Category Archives: Travels Around the World

Bourke’s Luck Potholes in Mpumalanga: Not All Potholes are Problematic!

                Do you go crazy trying to avoid all the potholes in spring? In Michigan, the winters are so brutal that by springtime roads are pocked with depressions where the ground has heaved, leaving broken asphalt and treacherous traps just waiting to pop the tires of unwary commuters. So, when we were told we were going to stop along the Panoramic Route between Kruger National Park and Johannesburg in South Africa to see “the potholes,” I wasn’t particularly impressed…until I saw them!  These potholes have been created by the confluence of the Treur & Blyde Rivers                                                      at Blyde River Canyon, where centuries of wear have formed deep, cylindrical depressions in the sandstone bedrock. They are indeed potholes, but they’re not the dangerous ones we see in America. These potholes are grand and spectacularly beautiful formations in layered shades of rust, amber, brown, and taupe.  Their name refers to Tom Bourke, who was an unsuccessful gold prospector in this area, but I think he found something better than gold! Today, tourists (like Alan and me) come from around the world to marvel at the natural beauty of this area. So, the next time you see a pothole in your road, please avoid it to be sure, but remember that some potholes can be beautiful. How about us? Is the wear and pressure in our lives revealing natural color and creating unique patterns of beauty in us, or are we becoming broken and depressed? God intends the floods of time and pressure to transform us (particularly at the confluence of ourselves with another “river”).He cutteth out rivers among the rocks; and his eye seeth every precious thing. He bindeth the floods from overflowing; and the thing that is hid bringeth he forth to light. But where shall wisdom be found? and where is the place of understanding? (Job 28:10-12)   But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour (Isaiah 43:1-3)

(All photos taken on our trip to South Africa at Burke’s Luck Potholes,  2016.)

Anticipating the View from God’s Window

“God’s Window” is in South Africa and was our first stop on the Panoramic Route between Kruger National Park and Johannesburg.* For  those of you who read my blog on a regular basis, you might notice that I haven’t written anything about Africa for a month, and that I have as yet to say one word about our safari in Kruger National Park, which is likely to be even more interesting to you than the view from God’s Window.

I apologize. At the most interesting sites, I take hundreds of photos,
and it takes hours…no days!…to choose and process the best to share. This requires unhurried days at home without any heaven-sent opportunities to interact with family and friends
(which often fill many days to overflowing).

That aside aside, I want to share three favorite stops along this famous Panoramic Route in the coming week before April begins and I try to finish telling tales from our adventures in Southeast Asia last spring. (I will return to African experiences sometime, though, because they were great!)Renier, our travel guide in Africa, explained that God’s Window was a special place in Mpumalanga along the Drakensberg escarpment where the cliffs drop over 2,200 feet to the “lowveld” (low grassland) below, opening up vistas of the entire Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve, and on a clear day you can see some 150 miles to the border of Mozambique!**                         That’s pretty close to “On a clear day you can see forever!”                                                   We were all super excited! Unfortunately, by the time we actually got there, clouds had filled the canyon and we couldn’t see anything but a sea of mist. So disappointing!  😦  But, how like life on earth! We have hopes and dreams and prayers for vision, and sometimes it does seem like we can see everything clearly from God’s window…from His perspective. However, other days our vision is totally obscured, and we have no clue what the future will hold. No matter how clear or cloudy the present is, may we keep calm and carry on with what we know to do (even if that means not going very far), waiting patiently for the clouds to lift and the Lord to give us more vision for the next steps in our journey.  And when the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys: But if the cloud were not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up (Exodus 40: 36-37).

(Photo credits: *First photo from South African Tourism: http://www.southafrica.net/za/en/articles/entry/article-southafrica.net-gods-window
**Photo from Wikipedia
I took the animal photos during our safari in Kruger National Park and the rest on our trip to God’s Window and along the Panoramic Route in South Africa.)

Get Me to the Church On Time…or On Line!

