Not again...

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Aug 6th, 2004, 06:33 AM
  #1
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Not again...

Less than seven weeks removed from my last visit to Southern Africa, the Africa bug is gnawing away at my insides.

While I do intend to go to India next year, perhaps I will wait until October or November of next year and instead visit South Africa next March. In what would be a somewhat short visit, I am contemplating the following itinerary:

Cape Town, 4 nights at The Twelve Apostles Hotel. If I can stop being a couch potato and start training and continue training for the next seven months, I may put myself in a position to run the Two Oceans Ultramarathon on March 26th. Worst case, even if I am the biggest couch potato, I can run/walk the Two Oceans Half Marathon, but hopefully that is not the case.

Sabi Sand, 3 nights at Simbambili. I would expect in late March to still be able to get some use out of the private plunge pool in my room, as opposed to it being freezing as it was at Vuyatela in mid June, 2003. I picked Simbambili because I am very impressed with all the leopard sightings that Taga Safaris has been able to show on their website (www.tagasafaris.co.za) in their continuing documentary feature of the Simbambili Leopards. Also, those private plunge pools don't look too bad after running the longest and most difficult race of my life (Two Oceans is 8.5 miles longer than a standard marathon, of which I have completed three, but none since Dec. 2002).
Hopefully they will have a massage therapist as well!

Sabi Sand, 3 nts. at Mala Mala. Some people on this board will just not shut up about Mala Mala, so I will give it a try!

I do think that 6 nights of safari is about the maximum that my wife will endure before calling a divorce attorney, so I will stop there!

While I would love to see Botswana, after reading about fellow Fodorite Liz F's misadventures in late March/early April?, I will take a pass on Botswana until I can get there in August, September or October.

I do have experience with the Sabi Sand in early March and although the bush was still a little thick, it did have that nice green to it and did make for some nice pictures. I do need some nice leopard and rhino photos, and will be none the worse off if I do not have an abundance of elephants after getting more than my share of ellies in South Luangwa this year.

So, it would be a quick ten days in South Africa. I don't really care for the prices, but I do really miss South Africa. I would love to see Tanzania, but that would be too much for my wife right now to tolerate. At least in South Africa, there will be the four nights in Cape Town, and six nights in lodges that have amenities like telephones and possibly internet access.

I do like the fact that Mala Mala does offer a bush walk each day, in addition to the two game drives. While I will not want to move for about four days after running 35 miles, rather spending my time soaking in my plunge pool, stuffing my face, looking for leopards on game drives and hopefully getting 2 hour massages each day, while at Mala Mala, I do hope to be recovered enough to go on those bush walks, even if they do not turn out to be the same quality as a South Luangwa, and especially Chichele Game Lodge, quality bush walk.

I don't know what my problem is, but I just cannot stay away. I can only pray that my finances will allow me to buy a house in Cape Town sometime in the next 10 years and that I am able to visit a couple times a year for a minimum of 3 weeks each time.

For the record, for any concerned parties out there, I did have a brief conversation with my better half about this one, and she seemed to be halfway okay with it all. After all, who doesn't want to go to Cape Town and stay in the heavenly Twelve Apostles Hotel for four nights?!

If I continue going to the same destination each year, does that make me no better than the American with the timeshare in Florida or in Branson, Missouri?! I feel soooo unworldly by limiting myself to Southern Africa each year!
Roccco is offline  
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Aug 6th, 2004, 07:01 AM
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Just a thought, but from Cape Town you can easily fly to Windhoek, Namibia, and you can spend a couple of nights in the desert (at Sossosvlei) and then visit Etosha (and stay at Ongava, the Wilderness Safaris camp just outside the Etosha main gate). I visited Ongava in August 2002 and we saw plenty of rhino, including tracking white rhino by foot.

Ongava is an easy drive from Windhoek, or a short flight, but the benefit of having the car is that it will allow you, if you wish, to visit Etosha during the day when you can drive and your wife can navigate, or vice versa. It really is a lot of fun to drive yourself on safari, and Etosha is an extremely easy park for 2WD self-drive.

Well, they just came in my office to fix my computer so I'll cut this short.

Namibia is great and there is a Relais & Chateaux lodge in Windhoek, where we stayed for a night (Heinitzburg Castle).

