After a great four days in South Luangwa, it was time to hit the road north towards Lake Tanganyika.
We drove right through the park from the main gate in the south (with one more leopard sighting and plenty of other game en route) and came out of the other end after another slow and gruelling mountain pass with incredible views back over the park and a couple of river crossings.
With the morning already gone, we decided there was no way we would make it right through to Lake Tanganyika in one go and instead stopped to overnight at Kapichya Hot Springs Lodge, which had been recommended by the manageress at Mamarula Camp where we had stopped on our way through to South Luangwa.
Though it was a slight detour from our route and not on our original itinerary, it proved to be well worth it. The lodge was a beautiful rustic spot with expansive and lush gardens overlooking a river and the restaurant and bar area was slightly reminiscent of a good old fashioned English country pub.
We set up camp at the river’s edge and were then treated to a hearty 3 course meal and some good bush tales by the lodge’s owners and managers.
In the morning we had a rare lie in and then went to the hot springs for a dip. The water was crystal clear and the temperature of a hot bath, and the surrounding vegetation was that of a tropical rainforest, a strange contrast to the bone dry plains and forests of the Luangwa Valley. Giant palm branches arched over the water with a few rays of morning sunlight splintering through.
After a cooked breakfast, we packed up and were soon on our way again.
We stopped and had lunch and a walk around the footpaths and viewpoints at the impressive Chishimba Falls. Even at this dry time of year, there’s certainly no shortage of water in Zambia (in fact, Zambia has more fresh water than any other African country).
As we continued north the roads and general infrastructure gradually deteriorated, and the locals in the small villages we passed seemed gradually more and more surprised to see us.
At nightfall we were still a good couple of hundred kilometres from our final destination at the lake. For that matter, we were also a pretty long way from any kind of campsite or accommodation, so we decided to pull a little way off the road and enjoy a night of what you might call ‘proper bush camping’.
The following day we finally made it to the lake at around midday. As we passed through the fishing village of Ndole the lake stretched across the horizon in front of us like an ocean. We had finally made it all the way to the top of the country – if we crossed the lake we would be in Tanzania.
We set up camp on the beautiful private beach at the remote and idyllic Ndole Bay Lodge, which sits at the foot of rugged and densely forested hills, just on the outskirts of Sumbu National Park, and boasts what must surely be one of the most picturesque pontoons in the whole of Zambia, shaded by a high thatch roof and equipped with hammocks and comfy sofas looking right out over the vast lake.
We took a swim in the warm waters of the lake and then had a braai under the stars on the beach, with waves lapping gently at the shore in front of us. It felt like a completely different country to the Zambia we had seen thus far.
Over the next 36 hours we partook in a number of activities offered by the lodge, including kayaking and fishing, and also took time to rest and recuperate in the tranquil setting before hitting the road again. If the road south hadn’t been calling us again, I could have stayed here for months.