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Zambian Travel Writers in Lower Zambezi

Dear Africana Woman,


How are you love?


So I was in Kitwe about two weeks ago. Babe, Kitwe showed me flames. I was singed through and through, just black and ashy from the experience. I pray it never happens to you-oh. First off, when I checked into a lodge on my first day, I was shown a room with no shower head and a mouldy ceiling. I was like, “There’s no shower head.” They said, “We can put one for you.” Shouldn’t it just be there? Then a vendor who was fully paid for did not show up on time for our appointment. They actually took it upon themselves to send a voice note explaining that they were newly married and I just had to understand that they would be late. The next day I changed hotels and told them I would check in really late, which they agreed to. When we were running late, we called to inform them and the receptionist SHOUTED at us. We arrived at midnight and this receptionist did not greet us instead she opened the door to the reception area so as all the cold air could rush in and freeze us. Then she gave us a room with mouldy bedsheets, water damaged walls, a rusty kettle and no spare blankets in winter. I was done, finished, flabbergasted. A bombastic side eye would not work for this level of nonsense.


Listen, I have heard of bad customer service but this was plain abuse. A week later I found myself drifting along the Zambezi River en route to a lodge in Lower Zambezi. Basically in the middle of the bush. The whole time I am thinking brace yourself, because there seems to be a disease in Zambia.



After a four hours boat ride, that I absolutely loved, we arrived at our destination, Kasaka River Lodge. The first thing I noticed is an all male staff. Could have been 10 or so guys. They gave us a hand, as we stepped off the boat and assured us we could go up to the lodge. The buildings are at a higher level than the water front. So we walked up to look at what would be our home for the next four days.


Twelve Zambian Travel Writers were invited to Lower Zambezi for a writing workshop hosted by the Women’s History Museum. Truth is I was number 13 on their list of candidates. Only when someone stepped down, did I make the cut. The Thirteenth Writer. As someone born on the 13th, I knew this was a God wink.


The path leading to the top first stops at a landing with a seating area covered by a thatched roof. It had a deck that looked out to the dock where you could see the staff had made a human chain up the path as they brought up all of our luggage and food (Kasaka is a self catering lodge). The furniture was accented with bright chitenges and felt so welcoming. There were a number of interesting features like an old canoe repurposed into shelves or tree trunks used as side tables.



Further up, the path led to a second level that housed the main common area, dining table and bar. It was flanked on both sides by tents. To the right was a pool, open green field and if you looked down closely, you noticed little yellow, purple, white and pink flowers speckled the ground. To the left was a narrow bridge, made of planks and a rope. As you followed the bridge, it meandered much further than you expected. The height and setting was very reminiscent of the Knife Bridge at Mosi-O-Tunya. For those brave enough to look down, it was apparent that in the rainy season the water would swell inland and flow freely below. At the end of the bridge was some what of an island where 4 tents were nested.


Bridge at Kasaka River Lodge in Lower Zambezi, Zambia

I was assigned to Tent 1. The staff carried our bags for us to the room. Now Babe, I am not a person who loves to camp hey. Like yeah no. Glamping is more my portion. So the tent is mounted on a concrete foundation. It has a wooden framed door on both ends. The one end being the front door, whilst the rear leading into a brick walled bathroom. Here’s the thing, Room 1 is the Honeymoon suite. Can you tell I am grinning? It had a wrap around deck. On one side you could watch the sunrise on the rocking chairs and then end your day watching the sunset round the other side, which also had an out door bath tub, giving bush jacuzzi vibes. Talk about the soft life. The sunset side also overlooked what they call the Hippo Highway. I am told that at night hippos walk onto land through that section to look for a place to graze, even reaching as far as the airstrip landing.


Photograph of Chulu in the Outdoor Tub & the Tent by: Iris Pacheco @kongolaphiri


In the room were two single beds with bedding accented by lovely African prints. There were two bedside tables, a double socket, a chair and a woven basket. In the bathroom there was a provision to hang clothes and even stash away valuables in a safe. Here’s the catch the bathroom did not have a ceiling. Instead it was lined with branches that had sharp thorns to keep out the baboons.


I am vegetarian. Knowing that most people think we only eat lettuce and carrots I brought some legumes to ensure I would eat a balanced diet. I spoke to Chef Isaac and explained to him how to cook them. He was a bit concerned but still obliged my request. Can we just pause and give a moment of respect for the food. Every single meal was different and really tasty. We TOTALLY overdid the eating part, because it was that good. We were served a main meal and dessert. Gurl.... And Biko, who was waiting on us was so attentive, helpful and creative. Every night we had a different napkin fold, we started with a cone, then we had a standing fan, and the finale was a bird that was too pretty to pull apart. Took me back to my hotel manager days.


Camp rules are guests cannot walk to and from their rooms alone in the dark. This is because you might encounter an animal. Therefore, staff would wait for the last of us to go to bed so as they could escort us to our rooms. I heard people talking about they went to bed at midnight. Can't be me.


Wait, wait, wait, on the first night, the full moon greeted us with a brilliant yellow glow and she danced on the water for us. What a spectacular sight to take in. When we went to bed, as soon as we turned off the lights it was like a film of charcoal was placed over our eyes. This instant blindness simultaneously elevated our other senses. We could hear the lapping of the river, a hippo grunting nearby and I realised there was only a thin fabric between us and nature. Suddenly fear gripped me because nature was unpredictable and I was helpless against it should it decide to turn on us. But then I looked out the window at the full moon and felt comforted because it felt like she was saying she would keep us company and be our look out. I slept like a baby.


