Home From SA and Zambia - Working on Trip Report!

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Aug 10th, 2005, 11:50 AM
  #1
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Home From SA and Zambia - Working on Trip Report!

I arrived home yesterday from my trip to Cape Town, South Luangwa and the Lower Zambezi. Feeling pretty sleepy today!

I'm organizing my thoughts for my trip report and my photos for Ofoto and will be posting in sections. Warning in advance - I wasn't nearly as good at keeping notes as I had hoped to be, especially once I got out into the bush.

LOVED the game walks in South Luangwa, tiger fishing in the Zambezi and the elephant outside of my tent in the Lower Zambezi - not nearly as adrenaline filled as Lin's experience though!

Coming soon.... the flights to CPT and my fixation on the SAA strike.
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Aug 10th, 2005, 12:31 PM
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Can't wait to hear all the details of your trip... and any photos?

Welcome home!
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Aug 10th, 2005, 12:45 PM
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Welcome Back! HURRY!! Can't wait to read your report as I will be going to South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi in only 69 days! (it was 168 days when I started on here, time does fly!)
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Aug 10th, 2005, 01:45 PM
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A few details before the real report…

Passport: I didn’t have two adjacent blank pages in my passport, so I sent it off to be renewed via the express service with FedEx both ways – it took about 2 ½ weeks. It didn’t seem to be necessary at immigration in SA, but I couldn’t say for sure.

Camera: A Nikon 6006 film camera and a Sony DSC-P8 digital snapshot type of camera. This was the first year that I felt really behind the times with the film camera. Even the elephants turned and took notice of the auto focus and rewind noises!

Clothes: I wore everything I took except for the long underwear and the dressy scarf. The most frequently used items were: Merrell multi-sport shoes (REI $75) – great for the game walks; Royal Robbins long sleeved shirt (ex officio type); Columbia convertible pants (Adventure 16 $40); a pair of Levis; Lands End Marinac fleece jacket; and a pair of flip flops. I also had several t-shirts of various sleeve lengths for layering, a swimsuit, etc. The weight limit of 12kg really restricted packing and shopping. And regardless of how many times I repeated to myself, "twice as much money, half as many clothes" I still didn't manage to be under the weight limit.

Gear: Just a couple items to comment on. I took insect repellent wipes which worked well, but I prefer the spray, since then you don’t get it all over your hands. I also took Neosporin with pain relief – in one of the camps a woman had a bad reaction to tsetse fly bites and had tried a number of medications for relief. She said the Neosporin with pain relief worked best.

Agents: Sunvil Africa for the Zambian portion of the itinerary and Go2Africa for the Cape Town portion. I had started out looking at the trip in two parts and booked the Zambian portion first and the Cape Town portion significantly later. With both agents, I told them the lodges I wanted to stay in and had them book lodges and associated flights and transfers.
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Aug 10th, 2005, 09:17 PM
  #5
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can't wait to compare notes on Zambia hurry!
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Aug 11th, 2005, 05:05 AM
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excited to read your trip report also. Hurry -- we leave for a short trip today and will not have access to internet. Where did you stay?
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Aug 11th, 2005, 02:56 PM
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Okay...these pins and needles are starting to get a wee bit uncomfortable!

Please get us started with at least a sneak preview, telling us where you stayed.
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Aug 11th, 2005, 03:00 PM
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I hate a good mystery so I spent a few seconds digging up dreaming's itinerary.

Here it is:

Cape Town (3)
JNB Airport Hotel (1)
Kafunta River Lodge (3) South Luangwa
Kafunta Island Bush Camp (2) South Luangwa
Chongwe River Lodge (3) Lower Zambezi
JNB - Westcliff (1)

Sounds good...holding my breath for the report!
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Aug 12th, 2005, 08:50 AM
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Sorry all - I'm completely swamped at work (that thing that enables me to earn the money to go to Africa in the first place!) so I haven't been very speedy.

Yes, there will be photos - but just the snapshot ones are digital.

Thanks to Rocco's sleuthing you have most of the info, but to round out the prior info -

Hippo Boutique Hotel - Cape Town (3)
Airport Holiday Inn - JNB (1)
Kafunta River Lodge - South Luangwa (3)
Island Bush Camp - South Luangwa (2)
Chongwe River Camp - Lower Zambezi (3)
Westcliff - JNB (1)

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Aug 12th, 2005, 05:03 PM
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Am very excited to read your report. We are contimplating a trip to SA and want to see what you thought of it. What was your favorite thing you did and best accomodations.
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Aug 16th, 2005, 08:56 AM
  #11
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For those interested, I've gotten my trip pictures organized (and even have some titles!). Be warned, there are about 250 of them and many are from a snapshot type of camera.

http://www.kodakgallery.com/I.jsp?c=...&x=0&y=-xeztea
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Aug 16th, 2005, 10:17 AM
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dreaming,

Thanks for sharing.

