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Revised...FINAL (and confirmed) Itinerary for Zambia, 2004...

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Feb 12th, 2004, 04:51 PM
  #1
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Revised...FINAL (and confirmed) Itinerary for Zambia, 2004...

Okay,

Everything is a done deal, unless AMEX wisens up and cancels my account before I can charge it up for this trip!

Prague is out, an extra night in the Lower Zambezi, a night in Johannesburg and a one day delay in my departure are in. The Italy tour came back to bite me, and because the date I wanted was unavailable, I had to take a date two calendar days sooner, causing the cancellation of Prague. Honestly, though, I am not really all that disappointed, since it will make the trip flow a lot better now.

With Prague, I had to fly into London, catch a connecting flight to Prague, had only three nights, and would have been completely beat up and taking a one-way flight to Rome the next day after the Prague Marathon. Hopefully I don't flake out and still run a marathon the weekend before I leave, most likely the Palos Verdes Marathon along the rolling Los Angeles coastline on May 16th.

Also, I was fortunate enough to have www.awardplanner.com find an alternate flight after I told them that I wasn't too keen about paying 115,000 miles pp for "premier" class on Virgin-Atlantic, "premier" being something between economy and business, but looking more like economy. Instead, my consultant at awardplanner.com found a BUSINESS CLASS flight out of LHR-JNB-LHR for only 80,000 miles. I didn't really want to stop in JFK and now I will take a direct flight from LAX-LHR-LAX. The Business Class seat will really soften up my better half, whom seems more than a little annoyed at 3 straight years of safari, and keep her from pushing me off the vehicle into a pride of lions.

So, anyway, here is how I decided to spend my summer vacation, class.

May 21 - 5:30 PM Departure LAX-LHR (direct flight on Virgin Atlantic, $660 R/T).

May 22 - Arrive London at Noon. Connect to undetermined flight to Rome, hopefully arriving by 4:30 PM in order to meet the rest of the Globus or Insight or whatever I booked tour group for a 6PM welcome dinner.

May 23 - Rome (for the third time and second time in the last four years).

May 24 - Assisi

May 25 - Venice

May 26 - Florence

May 27 - Florence. Celebrate 4th Anniversary.

May 28 - Naples

May 29 - Naples

May 30 - Rome

May 31 - Rome - London for 8PM flight to JNB.

June 01- Arrive JNB in mid-morning. Transfer to The Grace Hotel in Rosebank for one night. My wife LOVES the Cape Grace, so why not let her enjoy the Grace in Joburg, although I like the location of the Michelangelo much better.

June 02- 10:15AM departure to Lusaka on SAA. 12:15PM arrival and hopefully a very interesting transfer that would include 2 hours by road to the Luangwa River, followed by a 2 hour river transfer on a SPEEDBOAT! Watch out for those hippos!!! Arrive at Lower Zambezi National Park for three nights at Kulefu Tented Camp (they could have picked a more interesting name...it just doesn't roll off the tongue and sound nearly as intriguing as the nearby Sausage Tree Camp, although it appears every bit as beautiful). Night game drive.

June 03rd - Kulefu. Choice of different game activities include morning and night game drives, fishing in the Luangwa River (off a boat), canoeing, and game walks.

June 04th - Kulefu.

June 05th - Air transfer to Mfuwe, perhaps a one hour transfer on light plane. Transfer to Kaingo for two nights. Activities include morning game drives, noontime excursions to the elephant and hippo hides, night game drives and game walks.

June 06th - Kaingo.

June 07th - Morning game drive at Kaingo, followed by breakfast and a three hour bush walk to Mwamba, Kaingo's Bush Camp right on the the Mwamba River. Night game drives, morning game drives and bush walks are the main activities.

June 08th - Mwamba.

June 09th - Final morning game drive and breakfast followed by 2 hour road transfer to Puku Ridge game lodge. All the same activities as other camps, but no hippo or elephant hides.

June 10th - Puku Ridge.

June 11th - Transfer just a kilometer or two away to another Star Of Africa lodge, the Chichele Presidential Lodge for my final night. This used to actually be a presidential retreat for a former President of Zambia. Puku Ridge was unavailable for the final night (I think I got bumped for a full paying customer, but I'm not complaining, as the Chichele Presidential Lodge is actually Star Of Africa's most celebrated lodge).

June 12th - noon? flight to Lusaka on charter flight, followed by afternoon flight to Johannesburg. 8PM flight from JNB - LHR, Business Class on SAA/Delta.

