It rained!...Glorious rain...More expected...Without rain, the wildlife starves...Five years ago today...

Appetizers of grilled prawns and Boerewors, a frequently served sausage of South Africa. Notice the dinner plates are upside keep the bugs off of them. I failed to take more food photos.  We were too busy having fun!  For the link to this post, please click here.
"Sighting of the Day in the Bush"
Traffic jam on the paved road in Marloth Park.  Delightful!

Note:  Please excuse the poor quality of the photos we've included today from five years ago.  At that point, we only had one camera and the rampant humidity caused condensation inside the lens.  There was nothing we could do until it finally dried out.

It's been reported that it rained 60 mm (2.36 inches) in Marloth Park last night. This morning after the small amount of rain, we noticed a slight increase in the greenery in the bush.

It should have been raining during the spring season (which it didn't) ending on December 22nd when summer begins.  Had it rained during the commencement of the rainy season a few months ago, the bush would have been lush with food sources for the animals.

This late rain, should it continue, will help but won't totally solve the problems related to the drought.  With the hard impacted ground after the dry season, there may be a lot of run-offs reducing the absorption of the rainwater into the soil.  Thus, there are fewer sources of food supplies for the animals.
The candlelit place settings were befitting an elegant dinner.  No paper plates here! All prepared for our group of 17 to perfection.  The camera lens was humid on the inside resulting in these blotchy photos.  For the link to this post, please click here.
With numerous notices on the various Marloth Park Facebook pages suggesting we all pitch in and feed the animals, we feel confident we're already doing all we can. The constant stream of hungry animals fills the garden hour after hour while we're frequently on our feet tossing food their way.

The most difficult animals to feed are the bushbucks and the duikers, both of which are often chased off by the more aggressive animals such as the warthogs, kudus and wildebeest who overpower them sending them running into the bush.

They wait patiently in the bush for their opportunity to eat while we keep a watchful eye for the perfect opportunity which often may be an hour later when the others have departed. 

Danie in the apron on the let and Louise on the far right put on a fantastic dinner in the bush in Kruger National Park.

Sooner or later, the opportunity arises and we place a few containers of pellets, lettuce, apples, and carrots at the bottom of the steps, their preferred spot to eat.

On top of it all, we're always on the lookout for monkeys who we refuse to feed. Their ability to damage property and destroy interiors of houses when they manage to make their way indoors in not worth the risk. 

Like most residents, we shoo them away when they appear looking for food. They are smart enough to forage for fruit and other sources of food often pilfered from garbage bags and other sources.

More new friends from the UK at our table, Janet and Steve who joined us for dinner last night at Jabula with Rita and Gerhard.  They are also seasoned world travelers with considerable experience in many countries in Africa.
Many now are carrying around their newborns. There are more monkey and baboons in Marloth Park than you can imagine. They seem to thrive regardless of weather conditions.

I'm rushing to get today's post uploaded before the next power outage. This morning Rita and Gerhard stopped by for breakfast leaving only a short time ago and I'm definitely behind schedule. Of course, as we did last night at Jabula Lodge with them and Janet and Steve, we had another fantastic time.

Currently, I'm working with Rita to introduce her to the low carb, high fat, moderate protein way of eating and its fun sharing information face to face. She's certainly embracing the concept with enthusiasm.
Unfortunately, at this point, Lynne and Mick were leaving in a few days to return to the UK.  But we saw them when we returned last February and will see them again soon in January.
Speaking of's photos were taken on a very humid night, five years ago today when Louise and Danie's hosted a very special bush braai in Kruger National Park, in the dark, with guards protecting the perimeter, as we dined on delicious foods they'd prepared for our group. It was a night we'll always remember.

The amazing part of that special night is the friends we made then, that are still our friends today, a full five years later while we were traveling the world. We feel so fortunate and blessed to have made such find friends in Marloth Park which definitely contributes to our desire to return in 2020.

Tonight, there will be a power outage from 1900 to 2130 hours (7:00 to 9:30 pm). Thank goodness we've charged solar panel light when the sun was out a few days ago. We purchased this lamp a few days ago to get us through the dark evenings during the power shedding.