I have devout friends who never travel on the Sabbath in order to keep it holy and make sure they’re worshiping with their congregation at the appointed hour. I admire that, although Alan and I do not have such a firm conviction in that area. However, I strongly believe in “a day of rest” and the principle of consistency in corporate worship, so we often visit new churches wherever we are on Sunday. In Kauai, we enjoyed a church recommended to us by a friend who’d spent a summer there. It’s always enriching and a joy to share in new (and old) worship music, hear fresh perspectives on the scripture, and fellowship with believers we’ve never met before.* In South Africa, Alan and I had no clue where a good church might be, and so (thanks to the internet) we tuned in to our own church service at  http://calvarygr.org/sermons-resources/livestream-current-service/ . It’s not quite the same as singing along with thousands of other believers, but it’s still a great blessing! Last week was spring break, and we enjoyed some vacation time together combined with a medical meeting for Alan and a little family visiting time for me.  Our flight home was Sunday morning, but the timing worked out so that we could share a set of headphones at the airport and hear the best message I can ever remember on Romans 15:1, “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.” Pastor Jim told us that we have a moral obligation to bear patiently with the failings of those who are weak in faith and the sins they commit which cause us pain. Strong words and very challenging! I needed to hear that message.  So, may I share a simple encouragement? Whenever you’re on vacation (or at home!), don’t miss the opportunity for corporate worship, spiritual growth and communion with other believers. People need people! If you can’t make it to a church for some reason, try participating with some faithful church online. If your church doesn’t provide online services, I can heartily recommend ours—not as a “perfect” church, but as a church that does try to stay true to the teachings found in the Bible.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25, NIV)

(*I didn’t take any photos at the church in Kauai, but this is a photo of flowers and the handmade leis they gave us [and all visitors]!)

World’s Best (Only) Cheeseburger Meatloaf: And, You Can Eat It with One Hand Tied Behind Your Back!

kathi-and-alan-eating-cheeseburgers-in-paradise-lahaina-maui-hawaiiI love eating juicy cheeseburgers with all the trimmings, don’t you?  cheeseburger-in-paradise-lahaina-mauiHowever, sometimes they’re too big to eat, even with both hands.  tray-of-cheeseburgers-at-cheeseburger-in-paradise-lahaina-maui-hawaiiSometimes they’re even hard to carry, like this platter of specialty burgers…waiter-with-triple-cheeseburger-in-paradis-mauior this triple-decker monster they serve at Cheeseburger in Paradise on Maui. I’m certain I’d be sick if I ate their 1.5-pound glutton-stuffer, wouldn’t you?  huge-hamburger-africaOr, how about this amazing burger Alan and I ate (shared) in South Africa?

cheeseburger-in-paradise-bar-and-grill-lahaina-mauiAnyway, much as Alan and I love burgers, I’m always in pursuit of fewer calories per dining pleasure, and an extra 200+ calories for a big deli-style onion bun is something I’m willing to forego when we’re at home. Still, how do you eat a cheeseburger with all the good stuff and no bun? It was in that mindset that I developed my personalized recipe for one of the best meatloaves you’ll ever eat!

Your Favorite Cheeseburger Meatloaf:
(serves 4)

hamburger-and-egg1 pound ground burger
1 egg
1 cup bread crumbs (which you can leave out if you don’t mind the meatloaf crumbling a bit when you serve it; I leave them out, because I don’t mind). cheesburger-meatloaf-adding-veggiesNext, add everything you love to put on top of your burger (except lettuce)…like:
Pickles, onions, mushrooms, green peppers, tomato, pineapple…get creative, it’s your meatloaf!cheesburger-meatloaf-adding-condimentsAdd all your favorite condiments…no need to go easy, because they won’t be dripping down your arms! Relish, mustard, ketchup…?mayonnaise? etc?cheeseburger-meatloaf-adding-cheese-and-spicesMix thoroughly and then add a generous amount of salt, pepper, and your favorite seasonings. Top with your favorite cheese (or else whatever cheese you have around the house).cheeseburger-meatloaf-extra-ketchupMound into a pan and add more ketchup (if you like ketchup as much as we do),cheesburger-meatloaf-adding-cheese-on-topthen cap with an ample supply of cheese (if you like cheese as much as we do). cheesburger-meatloaf-after-bakingPop it in the oven for an hour at 350° (done when golden brown on top). Enjoy!

