Africa & the Middle East Forums

Start a new topic Change Forum
Advanced search

Looking for a single, comprehensive trip report from Roccco & Scaredtodeath

Jump to last reply

I guess maybe I'm being lazy, but after all us regulars lived through every day of Roccco making his trip plans and shared his excitement over the ether, I would love to see a single, comprehensive report on the trip (once the jet lag and whatever bug Roccco picked up have passed). So Roccco how about it?
And for Scaredtodeath - I LOVED your report on Vuyatela simply for the sass! I could just picture you picking up the neareast cushion or other soft furnishing and hitting Roccco over the head with it. :))

  • Report Abuse

    Traci,

    I don't think STD (hehe) has the patience to write a comprehensive trip report so you will have to settle for mine! :)

    I really do not know where to begin. This was SUCH a different trip than last year's trip of:

    Joburg (1) - Rosebank Hotel
    Sabi Sand (3) - Singita Boulders
    Cape Town (4) - Table Bay Hotel
    Victoria Falls (5) - Matetsi (4), Victoria Falls Hotel (1)
    Cape Town (3) - Mount Nelson Hotel

    Just to recap, this year's trip was:

    Joburg (2) - Michelangelo Hotel
    South Luangwa, Zambia (5) - Kafunta River Lodge (3), Kafunta Island Bush Camp (2)
    Cape Town (4) - Twelve Apostles (4)
    Cape Winelands (1) - Lanzerac Manor
    Sabi Sand - Vuyatela (3)

    Although my trip this year was a couple nights less, I think I planned it much better and it really flowed well. STD loved Vuyatela and probably would not wish to go anywhere else in the future.

    I, on the other hand, LOVED South Luangwa, and while I am not necessarily committed to Kafunta, I would return there in a heartbeat. However, there is a new upscale lodge being built by one of the Kafunta owners friends that will feature very upscale rooms, fancy china and linens and even massage. I could go for some of that, for sure, especially if the price is not too out of line with Kafunta and Kaingo.

    When you are in South Luangwa, you KNOW you are in Africa. Right from the time you leave the Mfuwe Airport, the experience begins! For one hour you pass through small roadside villages that are nothing more than a few huts placed together and in a few select places you will see small stores and even a couple bars.

    The children in Zambia RUN to the side of the road to enthusiastically wave and it is so cool. Because our flight was delayed about 3.5 hours in Lusaka, we arrived in Mfuwe at about 5:15PM and we had the privilege of having the sun go down on our way to Kafunta. All along the side of the road, for the length of the trip, there were numerous small fires so that the villagers could have better sight of the elephants that roamed the proximity.

    It is NOTHING like landing at Hoedspruit and driving through a CITY to get to the Sabi Sand. Last year by flying a charter directly into Singita, I was really misled about how much I really was in the bush. Really, you leave the Sabi Sand and 30 minutes away you are back in a populated city.

    PART II to follow...

  • Report Abuse

    Not to jump all over the place but I will now back up to the beginning of the trip and try to keep it somewhat in chronological order.

    Our flight over was really a tough one for me. Originally we were scheduled to go from LAX-JFK-JNB with no other scheduled stops. However, five days prior to my trip, I was notified by my agent that the JFK flight was cancelled and now only flew out every other day. I had my choice of flying out a day earlier or later but that would mess up my whole itenerary so I opted for the only other choice of flying LAX-Atlanta-JNB. What I did not realize at the time that the flight was really LAX-ATL-Cape Verde-Cape Town-JNB. This added about five hours to my flying time and for the duration of my trip, my DVD monitor did not work and I only had the patience to read for maybe 2-3 hours and sleep for 2-3 hours of the entire 24+ hours of flying.

    We arrived at JNB at about noontime and headed straight to our hotel, the Michelangelo Hotel. Last year, being in Rosebank, we did not have an opportunity to see Sandton. Instead, last year we went to some nearby atrocity called the Randburg (?) Waterfront, an outdoor mall centered around a manmade lake that has since been closed for demolition, thank God.

    Sandton is a really beautiful place. At once it is sad that we didn't feel safe to venture outside Sandton, but at the same time there is really no need to venture outside of Sandton while in Joburg, except possibly to do a Soweto tour.

    Our room at the Michelangelo was AMAZING. I bought the room on Luxury Link, a four night package in a junior suite that included all breakfasts, champagne and fresh flowers in the room, one dinner at the Picolo Mondo and private transfers to and from the airport in one of the hotels private cars (mostly Volvo and Mercedes, it seems).

    I negotiated with the hotel prior to my trip to upgrade me to a Premier Suite, instead of the Junior Suite, and in exchange I shortened my stay by two nights since I wasn't interested in staying in Joburg any longer than that period of time.

    The Michelangelo Hotel is in Sandton Square and we literally walked out of the hotel and into the mall, exactly like the Table Bay Hotel connects to the Waterfront in Cape Town. We enjoyed a nice lunch at Bukhara's and just explored Sandton Square for a couple hours.

    We saw billboards for a theater production called "The Green Mamba" that was playing right in the 100 seat Liberty Theater in Sandton Square and bought tickets for this live performance for a mere 80 Rand per person. Although much of the show centered around South African culture, my wife and I were able to pick up about 80% since we are vaguely aware of South African culture/politics.

    PART III to follow...

  • Report Abuse

    We were not really hungry for dinner since we had a late lunch and just grabbed some coffee and dessert prior to our theater visit.

    By the time the show ended around 9:30 PM, we were exhausted and went straight to bed. Our room had a separate living room, TWO bathrooms, with the master bathroom being really nice and a nice spacious bedroom (with a TV both in the living room and in the bedroom).

    We were awake by 5AM, partly out of hunger but mostly out of jetlag and we counted the minutes until our 7AM breakfast downstairs at the Picolo Mondo, passing the time with some retarded movie or other that was good for some sophmoric laughs.

    Our breakfast was great. We were the only ones at the restaurant that early but the food was perfectly arranged for the continental buffet and for my hot breakfast I feasted on Ostrich Eggs and Warthog Sausage, and that was about as adventurous as my palate allowed for the duration of the trip.

    By 8AM we were downstairs at the business center, taking advantage of our free internet usage that I negotiated with the hotel, while we awaited our 9AM Soweto tour.

    Our tour guide arrived promptly at 9AM and he was a very nice 45 (?) year old Afrikaans man named Johan. He used to have his own construction company but he found that with the new rules and regulations of the New South Africa that he was much better off being a tour guide.

    Johan told us that the majority of whites in Joburg had never, TO THIS DAY, dared step foot in Soweto, and that many people thought that he was crazy for doing so. While he had his opinions, this in no way negatively impacted the Soweto tour. As business owners, my wife and I share many of the same frustrations with employee relations, so it made for good conversation and helped develop a good rapport.

    We visited the grave of Hector Peterson, the 13-year old South African student shot and killed in 1976 during a demonstration to protest apartheid laws in South Africa, as well as the museum that showed the struggle against Apartheid. All the photos inside were actually once secret government files.

    From there we visited "Nelson Mandela's house." I paranthesize this because this house was never really Nelson Mandela's actual house, since it was burned down a couple times and rebuilt more as a tourist trap, than anything else. Our guide was not allowed to escort us through and instead one of the guides that worked there escorted us through the house and after showing us certain things, she paused as if she was awaiting some dramatic expression from us, when all I could think of was that THIS was not Nelson Mandela's house!

    From there we passed by Winnie Mandela's current home, a compound really, with armed guards outside, and from the number of armed guards (about five), our guide judged that she was home at the time.

    We finished our Soweto tour with a stop at Wandie's Place and although STD was too STD to initially eat, I gave it a try and after the guide told STD this was the kind of food that he ate everyday at home, she also tried a plate. It was not bad although I don't think Wandie's will ever need to keep a permanent table waiting for me.

    We didn't do much that afternoon. STD got a facial and massage and I explored the Sandton Mall before hooking up for our inclusive dinner at the Picolo Mondo.

    All in all we really enjoyed our time in Sandton and the Michelangelo and found it superior to spending one night in Rosebank as we did last year.

    The next morning we said goodbye to Joburg and left to catch an 8AM flight to Mfuwe (South Luangwa) connecting in Lusaka.

    PART IV to follow...

  • Report Abuse

    Our flight to Lusaka was a short 1 hour 45 minute flight on a Boeing 737, I believe. We were scheduled for only a 90 minute stopover, but lo and behold, our flight was delayed by 4 hours!

    50% of Zambian Airways fleet went down that day, in this case, one out of their two planes. Our plane was actually right in front of us, but Zambian Airways sent it away empty to Harare to pick up passengers that were stranded when the other plane went down.
    It was frustrating, to say the least, to see our plane fly all the way to Harare, five minutes before boarding was scheduled to begin. There is NOTHING to do at the Lusaka Airport and unless you want to pay $20 USD each way to get into a somewhat suspect capital city (safety wise), then, like us, you are probably going to opt to stay in your seat for the next 4 hours.

    I did go upstairs to the bar and had a beer, but I found it very painful to watch the preteen American midwestern boy play pool against the equally sized African man, possibly the two worst pool players I have ever seen. While I am no Minnesota Fats, and I have only picked up a pool cue a few times in my life, I knew that these two were something else and I found sitting in the booth with the two of them playing pool a few feet away, the equivalent of voluntarily sitting in a classroom while someone rakes their fingernails up and down the chalkboard.

    Our Raytheon Beechcraft 1900D finally made its way back from Harare and we boarded the plance at just before 4PM.
    It was a smooth and quick ride to Mfuwe, but the delay cost us our evening game drive.

    We, along with another couple from London, were picked up at the Mfuwe Airport by our ranger, Rocky. We didn't even manage to get out of the airport parking lot, before we heard a crashing sound inside the vehicle and our Land Cruiser died! After about 10 minutes, our ranger was able to fix the problem and we were off to Kafunta.

    The ride was a very nice experience, as it began to darken and we drove on a road lined with many small villages and half of the roadside bush seemed to be burning, creating a mysterious smoky atmosphere that only complemented the approaching sunset.

    We were greeted at Kafunta, by one of the owners and sat with her and the couple from London and had a drink with them for about 30 minutes before going to our room to prepare for dinner.

    The scenery at Kafunta was absolutely beautiful. There are eight chalets at the main lodge, the Kafunta River Lodge and they are on raised stilts to protect against floods and hippos, but surrounded by grass and a variety of mature trees.

    Besides the British couple, there was a trio of Americans but they were sort of strange and it was immediately apparent from all concerned that conversation with the baboons would likely be more productive. The British couple, however, were really nice and the guy was hilarious...the sort that is just able to deadpan these one-liners on command, a couple that would end up being used on the American trio. He and STD really enjoyed going back and forth with their banter and I was glad that STD found a way to entertain herself sans telephone and internet! ;)

    Once STD brought up the subject of British comic, Ali G, that seemed to occupy about 50% of the dialogue for the next two days with Ali G imitations being served up all around.


