Zambia, here I come...

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May 30th, 2004, 01:19 PM
  #1
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Zambia, here I come...

(Long sigh of relief)

I survived Italy, despite the hordes of people in "shoulder season", and I will be off to the airport in just a few hours to suffer through a day in London before my overnight flight from London to Joburg. I say "suffer" through a day in London only because I had no idea how DRAINING a guided tour of Italy would be on me.

Insight Tours "Best Of Italy" tour

Rome, 3 nights (including one pre-tour night)
It was okay, but I am definitely not used to hotels of Crowne Plaza caliber, plus it was not located anywhere near the best areas. Last time I was in Rome I was at a beautiful hotel, the Parco Dei Principi, a 5 star hotel in the best part of town.

Assisi, 1 night. Great views and a decent room but the staff and even management should have been thrown off the cliff. Bad food, internet broken, and bad shower.

Venice, 1 night. Nice enough hotel but far from St. Marks Square, but at least on the Grand Canal.

Montecasini (in Tuscany, 30 minutes outside of Florence). This was my favorite city of all. Upscale little city of about 20,000 residents and the prices were the best out of anyplace we visited in Italy. 2 nights gave us a brief breather.

Callemara (near Sorrento), 2 nights. Best hotel of the bunch, but far away from the action. Very helpful staff and management. The people in Southern Italy are definitely a lot nicer than those in Northen Italy. Way too little time in such a beautiful region.

Rome, 1 night. Here I sit at the Sheraton Roma, which must have about 500 rooms, as it is near the airport. A bad lounge singer is busting out Enya songs nearby and I have all my packing to do tonight. 3:30AM wakeup call, 4:45AM departure for the airport for my 7AM flight to London. Really wish I would have chosen a later flight so I could have slept in, as now I will be wandering the streets of London tired, hopefully finding a place where scaredtodeath and I can get a 2 hour massage.

Highlights of this trip...visiting Capri, a truly beautiful place that deserves a four or five nights in a more secluded part of the island, away from the stampede of day tourists...Montecasini, a beautiful little modern Tuscan city that reminded me of Marbella, Spain, without the ocean, of course...having the opportunity to walk an average of about 4 to 5 miles per day...a great tour manager that kept us entertained the entire time and really helped bring the group together.

Lowlights...waking up every day at 6AM, although it will provide excellent training for those 5:30AM knocks on the door that I will be getting daily in Zambia...10 days of continental breakfasts...10 days of travelling 8 plus hours a day in a bus; a cruise would have given me as much, OR MORE, time on excursions...very average food, whether it was included or was at very nice restaurants...horrible service, with about one service staff for every 10 people on average...Leaning Tower of Pisa area, what a mess with way too many people...tons of people everywhere and it was not even high season yet.

So, now, I look forward to the exact opposite in Zambia...I expect there to be no more than about eight other guests at any of the game lodges I visit, and no other game lodges within a couple miles instead of the average of 200 guests per hotel on an average of about five acres...I expect a service staff that far exceeds the amount of guests present, not suffering through continental breakfasts with my group of 40 that did not provide us with even a single staff person...I expect very warm and hospitable people that are very happy with my presence instead of rude people that were found everywhere except south of Rome...I do not expect to have to guard my wallet from Zambians, the way I had to guard it from gypsies and other suspicious characters...I do not expect to spend more than $500 USD, and that will be mostly on tips, unlike spending more than triple that in Italy without even trying...I do expect to have an AMAZING time in Zambia on my bush walks, canoe excursions on the Zambezi, morning game drives and night game drives, along with down time during the day to lounge around the pool, nap, read or WHATEVER.

Unfortunately my camera is acting up and I do not know how many good photographs I will be able to take, as it is having trouble recognizing the fact that there is a memory stick present. Fortunately I have 11 days to get some shots in, so even if I miss half my opportunities, I still should be able to produce a decent portfolio.

I do not expect to have any internet access for the next two weeks so hopefully my next post will be an amazing trip report with pictures following shortly thereafter.

