Morocco on February 28th, we must also fly from Kruger/Nelspruit Airport to Johannesburg Tambo Airport in South Africa at another cost of ZAR $2036, US $191.21 which we booked yesterday.  We'd booked the longer leg of the journey in early December.

Our combined cost for all four flights is ZAR $17,341, US $1,628.60.

With the airport in Nelspruit quite a distance, we plan to have Okee Dokee pick us up at 2:30 pm (14:30).  With road construction and Friday afternoon traffic, an early start is necessary.  Plus, there's a two hour time change from South Africa to Morocco.  Our arrival will feel as if it is 5:35 pm (17:35) to us when we finally arrive.

Including picking up our baggage in Marrakesh, going though immigration and customs, and the drive to our rental home, we're estimating an additional two hours.  In total, we'll be traveling for 29 hours.  That is, if there are no delays and/or missed flights due to delays.  There have been substantial delays on most of our flights thus far.  We shall see how it goes.

You may ask, "Why are we going to Cairo, Egypt in order to get to Morocco?"

As you can see, Morocco borders Algeria in the upper left and yet Egypt is located
in the upper right of Africa.
In a perfect world, we'd fly from South Africa at the southern tip of the map, directly to Morocco.  Nope.  Not possible unless one charters a private plane, an option definitely out of our budget.

When we began the planning of spending almost a year in Africa, we knew getting to Morocco was challenging.  In every case in our planning, we've checked flights in advance of committing to the rental of a property.

The key to making this lengthy travel time bearable will be our ability to sleep for a few hours on the flight during the night, on the eight hour leg from Johannesburg to Cairo.

Neither of us are good at sleeping sitting up.  Neither of us nap during the day, nap in the car or doze while watching a show or movie. When we're tired, we go to bed.  We can only hope that the flight isn't crowded (we expect it will be) and we can find a way to sleep.  If we don't, we'll have a tough next day.  But, in the realm of things, a day after we arrive, we'll be rested and it will all be behind us.

Two and a half months later, when we leave Morocco for Madeira, we'll have a much shorter flight, under three hours.  Madeira is located off the coast of Portugal which is shown on the above map as above and, to the left of Morocco.

On the flights to Morocco, we'll have to collect our baggage up to four times, going through customs twice.  This is a daunting task even with our greatly reduced load.  With everything we own in two large suitcases, two medium bags, two laptop bags and one duffel bag, this isn't easy. 

Tom does most of the hard work due to my bad shoulder, especially when none of the airports have the "tubes" in which to gain access both on and off the planes.  As a result, he ends up hauling a huge amount of the carry on load up the long and steep flights of steps from the tarmac to the plane.    He dreads this part. I dread this part for him.

There it is, folks.  This nomadic life we live is not always easy.  However, once we get through the hard parts, we relax, making a concerted effort not to worry or anticipate problems.  Instead, we do everything we possibly can do, over which we have do have control.

The rest, over which we have no control?  We have to leave it to chance, hoping and praying for a safe transition, choosing not to worry while we revel in our remaining 29 days in Marloth Park.

The inconveniences? Well, they go with the territory.

Note:  Check back tomorrow for photos and story of the new digs we're moving into for the weekend, a luxury vacation home!  Can't wait!

A grand solitary visitor...planning our upcoming departure...a goal of low stress travel...a funny photo...

Yesterday morning while writing on the veranda, I heard a "thump, thump" and alerted Tom, to look up and once again, we had the most exciting visitor, a solitary giraffe. We'd assumed he'd stopped to munch on the tree tops enabling us to take some photos.  Alas, he dashed out of the yard so fast that we weren't able to take another photo.  It was the third time we've had giraffes in our yard.  Heavenly.
It's hard to believe that in 30 days, we'll be leaving South Africa, heading to Marrakesh, Morocco, where we'll live for 2 1/2 months.  Unquestionably, it won't be easy to leave Marloth Park, to say goodbye to all of our friends both human and animal. 
These three baby warthogs, our familiar "Three Little Pigs" anxiously needed some liquid sustenance from mom after we shared some pellets with them.  Thirsty, they nursed with the one shown sucking a nipple from behind her butt.  We laughed at this tender sight.
Life in the bush with all of its challenges provided us both with a unique experience, one we'll treasure forever.  But, "moving on" is the lifestyle choice we've made and we do so with excitement and anticipation of that which is yet to come. We have absolutely no regrets. 
On our way out to dinner last night at dusk.  Wildebeest and zebra, who often hang out together.
The preparations to move on aren't overwhelming by any means but must be accomplished in an orderly and concise manner.  Our motto remains forefront in our minds, "Wafting through our worldwide travels with ease, joy and simplicity." 