After seeing the dryness of South Luangwa, the Chongwe River looked heavenly.

I will be doing it in the opposite route, from Lower Zambezi to South Luangwa (followed by Cape Town and the Sabi Sand).

It was nice to see all those jumbos in the Lower Zambezi. I was a bit surprised that there were not any lion or leopard sightings in South Luangwa (unless I missed it in your photos). Did you happen to be there during a full moon, by any chance?

Kafunta River Lodge is starting to look a bit tired. They have not updated their rooms since I was there in 2003 and even then it seemed like they were due for an update/upgrade. Although they have changed the rooms at the Island Bush Camp, I actually preferred the rooms before, when they were basically just thatched walls built right on the ground with no flooring (just the sand that naturally occurs on the river bank).

I thought Chongwe River Camp looked pretty good. I had been a bit worried about this, but while it is obviously not Chiawa or Kasaka, I do like the looks of this camp. I will be at Chongwe in just 19 days, right after finishing up at Kasaka.

Looking forward to that elusive trip report!
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Aug 16th, 2005, 11:40 AM
  #13
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Rocco,

I already knew it from the "It's monday..." newsletters, but after seeing dreaming's images I have another task for you on your forthcoming journey: I'm especially interested from which lodges in Lupande GMA/South Luangwa you can see those 'nice' power lines.

Mitch
 
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Aug 16th, 2005, 11:46 AM
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Hi Dreaming,

Saw your pictures & really enjoyed them. Thanks....Jim
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Aug 16th, 2005, 01:14 PM
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Rocco - It was the new moon and the waxing moon while I was in Zambia, so good conditions, just not great luck. I had so many near misses for lion and leopard in South Luangwa. I think most people know how this goes... On the game drive before my first drive they saw a pride with cubs. On the evening I left for Island Bush camp they saw leopard. The person who didn't go on the bush walk saw lions in camp, etc. I finally saw both lion and leopard my last night in South Luangwa. There are photos of the lions, but not of the leopard. The leopard sighting was an incredible experience (I'll leave that dangling out there until I get to it in the long awaited trip report!).

I was happy with the Kafunta room. Loved the view, the veranda, and the bed was very comfortable. I did think that the shower could use an update.

The previous Island Bush Camp rooms had great appeal, but it is hard to explain how much I really liked that camp! I really liked the sleeping platform off the ground, with the bathroom facilities on the sand ground.

Chongwe has a beautiful location - I think you'll really enjoy it.

It's good to know that people are actually looking at the photos! Hope they are of some help.
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Aug 16th, 2005, 01:24 PM
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O.k., here we go. Installment #1 of the trip report. I haven't written any more, so it may be a little while between sections. Also, this is my first trip report, so go easy please!

The AA flight LAX to LHR had a 2/5/2 configuration. I took my luggage carry-on and wasn’t asked to weigh it. I boarded my flight somewhat awkwardly, carrying my main bag (12ish kg) and my “carry on” bag (4ish kg), doing my best to look like the duffel and day pack I was lugging down the aisle were really as light as air. I safely reached the seat without the mighty hand of a flight attendant determining I was carrying too much luggage, slide happily into my window seat (safe!) and realized that 1/3 of the under seat space was taken up with entertainment unit equipment (yikes!). And, there wasn’t a divider for the under seat space (this is mine, that is yours). As the stranger who would become my traveling companion for the next 12 hours sniffled his way down the aisle and into the seat next to me, I searched wildly for another place to sit. As my new best friend wiped his nose on his sleeve a new seat became an imperative. The flight wasn’t completely full, so after takeoff I moved to a new seat and (with many thanks to Ambien) dozed throughout the flight.

I had several hours in London before the next flight but had decided to not go into town, but rather to lurk around the airport. It took a full hour to transfer from Terminal 3 through the airport connections to Terminal 1. I was flying BA business (FF) to JNB, so went into the BA departure lounge to shower, get on e-mail, etc. While I was there I also changed my seat assignment for my return flight on AA to an inside aisle seat – no entertainment unit under seat! Just before my flight I had a 20 minute massage in the Moulton Brown spa in the lounge, ahhhh.

We left late from LHR and arrived late in JNB – a passenger had checked luggage in for the flight, but didn’t board. Otherwise, the flight from LHR to JNB was uneventful. I was in the upper deck in a window seat. The seats on BA fully recline so all looked well for a nice night of sleep. Dinner was great – a salmon starter and prawn marsala for the main course. And, La Motte Chardonnay to warm me up for SA wines! Somehow, I still couldn’t sleep well (the wine?).

