A Tale of Two Swamps – Heading to the Golden Pillow

Lusaka’s traffic had been a bugbear most of the week as we went from meetings in the centre of the city; along the optimistically called Cairo Rd, the departments in the leafy eastern suburbs of the city and Chilanga.  But we had a good run down the wide main road that leads to Harare, Victoria Falls and the rest of Southern Africa.  We drove up through Chilanga.  It is a curious place, dominated by the huge white chimney of a cement works, several quarries and roads for large trucks ferrying raw materials around.  Once past these works the village itself is in amongst a wooded hilltop; on the left the Fisheries department, and on the right a zoo.  Every day as we drove past we had strained our necks to see if the lions were out in their enclosure; today nothing was stirring.

Beyond Chilanga the scenery changed as we gently descended into the Kafue River basin proper for the first time. The town of Kafue itself is largely industrial dominated as it is by a hefty aluminium smelting plant to the west of the residential area.  After the town we curved right and onto a large low bridge where we stopped and took a first look at the Kafue River.

It was soon after the end of the wet season and the river was in full flood; its deep, dark waters reflecting the bubbling clouds above, the long lush green grass waving in the current.  On the north bank a series of small restaurants clung to the water’s edge, indeed a couple were situated on rather ungainly looking party boats.  This was the very bottom of the floodplain – east of here the river floods through the Kafue gorge and then through a series of cataracts down the gorge that splits this part of the northern Zambezi Escarpment.  We turned off the main Harare road and instead went south westwards along one of Zambia’s longest thoroughfares to the southern city of Livingstone and the Victoria Falls. We passed the sugar cane fields of a commercial farm and headed up on to a steadily rising ridge between the escarpment and Kafue Flats.  After another couple of hours we arrived in the town of Monze but before we were deep into the town Alphart turned off into a large gravelly car park and we were at our hotel for the next few nights – the Golden Pillow Lodge.

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