Tag Archive | Kaingu Lodge

Moving On

Laundry clean and packed, we carted our bags back out to the rover for our drive to the next camp. We managed to embarrass our hostess (and entertain the staff yet again) when we ‘fessed up to hiding naked in the back end of our chalet so that we wouldn’t embarrass her when delivering coffee to our chalet first thing in the morning.

Elizabeth prepared a lunch of sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs and apples for the road, which we carefully packed into the cooler – much better than granola bars! We said our goodbyes, and did the pothole polka to the pavement and our next fuel stop. Next camp: McBrides’.

To get to the northern part of the park, we have to head out to where the Great East Road bisects the park into north and south sections. But, to get to the northern camps, we have to travel east to Mumbwa, then arc northwest back into the park to get to McBride’s: the classic “you can’t get there from here.”

The pavement was relatively good once we emerged from the river road, and we spotted elephants near the river. We approached Mumbwa with a little apprehension. Mumbwa was our next fuel stop, and the pumps are notoriously dry more often than not.

As we pulled in, several men approached the rover, but none from the fuel station itself. They tell us that the pumps are dry, but they might be able to help us with some fuel. By now, we know that we are only topping off the tank – 20 liters should be all we need. One gentleman offers us “high-grade” diesel for 8,000 kwacha and “low-grade” diesel for 7,000 kwacha. Not sure what “low-grade” diesel is, and not wanting to ruin the engine with something closer to grain alcohol than diesel, Steve negotiates 20 liters of “high grade” for 7,500 kw. (Not bad, considering that we were paying 6,999 at the pump in Livingstone.) Still not sure what we were buying, one gentleman appeared with a plastic water bottle, biting off the bottom with his teeth to create a funnel for our fuel.

Tank full (maybe?), we headed west back into the national park, holding our breath the first few kilometers for the engine coughing signs of bad fuel. A little later, I couldn’t help but wonder if we had just repurchased the diesel we had left behind a few days earlier in Itechi Techi. What are the odds…?

Bush Tech

Propeller cage repaired, we headed back out on the water the next morning with fishing gear in tow. Steve is the fishing guy, and proceeded to catch something on his first cast. I was content to hang out on the rocks, take pictures and look at birds.

As the only guests at the lodge, we had the luxury of deciding what we wanted to do, and when we wanted to do it. Kaingu has a hide, so we said that we’d like to spend the afternoon hanging out at the hide. Boyd walked us out there – about a 10 minute walk – with our journals, cameras and binoculars. We did spot lion tracks along the way, but not the lions themselves, while we were walking. This hide was just a reed structure with benches, and a shelf for resting elbows and binocs. Rather than up on a platform, the entrance is at an angle to create a slight baffle.

We been out there for maybe an hour or so, when we heard a lion…or something large…grunt. We looked as far we could around the viewing “window” of the hide, and Steve peered around the edge of the opening of the hide. We knew that Boyd would be back for us, but I tucked myself further into the hide, and we stayed alert. The most we saw all afternoon were impala, puku and warthog, but we could very well have had other visitors near by.

For sundowner, we headed out to The Big Rock not far from camp. Egbert first stopped by a project he had worked on the previous year, creating an interpretive center for the iron foundry site near the camp. In John Reader’s Africa: A Biography of the Continent, he outlines the evidence of iron smelting in northern Africa at least 3,000-4,000 years ago. This technology probably moved south with the Bantu-speaking people, and there is evidence that the ancient methods were still being used in the Kafue area as recently as a few hundred years ago. The process included charcoal-making and kiln building and venting – quite a laborious and complicated process. And, the knowledge of the process was tightly protected within families, creating a kind of iron-smelting cartel. Clearly, the technology and the iron produced were valuable.

As sundown approached, we headed to the top of the rock, used locally by the native residents for ceremonies and celebrations. We watched the sun sink into the smoke from bush fires further west, while we asked about the persistent smoky pall we were experiencing on this trip – actual blue skies had been rare. As the sun set, we watched the glow of the fires as they flared – at one point we could actually see flames.

The resident mice came out with the moon rise – clearly accustomed to “leftovers” from sundowners on the rock. We headed back to the camp for yet another fabulous meal. Steve completely flustered Elizabeth when she came out to announce the menu, telling her, “I luuh-ve you,” expressing his appreciation for the caramel dessert the night before. Zambians are far more reserved, but they took the American-style joshing and joking in stride. We had a merry fireside dinner with Egbert, and great conversation about life in the Kaingu area.

Hippo Kingdom

Part of the attraction of stopping at Kaingu was the opportunity to spend a few days on the river. But, we had to adjust our expectations since we are not accustomed to the hazards lurking under the surface of African rivers. Tossing yourself into the water for a refreshing swim on a hot day is just not an option. After our midday siesta, we headed out with Egbert and Boyd, the camp’s guide, on the water for a sunset cruise.

In the low water, many of the rocks along this stretch of the Kafue River are exposed, adding natural sculpture to the scenery. But, not all the bumps above the water were rocks. We skirted the deeper pools and open areas: the kingdom of the hippos. Big and bossy, hippos will flip your boat if they feel threatened in the water, and they will trample you in a stampede to the water if they feel threatened on land. As ungainly as they seem, they should not be misjudged.

We cruised upstream past the scrimmage line of hippos with a large enough outboard motor to outrun any surly ones. We enjoyed traditional sundowner fare, then headed back downstream to the camp. Unable to avoid every rock, the cage around the propeller was bent, disabling the motor. We paddled and poled our way to the dock, staying out of the deeper parts of the river, watching for croc eyes.

Safely landed at the dock, we met the camp chef, Elizabeth, who delivered a spectacular meal, complete with a caramel dessert: Steve’s favorite. We went to sleep to the sound of hippo grunts and snorts, hoping they would be under our deck and strolling past our chalet.

River Peace

As we approached Kaingu, we came upon the camp’s tsetse fly control stop. The 3-step directions were posted on a pole with a small lidded wooden box fastened to the pole. Step 1: Stop your vehicle and turn off the engine. Step 2: Wait 5 minutes. Step 3: Spray your vehicle with the can of Doom, located inside the wooden box. I’m not sure that we waited the whole 5 minutes – we were anxious to get out of the hot car and kill tsetse flies!

Just a little further down the track, we reached the main building at Kaingu Lodge. Here we had decided to stay in the lodge expecting that we might be ready for safari camp service, showers, drinks and bed. A demur woman with twinkly eyes greeted us when we arrived, inviting us to relax and have a drink. Anticipating our arrival, the cook had set aside cold plates with empanadas (or whatever they are called in Zambia). We knew that the Heinnekens would not be at the camp during our stay. But, we didn’t realize that we would be the only guests for the next two nights, which meant we got the full attention and care of the staff.

A sloping walkway from the dining area leads to a spacious deck overlooking the Kafue River. It was lovely to just sit and watch the river flow by. Vervet monkeys kept their eyes on us, or rather, our stuff, and a bush buck grazed on the lawn. The quiet was a welcome change from the rattling rover ride.

Soon, our host Egbert arrived. A young Dutch man, he was quite energetic, and clearly happy to be working at Kaingu. We were shown to our chalet – no camping for the next two days – also overlooking the river. After washing off the road dust and filling up the laundry basket, we relaxed on our chalet deck as the river floated by.