    PART V to follow...

  • Report Abuse

    We had a mediocre dinner that was completely acceptable to me (this IS Zambia, after all) but that didn't sit well with STD. Just the same, we could probably each use about six months worth of Zambian cuisine to regain our college physiques, so it didn't really bother STD that much.

    At 3AM, I was jarred from a very deep sleep by STD after she heard something munching behind our heads, right outside our thatched chalet. Once I got up, I saw that there was a full grown hipppo that was probably not more than two meters from our heads as it munched away on the grass. We stayed up for the remainder of the morning.

    That morning was our initial game drive. Kafunta is located right outside the South Luangwa National Park but it still takes about 30 minutes to get in the park. 20 of those minutes is spent driving to the "pontoon" crossing and 10 more minutes is actually on the pontoon, driving the vehicle onto what is really nothing more than a small barge or trailer and then being rowed across the hippo-infested Luangwa River by Zambian government employees.

    Although our first game drive was not very productive, game-wise, it exposed the natural beauty of the South Luangwa Valley and we saw countless Puku's, Impala's, a few Buffalo, numerous birds of every size and our first Thornicroft Giraffe, a species that is only found in the South Luangwa National Park.

    We returned for our mediocre brunch (Kafunta serves coffee or tea with only some cookies or pastries prior to the morning game drive and then has an 11AM brunch). The good thing about Kafunta, is that the game drives lasted 4+ hours both in the morning and night.

    Our night drive departed at 4PM and that night, our second night but first night drive since we arrived late the first night, we saw two separate leopards. One of the more fascinating things that I saw on this trip was when the leopard that we had the spotlight on, unknowingly seemed to pass by an Impala or Puku that was hiding not more than 10 feet away as it crossed. We were following the leopards eyes with the spotlight when a second set of eyes, became visible to us but not to the leopard.

    That night we had a festive dinner and drinks with our British friends, although the awkward American trio was also seated with us, along with our ranger and one of the owners.

    The next morning we exchanged emails and said goodbye to the Brits for our long 3.5 hour journey on one of the worst roads imaginable to the Kafunta Island Bush Camp. Sports Bras and Athletic Supporters should definitely be passed around for this ride, but the scenery was beautiful, nonetheless, and we did encounter 12 Thornicroft Giraffe together along the way.

    We did have to make a crossing on a large kayak to get to the Island Bush Camp, getting very close to a couple pods of 20+ hippo.

    The setting of the Island Bush Camp is amazing. You almost think that you are on the Zambezi River instead of the Luangwa, and not more than a few seconds pass before you hear the hippos grunting nearby and the various birds singing all around.

    We were greeted by the managing couple--a 32 year old South African guy that was a bit too heavy on the sarcasm and cigarettes, and his 26 year old New Zealander wife. Imagine Dennis Miller, Edward Norton and Russell Crowe all rolled into one and that was the guy (2/3 of that combo is hard to tolerate).

    We did have some excellent exchanges with the managing couple, however, and took a great interest in their past experience in the bush...well, I did, STD had nothing in common with them and found it difficult to remain on her best behaivor! :) I did think that they were a bit too self-absorbed (and that is our job as paying guests) and found their chain smoking habits annoying.

    However, the beauty of the camp made up for it and we were served a braii (sp.?) each night, a very slight upgrade from the food at the other camp.

    This camp was strictly game walks and STD even went on one while I did three game walks.

    The true highlight, however, was the camps location and the actual rooms which were nothing more than thatched walls that only went up four feet, with the remainder open to the outside, but with a mosquito net surrounding the twin beds. There were flushing toilets and a nice shower that had about a 10 gallon bucket of heated water overhead that proved to be completely sufficient.

    There was no electricity in the camp and we operated completely off kerosene lamps and for the cooking only fire. The one talent that the managing woman had was baking bread and I must say that the bread, was great and far superior to the bread we had at Vuyatela and even some of the restaurants in Cape Town.

    The game walks were exciting at first but then grew a little frustrating when you realized that close encounters with predators or elephants was unlikely. Instead I learned that hyena dung is white, that Impala's dung is in little pellets and that the locals engage in impala dung spitting for distance contests, and I learned to identify a variety of animal tracks. Still, it was fun for two days.

    We returned for a final night at Kafunta River Lodge and on the way back encountered a couple elephants along with other game.

    On my final day, I enjoyed a couple beers by the natural hot spring while I continued to read Dark Star Safari half-heartedly, as the author continued to talk trash about our sort that go into Africa "on safari" but never really see African people, other than the ones that serve us. Whatever...to me while he is a great storyteller he is also a crotchety old man that is lashing out at others in response to the 60th birthday that he had approaching.

    Anyway, the final night game drive was spent with a PharmD couple, each professors, she an American from New York, he a Zambian now residing in the USA but back for a monthlong visit with his family in Lusaka. They were okay, I guess, but a little too anal for still being in their late 20's.

    Almost immediately in the game drive we came across a pride of 8+ lions and cubs. First we came across three cubs and a couple lionesses that were babysitting and later we came across a trio that was out hunting that DID NOT appreciate our presence! We probably approached within 10 feet of the hunting lionesses and after a couple seconds, the nearest one got up quickly, and for one heartsinking moment, took a first step towards us before turning the opposite direction. Not that it would have mattered, but the private game park rangers in South Luangwa are not permitted to carry firearms.

    On the same gamedrive we saw a few elephants, giraffes, zebras, buffalo, etc. We saw just about everything that the South Luangwa had to offer that night.

    For me, Kafunta was a really great experience. With mature Baobab and Sausage trees towering all over the South Luangwa and the Luangwa River never far away, it was a beautiful locale. Plus, the price was right. Even with our flight from JNB-Lusaka-Mfuwe, it was still less expensive than most every game lodge in the Sabi Sand while offering a much more genuine safari experience. Lastly, the people we met at Kafunta, whether we liked them all or not, were a much better travelled group than the seven Texan stewardesses at Vuyatela. Can you even imagine??? "Y'all are sitting right where the smoke is blowing...Sure you don't want to move on the other side of the fire?" Uh, no, I think I will die a quick death of smoke inhalation rather than a slow death of Y'alls on the other side of the fire with y'all.

    PART VI to follow TOMORROW!!! Time for my two hours of sleep as I try to get rid of this jetlag.

  • Report Abuse

    I also hoped for a short trip report. Instead it is so long. I guess you cannot help yourself, Roccccccccccco. Have a nice trip and hope one day you will understand what a short trip report is.

  • Report Abuse

    I agree with "dlm" - I love reading all the details from your trip. Thanks for taking the time to post such a comprehensive report, Rocco. I look forward to your second installment.

  • Report Abuse

    My family has never had the good fortune to visit Africa. We are arm chair travellers, so we loved Roccco's report. The details are fascinating, and I hope he will follow this with even more. If we ever do get to go there I know some great ideas just coming form what he says about his trip. It was really interesting.

  • Report Abuse

    Y'all don't like Texans?? :) Ah, c'mon, they were just trying to be nice. How do you know they weren't well traveled? A lot of people (moi included) get in the airline business just so they can travel.

  • Report Abuse

    I have to admit, I also really found your trip report very interesting, so far. The great detail you go to does give one a good sense of what it was like. I am looking forward to the rest of your report. Most interested in Cape Town and visit with Selwyn.

  • Report Abuse

    Rocco - printed out your entire report (so far) and took to read as I caught some sun (after the monsoons we've had in NYC these past few weeks, had to get out into the sun).

    Glad that no one was sitting close by 'cause I was howling at some of your tales, especially the Hippo grazing by your tent - could definitely get the adrenaline going.

    When we visited Kenya, we had the same experience as you did in Zambia, with the children running to the roadside to greet us. Amazing how they could hear a vehicle from miles away and be there as you passed or stopped.

    Can you tell me what city you passed after arriving at Hoedspruit on way to Sabi Sand? The only thing we passed was the Hoedspruit Research Center where they care for endangered cheetah and other cats, any all we saw was the security fence - not any sign of civilization. And when we left Sabi Sand, we drove on terrible roads past some local villages (no City) and once on blacktop only beautiful scenery until we got to a town called Gaskop (sp), and that was about 3-hrs. later.

    Like you, when we visited in '01, a few months after 9/11 our flight schedule was changed - we had to leave a day earlier. It was good that our plans for first and last day were fluid and easily adjusted. This is something I do regardless where I travel "just in case".

    After 4 trips to Africa, I still have a problem with these early morning game drives. I "don't do early" very well; though I'm up at crack of dawn or earlier, I prefer my breakfast (even if only juice, coffee and toast) relaxed. And the idea of brunch at 11am and no meal until afternoon tea (coffee, snacks) maybe at 4pm and dinner after 8pm, I'm not a happy camper. While my travel partner did "do early" on some days, most often we arranged to go out after breakfast about 9:30am and stay out till lunch, which we ate at 1pm. And strangely, the three times I did early drives, we were often disappointed in animal sightings - finding lots of animals still sleeping. That is except for our Leopard sighting which we spent about 3-hrs tracking and even saw her being attacked by a baboon.

    Great story about the various animal dung, but did you have the opportunity to put your hand on fresh elephant dung? Disgusting at the thought, but one of our guides coaxed us to do so and I'm still amazed that I dipped my manicured nails. I still shudder thinking about it, but I did. The best though was watching two land snails "doing it" right in the middle of the road (got a great photo of this).

    Bye the way, what kind of business do you and STD have?

    Looking forward to the continuing story -----.

  • Report Abuse

    Sandi,

    We went through the Gowrie Gate into the Sabi Sand Reserve. Vuyatela was very close, possibly within 2 kilometers from the Gowrie Gate and to get to the Gowrie Gate we went through a town that seemed to have at least 5,000 people with a supermarket, a shopping mall and street vendors, along with goats and cattle on the road.

    Regarding our professions, I have my own company (with my brother and dad) and our company installs traffic signals and street lighting throughout Southern California, working for the various municipalities and the State of California.

    STD and I own a couple Residential Care Facilities for the Eldery (RCFE's) that specialize in Alzheimer's care. STD is the administrator and does 95% of the work for that business. They are just six bed residential homes but are like a Bed and Breakfast quality and they are completely private pay, as it is hard to enough to provide quality care when people are paying 5 times the amount that Social Security would pay.