Wish me luck!
Roccco is offline  
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May 30th, 2004, 02:12 PM
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Get one of those old fashioned abrasive pink pencil erasers and use it to polish the contacts of the memory stick. I have the same problem with my SD card and erasing the contacts always works. (I don't know what a memorystick looks like so I assume you can access the contacts).
NoFlyZone is offline  
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May 31st, 2004, 08:30 AM
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NFZ,

Unfortunately, I think the problem runs deeper than anything an eraserhead can handle. Even my new memorysticks suffer the same problem, and some do not work at all, my punishment for buying things on E-Bay and not being able to so easily returning them.

Anyway, I am sitting in the SAA Business Class lounge in London. Despite a 9 hour layover, we chose not to leave the airport after being told that we would not be able to check in our luggage until four hours before the flight left (SAA didn't even have a counter open up until that time).

Boy, were we happy to leave Italy. By the end, it was nearly as bad as Zimbabwe, if not worse. Italians are just the most difficult people, unless you are staying at 5* hotels, I suppose. I made the mistake of answering honestly to the Alitalia representative while checking in, when asked if I was returning home from my connecting flight or if I was going elsewhere. Had I said I was going home, I would not have been charged for overweight luggage, but because I honestly answered that I was going to South Africa I was slapped with a 140 Euro charge (about $170).

We are really on about a 60 hour stretch from hell here, since we didn't sleep more than half an hour last night, and had a marathon last day in Naples that started at 6AM and has honestly continued all the way until now, 36 hours later. With 2.5 hours to go until my flight takes off, an 11.5 hour? flight to Joburg, a 3 hour layover in Joburg, a 2 hour flight to Lusaka, a 1.5 hour layover in Lusaka and a 1 hour flight to South Luangwa, I still have some major travelling to do that will take me to nearly a 60 hour stretch of travelling, but much less when you deduct the useless last day in Rome, at the miserable Sheraton Roma.

One thing is for sure, I will never take a guided tour again, relatives or not. Although not really my thing either, a cruise on Celebrity or another similar line would have been much better and in the end, about the same amount of money. That was my first choice but one of the travellers was not willing to cruise due to seasickness, but next time, tough cookies, as spending eight hours a day in a bus, ten hours a day in a hotel and only six hours a day visiting the sites and shopping is not a holiday in my book.

Another thing, the Rome Airport is blightful, but that is all behind me now!!!

Now, I can look forward to South Luangwa and the Lower Zambezi, as well as a brand spanking new SAA plane that features business class seats that fold all the way down, creating a bed!

What a difference it will be from travelling in a busload of 40 people to possibly having our own private Land Cruiser, or perhaps sharing it with only one other couple, as I doubt the South Luangwa or Lower Zambezi will be at more than 50% capacity right now.

And to walk the bush for miles without encountering another human being, instead of not being able to walk a single block in Italy without encountering hundreds of other people will be a real treat.

I'll be back in a couple weeks. Cheers!
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May 31st, 2004, 11:08 AM
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Hey Rocco,

Now is the time for the best part of your journey and by the time you read this you'll either be in J'burg heading to Zambia or heading back to the ole USA.

Glad to see you made it through the first half of your journey unscathed(well, almost!)

If you get this email in time, drink one(or several) for the rest of us under that beautiful starry African sky.

Hope your trip to Zambia brings you everything you want. Although from your last post, sounds like just getting there will suffice!
Have a blast!

By the way, the call of the wild dogs are waiting for you!
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May 31st, 2004, 09:53 PM
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Rocco, I think all that suffering in Italy was meant to make Zambia all the more wonderful!!
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May 31st, 2004, 11:45 PM
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Thanks Divewop and Clematis.

I feel like I am home again! I write from the Baobab Lounge (SAA Business Class lounge) at the Joburg Airport.