cheeseburger-meatloaf-1Actually, if you don’t have an hour to bake it as a meatloaf,
you can do the same thing in your frying pan cheeseburger-meatloaf-3and have it cooked in no longer than it would take
to grill the veggies and burgers.
You get all the flavor and save enough calories for dessert! (Did I say that??)

cheesburger-meatloaf-served-with-sidesFurthermore, you can eat it with just a fork and one hand tied behind your back. See?  What’d I tell you? No more embarrassing dates where you end up with ketchup on your nose and mustard juice running down your arm staining your new outfit! (Of course, you might still have an issue with the corn on the cob…)

I will praise the name of God with a song,
and will magnify him with thanksgiving
” (Psalm 69:30).

Riding Up the Na Pali Coast on a Blue Dolphin

kathi-on-south-coast-of-kauai-blue-dolphin-boat-toursWhat? You don’t think this is a blue dolphin? blue-dolphin-charter-ii-in-eleele-kauaiWell, truly it is: “The Blue Dolphin II” Charter catamaran! gorgeous-and-rugged-napali-coast And, here is Na Pali’s unbelievably romantic, misty coast! grand-hyatt-kauai-hawaiiThe Hawaiian Islands are the closest thing I’ve experienced
to “paradise on earth” (as far as visual beauty, comfort, and climate),valley-on-na-pali-coastand one of their most gorgeous islands is Kauai, “The Garden Island.” mists-along-na-pali-coastWithin Kauai lies the unique, ethereal Na Pali Coast, which is so rugged that no “Heavenly Hana Highway” can circumnavigate; it can only be accessed by boat! sail-in-the-sun-blue-dolphin-charters-kauaiLast week I tried to talk Alan into taking a ride with me, but he was afraid he’d get seasick in the 8-15′ waves, although he graciously encouraged me to go. na-pali-coast-kauaiIt was fabulous! waterfall-cascading-down-napali-coast-hawaiiNot only did we see incredibly beautiful scenery for hours, lucky-lady-catamaran-on-south-coast-of-kauaiwe stopped for a while scuba-divers-on-blue-dolphin-charter-cruise to go scuba diving snorkling-on-blue-dolphin-boat-toursswimming, or snorkeling along a remote reef area. fish-chasing-pretzels-off-south-shore-of-kauaiThis pristine swimming hole was teeming with colorful fish.sea-turtle-on-napali-coastThere was also a sea turtle swimming on the port side (left), a-pod-of-dolphins-in-hawaii and a pod of dolphins came to check us out on the starboard (right) side. fish-and-eels-underwater-na-pali-coast-kauaiTalk about fun!
na-pali-coast-inthe-distanceAfter this refreshing interlude, they served us breakfast,
and then we headed up the coast to see “the magic.” napali-coast-kauai-dragons-teethKauai and the Na Pali Coast are so idyllic
that they’ve been the used for filming many movies over the years: closeup-of-jagged-mountains-behind-beach-on-napali-coast-hawaiiPagan Love Song (starring Esther Williams back in 1950), waves-rolling-onto-sandy-beach-napali-coast-kauaiSouth Pacific (1958), Blue Hawaii (1961),valley-between-mountains-along-napali-coast-kauai Jurassic Park (1993), Outbreak (1995), set-for-famous-movies-along-napali-coast-hawaii and Pirates of the Caribbean 4 (2011). mist-on-the-mountains-na-pali-coast-kauaiAt high noon, we took a break from all the beauty lunch-on-blue-dophin-charter-catamaranand enjoyed a lunch of sandwiches made from fresh bakery bread
and deli meats, salads, drinks, and cookies. hidden-entry-to-valley-along-napali-coast-pirates-of-the-caribbeanAnd, because this post is getting so long, I’ll stop here for today, humpback-whale-starts-to-dive-napali-coast-kauaibut next week I hope to share the rest of my adventure, including a whale tale! sunshine-and-waterfall-along-kauais-na-pali-coastMeanwhile, wouldn’t you like to be able to live in paradise someday?  two-waterfalls-napali-coast-kauaiHe that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches;
To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the tree of life,
which is in the midst of the paradise of God
” (
Revelation 2:7).