The heat and humidity are still stifling even after the rain. Yesterday, the aircon in our bedroom died and it won't be repaired until tomorrow. Last night was tough but we were grateful to have a fan. One more night of the fan and by tomorrow, we'll be back up and running (hopefully).

Tonight we'll braai marinated pork tenderloins with vegetables, salad and whatever refreshments we can muster from our still well-stocked bar. 

Have a great evening!

Photo from one year ago today, December 9, 2017:
Christmas tree in Colon Park in arica, Chile with St. Mark's Cathedral (San Marcos)l in the background.  For more photos, please click here.

How to determine the heat index...Its hotter than the actual temperature indicates...

This short video of Little and Wildebeest Willie clearly illustrates how easy it is to become attached to these animals and deeply care for their well-being.

"Sighting of the Day in the Bush"
Bushbuck family comes to visit daily.  They always stand at the foot of the veranda steps to be away from other wildlife that "steal" their pellets and veg.
What is the heat index?  Here is the answer from this site:

"The heat index is a measure of how hot it really feels when the effects of humidity are added to high temperature. To alert the public to the dangers of exposure to extended periods of heat and the added effects of humidity a Heat Index table is used to correlate measured temperature and humidity into an apparent temperature. This website offers graduated heat maps showing this temperature.

What is the formula for calculating heat index?
The Heat Index is a calculated value based on air temperature and humidity. To calculate a specific value for a previous date, you will need to know the air temperature and humidity.
HI (Fahrenheit) = 42.379 + 2.04901523*T + 10.14333127*RH - 0.22475541*T*RH - 6.83783x10^-3*T^2 - 5.481717x10^-2*RH^2 + 1.22874x10^-3*T^2*RH+8.5282x10^-4*T*RH^2 - 1.99x10^-6*t^2*RH^2
Where T = air temperature in degrees Fahrenheit
RH = relative humidity

To use the heat index table below, find the temperature on the left of the chart. Read across until you reach the desired relative humidity. The number which appears at the intersection of the temperature and relative humidity is the Heat Index. Note that the Heat Index under direct sunlight will be 8 °C higher than the number shown in the chart.

What is the discomfort index?

This index evaluates the impact of heat stress on the individual taking into account the combined effect of temperature and humidity. The formula used by the SA Weather Service to calculate discomfort index is:
Discomfort Index = (2 x T) + (RH/100 x T) + 24

T is the dry-bulb or air temperature in degrees Celsius
RH is the percent relative humidity

This index gives the following degrees of discomfort:
90-100 - very uncomfortable
100-110 - extremely uncomfortable
110 and more - hazardous to health

Since the relative humidity of the air can be calculated from the dry-bulb and wet-bulb temperatures, the formula can also be adapted to use the wet-bulb temperature instead of the relative humidity.

Based on this morning's temperature of 36C (97F), with humidity at 45% the heat index so far today is 41C (105.8).  

This afternoon we can expect temperatures to stabilize at 36C (97F) with humidity at an expected 55% with a heat index of 46C (114.5F)

Below is a heat index guide in Fahrenheit:

Below is a heat index guide in Celsius:
Related image

Of course, if we lived in the US or many other countries, we'd have full house air conditioning or at the least, a few window units capable of cooling the living areas and bedrooms.

But, we're not in the US or another country where aircon availability and use is common during extreme heat and humidity.  Even last night, with the bedroom's excellent unit on, it never quite cooled down enough, especially when the outdoor temp hovered around 32C (90F).

With these wall units, it's important not to lower the temperature too much or the unit can "freeze up."  Then, we'd have no air at all for the remainder of the night which would be a much worse scenario that sleeping without a cover.

It's easy to tell the wildlife is also feeling it.  We had no less than eight warthogs sitting in the cement pond at varying times of the day.  The hardest period for me was when the power went out from 1300 hours (1:00 pm) to 1530 hours (3:30 pm) the hottest time of the day.

Every so often during the day when the heat is exhausting, I may spend 20 or 30 minutes in the bedroom with the aircon unit on (always turning it off and on while I'm in the room, never leaving it running when we're not).  

Yesterday afternoon, when that option wasn't possible during the power outage those two and a half hours were by far the most uncomfortable I've experienced.  

Tom sat outdoors shirtless which helped him.  But, us girls...that's another matter.  He says he felt much hotter when we were in Abu Dhabi in 2013 and the temperature was a dry 50C (122F).  