Welllll...I am completely fresh, despite being on the run for the last 48 hours, thanks entirely to SAA Business Class lounge in London, SAA Business Class flight from London to Joburg and now thanks to the SAA Baobab Lounge!

Thanks Clematis for the recommendation on "Stupid White Men" by Michael Moore...I don't know when the last time I read 200 pages of a book in a single day. Unfortunately, I reached the part about Mad Cow Disease just as my wonderfully prepared steak arrived on my flight!

But, most of the reading was done in the hopeless Rome Airport (sorry babe, no business class for SAA in Rome), as the flight was reserved for sleeping on the 180 degree folding seats (i.e., BEDS!).

Had the most wonderful meditteranean salad, while scaredtodeath enjoyed two servings of prawns, before I enjoyed my steak, followed by the most wonderful little hot fudge sundae with a wafer. Then it was off to la-la land for the next seven hours (!) before waking to a very nice breakfast and landing shortly thereafter.

The best shower/bathroom that I enjoyed in Europe was at the SAA Business Class lounge in London. Never again, god willing, will I subject scaredtodeath and I to 3-star living. You never do see a magazine on the newstands called "3-star living", and for good reason, but I would imagine that there must be one titled "5-star living".

Well, now it is off to Zambia, and even my thatched hut at Mwamba in South Luangwa, will seem like 5-star accomodations, as will every other stop along the way at Kaingo, Puku Ridge, Chichele Presidential Lodge and Kulefu Tented Camp.

Although it sounds silly, I had to nearly pinch myself when I was finally boarded in business class on the way to my favorite destination on earth, Southern Africa! I am so thankful to have the opportunity to be returning for a third time, and I will do everything humanly possible to return next year to enjoy Singita Lebombo, Simbambili (those Leopards of Simbambili updates on Taga Safaris website have really had an impact on me), and about five nights in Cape Town, hopefully combining a meditteranean Celebrity Cruise, or if no family members accompany us, possibly a Radisson Seven Seas Cruise or Seabourn if we are alone. While I would have no problem doing 22 or 23 nights of Southern Africa, I do have to keep scaredtodeath in mind, as well.

scaredtodeath is flying on Cloud 9 right now, and hopefully a couple hours at the Lusaka Airport will not change that, since the Lusaka Airport right there in caliber with the Rome Airport (hehe, perhaps I am being to harsh to the hapless Italians).

I will be so happy to fly into Mfuwe, where you are really in the middle of "Real Africa", as the Zambian tourist board (and I) like to drill in your head! Sure, I will now return in a heartbeat to Singita (Lebombo) but I will enjoy myself immensely in Zambia, surrounded by true safari connossieurs and the wonderful Zambian people, as we drive through their smoky little villages on our way to South Luangwa.

Cheers and I will gladly tip a few back for my fellow Fodorites!
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Jun 2nd, 2004, 09:55 AM
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Take lots of notes in Zambia - can't wait to hear how it is...133 more days till we go! Yeah!
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Jun 2nd, 2004, 10:21 AM
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rocco
was wondering if the saa flight from lhr was on a 747 or did they switch that to the airbus also? were the lie flat seats the new seats were the arm rests lower to form the bed or were they the older style seat
hope you enjoy the rest of your holiday
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Jun 3rd, 2004, 09:15 PM
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I am so glad you like "Stupid White Men!" Very funny about the Mad Cow Disease and your steak!
(isn't it amazing how our government won't allow for better inspections - no relationship to the fact that Texas is the beef state, oh no!)

After suffering through a fully-packed tourist-class SAA from Africa to the states, and then having a ruptured disc a few months later, I will never do that again. We are flying to Europe this year via Virgin's new upper class with the sleeper "suite." When I was younger I never could understand why someone would pay more - I thought it was just for the better meal. Now I see it as avoiding a lot of pain and more doctor bills.

I can just picture you pinching yourself that you were on your way to Africa again! We are going to ask my mother in law where she wants to go in the world for her 75th birthday. We are hoping she will choose Africa.

Do have a sundowner for me please. And write again.
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