If anything, maybe this thread will get you researching Namibia.
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Aug 6th, 2004, 07:51 AM
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Hey Roccco -

Who do you use to make your travel arrangements? I only ask because I think I just saw the 12 Apostles featured on 'special' on Luxury Link. However, my travel agent was able to match the specials that Luxury Link posted, and this gal just worked her tail off to get our trip planned last year. (The trip that I promised hubs would be a "once in a lifetime" trip...only way I could justify Singita's prices to myself...) So I know what you mean about the bug - we're going again this year. Let me know if you ever find a cure for this thing; treatment is pretty danged expensive! ;-)
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Aug 6th, 2004, 10:04 AM
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Rocco-
March in S.A. is still warm enough to use the plunge pools. When we were there from the 12-22 of March this year, that midday sun was hot enough to both warm the water, and make you want to get in. Ahhhh...the memories!

Let me know if you want another investor in that Capetown residence. I'll live there year round and leave when you come to visit. You know someone has to be there year-round to take care of all the dogs you're going to adopt over there.
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Aug 6th, 2004, 12:52 PM
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Roccco,
I've got the bug too and I'm not going on my first safari until next year, to Botswana, and I can't wait to go to Zambia (partly your bad inflence.) ...the River Horse canoe safari, the North Luangwa walking safari, Kawaza Village, Chichele Lodge, Tafika or Tena Tena???

I wish you would tell us west coasters how you seem to have no dread of the looong flights. Do you alays fly business class?
p.s.
It's a happily married man who does, as you know, what pleases his better half.
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Aug 6th, 2004, 03:29 PM
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Congratulations, Roccco, for STD agreeing to this trip. Or maybe I should say congratulations to her for being such a good sport!

I know what you mean by the Africa bug gnawing away - next month I'll be going for the 3rd time in 3 years. Last year I told myself I would wait a year or two before going back. I just can't. Thanks to safarinut, 1 night at Notten's, 6 nights at MalaMala.


mzcuriouz - regarding the long flight. I fly from Texas which is closer than the west coast but after you go the first time, that never-ending flight is just a small obstacle. I am one of the few smokers left in the world and although about half way thru the flight I could probably kill something for a smoke, it's just a small price to pay to get to go. Over on the Europe section I have read about people asking how to survive the flight from the US to Europe and I've thought to myself, go to Africa once or twice and flying to Europe is easy. (Even in coach, as long as there are no screaming babies.)


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Aug 7th, 2004, 12:31 AM
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Thanks for all the feedback.

-About those flights...after about 12 hours, it all becomes a blur. It took us about 42 hours from the time we left Chichele Presidential Lodge to the time we walked in our front door. Let me recount the steps:

Chichele Presidential Lodge to Mfuwe Airport by road - 2 hours (with a 1/2 hour stop at some arts and crafts factory).

45 minute wait for flight at Mfuwe Airport.

1 hour, 20 minute flight from Mfuwe to Lusaka.

2 hour, 40 minute layover in Lusaka.

2.5 hour flight to Joburg.

3 hour layover time in Joburg.

11.5 hour flight from Joburg to London (remember, I had started this trip in Italy and therefore flew down to Joburg from London).

4 hour layover time in London.

11 hours, 45 minute flight from London to LAX.

1.5 hours through customs and baggage collection at LAX.

45 minutes from LAX to home

Honestly, I preferred this choppy return home than had I only been allowed minimal layover time in London and Joburg. At least we were able to use the Business Class lounges in Joburg and London, doing everything from showering, to using the internet, to even catching half of one of the opening games of the Euro Cup soccer championships.

Thit Cho...thanks for the suggestion on Namibia. It does look like a fascinating place, but I really cannot afford to fall in love with a new place. I already have South Africa and Zambia to juggle with, as it is now (and have my heart set on Tanzania then Botswana in the next few years).

After getting a feel for this itinerary, I do think that I would be wise to add two nights in the Cape Winelands after my four nights in Cape Town. While I didn't fall in love with the Cape Winelands when I was there last time, I do think it would be different in late March than it was in mid-June, the time of my last visit.

Last time in the Winelands, a couple of the most recommended restaurants were already closed for the season, as well as one place that Selwyn highly recommended for a stay. Also, the mornings and nights were very chilly and our tour guide did kind of suck and was more interested in telling us how the whites would defend their interests in South Africa since it is they who have the military training and not the blacks. We cut that tour short by a couple hours, needless to say (he wasn't even Afrikaans!).

I am not finding that either Simbambili or Mala Mala offer massage therapy, so two nights at a place in the Winelands also fits the bill for that reason. Plus, who knows, maybe my wife can go to the spa all day on the second day and I can do something like go cage diving for great white sharks, although I don't think sightings may be very strong in late March.

I do know that reality is about to slap me in the face when I start seeing the prices for the Twelve Apostles and a top notch Cape Winelands place. I swear, it costs as much per night as it did for the $570 package I bought last year for the Twelve Apostles. That package included four nights with a lot of amenities thrown in the deal.

