Our temporary home in Marloth Park, South Africa
We’re living in South Africa for three months, and our temporary home, Marloth Park, is in a 3000 hectare (7400 acres or 11.6 square miles) wildlife sanctuary on the southern border of Kruger National Park.
On the banks of the Crocodile River and between the towns of Komatipoort and Malelane, Marloth has four of the Big Five (no elephants but they can be seen in the Crocodile River). There’s a section of Marloth called the Lionspruit, a game reserve housing lions, rhino and buffalo. It is fenced off from the residences, but Laine’s (my brother-in-law) house is built very near to that fence, only about 100 yards. The roar of the lions sounds like distant thunder. We feel fairly certain that we heard a lion kill – a screaming, moaning animal. That was horrifying and intriguing. Only a dozen or so years ago there was no fence separating Kruger from Marloth. Lions roamed freely in and among the homes here. After an attack spree injuring several people and killing one, a fence was installed, a high, electric fence. I read that the one person who died from a lion attack was a burglar, and that the residents had their britches in a twist over losing their lion safety patrol when the fence came up.
There is a curfew of sorts here. Humans are not to be walking about after sunset. This is to avoid disturbing the animals but mostly because every so often a leopard or some other large-clawed animal gets past the fence.
Property owners are restricted from changing the landscape, so the flora is in its natural state and the fauna can do their instinctive thang. Laine’s house, which is much bigger than what we need, has a cool structure, octagonal; and as we were forewarned, the innards of this place are rustic and simple. Specifically, we were told that living in the house is akin to camping indoors. Fortunately we brought a portable screen house with us: Eureka! Screen House
With the intent of using the screen house outside under the palapa, we instead, put it up in the bedroom as protection against the mighty flying critters. Now it’s really like camping indoors – kinda cozy. With nary a piece of furniture nor a car to locate our creature comforts, we still find ourselves grateful and giddy to have this libre lodging and a world of wildlife at our fingertips.
The day-to-day practicality of life
While being without a car is cost-effective, it lends itself to some challenges. And despite the two small markets within walking distance in Marloth, the fewer choices available are also more costly. Fortunately, our neighbor, Louise, has been generous with her offers to take us to the store. Twice, she’s driven us to Malelane and Komatipoort to the big grocery store, Spar. Food is reasonably priced, even cheap in some instances. I’ve saved our receipts should anyone have specific questions. Given our free accommodation, our free flight, and inexpensive food, we’re doing great! Our biggest expenses will come with side trips AND internet (via a small mobile wifi router through Vodacom), which is quite costly. No TV, and our internet conservation efforts are keeping us only partially on the grid. Admittedly, I kinda like it.
Check out this site to get a better idea of the cost of living in South Africa. The dollar is quite strong compared to the rand. And it’s easy to calculate too – just about 10 rand per dollar.
Food – same ole same ole for us Peppers. We make all of our food at home. Scott still cooks ginormous, delicious vats of beans. Yes, we still eat beans and rice for dinner several nights a week. And given the abundance of potatoes and onions here, we’ve been shaking things up with hash browns, boiled potatoes, and fried potatoes. I make kick-butt veggie sandwiches for lunch using peppers, avo, tomatoes, and sprouts with a dijon dressing. The food stuff may get more interesting when we get to Cape Town later in April and try out some veggie restaurants.
My husband is the up and coming Master of the Frugality Mentality. Scott’s having a love fest with his new boyfriend, the Frugal Guru, Mr. Money Mustache. Everyday I hear, “Well Mr. Money Mustaches says this” or “Mr. Money Mustache says that.” Recently Scott, while channeling Mr. Money Mustache, had the brilliant idea that he would save about 150 bucks a year cutting his own hair. He proceeded to spend $9.00 on hair clippers. I tried to find those clippers online, but they are so cheap they’re not even on Amazon. Little did I know, that I would be the one to cut Scott’s hair. Every so often I cut my own bangs which is a good reminder about why I don’t cut my own bangs. But Scott doesn’t care how his hair looks, so we’re a good match given that I’m his new hair cutter.
One day I suspect we’ll be the Guy and Gal of Frugality, but for now I’m just a really bad hair cutter. We did have a couple good belly laughs. IF you so dare to cut your own hair as well, I found reasonably priced clippers with good reviews on Amazon: Wahl 79300-400 Color Pro 20 Piece Complete Haircutting Kit And Mr. Money Mustache, if you’re reading this, um yeah, thanks.
The Bush high life, very different from the Miller high life
Scott thinks I’m nonGMO corny.
