Friday, May 6, 2011

Rock Art Discovered

Zambia is famous for it ancient schematic rock art. Northern Province has the highest concentration of rock art in Zambia and paintings are mainly found in and around rocky overhangs and caves. The most famous site is the Mwela, about 7 miles east of the town of Kasama which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. I have found sites in the Luangwa valley in the Lukusuzi National Park in the Mchinji Hills. It’s always very exciting to find them, and one often finds tools, arrow heads, primitive axes and signs of iron smelting. The paintings date back many thousands of years. The oldest in Zambia have been dated to between 350,000 and 400,000 years old!  Many more are yet to be discovered. I was with my wife and some friends recently at Kapishya Hot Springs near Shiwa Ngandu. An Australian, David Bradley who has been helping out at Kapishya camp for a few weeks, wandered off into a hill 20 minutes from the camp. He saw a rock shelter with a large bright quartz rock glimmering in the sun and explored it and discovered some fantastic rock art, signs of iron smelting and primitive tools and axes. We were lucky to see it for ourselves and the day after we left further investigation found two more rock shelters with paintings and tools dating back to the Iron Age, left un-discovered for thousands of years!!

   Paintings at entrance of rock shelter, the spoor art to the left could be an Eland track

                                              Painting of the Sun?  
                                     Another Eland spoor painting to the left

                  Painting of the sun, apparently a rare image in Zambia rock art                      

                                          Hidden entrance to rock shelter

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Petrified Trees!

Just north of the dusty border town of Chirundu, you will find a couple of hills covered in what at first glance look like large cylindrical columns of rock. Closer inspection reveals tree like rings on the cross section of each broken rock surface, and thus you have stumbled across 'petrified' trees 150 million years old! Now they did not get into a staring match with Medusa the Gorgon if she ever came to ancient Zambia... they were in fact over millions of years turned from cellulose to silica from the time they grew here during the formation of the Karoo system. Petrified trees are found all over the world and it can take a little as 100 years for trees to petrify. What makes these trees interesting is their size and age. They are easy to find, you just stop by the side of the road north of Chirundu, by a rusty National Monuments of Zambia sign post that marks the site and eventually a little woman called Esther who currently has two small twins on her back will give you a tour of the site with the hope that you will buy one of her many wonderful wood carvings. She is particularly keen for you to cross the road to see the 'really big trees on the other side' off you tramp, her twins staring at you from her shoulders, and at last you come across a series of mammoth, petrified trees lying on their  sides broken in places but still in one long series that forms the whole tree  ...its worth the stop, even if you just want to wander up the hill for a great view of Chirundu and the great Zambezi river glimmering away in the distance.  


Friday, January 28, 2011


Driving up to traffic light in Lusaka, one will often be accosted by Kaponya (translates to those who run up and down the street!) Kaponya have been around for years. They sell anything from rabbits and fly swatters to dodgy CD’s, DVD’s, unusual underwear, football shirts, caps and games of scrabble…in fact they sell anything that you really do not need at that very moment when the lights go red and you are forced to stop. Whatever you do never catch their eye, even worse never eye up their products, even a mere flick of the eyeball on their wares and you are done for! When you are least in the mood, the sun is at its strongest, hot, sweaty, irritable and in a rush, you let your guard down and catch their eye and then by Jove they are onto you…’ yes my friend very nice perfume, glue, batteries’….’hey just for you, large saggy ‘Y’ fronts’…’yes mister…what about some gospel CD’s’…’ hey Masungu what about my apples/oranges/tomatoes, they are most very freshhhhh’…what about…’I really don’t want your fly no thank you…thank you but no…goodbye…I don’t want any tomatoes’! Now the more you do this the more they come onto you, like mopane flies in the forest, they will never leave you alone. I know them all by name now and wish them good luck and I have made friends with many of them, its a hard life and one must give them respect for the work they do and their perseverance. One man in particular whose name is Lazarus sells the finest fly swatters and football shirts south of the Nile, and always has a smile now matter how hot the weather or hard his life,  I hope that one day he lives the life he dreams, he deserves to do well!  

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Night Walks

Lusaka is not a great place if you like hiking. Every square inch of land is owned and fenced with few exceptions and the topography is a pretty monotonous, with no mountains and few vistas, unless you love thick Brachystegia woodland. What makes the place attractive is the people and the nooks and crannies of wildlife and eccentricity. I often walk around the plot I live on, or range across the nearby farm that belonged to my late friend Mark Jellis. On these bits of land one can often spot Duiker and other small mammals and on the forest reserve Kudu and Waterbuck that have jumped the fence from the nearby game farm. Of course there are numerous birds and insects to be seen and this time of the year some of the breeding birds have glorious and brightly coloured plumage.

