After our nightmare drive up and down the escarpment, we finally reached the tarred Great North Road again. We started the climbing experience at 500 metres above sea level and reached the highest level at 1 600 metres before we started our descent towards Mutinondo.
Apart from the stressful drive the previous night, the electric cable connecting the trailer to Petronella had snapped, and Hugo had to fix it in the dark. Just what you need after the drive from hell.
As a thank-you gift, we gave the children at the Scout Camp a few packs of colouring pencils. Our mistake was to give it to the children themselves instead of to the adults. They were on it like a pack of hyenas! I had to wrestle it back to give it to the chief so he can hand it out.
Once we reached the big road, we first headed north for a little shopping in Mpika, where we found the most delicious buns. Then we turned south towards our destination. Arriving at Mutinondo, Hugo found the electric cable had snapped – again. And once again he had to fix it in the dark.
“During last month, I had the pleasure of visiting Mike Merritt and Lari Bosman at their special corner of the earth; Mutinondo Wilderness located between the Great North Road and the Muchinga Escarpment bordering the Luangwa Valley. Mike and Lari enjoy stunning views over dambos and rounded mountains from the dining nsaka, from the bar, from their chalets, … on foot and on horseback.
Mutinondo is a unique settlement with many faces. It is home for Mike and Lari, tourist destination with camping facilities and full catering chalets, a source of training, knowledge and support for the community which, in itself has many angles to it and it is a naturalists’ heaven with rich plant species, and varied habitats for birds and beasts.
Mike and Lari settled in this area, Chief Mpumba’s area amongst the Bisa people in 1994. They scouted the area for several months looking for a suitable site to start with and after travelling and meeting the people of the area discovered some shocking truths about the region. The area was depressed with very little development, little agriculture due to lack of markets, fertiliser availability and distance to town centres (162 km from Serenje and just under 100 km from Mpika). Many of the people had resorted to poaching in the Luangwa Valley. So Mike and Lari decided to help with agricultural development by being fertiliser and seed distributors, arranging field days for agricultural officers to visit the area and teach more effective methods of tilling the land (than the usual Chitemene ‘slash and burn’ method). And for the non-agricultural types a variety of cottage industries were encouraged which included bee-keeping, oil processing, recycled paper projects and food processing like peanut butter, jam, granola and coffee.
Mutinondo Wilderness offers walks, mountain bikes, horse rides through the hills and to the three lovely waterfalls, canoe trips and safe rivers to swim in. The birdlife is fantastic and anyone fond of wild flowers, trees and rare plants will be in heaven.”
̶ Source: The Lowdown Magazine, Zambia
Mutinondo is a beautiful wilderness area and almost completely undeveloped, like the rest of Zambia. The camping sites are on top of a hill and overlook a valley and boulders as big as hills. Hugo said it reminded him of Matopos in Zimbabwe. The owner told us that lately they had problems with hyenas coming into the camp, but I’ve learnt that whenever someone tells me something like that (like you would definitely hear a lion roar at night), it doesn’t happen. Which proved to be true, unfortunately. No hyenas. And I’m still waiting for my lions!
On the morning of 25 June, Day 123, Hugo and I got up early to watch the sunset. But we missed it and the sun was already shining happily. We went back to wake the children up and after coffee and Ouma Beskuit (rusks), we hiked to the waterfalls down the river. We saw the first two. They were small, but still beautiful. The water was crystal clear and we would surely have gone for a dip if it wasn’t so chilly. “It” being the water and the weather.
On our way back, I walked in the back as always, taking photos as we go. The rest were some distance away when my foot caught onto something and I did a face plant. My first concern was for my expensive camera, so I landed flat-out on my stomach, with my arms stretched out in front of me, my camera held above the ground. Like a cricket player diving to catch a ball from the air and succeeding. Out!!
I wasn’t hurt at all, but the family felt the ground shake and came running back, Gustav yelling and almost crying and Hugo even faster, because he thought I had knocked myself out, me being face down with my head between my arms. I looked up to calm them down and saw the three of them running towards me. I felt much loved at that moment!
From Mutinondo, we headed to the Immigration Office in Mpika to try and extend our Zambia visas, as they were valid for only thirty days and we were worried we wouldn’t make the border in time. The office was closed, but the officer said we might be successful in Kasama. But first. We headed to Kapishya Hot Springs.
“Kapishya is a quiet secluded lodge just off the Great North Road, situated on the Estate of Shiwa Ngandu (The Africa House) and is set along the banks of the Mansha River.
The Hot Springs are an idyllic spot to spend your time relaxing in the natural, sulphur free water. These natural Springs are fed by three cold water springs which permeate down 6 ̶ 7 kilometres to be super heated and then forced back to the surface dropping 10 °C with every kilometre, so ending up on the surface at a luxurious 41 °C. As your feet sink into the soft white sand, you can forget about the stresses of the outside world and truly relax.”
̶̶ Source: Their website
The hot springs made for the best swim ever: warm, crystal-clear water with white sand in a rainforest-type setting. It was hard not to stay in the water all the time; we judged our time in the water by the shade of red on the children’s faces! Tomato red meant it’s time to get out. Towards the last day, their faces didn’t return to normal any more!
