Chirundu boder area
A few kilometres before Chirundu, just after the turn-off to Siavonga and Kariba, keep a look out for a roadside plaque indicating the Chirundu Forest Reserve – a small area around the road where the remnants of petrified trees can be seen strewn on the ground.
The border post at Chirundu always seems to be busy with a constant stream of trucks going through, or at least waiting to go through. There's a BP garage here, an office for the Manica Freight Company, a post office and the Nyambandwe Hotel. This is a promising place to look for a lift if you are hitchhiking, but otherwise there is the slightly seedy, unsafe feel typical of a town where many people come and go, but few ever stay. On the plus side, there's a good mission hospital in the town.
The unsignposted road to Gwabi Lodge and the Lower Zambezi branches east from the main road about 200–300m from the border. It's always clogged with parked trucks. To find it, take the road past the border-post's chainlink fence and the watchman, then turn left. Eleven kilometres further north this passes the Gwabi turn-off and, after another 2km, descends to the Kafue River. The road from Chirundu is currently very poor, but there's talk of tarring it for at least part of the way in the near future. To reach Chiawa or anywhere beyond, the river has to be crossed on the (free) pontoon.
Where to stayNyambandwe Motel
PO Box 37160, Lusaka; tel: 01 515084/515088
This is convenient if you are stuck in town: the rooms are small with fans and tiny en-suite shower/toilets. This hotel can be boisterous at the weekend; if you want to sleep then get a room far from the bar. Note that some of the rooms are hired by the hour.Gwabi Lodge
(6 chalets and camping) PO Box 30813, Lusaka or PO Box CRU06, Chirundu. Tel: 01 515078/515062; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This small, slightly ramshackle lodge is set in green lawns on the Kafue River about 12km from Chirundu, and 3km up from its confluence with the Zambezi. Owned and run by Alan and Ann Wardle, it is used extensively by overland trucks, making it quite a busy place that is well prepared for campers and budget travellers. You'll find everything has its price here, from a bag of drinking-water ice to overnight use of the car park for non-residents (US$1/Kw5,000 per night) – but these prices are generally reasonable.
The chalets are solidly built with stone floors, mains electricity, en-suite showers/toilets and fans, although the thatch has seen better days. Camping is alongside the river, with nightly entertainment provided by a percussion band of painted reed frogs. There's a great pool, overlooking the river some distance below, with superb sunset views from the terrace, and a cool thatched bar area next to it serving sensibly priced drinks. An à la carte menu includes sandwiches from US$1.50/Kw7,500 and steaks at around US$9/Kw45,000.
Various activities are possible here, with guides available for walks and canoeing if required. There's no charge to residents for paddling canoes, but you'll have to pay the cost of bringing the canoes back upstream to the lodge. Bring your own tackle if you want to fish; boats cost US$25 per hour plus the cost of fuel. You can also hire speedboats. Although game viewing is available, the lodge is a long way from the national park, so isn't ideal as a base for this.