This may be as close to living in wilderness we’ve ever been and will ever be. You know you’re out in the wild when you have to lock your doors during the day in order to keep the baboons out. They are like a gang of destructive, petty thieves who will decimate a house if they find their way inside. Under strict orders we are to keep all food out of eyesight, because if they peek in and see it on the counter, they will find a way in, especially if we haven’t been diligent about locking screen doors. And I’ve been told to avoid walking alone outside by myself, because the baboons are prone to attack females. Supposedly as soon as a man is in sight, they back off. All rumors, some founded. I saw my first baboon. We hear a raucous on the roof every third day, so one of those days I went out with my camera and caught a glimpse of a big baboon scrambling across the road. When I walk outside alone, I do so like the Incredible Hulk to mask my feminine wiles and trick the baboons.
It’s summer here in South Africa. It’s hot. Hot as Anthony Kiedis eating a vegan red hot chili pepper burger. And it is sticky here too. After a violent rain of which there have been a few, the temperature drops to a cool 75F . We also learned the hard way that a big rain at night while cooling things off brings water through the screen door rendering the bedroom soggy. Still, we eagerly await the impending showers when seeing the distant lightning. None of this has stopped me from being in a rather constant state of oily and sticky. I’ve developed a new layer of skin I unaffectionately refer to as the Epidampis.
During our travels to the more tropical-like places I’ve been reminded about why I love the central coast of California and its temperate, essentially bug-free climate. Speaking of which…
Things that fly and go creep in the night
Just days ago, we were enjoying a light breeze on the balcony when a discord came upon us. It was the sound of a million locusts. I’m not sure it was, in actuality, a million locusts, but the sound was alarming. It arrived and departed so abruptly that we would not have had time to take cover had a million locusts fallen from the skies.
At night an entirely new universe reveals itself, as if it had been anticipating its own arrival. A party springs up each evening after dusk. Anything that resembles a light gets attacked with a myriad of winged creatures big and small. We have had several occasions to catch and release, Scott taking on the larger, hairier beings, and I the smaller, slower ones. Even a late night Scorpion surprise didn’t deter my husband from finding the fellow a more comfortable abode outside of our residence.
The most unfortunate finds are those on my person while I’m supposedly sleeping, an activity that I’ve learned to do with one eye open since a roach fell from the ceiling onto my bare stomach way back in 1992. PRSD – post roach stress disorder. Granted, one open eye in the pitch dark serves very little purpose. A small comfort for the inconsolable skeeve in me.
Only nights ago, I awoke to the feeling of movement on my forehead. And because my skin wasn’t crawling, I ignored it. This may come as a surprise. After all, with the fan blowing, maybe it was a loose hair blowin’ around. But when it moved again and I was startled into the harsh reality that there was, indeed, a small creature on my face, I tore into Wonder Woman mode. Remember how she could grab her tiara and spin in one smooth motion? Only, my tiara had legs, my motion was not smooth and it included an involuntary tribal scream as I flung the small creature who knows where – hopefully not on top of my husband but one can’t be too certain. Nothing like Wonder Woman at all, really.
Out came the flashlight wielded by Scott who was forcefully yanked from a peaceful sleep. We didn’t find the perpetrator, but he left a mark just above my now swollen eye. I swear, given the bite, it was a small shark-like creature with big teeth and legs, but Scott disputes this claim. I was unable to go back to sleep out of fear he would find his way back to me for retribution and finish off the job by eating the rest of my face.
Fortunately, some of our new insect family includes the formidable Praying Mantis. I cheer these cool guys when they come out at night. I stand there calling out, “Go Praying Mantis Go!”
Did you know that the plural of Praying Mantis is Praying Mantids?
I suspect there are No-Seeums here because I feel myself getting those irritating bites, and I don’t, well, see anything. Incessant slapping does more harm than good. The mosquito situation is not nearly as horrific as I envisioned. It’s not horrific at all. On the evenings prior to a rain, they seem to come out in droves, but otherwise, I have just a couple benign bites on my ankles.
Which brings me to the Geckos. I have and will always love geckos and care not when I see gecko poop around the house, because they are like the bug cleanup crew. The bigger the gecko poop, the grander the feast.
For those who have been following along since Mexico, you may recall our gecko, Richard Burton, from the post Semana de Animales (it’s a long post, so conduct a search “richard burton”). We haven’t named our household geckos here, yet we welcome their presence. Interestingly enough, they’re quite quiet with no chuckles like Mexican geckos.
As fascinated as I am by insects, the butterflies and their colorful cousins (moths) will always be my faves. These mighty and bright beings make the world a more vibrant place. Numerous butterflies abound here, yet these feisty gals with their fast fluttering wings make capturing them via photo challenging. Below are some that slowed long enough for me to snap a shot.