Luxury Link still does have a 3 night package, starting at $845 for the Twelve Apostles that I will jump on in a heartbeat if it is offered for late March. I will definitely add a night, hopefully at a big discount if I get the package from Luxury Link. Although it has its detractors, the Twelve Apostles is my favorite hotel that I have yet visited, as well as my wife's favorite hotel.

Just to compare, we have also stayed at the Table Bay Hotel in Cape Town and the Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town, and spent many, many hours enjoying the Cape Grace, although not staying at the hotel. I don't know where else, besides at the Twelve Apostles, where the concierge will, at 11PM at night, personally give the arriving guests a tour of the hotel and offer them complimentary drinks (and I'm not talking BS already prepared drinks...I had a wonderful hot chocolate and my wife had a cappucino or something similar). Our entire stay was perfect at the Twelve Apostles Hotel, and we did not even discover the beautiful trails behind the hotel leading into the mountains (with a great view of the Atlantic Ocean just below) until our final day.

I imagine that the traffic should be very light on Easter weekend during my stay and that there will not be a better place to be. I imagine that I will not mind giving up the comforts of their wonderful beds for one night in late March to at least sleep part of the night away on the balcony thinking of the tremendous accomplishment of having just completed 35 miles of running, if I am, in fact, so fortunate to qualify for this race and then complete it.

I do hope that I can get back to South Africa on Business Class. I do have the miles, if just barely, but the challenge will be in finding the flights. I do not mind, at all, if I have to go through London or another European gateway. Travel to Europe should still be pretty cheap in late March, and I would be willing to fly business class on SAA, British Airways, Iberia, Swiss Airlines or any other carrier, although I prefer SAA or British Airways since I think it would be possible for a direct flight from Europe to Cape Town. I did find the SAA Business Class very inconsistent, however. It was heavenly from London to Joburg, but on the way back, it wasn't that great. Definitely leaps and bounds above economy but nowhere near what it was for the flight over which had 180 degree folding seats and terrific service.

So, I think that this itinerary may serve me very well:

March 22nd - Depart LAX (late night flight)
March 23rd - En Route
March 24th - Arrive Cape Town. Transfer to Twelve Apostles for four nights.
March 28th - Transfer to Cape Winelands for two nights at the best available place. Perhaps The Grande Roche or the Lanzerac Manor, my chosen venue from last year. I do need to really brush up on my South Africa, because I have forgotten about the other places. There is some Relais & Chateaux place, Le something or other Francaise, that seems to be right in the middle of town, making everything convenient by foot. After running for two hours tomorrow, that will be my project...to brush up on my South Africa and to bang my head against the wall when I see the prices at 6.1 Rand to the USD (it was bad enough at 8 Rand to the USD last year, and 7 Rand to the USD when I was booking my trip for this year, ultimately deciding on 11 nights of Zambia without a single night in SA due to the prices).
March 30th - Transfer to Mala Mala, 3 nights.
April 02nd - Transfer to Simbambili, 3 nights.
April 05th - birthday game drive in the morning, saying goodbye to my spotted (leopard) friends and then the long journey home.

I really don't have the energy to mess around with this itinerary too much. I am going to just turn it over, more than likely, to Taga Safaris (www.tagasafaris.co.za) who will likely be the best price and offer the best service. I can live with the prices for Simbambili and Mala Mala, but the prices for the hotels is going to be hard to swallow, and I really don't care for smaller properties. To me, the Twelve Apostles is the perfect size, with about 70 rooms, as is the Lanzerac Manor, and I imagine the Grande Roche or whatever Francaise in the Winelands.

I do imagine a wonderful holiday in the early days of Autumn?/last days of summer? in late March. Besides Mala Mala, Simbambili, the Lanzerac Manor?, and the Twelve Apostles, for a runner, even a poser like myself, the Two Oceans Marathon would be a dream come true. This may be one of the most beautiful (and challenging) courses in the world, and I do think that I would treasure this race and the achievement of completing it for the rest of my life. I imagine that I would be having some very pleasant dreams for a very long time after completing such a magnificent trip.

Thanks for listening to my rambling...now do me a favor and tell me to get off the Fodors board when you see too much, UNLESS I have already done my training for the day!
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Aug 7th, 2004, 09:29 AM
  #8
 
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Roccco: Sounds awesome! My memory could be clouded but I am pretty sure that March is the prime time for tigers in India -- you may want to check on that for Oct. & Nov. Perhaps you will need to go to Botswana in Oct. and then India the following March.
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