Buena Comida @ Cantina

A stop by Cantina restaurant in the Woodlands area of Lusaka was everything I needed on a sunny weekend afternoon, they have a great menu that offers essential Mexican treats.

We ordered carnitas nachos, a buffalo chicken taco, a beef baracoa taco, churros and some cantina signature mocktails. Don’t let the ‘snack bar’ tag fool you, the food was actually filling. I loved the textures and flavour of the pork carnitas and that tang that the pineapple added. The taco’s were equally yummy and the mocktails were subtle enough not to neutralise the enjoyable taste of the food. I also appreciated that the churros were not overly sweet and they were a worthy balance to all the savoury, tangy goodness of the other options we ordered. Ayayai, it felt like such a guilty pleasure to even chew 😩, Mexican food is bae.

Shout out to Mary for the excellent service too.

My Review:

Food: 🔪🔪🔪🔪🔪

Service: 🔪🔪🔪🔪🔪

Ambiance: 🔪🔪🔪🔪

Price Range: $ $ $ $

Kapishya Hot Spring

I was told a visit to Shiwa Ngandu is never complete without experiencing the Kapishya Hot Spring so I drove 19km inland after seeing Shiwa Ngandu to understand this sentiment. The road from Shiwa meandered quite often and passed through a few village settlements until it reached the signage that indicated our arrival at Kapishya Lodge. The Lodge was much nicer than I expected, plus being the only guest on site made the whole experience feel more exclusive and tailored to my expectations.

The Mansha River flows right in front of the Lodge and next to the Kapishya hot spring. The hot spring was such a serene oasis which provided me with a welcomed pause and much needed soak after the morning’s stroll around the Shiwa Ngandu manor. The pathway leading from the main restaurant to the hot spring had many plant and tree species which were appropriately labelled for botanic enthusiasts.

The grounds were well manicured and the surroundings of the hot spring were neat and well maintained. I learned that the natural, sulphur free water of this natural spring permeates down about 7kms to be super-heated and then it is pressured back to the surface where it is a luxurious 40 degrees Celsius. The hot spring was laden with white sand and endless bubbles in most parts, bubble bath anyone? No? Okay 😄. I especially appreciated the retaining wall that was built to reserve the spring water into a pool of sorts and keep any croc’s hopeful enough to have me for lunch at bay so I could float in perfect bliss.

Floating in endless bliss proved to be a bit of a struggle at first, as the depth of water in the hot spring was just above my knee level and the gathering clouds signalled a storm that would rain on this parade. Alas! the sun came through and I got to enjoy the warm and serene solitude of floating in a ‘hot tub’ with a nature-made playlist comprised of flowing water and cool breeze through dense forest.

As the sun faded back into the clouds, I retired to the pool side area for a bite to sustain myself for the long drive back to Mpika. I had the chance to taste the fish from the lake near Shiwa Ngandu and it was quite tasty even with minimal seasoning. My whole experience at Kapishya Lodge was worthwhile and the general service by the team was spot on! I left feeling refreshed and I will definitely make a plan to be back here if I am ever in the area.

Travel Tips

  • Carry your bathing suit!
  • The Lodge charges a fee of ZMK 100 / $10 for day-visitors which is inclusive of a short tour and access to the hot spring. They also provide towels at a fee of ZMK 10 / $1 and access to the pool for day visitors costs ZMK 100 / $10.
  • The Lodge has a point of sale for guests to swipe and settle their bills, however, it is best to have enough currency in the event that technology fails.
  • The Lodge has a restaurant on site with a standard menu that is priced slightly higher than your average cost in Mpika and some spots in Lusaka.
  • There are decent accommodation options on site, you could read more about the costs on the Lodge website.
  • WHEN you get to the hot spring, do your part to conserve this beautiful natural gem by being careful and honouring the environment.

The Lasting Legacy at Shiwa Ngandu

Nestled on a lush hillside in Northern Zambia, about 1.5hrs drive from Mpika on the highway to Nakonde, lies the marvel that is Shiwa Ngandu. A few kilometres away from the main highway, heading toward the estate, I was greeted by a long stretch of neatly aligned trees almost planted like they were meant to provide rite of passage to see this landmark. Plus, the little map at the entrance was a good touch as it attempted to scale the size of the entire estate.

Also called the Africa House, Shiwa Ngandu’s design and architecture was largely influenced by the British roots of Sir Stewart Gore-Browne who was the mastermind and force behind this building which will be 100 years old in the next couple of years. The first portion of the three-storey house was built in 1928 but with the growth of Sir Stewart’s entrepreneurial efforts in the area, the second section of the house and a chapel followed in 1932 and 1934 respectively.

I actually begun my tour of the estate in the chapel and was amazed to see some of the  original artefacts still preserved. This chapel can seat up to 30 people and it is still used every Sunday for mass by local staff who live and work at the estate.

