A birthday to remember!...Safari luck..People luck!...A photo to remember! Elephants! Bushbuck! Waterbuck! Cape Buffalo and more!


Nomsa and Zeff singing happy birthday to me in Zulu.  The sign behind Zeff's head says, "Take risks. If you win you will be happy.  If you lose you will be wise." So true.
Perhaps we should add, "People Luck" to our repertoire of pet (no pun intended) phrases we regularly use.  Yesterday, my birthday, was a combination of both.
Bushbuck we spotted on the way to the Crocodile River. 
The day started with birthday wishes from my hubby beginning at midnight extending throughout the day.  Then, upon checking my computer, came the email, the Facebook wishes and the Skype calls. 
The sun, behind the rumbling clouds, created this reflection on the Crocodile River when we arrived to check for wildlife along the shores.
I love birthdays without the obligatory gifts and surprise parties.  With expectations out the window, one receives words, songs, thoughtful gestures and messages from the heart. Yesterday, I had them all.
This first animal we spotted was this Cape Buffalo attempting to stay cool in the river of a very hot day.

First we saw these two elephants and moments later, two more.
My day started early when Zeff and Nomsa sang Happy Birthday to me in Zulu, melting my heart as I took the above photo.  Louise, having arranged this tender gesture stood off to the side as they sang, obviously proud of her loyal workers whom she and Danie adore and treat with kindness and love.

At quite a distance, we watched this waterbuck keeping a safe distance from the elephants.


What a magnificent animal!

The Cape Buffalo mid-river keeping cool as a bit of sun peeked through the clouds for a moment.
African Reunion House was soon sparkling clean by their diligent efforts, leaving me literally nothing to do but enjoy the day.  The heat and humidity was at a peak, 94F, 34.4C as we dripped in sweat while on the veranda all day.  We didn't care.  Throwing on a bathing suit early in the day, it was easy to cool off in the pool staying cool wearing a wet bathing suit all day.

Elephant reflection in the river as she approached for a drink.
With Okee Dokee  picking us up at 5:45 pm to head to the Crocodile River for sunset and to hopefully spot wildlife, the day went quickly.  The plan was to head to Jabula Lodge for dinner at dark, have her join us for dinner with Louise and Danie stopping by for a drink.  Not hungry after a day of cooking for guests, they refused our offer of dinner, much to our dismay. These generous people all have a hard time accepting tokens of appreciation, an aspect we recall from our past lives.


Walking along the shore trying to keep up with the herd of four.
What can I say?  It was a perfect day and night.  At precisely 5:45 Okee Dokee appeared at our door, gifts in hand.  Knowing we had no room in our luggage she'd brought me two bags of my favorite nuts, macadamias, grown here in South Africa, raw, delicious and the following wallet sized photo which she'd encased in sealed plastic so it could easily travel with us. 

This is the first photo of us when we arrived in Marloth Park on December 1, 2013.  Okee Dokee took this photo which, for my birthday she'd made into a plastic sealed wallet size.  What a thoughtful gift!  Some of our Facebook friends and family members had commented that it looked as if I was wearing a giraffe hat.
How thoughtful!  I was in awe of her clever gifts, one as a reminder of our time in Marloth Park and another to be consumed before we leave one week from today.  As stated above, she had taken this photo the day we arrived in Marloth Park when she'd picked us up in Mpumalanga/Nelspruit airport.  Within minutes of arriving in the park, we spotted Giraffes and she took this photo of Tom and I with the Giraffe in the background. 

These two young male elephants were playing, their trunks entwined!

 

Their playfulness was quite a sight to see! But, it was getting darker by the moment.
We were in total shock, unable to believe this was happening.  How is this possible, animals walking around in the streets and in the yards of the well scattered homes in Marloth Park?  We knew we were coming to a place where animals roamed free but, it was hard to believe until we actually saw it.  It's still hard to believe.  Locals have told us, after living here for years, that they still don't believe it.

I missed the shot where the elephant on the left grabbed the tail of the one on the right
with his trunk.
After an emotional exchange of considerable appreciation of her kindness and thoughtfulness, knowing how much we'll miss her as well, we headed to the Crocodile River with hopes of seeing wildlife along its shores.  We weren't disappointed as the three of us gawked in awe of the activity in front of us.  More "safari luck," for sure.

The four elephants were finally close enough for this shot. 
Keep in mind, by the time we arrived at the river, the sun was shrouded in clouds providing us with little light for our photos.  As many amateur photographers, as I've realized, taking photos in waning light or darkness from a distance is almost impossible without special equipment.  With our less than sophisticated Sony CyberShot camera, the lens damaged from humidity, I did the best I could.

A momentary opening in the clouds caught my eye.
At dark, we headed to Jabula Lodge, spotting a poisonous tree snake on the road as usual.  As we entered the cozy bar and restaurant, Dawn and Leon greeting us warmly with hugs, kisses and birthday greetings.  Our favorite table close to the AC, was decorated specifically for the occasion, more than I could ever have expected.

A loud, an evening filled with even more laughter was immediately heightened when Louise and Danie appeared a short time later as we all gathered around the tiny tables.  Leon gave everyone in the bar a shot of Amarula, the sweet alcoholic drink made from the popular Marula tree which bears a sweet fruit both animals and people love, after which everyone, those we knew and those we didn't know, toasted me while singing the birthday song. 

Blushing over the thoughtful tribute, I failed to take what could have been a memorable photo of the locals and friends.  Some moments simply remain in the heart if not in a photo.
Danie and Louise last night at my party.  We couldn't adore them more! They told us we were the "easiest" guests they ever had with the least complaints.  Of course, we were flattered.
After lively conversation, laughter and endless accolades over one another, the evening ended as it was time for the restaurant to close for the night.  Soon, the three of us were bouncing along the road in Okee Dokee's game vehicle, reeling over the fun we all had.  "People Luck" for sure.

Okee Dokee with us under the Cape Buffalo head at Jabula Lodge.  We wish we could take
her with us!  We will miss her!  She's also coming to our party on Monday, along with

Of course, we didn't get out of there without planning the traditional "goodbye party" hosted by us, this upcoming Monday beginning at 5 pm.  We promised a traditional American dinner using the traditional South African bush braai.  Hummm...what shall we make?  We shall see.

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