By night however there is more than just the stars to gaze at. I often wander around after dark with a torch and the dogs and and every now and then will come across a real beauty...

The first snake is a Herald Snake also known as a Red Lipped Snake (Crotaphopeltis Hotamboeia)  and the second darker snake is a Cape Wolf Snake (Lycophindon Capense). They are both small snakes, the Cape Wolf looks big but its body thickness is not much more than a biro pen! They have one thing in common...they love to eat lizards, the Cape Wolf in particular just can't get enough of them, while the Herald may make do with a mouse or hapless frog.  They look venomous, but the Herald's back fanged poison would only really make a frog's eye's water...the Cape Wolf just embraces its prey tightly like a large bosomy auntie or a python.     

Monday, January 17, 2011

Lusaka has a large fleet of ubiquitous blue and white mini bus 'taxis'...they are everywhere and cause chaos on the roads, the more chaos they create the happier their drivers are...a law unto none, they cut in, swerve, break and 'U' turn without warning, they jumble their poor passengers about city like washing in a machine. I have ridden many a time in them and you appreciate being dropped off in one piece at the end of the journey...


Saturday, January 8, 2011

Hippo Riding

Every now and then one comes across something in the press that makes you think, 'I could have done fact come to think of it... I did'!...Years ago in the Luangwa Valley I was a passenger on the back of an open top game viewing vehicle, Toyota Land cruiser series 70 to be sure, a marvellous vehicle that I never have been able to afford to buy even 5th hand and 20 years old they still seem out of reach of my we, a bunch of guides and I were driving back from a rather splendid party at and even more splendid safari camp called Kaingo. We crossed a bumpy plain near the Luangwa Wafwa, one of many very beautiful oxbow lagoons which runs off the Luangwa River. It was a starry night and we were all rather inebriated from an evening of Mosi beer and tequila. A hippo feeding to the side of the road got spooked by our vehicle and ran along the side of the road, keeping up for some time, they can run rather fast... they have been clocked at 50kmph, and can keep it up for several hundred metres. The hippo was very close to the vehicle, as we sped up so did the hippo who was now within touching distance of the cruiser. Two of us looked at each other and decided that it would be a good idea to jump on the hippo's back. We both leapt out of the vehicle and bounced onto the back of the hippo, we of course both bounced off and the hippo veered off and ran full speed towards the say this was one of the more stupid actions of my life would be an underestimate, but we both survived bar lots of slimy hippo sweat on our trousers, which is rather sticky and red in colour known as hipposudoric acid.

I recently saw an article in the press about a South African Farmer who has the same idea, he is wise...he has known it since it was very small...we were drunk and did now know the hippo at all!!

Chifwema Road!

After years of bumping, thumping, smashing and squelching up and down one of the worst roads in Lusaka, the Chinese, as part of a large development project, have tarmacked the Chifwema Road. The government has gone into partnership with China to build a 'Multi Economic Facility Zone' (MFEZ) just off the Chifwema Road. The rather nice tarmac leads to the MFEZ. The idea is to build a light industrial estate for assembly and other light industrial activities. Sorry for the boring blog today, but tarmac is very welcome here and hits the headlines when we get it!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Who Chomped the Genet?!

About 2 months ago I found a very young Genet (Genetta genetta) also known as a small-spotted Genet. The little bugger was squeaking away just off the path of the morning walk I do around the plot on which I rent a small house. It took me a while to find him and when I did I picked him up and stroked him and he calmed right down. I decided to leave him and see if mother may be nearby. Sure enough I came back a while later and he was gone. Well a few days later I walked down the same path and picked up a rather unsavoury smell...very unsavoury, after allot of searching high and low and even grabbing a Jack Russell or two to help me (they could not find it either) I eventually found the carcass of an adult Genet very close to where I found the young blighter a few days back ...'bugger' I thought, if that's the mother then the youngster has had it, should have kept it. What killed the Genet would not be revealed until some time later....

...and thus a few days ago, two months after finding the body of the adult I found the skeleton of the adult Genet, perfect condition as you can see from the photo and low and behold rather large holes in the skull, predator teeth ...Jack Russell sized teeth marks...Lucy and Joey the landlord's JR's are in the dog house!