I arrived in JNB and was meet by the go2africa representative with my air tickets for my flights JNB/CPT/JNB, the transfer vouchers and the hotel vouchers. He showed me where the hotel shuttles were for the Airport Holiday Inn and then walked me up to the domestic terminal.

It was a while before my 13:35 Nationwide flight to Cape Town, so I wandered over to the SAA representatives to ask about the strike and the status of flights from JNB to Lusaka. Since these were the domestic terminal representatives, they didn’t know much, but said that most flights were cancelled – it was now Tuesday and I was going to be flying SAA on Saturday… Uh oh. I got on the phone to Sunvil and asked them to check out some alternatives for flights in case SAA still wasn’t flying. Also, used the airport internet – ½ hour for R30, 1 hour for R50, but a slow connection.

I checked my duffel into the flight, but carried my day pack. Nationwide didn’t weigh the day pack. The Nationwide flight from JNB to CPT served a hot lunch! Flying in the States, I’ve become so used to snacks (peanuts, pretzels, are they all made by the same factory?) and bringing my own lunch that a hot lunch was a real surprise. This flight also arrived late. As I waited for my duffel to arrive I was glad that it was a blue duffel rather than something a little more common. As the fifth blue duffel arrived I had to re-assess! My bag was the 8th blue duffel.

I had booked a transfer from the airport to the hotel with go2africa and he was there, front and center, to meet me and drive me to the Hippo Boutique Hotel in Gardens.

Up next, 3 Days in Cape Town.


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Aug 16th, 2005, 05:42 PM
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dreaming,

>>>As the stranger who would become my traveling companion for the next 12 hours sniffled his way down the aisle and into the seat next to me, I searched wildly for another place to sit<<<

Oh my God, you have no idea how much I hate it when someone starts sneezing or sniffling or coughing on a long flight! I think there should be a quarantine area of the plane for sick people and children/babies!

Probably should include a quarantine area for the people that love to hear themselves talk. I swear to God on one international flight my wife and I wanted to jump out of the plane when we were stuck next to some nerdy couple who kept talking about quantum physics or some other off the wall topic. I would have rather had someone in the next seat scratching on a chalkboard for the duration of the flight. Wasn't sure whether or not if "justifiable homicide" would have been successfully argued by my legal counsel, so I just had to let it go.

Anyway, looking forward to the rest of your trip report. Glad to see you got away from the guy who was wearing a big kleenex for a shirt. Other pet peeve...people that are so drunk that they reek of it, usually get it from their breath when they are sitting in the row behind. I swear to God the next time I get one of those guys I am going to tell the stewardess that unless she would like him/her to exhale on her for the next 10 hours, not to serve them any more drinks and please get them some breath mints!
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Aug 17th, 2005, 08:32 AM
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Installment #2, Cape Town

Cape Town

It was a fairly short ride from the airport to the hotel, about 20 minutes. I had originally looked at either the Mount Nelson, since they had a great promotional winter rate, or the Arabella Sheraton (using points). I decided on the Hippo Boutique Hotel because it sounded as though restaurants, etc. were easily accessible as was the city area. The Hippo is a few blocks away from the Mount Nelson. Even with a single supplement, the room rate was around $100/night.

I checked into the Hippo and was shown to my room (#10?). Reception personnel were very friendly and ready to help. The window for my room looked out onto the side of the building and the driveway access to the under building garage parking. It had seemed that this might get noisy, but it didn’t. The rooms located in the front of the building, looking out onto Park Rd, did get noisy from cars, restaurants, etc. There were three restaurants downstairs, Greens, Simply Asia and Figaro (on the ground floor of the building, but not “hotel” restaurants). After settling in, I ate at Greens – my waitress said that the most popular dish was the chicken, brie and cranberry (Thanksgiving?!) pizza so I gave that a try. The pizza was very good, the crust was more similar to the tortilla than a “typical” pizza crust. With two glasses of white wine, the total was R98. After all of the travel and wine, I collapsed in the room by 8pm.

The Hippo has a computer with internet access in each room. This unit provides radio, TV and DVD as well. The Hippo had a laundry service not included in the room rates – some sample prices are: Trousers R18, T-Shirt R12.50, Socks R4.5. Laundry in by 9am, back same evening. Airport transfers booked through the Hippo were R160. The Hippo had a very modern feel, streamlined furnishing, laminate floors, etc. Individual temperature controls in the room, but still the floors were cold and the Hippo provided slippers. The bathroom had an opaque fixed window in the shower that was located along the interior corridor and I had the uncomfortable feeling that once the window was steamy, it was no longer opaque.

