Spitting gravel, our 4×4 raced down the dirt road. Kapishya Hot Springs Lodge was nearby. Well, we hoped so, anyway – the blood orange Zambian sun was setting quickly, we had already lost our map, and we did not fancy driving at night. A branch smashed off the windshield as the forest leaned across the road. We craned our necks. There, down the end of the road was a turnoff and a parking lot. Like discovering an oasis, we had found Kapishya Lodge.
We had received vague directions in the city of Mpika, from some locals who pointed us down the epic T2 highway, a potholed monstrosity dotted with local settlements and overturned trucks. We missed the turnoff, doubled back, missed it again. After receiving more directions, we turned off onto the knobbly, stony D53 linking road.
This was the one. After the dash against the setting sun, we parked our car out the front. The main reception and restaurant was in front of us, a long building with a kitchen adjacent. We took a seat in the bar area, sipping gin and tonics on low, cushioned couches whilst admiring the spears and shields criss-crossing the walls. We arranged a stay in one of amazing lodges for the night, and chatted with the owner, Mel, gin and tonic in hand.
Kapishya Hot Springs
Dropping off our bags, we walked over to the Kapishya hot springs, around which the lodge is built. In our swimwear, we waded into the swimming pool-sized natural springs. The pool is fed by three hot springs, which goes down 6-7km underground, reaching temperatures of around 120°C. As the water travels back up to the pool, it loses about 10 degrees for every kilometer it travels, making the pool a pretty toasty ~40-50°C for bathing.
The springs are very soft to bathe in; there is no sulfur in the springs, and with no limestone, has few minerals. According to water tests done by Mark Harvey, owner of the springs, the water is pure and drinkable.
The sand was soft as baby powder underfoot, sinking down ankle-deep in places. Streams of bubbles erupted from the soft sand underfoot, the air thick with steam.
Drying off, it was off to the lodge for a shower. The lodges were wooden buildings fully decorated with local handicrafts. In the common dining hall, we sat elbow to know with the other guests of the lodges, enjoying a few gin and tonics. We didn’t opt for the delicious menu on offer from the kitchen. Instead, on our backpackers budgets, we ate beans on toast, joining in the community meal nevertheless.
Kapishya is something of an institution in Zambia, known by many travellers passing through the area. But it seemed hard to access, for us, a hot springs oasis in a land criss-crossed with sunbaked highways. That’s the funny thing about travelling through Zambia – the adventure lies in getting to where you want to go, hoping that there’s a comfortable bed and some cold beers at your destination after a hard day’s driving on a cross-continental road trip. And luckily, at Kapishya, there was.