This stunning place brings a reminder of the cycle of life– daily. From the baby gecko too small to survive to the frog I tried to rescue (he, too, appearing injured with one leg poking out abnormally) who also died, to the warthog family that visits every other day for the Marula fruit. Zebras walk by the house and a several evenings ago a giraffe was hanging out munching on a tall tree. The joy replaces the loss that replaces the joy and back again from one day to the next.
We’ve grown fond of our neighbors, Louise and Phil. Louise, with a heart the size of Texas and a rich enthusiasm that makes a high school cheerleader appear dull, has rescued dozens of animals including her current lot. For instance, a baby Duiker, smuggled out of Mozambique, who was being hung upside-down by his legs and tortured.
There are ten different kinds of Duikers in this area, and I am grateful to know one of them, Dinkie. Louise also calls him Bokkie, which is a term of endearment and my new nickname for Scott. Bok is Afrikaans for Buck. Dinkie is free to roam despite his affinity for Louise and Phils house. Literally, he walks in the house when he feels like it. Otherwise, he spends his days exploring the safety of Marloth Park environs figuring out how to be a Duiker returning for some special treats like sweet potato and carrots (a bowl Louise keeps out for him). Only yesterday, Dinkie came to visit us.
Louise is the one who rescued the abandoned baby Banded Mongoose. If you haven’t seen the post where Scott and I babysat him, you must! S/he is adorable! A pack of Banded Mongoose wandered into Laine’s property yesterday evening. The video didn’t turn out, so hopefully they’ll return for a second take.
Seriously, it’s like Animal Planet here every day. The roar of lions in the wee hours of the morning, zebras walking by, daily visits from the local warthogs rooting for whatever it is they root for (maybe it’s the 49’ers but given how they walk on their knees, it’s probably the Seahawks) and a pack of 30 mongoose roaming carefree. Only MOMENTS ago, a Banded Mongoose was on two legs peeking into the house. Mind blowing.
And then there are the Bush Babies. Also called Galagos, these outrageously love-coma primates could make one (as in myself) want to move to South Africa. A nocturnal mammal, one can see the red eyes of the Bush Babies in the trees at night. For some reason, some male Bush Babies get kicked out of their nests when they’re still small, or maybe they are more active and simply fall out. It appears that many nests are in thatched roofs, and within one week, we met three women who rescued four male baby bush babies that were found on the ground. Still unable to care for themselves, these women, Louise included, took the babies in.
Bush babies urinate on themselves (just a bit – like when some people laugh too hard) to make those tiny bulbs at the end of their fingers sticky thus easier to climb. It gives a whole new meaning to sticky fingers.
The Warthogs Come for Dinner – a 1-minute video of fun
In one of the above photos is a Red-billed Oxpecker.
Can you find him?
Tomorrow, we head back to Kruger for an 8-day safari.
I predict many photos coming soon!
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
“Not all who wander are lost”.
~ J. R. R. Tolkien
Check out the other South Africa posts below:
South Africa Post #1: Our first Kruger National Park Safari
South Africa Post #2: Babysitting a Banded Mongoose Pup in Marloth Park
South Africa Post #3: When Zebras Visit
This is South Africa Post #4: Daily Living in Marloth Park, South Africa
South Africa Post #5: Kruger Restcamps: Skukuza, Satara and Olifants
South Africa Post #6: Kruger Safari: Full Moon over Letaba
South Africa Post #7: Kruger Safari: Treasure Hunting in Tamboti and Lower Sabie
South Africa Post #8: There’s a Mongoose in my Ear!
South Africa Post #9: Peering through God’s Window at Blyde River Canyon
South Africa Post #10: The Dam Boat Tour at Blyde River Canyon
South Africa Post #11: Rare Sexual Encounters of South Africa
South Africa Post #12: To the Wildlife of Marloth Park
South Africa Post #13: Nelspruit to Cape Town
South Africa Post #14: Moved to Tears on Freedom Day
South Africa Post #15: Penguins in South Africa?
South Africa Post #16: The Southernmost Tip of Africa
South Africa Post #17: Birds of Eden at Plettenberg Bay
South Africa Post #18: Dear South Africa: I love you, but…
South Africa Post #19: Elephants at Addo National Park
South Africa Post #20: The Garden Route: Nature’s Valley and Wilderness
South Africa Post #21: Endangered Bontebok
South Africa Post #22: Top Five Cape Town Experiences
South Africa Post #23: Chasing Rainbows in South Africa
South Africa Post #24: Vegan Wanderlust in South Africa
South Africa Post #25: Ubuntu
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Two million thanks!
Thanks for reading, and may your day be filled with the laughter
brought on by the chomping, chewing and sloppy sounds of warthogs who come to dinner.