Traditionally, I come from the North-Western part of Zambia – a landlocked country – in Southern Africa. My parents and their parents before them both hail from here.
Particularly, my mother’s people hail from Zambezi town whereas my father’s people hail from Chavuma town which is 2 hours away from Zambezi town which in turn is 7 hours away from Solwezi town.
This being my second time working in Solwezi, I felt challenged to endeavor to wander just a bit yonder in the depths of the province. The first time having been back in 2014 on another tour of duty.
In all my years, the furthest I had wandered had always been Solwezi, the administrative center of the province. And with my birthday being imminent, it was the perfect opportunity to do just that – to step out a little further and ever deeper into the land of my heritage.
The date was set; it had to be just a day before my birthday.
The month of August might signal the end of Winter and a jump to Spring in this part of the world but to me it’s the month of my birthday, so why not take a birthday vacation I thought.
Three things had piqued my interest in Zambezi town; the Chinyingi bridge, the Zambezi river and a waterfront lodge on its banks.
After a 7 hour bus ride on a completely tarred road to the town, I checked into the Royal Kutachika Lodge on the 28th of August. My key card was marked 27 and I was shown to what would be my room for the next 2 days of the same mark.
The most representative characteristics of the lodge are the striking and extensive thatch roofs decorating the lodge which scream vernacular architecture. Sliding doors opened to a four-poster bed complete with a Telly, natural reed side tables and a vanished timber wardrobe. Within the room, was a walk-in shower and a walk-in water closet, both spaces separated by a wash hand basin.
After enjoying a readily hot shower, I took to their fully stocked bar (although I’ll admit they had everything but tequila, and what’s a birthday vacation without shots?), so several double shots of Red Label whiskey sufficed until they didn’t anymore.
The morning of my birthday got off to a slow start since planning for the trip and for activities to do was done beforehand, so all that was left for me to do was to sleep in, to take in the scenery and to bask in the fresh air before taking a trip upstream the mighty Zambezi river towards the Chinyingi bridge.
With the day being perfect; sun out, mild temperatures and with very little to no wind, it was time to go riding on the river.
At the dock, I took a tour of the stationary pontoon trying to fathom its workings. Sated with the workings of the pontoon, my interests shifted to the banana boats lightly sailing about. With a K10 to spare, I crossed forth and back to one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life.
Life jacket strapped on and with just over 3 hours left to be on the Zambezi, we took to venturing forth on our journey towards Chinyingi bridge. The one way trip that should’ve taken 45 minutes lasted about an hour due to urges to take it all in; the beaches at each and every turn, the small islands on the way and the vegetation on the river banks.
After an hour, the bridge was upon us, stretching from end to end, supported by nothing but chords. At the initial approach, it looks like a string that soon grows in size to that of a footbridge.
We docked the boat to the side and stepped out to walk on it. The bridge swayed with every step; to the right with the first step and to the left with the second, and so on and so forth. It was a gentle sway.
I heard more than the average man hears. Whispered to me were the secrets of the river that speaks to the smallest of ears. It was everything I had imagined it to be in experience. This alertness wasn’t a subtraction but an addition to the experience.
For a person not scared of heights like myself, I took in all that the bridge had to offer. I crossed from one end of it and to the other, and back.
The walk on the bridge reminds you you’re in the presence of engineering ingenuity. The best part is that the user is able to appreciate the stability of the bridge in the support columns on either side of the waters. What’s also plain to see is how local materials – timber braces and chicken wire mesh – have been fused in which makes it as beautiful to the eye as it really is in experience.
Feeling content and the sun beginning to set, we rode back downstream. A trip that took us about an hour before, now took us just 45 minutes.
Back at the Royal Kutachika, my mates and I took to the bar to enjoy some cold beers whilst looking over the mighty Zambezi river, and the beautiful sunset above it and above the plains.
As I checked out of the lodge the following day, I was content and fulfilled. I was glad I got to go on this particular adventure in the land of my people. Nothing warms the heart like conversing with strangers in your mother tongue, and that’s exactly what I did.