    I look forward to some sleep and if I cannot sleep then I will continue on with my reports which I believe will pick up on our arrival back in Johannesburg for our layover on the way to Cape Town. Some interesting stuff coming up in there. Stay tuned! :)

  • Report Abuse

    Roccco-
    Was the jet lag that bad? I've been to Australia and Europe and everyone warned me before those trips that I would feel like hell for a few days. The Australia travel WAS grueling, by the time I flew home from Sydney-LAX- New Orleans, I was probably drooling in my sleep on the passenger next to me, but I was pleasantly surprised how very quickly I bounced back. And you're a young buck as I recall - 30 something? I'm 40-something.

  • Report Abuse

    Off To Africa,

    South Africa is probably the furthest place in the world from Los Angeles. The day started with an early morning 3.5 hour game drive, a nearly 1.5 hour transfer to the airport (Hoedspruit), followed by waiting one hour for the actual flight, followed by a 4.5 hour layover in Joburg, followed by a 1 hour layover in Cape Verde, followed by a very rushed custom clearing 1 hour 15 minute stopover in JFK, and ended with a 5+ hour flight from JFK-LAX on a plane with a little league team and worse yet their obnoxious parents (THESE are the types of parents that physically attack the umpires).

    From the time we left Vuyatela to the time we arrived at our front door (home), it was just a tad under 35 hours. No matter what age a person is, that is a rough trip.

    The only reason why I was able to even stay up last night was because I ran for the first time in nearly a month and couldn't sleep after that.

    I hope to continue my trip report later tonight.

  • Report Abuse

    PART VI

    Upon our departure from Kafunta, STD exchanged information with our ranger. It is his desire to have his young daughter be an exchange student in the USA for a year. One night when the British couple was with us, we had to go pick up Danger, a Zambian armed soldier that was assigned to escort my wife and I to the Island Bush Camp for our game walks. Danger lived in the same little village as our ranger and upon hearing that we were all insistent that our ranger take a few minutes to stop and say hello to his wife and children.

    Our ranger invited us in his humble little home and we met his wife and children, one of them the cute 4 year old daughter. After hearing about his wish for his daughter to spend a year in the USA, STD did not hesitate to offer ourselves as the host family if he was able to take care of all the visas, etc.

    Although STD was happy to get out of South Luangwa, I would have preferred one more night to make it feel more complete. Upon checkout, I saw a flier that one of the owners was preparing to mail out, I suppose, that advertised last minute rates for Kafunta of only $120 per person per night if booked within one month prior to arrival, and at that rate I would have jumped at the opportunity if I could have stayed another night. But if you have to leave a place you love, what better place to go than Cape Town???

    Our flight from Mfuwe to Lusaka got bumped up a couple hours, costing us our final morning game drive and meaning that we would likely have a 4 hour layover in Lusaka, my least favorite airport in the world, to date.
    Fortunately, upon arrival in Lusaka, we were able to get on an earlier flight that left Lusaka a full 2.5 hours before our originally scheduled flight.

    We arrived in Johannesburg 2.5 hours early and on a busy holiday weekend. All earlier flights were completely full and when we were told that we would be #22 and #23 on a waiting list for a flight departing four hours before our original flight (4PM instead of 8PM) AND that we would have to forfeit our original seats if we wanted to be included on the waiting list, we thought better of it and decided to hang onto our original flight.

    STD recognized an SAA manager, a big Afrikaans guy, at the airport that had been a great help to us last year, and I thought it was stupid that she went up and thanked a person that would not even remember what she was talking about. STD insisted however and approached him and thanked him for his help from last year.

    We attempted to check in our baggage at around 2PM for our 8PM flight but the SAA representative refused to allow us to do so. We would be stuck with our backage for 5.5 hours until boarding time and we had just retrieved a couple of our bags from the downstairs luggage storage facility. We were not happy about this because we had intended to go to Sandton for lunch and now had all this luggage in tow.

    We went back and forth with the SAA counter rep for a couple minutes but we were getting nowhere. Just when we thought our efforts were futile, who should appear? It was the same Afrikaans guy that my wife had just thanked five minutes before. He angrily asked the SAA agent what the problem was and then proceeded to kick the agent in the butt and directed him to check in our luggage immediately! :)

    I am sure this would not have happened had STD not went up to him and thanked him for his help from last year.

    Freed from our luggage, I went to the ATM to get some Rand for our taxi to Sandton. At first I tried a withdrawal of 2,000 Rand, a number that I had to punch in myself. Unsuccessful, I thought that I probably just needed to go with one of their preselected limits, so I then chose 1,000 Rand.
    Unsuccessful again, I began to worry now and even switched ATM machines, thinking something must be wrong with this banks ATM.

    I went all the way down to 500 Rand and when that was unsuccessful I immediately went to a phone and called my bank in the USA to check my balance.
    When we left Joburg for our South Luangwa trip, the balance had been around $3,000 USD. When I checked my balance, five days later, my balance was $24.00 USD!!!

    Once a got a live banker on the phone, we went through the charges. $600 USD at some wholesale liquor outlet in Joburg...$350 on video games in Joburg...$500 on furniture in Joburg, and around $1,500 in other charges.

    I could not even believe my ears and STD was furious. We had no idea who stole our credit card info. Did we throw away some receipts at the Michelangelo Hotel? Did an employee at Bukhara's restaurant steal our info? Was it the cute young clerk that I bought some African themed baby clothes from in Sandton Square that stole my information? Could it have possibly been our tour guide? Was it Wandies Place in Soweto? There were too many charges to possibly figure out who stole our credit card info and used it to drain our account. Because it was a Visa bank debit card, we learned that it was the least secure way to pay and the easiest for someone to commit fraud with.

    Both STD and I were just disgusted with the situation and instead of going to Sandton, we spent the next 90 minutes on the phone with our bank, filing claims against these charges and explaining that we were not even in the country and had passport stamps and visas to prove it. Nonetheless, there would have to be an investigation and for now that account had $24.00 and my card had been frozen.

    Thank God that I had my American Express card. Still, the last thing I wanted to do was get a cash advance so STD and I just made due with the $1,000 cash that we had for the duration of the trip and charged the American Express whereever we could.

    We ended up hanging around the airport and had a somber little lunch in the food court. STD, as always took it worse than I did. I figured what's done is done and I wasn't going to let it ruin even my day yet less the remainder of my holiday.

    At around 7:45PM, after a cumbersome 5.5 hours at the Joburg airport, it was finally time to board.

  • Report Abuse

    PART VII

    After an uneventful flight we arrived in Cape Town at about 10:30PM. Our transfer was our own responsibility and I agreed to a flat rate of 230 Rand with a taxi driver to take us to the Twelve Apostles Hotel.

    The Twelve Apostles is about five minutes past Camps Bay, right before Llandudno. Personally, I loved the location for its exclusivity.

    The hotel was very nice. STD, not satisfied with the $555 total price that I procured from Luxury Link for our four night stay, tried to be coy and act as if we did not have reservations to see if she could get a better rate. For the same type of room, STD was successful in getting a $500 USD quotation. The only problem was that her price was PER NIGHT and my $555 USD was for FOUR NIGHTS, including all breakfasts, a dinner, high tea and champagne/fresh flowers in our room.

    Finally satisfied that I had done a very good job with my Luxury Link package, she revealed that we were here on the Luxury Link package. Through many communications and schedule changes, we were not even being expected until four days later, but the front desk manager was very helpful and with a few drags and clicks on his computer was able to put us right in Room 103, a beautiful room, as close as possible to the ocean, separated only by about 10 meters of landscaping and 15 meters wide of highway.

    Our room was very sizeable, I would estimate about 800 square feet (80 sq. meters?) with a living room, nice sized bedroom and nice sized bathroom, not to mention an incredible balcony overlooking the ocean. Given its location, besides Singita, this was probably the nicest room that we had ever received at a hotel. Like excited children we reveled in the fact that not only were we staying in 5* hotels now, but that we were now staying at suites at 5* hotels and doing so at such a bargain price.

    Had I any idea that the Twelve Apostles was this nice, I would have surely booked another 4 night package and stayed 8 consecutive nights and possibly skipped Cape Town and the Sabi Sand while adding a couple nights in the South Luangwa. Now I received GREAT prices for this trip, but if I had 8 nights in a seafacing suite at the Twelve Apostles for $1,100 USD and seven nights at Kafunta for $2,400 USD (adding two nights at last second rates to get to this total), that would have been amazing.

    The front desk manager offered us a complimentary drink and while STD opted for an Earl Grey tea, I opted for a hot chocolate that I gladly took out onto the balcony to enjoy while listening to the nearby crashing waves.

    The next morning we enjoyed breakfast on the patio at the Azure Restaurant. The weather was surprisingly nice, the food was great, and the location could not have been better!

    After breakfast, I had a message waiting from Cape Town local celebrity Selwyn Davidowitz and promptly returned his call!

    Selwyn and I spoke for about 15 minutes and made arrangements to meet a couple days later, on Youth Day, so he could show me his great city.

    For this day, however, STD and I had no major plans and decided to just go to the Waterfront. One of the private cars from the Twelve Apostles, dropped us off at the Waterfront, Waterfront/Camps Bay transfers being an included amenity of staying at the Twelve Apostles.

    While at the Waterfront, we went to the Aquarium and also just did some windowshopping before having a 2PM lunch at the Cape Grace's restaurant, "One." After a very nice lunch, we retired to the library at The Cape Grace and after browsing for about an hour we had dessert and coffee in the library. We didn't finish up until after 5PM and then had the Cape Grace call our hotel to come and pick us up.

    From there, we just relaxed for about three hours back at the hotel before going to the diner at the Twelve Apostles and sharing a hamburger prior to going out. We were dropped off at Mama Africa by the Twelve Apostles but because their shift ends at 11PM, we would be responsible for finding our own way back.

    STD and I lasted in Mama Africa for all the 15 minutes that it took me to order and chug a beer. To us, it was just NOISE and the roach crawling along the bar made us thankful that we were not one of the people eating in the restaurant on the other side of the room. Really, it sounded like a bad rehearsal and I marveled at how some of the other tourists could actually be bobbing their heads to the music and actually enjoying it. To me it seemed as if they were only doing so because they were expected to do so. To not do so would make them unhip or uncool.

    Well, I have been dragged to enough bad nightclubs by friends while in college and I have never had a fondness for nightclubs and Mama Africa proved to be no different.

    From there we went to some cigar bar down the street where some crooner was belting out Sinatra songs and other similar music. STD hated it and I just told her to view it as I did, as a cultural anthropology study. I had a couple beers there and enjoyed seeing the different Capetonians.

    For me it was fascinating, put bluntly, to see so many well behaved White men. Trust me, back home in the USA, the supposed melting pot of the world, you would just not see, normally, white guys that were so nice to non-whites. I mean just REALLY going out of there way to be Mr. Good Guy and going up and shaking another guys hand that he has never met, especially when that guy is Black, Indian or Colored.

