Chiundaponde is a typical small Zambian village that lies at the heart of the area covered by this chapter. The inhabitants are mainly small-scale farmers from the Bisa tribe. In the fields around the village they grow cassava, finger millet, sorghum, maize and groundnuts as their staple crops. Finger millet and sorghum are also used to make beer for selling; groundnuts are grown as a cash crop. Some also keep goats and chickens, either for subsistence or to sell, and you'll often have to avoid these as they wander across the road in front of your vehicle. Chiundaponde isn't really a destination for most visitors, but you will go through it if you're visiting the Bangweulu wetlands, and so it's useful to be able to navigate to/from here.
Getting there and awayFrom the south or west
Follow the directions from the Chinese Road, or the Great North Road, to the turning for Lake Waka Waka (GPS: TUWAKA). From there, head on the track leading north – which bounces gently though miombo woodlands and, increasingly, small farming settlements. By 17km beyond the lake, you'll pass through a small village with a school where, like anywhere else here, you'll probably be the object of much curiosity and interest – if only from the local children. Although you'll be in third gear and the track is sandy in places, this isn't difficult driving.
After about 23km you'll cross a large dambo (GPS: DAMBO), where the track follows a short causeway. A further 9km on and there's another large dambo to cross (GPS: DAMBO2), and around 3km later there may be a sign to the new Nakapalayo Village where you can stay. Some 6km after the second dambo, you reach Chiundaponde (GPS: CHSCHL), where amongst other buildings you'll find a large school. From the east
Approaching from Mpika, leave the Great North Road about 65km from Mpika, and follow the directions given below to get across Lavushi Manda National Park. In the dry season it takes about three hours to reach Chiundaponde from the turn-off. In the wet season, the Lavushi Manda road is so bad that you should consider an alternative route – perhaps even going all the way to Kasanka, and approaching from the west.
Where to stay
Although many people will press on to reach Shoebill or Nsobe camps, there's one option near Chiundaponde that's worth considering:Nakapalayo Village
(6 local-style chalets) Contact via Kasanka.
This new tourism project started in early 2004 is about 3–4km south of from Chiundaponde, is signposted from the main track between Chiundaponde and Waka Waka. The village has built six extra chalets in the traditional style. These are neat, rectangular structures made out of traditional mud-bricks with smooth, small, arrow-shaped open windows, and twin or double beds with mattresses and mosquito nets. They share very clean long-drop toilets, and bathrooms which are simply reed shelters with showers – buckets on a high shelf from which you scoop water over yourself.
Nakapalayo's people have been trained by members of the Kawaza village community, in South Luangwa, and offer a variety of activities. Most visitors will take a wander around the village with one of the local guides to see, learn and try everyday activities like drawing water, pounding cassava or cultivating the fields. However, there are also opportunities to visit the village headman, or local chief, to learn about the culture and history of the Bisa people; to visit Chiundaponde School, the rural health centre or one of the local churches; to meet the village's traditional healer to learn about the medicinal uses of the area's flora; and to enjoy dancing and storytelling around the fire. If you're staying, then the villagers will also prepare tasty traditional meals for you. This project is very new, but I've had a glowing report of it from one visitor, who described the people as 'just the most lovely lot in the world'. Nakapalyo is worth supporting if you're passing through the area.