Bathing was permitted and we made full use of it. Soap and shampoo were allowed below the outlet of the pool, so the showers never saw any of the Van Heerdens in the four days we spent there.
At Kapishya, we met some more interesting people: Didi, a German tour guide based in Zambia, and fellow South Africans, Naas and Zonya, and Aussies Rob and Gail, on their way to the Serengeti. As always, we could exchange tips and experiences.
The bane of my existence also had to be taken care of: dirty laundry… Boy, this will make me turn around and go home. After our previous experience with expensive laundry services, I didn’t even bother asking, and we spent half a day doing our own washing. Just as well; Daan and Zonya had a little bit of washing done at the lodge and we were all shocked at what they had to pay: ZKM390 000 ̶ it translates to US$51!
During our nightmare drive over the escarpment from South Luangwa, I told Hugo I was sure all the eggs had been scrambled. And they were; when we cracked the eggs for breakfast one morning, they were perfectly scrambled…
In 1911, a young British Officer, Stewart Gore-Brown, was appointed to the Anglo-Belgian Boundary Commission to determine the border between Northern Rhodesia and the Belgian Congo. He developed a great fondness for the surrounding countryside and determined that when his work was finished he would return and settle in this part of Africa. He was back in 1914 and set off on foot from Ndola on the Copperbelt with 30 carriers looking for a piece of land to buy.
“We suddenly came upon what I thought was the most beautiful lake I had ever seen. I was surrounded by hilly country, and along its shores were groves of rare trees, … sacred to Africans. Friendly folk inhabited the one big village on the lakeshore and there were a dozen herds of different wild game. The surrounding land seemed to be reasonably fertile judging by the crops that were ripening there. I knew at once that I had found what I was looking for.”
Legend has it that the local tribe, having arrived from the Congo onto the north eastern plateau, came across a dead crocodile. They thought this an excellent omen and since the name for crocodile was Ng’andu, they called themselves Bena Ng’andu – “The people of the Royal Crocodile” ̶ and settled around the lake. The lake became known as Ishiba Ng’andu – “The Lake of the Royal Crocodile”.
Gore-Brown purchased 10 000 acres of land near the lake for 2 shillings an acre and called it Shiwa Ng’andu. The First World War necessitated a return to England but six years later he returned as a retired Lieutenant Colonel and set about building the estate with an army building manual, single minded determination and an indomitable energy. Using local materials, recruiting and training builders, carpenters and blacksmiths, he built cottages for his workers, a school, a chapel, a hospital, a post office, a workshop complex and later an airstrip. Eventually, the elaborate manor house, overlooking the lake was completed in 1932 and the appropriate furnishings, paintings, cutlery and crockery was shipped from England and transported on dirt tracks by ox wagon. His wife Lorna took an active interest in the local culture and environment, encouraging research and carrying out anthropological studies.
They experimented with various crops, essential oils, cattle and timber on the farm and at the same time, Gore Brown was very active in politics contributing to the creation of an independent Zambia. He died at the age of 84 in 1967 and his elder daughter and her husband Major Harvey took over management. They began Shiwa Safaris, which was for many years the only safari company taking visitors to the estate into the wild North Luangwa National Park. They also continued with the community development projects started by Gore-Brown. They were sadly murdered in their other home near Lusaka in 1992, but the estate still remains with the Harvey family. The farm as well as the safaris continue to operate. The estate maintains a central role in the development of local farming, providing the resources and expertise allowing local farmers to diversify their output.”
̶̶ Source: Zambia Tourism
We went on an excursion to Shiwa Nganda House. We passed the house and the beautiful farm every time on our way to the springs and were eager to have a look. On closer inspection, the house was a big disappointment; rundown and neglected. It was restored in the early 2000s, but has not been maintained since. My hands itched to order a few people around and help do something about it. Small things, like mowing and watering the lawn; things that don’t really cost a lot of money. This is Zambia after all, an extremely poor country where most people will do anything for some kind of wage. Inside the house was more of the same. Fantastic woodwork on the floors, doors and railings, sorely in need of sanding and oil. Dirty, tattered curtains didn’t do much for the house either. All in all, not a pleasant experience, and it cost us a lot of money. The photos on the websites were not at all painting the true picture.
I have no idea what was the state of the farm, but from what we as novices could see, it looked much better than the house.
After four days at the hot springs, we reluctantly left for Kasama, where we could extend our visas for another month and replenish our supplies. We stayed at Thorn Tree Lodge, and witnessed the process of making coffee. Roasting, grinding, packing. Sophia even helped with the packing! The lodge is nothing to write home about (although I’m contradicting myself by writing about it), but it was clean and neat, and the only option in town. It provided hearty home-cooked food and we went to bed content.
I checked in on Facebook the previous night when we went to bed in Kasama and woke to a message from old friends wanting to get into contact. They are farmers in South Africa who are now branching out to other African countries, one of them Zambia, and more specifically the Kasama area. Hugo enjoyed catching up with Wors!