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

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

Jun 25th, 2003, 01:22 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 5,553

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.
Roccco is offline  
Jun 25th, 2003, 01:45 AM
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What a bummer! When I first read that I thought, cool! They bought furniture in Africa! How nice that STD thanked that guy. She probably made his day.
Jun 25th, 2003, 02:52 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 5,553

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.
Roccco is offline  
Jun 25th, 2003, 04:26 AM
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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.
Jun 25th, 2003, 05:59 AM
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 102
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!
melissaom is offline  
Jun 25th, 2003, 09:21 AM
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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
Jun 25th, 2003, 09:25 AM
Posts: n/a
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?
Jun 25th, 2003, 09:30 AM
Posts: n/a
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.
Jun 25th, 2003, 11:35 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 5,553

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...
Roccco is offline  
Jun 25th, 2003, 03:18 PM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 118

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.

owl is offline  
Jun 25th, 2003, 07:07 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 5,553

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!
Roccco is offline  
Jun 26th, 2003, 12:43 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 19
ROCCO: I'm looking for your notes about the Hotel in CPT/ Twelve Appostoles

Filipa is offline  
Jun 26th, 2003, 03:44 AM
Posts: n/a
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.
Jun 26th, 2003, 03:48 AM
Posts: n/a
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.
Jun 26th, 2003, 04:15 AM
Posts: n/a
Roccco -
Below are some NYC reservation sites (some w/discounts).

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





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.
Jun 26th, 2003, 04:21 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 5,553

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???
Roccco is offline  
Jun 26th, 2003, 05:15 AM
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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.
Jun 26th, 2003, 05:27 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 5,553

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!
Roccco is offline  
Jun 26th, 2003, 05:53 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 5,553

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?!

Roccco is offline  
Jun 26th, 2003, 06:20 AM
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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.

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