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November 2009 Travel Zambia 27 Zambia undiscovered reputation for iconic African sunsets didn't disappoint: the sun waned and cooled, drawn magnetically towards the horizon before reluctantly dipping beneath a vast limpid sky. The next day we explored Siavonga on Kariba's sprawling northern shoreline. The town, which is more developed than nearby Sinazongwe, lies just 2.5 hours' drive from Lusaka and is the closest to the dam wall. A variety of hotels cater to the business conference market, with good deals available at weekends. Even here, you don't have to search too hard for that Kariba magic. The scenic road to Siavonga winds along a dramatic escarpment leading down to the lake. The views are as spectacular as anywhere, but we also found one of Zambia's national monuments: Chirundu Fossil Forest. This ancient site is scattered with remnants of primordial trees naturally preserved for over 150 million years, and is set off by a backdrop of still- living, but equally spectacular giant baobabs. I left Kariba feeling that the lake's turbulent past perhaps explains its special legacy today. Its watery landscape is bigger, wilder and more visceral than any other in southern Africa. And its laid- back, unpretentious pleasures offer an enduring paradise to the visitor. Philip Dickson would like to thank Keith and Lee- Ann Coyne of Lake View Lodge, Sinazongwe ( www. lakeview- zambia. com) and Steve Thompson at Eagles Rest Resort, Siavonga ( www. eaglesrestresort. com) Kariba owes its name to an ancient rock, now submerged, that once thrust out of the Zambezi at the mouth of the original gorge. Legend states that this rock was home to the great serpent- like river god Nyaminyami, and that anyone who ventured too close would be sucked down forever into the raging river. The Tonga people feared that blocking the Zambezi would anger Nyaminyami and have terrible consequences. In 1957, a year into construction, myth became reality when the river exploded through the gorge, destroying equipment and demolishing access roads. Although the odds against another such deluge were calculated at one thousand to one, the following year it happened again, this time fl ooding even higher. Today Nyaminyami is still venerated with regular festivals and many hold the vengeful god responsible for any accident on the lake. BEWARE NYAMINYAMI! Flooding the Zambezi valley was disastrous for wildlife. While most larger animals could retreat to higher ground, many others were trapped by the rising waters and left to starve or drown. But help was at hand in the form of Operation Noah. Puttering from island to island through the tangle of half- submerged trees came a small team of volunteers led by game ranger Tad Edelman. Together they captured, netted, trussed and loaded their three 20- foot steel boats with terrifi ed cargoes of buck, baboons, snakes, warthogs and even zebra. Stranded animals were driven into the water, making them easier to rescue. Kudu and waterbuck could swim but had to be guided to the distant shoreline because of their poor sense of direction. Heavy- horned male antelopes could barely keep their noses above water. Rhino had to be darted and rolled onto makeshift rafts and quickly paddled to safety. An international appeal for old nylon stockings to plait into ropes for binding the fragile legs of buck secured over 1000 pairs in 24 hours. In total more than 7000 animals were saved. NOAH TO THE RESCUE Above: Kapenta drying racks Right: Kapenta fi sherman Bernard Mulenga Below left: Dried kapenta is a vital local source of protein Below right: The fi shing fl eets set out in the evening I remember tall trees trembling violently, lurching forward and crashing in a cloud of dust, while hundreds of birds exploded into the skies Livingstone Victoria Falls LUSAKA Zambezi River Lake Kariba N TZ SiavongaKariba Dam ZAMBIA ZIMBABWE

er gaze is severe, her gait proud and her ample dress a rich swirl of carmine. Men and women prostrate themselves in her path as she crosses the field of high grass towards the church - her skinny husband trotting two steps behind. Chief Waitwika, queen of 150,000 souls, is coming out. More than seventy tribes make up the ethnic tapestry of today's Zambia. And even in the modern presidential era - after a century of upheavals wrought by colonialism and independence - the country still depends upon its traditional leaders. With many tribal dynasties being matrilineal in structure, these leaders have never been exclusively male. The number of female chiefs has steadily diminished, however, as society has changed. " In the past it was not rare to see a woman heading a people," explains anthropologist Mulenga Kapwepwe. " But the colonial British administration reduced the number of traditional rulers - especially women - and patriarchal society has done the rest." Today there remain about 20 women among Zambia's 286 traditional leaders, each having been conveyed to the throne by a council of elders. Through their veins runs the blood of their royal ancestors, tribal leaders who came from as far afield as Sudan or Congo to form the present Zambia. Nkomeshya Mukamambo II, chieftainess of the Soli people in Chongwe district, recalls the day in 1971 when she was offered the reigns of power. " A messenger came to tell me that my son was dying," she remembers. " I ran to the village, where I found that the child was fine, but everybody was waiting to offer me the place of the late chief." Not everybody approved of her nomination. " One of my uncles, who desired the post, has Queens Zambia has a long and proud tradition of female chieftainship. This tradition, however, has been sorely tested by the changes of the last century. VĂ©ronique Mougin meets five remarkable women who strive to uphold female authority in a male-dominated world. Photos by Michel Monteaux Heritage of the bush Above: Chief Waitwika has been chief of the Namwanga people since 1999 28 Travel Zambia November 2009