After arriving into Zambia from Malawi, we were faced with a constant ride of ups and downs to the capital Lusaka, some 600 km away along the Great East Road. The terrain fluctuated between nice, gentle, rolling hills where we could push the pace, to not-so-nice and not-so-gentle mountains with seemingly never-ending climbs and non-existent descents. While on the Great East Road we faced our fair share of low points, including a night in a hotel front garden with music blaring till 3 am, a 135 km day in 30°C+ temperatures up endless mountains which induced tears from one of us and, worst of all, 7 punctures in one day.
However, along this stretch we also found ourselves a real highlight of our trip so far. After cycling our longest day to date, (a hot and heavy 150 km) we arrived in the town of Nyimba. Feeling exhausted and still only half way to Lusaka, we decided we should treat ourselves to a day off the bikes. We sent a chance email to a game reserve that looked relatively close to Nyimba and soon after received a response from Nicky at Munyamadzi Game Reserve: Yes, we can collect you from Nyimba for a night at the reserve. Awesome, that felt like an excellent way to spend a day off the bikes and off the Great East Road.
“The road to Munyamadzi was a little bumpy and the car weaved through the little villages and straw huts into the mountains.”
We wondered how on earth we’d get down the next day to be back in the saddle at a reasonable hour. However, when we arrived at Munyamadzi all concerns with leaving and practicalities fell away: the spot was stunning. The hippos caught our attention first, about 20 m away there was a dozen or so wallowing in the water making the most inelegant noises! The river stretched as far as the eye could see, both up and down stream and the chalets were right on its banks.
Our beautiful open chalet for the night led straight out onto the river and made for interesting sleep accompanying noises when the hippos retreated to our banks for some cheeky night time mating.
After a relaxing afternoon watching the Luangwa River float by, Nicky took us on a beautiful sundowners trip. Here, we drove through the reserve to a another beautiful spot on the river where the sun set over a giant baobab and hyenas howled in the background while we enjoyed some G&Ts.
Over dinner (roast chicken no less), we were able to discuss with Nicky and two English volunteers working at the property, the conservation activities undertaken at the farm. This includes monitoring the number of big cats, hyena and wild dogs with a range of cameras that are set up throughout the reserve. Nicky was particularly excited by the picture captured a couple of weeks ago of a pregnant wild dog, given it is a threatened species.
“The next morning the sky lit up as the sun rose, and across the banks of the river we could see impala and bush buck coming down to the water for a morning drink.”
Munyamadzi really had the feel of being in the middle of nowhere and totally consumed by the animals and nature on the Luangwa River. We felt refreshed and ready to make it to Lusaka as we left the next day. And just before we exited, two elephants wandered past the truck, giving us a final, extraordinary view of life on the reserve.