Stringent advance planning results in lower levels of stress, always our objective.  Besides, the airlines create enough problems of their own without us adding more due to a lack of careful planning. 

We diligently prepare for the following, none of which is particularly time consuming or difficult once the flights have been booked:
  • Flight arrangements/baggage restrictions
  • Packing, while complying with all baggage restrictions
  • Airport transportation arrangements at both ends including the necessity of going to an ATM at the final destination for cash in the local currency
  • Online discussions with the owner/property manager to ensure everything we need upon arrival will be awaiting us: access/keys to the property, bedding, towels, bar soap, toilet paper and bottled water.  We require enough basic "hotel" supplies to get us through the first several days.
  • How do we arrange for meals and snacks as we settle in? Assessing nearby restaurants and grocery stores with a ready means of transportation.
  • Visa requirements.  All of our previous visa requirements have been met at immigration upon entry to our final destinations with the exception of Belize, which  required renewal every 30 days.  Morocco doesn't require  a visa for US citizens entering the country for under 90 days.  We'll be staying for 75 days.   
Having booked our flight from Johannesburg to Morocco, a convoluted red eye mess of multiple stops and layovers, today we'll book the short flight from Mpumalanga/Nelspruit to Johannesburg, a portion of the flight that must be booked separately.

Tomorrow, we'll share the details of the complicated and only means of getting to Morocco from South Africa.  It's not comparable to the US, Europe and other parts of the world where one can book a single flight from one big city to another big city.

It's another scorcher today.  We only lasted five hours on the veranda seeing no less the four Warthog families.  Plus, we had about 25 Helmeted Guineafowls hanging out with the Warthogs.  Lots of laughing over all of their playful antics. 

Tonight, we're off to a birthday party in Marloth Park.  Should be fun!

Happy day to all.

"Small Things," all new...A world of miniature vegetation and willife...All creatures today...Small things in life...

How perfect can nature be to create this symmetrical creature we captured on the sliding glass door at night?
It's the small things in life that may be among our most dreaded experiences; an unkind word, a lump found on our body, an email with bad news, a wasp sting, a lost piece of jewelry or at times or hearing the simple word "no."

Impossible to shield ourselves from these seemingly "small" scenarios, most of us live with the intent of accepting these possibilities, not allowing them to immobilize us, keeping us from the joy of living. 

And yes, the "big things" loom heavily in our hearts at times in our lives; a life threatening illness or injury, the loss of a loved one, a divorce or separation, the loss of a job or financial stability and more.

A butterfly catches my eye on the long walk down the driveway.

A recent first sighting of a baby tree frog.  Could this be a result of an earlier foam nest over the  pool.  He's sitting on the end of the hose that we use each day to add more water to the pool which has a leak.

 Second showing of this photo for those who may have missed it, when we had dozens of grasshoppers hanging out in our driveway for almost a day.  They were munching on a piece of cabbage we'd left out.
It's amazing that any of us can function at all with these possibilities facing us at any given moment.  But, we do.  Some of us with aplomb and a passion for living with nary a care in the world and others with a chronic sense of doom, stripping their lives of meaning and fulfillment.

Then, there's the rest of us in the middle, gauging when worry and fear are necessary to inspire us to be cautious or occasionally being fearful when a situation is thrown in our faces.

For most of us at times "small things" monopolize our thoughts, more than the possibility of big catastrophes.  Awakening in the middle of night for no reason at all, my mind wanders to a list I keep in my head of possible small worrisome things, ticking them off one by one.
This centipede has small insects living on it.  Double the freakiness.
We discovered this colorful insect in the grass when we toured the Panorama Route a few weeks ago.
We found this bug inside the house.  We opened a window sending her on her way.
"Is there a snake on the floor if I get up to go to the bathroom?  Will the lightening hit the thatched roof while we fumble for the keys, left on the nightstand next to Tom in order to unlock the gates on every window and door to allow us to get outside?  Did I forget to close the drain in the bathroom sink to prevent centipedes from coming in? When will I feel like doing the taxes for 2013?"

It goes on and on.  But, somehow I fall back to sleep awakening in the morning, full of energy, enthusiasm and gratefulness for the opportunity to live yet another day. Bolting out of bed, I begin the familiar routine of preparing myself for the day all the while filled with a sense of lightness and anticipation.  What pleasure and purpose will this new day bring?