Walking through the main door on the ground floor of the house, I was greeted by a Rhino on the wall.  Sir Stewart was known to be quite motivated to make his mark in life but he was also known to be bad tempered like the Rhino and he was even nicknamed Chipembere, so I suppose this had a lot to do with this choice of artwork.

Chipembere aka Rhino

A few steps from the main door towards the left foyer, I saw photographs of Sir Stewart’s family and friends, which included some notable faces of influence, like our first Republican President, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda.  Dr Kaunda even awarded Sir Stewart the medal of Grand Companion of Freedom and on his death in 1967, Sir Stewart was also honoured with a full state funeral.

Leaving this foyer led me to the sitting area that was laden with paintings of family members, books, fabrics and artefacts from all over Africa. In addition, I saw a plaque that was used when a tree was planted in the courtyard following the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, this tree still stands today. I quickly understood why Shiwa Ngandu and Sir Stewart Gore-Browne hold a unique place in Zambia’s history. Right outside the sitting area was a hallway of grand animal trophies and more photographs of Sir Stewarts family and friends.

The last phase of my tour was a visit to the library on the second floor that had several hundred books from different disciplines, some over 100 years old. The library also had special artefacts which Sir Stewart brought from his many travels, including a very interesting silver centre piece from the Australian subcontinent. I also saw a collection of medals that he received in his life time. Immediately outside the library was a balcony that provided a good view of the lake in the distance. Standing on this balcony made me appreciate why Sir Stewart chose this spot to build his home: location! location! location!

Shiwa Ngandu is a testament to the lasting legacy of one man’s dream, a reminder that with dedication and tenacity we can all create our own havens in the middle of the thickest of forests and truly call it, home.

Travel Tips

  • Guided tours of the main house only happen between 09:00 – 11:00 on Monday to Saturday so ensure you start off from Mpika early enough.
  • Guided tours cost ZMK 200 ($20) so ensure you have cash in hand as there is no atm or swiping facility on site.
  • Ensure you carry your own snack and beverage as the nearest food outlet is over 13 kms away from Shiwa Ngandu.
  • Ensure you have comfortable shoes to aid movement on the tour as there are some stairs to climb.

For more information about this historical landmark, you could visit their website.

Beginning in Mpika.

My first adventure of the new decade took me to Mpika in the Muchinga province of Zambia, about 645 kms from Lusaka. It is nestled among hills and offers a quiet escape from the bustle of Lusaka. Mpika is also known to be the birth place of Zambia’s fifth President, Michael C. Sata. The town has grown and developed from when last I was here as a few notable buildings have been constructed and a dual-carriage-way is in the works. There are a few good lodges in the area, notably the Northern Rock (095 0331640), the Royal Mpika (0971934441) and Bayama’s Lodge (0977410839) but the Landmark Lodge (0966400487) is still my first choice as they provide the basic comforts in somewhat above average conditions right along the main road into town. All the options listed above cost around ZMK 280 ($16) -ZMK 500 ($34) per night for a room with breakfast included. There aren’t too many restaurant options here (business idea 💡) and only Bayama’s provides a menu that readily includes some continental options outside the traditional Zambian dishes.

During my time here, I got a chance to visit the Chinsokolo Falls (also referred to as Litwikili Falls) just 15 kms outside town. The road to the waterfall was pretty good and passable even for a Toyota Corolla, it literally took 20 mins to get from Mpika to Lwitikila Girls Secondary School, which is the closest landmark to the entrance to the falls. Driving through the countryside made me appreciate the wide open spaces and crisp air, I could even see the hills surrounding Mpika in the distance, just as nature intended.

Chinsokolo Falls

The Chinsokolo Falls are the second smallest I’ve seen in Zambia thus far (after the Mutanda Falls in Solwezi) but they provided a simple serenity for this busy bee. I managed to get across the slippery rocks and meditate on the beauty around me. However, I was rudely interrupted by the sight of plastic debris and broken beer bottles around the shores of the river downstream, these probably came from the bar at the entrance of the waterfall site. I will not go on an endless rant about this but I will maintain that we all need to be a little more responsible for the cleanliness and preservation of such sights. Never the less, the butterfly ridden shores around the falls were gentle on the eyes and the woodlands surrounding the falls provided some much needed shade and a good photo-op (do it for the gram 😄).

I learned from the local guide-cum-fish-farmer, that the entire waterfall area is part of the estate that is managed by the Lwitikila Diocese. My curious self marched up the hill to meet and greet the Parish leaders who are housed in a large complex where the Girls Secondary School is also found and I’m sure glad I did because I got a chance to see the beautiful cathedral that is in the same facility. I also got to rendition a hymn to hear the resonance caused by the design of the cathedral. It was amazing, I had church all by myself and I loved it!

My whole experience in the area was rather simple and easy on the eyes and ears, plus it all took under 2 hours, a sure good use of my time. The waterfalls and cathedral were a good prelude to some of the other notable sights in the area. Check out my next blog post for more dets.

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