June 13th - morning arrival in London. Connect shortly afterward to direct flight home. That is the toughest part about going to Africa from Los Angeles...the 30+ hour return trips home!

And that is what I pulled out of my a....hat for this year, class. Don't really know where it came from as two weeks ago, I was resigned to the fact that I was NOT going to Africa this year. The last thing I would have expected was to return to Zambia but I think that is because I really developed such a longing for South Luangwa and, the previous year, for the Zambezi River while at Matetsi Water Lodge near Victoria Falls.

Although everything didn't happen EXACTLY the way I planned it, it is amazing how perfectly everything fell into place. Of course, a few sleepless nights, including one 48 hour span of NO SLEEP AT ALL, contributed greatly, but there is something more to it all.

There is some force that is just PULLING me back to Africa, and I will just have to make an equal effort in everyday life so that I have the resources in the next five years to buy myself a great house in Camps Bay, Hout Bay or other desirable part of Cape Town, even if I rent it out for 11 months per year. Really my better half has no desire to continue going on safari every year but she does want her OWN place in Cape Town where she can hang out while I am on safari. Hey, if it saves me $600 per night at Duba Plains or $875 per night once I do the Mombo, I think that is a great idea.

A brief recap:
Rome (2)
Assisi (1)
Venice (1)
Florence (2)
Naples (2)
Rome (1)
Johannesburg (1)
Lower Zambezi National Park, Kulefu (3)
South Luangwa, Kaingo (2)
South Luangwa, Mwamba (2)
South Luangwa, Puku Ridge (2)
South Luangwa, Chichele President Lodge (1)

And again, I scratch my head and ask how this all came about and can hardly believe that in 14 weeks I will again be off to Africa. Don't mean to get all sappy, but I must acknowledge that I have full faith that this was God's plan and I am most thankful.

Alrighty then!!!
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Feb 12th, 2004, 05:45 PM
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ROCCCO:

Sounds great! I hope you have a wonderful trip.

Could you please give me an indication of the cost for your ten day stay in Zambia including the price of all air transfers(including the flight from JHB to Lusaka)

At last I find someone who shares the same passion as I do for Africa!

Roccco you have finally convinced me to venture out of the Sabi Sands for my next safari.

I love the bush so much that I have seriously considered giving up my day job to settle in the bush permanently.

I have been to Namibia,Zimbabwe,Mozambique,Botswana(mashatu),Zamb ia(Vic Falls) and Angola but I could never convince myself to undertake a safari outside the Sabi Sands in fear of disappointment.

I think I am ready now!
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Feb 12th, 2004, 06:52 PM
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Safarinut,

FLASHFORWARD, August, 2008:

Well, you could just drop your wife off at my oceanview Meditteranean Villa overlooking Camps Bay and we'll head up to South Luangwa for some prime-time gameviewing. Since I bought out that Robin Pope character, and brought in H&G TV, the decor of the lodges and the spirit of the employees and guests have markedly improved. Even the wild animals are not scared of the way the camps look anymore and are hanging around more and more!!!

OKAY...back to reality--do you believe that I don't even do drugs??? No. Well, whatever---

Let me calculate it. They can't take it back, right???

Flights:
JNB-Lusaka-JNB = $300 USD pp
Lusaka-Jeki (Lower Zambezi)= $90 USD pp
Jeki-Mfuwe (S. Luangwa) = $310 pp
Mfuwe-Lusaka = $200 pp

I really only attribute $600 pp of this cost to South Luangwa, as I would have to fly somewhere anyway. Even in the Sabi Sand, for example, if there are only two persons going from Hoedspruit to Sabi Sand, I think the charge is about $150 pp for a round-trip. Go to a second location like Phinda and it is probably similar, so you are likely to rack up $300 pp wherever you go, if you visit two locations. I am paying a 100% surcharge to have the isolation and "Real Africa", as Zambia's Tourist Ministry advertises, that I love so much.

Anyway, I am up to $900 pp so far, including the flight from JNB. Now here come the real savings:

Kulefu Tented Camp, Lower Zambezi National Park, 3 nights = $600 pp

Kaingo, South Luangwa, 2 nights = $260 pp (including national park entry fee)

Mwamba, South Luangwa, 2 nts = $240 pp

Puku Ridge, S. Luangwa, 2 nts = 400 pp

Chichele, S. Luangwa, 1 night = 200 pp

Grand total for lodging is $1,700 pp for TEN NIGHTS. This would buy about 1.65 nights at Singita, 2 nights at Londolozi or Mombo, 2.5 nights at Mala Mala's best camp, etc.

