Aug 06 2013

It’s in the attitude

After our off road exploration of the Luangwa valley, we made our way towards Kapishya Hot Springs – a place that almost every traveller we have met has said we should visit.  On the way, we passed Shiwa Ng’unda – a large English estate from the 180s (I believe).

It really does look like an old English home from the rolling English hills. The materials and furnishings for the house were ordered from England, sailed to Dar es Salaam, and then carried overland to Shiwa.  Rather eccentric.  The estate also has a little bit of wildlife, and we saw black wildebees and a few antelope as we drove on a scenic route.

We eventually reached the hot springs, with a pretty campsite nearby.  The main attraction – after the springs – is the lodge and spa.  Again, very nicely done, but the prices weren’t shy.  We had a lazy afternoon relaxing in the hot spring, and set up camp near the river.

Next day, we continued our journey north, stopping in Kasama.  We did a little shopping at Shoprite, and filled fuel.  Our accommodation for the evening was at Thorn Tree Guest House, where Hazel and Yurt have a few en suite rooms.  They kindly allow campers – either in a ground tent in their garden, or in a rood tent on their parking area.  I am normally reluctant to use parking areas, as they can be quiet noisy, but this was the exception.  We made use of their wifi and enjoyed a delicious dessert.  They also gave us some good suggestions of places to stay in Mbala and Mpulungu – our next stop north.

Our last morning in Mbala, we visited the bank to change kwacha to US dollars.  Once outside the Zambian borders, the kwacha is worthless, so best not to end up with too many extra!  We continued our journey north, stopping in Mbala to check out Lake Chila Lodge (very nice, with camping), check the immigration procedure with the immigration office and then headed to Mpulungu on Lake Tanganyika.

It was suddenly hot!  After many months of comfortable high 20’s, we were suddenly thrust back into 37C!

Off we went to check the customs procedure for leaving Zambia down at the docks.  This is where the ferry from Tanzania arrives – running a service up and down the lake.  Information in hand (we had to return the next morning), we headed off to Nkupi Lodge which has camping.

Charity was very welcoming, We found a coolish spot under the trees, and relaxed while Charity saw to it that we had hot water for showers later in the afternoon.  She also offered to cook us dinner – nkupi fish fresh from the lake!

A wander up to the oldest missionary church ruins in Zambia, and watching the sun set over the lake completed the day.

But what really stuck in my mind, was the attitude of managers at these 3 places we stayed.  How the way you are greeted and treated can leave you either rushing to escape or wishing to stay longer.

At Kapishya Hot Springs we were greeted by a very surly woman who seemed to be completely inconvenienced by our arrival, and we really felt like we were in her way.  No smile and a grumpy attitude.  She merely pointed in the direction of the campsite and left us to get on with it.  If we’d had an option of somewhere else to stay that night, we would have taken it.  We just didn’t feel welcome.  Our planned 2 night stay quickly turned into 1.  No endorsement from me on this service.

In such sharp contrast the next 2 places.  Thorn Tree Lodge welcomed us with open arms.  They showed us around, and accommodated us with our rooftop tent, and heating up of leftovers out of the back of the vehicle.  It was all smiles and welcomes.  They even passed on information received by email from other travellers we knew (Paul & Suzaan) who had passed that way a few months previously.

Similarly the hospitability we were shown at Nkupi Lodge.  Compared to other places we have stayed, it didn’t have as much to offer by way of camping, but we felt so welcome.  Nothing was a problem, and extra care was made to ensure the bathrooms were clean and we had hot water for showers.

The dinner that Charity cooked was superb!  Clearly love and care had been included in the ingredients.  And even when the lights went our (courtesy of Zesco, learning something from Eskom) she ensured we had a lamp to finish our meal.  She has worked there for 14 years and is so proud.

While facilities at a campsite are important to us, the attitude of the managers and staff trumps it almost every time.  We have stayed longer at places with friendly welcoming staff, and cut short our stays where we felt we were a hassle.

And so we continue northwards – Tanzania calling our name!

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