Road trip to Kasanka National park

And just like that the Christmas Holiday came to an end! I must admit, it will take a few days to get back in to routines… We had my parents here over the entire school break, and at least they had the energy to add a little Christmas feeling to things as mum both baked and made decorations with the children. But before all that we squeezed in a road trip to the Kasanka National Park, and I mean literary squeezed – all of us in a Toyota Hilux! In May we had reached Samfya, so keeping in mind that Kasanka is “only” half the distance somehow made the trip easier. We stayed at the Luwombwa self catering lodge, perfect for us amateur campers. It sits in a very beautiful part of the park, no cellphone reception, only the sounds birds, no neighbors. The down side is that it is an hours drive down to the main attraction of the season, the bat migration, as a result we only did one bat viewing trip. You can pay 20 usd per person to climb the bat viewing towers, but we decided against that and settled for the public viewing spot. That meant however, that we had to wade through water and deep mud, and about half way to the spot did we realize that the big holes in the mud was in fact footprints from hippos! We were using their path that they use when coming up to graze after sunset! The viewing area is simply an open patch in the swampy area just outside the bat forest (the towers are more on the edge of the forest and you will have the bats swooshing passed you!) We were initially abandoned by our guide which added to the adrenaline kick caused by walking in hippo footprints. He returned 10 min later with an armed guard as apparently “this place is very dangerous”! We were very grateful for his presence and for the fact that no hippo had come barging through the thicket during the 10 min we were on our own! Eventually it was time for the bats to come out and feed, just before sunset the forest comes alive, a dark cloud lifting above the treetops, the sound of wings, it is hard to explain the spectacle. There seem to be no end as millions of fruit bats depart from the trees where they spent the day upside down. When it finally seemed to calm down and the light was quickly turning to darkness we made our way back to the car, hoping we were still ahead of the hippos. The next day we spent mostly at the lodge, it was on of those days with a gentle but steady drizzle. A short trip in the canoe, card games, and mud cakes… the boys had so much fun playing in the mud, making mud balls and throwing at each other. I did spend much time keeping the children from fighting and teasing each other, which in the end just had me fighting with all of them instead of enjoying the tranquil surroundings! Unfortunately the wildlife in Kasanka National Park has been reduced by illegal poaching and as we tried to do a little game drive on our last day we mainly saw Puku and Hippos. They say there are elephants and even a few Buffalo, maybe they can be seen in the dry season. Overall I think Kasanka should be on your list of places in Zambia to visit, it is family friendly, affordable and the bat migration is an amazing event to witness. The bats are in the bat forest between October and December so I’d recommend you go a little earlier (before the rain sets in) than we did.

Samfya Beach

In the month of may we managed to squeeze in a little mini get-away to Samfya beach that lay on the shores of lake Bangweulu. I’ve got to admit, it was a rather long drive from Kabwe for a two nights stay, but that was all we had time for. As we arrived at night, waking up to see the sunrise over the horizon seemed extra special. Our kids were so excited and amazed and for me, born and raised on an island, it brought a certain feeling that’s hard to describe. You feel like you’ve left Zambia, this landlocked country, and landed by the shores of the Indian Ocean.

Most of our time was spent time just on the sandy beach, we had to be careful though as there was lots of litter, including broken beer bottles in the sand. As it was very windy we didn’t go on a boat tour, that’ll be for another time. Instead the kids enjoyed playing in the waves and sand.

As accommodation options are few and we were not organized for camping we ended up booking in at Chita lodge. It lay on a hill with a beautiful view over the lake. Unfortunately I had read a few negative reviews about Chita lodge and some points are still true, like that you have to wait over an hour for your food and some maintenance is needed despite the fact that it’s fairly new. The staff was however very friendly and it was a good place overall. My children enjoyed the pool and playground area.

Samfya is well worth a visit, there are some new lodges coming up and there’s camping sites offering a cheaper alternative. Just remember that Samfya town has limited options for shopping, think market and little market shops.

