Kapishya & Shiwa Ngandu.

After my sleepless night in Lusaka I fled the city in the dark. I packed up my camp in the dark, had a cup of tea and woke the night guard to open the gate. I was on the road at 3:30am. Lusaka never seems to sleep. The traffic still buzzed even in the early hours. I stopped at a red light and the cars flew by on either side of me. It turns out the rules no longer apply that early in the morning. Fearing a rear end collision, I joined in and ran the lights all the way into the outskirts of Northern Lusaka. I was glad to be free of the city, as I hadn’t had very much luck, arriving in the dark and being moved from one backpackers to the next, deprived of sleep. I had been longing for the peace of Zimbabwe which I had so taken for granted, and hoped to find something similar in Zambia. But things looked bleak.

Lusaka at 3.30 am.

Lusaka at 3.30 am.

Once clear of the city I joined the Great North Road, heading to Ndola, a centre of industry in Zambia. The traffic moved pretty quickly through the night, and the roads were already busy. All the while I passed hundreds of sleeping trucks along the edge of the road, soon they would wake up, and choke up the roads completely. So I decided to make hay while the sun sines (or in this case, didn’t) and pressed on through the night, as quickly as I could. The road ran through countless villages and towns. Each time we slowed to tackle the evil rumble strips and speed bumps.

I arrived at Kapiri Mposhi as the sun rose. Here the Great North Road would turn away from Ndola, and head for the Tanzanian border, as part of the Trans African Highway, which exists, in many parts, only in the imagination. I filled the main tank with fuel (My long range tank and jerry can had been filled in Lusaka) and started eastwards, a long drive ahead of me.

The Great North Road. It's a 600km stretch of nearly perfect tar mac, cruise as fast as you please, but watch out for those mad Tanzanians.

The Great North Road. It’s a 600km stretch of nearly perfect tar mac, cruise as fast as you please, but watch out for those mad Tanzanians.

The Tanzan highway, or The Great North Road turned out, to my surprise (as I was unable to get any info on the road in Lusaka or Livingstone) to be beautiful. The scenery for much of the way was dull to look at, but I had it all to myself. Occasionally I had to dodge a mad Tanzanian fuel lorry going the other way, to Ndola from Dar es Salaam, but most of the time I cruised at a steady 120km/h on the smooth, empty road. I even stopped for tea at 10am, and not a soul passed me for the 15 minutes I sat beside the road.

After a good few hours I crested a mountain range and below me the scenery changed. The tough, dry scrub lands gave way to a green valley, with blue hills in the distance. The rugged hills reminded me of the countryside around Bulawayo. Soon I would arrive at Shiwa Ngandu, the Lake of the Royal Crocodiles. I knew of a lodge at Kapishya, and the House at Shiwa, but I had no idea about staying there, but figured it could only be better than Lusaka. I stopped for fuel at Mpika (the next fuel stop after Kapiri Mposhi and 275miles/440km) and headed on, excited that soon my long day’s drive would be over, and that I would finally arrive somewhere in the daylight.

The steam engine on the Shiwa Estate, on the way to Kapishya.

The steam engine on the Shiwa Estate, on the way to Kapishya.

I drove through a small, rough settlement along the road, and caught a glimpse of a sign; “Shiwa Ngandu & Kapishya Hot Springs” and turned down a red sand track, leading into a dense wood.After a few kilometres of rally driving in the red sands I saw the lake through a gap in the trees. A grassland stretched out from the road, and nestled in the bottom of the valley was Shiwa Ngandu, The Lake Of The Royal Crocodiles, like a giant sapphire in the grass. This was the lake where Livingstone’s dog had been killed by a crocodile, and his servants had fled with his supply chest, perhaps sealing his fate.

Glimpsing the lake through the forest.

Glimpsing the lake through the forest.

Further down the track I passed a small village of red brick houses, which looked as if they had been transplanted from the English countryside, and then the gatehouse to Shiwa, with its clock tower. I caught a glimpse of the great house up the drive, but pressed on to Kapishya. Another 20km of dirt and corrugations brought me to a bridge over a river, where I stopped to talk to some villagers who seemed rather astounded to see such as car in their remote home. “Have you come to see Mr Harvey?” I had indeed and they waved me on down the road.

Crossing the bridge to Kapishya.

Crossing the bridge to Kapishya.

A dugout canoe sits in the river. This river runs right past the camp at Kapishya.

A dugout canoe sits in the river. This river runs right past the camp at Kapishya.

Here I did my first bit of off-roading for the trip. It’s 32Km from the North Road to Kapishya. I tackled soft sand, corrugations, gravel, rocks, but the car seemed to cope very well with all of it.

Tackling the red Zambian dirt.

Tackling the red Zambian dirt.

The road to Kapishya.

The road to Kapishya.

Coated in red Zambian dust.

Coated in red Zambian dust.

From Dargle River to Mansha River.

From Dargle River to Mansha River.

After 10 hours on the road I pulled into Kapishya Lodge. Mark Harvey happened to be standing in the drive as I arrived. Unfazed by my unannounced arrival he made me feel right at home, sending me off to make camp along side the river near the hot spring. It seemed I had finally found the peace and quiet I had been longing for. After settling in I had dinner with Mark, and the other guests, including some English teachers and six Dutch students, who were volunteering in nearby Mpika. Dinner was three courses, all produced on the estate. Mark was immensely entertaining, he’s very passionate about Kapishya, and it shows.

The lodge at Kapishya, where I ate like a king.

The lodge at Kapishya, where I ate like a king.

The kitchen gardens, where much of the food for the lodge is grown.

The kitchen gardens, where much of the food for the lodge is grown.

The river running by the campsite.

The river running by the campsite.

Camp D2D at Kapishya.

Camp D2D at Kapishya.

Nothing but the sounds of the river and owls to keep me up.

Nothing but the sounds of the river and owls to keep me up.

After dinner we retired to the hot spring with drinks. The hot spring is a perfectly clean spring, which is a wonderful 40C at the surface. We watched the starts between the leaves of the trees, even though I had been up for days I felt energetic and alive. Eventually, well after midnight I retired to my tent, the only noise being the river and the owls. Bliss.

The hot spring at Kapishya.

The hot spring at Kapishya.

The hot spring runs down to the river.

The hot spring runs down to the river.

The spring is walled, creating a 20 meter long bathtub which never gets cold. Wonderful.

The spring is walled, creating a 20 meter long bathtub which never gets cold. Wonderful.

4 Comments

  1. Sue Mawer says:

    Amazing adventure Jethro. I so enjoy reading about your trip. Seems like your Alfa is doing better than expected and will get you to Dargle (Ire) safe and sound.

  2. You have certainly found some astonishingly spots so far, Jethro. I imagine it can only get more interesting as you go North. So impressed with your car! Dying to read some of the aghast comments you must get from the other overlanders.

  3. Shiraz says:

    Jethro, I’m really enjoying reading your blog and following your very interesting journey . Amazing !
    The Alfa’s really proving its mettle. Godspeed!

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