I have one night in Johannesburg at The Grace that I expect to run $150 pp, including transfers, bringing my grand total, for this 11 night all-inclusive package to $2,750 pp.

Honestly, I don't know how I did it. Sheer determination? Dumb luck? No shame? Divine intervention?

All of the above, perhaps. Okay, I am starting to neglect my wife and kids (6 dogs, that is), so CIAO, BABY!!!
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Feb 12th, 2004, 07:18 PM
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ROCCCO:

Thanks for the info.Incredible bargain!

Ten nights on safari for a fully inclusive rate of 5200 dollars for two people!

Even if I book on mtbeds I am looking at a minimum rate of 3200 rands a night for two people ie.470 dollars and then I have to return to a lodge where I have already been to.

There are two lodges in RSA though I still have to see.

1)Singita Lebombo

2)Tinga Private Game Reserve

But they will have to wait.

ZAMBIA HERE I COME!

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Feb 12th, 2004, 09:43 PM
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safarinut,

And to compound matters further, the places that I am staying are not two-bit places, but instead they are amongst the best in Southern Africa.

Sure, Kaingo's main lodge may not be as zippy as some of the newer lodges in the Sabi Sand, but the overall game experience, competence of guides and hospitality will more than compensate for not having a wine cellar and internet access.

Mwamba, on the other hand, is what I live for. To be right out on the banks of the river, surrounded by hippos that ground themselves on the shore and shuffle around to eat the vegetation right outside your thatched cottage, with only a couple meters separating you from becoming a hippo's after-dinner mint!

Moving on to the Star Of Africa lodges, these are all lodges that would be included in any top group of lodges in South Africa or Botswana. Kulefu appears like it is the closest you can get to the Okavango Delta, without being in Botswana. I don't think any South African lodge can offer the kind of variety that any of the Zambian lodges offer. Game walks, canoeing, sundowner cruises, night and game drives, hippo and elephant hides at Kaingo, FISHING!, I don't even fish but just the opportunity to do so is awesome.

Kulefu Tented Camp has a rack rate of $400 pp per night in high season, which is still not a bad deal, but because too few people are willing to leave the friendly confines of Wrigley Field, errr, I mean the Sabi Sand, it offers those of us who are looking for a little bit more, and if you are not afraid to ask for a discount then you have the opportunity to have an incredible safari that others are paying triple the price to do in Botswana.

I mean just look at Kulefu Tented Camp, and tell what the difference is between it and some of the $600 pp per night lodges in Botswana. The answer is...NONE!

www.star-of-africa.com/circuit7.htm

And tell me that Puku Ridge is not every bit as nice as a place like, for example, Lion Sands in the Sabi Sand.

www.star-of-africa.com/circ3b.htm

http://www.tagasafaris.co.za/lion-sands-game-lodge.htm

Even in low season, Lion Sands is able to command a $400 pp per night rate and it doesn't even include road transfers to the airport, alcoholic beverages or laundry (as are all included at most places in Zambia). Those items alone could easily add possibly $150 per person to the price of the stay. Now, for a three night stay, the average rate is $450 pp in LOW SEASON...brrrr...cold, as I learned from Djuma Vuyatela last June.

Forget about high season at, for example, Lions Sands. Given today's exchange rates, it will cost $582 per night per person. Even if you get a "good deal" from a tour operator, you will, at best, probably get it for $500 pp in high season and still leave with dirty underwear if you don't fork over extra money for laundry!

More disgusting is the amount that the new Lion Sands camp will command...about $900 pp per night, no matter if it is low season or high season. Hmmmm...two nights of Lion Sands Ivory Lodge in low season, or three nights Kulefu Tented Camp AND two nights Kaingo AND two nights Mwamba AND two nights Puku Ridge AND one night Chichele Presedential lodge in HIGH SEASON FOR THE SAME PRICE???

Anyway, I don't like the negative sound of this post and I don't really know where I am going with it. I just need to embrace the fact that most people will NEVER venture beyond the Sabi Sand/Kruger and that will allow a select few of us to really have a haven that we can call our own.

While Botswana looks incredible, it is still, for the most part, twice as expensive as expensive as the South Luangwa.

