Mutinondo Wilderness, Caves & Waterfalls
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999 Days Around Africa: The Road Chose Me
We have a really good look at maps of Zambia and decide that everything we want to see is in the Northern section, towards Tanzania in the North and The DRC in the West. We have some miles to cover, but we decide it will be worth it for the remote places we should be able to get to.
We strike off into the wilderness, aiming for the Livingstone Monument – the place where he died and his heart was buried under a tree. When we actually arrive entrance is $10USD each, so we think better of it and turn right around. In a small village we stumble on what appears to be an agricultural show – farmers have gathered to display the produce they have grown and to share tips and techniques. We are clearly the only foreigners for a thousand miles, and everyone is friendly and excited to see us. A crowd of kids follows us, smiling from ear to ear.
Unfortunately we don’t speak a word of the local language and this remote English is only spoken by some people, so we strike a bit of a language barrier.
On a whim we drive deeper into the wilderness, and find a beautiful lake to make camp for the night. We’re told there are no crocodiles or hippos here, though the temperature drops quickly when the sun goes down dissuading me from a swim. In the morning I decide it’s better to go forward rather than back, and I figure as long as the first town shown on my map has a functioning gas station we should be fine.
On the way out we detour to checkout Nsalu Cave – another isolated rocky cave with stunning ancient rock paintings. There is some recent graffiti, though the longer we stay the more stunning old paintings we spot.
After many hours on severely dusty and bumpy back roads we burst out onto the highway with the gas gauge well below zero. Unfortunately the first town doesn’t have a station, and twenty miles later the next one doesn’t either. With no choice I keep rolling on, trying hard to use only my little toe on the gas pedal.
Inevitably, I run the Jeep out of gas about 4 miles before a gas station I’m familiar with from earlier in the week. The engine simply dies without any fuss, and I manhandle it onto the shoulder with no power steering. I have coasted to a stop less than fifty yards from a police roadblock, and soon the friendly officers want to know why I have stopped. Soon they enlist the help of the next car past, and I’m soon in the backseat with a friendly family on their way to the capital.
In the small town nearby I chat to a few locals and one man walks to his house and brings back a jerry can I can use. At the gas station I’m told it’s illegal to fill plastic containers, so a friendly taxi driver offers to help.
We put the plastic container in his trunk, and put a few gallons in where it can’t really be seen. For a couple of dollars the taxi driver runs me back to the Jeep, and with the help of my Mr. Funnel that has not seen much use lately I soon have the few gallons in the tank and the Jeep fires up with no hesitation at all.
The tank is officially 22.5 gallons, and at the next station I get just over 19 gallons in before it overflows. Some napkin math tells me there was somewhere around 1/2 a gallon in the tank when it ran out – it must not be able to suck up that last bit.
In all my screw up has cost us less than two hours – not a big deal.
I top off our drinking water tank and we’re soon back on the road, arriving at Kundalila waterfall just at sunset. The entrance price also includes camping, so after a quick look at the falls from above we light a campfire and set out enjoying the mighty stars. Spotting the Southern Cross still puts a smile on my face after all those months.
In the morning we hike to the bottom of the canyon to see the falls from below, and it feels great to stretch our legs and get some exercise.
Not far away we turn towards the Mutinondo Wilderness – a huge nature / wilderness reserve with some very unique rock formations. These massive granite hills rise out of the flat land and provide stunning views around the whole area. Immediately we stout hiking on the waterfall loop where we see many small waterfalls and swim in the hot afternoon. There are no large predators here, and we thoroughly enjoy being able to actually hike on foot. We hadn’t realize how much we’ve been missing the ability to just hike off into the wilderness. We loop back around and climb to the top of the highest granite hill (mountain?) to watch the sun slide slowly below the horizon.
The entire area is bathed in orange light and we stay into the twilight before finding our way back to the Jeep in the semi-darkness.
Again the temperature drops rapidly, and again we light a campfire to enjoy the stunning silence of the Zambian wilderness.
Zambia – WOW!
Many photos in this post were taken by Emily Sheff – http://sheffdp.com/