Nachikufu Cave (Family Vacation Part 5)

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It was hard to get Ian to smile and point at the same time.

Reading this week:

  • Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond

The Nachikufu Cave was the one must-see thing on the whole trip. The only way we got my brother to agree to come all the way to Zambia was to promise to go to the cave. You see, Ian is big into cryptids, and the Nachikufu Cave is on the cryptid circuit because of two cave paintings that kinda sorta look like long-necked dinosaurs. So we promised we would go and go we did.

Besides the whole cryptid thing, the Nachikufu Cave is in fact pretty cool. It’s only a few kilometers off the Great North Road and is a very well done little site. If I can quote A Guide to Zambia’s Heritage in the entirety for it’s entry on the cave:

The site was used by the Bisa and the Lala people during the Bemba and Ngoni raids in pre-colonial era as a hide-out. It also comprises priceless archaeological and scientific information that dates to about 15000-20000 years ago.

The rock shelter and cave comprises numerous Naturalistic and Schematic rock art paintings such as elephants, antelopes, and elaborate grid-like/rectangular motifs. Nachikufu Cave undoubtedly offers tourist enjoyment and experience of historic times.

So that all is pretty neat. The cave has a fence around it that is locked, but you have to pass by the caretaker’s house to get to the cave so if you wait a bit he’ll show up. While we were waiting, we enjoyed the landscape which is pretty marvelous. You can definitely imagine the ancient cavemen keeping a lookout for game and sharing stories by painting on the walls at night, and posing on the top of the cave for pictures to post on Facebook.

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Once the caretaker arrived and opened the gate, he showed us around the little displays they have of the cave paintings and the archaeological finds in the area. The cave itself is like, a prototypical caveman cave with a nice floor and a big cavern you could take shelter in and a few small paths. There is also a good number of bats. So that all was pretty cool to see. Plus the caretaker has a nice dog that lets you scratch behind his ears.

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This pretty much sums up any of my family trips.

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Kabwe (Family Vacation Part 4)

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On the way north, dad decided to have us stop for the night in Kabwe. Kabwe has several claims to fame, among them being one of the most polluted places in the world (thanks to decades of lead mining) and the site of the discovery of the Broken Hill Man. It was always my family’s first (sorta) taste of up-country living.

We got to Kabwe in pretty good order, having switched from driving one giant van to two smaller 4x4s. They were far more nimble and capable, but since we had only two registered drivers (my uncle and my dad) somewhat less convenient in that regards. Which, really, is why we stopped in Kabwe; so we could break up the northbound driving.

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The first thing I wanted to do in Kabwe was to go see the Big Tree. It is Kabwe’s other claim to fame. Seeing this sucker was a bit of a headache for me. First, my family asked if it was in walking distance of the lodge. I said yes, but I guess my current version of walking distance has increased somewhat from where it used to be. The second thing is that my family expected me to like, know exactly where it was. I hadn’t quite gotten across to the family yet that things like maps aren’t necessarily the most reliable here, and even big important things like Big Trees aren’t necessarily well marked. But after wandering only a little bit through Kabwe, we found it.

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So we poked around a bit, and my family took a whole bunch of pictures of the locals using the tree as a meeting place, the same that people have done for hundreds of years. So that is pretty cool I guess. After looking at the tree and buying a coke nearby, it was off to see the monument to the Broken Hill Man

Zambia has been working hard for a while now to get back the skull of the Broken Hill Man (it currently rests in the Natural History Museum in London). In the meantime though, they have erected a lovely little monument on the grounds of the Civic Center, which is a few blocks up the street (like, literally go uphill) from the Big Tree. Kabwe is rather convenient for getting all your Kabwe siteseeing in at once.

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After reading the plaque on the monument, and poking around for a bit, the family did some grocery shopping at the nearby ShopRite and departed in a taxi for the lodge. Since the taxi was full of all them, that left me to walk back to the lodge by myself. Frankly, it was a pretty nice little respite.