However, I'll always remember it being extremely uncomfortable when we were dressing to enter the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (the White Mosque).  Here's our photo from that date and the link is located here.
Definitely not my most flattering photo.  Tom looks great!  We were standing in front of the architectural scale model. After we posed for this picture, a security guard rushed over telling us we are not allowed to touch one another in the mosque.  Of course, we complied.

Well, we could spend all day whining about the power outages, yesterday's water outage (back on now), the heat and humidity.  Today, we'll be a little smarter when and if the power is scheduled to go out (or even if the power doesn't go out) at 1300 hours (1:00 pm) until 1530 hours (3:30 pm).  The car's aircon is spectacular.

We'll jump in the red car and go for a drive in the park for the two and a half hours.  Once we return to the house, we'll shower (water providing) and dress for tonight's dinner at Jabula Lodge & Restaurant (we never tire of this wonderful place) with Rita and Gerhard (we never tire of this wonderful couple) who are returning from Germany today.  We'll be thrilled to see them, as always.

Stay cool, or in many cases stay warm, wherever you may be in this world.
Photo from one year ago today, December 8, 2017:
New friends Lisa and Barry invited us to dinner in the private wine room for one last night together on the ship.  They were disembarking the following day while we continued on for another  15 nights.  For more photos, please click here.

Water outage...Power outages...The scorching heat...Digital disposal solutions...An evening overlooking the Crocodile River...

The waning sun from the veranda at Ngwenya.
"Sighting of the Day in the Bush"
Yesterday, no less than 10 warthogs waded in our cement pond including mom and four piglets.  The animals are feeling the heat as well as us humans.
The heat is stifling...the air is thick with mysterious moisture, coming from where? There's no rain.  I don't recall ever feeling so hot.  Yesterday, when Tom drove to Lebombo to buy carrots and apples for the wildlife, the thermometer in the red car read 43C (109).

When he returned to Komatipoort to find me grocery shopping, it had dropped back down to 41C (106F).  With humidity running in the 40% to 50% range, it's that type of heat that sucks the air out of your lungs, the energy out of your step.
The sun begins to disappear in the horizon.
When we were staying with son Richard in Henderson, Nevada in July 2017, we frequently used his beautiful pool.  We'd lounge on chaises for a maximum of 20 minutes during days where the temperature was 46C (115F) but never felt as hot as we have over these past weeks.  It's relentless.

Rain is desperately needed for the wildlife, for the bush and for its cooling-down effect. We've dined out three of out the past six nights and avoided cooking especially when on a few occasions, we've had no power.
The sky is left with brilliant explosions of color.
Now, Marloth Park is having water problems.  The water pressure is now non-existent.  Luckily, I managed to take a shower early this morning, albeit with but a dribble of water.  Tom just tried to take a shower and there's no water at all.

We'll use buckets of pool water to flush the toilet.  Luckily, we have plenty of bottled water for drinking and for the moment the power is on.  We'll see how this all goes.

Louise alerted us that two years ago in December there was no water for five days.  That could be happening again. This is Africa.  This kind of stuff happens here.
After the sun had set at Ngwenya we wandered indoors for our reserved table for buffet dinner.  
We make every effort to go about our lives in as normal a manner as we can staying as upbeat and positive as possible.  We're both good at holding it together during these uncomfortable and inconvenient times.

As summer approaches, beginning on December 22, 2018, and ending on March 20, 2019, more and more insects and snakes are literally coming out from their hiding places of the cooler winter months.  By far, this is the most challenging period of the year, December through March.  As mentioned a few days ago, we're leaving Marloth Park on February 14, in 69 days.

In an effort to go on about our "business" yesterday, we headed to Komatipoort to shop and take care of a few things.  First, we stopped at the optometrist's office where we picked up Tom's new glasses and prescription sunglasses and my contact lenses.  
The final view of the sun.
As mentioned in a prior post, we decided to get eye exams and new glasses for Tom and contact lenses for me.  We'd hoped it would be less expensive here as most things are but eyeglasses and contact lenses are all imported and as pricey as anywhere else in the world.

Our total cost for exams, two pairs of designer frame glasses for Tom and contact lenses for me for a year came to a grand total of ZAR 17180 (US $1220).  