Moon at Kasaka River Lodge in Lower Zambezi, Zambia

Photograph: Iris Pacheco @kongolaphiri


As an early riser it is no surprise that I am a sunrise and sunset chaser. As soon as I could see the colour of my skin on my hands, I would jump out of bed, grab my journal and camera to discover what treasures awaited me. Oh my days, the African sky never disappoints. I would run across the bridge, greet Biko who was preparing for breakfast and go stand at the edge of the cliff by the open field. I wasn’t alone in my pursuit as there were some boats driving in the direction of the pending showcase. What happens is first the sky lights up in brilliant red, oranges and yellows and you know the star, pun intended, is about to arrive. Then a little slither peeks out, slowly revealing itself bit by bit until there is a brilliant golden coin rising to the sky. Personally I prefer it when there are clouds because the spectrum of colours splashes across the sky. “It’s how I know that God is Real. All of this is not by chance,” India Arie’s melody escaped my mouth as I was filled with gratitude and joy for witnessing such splendour. When the show was done, I would journal and warm myself with a hot chocolate.


Sunset at Kasaka River Lodge in Lower Zambezi

The first morning we bathed cold water. Sis, no joke, proper alarm to shock you awake. I reported it to the staff. They explained that they had recently installed some solar geysers and they would look into it. They were so on top of that and fixed it for us, also checked in to confirm it was working. In addition, on the first night they run out of spare blankets. I was given a crochet throw to tide me over. The next day I saw a boat come in really early, to deliver more blankets which were added to our beddings long before we went to bed. Every day by lunch the rooms were clean. By 6pm our beds were turned down. Again soft life.


By the way, encountering an animal in the dark is a real thing. On the last night, we had a fireside chat with the renowned Zambian playwright and co-founder of Women's History Museum, Mulenga Kapwepwe. Our first encounter was with a teenage elephant who came to camp hoping to drink water from the pool. He is known to be a little aggressive. But he was led away peacefully. Then a hippo came to graze. Apparently, that’s his daily routine. At night he walks up from where the boats dock, under the bridge, up the hill, round the kitchen through to the main field. He is Kasaka’s unofficial lawn mower. Mind you the whole time we sat by the fire the staff kept watch over us and ushered the animals away. However, when we saw the hippo it was a sign. We packed up and swiftly retired for the night.

Zambian Travel Writers having a fireside chat at Kasaka River Lodge in Lower Zambezi

Photograph: Iris Pacheco @kongolaphiri


Just so you know, there is no mobile network service out there. Some people were able to roam from the neighbouring Zimbabwe MTN service. But when they said there was no service, there was NO. They had internet, which wasn’t the best, especially with everyone trying to browse at the same time and those of us on the other end of the bridge could not pick it up at all from our tents. This meant we had no other option but to be fully present in the moment. To connect either with another human being or with nature. A much needed hiatus for me personally. On the last day as we waited for our transport, a patch of grass caught my eye because a kaleidoscope of white butterflies were at play. They would fly from one flower to the next every 10 seconds. I went up close and stood very still. In close proximity, I could make out black lined patterns on their wings. I have never seen so many butterflies in one area in my life. Had my head been buried in a computer or a phone I probably would not have noticed the butterflies or the other mesmerising moments I saw.


Scene from Lower Zambezi National Park

Needless to say, leaving was bitter sweet. The staff at Kasaka River Lodge exceeded my expectations . They gave me hope for what hospitality can feel like across Zambia. I felt safe, at ease and special. Thank you Teddy and the whole team. I will continue singing your praises. Aaaaand, I officially nominate Kasaka River Lodge staff to teach some unnamed establishments on the Copperbelt what Customer Service is supposed to look like.


So one of the many things that I came away with from this writing workshop was a renewed desire to write and promote written stories about African women. When I started the Africana Woman Blog, my intention was always to have fellow writers be contributors. Unfortunately, those that I asked never got back to me and I ended up being the sole contributor to the blog. But this experience reminded me to keep asking. So do you have a story to tell? You can share your story here. All you have to do is read these guidelines and email africanawoman@gmail.com. By the way, I already put a call out and the response this time has been overwhelming. I am so excited to share #HerStory with you. As always remember, to love yourself flaws n all and design a life that you absolutely love.


Warmest of hugs,


Chulu

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6 Comments


Guest
Jun 14, 2023

can’t even imagine mouldy sheets! Glad Kasaka River lodge turned up. Thanks for sharing your experien ce.

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Chulu Chansa
Chulu Chansa
Jun 14, 2023
Replying to

I have pictures of the mouldy sheets, eiw.

Kasaka River Lodge really are a class above the rest.

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Guest
Jun 13, 2023

Phone service there was NO! Lol

I just know if Teddy and Co. Could, they would have brought us phone service!

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Chulu Chansa
Chulu Chansa
Jun 13, 2023
Replying to

Hahaha Chansa 😂

I agree with you. If they could they would have

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Guest
Jun 13, 2023

Beautiful write-up. Just missing the actual pictures of exactly what you saw. I feel like something is missing.

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Chulu Chansa
Chulu Chansa
Jun 13, 2023
Replying to

I agree. There are some pictures I didn't take because I was caught up in the moment, Like the butterflies. Then there are others I took but I thought the article would look over crowded with pictures. So I left some out. Will think about how to incorporate more pics.

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