Malawian Rice Vendor

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Across Southern Zambia

Well after a few days in Livinstone, it was time for us to move on.  We went to the bus station, station being a bit of a stretch, more like a little wooden shack and bought tickets for our onward journey which unfortunately had to go through the capital, Lusaka.  We decided to spend the extra two dollars each and go business class.  This turned out to be a good decision.  We were able to get two seats right up front which also made the journey much more pleasant.  We got to the "station" early and for once the bus seemed to be on schedule.  We got to our seats and noticed a young american kid trying to negotiate with a Zambian woman next to him to swap seats so that his friend in the back of the bus could sit with him.  This would mean she would have to sit next to a rather large Zambian man.  She tactfully declined and we were off!  Zambia is a very sparsely populated country and the ride towards Lusaka passed nary a village. About two hours into the ride, we were slowed down because there was a truck in our lane that was burned out with a horde of Zambians salvaging as much of the wreckage as they could.  Further down the road we noticed another truck that had jack knifed and rolled, it's driver obviously had not survived and this was confirmed as we passed by the wreckage and saw the tell tail sign of a sheet covering his body.  About 4 hours into the ride, it was obviously time for a bathroom break.  The bus slowed and Erika and I looked around but did not see any building.  When we came to a complete stop, everyone seemed to rush out of the bus and into the tall weeds to releave themselves.  Even though Zambia is quite a conservative country, neither men or women had any shame in dropping their drawers only a few feet into the tall grass.  Erika decided to hold it for the remainder of the journey.  About another hour or so down the road, we did manage to come to a roadside village where the bus was accosted by women all carrying bunches of over ripened bananas trying to sell to the passengers.  With the shrills of their voices and the stench of ripe banana was overpowering.  We passed only a scattering of villages along the way, each with their distinctive round mud huts with brown thatched roofs.  The women seemingly carrying their wares on their heads with babies slung on their backs while the men seemed to just be taking it easy.  Eventually we finally arrived into Lusaka bus station and were accosted by many taxi touts trying to gain our business.  We first needed to secure a ticket for our onward journey so while Jeff watched the packs, Erika went with a bus tout and bought tickets for the following morning.  He, of course, received his usual commission.  We found a place near the bus station, quite nondescript and went to the store to buy more provisions for our journey the following day.  We arrived at the bus station early the next morning having gotten a ride from the same taxi driver who had driven us to our guest house the night before.  The bus from Lusaka to the small town of Chipata was not quite as "luxurious" as our other bus. There was a mad scramble for seating assignments and Erika tried to squeeze in so that she could secure seating for the long journey while Jeff made sure that the bags were properly stowed without anyone getting into them.   With our legs barely fitting into the seats and our knees pressed against our chest we tried to settle in for what would be a 9 hour journey.  It seemed the bus was full but then 10 people entered to standing room only, only to be escorted out and a few minutes later, they seemed to straggle back in only to be escorted out once again.  Immediately upon departure a preacher placing himself directly next to Erika began preaching the gospel, one sentence in the local language, translation following.  While he was preaching there was another mentally challenged young man doing his own high decibel preaching to no one in particular....There seemed to be something amiss however as we started on down the road.  Suddenly, the music was turned on at volume 10 and it was then we realized, all was right in the world of the 3rd world bus journies!  The journey seemed to go great until all of a sudden the whole bus was overcome by the smell of excretement (s--t).  We both looked at each other and could not help but laugh.  We hit a town for a bathroom break and Erika was told by a Zambian woman that the bathrooms were filthy even by Zambian standards so once again Erika held it.  A few hours down the road we stopped along the Lilonwe river where many of the local villagers had set up stalls to sell dried fish.  We were the only two that did not buy a big bag of fish, so as the journey continued, we had the mixing smells of fish and s--t, music so loud our ears hurt and the guy blabbering about who knows what.  We finally arrived near sundown at the town of Chipata, the gateway to South Luangwa National Park.  The taxi driver grabbed our bags immediately and stowed them in his car wanting to take us to Dean's Hill View Guest House.  After some negotiation, we agreed on a price and we arrived at the wonderful, garden filled guest house.  Turned out we were the only two people there and we enjoyed a relaxing evening......

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