Zambia Backroads: Giant Waterfalls, Congo Refugees, Two Great Lakes and Tom’s snapped frame!

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Zambia continued! We left Samfya and the sandy beaches of Lake Bangweulu as we began our gradual ascent in latitude. Travelling northwards again gave a feeling of progress as we etch closer to Ethiopia. We had set a course for Lake Mweru and the small town of Nchelenge, to tick off another Great African Lake in the Great Rift Valley. The road there was a muddy one and we did tend to opt toward the dirt roads through the bright green Zambian woodlands.

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Along these rural back roads we encountered the UN who were in the process of creating a refugee camp for 6000 immigrants fleeing the Congo. Intensive fighting in the Congo has shifted from the northern borders of Lake Tanganyika to the southern end of the lake. The border between the Congo and Zambia in the area east of Lake Mweru is not well defined or patrolled. Thus, Congo raiding parties and refugees have made it less safe to travel further north in Zambia than Mununga.

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Later that afternoon we arrived in Nchelenge on Lake Mweru, which is the second largest lake in the Congo River Drainage Basin and is relatively shallow, with a maximum depth between 20 and 27 meters. We made camp at a place overlooking the lake and had a few beers to the sunset.

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From Lake Mweru we made our way toward the famous and remote Lumangwe Falls.  Getting there involved some windy and muddy back-roads that were welcomed as a new challenge.

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The countryside is incredible with woodlands towering on both sides of the muddy paths. When we eventually got to Lumangwe Falls we decided to stay for three days, camping right next to the waterfall.

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There are two waterfalls within the reserve Lumangwe and Kabwelume Falls. Lumangwe is the largest waterfall in Zambia that doesnt border another country and has a height of between 30 and 40 meters and is 160 meters long.

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Kabweume Falls is a spectacular semi circle cascading down three connected waterfalls.

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When we left Lumangwe Falls we took the tar road toward Kasama once again but turned left to head north toward the southern shores of Lake Tanganyika. Unfortunately on the dirt roads to Mpulungu Toms’ bike, Frankenstein, frame snapped toward the rear. This is a result of too much weight on the rear as well as a bolt or two that came loose on the hectic roads.

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Luckily the frame broke 75 meters from a construction site with welders and various metal off cuts. Within 2 hours the motorcycle frame was repaired stronger than before and we were back on the road.

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The following day we eventually made it to the banks of Lake Tanganyika the second largest, deepest and oldest lake in the world! This is where we found a spot to settle for a few days in order to celebrate the birthdays of Tom and myself. Preparation was vital.

Ingredients for success were:

  • Alcohol
  • A goat
  • A good place to camp

We found all these ingredients in and around Mpulungu, finding alcohol in the form of millions of tiny bottles of mainly energy based alcohol.

The goat was slightly more challenging, first finding it and then the transport on the motorcycle proved interesting followed by slaughter and preperation.

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Once all the ingredients were collected we began the sheep spit this took place in sections over the next 3 days.

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Bellow are two videos of the preparation of the goat and the actual spitting of the goat.

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Birthday weekend/marathon was a lovely way to cut loose and enjoy our time on the banks of such a massive Lake, as well as a good way to bid farewell to an incredible country. Adventure is the first word that comes to mind when I think of Northern Zambia. There is so much space to just get lost and see spectacular environments along the way. Our road from Mbala, Zambia into Tanzania was a wet one.

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Zambia is still a lovely source of adventure not too far from South Africa, what Zambia lacks in infrastructure in the north it makes up for with the amazing ecosystems and phenomenal waterfalls and collection of great lakes.

Cheers

Trent Seiler

& The Nitty Gritty Nomads