This was comparable to what we paid at Costco about seven years ago.  We have no idea as to prices in today's dollars.  With this out of the way we can wait five or six more years until we do this again, unless we notice any further need for care, should our vision change.
Last night from the veranda at Ngwenya Lodge where we have a standing Thursday night buffet dinner reservation.
From there we headed to the computer repair shop at the Spar Shopping Centre to recycle two old laptops and have the hard drives destroyed.  They wiped out the hard drives before our eyes and kept the two old laptops for parts, not charging us a dime.  

Then we were off to the hardware store where we purchased a solar-powered LED light with the ability to last a full day to use when the power is out during the many upcoming 'load shedding periods."  

Not surprisingly, the scheduled power outages Eskom posted are not being followed.  With the solar light, we're prepared for the evening hours, mainly so we can see, feed and interact with our wildlife friends while on the veranda during outages.
Hot and hungry elephant taking advantage of the cooling waters and green vegetation.
Recently, Tom's phone wasn't able to hold a charge.  It made sense for him to purchase a phone, at least to last while we remain in Africa.  We went back to the trusty Vodacom store in Komtipoort where we found him a new, but older model of a Samsung. 
Tom only uses his phone for email, Facebook and playing a few games.  Yesterday, he purchased the phone for ZAR 1600 (US $113.62) and by bedtime last night, I'd added all his apps, email and books.  He's good to go.

From there, I headed to the pharmacy to buy a different insect repellent.  Ushci and Evan had recommended the non-toxic, non-DEET product, "NGuard" that works better than the dangerous chemicals.   
Impalas and warthogs on the dry river bed.
I've been reapplying the toxic creams several times a day and was still being bitten.  Last night, before heading to Ngwenya for dinner, I used NGuard and again this morning.  So far, not a single new bite.  I'm hopeful.  

After completing all of the above, I headed to the supermarket and in no time at all, Tom appeared to help me with the groceries after he'd returned from Lebombo and the pellet store.  We headed back to Marloth Park content to have a number of tasks out of the way and looked forward to a nice evening out to dinner.

As always, the buffet at Ngwenya was excellent after river viewing for a few hours on their veranda.  We chatted with other patrons and enjoyed an excellent evening.
Last week's rhino sighting in Kruger National Park during our last self-drive.
Will the water come back on today?  We don't know.  Will the power go out in 33 minutes according to the schedule?  We don't know.  Will it get cooler and rain in the next 36 hours as predicted by weather service?  We don't know.

All we do know is we're making the best of it and will keep you updated.

May you have water, power and the absence of venomous snakes in your life over the weekend!

Photo from one year ago today, December 7, 2017:

Tom and I made friends with Lisa and Barry, a lovely couple with whom we spent many good times on the cruise and stayed in close touch since the cruise ended.   For more details, please click here.

Yikes....Venomous snake at Jabula, as we walked up the steps!...Juan, snake handler to the rescue...

Twig snake, also known as vine snake was on the railing at Jabula Lodge and Restaurant as we walked up the steps to the restaurant.  See story below.
 "Sighting of the Day in the Bush"
A praying mantis stopped by for a visit this morning.  After it walked on the veranda table, it landed on Tom and then landed on me.  Friendly little fellow.
When Uschi and Evan suggested the four of us get together for dinner at Jabula Lodge and Restaurant last night we were thrilled to have the opportunity to spend another evening with this lovely couple.

They suggested we meet at 6:30 but in our usual style we planned to arrive by 1715 hours (5:15 pm) in order to have an opportunity to chat with owners Dawn, Leon and assistant Lyn at the comfortable bar.  
Juan, snake handler, captured the snake, placing it in this container and releasing it in Lionspruit where other captured venomous snakes are sent to live out their lives.
We parked the red car in our usual spot, fairly close to the stairway entrance to the restaurant.  Clumsy me, I'm always a little tentative on the "open" wood staircase up to the restaurant and carefully watch my step with Tom behind me.  

When approaching the steps, a guest of the resort and one staff members hollered, "Look out!  There's a snake on the railing!  Neither of us panicked.  Instead, we searched the railing for the culprit and waited to see what was going to transpire.