This trip really reminded us that there is so much to see and so many remarkable places to visit in Zambia.

Runaway new year

As new years eve was closing in I felt strongly that all I wanted was to get as far away from any celebrations I could. So I pushed for the family to pack up and go camping, but not at any familiar camp, I wanted to go where no one goes. Have you ever heard of a place called “Wonder Gorge”? It’s way off the beaten track. A place for the adventurous. A place you reach by driving down roads less traveled. From Kabwe we drove out on the road passing Mita Hills dam, then turned down on to a road that takes you to the old Lunsemfwya power station (not the one by Mulungushi dam), crossing the Lunsemfwya river. Judging by the dilapidated road it was obvious that there hadn’t been much traffic there lately . I was glad I was in the passenger seat! After crossing the river the road took us through rural village area until there was no more huts and fields, just bush. With the help of Google maps and a few directions from people (the last 3 hours we did not see a soul) we followed a winding bush road until it abruptly ended. We were now on top of a hill (I’d call it a mountain!) overlooking the point where the Mkushi river joins the Lunsemfwya down in a deep gorge. We set camp and started the challenge of making up a fire, not easy as everything was wet. Thankfully we had a gas cooker with us. All you could hear was the water rushing through the gorge, only sounds of nature, no mobile network, no nothing, just what I had craved for!

We are by no means seasoned campers. Camping usually means ablution block with flushing toilets, hot showers and a fire place. This was raw. Need to got? Pick a spot with a view and make sure to cover it up! Bath? Sorry. We could have written a long list of items that we found we needed but never packed. But what it came down to was water. We had hoped that somehow we would make our way down to the rivers edge, but without someone knowledgeable of the area there was no way, so we were now washing and cooking with our drinking water. Eventually it was the main reason we abandoned camp the following day.

As we set off there was no specific plan, maybe we’d find a different spot closer to the water. But after a few detours and long steep walks we set off for Mulungushi Boat club. A place we are very familiar with but hadn’t visited in a long time. Here my youngest son was very relieved to find a toilet… The other kids had adapted more easy! As it was now new years eve we put a bunch of T-bones on the braii (bbq) and that was pretty much our dinner. We jumped in to our tent by 21 hours and woke up to a beautiful sunrise over the water. Such a wonderful start to the new year.

Mini vacay in Dubai

Flying from Stockholm to Lusaka the connection is rather rubbish so we thought, instead if hanging around in an airport, lets make it a holiday. We planned a four nights stay and to save money booked through Airbnb. We ended up in a sleek modern flat in The Cayan Tower in the Dubai Marina, with a breath taking view from the 32nd floor and a swimming pool on 6th (+30C in the water!). We must have all looked like little kids in a candy store as we were so amazed by everything from the skyscrapers, to the super cars in the streets and the efficiency and cleanliness of the city. Dubai is hot, very hot. This time of the year you should simply not be here. At 06 in the morning the temp was already on 30 and with a high humidity the air was thick and ‘heavy’. However, I doubt there is any other place this hot that is this prepared to deal with the heat. Wherever you go is well air conditioned, you can walk through little connected malls and only be outside between buildings. I had pre-booked tickets for the Dubai Aquarium and The Burj Khalifa which are both accessed from Dubai Mall. The mall itself was overwhelming enough, especially with four kids, but the aquarium was what the kids really enjoyed. On my daughters birthday she got to ride a camel which totally felt like a tourist trap as we were dragged around the dessert camp while the guide took about a trillion photos of us on my phone. In the end it was just fun for the kids and it was just a small part of our dune bashing package. We had started the day cruising over the dunes in a 4×4 land cruiser. Our guide was actually the first local emirate that we met as only about 15% of Dubai’s population are locals and the rest migrant workers and expats. He perfectly controlled the car at a high speed over the dunes with one hand on the steering wheel and one foot resting on the seat…! All in all we had three fantastic days, only problem was trying to control four kids in a small flat, kids that are used to unlimited space, but in the end they didn’t kill each other and we all returned home with memories to keep.