Another excerpt from Paul Hubbard’s Travels around Zambia.. this time focusing on Zambia’s relatively unknown caves and waterfalls.
Zambia should be more famous for the innumerable waterfalls which break the flow of its many rivers. January is as close to a perfect time to see these spectacles of nature in full flow. We chose to visit Kundalila Falls, a National Monument, set in an area of great scenic beauty. The Kaombe River plummets some 65 metres in a twin veil of water. The river floor is surrounded by wild flowers, creating an idyllic scene.
Our visit to Nsalu Cave surpassed our low expectations, since we had heard reports of extensive graffiti covering all the paintings. The cave has indeed been defaced by charcoal and chalk graffiti but thankfully much of it has faded. The paintings are more extensive and detailed than the terms “schematic” or “geometric” suggest. Set in a quartzite hill the cave is semicircular and has a jagged appearance.
There is considerable deposit and excavations by Desmond Clark in 1949 revealed a common sequence in Zambian caves: Middle then Late Stone materials being gradually replaced by Iron Age occupation (Katanekwa 2011: 126). Both BaTwa and farmer art are in the cave, though the latter dominates the panel. There is a thick yellowish line running across the top to the painted area with only a few red paintings located above it. There is an interpretive display board in the cave outlining the sequence of painting styles. I found the proposed progression difficult to follow. The views from the cave are magnificent and with a little imagination, one can imagine past inhabitants enjoying the same view.
A personal highlight of the road to the north was being offered specimens of Termitomyces titanicus, the largest edible mushroom in the world which can grow to over one metre in diameter.
Nachikufu Cave, arguably still the “type site” for the Zambian Late Stone Age was a pleasure to visit, because of its importance in creating a secure chronology and typology at a time when scientific dating methods were in the infancy at best. Clark (1950a) and Miller (1971) studied the complex microlithic stone tool industry which had developed in northern Zambia long before similar technology had emerged elsewhere in southern Africa. A massive stench from bat guano assails your nostrils as you enter the cave which will likely deter the faint of heart or delicate of nose. The original displays, created in 1982 look tired, although the stone tools held my interest longer than the search for rock paintings. The rock paintings are a disappointment as they are terribly faded and damaged. Several greasy-looking off-white figures may be seen behind the museum display on rock art although they are difficult to see in the half-light in the cave.
Kapishya Hot Springs should be better known than its more famous neighbour, Shiwa N’Gandu. The safari camp is peaceful, the local environment is almost idyllic and the temperature of the hot springs is near-perfect at almost 40°C. The owners of the lodge display a large collection of stone tools and pottery fragments found in the vicinity of the spring. Nearby are many rock paintings that our limited time unfortunately did not permit us to visit.
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