I made my way to the Lusaka bus station, a seething maelstrom of touts, porters, buses, merchants, and indiscriminate riff-raff. Jammed to the gills with buses of a multitude of colors, each representing a different private bus company, the air was thick with loud horns as drivers were announcing their imminent departure.
I boarded my 9:00 am bus to Livingstone to find that someone had already taken my pre-assigned window seat. I was not in much of a position to make a fuss as the interloper was a nun. I gamely agreed to take the aisle seat, which would be a bit more uncomfortable for the seven hour ride as I would have nothing against which to lean my head for a nap.
The nun, Sister Maureen, was a kindly woman who was on her way back to her church in Livingstone. As I looked at her from the seat next to her, I saw so much of Oprah Winfrey in her face.
We we had very pleasant talks throughout the journey, and as we came into Livingstone, she expressed interest in exchanging phone numbers so we could stay in touch during my visit. She also made it a point to invite me to Mass on Sunday.
As I descended the bus steps, once again I was mobbed by young men all yelling “taxi, taxi” at me. The first man in the crowd was yelling “I’m first, I’m first! He’s mine!” – to the other drivers and me, as if I was a fresh piece of meat being argued over by a pride of lions. So, Owen got the fare.
Owen was a very energetic, talkative young man promising anything I wanted in Livigstone – restaurants, rides to the Falls, girls, pretty white girls, discos, tour guiding. He was in full hustle mode.
He dropped me off at the best backpacker hostel I’ve stayed in yet – Jollyboys. A large, well-conceptualized operation, this place has anticipated every need the traveler may have. They even have three tour & activity booking desks to help one get the most out of their stay in Livingstone / Victoria Falls.
Dinner brought yet another culinary curiosity: crocodile pizza. Yes, that’s real croc meat on the pie.
The the restaurant is run for the benefit of local orphans, who are at tremendous risk of following the wrong path in life. An admirable venture, to be sure.
After dinner, I came back to Jollyboys to find a large group of other travelers sitting around a large table drinking beer and having a rousing time. Every one of them was traveling alone, though some had joined together in previous towns to travel together for a while. Lee from South Korea, Sarah from Germany (speaking English with a beautiful British accent), Jocelyn from Winnipeg, Malcolm from Malta, Ross from England, Mar from Holland – it was a virtual United Nations of travelers.
Some were heading north, others south. We talked late into the night getting to know one another, sharing stories and providing tips to those who would be traveling through locations others of us had just been. While my travels have taken me to some incredible locales thus far, I’m also very thankful for all of the wonderful people I’ve met, both transient and local.
Post Script: It’s the day after my bus trip and Sister Maureen just called to make sure I’m doing well.