Northern News

Written By: The Lowdown - Feb• 01•01

smallcover2001-02Those Amazing Waterfalls

If you’re ever in our part of the country- Northern Province that is, there is a trip you should try to undertake.  Beware though, it isn’t just a stroll around the countryside but rather an exciting and challenging adventure.  So? ….What is it about? ….Where is this bundu –bashing place?  Well…right here: Northern Province and its waterfalls!

We decided (“we” being four intrepid girls and one brave guy!) to start our journey from Kasama – where we could do the last minute but necessary shopping (food, drinks, fuel…). We stayed at Thorn Tree Guesthouse and from there went to our first waterfall – Chishimba Falls. They are in fact three waterfalls – each with its own personality. We had planned to spend the day there and brought our picnic and some cold Mosi. After gulping all of this down, off we went to see the Falls. The last of the falls is the most impressive. It drops about forty metres, and there is a good viewpoint halfway down the falls, where you can sit on a huge boulder and literally watch the water falling above your head.  The rest of the day was spent bird watching – plenty of birds there – and eventually went back to Thorn Tree for an enjoyable evening.

From then on the real adventure started – we left Kasama, its comfort and convenience for some real exploring. With the two 4X4’s loaded and checked, we headed for Mporokoso, one hundred and eighty kilometres north of Kasama. The road was not perfect, but still in better condition than expected. We reached Mporokoso in less than three hours and from then on we had to drive another eighty kilometres on relatively good dirt road before reaching the second waterfalls – Lumangwe Falls. We were all very excited at the idea of setting up camp for the night.  The Falls were not a problem to find and we enjoyed a cold Mosi sitting at the top them. Below and right opposite us was a solid wall of water about one hundred metres wide and forty metres high. Later in the afternoon we were granted an amazing sunset and rainbow at the bottom of the Falls.

The next day started early and after a filling breakfast we were off again – this time to see one of the most beautiful waterfalls of the trip- Kabweluma Falls. From Lumangwe falls we had two options – walk or drive. Kabweluma falls are situated 8 to 10 km downstream from Lumangwe, and it is an easy two-hour walk. The caretaker at Lumangwe will act as a guide, and it is wise to have him showing you the way through the Miombo woodland. The final approach to the Falls is through a dense forest called “Mushitu”; it is like a miniature rainforest. When you finally reach the end of the Mushitu, you’ll be taken aback by what lays in front of you – there you are perched on top of a slope facing a waterfall of about twenty metres in height and seventy five metres wide that ends in a deep pool. This pool flows over a second rapid, twenty metres below the first. But that is not all, on your right and left are more waterfalls and cataracts giving the “impression of facing a whole half circle of water”.  It is not advisable to swim there  – the currents are strong and it is difficult to reach the water below the slope.

The second option is to drive!  A road has been opened recently from Lumangwe and runs for about five kilometres. It is fairly bad but we took it easy and managed to avoid the many sharp stumps lying on the side of the track. Once again it is advisable to get a guide, as it is quite difficult to find a viewpoint from where you park the vehicle.

We did not have much time to spare, unfortunately, and so we left this amazing place and pressed on.  We had to make it to Nsumbu within three days and we had a lot of driving ahead of us.

From Kabweluma we drove towards Kawamba – forty kilometres southwest. After crossing the Kalungwishi river, at the Chimpembe pontoon (open from 6.00 to 18.00 hours) we reached Kawambwa without problems and were pleasantly surprised to hit a superb tarmac road just before Kawambwa Tea Estates. From then on it was just sheer pleasure to drive. In front of us the most amazing sceneries were unfolding – vast plains, rolling hills and endless dambos.

Before reaching Mbereshi we stopped at our forth set of Falls – Ntumbachushi Falls. Those falls are well signposted, and are just off the main road. The Falls are about forty metres high and a second set of falls lie on the right of them.  Again, swimming at the bottom of the Falls is not advised, but that doesn’t mean no swimming at all. There is a path at the top of the Falls, which brings you to a sport five hundred metres or so upstream. There you can choose between numerous very deep pools, most of which have miniature falls and cataracts which make the swimming so much fun. It is also a good place to stop for the night. Once again the birds are plentiful and I am sure that the river above the Falls would provide fishermen with a delightful time. Or, you can just wander around and enjoy the beautiful bush of the area – mainly moorland, dotted with patches of Mushitu forests.

Without much enthusiasm we left this little paradise in the direction of Nchelenge, on the edge of Lake Mweru. The road to Nchelenge is tar as well. At Nchelenge, we bought some fish, a “must” really, plonked them in the fridge and pressed on towards Mununga. After Nchelenge the tar stops and the bad “dirt” starts. We decided to carry on all the way to Kundabwika Falls rather than stopping at the Lake as our deadline for reaching Nsumbu was approaching. About fifteen kilometres past the turn off to Kaputa, we found the sign “Hydro”, which is merely a piece of metal nailed onto a tree that can easily be missed. We reached the end of the road and set up camp beside some beautiful cataracts. Ahead of those cataracts lay a deep, wide river, still as glass, with clear reflections of the trees opposite. Again a beautiful spot for fishermen and birdwatchers.

The next day we set off on some exploring, which is essential to see the main Falls.  Following the main stream down river we found ourselves perched at the top of a twenty five metres wide wall of water, but we ran out of time and decided to skip the walk down to the bottom of the Falls- that will have to be left for next time!

From then on our trip was mainly driving but it does not need to be. We drove the very rocky ninety kilometres to Kaputa and then headed towards Nsumbu on a bad dirt road. But we did not care at this point – the beautiful scenery made it all worthwhile.

Nsumbu lies on the western side of Lake Tanganyika and is a small fishing village without electricity, the last Zambian settlements before the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We stayed the night at the Wildlife Camp in the Nsumbu National Park.

From then on we had two options – drive back to Kasama through Mporokoso or drive back through Nsumbu Game Park to Mbala. We went for the adventure once more and ended up heading to Mbala.

The road through the game park is bad and slow going but absolutely worth it! The trip would be even more pleasant if equipped with the right tyres – hard and tough to puncture!!!! The first thirty kilometres to Nkamba Bay took four hours! From Nkamba bay to Mbala is about ninety kilometres and it took us over ten hours, with the first ten kilometres to the Lufubu River being the most demanding. One of our vehicles was not equipped with the earlier mentioned good tyres, so we had to get out of the car and pointing to all the stumps and sharp rocks we slowly made our way down a the escarpment. We reached the river at last, which marks the border of the game park. Crossing the river was exciting, as the waters were still high. The last time someone attempted the road was six or seven weeks before us – so not much traffic there! Good job we did not break down or run out of spare tyres, but we did manage to use every single of the five spares that we took with us – and yes gentlemen, we change them ourselves!

We finally reached Mbala, where we spent the night before heading for the Lake Tanganyika, for a few days of rest to take in and think over the whole trip. We found the perfect spot – a deserted sandy beach called Mishembe – or better known as “Luke’s, Beach” where we were allowed to put up our tents and camp for a small fee.

Watching the sun going down over the water, cold Mosi in hand, I think we all realised how lucky we were to visit and drive through this most beautiful and remote part of Zambia.

  By Stephanie Gabriel

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