A Few of My Favorite Birds (36): The Vulture Culture Experience…Really?!

zimbabwe-african-christmas-tree-vulturesEver hear of an African Christmas tree? This is what it looks like.vultures-in-african-christmas-treeDozens of vultures roosting in a dead tree,
just waiting for some dead meat for lunch. vultures-fighting-over-food-zimbabwe-africaDoesn’t sound very pretty, does it? And…who likes vultures, anyway? vulture-high-on-a-snag-chobe-national-parkAren’t they sort of the offscourings of the world? the-vulture-culture-experience-at-victoria-falls-safari-lodgeWell, all that changed for me when we went to Africa
and discovered that vultures have gotten a bad rap. vulture-in-flight-african-birdsThey are so universally considered disreputable that they have been mistreated until they’re the world’s #1 endangered species.the-vulture-culture-experience-at-victoria-falls-safari-lodge-information I had no clue. vultures-in-zimbabwe-11-8-16Furthermore, they are an important part of our ecosystem,
serving as the world’s morticians and garbage collectors.vultures-and-bonesPolishing off carcasses ASAP helps prevent diseases from spreading.vultures-drinking-water-chobe-national-park-11-10-16 So fierce has been their persecution and demise that I’ve had a change of heart toward them, and they’re now on my “favorite birds” list. vultures-gather-in-dead-tree-zimbabwe-afrcian-safari-lodgeLet me tell you about our vulture culture experience.vultures-eating-lunch-at-the-victoria-falls-safari-lodge-zimbabweEver hear of a restaurant that caters to vultures by serving free carcasses?  victoria-falls-safari-lodgeWell, neither had I until we stayed at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge
in Zimbabwe, victoria-falls-wildlife-trust-vulture-restaurant-11-7-16where they have started working with Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust
to help save vultures from extinction. watching-the-vulture-culture-experience-at-the-african-safari-lodgeEvery day at 1:00 pm they serve up yummy carcasses
at their “Vulture Restaurant.”debris-blowing-in-wind-zimbabwe It was very windy the day we watched, but pretty soon the debris and leaves vultures-gathering-overhead-in-zimbabwegave way to the air being filled with circling vultures, vultures-coming-for-lunchwho knew it was almost time for some claw-licking’ good fine dinin’.vulture-culture-experience-zimbabweA few minutes before 1:00, the waiter arrived with a load of gourmet delights.vultures-wait-for-food-at-victoria-falls-safari-lodgeI was surprised at how politely the vultures awaited their luncheon party. vultures-getting-ready-for-lunch-zimbabweAs the crowd grew, there was definitely an electric feeling…great expectations!vulture-restaurant-victoria-falls-safari-lodgeGet on your mark, get set…vulture-feeding-frenzy-victoria-falls-lodge-zimbabweGooooooo!!!vultures-eating-meatA feeding frenzy followed for about fifteen minutes,vultures-with-marabou-storks-and-wart-hogs-eatingreplete with party crashers, in particular some gangly marabou storkswart-hogs-join-the-vulture-culture-partyand a couple of Pumba’s cousins…totally muddied warthogs.vulture-culture-experience-africaIf you’ll forgive the comparison…we humans can be a little like vultures. vultures-circling-in-skySometimes it’s easier to live off others
than it is to work hard providing for ourselves.vulturesSome people become very unpopular and develop bad reputations.serving-meat-at-the-vulture-culture-experienceI am thankful that God is a kind Father who provides for all who will come. warthogs-feasting-with-vultures-africaHe doesn’t turn anyone away…no matter how awkward, dirty or ugly we are!vultures-eating-at-victoria-falls-safari-lodgeFurthermore, He encourages us to do the same for those who need our help.

victoria-falls-safari-lodge-vulture-restaurantBut I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:44-45).

