Where to stay
The New Kwacha Relax Hotel
(tel: 04 221124) seems to have gone downhill a lot and is often closed due to a lack of basics. It costs US$10 per person, and no food is available. Fortunately there are now several good, small places to stay in Kasama. Of these, Thorn Tree and Kasembo stand clearly above the rest.Thorn Tree Guesthouse
(5 rooms plus a cottage) PO Box 410694, Kasama; tel/fax: 04 221615; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hazel and Ewart Powell came to this area of Zambia to teach in 1969 … and stayed here to run this. Consequently they've a fund of knowledge on the local area and its people, and can help you get the best out of the region.
You'll find Thorn Tree about 1km from town, on the edge of an escarpment with a great view. To get there, turn left at the main crossroads as you enter Kasama from Lusaka, and continue for about 300m. Pass the police station and government offices on the left, and a park on the right. Then take the right-hand fork and carry on for a further 300m to where Thorn Tree is signposted on the left-hand side of the road. This is only two minutes' drive from the centre or a ten-minute walk.
In their own house they have three double bedrooms which share a bathroom and the use of the main lounge (with TV, video and library). There's also a bedroom in an extension to this that would sleep four, again sharing a bathroom in the main house. All have mosquito nets and fans. In the grounds there's a cottage on the hillside (stunning view) which has one bedroom which sleeps two people (an extra bed could be added) plus a bathroom, a fully equipped kitchen and a lounge with its own TV and video. Itbeen built from local materials, including an attractive 'pink stone' local to the area, and furnished with pine furniture from their own workshop. Also away from the main house are four purpose-built rooms with en-suite showers and toilets and great views. These share one lounge/bar of their own.
Hazel will arrange meals for you whenever you'd like them, and most of the ingredients are produced here on the farm – from oranges and limes to egg and bacon, coffee and tea, and even the jams and peanut butter at breakfast. For drinks, the lodge has a fully licensed small bar. You can arrange for Ewart to collect you from the airport, station, or buses. Similarly, if you want to play tennis or golf, or swim, or if you need transport to get out to Chishimba Falls (or wherever), then they can make a plan for you to do so. For trips farther afield, Claire Powell is starting a small safari company, with big plans for trips around the Northern province; see www.thorntreesafaris.com for the latest details.
Thorn Tree also has a few small swimming pools in the grounds, and it's suitable for children – a very homely place where you can easily feel part of the family.Cinci's Nest Guest House
(6 rooms) PO Box 410761, Kasama; tel/fax: 04 221441
Owned by a Mr Mugala, and situated opposite Kasama Girls' School, which is on the Isoka road about 4km out of town. There's no signpost for this, just ask for Cinci's. It has several clean rooms and meals can be cooked on request. Cinci's rooms are pleasant, with TV and small fridge, but on the smallish side. Parking space is available within its wall-fence, and it is said to be popular with Zambian politicians on tour in the north. So you never know whom you'll meet over breakfast.Kasembo Guesthouse
(7 rooms) PO Box 410040, Kasama. Office tel: 04 221158 (ask for the guesthouse manager); evening tel: 04 221380 (ask for Father Ivo); fax: 221369 (office hours only); email: email@example.com
This guesthouse is 8km from the centre of town, on Kasembo Farms, opposite the airport. To get there leave town for the airport and, about 150m after the end of the tar road, take a left turn down a farm road, signposted to Kasembo. The guesthouse is about 1.5km from that turn-off.
Kasembo Farms was founded 50 years ago and is now owned and run by the Missionaries of Marianhill. It stretches for about 1,000 acres, and keeps around 175 Friesian cows (40 are milked), 150 pigs, 150 sheep, 2,000 hens for egg laying, and a few thousand chickens for the pot. The priests say that they leave things as natural as possible. 'Our vegetable garden has never seen a grain of fertiliser in its existence,' commented one. With most of the basic ingredients grown on the farm, it's no surprise that meals are a highlight here.
The accommodation for visitors (of any creed) consists of two houses, standing about 80m apart in a clearing within an old section of indigenous forest. The buildings are about 15–20 years old and were originally the family homes of two sons of the former owner. Since then, they were extensively renovated in early '99, in order to take guests.
One house has four twin rooms (two are en suite, and two share a shower and a toilet), and highly-polished red cement floors. It has the warmer atmosphere of the two and has a small pool and a lovely view over the escarpment. The second is perhaps a little more stylish, floored with flagstones of local stone. It has three en-suite rooms. All the rooms in both houses have mosquito nets, electric fans, duvets, blankets and linen. Both are furnished with new pine furniture, made locally in a carpentry workshop in Kasama, and each has its own kitchen, dining room, lounge, a big veranda and ample parking space.
The missionaries make a point of ensuring that the service is attentive and discussions with them can give you an interesting insight into the area. Several types of local beers and a few spirits are on offer during meals. If you arrive in town and want to stay then ask at the Kasembo Farms shop, which is right across from the central market in town, at the back of PEP-Stores.Kapolonga Resthouse
This old government resthouse is situated halfway between the TAZARA station and town. Its rooms should have fans and hot water, but are very basic. It's best avoided if possible.
If you just want a quiet place in the bush to camp 'rough' around Kasama, then one very experienced old Zambian hand recommended the old (defunct) Kalungwishi State Ranch to me, about two hours' drive from town. He comments that it's a fantastic place to explore and is enormous with very few local people about and lots of nice habitat for birds, including good miombo woodlands and large dambos.
To get there take the Luwingu Road, then turn north before you reach Luwingu (about 20km). Drive past Chitoshi and aim for the headwaters of the Kalungwishi River. (You'll need a good map of the area!) Pass the trig-point tower (from which there is a good view, if you climb it) and take a left into the old ranch. There are two entrance roads to Kalungwishi, and at least one still has a sign.