Unshakeable salesmen – an experience at Lusaka Bus Station


There is nothing – no guidebook, no well-meaning local, no concerned friend – that could have adequately prepared me for the experience that was Lusaka Intercity Bus Station. I had been warned that it would be crowded, and was told that I should plan to take a bus departing bright and early at 7:30 AM in order to avoid the worst of the mayhem. Not wanting to defy the wisdom of people more experienced than myself,
that is exactly what I did.
I dragged myself out of the comfort of my bed, hauled my stuff into a cab, and was on my way to the bus station at six fifteen. Given that the sun had yet to rise, I thought it would be safe to assume that the traffic going in and out of the station would be at a minimum – I would have no problem at all finding my way.
Of course, I unwittingly made the rookie mistake of forgetting that not everyone is a college student – that being awake at the ungodly hour of seven is not at all uncommon. As soon as the taxi turned left into the bus station, we were accosted by a small swarm of people knocking incessantly on the windows. ‘Do you need a bus to Livingstone, madam? To Chipata? Mbabala? What about a private car for you, sister, it is not safe for a woman to travel alone by bus!’ I threw my cab driver a look of despair – he, however, was too busy arguing with someone else about whether or not he should pay parking fees to respond.
What could have been a three-minute walk to the bus turned into a
ten-minute ordeal, complete with a small audience. A small group of

salesmen (or so they appeared to be) all seemed completely certain that there was no bus to my destination departing on that day – I should, instead, hire a driver to take me there instead. They insisted that they would be happy to drive me there for a ‘good price, my sister – you are my sister from another mother, that’s why!’

It was only when I told them that I was a local (a harmless, white lie, of course,) that they started to ease off. I pretended to spot an imaginary bus that was hurtling in their direction, and power walked to safety while they were looking the other way. By the time they figured out where I had gone, my things were being loaded into the luggage hold of the bus that they so vehemently claimed did not exist.
Lusaka Intercity Bus Station is most definitely not a place for the faint-hearted. If the above ordeal happened during its ‘quiet hours’, I applaud those who travel to and from there in the middle of the mayhem – indeed, a real test of mental strength!

Sakshi Kumar ‘ 16 is blogging from Zambia this summer. You can contact her at sakshi.kumar@yale.edu.