Chirundu Fossil Forest (Family Vacation Part 3)

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Modern-day Ian, 150 million year-old tree.

After leaving Livingstone, we drove back north to Lusaka, but on the way we took a little detour (it was a big detour) to see the Chirundu Fossil Forest. This was a spot I had been wanting to go to but I have no reason to ever go to this corner of the country (it’s on the Kariba road, a good chunk off the main road to Lusaka). So when I had the opportunity to manipulate my brother to dragging the whole family to the Chirundu Fossil Forest, I took it.

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Little baby goats!

The place takes a bit of finding. It is right on the tarmac but is only marked by a small sign on the right side of the road as you are heading to Kariba. Like a lot of sites in Zambia, this site is pretty amazing to me because it is the ancient fossilized forest and people are just living there. Like, I saw people using some of the fossils to decorate their front yard. There were little goats playing on ancient logs. It was cute.

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Once you find the marker you’re pretty free to wander around. I think there is nominally an entry fee but no one came to collect it, though a villager came to greet us. If you ask they’ll show you some of the bigger logs. You start to question which of the logs laying around are ancient and which are modern; the fossilized logs are so well preserved that you can see all the features of the tree rings. The logs all look like they just fell over maybe a month ago, not eons ago.

Since it was late in the day though and my dad and uncle didn’t really like driving at night, we looked around and hustled on out of there so we could make it back to Lusaka.

Chobe National Park (Family Vacation Part 2)

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Tourists, amiright?

As part of the Livingstone portion of the Family Vacation, we decided to visit Chobe National Park to go on a safari. This was a whole-day experience and quite worth it. My dad did all the arrangements for the safari, and the safari vehicle picked us up at about 0730 to take us over to Chobe. Protip: bring your passports, as Chobe is over in Botswania. Another family we traveled with forgot their passports and were turned back to Zambia.

The safari came in two parts, with a boat safari in the morning and a driving safari in the afternoon. After getting over to Botswania and being served some coffee, we loaded up on the boat. Since there were 8 of us, the family got a boat to ourselves. Our tour guide was really awesome and very knowledgeable about the animals we were going to see on the Chobe River. Having been on a booze cruise on the Zambezi, I was a bit worried about how many animals we were actually going to see. I didn’t need to worry, but I was relieved when we spotted some velvet monkeys in a bush along the riverbank. We poked the boat over there for a closer look and some of the monkeys jumped on board.

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A little further down the river is when we really started to spot all sorts of wildlife. Our guide spotted a tiny little kingfisher and we spent some time maneuvering the boat to get a good shot. Mom is a bird lover and was interested in getting a good picture, though not as interested as the guy in another boat with a much nicer camera. There were a lot of boats on the river but the animals didn’t seem to mind and it is not worth worrying about all the other tourists. The trick is just to enjoy the animals.

And enjoy we did! Just along the river we saw water buffalo, cranes, storks, hippos feeding in the daylight, crocodiles, riverbuck, kudu, impala, and lizards. The coolest part though was when some elephants decided to cross the river.

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Watching the elephants swim across the river to get to some of the good river grass was pretty amazing to watch. We watched them as they approached the river, evaluated the merits of a swim, and then waded into the river, eventually sticking their trunks above the surface to snorkel. The seemed like they had a good time and were rewarded with grass.

We eventually docked and had lunch. In the afternoon we had a driving safari. On the driving safari, we saw a lot of the animals we had seen from the boat, but a major new addition were some giraffes. Elephants are cool, but giraffes are my favorite animals to see on a safari just because of how weird they look. I feel like elephants look about like you would expect an elephant to look, but the scale of giraffes throw you off. Especially when they run, they look like they are moving pretty slow but are in fact booking it, galloping off into the distance.

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It was a long and pretty awesome day with some great tour guides and a lot of really cool animals. I know there are a lot of tourists there, but I highly recommend visiting Chobe if you have the chance.