My First Week at Kasanka National Park

After three weeks of moving around Zambia after getting pulled from my site April 6th, I was finally posted to my new home at Kasanka National Park on April 27th.

Welcome to Kasanka!
Welcome to Kasanka!

Last weekend was the big bicycle race at the park. This was the first year the event had been held, and I think it will continue for many years. There were only about 20 riders, but it was a great mix of semi-professional riders, weekend warriors, and amateurs. There was both a 20 km and a 50 km ride, through the park and around the surrounding GMA. The race started and ended at the Conservation Centre, so I got a great chance to see the exciting parts of the race. I was also put in charge of the water table at the end of the race, so I handed out cups of sports drink and bottles of water. The race was also a great chance to meet a lot of the staff and volunteers that I hadn’t really had a chance to talk to yet. It was also nice to have a big event the first weekend and it has helped me get fired up about living and working here for the next year.

I was also able to go on an informal game drive and saw my first sitatuaga! We actually saw a small herd of about fifteen. I also got a chance to check out the Fibwe Hide, which is basically a tree house built in a giant Mahogany tree. It is about eighteen meters off the ground and gives you a beautiful panorama of the Kapabi Swamp. Disappointingly, there were no animals besides a few birds hanging out while we were there. It was still a great place to watch the sunset and have a couple of sundowners.

Speaking of living – my house is still not finished (although it is getting closer!). It is pretty much finished, except for putting on a roof, putting in windows, and putting in the toilet and shower. Hopefully it will be finished in about two weeks. For now, I am living in one of the “guest houses” that are mostly used for visiting researchers and scholars. Most of my stuff is piled in a storage room, so I am continuing to live out of my suitcase a little longer. I also discovered that it is about twenty kilometers to the nearest place I can get phone network, so that means I probably won’t be sending many text messages. So for now, the best way to contact me is via facebook or email.

This last week, I got right into the swing of work. We had three workshops running concurrently – Food Processing (10 women), Gender Model Couples (5 couples), and Human Resource Development and Management (for the Chitambo Community Resource Board).  Mostly, I helped out with the Food Processing group – leading cooking demonstrations and leading a session on drying foods. Specifically, I taught the participants to make orange marmalade, soy milk, and soy sausages. It was a lot of fun, and I hope that I get more chances to teach on these subjects again.

Kapishya Hot Springs at Shiwa N'gandu
Kapishya Hot Springs at Shiwa N’gandu

I had a great ten days of vacation at Kapishya Hot Springs and Lake Tanganyika. Kapishya Hot Springs is located on the Shiwa N’gandu property, but it is about thirty km from the big house. A small group of us went there and camped for two nights. The hot springs themselves are awesome, basically like sitting in a natural hot tub, surrounded by trees, flowers, and palms. The Kapishya Lodge is also great, with a beautiful pool and a great bar. The owner, Mark, treated us awesomely and I hope that I will be able to have another chance to go back, especially since I didn’t get a chance to see the house.

From the hot springs, we headed to Mpulungu, which is Zambia’s only port city. We spent one night there, meeting with another group before leaving the next morning to head to Isanga Bay. We ended up with a group of twenty volunteers from all over the country on the trip. This was nice in some respects, but traveling in a big group is always a little stressful. We stayed at the same place that I stayed over Christmas – however, camping was a lot more pleasant at the end of rainy season than during the heaviest part of the rains. We stayed there over Easter and I went back to Serenje on Monday. I took the bus from Mpulungu to Serenje, which was a twelve-hour journey, but it was nice to be back in Serenje again.

The next few weeks promise to be busy as well, with more workshops and events. I am looking forward to actually moving into my house and getting fully settled into my new home. I also hope to get some more chances to explore the park and see some more animals. I saw a bunch of tracks (most likely Puku) on the road near my house where I went running, but haven’t really seen that many animals as of yet. Running in the park is interesting, the scenery and added excitement of a possible animal encounter definitely spice up a boring workout! (Don’t worry, mom, there are no lions and very few elephants and buffalo so it’s not really dangerous!).

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