    Another interesting thing I saw, that I guess is no different than back home, was the Indian girls trying SO HARD to catch herself a white guy, no matter if the girl was somewhat attractive and half the guys age. I felt sorry to see these young women, no more than 21-25 years old with guys that were 40-50 years old, especially when it was the girls that seemingly had to pursue these men, instead of the other way around.

    After about an hour of this we decided to call it a night. We only lasted about 90 minutes between the two places before taking a taxi home. As always, we engaged the taxi driver in conversation and heard the usual protests about reverse discrimination, the tremendous AIDS problem and in this case the driver's personal fear for the safety for his young daughter given the myth that still continues to go around that if an HIV+ man has sex with a virgin that he will pass the disease on to the girl while he will be cured. "I will kill anybody who touches my daughter" were the last words on the subject.

  • Report Abuse

    Rocco - Thanks for the info on the gate you used to enter Sabi Sands. Admittedly, I don't recall entering a gate anywhere, but we went to the Manyaletti Reserve first for a few days, then upon leaving we must have traveled between the reserve on inside roads to Sabi Sands & Singita - the reason I was wondering where you came upon a city. And I know we did not see a supermarket or shopping mall. But yes local people but small shops in kind of a mini strip-mall.

    Hey, So.California is a good place to be installing traffic signals and lighting. Only wish we had signage (in NY meropolitan area and evirons) as good as what you've got in So.California - in fact most of California.

    Residential Care Facilities - well certainly someone has to provide this service, whether private pay or other so glad to hear you've been able to fill this niche. And definitely understand from the amount of pressure this undertaking takes - you need your holidays.

    Looking forward to balance of your report. Printed it and waiting to see how many howls I get from Part Deux. Thanks again.

  • Report Abuse

    Great report Rocco!

    Can't wait to hear about the rest of your adventures - especially if you did Robbin Island and any restaurant hints in Cape Town.

    Thanks so much for your valuable input!

  • Report Abuse

    Roccco -

    No howling with laughter when reading this portion of your trip report.

    What a bummer with your credit card info being ripped off and the charges that wiped out your account. Sure puts a damper on things. But important to note that you traveled with more than one credit card "just in case" which can be for various reasons. And trying to figure out "who did it" is almost an exercise in futility, as you just never know. Hope you got it all straightened out when you returned home.

    Nor any howling with the length of flight layover time from Zambia to JNB and then connecting to CPT. Recall someone once mentioning that while Zambia is a great safari destination, transportation can be a problem and they recommended that we do Zambia only with sufficient flight connecting time. Trying to do Zambia in conjunction with other countries can be a horror. Just g et into JNB, then Zambia and return - one trip, that's it. Come back for a return visit to discover the other countries. But while one is experiencing it, it must have been very frustrating.

    The only thing I found fascinating was your surprise at how White Men greeted supposedly "stranger" Black or Colored Men at the cigar bar! Don't know what cigar bars are like out on the West Coast, but when they first became "in" here in NYC, it wasn't usually to see men of every color and hue greeting with hellos or "what did you think of the Knicks or Giants (depending on season) last night (yesterday)" other

  • Report Abuse

    Roccco - sorry about, I've got this little puppy I'm babysitting for and he's got his paws on everything.

    - to continue - these guys and even the gals are just being cordial with one another, regardless whether they smoke or drink with the other party or have further conversation with one another. Seems normal to me. Whatever!

    Can't wait to hear about your meeting with Selwyn and the rest of the report on Vuyatella (if anything in addition to what you've already posted on that lodge.

    So, where do you think you'll be traveling to next?

  • Report Abuse

    If you want some ideas for the next one, suggest you talk with Kavey and others about an all-Botswana trip, centered around the Okavango Delta. Make JNB and Maun your jumping off points. Sandi, have you been there yet? Take a look at what Wilderness Safaris offers. No, I'm not an agent. But I do use that company, with great results.

  • Report Abuse

    Sandi,

    I'll be travelling to your fair city, NYC, next! Gotta lose 20 pounds by November 02nd (NYC Marathon).

    I am in a real dilemma of my hotel accomodations. I thought that I was going to hit a home run with a 4 night Luxury Link package for $1,360 at the St. Regis but as a precaution I called the hotel and they told me the package would not be honored over the marathon weekend.

    I can pay full rate of $500 per night if I want the St. Regis but I can stay at The Plaza hotel for $400 per night. Decisions, decisions...

  • Report Abuse

    Roccco,

    You should get a Starwood Amex, no annual fee, one starpoint per dollar, can get free hotel stays with you points and/or exchange them 1:1 with most airlines. It's the best credit card deal around. Check out one of my favorite forums: www. flyertalk.com for details. Also, you might want to check www.biddingfortravel.com for tips on getting the best deal on priceline.com.


    :)

  • Report Abuse

    PART VIII

    The next morning was another fabulous breakfast at Azure restaurant in the Twelve Apostles. While the mood of the hotel is definitely down to Earth, it is still first class, all the way, with excellent service, as well.

    Following breakfast, I was on my way, solo, to Robben Island, while STD decided that shopping at the Century City mall would be more to her liking. While I, personally, cannot comprehend how someone would choose shopping at a second rate mall over visiting a place with such historical significance as Robben Island, I was not about to make my Robben Island visit a bad one by dragging someone that had no interest in being there. Likewise, I am sure that STD would have a much better shopping experience on her own rather than dragging me along.

    The entire tour spanned about 3 hours, with 45 minutes being spent on transfers and about 2 hours 15 minutes on Robben Island. I am glad that I went but I definitely think that the prison portion of the tour could use more exhibits. Additionally, while I can appreciate the government hiring former Robben Island prisoners to be involved with the tours, I do not think that they should lead the tours. Quite honestly, their English is very difficult to understand and I was only able to pick up about 70% of what the guide was saying.

    After the tour, I strolled around the Waterfront for awhile before hailing a cab to take me back. Feeling a little hungry and not knowing whether or not STD would be back at the hotel yet, I had the cab driver stop at a pizza joint in Sea Point and invited him in and bought him lunch.

    Over lunch the cabbie pointed out all the drug dealers to me that were standing on that very street and the neighboring streets. There is an area there that is known to locals as the "Axis Of Evil" and it is divided into different territories.

    The area that we had the pleasure of being in was controlled by the Nigerians. The cabbie told me the story of how the head Nigerian upon his arrival in the area first rented out a single apartment in what was then a mostly white occupied apartment building. Within a few months he was able to buy the apartment that he was renting. A few months later he bought the entire apartment building, all 8-10 stories of it! Now only Nigerians, many who were on his payroll, occupied the apartment building.

    Just a couple blocks down there was another area, this area controlled by the Algerians. A few more blocks down and the drug trade was controlled by Coloreds. Due to police corruption, allegedly, the drug trade was allowed to prosper.

    I enjoyed learning about this seedier part of Cape Town, that is until I saw a roach about the size of my thumb crawling on the outside window, just as I was finishing my last piece of pizza! :( I told the driver that if the roach was right outside the restaurant that I was sure that there were bound to me a few in the restaurant, as well.

    I met STD back at the hotel at about 5PM and we just lounged around the hotel and set dinner reservations for 8:30PM for our included dinner at Azure.
    Apparently the Twelve Apostles sells a lot of Luxury Link packages because they had a custom menu that was only for Luxury Link guests. On the menu they seemed to remove the more pricey items but there was still a decent selection.

    Dinner was okay, but not outstanding. Definitely better than Zambian game lodge food but not quite the ONE at the Cape Grace or the PICOLO MONDO at the Michelangelo Hotel.

    After dinner, we went downstairs and enjoyed watching a movie in the Cinema. This is the only hotel that I have been to so far that featured its own personal cinema and we loved it. It is only about 20 seats but that is perfect. We were the only ones in the theater and we watched a movie that was 10+ years old but one that neither of us had yet seen, "Postcards From The Edge", starring Meryl Streep, Shirley MacClain, Dennis Quaid and Gene Hackman.
    The only thing missing was hot popcorn and bon-bons.

    After that it was off to bed to rest up for our big day with none other than Selwyn, Fodorite extraordinaire! :)

    For the third night in a row, I did go out on the balcony, and although a little chilly, I dozed off on the reclining patio chair on the balcony to the sound of the crashing waves below. Although it may have only been an hour there outside each night, it definitely was a great experience to be so close to the ocean, in such an exclusive locale, with such a beautiful room awaiting my arrival! :)

  • Report Abuse

    Yesltls Yesltls -
    I had been planning a trip for this coming Fall (end-Nov) for some Delta time and balance a self-drive/fly in Namibia (using many Wilderness Lodges) - unfortunately had to put on hold, hopefully for next year, as my sweetie decided he wanted to go diving.

    So he'll dive and I'll find some sort of trouble to get into.

    Thanks for the heads-up on Wilderness Safaris.

  • Report Abuse

    Roccco -
    Marathon week-end here in NYC is very difficult for hotel bookings if not done well in advance - many book a year in advance - and, of course, there are rarely any deals to be had - That's just the way it is.

    But once you've got arrangements set, let me know - it might be nice if we could hook up to share our African tales and maybe photos.

    Have got to read your latest posting on CPT. Later.

  • Report Abuse

    Roccco -
    Below are some NYC reservation sites (some w/discounts).

    www.mesuite.com/
    = Manhattan East Hotel, all suites w/
    kitchen facilities, large rooms, various around city

    www.newyorkviews.com

    www.paintednewyork.com/hotels.htm

    www.nyc.com/siteindex/24/aspx

    www.greathotelprices.com/new-york-discount-hotels/wales.html

    The Hotel Wales is a small boutique hotel on upper Madison Avenue in The Carnegie Hill neighborhood 1 block from 5th Ave.and the museums and Central Park.
    There have been lots of hotels opened in NY during past 3 years, some by well known builders, in former historic buildings, in various price ranges. Generally rooms are not very large, so you have to review descriptions well. But check the above sites and see if you luck into something interesting and at a good prices.
    Glad to help.

  • Report Abuse

    Sandi,

    I am struggling greatly with my selection of the NYC hotel. I will probably just have to accept the fact that I will not get any great deals on a hotel and either book the St. Regis or the Four Seasons. Those hotels seem to have the nicest rooms.

    Another consideration would be to pass on the NYC Marathon until next year and possibly go to Honolulu in mid-December for the Honolulu Marathon. However, I have been to Hawaii a dozen times but have not yet been to NYC and I feel like I am less worldly for this void! :)

    I am trying to convince STD to go back to Chile so I can repeat the Vina Del Mar Marathon that I ran last December but so far she will not budge. Personally, I would love to go to Buenos Aires where there are some really great deals to be had due to their very weak economy.

    If not NYC, then wherever I go would likely be the day after Thanksgiving so I would have a full 7 nights at whatever destination.

