This is a delayed post as I wasn’t able to post yesterday. Yesterday, I spent eight hours on a bus from Lusaka to Livingstone. Livingstone is the former colonial capital of Zambia and and also home to Victoria Falls, the world’s largest waterfall (about twice the size of Niagara Falls). Livingstone is named after British missionary and explorer, David Livingstone.
Pictured above is the Inter-City bus terminal in Lusaka. That is where I bought tickets and waited for the bus. I used the widely-recommended company, Mazhandu Family Bus. They are very professionally operated, with employees in uniforms, assigned passengers seats, and tagged cargo stored in the bottom of the bus. I was hoping to catch the 9am bus, however, arriving at the ticket boot around 8am, the 9am bus was already sold out. I got tickets for the next one, at 11:30am. I walked to Levy Mall to have breakfast and wait. On the way there, I met half-Nigerian, half-British man who wanted to sell me African outfits. He’s has been conducting this kind of business in Lusaka for two years. He mentioned a Chinese hotel that he works with. I convinced him that I was leaving and couldn’t carry anything with me. He even wanted my email address in order to get in contact with me. Who knows why. Good thing that I haven’t received an email.
I tried to exchange some dollars into kwacha before my trip; however, the currency exchange places were not keen to see my Jacksons. They can only give me 1 USD to 7 Kwacha instead of the 1 USD to 10 Kwacha if I had larger bills. I was quite upset as I deliberately brought smaller bills after reading somewhere that it’s hard to exchange large bills in Lusaka. Oh well, the world of currency is constantly changing.
Finally, I arrived back at the bus station around ten to 11 to wait for the bus. I was under the understanding that the bus would depart at 11:30. However, the bus actually starts loading at 11:30. It was interesting to observe the bustling bus station. There are people peddling all kinds of goods here, from fruit to phone chargers, from sausages to shoes. I am really impressed by those who carry so much weight on their heads, such as containers with over 30 bottles of water and Fanta (or manzi and Fanta, as they would repeat as they walked by) that are all frozen! I’m pretty sure my neck would break. My other fellow passengers waiting had a ton of cargo with them, full of goods that they are bringing to sell in Livinstone, I assume. I hear that Livingstone receives the majority of tourists to Zambia, so that would seem to make sense.
Finally, the bus arrives around 11:30 and we pack in. I hadn’t realized that we were assigned seats, and had to move after settling down at the wrong seat. The bus is relatively clean–cleaner than many Chinatown buses that run from NYC to DC in the US. People are quiet and respectful on the bus. However, after everyone settles in, a minister type of person begins to deliver a sermon ferociously, with his spit flying in all directions. I decided to put on my handy baseball cap (recently purchased at Levy Mall) and kept my head down. I guess this is how a Christian nation operates. People followed along, repeated the necessary words and said ‘amen’ when called for. None of the passengers matched his level of passion.
The drive was actually quite nice. The roads in Zambia are generally in good condition, not many potholes, etc. Moreover, in the first hour, a little girl in an Elsa dress with hair braided down one side per Elsa’s style sat next to me. She reminded me of my niece and it warmed my heart. Along the way, we made probably over ten stops at various towns and villages along the way, to let off passengers and pick up new ones. The system was impeccable; much more orderly than the Chinatown buses that I mentioned in the previous paragraph. I got to see the heart of Zambia on the drive, the bush. I saw many huts, cattle, goats, and houses of varying quality and of varying states of construction. I saw children in uniforms, presumably walking back from school–though it being around 1pm at the time, I wonder if it’s their lunch break. I recall my siblings mentioning that in China during their primary school, they would come home for lunch and then return to school.
At a few of the stops, villagers would swarm the outside of the bus, pushing up their goods towards the windows of the coach for passengers to view and hopefully purchase. The goods were mostly produce and some cooked foods. The lady next to me reached over me to open the window to purchase a grilled corn on the cob. The produce here are in much better condition than those that I’ve seen in Lusaka. Presumably there is not much farming within proximity to Lusaka and thus the produce have to travel some distance and become somewhat spoiled as they arrive in Lusaka.
As the sky grows dark predictably starting at 6pm, I started to see some fires in the bush. I need to find out what exactly is the purpose of the mass burning. I had seen the remains of the black residue along the way in the daytime. Finally, we arrive at the Livingstone Inter-City terminal at 8pm, after departing at 12pm in Lusaka. As I near the exit to the bus, I see that men standing outside have crowded the entrance, offering taxi services to passengers getting off the bus. I went with one that was dressed neatly. He asked for 50Kwacha and when I offered 25Kwacha, he quickly accepted. The funny thing with a bargaining system is that it’s always a guessing game. A visitor never quite knows how much one is being ripped off; given how quickly he accepted, I wasn’t confident that I cut a good deal. Finally, I arrived at Livingstone backpackers and I was absolutely pooped. The setting is quite similar to Lusaka backpackers, but it still feels different. The facilities seem slightly newer or in better shape, but the people who work the reception here don’t have as much of a presence. I kind of miss those guys at Lusaka backpackers.