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The Land Locked with Treasures

Words by Chulu

Cover photo by Rinah Kasongo

Back in the day, when I was at an all girls boarding school run by nuns, one of our favourite pass times was to tell stories about the what we thought of as ‘the world out there’. On Friday night, we had a tradition, where everyone lay in their beds after lights out at 8pm. Then for about an hour or two, if you are lucky, different people could tell stories. I remember once mustering up the courage to tell a joke that I had heard from my cousin over the holidays. The story starts at a beach in Zambia.

“A Beach in Zambia!” “Nonsense!” “Zambia is Landlocked!” “We don’t have beaches” before I could even get passed the second line the dorm of 40 girls silenced me with their laughter.

Many years later, I heard of sandy white beaches in a place called Samfya and Lake Tanganyika. However, I studied Geography from grades 10 to 12. No one ever taught us of white sandy beaches in Zambia. Then again, we focused on the prairies of the US and tundra of Canada. Why that was relevant to a child who lived in the Southern African Hemisphere in a land locked with magnificent water bodies, still remains a mystery to me.

Once I heard of this mysterious place with white sandy beaches, I made it my mission to find my way there. The first opportunity I had was just before new years of 2018. We planned a family trip to go up. The initial plan was to book our own accommodation at Chita Lodge, by they informed us they were fully booked because there was an entourage going up to Samfya from Lusaka. Even better. Then we didn’t have to worry about logistics and the long drive up to the northern part of our country. We looked up the organisers and booked for the trip.

To be honest travelling in a big group really slows down the process. There could have been 50+ people. Two big buses were commissioned to transport us. We headed North from Lusaka around 9am. Between bad roads, body breaks and meal stops we were really moving slowly.

The drive up to Samfya is characterised by cruising through the larger towns and passing smaller clusters of homes along the road. It is very arid red soil. Suddenly, the landscape changes to green plains that are spotted with anthills about a meter high. The plains look like they go on for many kilometres. Then you realise you have entered the massive expanse of Bangweulu wetlands.

by Joe Syafunko

The road is actually called Tuta Road which stretches for 300km, connecting Samfya to Great North Road. At a point, the Luapula River obstructs Tuta Road. Therefore, the longest bridge in Zambia spanning 3.5km crosses over the Luapula River. The Mukuku Bridge was commissioned on 19 August, 1983. However, because of the road it sits on, some refer to it as Tuta Bridge.

by Loliwe Phiri @loliwephotography

There is something to be said about seeing natural wonders. In a classroom, we would see the map of Zambia with a small circle demarcating where the Bangweulu wetlands were located. At the time it was such an abstract concept. But to see the expanse of water and plains in front of you gives such a humbling appreciation of how beautiful our country is. And a deep understanding of why we should protect these lands.

by Loliwe Phiri @loliwephotography

When you stop at Mukuku Bridge you get to take in the engineering feat of the bridge. Then you look out at the river, the blue sky is reflected off of the water and you can often see fishermen at work.

by Rinah Kasongo @rinahkasongo

by Samukelo Mbatha

Once we were able to peel ourselves from the beauty, the journey continued. For whatever reason we arrived after 20 hours in Samfya. Mind you the whole reason I was on the trip was to prove that a beach exists in Zambia. But all you could see was darkness to the right and Chita Lodge sitting on a hill to the left. By this time everyone was so tired and frustrated from sitting on the bus for 11 hours. So we shuffled into the hotel and were assigned rooms, most of which look out onto the lake.

Samfya town sits on the western shore of Lake Bangweulu. Meaning that it has the perfect view of the sunrise. As an early riser I am an avid sunrise chaser. As soon as I saw the first hints of light. I swung the door open and what a sight. God made the sun in Africa different.

Bangweulu means, “the place where the water meets the sky”. Literally all you see is an endless expanse of water that is kissed by the sky. The water reflects whatever colour the sky is. Be it the burnt reds and oranges of the sunrise or the vivid blues of the midday sky. Simply breath taking.

by Donna Mshanga

I quickly grabbed my camera and rushed down towards the water. First you leave the premises of the lodge, cross the main road and wait …

White sand.

Samfya - Sandy white beach

There it was right in front of me. The white sandy beaches of Samfya. I took off my pata patas to feel the cool sand play between my toes. When I looked to my right I could see the beach extending out for quite a distance. Samfya Beach runs for approximately 100km. In the early morning it was very quiet and serene.

Samfya - Sandy white beach

On the water fishermen were coming in or just going out. I listened to the water tickling the sand, birds crying out and the calls of fishermen.

by Loliwe Phiri @loliwephotography

I sat down, took a deep breath and smiled to myself.

“Zambia is landlocked, and she does have white sandy beaches.”

Chulu is the Founder of Africana Woman. She is a Wellness Entrepreneur, Mentor and Award Winning Podcaster. Find her on Instagram @Chulu_byDesign


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