The "one day at a time" philosophy adopted by many recovery groups easily applies to all of us, in recovery or not.  In reality, we're all "recovering" from something; a bad childhood, marriage or relationship, the death of a loved one, the loss of a dream or... the personal goals of letting go of anything that isn't good for our bodies and souls. 
We discovered this insect on the veranda which was approximately 4 inches, 10 cm, long.

We've seen many varieties of geckos including this wider version. We ignore them when they're inside the house.  They leave white poop droplets everywhere.
Living one day at a time gives us peace and comfort, leaving behind our failings and mistakes from the past, while embracing the possibility that tomorrow will be a better day.

Again today, we share more "small things."  Not insignificant. Not meaningless.  It's all a part of the life cycle that we share with endless generations of evolution, God (or whatever higher power you may believe or, not) and, Mother Nature.

"Small things," whether in our environment or in our thoughts, are all a part of who we are, our purpose and ultimately, who we choose to become at the end of the day. 
One morning, I discovered this live bat in the kitchen sink, perhaps injured.  Tom scooped it up in the dustpan and let it outside. Bats no longer make me cringe.  They eat mosquitoes.

"Small Things," all new, a world of miniature vegetation and willife...More small creatures tomorrow...

It's hard to believe that this is actually a flower on the Sickle Bush which we found in our yard
a month ago.  No longer do we see them "blooming" but we were grateful to have seen these two flowers.

Today, we'll first share the "Small Things" in the vegetation category including some "Small Things" wildlife photos as you scroll down.  Tomorrow, we'll continue the most exciting of the all new "Small Things," wildlife photos.  Please check back.
At first, I didn't think these flowers on the Sickle Bush were real!
Since our first "Small Things" post on December 13, 2013, we've continued to search for wildlife and vegetation of the minuscule variety.  With much excitement, we share these with you today, some beautiful, others frightening, and some merely curious.
After searching through no less than 1000 photos I could not find the name of this flower.  If you look closely it appears to have a face toward the upper center.  If anyone is aware of the name of this flower, please write.
There's a miniature world that the human eye cannot see.  If only we had access to the necessary equipment to explore that world freely.  Perhaps, in time ,technology will provide us with affordable digital equipment for the average user to see the smallest forms of life.

From research online, I believe this is a variety of the Aloe plant.

All of the photos we've posted here today were taken in our yard. Had I been brave enough to venture further into the dense bush without a trail, I'm certain I'd have found many more "Small Things" of interest.  These were found in the a short distance into the bush.
 Although I looked at hundreds of blue wildflowers growing in South Africa, here again I wasn't
able to find the name of this wildflower. 

As I take this walk often several times a day, my first consideration is to keep a watchful eye for snakes that may slither across the road.  Once I feel assured that there are no snakes in the immediate area, I am able to stop to head into the tall grass to take photos.
These lilac puffs are gone now as of a month ago when summer arrived.  Now, that the heat of summer is here there are few flowers.
These past days, we had a considerable amount of much needed rain. This morning as we sit on the veranda, the sun peeked out shooting up the temperature in a dense layer of humidity.

 The simplest wild daisy stands out in the bush.

The heat from the single mug of coffee I have each morning, makes me feel all the hotter. But, at the moment we're inclined to stay outside.  Our current visitors consist of a mom and three fast growing baby warthogs, a flock of 12 Helmeted Guinea Fowl, another mom and four baby warthogs, all regulars.  They co-exist rather well, as we often giggle over their innocuous interactions.
 This small aloe plant intrigued us with it's "eye" in the center.

In the pouring rain on Sunday, the Helmeted Guinea Fowl stopped by much to our surprise.  Most of the wildlife stay under cover during severe weather.  Their dripping wet blue faces and matted feathers elicited a sad moan from me.

 Ms. Turtle scooting across the edge of the driveway.  We've spotted her in the same general
area of the yard on several occasions.

We humans are fortunate that we have the brain size to have overcome a life of living in the bush like animals.  How we've evolved!  Sadly, in the process of our evolution we've managed to reduce the available habitat for wildlife to continue to thrive. I could easily get out my soapbox on that topic but for today, I'll remain quiet.
 Yikes!  What in the world is this?  We saw it while on the upstairs veranda on a nearby tree.
Watching it for several days without change, one day it was gone. Notice the tufts of hair growing
along some of the edges.
Today is an unusual day.  At noon, Okee Dokee will pick me up for the almost half hour drive to Komatipoort to purchase more data and a few odds and ends at the grocery store.  This will be the longest time Tom and I have been apart since we left Minnesota almost fifteen months ago.