Young zebra in the garden.
Had no one alerted us, we easily would have been in striking distance of the deadly venomous snake, a twig, also known as a vine snake.  Here's some information on these dangerous creatures from this site:

"This perfectly-camouflaged tree-living snake is seldom seen because of its excellent camouflage and habit of remaining very still in low shrubs, observing the ground below for passing lizards and snakes. Birds often mob this snake and it will inflate its neck with its bright orange tongue flickering – this lead to the incorrect assumption that they lure birds closer with their tongue. It is extremely placid but, if provoked, will inflate its neck and strike viciously. Bites are rare and most inflicted on snake handlers.

Like the Boomslang, the venom of this snake is haemotoxic affecting the blood clotting mechanism and causing uncontrolled bleeding. There is no antivenom for the venom of this snake and although a few fatalities have been reported, none were in South Africa."

We're treasuring every moment with the wildlife knowing once the holidaymakers arrive we'll have considerably fewer visitors until well into January.
The hotel guest grabbed the swimming pool net and tried to capture the snake...not so smart.  That didn't work and was definitely foolhardy. A degree of commotion ensued while Dawn contacted the young Juan, who's fast becoming the best snake handler in Marloth Park.

In the interim, we gingerly climbed partway up the steps in order to take the above photo of the snake as it politely posed for us sticking out her pink forked tongue.  Nice.
When I didn't see Little on the veranda, he knocked over the chair where I sit when he visits.  Determined Little, trying to get my attention.  It worked!
Juan arrived within 10 minutes and in moments captured the snake and safely placed it into a plastic container.  From there, he'd take it to Lionspruit (the game reserve within Marloth Park) and release it.  There are no residences in Lionspruit making this an ideal spot to transfer captured snakes or other venomous creatures.

We had a chance to congratulate Juan on his excellent snake handling skills.  He attended snake school with us many months ago and now he is a volunteer snake handler.  Glad we didn't go down that road!
Pellets and ice cold carrots were on the menu on a very hot day.  He's so exhausted in the heat he lays down to dine.
After the commotion died down and Juan was on his way, we entered the bar and engaged in enthusiastic discussions with staff and guests over the excitement we all experienced in seeing this scary snake.  

One might think that locals are used to venomous snakes but many are equally apprehensive about them as us visitors. There's no such thing as "getting used to" the risk of encountering a snake that may be deadly.

The evening commenced in its usual playful manner.  We've seldom encountered such a fun bar anywhere in the world, even in our old lives.  The African atmosphere, the cozy lighting, the friendly staff and of course, good friends, great food and service, along with our good friends Dawn and Leon, make it a very special time for us.
Giraffe on the side of the road on our way to Jabula.
I sipped on one extra light wine cooler while Tom had his usual brandy and Sprite Zero.  In no time at all Uschi and Evan arrived and they too were delighted to sit at the bar as the lively conversation ensued for the remainder of the evening.

Finally, we ordered our meals and when the food was just about ready we wandered outside to the veranda to dine.  At different points during our meal and after Dawn and Leon joined us the four of us for more great chatter, laughter and good times.

We didn't walk out the door until close to 2200 hrs (10:00 pm), late for an evening out to dinner in this sleepy community.  Within an hour I was fast asleep, the cortisone no longer in my system and sleep no longer alluding me.  

Another giraffe on the road in the evening.
When I awoke this morning and still had 80% battery left on my phone, I knew I'd slept well.  When I can't sleep I read books, play games or read news on my phone which I'd totally avoiding last night.  I feel like a new person today.

Tonight, we're off to Ngwenya for river viewing and the buffet dinner.  Rita and Gerhard won't be returning for a few more days so we'll be off on our own.  We always enjoy time with friends but being "just the two of us" isn't so bad either.

May your Thursday be pleasant and enjoyable, whatever you decide to do.

Today's expected high temp? 37C (98F)...A refreshing break from yesterday's  
40C (104F).  

Photo from one year ago today, December 6, 2017:

A band playing on the beach in Arica, Chile.  For more photos, please click here.

Ratcheting up the research...Holidaymakers moving in...Piglets in the pond!...