    For now, however, NYC is still the leading contender and I will likely book my hotel and air within a few days.
    Those prices are just killing me though. $500+ for a regular room???

  • Report Abuse

    Roccco - That's always the problem, too many options.

    As to New York - Marathon week-end especially, is always expensive. And yes the rooms at the Plaza or Four-Seasons are "big". Sometimes we just have to pay what we pay, if there is something we really want to do.

    Those of us who have visited Singita sure made that decision - we paid (when the prices were still somewhat realistic).

    Whatever the decision - book it, you can always change your mind.

  • Report Abuse

    Sandi,

    Yeah, you are right. Here I am fussing over a little trip, that even with 4 nights at the very best hotels, in possibly the wealthiest city in the world, that will still only cost me around $2,500 USD. The hotel will be around $2,000 and the air less than $500. That amounts to one night at Singita and airfare from Johannesburg, basically.

    The average price of $625 per day for this trip is still less than the 15 night trip that I just completed and I do want to see NYC the right way.

    It will either be the St. Regis or the Four Seasons.

    Life is too short for cheap hotels! :)

  • Report Abuse

    Sandi,

    Well, THAT didn't take long. After STD butted in and insisted on the RAMADA INN (UGH!), we struck a happy medium and I booked the Ritz Carlton Battery Park, full bed and breakfast package in a harbor view room on high floor with early check in, for $375 per night, including taxes.

    And that's that. Now what trip do I have forward to booking?! :(

    Fiend! :)

  • Report Abuse

    Roccco, a year or so ago for NY Marathon we were able to book at The Mansfield on west 44th. About $350.

    Sandi, if you think Botswana, look at Savuti Camp, Mombo and Duba Plains.

    Wilderness Safaris is a class outfit. A good source in the US: Fish Eagle in Houston, TX - Bert DuPlessis, owner. Very reasonable. Ask him to send you their magazine - complete spread on everything in southern Africa.

    Karell Travel in Coral Gables, FL has a good consolidator for airline tickets on SAA, to CT and JNB.

  • Report Abuse

    Rocco, I've been following your post and have really enjoyed your travelogues, but I question your seletion of the Ritz Carlton Battery Park. Battery Park was created from the landfill dug out during the construction of the World Trade Center, and is at the very bottom of Manhattan and is not well situated, in my view, to visiting Manhattan. Its a great business hotel, but you'd be much better off at the Ritz Carlton on 57th Street, from where you can walk to Times Square, Fifth Avenue, museums, Madison Avenue, restaurants, Central Park, etc. You will be heavily depending on taxis if you stay in Battery Park. Even if slightly more costly, you may want to consider the Ritz at 57th St, especially if you can get a view of Central Park. There is a reason why the Ritz in Battery Park is much less expensive than midtown hotels!

  • Report Abuse

    Thit Cho,

    I just needed to book something. Some people need a cigarette, I, on the other hand, need to book!

    I will continue to research and more likely than not, end up switching back to the St. Regis or Four Seasons.

    The W hotel has pretty good prices, under $300 per night, but I don't think the rooms will be all that great.

    The Muse Hotel has very good prices, also about $300 per night, but I am not impressed with the pictures and it doesn't hold the appearance of the 4.5* hotel it claims to be.

    Trust me, I am just getting started with this one.

  • Report Abuse

    Rocco -
    In many ways I have to agree with Thit_cho re location. While lower Manhattan has gotten lots of play after 9/11 with lots of interesting restaurants, shops, quaint streets, you might be better off staying at the Tribeca Grand (and the other Grand, there are two hotels, same owners) - if you want to stay downtown.
    which is right in the heart of Soho/Tribeca.

    Being downtown has it's advantages for some sights - Statue of Liberty (but you can't climb it these days), Ellis Island, the Seaport, galaries in Soho, Chinatown, the West Village.

    However, being somewhere mid-town is a better choice. I've been in some of the rooms at the Four Seasons, and WOW - BIG! But I don't know at what rate these are available. And the St. Regis is the St. Regis, no problems with this one.

    You don't seem like the type of person who will be jumping on/off the subway even if it's the best way to get around town, though you may opt for the buses - so it's going to be taxis for you and these can be costly especially if you get caught in traffic.

    Hey, I live on the Upper East Side and my favorite restaurant is down in Tribeca (Capsuto Freres) to which we take a taxi that sets up back about $15 w/tip each way. Though as New Yorkers, even dressed "to the nines" have been known to hop the bus/subway if no taxis available. You do what you've got to do.

    Well, at least for the time being, you've got something booked, but keep checking, and quickly, as you don't want to take too long and be locked out.

  • Report Abuse

    YesltlsYesltls -

    Thanks for the heads-up on the contacts re Botswana and Namibia, Wilderness Safaris - I've got lots of info and had our itinerary all planned when we had to cancel, but should situations change, it never hurts to have more contacts.

    Same as to the air consolidator - I too have a good company that I've used previously, but this too "goes in the file."

    Thanks again.

  • Report Abuse

    OK...back to the original subject matter at hand.

    PART VIII - The Selwyn Chronicles

    Our third day in Cape Town began as the first two day, with a fabulous breakfast in the Azure restaurant at The Twelve Apostles. Over breakfast STD, was pouting that maybe I should go with Selwyn while she went off and did her own thing that day.

    At 9AM we met Selwyn in the lobby of the hotel and then for the next 90 minutes sat together in his minivan in the parking lot just talking. Maybe it took Selwyn that long before he decided whether or not he really wanted to spend the day with us! ;)

    By the end of the 90 minutes, STD kept hitting me on the arm whenever Selwyn wasn't looking and telling me how much she loved Selwyn. "Isn't Selwyn the best?!", STD remarked an hour after meeting him. And here I thought that STD thought I was the best and it took me nearly 10 years to achieve such status. :)

    Selwyn wanted to show us interesting things about Cape Town that others could not, that he only knew after living in Cape Town all his life.

    Right in the parking lot of the Twelve Apostles, Selwyn pointed out a shipwreck nearby that we would have never known about otherwise. I don't remember exactly how many years ago it was, possibly 30+ years earlier that the shipwreck occurrred, but it basically parked a big fishing vessel right up against the highway between Camps Bay and Hout Bay. The government or the company that owned the ship tried to auction off the ship to anyone that was interested in it for salvage, but it would have been more expensive to remove the ship from the water than the salvage material was worth.

    Consequently, the ship sold for 1 cent. The buyer, being a shrewd businessman, after some preparation, for the next many weekends, held "shipwreck parties" and Capetonians flocked to these parties and paid a hefty fee to attend these parties. He took that one cent investment and made plenty of money on the parties. After the parties finally died down, the businessman removed the necessary parts of the ship, but parts of the ship remained and were visible right from the Twelve Apostles Hotel.

    From there it was not more than 1/2 a kilometer away that Selwyn showed us the lady that lived on the side of the road right outside Llandudno. She was either engaged to marry some very rich man or she had just married some very rich man when the man passed away. He had included her in his will and she should have been set for the rest of her life but because the will was not recorded, this woman was given nothing. For Americans, it was the equivalent of Anna Nicole Smith, for example, not getting a penny from her very wealthy husband and instead of ending up a big TV star, ending up a recluse that lived on the side of the road accepting handouts and cigarettes from motorists who stop at the side of the road to enjoy the view. 8+ hours later we would return to the site and the woman was still in her car, and it seemed like she hadn't moved all day or for months or years for that matter.

    Selwyn attempted to take us to the top of some mountain in the Camps Bay area where everyday at 12PM a cannon or big gun was fired to memorialize those that died in some war or other, WWII, I believe. Unfortunately, because it was Youth Day, there was a barricade and we could not get up to the top of the mountain. We did see up there some huge new homes that were going up. I found the homes to be ridiculous. Beautiful new homes valued at 10 million+ Rand but with absolutely no land and some with boulders as big as the homes just waiting for a slight earthquake to be jarred lose and come crashing down on the homes. I believe this area was called Arcadia or Round Top, but I cannot remember for sure.

    Selwyn showed us the heart of Camps Bay, an indentation right in the mountain above Camps Bay that when pointed out seems to form a perfect heart.

    In the three hours or so that we were still by in Camps Bay but working our way back towards the City, we all kind of developed a roadmap for the day, or so Selwyn and I thought. The only mistake that Selwyn and I made was getting off to a late start and being too close to the Cape Grace hotel by lunchtime.

    STD, never one for sticking to the original plan, at that point suggested that we all eat at "One" at the Cape Grace. Selwyn and I were not too fond of the idea because we knew that this would take a minimum of 90 minutes and would not return to the streets until nearly 2PM. This would really mess up our whole schedule and not allow a visit to Kayamendu (sp.?) or the Cheetah farm. Regardless, some personalities are stronger than others and to avoid a standoff, Selwyn and I yielded to STD's wishes.

    "Why do you want to eat American food when you are in Africa?" was the question that Selwyn posed to STD but STD was insistent that it was not American food. Once it was settled we were at the Cape Grace within a couple minutes for a very nice lunch at "One."

    Selwyn easily made the transition from the original gameplan to the newly modified game plan and did so like a champ, never letting an ego get in the way, more interested that his guests, or at least the one with the stronger personality, was having a good time. No problem, after 10 years I have learned to live with it and as revenge drag her along on safari and place her within three meters of hungry lions! ;)

    It was a nice lunch at the Cape Grace and there was never a single awkward moment of silence during lunch or during the 12+ hours that we spent together. How could there be such a moment with Selwyn and STD at each side. These two just love to talk! While I consider myself a normal to good conversationalist, next to these two I was a mute. :)

    From the Cape Grace, with our day's schedule now completely compromised, we made our way over to the Botanical Gardens so STD could browse the shops and Selwyn and I could spend some time in the Botanical Gardens. It was overcast and a bit chilly but still beautiful. Although I had seen the Gardens last year in March, they are still a wondrous site. Walking through the Gardens I was reminded how out of shape I was and needed to start training again once I got home.

    After nearly an hour at the Botanical Gardens, we made our way over to the Constantia and Claremont area. We stopped at the Vineyard Hotel just to see how it compared to the other hotels that we had seen in Cape Town. It was nice but nothing worth considering over the Cape Grace, Table Bay, Twelve Apostles or even Mount Nelson.

    All during the day we spoke of current South African political affairs and a variety of other topics. While before I admittedly had a certain view of squatters camps and those that inhabited them, it was not until Selwyn showed me a laminated map that he had made up that my opinion started to change. On the map there were small areas highlighted. There were about six such areas that possibly made up 10-15% of all South Africa. It was only in those areas that blacks and possibly all non-whites were allowed to live permanently. For them to be in the city, they required a "pass", allowing them access to work.