A Few of My Favorite Birds (35): Africa’s Golden “Cape Weaver” Birds

ploceus-capensis-african-weaver-bird-hanging-upside-downWhile visiting North Uthungulu in South Africa, tourist-shopping-center-in-north-uthunguluwe stopped at a strip mall (aka little souvenir location built for tourists). hovels-by-road-in-north-uthunguluI usually tried to buy something home-in-north-uthungulu to help support the local artisans, cape-weaver-weaving-his-nestbut this time I was so taken by the birds that I could hardly take my eyes off them long enough to look for soaps, candles, or glassware! cape-weaver-bird-weaving-with-his-beak-using-grassA really squawky colony of brilliantly arrayed Cape weaver birds
were busily making nests in a tree along the path, brilliantly-colored-cape-weaver-bird-south-africaand they immediately captured my attention, cape-weaver-bird-south-africabecause I’d never seen anything quite like them before. cape-weaver-bird-s-a-11-2-16In fact, there are weaver birds in some tropical areas of Asia and Australia,
but weaver birds are most common in sub-Saharan Africa, colony-of-cape-weaver-birdswhere they tend to live in colonies of 2-20 gregarious (though fiercely territorial) males and how-many-ever females they attract. ploceus-capensis-african-weaver-bird-in-tree Male Cape weavers (Ploceus capensis) are about 7 inches long,
have long, conical bills (good for weaving and for sucking nectar).intricate-nest-of-cape-weaver-birdThe males are especially colorful during the long mating season,
which lasts from June to February and peaks during the rainy season. cape-weaver-bird-in-treeDuring the mating season, Cape weaver males are decked out
with golden underparts and orange faces, olive-drab-back-of-weaver-birdsalthough their heads and back are more olive drab in coloring
(which is also the year-round color of females and young chicks.) cape-weaver-making-nestThese talented guys weave intricate, kidney-shaped nests
out of grass, reeds, and leafy fibers to attract prospective mates. kidney-bean-shaped-cape-weaver-bird-nestTheir nests have small, downward-facing entrances and are fully waterproof. cape-weaver-bird-in-nestInterested females test the construction quality by tugging at the interior walls, and if a nest makes the young lady feel snug and secure, father-cape-weaver-bird-helps-feed-youngshe’ll adopt it for the season, mating with her benefactor. colony-of-cape-weaver-birds-north-uthungulu-south-africaUnlike most birds, Cape weavers are polygynous, and one male may build
and therefore entice up to seven mates during any one season. cape-weaver-bird-with-nestEach female spends a couple of weeks brooding her clutch of 2-5 eggs.
She stays the first few nights with the chicks after they hatch, unused-nest-of-cape-weaver-birdbut then she roosts close by in one of the unused nests. cape-weaver-birds-south-africaAlthough the females initially care for the chicks, ploceus-capensis-african-weaver-bird-making-nestas they get older, the males help out with their own chicks,
which must keep them extremely busy for awhile! empty-nest-of-african-cape-weaver-bird-11-2-16Happily, in about 17 days the fledglings are big enough to find their own suppers of seeds, fruit, nectar, unsuspecting small spiders, and insects,
and the parents become empty nesters.

Are you an empty nester? Do you have a home? Keeping up a home seems like a never-ending job to me. Have you considered Jesus, who worked constantly—much harder than the energetic weaver birds—to prepare spiritual homes for “whosoever will”? Still, despite his tireless work, he never had a nest of his own, because He was too busy helping others!

The Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them…
Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests;
but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head
(Luke 9:56, 58).

(If you want to hear what Cape Weaver birds sound like, this is from YouTube):