The Only Mzungu On The Bus

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Africa » Zambia » Kapiri Mposhi
April 4th 2006
Published: June 2nd 2006
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Beloved of screaming children desperate to get your attention means, in its current translation, white man. (me! white!?!)

Its origins are thought to be from the Swahili words for wondering around lost, and behaving like a drunkard, about 300 years ago.

White tourists wondering around lost and nusring hang overs. Mmm we've come along way in last 300 years...


I arrived in Lusaka later than planned, surprise surprise, and grabbed the nearest taxi driver to help me with my bags and to get me to Cha Cha Cha Backpackers, hoping that my reservation (for once I had booked ahead) still stood. They had actually managed to screw up my booking, so instead of having a single room to myself I ended up in a dorm room and saving more money!

Then it was time to have my boots repaired, book a train ticket to Dar Es Salaam and get some pictures home.

Apart from that I found Lusaka as unremarkable this time round as the first time.

The Only Mzungu On The Bus

I awoke early, desperate to avoid missing the train due to Africa time, as I had to be in Mombassa on Sunday at the latest.

I was all set to catch the best quality I could find, but instead found my self getting on a smaller bus, squashed into the worst seat, but at least I was on my way. Or so I thought.

Firstly some one started begging for some money to get a coke between shouts of mzungu buy this. Then when we started the journey the bus stopped outside the bus station to change drivers. Why is beyond me.

Then some one else started praying for us to have a safe journey out loud. Well at least we had entertainment for while.

Then there was another conversation with a Zambian. This time it was about life in Zambia. I also managed to learn a bit about the attitude of Zambians towards tourists, more on that later.

Next up was a police checkpoint. The bus looked in good order. I wasn’t worried. Well not until the policeman started dwelling on the tax certificates. But that’s okay, he’s just looking for ‘lunch money’. Well he wasn’t. He actually pulled over the bus for a whole hour to fine the driver!

But we set off at break neck speed heading towards Kapiri Mposhi, trying to make up lost time. A bit scary sitting in the front seat however the road was straight so I tried to get some sleep. Emphasis on tried…

Next up was another police checking point and a very loaded conversation trying to avoid another fine.

I was optimistic. What else could go wrong? I had had enough bad luck on this journey to last me all the way to Cairo. Right?

Then there was the flat tyre. In the middle of nowhere. We had to unload the bus to get to the spare tyre. Then wait while the tyre was changed then load the bus back up. Then, I started praying myself.

Then we were overtaken by the bus that I was going to catch, but at last we made it Kapiri. With an interesting journey behind me and possibly another one very soon.

The Tazara Express

So arrived at the train station, and arranged to have my 2nd class ticket upgraded to a first class one. Then there was the wait. Another wait. I had arrived at 12 pm, 3 hours before the train was scheduled to leave.

While I was waiting to board I found myself talking to a pair of Korean Missionaries who spent 2 hours trying to tell me that Jesus loves me and that, as I was now Christian, we should pray together and exchange contact details. This despite the fact that I kept telling them I am Muslim, for two hours this continued. At least I knew they would try to run off with my bags while I went to the bathroom.

Next up was a difficult conversation with a Zambian. He is a miner with 3 children and a brother who lives in Dar. The rest of the conversation was so forced it actually hurt.
At last we boarded, at 6 pm! I don’t know why I was surprised, I had been in Zambia long enough to know that all times stated are approximate. Very approximate.

The train actually set off at 7.30, only 4&1/2 hours late. But at least I could now relax. Sure the train was going to be delayed. It would no doubt break down. It may even be derailed, but I knew I would get there.

This is Africa and they’ll always find a way…

The train ride itself was uneventful. We were held up numerous times and yet again I found myself in conversation with various people on board about Zambia, Tanzania and Mombassa.

Part of the train journey also went through Tanzania’s largest national park and I crossed the Great Rift Valley for the first time. The scenes were spectacular. The train ride was bumpy at times and was inevitably delayed, but only by 5 hours in total.

So I arrived in Dar 3 days after leaving Lusaka. A different part of Africa, different cultures and back ground. Would I enjoy this as much as Southern Africa or would I absolutely hate it?


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