    So, of course now that there is free passage, people from these areas have come to the cities looking for work and there is rarely any work to be had and instead of going back to the areas that they were once banished to, most have stayed in the cities.

    I was consoled at the fact that if I ever did buy a home in Cape Town, that if I bought in a completely developed area where there was no free land available that I would not have to worry about a squatters...er..."informal settlement" popping up in my backyard.

    We did talk some about the racial politics in the USA and it did open my eyes that the USA was not much different than South Africa, just a few years further ahead. My own mother grew up in the equivalent of an informal settlement in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles, where the Mexicans that picked fruit were housed, a place called "Hicks Camp."

    My father, although also Mexican-American, was more affluent (even I didn't have a new convertible Corvette at 20 years old!) and by the time my first memories were available, we were living on an exclusive street in San Gabriel, "Country Club Drive", where, as non-whites, and this as late as 1980, we would not be allowed to join the Country Club opposite our house.

    Funny how memories like this escape a person after a few years. I did not feel persecuted by it all, but it was a good reminder that the racial politics of South Africa are not so different than the racial politics of the USA's just two or three decades beforehand.

    From the Botanical Gardens, we spent some time in a neighborhood shopping center in Constantia where STD was able to enjoy going through the aisles and being amazed for the 99th time about how cheap the prices are in South Africa for food, and this at probably one of the more expensive ranch style supermarkets. I didn't protest when she bought sun-dried tomatos or dried fruit and I just hope that I don't find them in our suitcase when we go to Italy next May or June! :)

    We saw another area called Mount Rhodes that had some very nice houses. However, there is a selling spree in Mount Rhodes and it seemed like 1/4 of the houses were for sale. Why? Because right across the road now, possibly less than a kilometer away, is the view of the very big informal settlement that has popped up in Constantia.

    Many whites are heading out to the Somerset West area these days, completely reminding me of the white flight from Los Angeles in the last 10-20 years. Well, those whites that went to North Orange County or the Inland Empire (both areas within about 40-50 miles of Los Angeles) now need to move again. It is a temporary solution for some, I suppose.

    By this time when we were in Mount Rhodes, it was already past 5:30PM. We wanted to get back to the hotel before 6PM so that Selwyn could join us for our included High Tea. Selwyn punched the petal to the metal and got us back to the hotel at about 10 minutes before 6PM and we all headed up to the Leopard Lounge for high tea.

    We enjoyed the best high tea that I have had to date (and I have had high tea at the Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong and the Mount Nelson Hotel). Numerous artery clogging sweets were rolled out along with tea and coffee. There was a wonderful live entertainer right behind us and she played her keyboard and sang current songs such as Norah Jones music and the like.

    By 8PM, when we were still going strong with Selwyn, STD ordered a plate of mussels and Selwyn and her chowed down on Mussels and fresh bread, while I continued to pick at whatever pastries were still around. Although we had all been together for 11 hours at that point, there were still no awkward moments of silence, although my head would be ringing for the next week (just kidding). :)

    At just after 9PM, we decided that we better say our goodbyes unless Selwyn was going to come along with us to the Cape Winelands and the Lanzerac Manor. We had to checkout of the Twelve Apostles by 9:00 AM and still needed to pack, etc.

    We bid our goodbyes, but not our farewells, and vowed to see each other again, whether it was on Selwyn's next visit to the USA or whether it was in two years when I will somehow run the Two Oceans (56K) Marathon in Cape Town.

    Our day with Selwyn was a magnificent one and each STD and I really learned a lot from him. Plus, it was just another example of another fine Capetonian and only strengthened our desire to one day become at least seasonal Capetonians, ourselves. :)

  • Report Abuse

    Thit Cho, Sandi and anyone else familiar with NYC hotels,

    Do any of the following strike you as good bargains or great locations:

    (The dollar amounts are for each of the nights that I am staying, October 30th, 31st, November 01st and November 02nd).

    BRYANT PARK HOTEL
    CITY CENTER
    269.95 269.95 269.95 269.95

    THE MUSE
    TIMES SQUARE
    269.95 209.95 269.95 269.95

    SWISSOTEL NEW YORK, THE DRAKE
    MIDTOWN EAST
    279.95 239.95 239.95 279.95

    BENJAMIN
    MANHATTAN
    289.95 289.95 289.95 289.95


    HELMSLEY PARK LANE
    ON CENTRAL PARK
    319.95 319.95 319.95 319.95

    FLATOTEL
    52ND AT 6TH AVE
    319.95 319.95 319.95 319.95

    ROYALTON
    MIDTOWN
    329.95 299.95 299.95 299.95

    SOFITEL
    NEAR TIME SQUARE
    329.95 329.95 329.95 329.95

    IROQUOIS
    MIDTOWN
    349.95 329.95 329.95 329.95

    KITANO HOTEL
    PARK AVE AT 38TH STREET
    369.95 309.95 309.95 309.95

    THE PLAZA HOTEL
    CENTRAL PARK SOUTH
    380.00 380.00 380.00 380.00

    STANHOPE PARK HYATT NEW YORK
    UPPER EAST SIDE
    389.95 389.95 389.95 389.95

    OMNI BERKSHIRE PLACE
    52ND/5TH
    489.95 399.95 399.95 399.95

    All of the above hotels advertise themselves as 4.5* hotels with the exception of the Park Plaza which claims to be a 5* but which is suspiciously missing from Conde Nast Traveler's Gold List.

  • Report Abuse

    We stayed at The Muse last year over Memorial Day weekend. We picked up a deal from Travelocity or Expedia for $159/night. Good location close to Time Square and the Theater District, but on a quiet side street. Rooms were nice and not too small for New York City, down pillows and comforters, robes and Philosophy bath products.

  • Report Abuse

    BRYANT PARK HOTEL -- good location, right on Bryant Park near Public Library, so close to Times Square -- a trendy hotel with a good restaurant (I work right across the park from the hotel)

    THE MUSE -- don't know it

    SWISSOTEL NEW YORK, THE DRAKE -- on Park Avenue, a good business hotel


    BENJAMIN -- on Lexington Avenue around 50th Street, not a terrible location and I think most rooms are suites (also right near subway)

    HELMSLEY PARK LANE -- good location right on Central Park, but not the nicest hotel on the park, but if you can get a park view would be worth it --great location near Central Park and 5th and Madison Avenue shopping


    FLATOTEL -- never heard of it


    ROYALTON -- older, historic hotel, good location near Times Square, but not a top choice


    SOFITEL -- don't know it


    IROQUOIS -- don't know it


    KITANO HOTEL - terrible location on Park Avenue South -- isolated


    THE PLAZA HOTEL -- great location and I think you'd be happiest here (right on the park, near shopping), but rooms can be small

    STANHOPE PARK HYATT NEW YORK -- isolated on Upper East Side, very residential and quiet (not near subway but plenty of buses on 5th Avenue right by hotel)

    OMNI BERKSHIRE PLACE -- way too expensive for midrange hotel

  • Report Abuse

    Rocco,
    thanks for your detailed trip report which has been fun to read...

    On the NY hotels...The Iroquios (more traditions decor) and the Royalton (more modern decor) are across from each other on one of the mid 40's streets in Midtown close to Time Square.

    I stayed in the Iroquious a couple of years ago it's a small hotel next to the Algonquin the room was nice enough but because it's a small hotel there are very limited amenities. The thing about NY hotels is that the rooms really are small even in nice hotels. Compared with the types of rooms in Capetown you don't get that much for your money.

    Personally I wasn't thrilled about the midtown location...it has a very "office/commercial" feel and unless you're going to spend alot of time at Time Sq or the theatres I'd prefer something with more of a neighborhood feel.The Muse is a relatively new hotel very close to Time Sq...agian fairly small, it has a modern decor and has got good reviews, I've passed it but never stayed there. I friend of mine just went for drinks down at the Ritz in Battery Park she said the view from the bar was wonderful but I agree it is out of the way.

    One more suggestion have you looked at www.quikbook.com as they often have excellent prices.

    Hope that helps!

  • Report Abuse

    Rocco - Let me add my two-cents:

    There are alot of new hotels that have opened in the past two-three years, many reconstructed from older buildings in existing business areas and with few exceptions the rooms are ok size, some might be very small, little closet space, and maybe only showers but no tubs or sufficient counter space in bathrooms. From your list, my comments:

    BRYANT PARK - Was an office building, right across street (E.41St.) from Bryant Park and the Main Public Library (the one with the two lions on front steps). A Little Trivia Here: the vaults of the Library are under the lawn of Bryant Park, lots of valuables here. The Bryant Grill Restaurant is at rear of Library; I prefer the outdoor, though indoors is OK too, but a bit too noisy. A few blocks from 42nst St. Times Square. And half-block from 5th Avenue. It is on a commercial street. But a good location.

    THE MUSE - Another new one, but have no info on this.

    ROYALTON - Sister hotel of the PAROMOUNT, an Ian Shrager hotel, with Philip Stark interior, no doubt, very modern. Bet the rooms are small.

    BENJAMIN - Formerly The Beverly, on Lexington Avenue, diagonally across from the rear entrance of The Waldorf-Astoria. Known for fact that they offer choice of pillows - they have about 25 you can choose from. This might also be the hotel that provides a "goldfish" (in bowl of water) if you miss the pet you left at home. There rooms seem to be decent size, but you'd have to check. Lots of other hotels along Lex Avenue, restaurants on Lex and Third, Second Aves. and side streets.

    KITANO HOTEL - Park Ave. and 39th St. (I believe), someone said the beds were short, maybe because it is part of a Japanese chain. In a residential area of Murray Hill, great to live in, but a bit too quiet, though not far from things.

    SOFITEL - On or off Broadway in the 50s, not familiar with what rooms look like. Sofitel is the French chain of hotels.

    IROQUOIS - Probably been remodeled after the many years it's been at this location, but don't have any particular info.

    FLATOTEL - This is a chain of hotels with properties around the world and are on the high end as to cost, a recent entry in the NYC market. They are suppose to be rather nice, but again no specific information.

    Now for those I would put on list of selections to investigate further:

    THE DRAKE (Swissotel) - Park Ave. at 56th St. Older hotel, remodeled when Swissotel took over. Rooms mush have been enhanced at that time and have read very good comments on this.

    HELMSLEY PARK LANE - When Leona took over the chain, rooms were enhanced, but don't know current status. Though if large rooms and can get view of Central Park, might be a good deal.

    THE PLAZA - Well, it's the Plaza. Now part of the Fairmont Chain (SFO Fairmont hotel), rooms are constantly refurbished. Alot was done when Mrs. Ivana Trump was running the place. Large rooms, excellent lines, plush pillows. Right at corner or 59th St. & Fifth Avenue. Can be a good "people watching place". Should get room facing Central Park of Fifth Avenue (not rear or 58th St). Remember "Eloise lived here" Across from FAO Schwarz, GM Building, Bergdorfs, few block North of Saks, Bendels nearby. And every and any shop you can think of is on E & W 57th Street. Great location.