Lastly, for the most part, Zambia does not price out its game lodges in Rand but rather in U.S. Dollars. Let the dollar tumble against the Rand and every other currency out there...as long as I am staying in Zambia, I will not be penalized for this.

Safarinut, I encourage you to discover Zambia. I, for one, never, ever, ever, ever, would have thought that I would visit Southern Africa and end up spending 1 night in South Africa (and only Johannesburg) and 10 nights in Zambia on safari.

Do I think that I am going to have any regrets? Not likely.

Do I think that I am going to have the best trip that I have ever had? That's the way it's starting to feel!

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Feb 13th, 2004, 12:02 AM
  #6
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It just got even cheaper...

Previously I reported these rates on Star Of Africa:

Lusaka-Jeki (Lower Zambezi)= $90 USD pp
Jeki-Mfuwe (S. Luangwa) = $310 pp
Mfuwe-Lusaka = $200 pp

Now, I found this air charter company:
www.ulendosafaris.com/aircharter.htm

Their rates for the same flights:
Lusaka-Jeki (Lower Zambezi)= $90 USD pp
Jeki-Mfuwe (S. Luangwa) = $230 pp
Mfuwe-Lusaka = $160 pp

While only $120 pp savings, hey, that will buy an extra night at Kaingo or Mwamba.

That gets this package down to $2,480 per person for a 10 night safari at some pretty great places. I guarantee you that you will not find better on an organized itinerary for even 50% more.

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Feb 13th, 2004, 12:56 AM
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Good for you Rocccccco!
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Feb 13th, 2004, 08:35 AM
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Well, well, well, what have we here???!!!

Good morning boys and girls---

Thought I'd put the invite out there--1 smashing trip to Africa--Roccco is looking for a travel companion. I, unfortunately, will be attending to a previously scheduled engagement at home of washing my hair.

He will be accepting applications shortly--please stay tuned!
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Feb 13th, 2004, 08:46 AM
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Scared
I already have two trips planned to Africa in the next few months, so I'm afraid I can't apply for the position...
Hope you enjoy your Europe trip.
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Feb 13th, 2004, 09:08 AM
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Just in case...

Anybody wanna go to Zambia??? $2,480 for a 10 night all-inclusive package if you make your way down to Joburg. $2,180 if you fly direct from London-Lusaka. No birders or axe murderers need apply.
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Feb 13th, 2004, 09:55 AM
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Sorry...Already going to the forementioned L_ _ n S _ _ _ s with the k _ _ s. {Expletives deleted).
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Feb 13th, 2004, 10:19 AM
  #12
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Delta has allowed me free business class add-on air from JNB-Lusaka-JNB, dropping the price pp down to $2,180 for this magnificent 10 night all-inclusive package.
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Feb 13th, 2004, 10:46 AM
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I would go in a heartbeat if a could!

Just returned though from a 18 day safari in the Sabi Sands and a month long holiday in RSA.

Roccco looked at your accommodations and really impressed with quality.

After growing up in RSA and spending every second weekend of my life in Kruger my safari expectations has risen to a point where I can hardly enjoy a traditional safari anymore.

The staff at MalaMala has always gone out of their way to accommodate me though.The drawback is that you must pay for a private vehicle which is in the range of 450 dollars a day.I find that this is worth the money though because then I can look at what I WANT.

I will never forget a guest on a previous safari asking the ranger to please move on from the sighting because she didn't enjoy the smell of a buffalo carcass.We had to abandon a sighting of a pride of lions feasting on the buffalo!!!!What can you do ? I loved it though but respected her request.

I also don't like the fact that the night drives end at 20h00,what? to return to the lodge and have a fancy meal whilst the predators are most active!

My next safari at Mala I will get special permission to stay out all night!

Fellow guests can really spoil your safari if you don't have similar interests.But then everyone doesn't enjoy the same things in life.
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Feb 13th, 2004, 12:03 PM
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scaredtodeath -

Well it is so nice to hear from you! When seeing Roccco's FINAL (and confirmed) itinerary, I was really tempted to ask:

"... and what does STD have to say? is she excited to be going to Africa again?

But I didn't and I felt this was something I knew the two of you had to work out some way or another. Well, I guess you just answered my unasked question!

Admittedly though, he did real good with the prices.

I do recall when I suggested separate vacations when you were planning last year's African Adventure, you replied - "no separate vacations in this family" - but maybe with his addiction to Africa, you should just let him head out with one of his buddies (even alone) to get it out of his system; and you (and the gals) do your own thing.

