Izi Falls: Getting Back

Setting off.

The evening at Izi Falls was relaxing, but it was the next day we were dreading. We were already tired and sore from getting to the falls, and now we had to get back. My bike was busted, it was largely uphill, and we didn’t know if the weather would hold. We dawdled setting off but eventually packed up our gear and head out.

The view from the nice old lady’s shower.

We had decided the night before to hire some guys to haul our stuff out to the last big village we passed on the way to the falls. That would put us pretty near the main road and on relatively flat terrain. We hiked back to where we had locked our bikes, which wasn’t too bad, and Alli dropped her stuff and went on ahead to find some help. I was gonna get the bikes ready to go and hopefully find my missing wheel nut.

My wheel nut was a lost cause on the hill covered in weeds, and grass, but I busted out some of Alli’s tools (my toolkit got stolen a while back) and managed to jerry-rig a wheel nut using some of the hardware from my toolkit mounting rack (which I didn’t need because again the toolkit had gotten stolen). I was pretty proud of myself and head up the hill to meet up with Alli and our recently hired porters.

One last look back towards the falls, with the valley filled with clouds.

Hiring dudes to carry all your crap is a $5 well spent, lemme tell ya. It was Alli’s idea and it was a good idea.

Having help hauling all of our stuff out made the going a lot easier, but it was still hot and a heckuva walk uphill. At least the sweeping vistas of the second largest lake in the world were still there to keep us going.

The guys took us all the way back to the village, where the road now began for us. It was still a few kilometers to the main road, and we were already tired, but we were hoping to catch a canter on the way back once we hit the main road. There was nothing to do but keep biking and eventually we hit the main road. Unfortunately, a canter did not immediately materialize and there was nothing to do but keep biking back towards home.

This portion of the trip was actually pretty okay. The road is very good and it had gotten cloudy, which made it less hot. It was raining all around us, it seemed, but not on us yet, so the clouds were a welcome relief. At one point we stopped by a tuck shop for some sodas and of course our visit was quite the event. One or two minibusses passed us going the other way saying they were going to Mpulungu, which confused me, but we pressed on.

Again, the whole trip is comprised of sweeping vistas. This picture is overlooking the Lunzua River valley, with the village of Mwenda at the bottom. There was rain coming from the south, which was ominous, but I hoped that our weather luck would hold.

We zoomed down the escarpment, which from the picture you can tell was a lot of fun, but it was on this part of the trip that the rain finally hit us. So we hustled into Mwenda and luckily there was a shelter that we could hide under.

Stuck in the rain in Mwenda.

While we were waiting for the rain to let up, Alli made friends with the local ladies selling bananas while I took a look at the map. Eventually it dawned on me that all these minibusses that were going to Mpulungu, but somehow not passing through Mbala, were taking a road that went from Mwenda to the main, tarmac’d Mpulungu road. And, it should be all downhill. I convinced Alli that instead of taking the safe, known road straight to Mbala, and biking 23km or so, on average uphill, we should zoom the 10km downhill on the Lunzua river road and then catch a minibus to Mbala. She was convinced and off we went!

Going down that road was super cool! It was very foggy when we went down the road, since it had just rained, and so the whole valley had a sorta spooky-cool mist-shrouded thing going for it which was awesome. And along the way we came across all the infrastructure for the Lunzua hydroelectric station, and that was super cool to check out. The feeder pipe for the power plant is in the above picture. We came across the abondoned construction camp, which had some really cool signs with diagrams on them.

I didn’t know this place existed, and I am a sucker for signs with diagrams on them, so it was really neat. The sun came out right as we hit the end of the dirt road and arrived at the tarmac, so it was possible to believe that the valley was always cool and mist-shrouded and maybe haunted. From there, we just had to catch a minibus (which impressively bunjied our bikes to the back) and we were back to Mpulungu.

I had meaning to go on this trip for like, two years, ever since I learned of the existence of Izi Falls, and just never got around to it. Every time I bike home I get a wide vista of the whole escarpment from Mbala to the lake, and I had always wanted to bike that route. My time here in Zambia is coming to a close and if Alli hadn’t pressed for the trip I probably wouldn’t have made it. If you ever get the chance to bike and canter and hike 100 or so kilometers off the beaten path in Mbala, I recommend it.

The escarpment and home.