Hot springs, a country estate, kingdom halls and YUCCs

You have to entertain yourself in a country like Zambia which, to my knowledge, only has one (working?) cinema. And that, at the fairly recently built Arcades mall.
Last Thursday was Thanksgiving and because Niamh's salary is paid by those pesky Americans, she was given a long weekend off. The result was that we rented a car together with housemates Cheryl and Jessica and drove north to Shiwa Ngandu, some 700 kilometers north east of Lusaka.

Shiwa, built in the 1920s by the only whitey ever to receive a state funeral in Zambia, is a fairly typical, but now rather rundown, English country estate, currently run by one of the creator's grandsons. It's possible to stay in the house for a mere 400 USD per night, per person. The creator, Stewart Gore-Browne, fell in love with the country after working on the Anglo-Belgian Boundary Commission determining the border between Rhodesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. And, though wealthy, not nearly wealthy enough to set up a similar estate in Britain, opted for the 10.000 acres at the price of six pence per acre in, what was then, Northern Rhodesia.
Gore-Browne started working in the house in the 1920s, employing hundreds of laborers, to make almost everything on the spot, then some 400 kilometers away from the nearest railway, only for the house to be considered finished in the late 1950s. The estate had its own schools, hospitals, playing fields, shops, and post office while workers lived in now fairly dilapidated brick-built cottages. The estate was ruled as a benevolent autocracy, by the man whom the locals endowed with the nickname 'Chipembere' meaning 'rhinoceros', after Gore-Browne's ferocious temper. Also very formal, he always wore black tie for dinner, at a table set with family plate and silver, whether he had guests or not.

After Gore-Browne's death in 1967, his daughter and her husband took over the management of the estate, only to be murdered by ANC members in exile in 1991. Now, the area is maintained by their children.

If the rather steep accommodation rate for one of the building's four rooms is a bit too much, you can stay at the nearby hot springs, for 50 USD per person per night, if you bring your own food, which then will be prepared by the owner's staff. Although we were interested to stay at the springs and made it that far, our pilgrimage only saw us take a dip in the hot springs.

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Our first night was spent at the street-as-a-town, surrounded by lovely hills, that is Serenje, where a former Peace Corps volunteer called Steve runs a lovely little lodge with pretty little rooms at 200.000 per night, just under 30 euros. The attached restaurant serves the fair typical for Zambia outside of the capital: chips or nshima (sadza, pap, ugali, xima) with either chicken, t-bone or pork, and would be helped by a little bit of diversity.
Still, the meal we enjoyed with the friendly and talkative Steve was the best we had during our four days out, the runner up being a meal at CIMS, a restaurant which tried to pretend it was a diner in the hole that is Mpika, some two hours south of Shiwa, where it was also only cips or nshima with either chicken, t-bone or pork, even though the menu was roughly ten times as long.
On our second night in Mpika, the girls insisted on eating somewhere else, which ended up happening at Twins restaurant and decent guesthouse, where we ended up having the most horrible fries, pie and scotch egg. Imagine the worst fries you've ever eaten, then make it many times as bad. Now that, compared to what we had, would be rather decent.

Also, don't think that the few and far between gas stations here have supermarkets attached to them for your basic shopping needs. That is to say, some do, particularly in Lusaka, but out of town, on our route, the last one which actually sported a small shop was on the edge of Kapiri Mposhi, just two hours north of Lusaka, still five to six hours from Mpika.
In other words, if you can't enjoy what might just be the planet's worst cuisine, Zambia outside of Lusaka will make you rather miserable.

What's surprising is that Mark, the manager of the hot springs near Shiwa, agreed that the country is so fertile that you only have to bury a stick in the ground for it to grow. As a result, he grows his own veggies for his customers, some 4000 per year, including a host of exotic ones, meaning he only needs to go down to Lusaka for serious shopping, at one of the Shoprites, proper supermarkets, once every six months.
Indeed, for stocking up on essentials, he needs to drive some 9 hours each way. The nearest Shoprite, 'only' some three hours away, mostly stocks expired goods, apparently.

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The road to Shiwa is grated, a reasonably well maintained dirt road. From Shiwa to the springs, the road is in significantly worse condition. The night of our arrival in Mpika, we considered continuing to Shiwa, but were stopped by the heavy storms we could see up north as well as the fact that it would have meant driving the dirt road in the dark.
The next day, after visiting Shiwa and driving on to the springs, part of the road was utterly impassable, where we had to take a detour through a freshly made track, straight through the woods. And that in our low to the ground Toyota Raum. Then, after lounging at the springs where we were treated to an actual percolated coffee, driving back and going through the detour again, our path was blocked by a small truck stuck in the mud. A bit of a challenge, as it had also started to rain, slowly making the remainder of the dirt road impassable.
We ended up trying to push the truck out of the way, at no avail, before we took one of the truck's passengers with us to Shiwa, where it was his intention to arrange for a truck or tractor to pull them out.

On our second day, we visited the enjoyable Kundalila falls as well as the Nsalu cave, with San paintings. The cave, quite a bit off the main road and only accessible through rather challenging backroads, isn't really worth it. The falls are nice enough and easy enough to reach.

Kingdom halls and police checks

Proselytizing has always been a popular pastime in Africa. On our drive south from Mpika to Lusaka, the Kingdom Halls of Jehova's Witnesses outnumbered medical clinics by a factor of about 3 to 1. We counted.
We also spotted over 30 broken down trucks.

We worked our way through a mere 25 police checks or so.

YUCCs

Last week, working out at my local gym, City Health and Fitness, I enjoyed a workout in the afternoon, instead of the early evening. Over a dozen rather skinny but reasonably hot, because still curvy and also quite hip, black, what seemed to be, models, were bored but working out, at least to some extent, making themselves even prettier and more hip, discussing topics like facial cream and New Moon.
The YUCCs, Young Urban Cute Chickies, seemed to be South African, judging from attitude and accent.

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Free articles

Everyone with half a desire to have a popular blog is always on the lookout for free content. Not just widgets or buttons which appear in sidebars, but also actual articles related to the target audience of your website.
In the past, content was regularly recycled ad verbatim, but the copycat sniffing qualities of Google's search engine have mostly done away with this practice.

Comes in Article Alley, where you can find free articles for your own blog. They have a dedicated and quite extensive travel section with fresh content being added fairly regularly.

I'm not one for including other people's article on my site, but with my website's bias towards travel, I was curious as to what could be obtained from the site. Search results for Johannesburg return quite a few articles, with several actually quite decent as background articles and, in my opinion useful, rather neutral in tone. Copying the articles for use on your own site is surprisingly straightforward, though it isn't too clear to what extent you're expected to disclose the source or whether it's allowed to lift just bits from the articles.
Likewise, articles featuring Chiang Mai aren't nearly as few or bad as I feared and though, as said, I wouldn't be interested in copying whole articles, they can easily serve as a tool for writing your own articles. If only disclosing sources is enough for using the articles on Article Alley, the website could be a very practical tool for writing about subjects employing a tone which is slightly more personal than information obtained from sources like Wikedia.

So I put the service to the test and searched for Shiwa Ngandu, Mpika and Lusaka, but with less success. Only Lusaka returned something, and only one article at that. Though a bit generic, it's also not too bad and in itself usable as an article serving background on the city.
However, as I mentioned at the beginning, recycling content isn't appreciated by Google, making me wonder how effective a service like Article Alley can be.