- and he "must" - under penalty (of something) - bring home "sparklies" for you!
 
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Feb 13th, 2004, 12:11 PM
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Roccco,
I seem to remember scared to death doesn't like flying on those small plane transfers...how are you going to swing this?

Safari nut, I agree with you that the other people in the vehicle can drive you crazy...like Rocco my husband and I were at the mercy of some birders or as we call them in the uk "twitchers". One of the things we love about going on the end of the season is that it is quieter and they often put you in a vehicle by yourself.

As to the question of value...it is occasionally possible to find a 10 night itineraries for $2,500. In Nov 2000 we did Tongabezi (Falls) for 2 nights, Sausage Tree (Lower Zambezi) three night with three nights at Tena Tena (Robin Pope Luangwa) and two nights at Nsefu (same) on a special with the South African company Pulse Africa (www.africansafari.co.za). It included air transfers Victoria Falls (zambian side)-Jeki and then up to Luangwa...and finally to Lilongwe..which all ended up being private! incredible...I still can't get over what a bargain it was!
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Feb 13th, 2004, 11:19 PM
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Welltraveledbrit,

Here is what I came up with to address the small plane issue (copied and pasted from Chiawa Camp, an awesome looking camp near Kulefu Tented Camp, my destination):

First, a two hour drive on good road to Gwabi Lodge where the vehicles are parked and you board any one of our motor boats. The trip (75kms) down the river takes less than two hours and has been extremely popular with our guests. The first 50kms passes fishing villages before entering game- rich country where plentiful hippo, elephant, buffalo, many types of antelope and birds, and crocodile are seen en-route. This service is available from/to Lusaka or Kariba and the times involved from/to both are similar.

As far as the flight from Lusaka to Mfuwe (South Luangwa) goes, last year we flew on Zambian Airways on a 17 seat Raytheon Beechcraft and it was a very nice flight, although not everybody will remember commenting on what a nice flight it was. The only other alternative is to fly into Lilongwe, and then have 6 hour road transfer into the South Luangwa National Park.

I have faith that this will all work out. Same s(h)ituation, different year.
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Feb 14th, 2004, 08:32 AM
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PRESS RELEASE:

Azusa Canyon, California-February 14, 2004-

My fellow Fodorites,

Approaching the brink of disaster, the Zambian Missile Crisis has peacefully come to an end without a single casualty, well, other than a 2 hour hunger strike, before getting my way (not quite Gandhi-esque, but enough to make my stomach growl).

As part of the settlement agreement, we will skip Africa next year, which is fine because as long as I have my Assyrian (from Iran) in-laws with me, I would like to go not only to Dubai, but also to Iran for a week, on the way over to India next January or February.

So, we will likely not return to Southern Africa, or any Africa, until
June 2006 after this trip.
This will also give me time to fill up my piggy bank and assure that I will not struggle after RUNNING, and not just SURVIVING, the Comrades Marathon on June 16, 2006, as I would have done had I done it a year earlier.

I already have an itinerary in mind:

Durban, best possible lodging (4)
Phinda Forest (3)
Rocktail Bay (3)
Durban-JNB-Maun (or possibly even VFA, if it easier)
Chobe, best possible lodging (2)
Kwando Lagoon (3)
Duba Plains (3)
Mombo (3)

I imagine that will be just a little more than the $2,380 pp that my, equal in length, 11 night Zambian safari will be, but if, fata$$ me, can run and finish the Comrades Marathon, I will have earned it. I have 29 months to prepare, which is more realistic than the 17 month time frame, formerly.

With this, and the news (and wonderful thanks I received) about fellow fodorite, Liz Frazier's, successful Luxury Link winning bid for a great looking Botswana package, I am on Cloud 9 today!
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Feb 14th, 2004, 12:31 PM
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And well you should be on Cloud 9, Rocco! You will have a wonderful trip and STD (whose earlier posting I howled over) will enjoy herself as well. My hubby is less than enthusiastic about our return in October to Kenya and Tanzania, but we compromised as well. Looks like I will have to wait until 2006 to return to Africa! However, I'll bet $10 that you manage to "squeeze" in a trip to Africa next year, especially if there is a really good bargain to be had!
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Feb 14th, 2004, 01:12 PM
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So very interesting!
 
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Feb 15th, 2004, 05:25 AM
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z
 
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Great!!!!!
Roccco, where are you staying in Venice? Do you have somewhere photos from your previous safari that I could see?
Thanks
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