The road to Siavonga leaves the main Lusaka–Chirundu road a few kilometres west of the Chirundu Bridge over the Zambezi. From that turn-off, it is just over 65km of rolling road (excellent tarmac) to Siavonga, mostly through areas of subsistence farming. From Lusaka to Siavonga takes around 21/2 hours. The area is densely populated, largely the result of 'forced migration' when the dam was built and entire villages, such as Lusitu, which now lies along this road, were relocated. There are lots of small villages, and hence animals wandering over the road, so drive slowly. During a visit I made at the end of the dry season, the problems of erosion and overgrazing seemed especially bad. Numerous gullies cut through the powdery red soil, there was little green grazing to be seen anywhere, and even the goats were looking thin.
This is, though, a marvellous area for baobab trees, and an excellent one for roadside stalls – selling a range of baskets from small decorative ones to large linen-baskets, as well as numerous pieces of quartz – for which you'll need to be prepared to bargain very hard.
About 13km after the turning off the main road, there's a track to the left leading to Ngombe Illede, 'the cow that is lying down'. Now designated a national monument, the flat, square, sacred stone lies in a stark landscape devoid of all but baobabs. More details can be found in D W Phillipson's book, National Monuments of Zambia.
Approaching Siavonga, the road winds its way around the hills in steep spirals before finally dropping down into the town, on the edge of Lake Kariba. Like Kariba, its Zimbabwean neighbour over the dam, Siavonga has an artificial layout as the result of being built on the upper sections of three or four hills – the lake's recently created shore. Having started out as a camp for the builders working on the dam in the 1950s, Siavonga eventually developed into a quiet holiday resort. There are a few things to do here, mainly focusing on the lake. The one activity no-one should miss is eating the local fresh fish (mainly tilapia bream) from the dam that is offered by all hotels and lodges. A new website about Siavonga is promised at www.siavonga.com – check it out for details.
Getting there and away
There are no regular buses to Siavonga but there is a several-times-daily minibus service from/to Lusaka and the Chirundu border. By ringing well in advance you may be able to arrange a lift here from Lusaka or Kariba, in Zimbabwe. Then you could ask around for lifts going out of town, and perhaps even hitch from the outskirts. Alternatively, you could get a bus in and walk around everywhere, which would be practical – but you'll find it much easier with your own transport.
Siavonga is small, but is not easy to get around without your own vehicle. The roads curve incessantly, sticking to the sides of the hills on which the town is built. Each of the hotels is tucked away in a different little cove or inlet, and to get from one to another usually involves several kilometres of up-and-down, winding roads.
Where to stay
Siavonga has a surprising amount of accommodation considering its small size and relatively few attractions. The reason is its proximity to Lusaka – just two and a half hours' drive away – which makes it very convenient for conferences to come here, the stock trade for all of Siavonga's hotels. On a quiet night, you can find a good bed at a reasonable price. Because the town is used to the 'packaged' conference trade, check the rates for dinner, bed and breakfast, and full board – these are often good value, and there are no sparkling local restaurants to compete. Campers have less choice, and will probably head to the Eagle's Rest.