Mom and piglet enjoying the cement pond on a hot day.
"Sighting of the Day in the Bush"
This is "Little" on his usual mission of getting our attention to come outside and give him some pellets.  If we don't respond, he enters the house.  Very funny!
Its hard to believe in 71 days we'll be leaving Marloth Park to drive to Nelspruit for the flight to Nairobi, Kenya, departing early the following morning.  Our one year in Marloth Park is rapidly coming to a close.  We've decided to spend one night, February 14th, Valentine's Day, in Nelspruit to avoid early morning traffic on the 15th, the day we must exit South Africa.

If you missed our story as to why we must leave on the 15th as opposed to the originally planned February 20th, please click here for yesterday's post.  It's all clearly explained there.

As it turns out we won't have to travel on my birthday after all and will spend it doing something very special while in Kenya.  Details will follow once we get everything booked.

Mom warthog gets into the cement pond to cool off.  Now, the piglets follow her.
Speaking of bookings, we need to get to work now that we have a definitive answer on our immigration status.  We'd left many loose ends in the itinerary and the time has come to get these items booked.

With the ongoing power outages, spending time online is tricky.  By the time we manage photos and prepare and upload the day's post, the power goes out again, usually for 2½ hours.  During these periods, we have no internet access.

According to the Eskom load shedding schedule, the power should be out about 7½ hours during each 24-hour period.  Fortunately, and not surprisingly, the schedule isn't precise and often a time slot for an outage is ignored and we have full power and wi-fi.  Go figure.  

Piglets climbing out of the cement pond.
We're managing to work around it as are other residents throughout this country, not just here in Marloth Park.  With the continuing heat and humidity, it's even more uncomfortable when we can't use a fan especially when our surroundings are still and windless, resulting in a long 2½ hours.

But, this is Africa and we're making the best of it, planning social events, cooking our meals, dining out with friends (tonight with Uschi and Evan, tomorrow with Rita and Gerhard) and attempting to ignore the inconveniences.

The holidaymakers are beginning to filter into the park now as we see more and more vehicles on the roads each day.  Soon, every holiday rental and most bush homes will be filled, the noise will ensue, underage kids will be driving vehicles in this relatively un-policed area and maniacs will be driving fast on Olifant Street (the paved road), killing the precious wildlife.

With the heat evaporating the water in the pond, between cleanings Tom refills it for easy access for wildlife being able to reach for a drink.  So far, the only animals we've seen enter the pond are the warthogs.
No pun's the nature of the beast.  Not everyone who comes to stay in Marloth Park possesses the love and respect for this magical place, its rules, and its wildlife.  This is so sad and disheartening.

Among the rest of us, dedicated to this paradise, we'll continue to respect the laws and treat the wildlife with dignity and respect.  We've heard tales of humans feeding wildlife marshmallows, potato chips, and other human junk food.  If it's not good for us why would we assume it's good for them?

During this Christmas season, as in the past six years, we don't have a tree, wrap gifts, bake cookies or plan holiday parties, although we'll attend a few.  I'll bake some treats to share at Christmas and make a few special items for Tom's upcoming birthday on December 23rd.

Back onto the dirt, everyone is cooler and refreshed.
I'd considered a party or get-together for his birthday but he reminded me how busy a time it is for everyone else with their usual holiday festivities.  To burden others with a party the day before Christmas Eve was unfair.  I relented and we decided to make it a party for two.

This leaves us plenty of time in the month of December to get to work booking the following, for our upcoming travels:

  • Hotel in Kenya for seven nights, arriving February 15, 2019, and departing for the booked photography tour on February 22, 2019  (tour ends of March 7, 2019
  • Flight from Nairobi to Santiago, Chile on March 8, 2019
  • Transportation from Santiago, Chile to San Antonio, Chile (the location of the cruise port) 
  • Hotel in Santiago, Chile from March 8, 2019, to March 24, 2019, when our 15-night cruise departs from San Antonio, Chile, and sails to San Diego, California
  • Flight from San Diego, California to Minneapolis, Minnesota* on April 8, 2019
  • Rental car in Minnesota from April 8, 2019, to April 25, 2019
  • Flight from Minnesota to Fort Lauderdale to board the next cruise to Copenhagen on April 25, 2019, cruise departs on April 26, 2019
  • Flight from Copenhagen to Dublin, Ireland on May 12, 2019
  • Rental car in Dublin, Ireland on May 12, 2019, and drive to Connemara, Ireland where we'll stay in a holiday home until August 9, 2019 (booked and deposit paid)
    Two giraffes walking along a dirt path in the park.
*The hotel in Minnesota is already booked and partially paid with the balance due upon arrival.