    OMNI BERKSHIRE - Believe this is 52 & Madison. You'd have to check room sizes, last I was there to visit a friend, room rather small. But again, all these hotels have been refurbished and lots of walls have been broken thru. Location is good.

    STANHOPE PARK HYATT - As a Hyatt, at least they have the thickest towels in town. Supposedly Hyatt has the market on the heaviest weight towels in the industry. Believe the entire hotel was redone when Hyatt became owners. Right across from the Metroplitan Museum on Fifth Avenue, great views into Central Park if you get front facing room. You're right on Museum Row. Madison Ave. with lots of shopping and restaurants around the corner. Great side-streets as this is a residential area. You just never know who you might bump into on the street - used to see Jackie O often buying her morning newspaper. Lots of so-called "celebs" stay here or you'll bump into some at bar.

    You might also want to check out The Mark Hotel - East.77th St. off Madison, lots of celebs stay here.
    OR The Hotel Carlyle at Madison & 75th Street - think President Kennedy, Princess Diana.
    Both are in residential areas, but close to restaurants and shopping, one block away from Central Park.

    For those on/near Fifth or Madison Avenues, you san bus South on Fifth Ave, and North on Madison.

    My choices would be Four Seasons, St. Regis, The Plaza, The Stanhope, The Mark, The Carlyle, even The Drake - these are some of the Grande Dame hotels in town.

    There is, also, I almost forgot, Trumps International, at 59th St. Columbus Circle immediately outside Central Park and across street from new home of Time Warner currently under construction.

    So many men, ooops, sorry, so many choices, not enough time to sleep at all of them.



  • Report Abuse

    OK...I think I made some pretty good progress on my NYC Hotel.

    I was at the Ritz Carlton Battery Park for $375 per night. However, taking the advice of others, I have switched to an Upper East Side Hotel, The Hotel Plaza Athenee, a smaller boutique style hotel that is rated very highly by a couple travel publications that I trust.

    Including an early 10AM check-in, a continental breakfast each morning and a late 3PM check out, this Upper East Side Hotel is only $1,510 ($490 for Thursday and $340 per night for Friday-Sunday). The weekend rates are so good that I am almost tempted to stay one fewer night but, then again, I don't want to be penny-wise and pound-foolish. Ultimately, $150 extra is a small price to pay to spend an extra night in NYC, especially considering that I have not yet seen NYC (and developing quite the complex over not yet visiting...after all, how can I consider myself some sort of world traveller when I haven't even seen NYC yet?!).

    The amazing thing about this all, is that by calling directly, I was able to save $100+ over what I would have paid on Quikbook.com.

    The room at The Plaza Hotel Atheneee is only 300 sq. feet, but I don't think its worth it to pay an extra $200 per night for an extra 200 sq. feet of room size.

    I will continue looking, but I am satisfied that this is a nice upgrade from the Ritz Carlton Battery Park. The Plaza Athenee is on 64th between Park and Madison.

    Now I need to concentrate less on the hotel and more on my training or else they are going to reject me at the NYC Marathon but keep me around as one of the floats for the Macy's Parade! ;)

  • Report Abuse

    Excellent choice. One of the best hotels in NY, in a great location and a great rate. You'll be between First Avenue (prime marathon watching spot) and the Central Park finish line, so if STD wants to watch you, you can select a corner on First Avenue (eg, Southeast corner of 68th and 1st).

  • Report Abuse

    Unbelievable...I just booked air from Orange County (SNA) to New York (JFK) for $207.00, total, per person.

    So, this entire trip, including my NYC Marathon entry ($70?), air ($414) and four nights ($1,510) at one of the finest hotels in NYC is going to cost me just under $2,000.

    I am getting pretty good at booking very nice trips for very good prices! :)

  • Report Abuse

    Roccco - Well, that was one that completely slipped my mind. Good choice and good rate, and great airfare.

    Now just get on with your training and you're set to go, and hope for ideal weather Marathon Day.

    I remember too many days that were way too hot - that's why over the years they've pushed it into November from mid-October; and then sometimes it rains. Well, you just never know.

    Maybe we'll see you then.

  • Report Abuse

    PART IX - The Cape Winelands

    We were very sad to be leaving such a wonderful hotel but it was time to say goodbye to the Twelve Apostles Hotel so we could make our way to the Winelands for a single night at the Lanzerac Manor.

    Last year we were scheduled to stay two nights at The Grande Roche but after getting stuck an extra night in Zimbabwe after our flight was cancelled we decided to cancel the Winelands and spend our final four nights in Cape Town, instead of three in Cape Town and one in the Winelands. I didn't want to cancel the Winelands for two consecutive years, although I really loved the Twelve Apostles.

    We enjoyed our final breakfast at the Azure restaurant and then met our tour guide downstairs a blonde guy in his early 30's that looked like actor, Kevin Sorbo, of Hercules fame.

    It was his own tour company but he usually farmed out the Winelands tours. His true specialty was deep sea fishing and his personality didn't really seem suited to Winelands tours.

    We zoomed from one wine estate to the next before having a nice lunch, al fresco, at about 1:30 PM at some nice little restaurant in a wine estate. Before 3PM our "all day" tour had concluded at the Lanzerac Manor. He offered to take us to another wine estate but it didn't seem like a sincere offer and nobody had anything further to gain. While I am sure this guy was great at the Deep Sea Fishing, he didn't seem well matched to Wineland tours.

    We thanked him for the tour and rushed to our room to freshen up before a 3PM tour at the Lanzerac Manor, but not before booking two hour massages in our room at 4:30PM, followed by 8:00PM dinner reservations.

    There was two other couples our age on the tour, one Austrian and the other German. We basically did this same type of tour last December at Concha Y Toro in the Winelands outside Santiago, Chile. This tour at Lanzerac was really inferior and not nearly as picturesque as the one in Chile that went into much greater detail. Also, quite honestly, while South African wine is good, Chilean wine is better.

    After the tour, we sat down with the other two couples and I bought a bottle of the Chardonnay, which was the only wine out of the eight or so that we tasted that was worth repeating. Although the other couple was good for another couple bottles, we had to run off for our massages.

    Waiting at our door were the massage technicians. They set up right in the room and even our standard room at the Lanzerac Manor must have measured close to 600 sq. ft. (55+ sq. meters), so spare room was not a problem.

    We started with one hour of reflexology (advanced foot massage) followed by one hour of full body massage.

    The massages were good but not great and they were very expensive compared to the prices, for example, at The Michelangelo in Joburg and at Vuyatela.

    Dinner at the Lanzerac Manor was only average. Unfortunately, because it was low season, the best restaurants in the area were closed.

    More frustrating than the average food at the Lanzerac Manor's restaurant, however, was the service. Our waiter was very good, but the busboy, a Xhosa man, looked like he was lost in space and the waiter actually had to bus his own table.

    I am glad that I saw the Winelands but I definitely would not want to spend more than one night there. One of the couples that we had our Winelands tour with was actually spending all their Cape Town time, 3 or 4 nights I think, in the Winelands, with no time in Cape Town, so some people do really enjoy it.
    I would not hesitate to stay at the Lanzerac Manor again, but I would not eat dinner there again.

    It was then off to our room for the night to get a little rest before our 7:30AM checkout and our 9:45 flight to Hoedspruit for our stay at Vuyatela.

  • Report Abuse


    Rocco,
    Am taking copious notes as my husband & I are planning a trip to Cape Town in the fall.

    Did want to comment on your NYC Marathon. I assume you already have been accepted for the race? I believe the race is closed for 2003 already.

    Also, I ran the race in 2000. I am a 4 hour marathoner, and there were NO taxis at the finish line. It was a mad house. Subways were so full we decided to walk the 30 plus blocks back to our hotel downtown. Not much fun after running a marathoon.

    So I would advise a hotel located near the finish at Central Park as a priority. You may need to get back there on your own two feet.

  • Report Abuse

    Queenie,

    I was already accepted into the 2003 NYC Marathon. It was really easy to get in this year, especially for people on the West Coast & Hawaii. I think the acceptance rate was 85% for Californians and I was one of them.

    I don't know how far the Plaza Athenee is from the finish line but I will research that one further.

    I did see some great rates for the St. Regis for AAA members, and although not a AAA member, I will gladly pay $70 or whatever the membership rate is in order to get rates as low as about $375 per night at the St. Regis, especially if it is closer to the finish line.

    The Plaza Athenee is on 64th Street between Madison and Park.

    As far as my running goes, I am so far only a 5 hour marathoner, but that is because I need to drop 50 pounds. My PR is only a 5:07:07 at the Rock N Roll Marathon in San Diego, but if I train right and eat right for the next four months, then I will be aiming for a PR at the NYC Marathon.

    This will be my 4th marathon. After doing the L.A. Marathon, the Rock N Roll Marathon and the Vina Del Mar Marathon (Chile) last year, this will be my first and only marathon of 2003. I will then try to run three or four marathons in 2004 before attempting the Two Oceans Marathon in Cape Town on March 26, 2005.

    Thanks for the advice about the marathon finish. I will research it further.

  • Report Abuse

    Queenie,

    I found this map showing various hotels in the Upper East Side:

    http://www.mustseenewyork.com/maps/nyc-uptown-hotels-map.html

    Although the Plaza Athenee is not shown, it looks to be perfectly sutuated on 64th between Park and Madison. Considering that 65th runs through Central Park, it should be just a few blocks to the Plaza Athenee.

  • Report Abuse

    Roccco:

    From the finish line you can crawl across the park straight to your hotel which is 1-1/2 small blocks from the exit at 65th St. & Fifth Ave.

    Seriously, it's a rather easy walk across the park from the finish line. You'll be fine.

  • Report Abuse

    PART X - Vuyatela (Sabi Sand Reserve)

    Our stay in the Cape Winelands was nice but rushed with only one night at the Lanzerac Manor. Just the same, the Winelands aren't really neither my thing nor STD's thing. I think I would have rather had a fifth night at the Twelve Apostles Hotel and even skipped the Winelands tour.

    Our transfer to the airport picked us up at 7:30AM for our 9:45 flight. Our flight was on a 35 seat SAA Express. Upon our arrival at Hoedspruit, we were met by a driver for our one hour transfer to the lodge.

    To get to Djuma Vuyatela, you enter through the Gowrie Gate of the Sabi Sand Reserve. Last year by flying on a charter directly from Joburg to Singita, we didn't realize how close to civilization that we really were.

    However, by driving from Hoedspruit to Djuma, I was kind of let down that this place was just 15 minutes outside a city that seemed to have possibly 10,000 residents, with its own shopping mall and fast food restaurants.