It rained overnight, but the next morning had clear blue skies. The next morning I had coffee and a muffin (R25) around the corner at a people watching mecca – Vida Café, then back to the hotel to call a cab to the waterfront (R42). I obsessively read the business page to find that the SAA strike was still on, so another call to Sunvil…. Sunvil reserved a Nationwide flight to Livingstone and an Airwaves flight from Livingstone to Lusaka – which would then meet up with my other arrangements. It would have to be paid for by Friday if the strike was still on.

I finally got down to the watch tower and gateway to Robben Island by 11. The 12pm boat to Robben Island was already full, so I booked space on the 1PM (R150). There was also a winter special for the 9AM boat of R60. The boat ride was about ½ hour through choppy seas. By the end, the seasickness bags were in full use. Once we arrived I got on the first bus, which was the first bus that departed on the tour. The tour guide was engaging, but a little sassy with a blatant (and successful) bid for tips at the end of the bus tour.

The prison tour guide was an ex political prisoner Benjamin. He conveyed such acceptance of the past and reconciliation of the present and future. With the years he spent in the small, cold, dank prison his ability to focus on the future was surprising and hopeful. After the tour I had time to walk the penguin boardwalk to see penguins.

Back at the Waterfront I wandered around the “Sail at the Waterfront” (Sale! Yeah! Luggage restrictions! Boo Hoo) finally buying a bracelet. (light and easily wearable for the flights!). Then I wandered around some more trying the find the Cape Grace to see about a dinner reservation at one.waterfront (yes, I have heard of the invention called a telephone, but I was at the waterfront!). Since I couldn’t get a reservation until quite late, I went back to the Hippo by cab (R45) and had dinner at Kitima, just a couple of blocks from the Hippo. Kitima was trendy (white furniture, white floors, colored lights) but good food. Red chicken curry and two glasses of the house red were R84.

The next day was a guided wine tour with Gourmet Wine Tours, Stephen is the guide. (Listed in Fodors.) So first thing, around the corner for a cashpoint, coffee from Mugg & Bean, and back to the hotel to meet Stephen. Stephen had planned the day to take into account my like for chardonnay, cabernet & merlot (no comments from the Sideways fans please!) and my interest in trying some Pinotage. So, we went to: De Meye; Beyerskloof for the pinotage; Rustenberg; Stoney Brook a small and friendly winery where some Australian wine producers were tasting and comparing their issues (birds, kangaroos & wallabies!) with the South Africa issues (birds and baboons!). We were running a little early for our lunch reservations, so we also stopped into Tokara (Stellenbosch) for an olive oil tasting.
Lunch was at Haute Cabriere. The day was beautiful and sunny so outdoor seating was available, but since the restaurant is known for its indoor cellar feel, I chose indoors, then got the best of both since we had a window view table. A glass of Haute Cabriere brut and the prawn and chorizo sausage risotto were fantastic, followed by an incredible hot chocolate tart. (R125) Yum. Steven had caught on that I liked chocolate, so after lunch we drove through Franschhoek and popped into Huguenot Fine Chocolates where despite the oh so onerous luggage restrictions I went ahead and bought a couple small boxes of chocolates as gifts. After lunch we finished up tasting at Plaisir de Merle and Glen Carlou. There were so many incredible wines I just wished I could start boxing them up and shipping them home! On the way back to the hotel, Steven detoured into Observatory so I could see if I could remember where I had lived over 15 years ago. I didn’t see the house, but did still recognize a few main intersections and one restaurant – Pancho’s.

For my last day in Cape Town, and my first cloudy day there, I had no big plans beyond an airport transfer around 4. So I meandered down from the Hippo to the Government Mall and Greenmarket Square. I bought a few knick knacky souvenirs and kept walking down to the train station/ bus station to wander around. I crossed one street and turned a corner and almost ran right into a uniformed security/police? officer wearing a bullet proof vest and holding some sort of assault rifle at the ready. I moved out of his way (really quickly!)

I walked on to the Castle (R20) and got there just in time for a public tour, then wandered the bastions until time for the key ceremony and the noon cannon firing. The cannon was laughingly small (see photos) – until they set it off. Then it was all sound and fury. Finally lunch at the waterfront followed by a cab back to the hotel (R54 – took the long way!). Go2africa had requested late check-out on my behalf, which I thought I had confirmed that morning, but somehow there was a mix-up. I walked into “my” room and my things were gone and someone else’s bag was on the floor. A small panic attack and I dashed to the front desk. They had my things, most of which had already been packed, and gave me another room for the time until my transfer.

Next: Overnight in JNB and Going to Zambia!

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