This covers our booking needs for the next eight months.  Once we've put all of this together, we'll be updating and fine-tuning our spreadsheet with all the new expenses.

Hope you have a spectacular Wednesday!

Photo from one year ago today, December 5, 2017:
In Pisco Peru, this pelican was trained to entertain tourists as the man passed around a cup.  For more photos, please click here.

There's always a recipe for a solution...Cost and convenience are often the vital ingredients...

This fluffy little one captured our hearts.
"Sighting of the Day in the Bush"
Baby zebra sticking close to mom during nighttime activities.
I really don't know where to begin.  It's a convoluted story of inconsistencies, inaccuracies and rampant incompetency in one manner or another.  My intent is not to bash South Africa's governmental procedures. 

Instead, I reach out to you, our valued and loyal worldwide readers to share our story and to alert those of you who may consider a long-term stay in this country.

Don't get me wrong...we're grateful for the exquisite almost 10 months we've spent in the country in this isolated little world of paradise in the bush, Marloth Park.  

It's not like this everywhere in the country, animals roaming free as one might expect countrywide.  There are conservancies, game reserves, national parks and designated wildlife areas for that.  

The dry bush will brighten once the rainy season takes off.
The uniqueness of Marloth Park was the motivator for us to visit and subsequently return this past February.  Our future itinerary has us returning in about two years from now, but only for the allowed 90 days, no more.  We never want to deal with immigration issues again.

I won't reiterate the beginning of the story and the massive pile of documents we prepared to accommodate a request for a visa extension to February 20, 2019, the day we'd been advised to book a flight out of here to Nairobi Kenya for our next adventure.  If you'll click this link here, that portion of the story is told in its entirety.

But, it was the culmination of the complicated process that hovered in our minds as we wondered as to the outcome since September when we first applied, as it turned out, way too early, upon advice from others and ended up starting all over again on October 24th when we returned to Nelspruit the second time to apply.

While there in September, a rep made a handwritten notation on our document copy that we were to return on October 24th (still have this document) giving ample time for the file to be reviewed and meeting our planned departure date of February 20, 2019.
Waterbucks grazing by the river's edge.
Part of the application process required two departing-South Africa-airline tickets for ZAR 15461 (US $1132) for that date which we purchased at the time of making the first application in Septemeber.

Stay with me...we're getting there.  When we returned on October 24th going through all the forms with the reps at the VFS Immigration office, we were told everything was in order.  We were told to start checking online after three weeks passed to see when the response would be ready.

For those of you who read the prior posts, we indicated we'd have to appear once again once the notification indicated we were ready to see the answer in a sealed envelope which we'd open in front of the immigration rep.  

If we didn't like the answer, the only available process was to reapply once again. This was not an option for us.  Our visas had already expired on November 21st.  We weren't in a particularly good position for "negotiating" which in any case, is not a part of the process regardless of circumstances.
A lone giraffe munching on treetops.
Yesterday morning we took off for Nelspruit, typically a 75 to 90 minutes drive where many trucks and vehicles jockey for space on the highway.  We were told to arrive anywhere between 10:00 am and 1500 hours (3:00 pm).  

Once we were "scanned" by the security guard we entered the waiting area where several rows of chairs are lined up.  All the seats were filled and we had to wait, standing, in the back of the section of chairs.  As each person was called, everyone in the chairs moved over to the next available chair, kind of like a musical chairs thing.

Much to our surprise, the line moved more quickly than during our two other visits.  Within 40 minutes, we were standing at the counter awaiting our news.  Tom was handed his sealed envelope first.  Gingerly, he opened the envelope and immediately we were bost aghast.  He was granted an extension but only until February 15th.

We have paid our rent here to February 20th, paid for a rental car to February 20th and paid for the two airline tickets for February 20th.  We tried to explain that it was their manager who'd told us to return on October 24th allowing us ample time for the requested February 20th departure date.
Waterbucks live close to the river, grazing on its green lusher vegetation than in other areas of the bush, where everything is dried up during this year's low-rain period.
We even showed her the handwritten notes she'd made on the document telling us to return on October 24th.  She dismissed this written statement saying what she wrote was irrelevant.  The government's decision is all that matter, regardless of the number of days.