    Upon arrival at Djuma, both STD and I were REALLY let down. The bush was drought stricken and this was not at all scenic in comparison to Singita last year and especially compared to Kafunta in the South Luangwa from earlier on this trip.

    We were met by the lodge manager, Mark, who was prepared with a drink in one hand and a waiver in the other hand, just as had been done at Singita. After signing our lives away, we were given a brief tour of the lodges facilities before being shown to our room.

    The room was very nice but was awkward in the sense that it had two parts to it, instead of being united into a single huge chalet. The smaller room seemed like a waste to me and we never used it. Also, I was foolish to give Vuyatela special status for the plunge pool, as the plunge pool was not heated and was way too cold to use in June.

    The main room, however, was VERY nice and decorated in a very unique way that incorporated modern South African culture/art into the room. Also, the rooms were spotless and featured a nice outdoor shower and an oversized bath, with bubble bath soap, crystallized soap, lotions, anti-mosquito repellent and other amenities, all put nicely in little labeled bottles that had cork covers.

    Once we saw the room and the rest of the lodge, I was mostly pleased with Vuyatela, although the landscape was incomparable to that of Kafunta, and Vuyatela's price in low season was still 30% higher than Kafunta was in HIGH season.

    We had lunch and although the food was better than that at Kafunta, it was unusual for us to see not one, but two separate groups of seven people. More unusual was the fact that all 14 people were American. I used to dread being stuck with Germans, but that was until I saw all these Americans. The fact that they were in large groups and had spent their first three nights together just made it more difficult.

    Of the two groups, one was a family of five and two adult friends and the other was a group of seven stewardesses from Texas. We were designated to spend our game drive with the family (four adults and three children).

    The game drive consisted of one of the children talking about being in the honor society, her boyfriend, her choice of colleges, etc. In other words, she would not shut up. Then we got to play the "time game" every 20 minutes where one of the teen children would look at their watch and then have the others guess what time it is. By the time this game was played a third time, I was ready to grab the rifle from in front of the ranger to blow my brains out. Unfortunately, I am not homicidal.

    Each time we would go up an incline or down a decline, the younger teens would say "Wheeeeeeeee", and I longed for that rifle barrel in my mouth.

    The entire game drive these people did not stop talking and of the adults, one of them, to make matters even worse, was a bird watcher.

    Finally this game drive from hell was finally coming to an end and STD and I were just looking forward to a nice, quiet dinner together, away from the rest of the Americans. It was just our luck that we were surprised with dinner in the bush on this particular night and there was a table for about 20 arranged.

    The only other time we did this was at Matetsi and when that happened there was a lot more pomp and circumstance and we were within hearing range of Victoria Falls thundering in the background, surrounded by torches and armed guards.

    While Vuyatela's dinner in the bush definitely required plenty of effort, it was just hard to appreciate with our fellow dinner guests. I am sure that we looked incredibly unfriendly and antisocial, but in all our travels in Southern Africa, we were only accustomed to dealing with other couples.

    It was a long night and eventually we had our ranger, Chris, a very friendly 24 year old with a strong resemblance to actor, Heath Ledger, drop us off at the lodge, while the rest of the guests stayed behind. Fortunately, both sets of guests were leaving the next morning.

    The rest of the time at Vuyatela would be much more enjoyable. We really liked the staff at Vuyatela and there were a couple of Jack Russel's, Vru Vru and Patsy, that kept us entertained. Vru Vru didn't appreciate it when I appeared from my room and playfully raised my hands above my head and growled. Fron then on, she would snarl at me for the remainder of our stay! :)

    The game drives were nothing extraordinary for the first couple days.
    On the second day, I did get a fabulous 2 hour massage from Nicole, an assistant manager and masseuse at Vuyatela. The rates were very reasonable and it was honestly one of the best massages that I ever had.

    One big turn off was that on the second day, we had lunch and one of the owners was at the table and didn't even bother to make eye contact with us, yet less say hello or welcome us to Vuyatela.
    There was incidental conversation later in the day but, trust me, neither she nor her husband, ever went out of their way to engage in conversation with us, unlike our time at Kafunta where the owners seemed to take a genuine interest in the guests.

    Our final game drive was the most successful as we were able to get some great closeups with a 2 year old male leopard, a pride of lions, elephants and a herd of about 75 buffalo.

    It was the final game drive and our final dinner and breakfast that swayed me back to favor Vuyatela, when and if I return to Sabi Sand.

    Ultimately, I think I would only return to the Sabi Sand if I brought a less adventurous family member, like my in-laws or my parents (in their mid 50's to early 60's in age). The price is just too high and, to me, it was so much more special to be in Zambia, which seemed more like true Africa to me, than the Sabi Sand, which seemed completely commercialized. I doubt that I would ever encounter a family of seven Americans or seven Texan stewardesses in South Luangwa!

  • Report Abuse

    PART XI

    At the end of it all, we were definitely ready to come home and we could not stop talking about Enchiladas and Bean and Cheese Burritos. Despite the great food at the Cape Grace, The Michelangelo and the Twelve Apostles, I only wanted a $5 dinner from my favorite Mexican restaurant.

    Also, of course, we were looking forward to seeing our four dogs and returning to our new home that we are just getting settled into after eight months.

    All in all this was a very good trip and I was very pleased with the itenerary that I put together and in my selection of hotels. I think that staying anywhere like Singita or Londolozi this year would have only been throwing money out the window, as the Sabi Sand was surely as drought stricken and brown in those areas as it was a few miles away at Vuyatela, but at triple the price as Vuyatela. Still, it was at Vuyatela, that I was able to get some incredible pictures of the two year old leopard.

    The rhinos were very elusive and we really saw nothing more than a couple rhinos backsides in the dark on this trip. Also, it took until the final day at Vuyatela that we saw elephants, and for our entire 3 night stay we only saw two elephants. The only thing that made up for it was that the animals were tame in comparison to those in South Luangwa and easy to photograph.

    I loved both the Michelangelo and The Twelve Apostles and our rooms were fabulous at each place. The discounted rates that I was able to find for the Michelangelo for the same room was nearly $600 USD per night just for the room, but I was able to get two nights for this price with breakfasts and one dinner included. Likewise, the Twelve Apostles would have been $500 USD per night for the seafacing suite and I was able to get it for $140 per night with breakfasts, a high tea and a dinner included. They were both first class establishments, all the way.

    Kafunta was a great experience and the people were great, as was being in the South Luangwa Valley. Being at the Island Bush Camp seemed about as far from civilization that we could possibly get, with no communication other than the two way radios on the trucks, and I really enjoyed being out there in the middle of nowhere on the banks of the Luangwa River, surrounded by hippos and plenty of other wildlife. We existed only by fire and kerosene lamps and it was great.

    It was a pleasure meeting Selwyn and spending the entire day with him. Also, we really hit it off very well with the couple from London and we hope to visit them in Spain in the next couple years, where they are relocating.

    The Winelands and Vuyatela were very nice but could not compare to the other parts of the trip. Still, if the Lanzerac Manor and Vuyatela were the lowlights of the trip, then I consider this trip a major success.

    For now, I have had my Africa itch scratched, but I look forward to possibly returning the year after next if I am in shape to run the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon (56 Kilometers). For next year, however, it will likely be Italy for the major trip and then maybe Hawaii or Costa Rica for a one week trip.

    And that, my fellow Fodorites, was my South Africa/South Luangwa trip report/novella! :)

  • Report Abuse

    Thit Cho,

    I don't see myself getting all worked up over Italy or Latin America, the same way I have over Southern Africa.

    Because the majority of the trip to Italy will be spent with my wife's family, I think it is best if we book a Trafalgar or Globus tour to keep it simple. Otherwise, it would really be a nightmare to try to coordinate everything for possibly four couples.

    More than likely, STD and I will arrive six or seven days early to spend in luxury in Florence and Venice before meeting the rest of her family in Rome. Or, if we decide to do Northern Italy, we would go to Capri and Rome on our own and meet them in Florence or wherever.

    For now, however, I am looking forward to NYC and I am proud to say that I have trained three days in a row and today will be my fourth.

    If possible, I would love to sneak in a five night trip to Paris in early April for the Paris Marathon, a day before my 33rd birthday. It's a long way to go for only five nights but at least I wouldn't feel SO OLD if I woke up on my 33rd birthday wearing a Paris Marathon t-shirt! :)

  • Report Abuse

    Roccco -

    Finally finished reading Part X of your Trip Report. Thank you. Interesting perspecive of the ups and the downs, at every stop of your trip - both your impressions and feelings and those of STD in her postings.

    Well, next comes the Marathon. Run Rocco Run! If you'd like to touch base when you get to New York, you can email me at:
    sandijspin@aol.com

    Will be looking for your posts "all around the world" and I'm sure you'll be back here as well.

  • Report Abuse

    Here Ye! Here Ye!!! All on the Africa board take notice that....

    Roccco's name can be interchangeable with "Captain Correlli..."

    Or Cappy, for those of us who know and love him....

66 Replies |Back to top

| Add a Reply

Sign in to comment.

Recent Activity

  • Announcement: Writers Needed for Morocco Guidebook
    by Emily_D Fodor's Editor | Posted on Apr 11, 14 at 05:51 PM
View all Africa & the Middle East activity »
  1. 1 Memory cards for camera
  2. 2 Sabi Sands camps
  3. 3 Generic malarone now availbale in Canada
  4. 4 Safari and Beach Honeymoon in September
  5. 5 Morocco for 2 nights
  6. 6 Hotels in Nairobi
  7. 7 Who Plans and Packs for Your Bucket List Travel (Safari)
  8. 8 Maldives, Seychelles or Mauritius??
  9. 9 trip report, morocco
  10. 10 Trip Report Rwanda trip report
  11. 11 Tel Aviv beaches
  12. 12 Marrakech to Fes by bus
  13. 13 Trip Report MAGICAL, MEZMERIZING MOROCCO (Revised)
  14. 14 A Couple of Questions Regarding My Itinerary
  15. 15 Petra in August, Petra by Night?
  16. 16 israel and petra
  17. 17 Tentative Israel/Jordan Itinerary...help
  18. 18 Help with Kruger Park itinerary
  19. 19 Israel and Petra
  20. 20 Eilat - Petra and the Dead Sea
  21. 21 Self Drive SA, Botswana, Zimbabwe - help, 4x4 hire/border restrictions
  22. 22 Need Help Organizing our time in Cape Town - 3.5 days in June
  23. 23 HELP..visiting Oman and Qatar from Dubai
  24. 24 Trip Report 6 Days in the Danakil Depression - An Experience of a Life Time!
  25. 25 Have you been to East Africa ?Ethiopia?
View next 25 » Back to the top