Gee...what will he do while I'm away? 

Oh, what a night! Way too much fun! Tom's South Africa last! A rare visitor...a great dinner...

"We're not moving! We're waiting on the others!"  We didn't mind a bit.  We'd have gladly waited for any amount of time.
There are times I say to myself, "Oh, please...this is too much fun!" Then again, I realize that both of us are easily entertained.  Really. 

An interesting insect or sighting of turtle walking across the yard has the ability to captivate us to the point of squealing with delight once we can let out our breath.
"We're coming!  We need a few more bites, before we join the others!"
We were always like this.  Only then, we didn't have access to this degree of almost constant stimulation.  Whether it's the sound of Lions roaring, the pleasant bubbly sound of Hippos as we lie in bed at night or the shuffling sound of a creature atop the roof, the pleasure only seems to stop when we're sleeping.
"Hold onto your shorts!"
It's ironic that this constant state of being "on the alert" and the sheer engagement when we discover yet another wonder, by 10:00 to 10:30 pm, I'm practically falling on my face.  Tom is not far behind.

And still the others had yet to join them while they anxiously looked their way.  At this point, traffic was backed up and as soon as there was an opening, we were on our way, our faces hurting from smiling.
Yesterday and last night, one of many days and nights, we had a particularly delightful time.  The heat was unbearable as a storm brewed, the air was thick was visible humidity.  We lasted outdoors for five hours finally throwing in the towel heading indoors to the loft with AC.
Yet to visit our yard, a mom and baby Wildebeest watched us drive by.
Due to the excessive heat, the AC wasn't able to keep up.  The lines frequently clog with insects, caused water to start dripping into the house.  When this occurred we had no option but it turn it off.  With AC in both bedrooms, I decided it was a good time to go into our bedroom, turn on the AC and read my book.  That didn't last long.

Definitely not pretty animals but, all of them are cute to us.  Although it's been very hot
here in the summer months, we're grateful we've come during the birthing season, seeing many babies.
Fearful of missing something, a short time later I turned off the AC, shut the door and looked outside for visitors.  What if we missed something else?  We'd had a great morning as shown in yesterday's post.
We were so excited to get this shot of one of the two monitor lizards living in our yard.  This photo was taken at the hottest point in the day.  Louise and Danie told us that they'll swim in the pool from time to time.  We'd have loved to see that!
Having left prawn shells (shrimp) and a raw egg for the mongoose (they eat snakes), I was thrilled to see the monitor lizard eating the last of the prawn shells and then taking the raw egg with her to the hole in which we occasionally see her and her mate slither in and out.
The monitor lizard, a rare visitor, headed to the ground on the opposite side of the pool to check out the eggs that she laid a few weeks ago.  As mentioned recently, it may take up to 300 days for the eggs  to hatch depending upon conditions such as weather and attacks by other animals.
This occurred so quickly that I had no time to get the camera.  A half hour later we found the monitor lizard contemplating a swim in the pool, the long tongue darting in and out of the water.  As a result, we captured these photos from inside the house.  These Lizards are very skittish.  If they'd seen us they'd be gone in a few seconds.  They move quickly.

Tom, outside the salon where he got a haircut on Thursday.
At 6:30 pm, as the sun began to set, Okee Dokee picked us up to take us to Jabula Lodge, our favorite restaurant in the area.  Not only is the food fantastic but Dawn and Leon, the owners, present every time we arrive, make our dining experience comparable to a party each time.  The chatting and laughing between tasty bites adds a playful element that drives us back, time and again for more.
Tom, awaiting his turn at the salon for his haircut appointment.
On the way to Jabula Lodge, we stopped many times to take these photos.  Although not as clear as I'd like since taking photos from a moving vehicle at dusk is challenging with our type of camera.  However, we couldn't resist sharing these today. 
Tom with his new haircut getting ready to eat that huge vertical stick of beef known as Espetada. I wasn't thrilled about him eating the chips (as they call fries in Africa).  But, I kept my mouth shut and didn't comment, as usual.  He said the meat was delicious.  I had perfectly prepared grilled chicken, veggies and Greek Salad (sans dressing).
After the laugh fest at Jabula Lodge, we headed home, watched a few shows on my broken-monitor laptop and headed to bed.  The worst of the storm had passed, the temperature had dropped considerably and a good night's sleep was imminent.  Another good day.