Then the weirdest thing happened.  I opened my envelope and was given until February 21, 2019.  Our files were linked as a married couple.  Why the six-day difference?  All kinds of thoughts ran through our heads.  No matter what we said, the only option they suggested was to start all over.  

There was no way we were going to pay the fees ZAR 3500 (US $256) again and start over the lengthy and painstaking paperwork process, all the while taking the risk that nothing would change.

We walked out the door, neither of us talking and made our way to the parking ramp, thoughts racing through our heads.  On the return drive, we reviewed our options but Tom, bordering on "overly grumpy," was more engrossed in his driving in traffic than a lengthy discussion over our options.
On Sunday night while situated on the veranda, speaking on Skype with my dear friend Karen in Minnesota, a dazzle of zebras appeared.
Instead of pressing him, I wrote the text for yesterday's post on an offline app on my phone, determined to get it uploaded before the power went out due to "load shedding" again at 1500 hours (3:00 om).  

As soon as we returned I immediately got to work on the post, albeit with less than my usual enthusiastic demeanor.  Miss Overly Bubby wasn't in.  I rushed to get it done but the power went out earlier than expected and I wasn't able to upload it until after 1730 hours (5:30 pm).  Sorry for the delay.

At 5:30 we set up the veranda for the evening, made ourselves a "sundowner" and sat down to discuss our options.  They included the following:
  • Reapply and start the entire process all over again with no guarantees.  We tossed this idea out the window.
  • Tom could leave and go to Kenya on 15th while I stayed alone in Marloth Park, using one of the two non-refundable flights from Nelspruit to Nairobi on February 20th (my birthday).  This raised many questions...hotel for Tom, transportation for me to the being alone for the five nights until February 20th when I could depart...traveling apart...handing luggage...and on an on.  We tossed this idea out the window.
  • The rep told us Tom could go to Mozambique by car and see if he could end up with the extra five days.  This was a very risky idea.  When would he go?  He could easily have ended up with no more than what he has or even less, depending on what transpired at the border.  We tossed this idea out the window.
  • We could try to get some form of credit from the airline to change our travel day to February 15th, change our end-of-rental date to February 15th, change our car rental period to February 15 and clear out of South Africa.  We decided this was our only option, with both of us departing on February 15th, regardless of the cost or inconvenience.
There was a total of nine zebras including the baby.
Immediately, we got to work on on our website to see what we could first accomplish with the tickets.  In all these six years of world travel, we've never canceled or changed a single flight.  Somehow the preplanning has always worked for us.

We knew that flights were non-refundable but never encountered an opportunity or desire to change a flight.  The website offered such an opportunity and for a grand total of ZAR 2156 (US $159) we changed our tickets to February 15th.  We were relieved.

At this point, we'd yet to book hotel accommodations in Kenya which we'll do this month.  Not having done so was one less step to handle.  From here, we'll see about our rent and early return of the rental car, both of which should save us a little more to apply to the added cost of the extra five days in Kenya.

Whew!  What a relief!  Drama averted.  Immigration issues averted and massive lesson learned:  When we return to South Africa in years to come, we'll only stay 90 days.  Period.

Preoccupied with my phone call, I wasn't able to get a photo of all nine at once.
We skated through the first three 90-day periods by leaving the country twice to travel to Zambia to get another 90-day visa each time.  We just weren't able to pull it off the third time.  These two one-week trips cost us upwards of ZAR 111628 (US $8232).  Surely if we'd tried traveling out the country once again, we'd have incurred similar costs with no guaranty on the ability to return.

And so it goes.  We're good again.  Cheerful, but hot in the temps above 40C (104F).  And, we're back in sync with our otherwise pleasing lifestyle and of course with one another.

Today, we'll lay low in the heat and humidity but who knows what tomorrow may bring.

Happy healthy day to all.


Photo from one year ago today December 4, 2017:

Children playing at the beach with views of colorful fishing vessels in Pisco, Peru.  These boats remind us of the colorful fishing boats in Negara, Bali. (See that link here).  For more details from the one year ago post, please click here.