Sitting in the heat of the rift valley, about 40km from Mbala, Mpulungu is Zambia's largest port. It's a busy place and visited by many travellers, most of whom are Africans but with the odd backpacker mixed in too. The atmosphere is very international, a mix of various Southern, Central and East African influences all stirred together by the ferries which circle the lake from port to port.
There is a strong local fishing community and a small but thriving business community, complete with a small contingent of white Africans, expats and even aid workers. So though Mpulungu might seem like the end of the earth when you get off a bus in the pitch-black evening, it isn't.