Hitch-hiking and getting the bus from Livingstone to Maun

Maun Travel Blog

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I can tell already that my Livingstone—Maun journey is going to be my favourite story about Africa.

 

The astute of you will remember I never organised transport from Livingstone (Zambia) to Maun (Botswana). It’s a 600 km journey. I decided to take my chances with public transport, but I was in for a surprise.

 

I couldn’t feel my legs. I was buried under my pack, which took up too much space in an already crowded taxi. Five pairs of eyes sharing my taxi were on me. I smiled sheepishly. The driver was outside, nattering in a local language to someone holding a bottle of petrol. This wasn’t exactly what I had pictured when I was told to get a bus to the Kazungula Border.

 

The Mingongo Bus Station in Livingstone wasn’t what I expected either. It wasn’t really a station at all. It was an unmarked roadside gathering of taxis. There weren’t even any buses. I was crammed into a taxi with five other locals.

 

We were all heading to the Kazungula Border Crossing, to cross from Zambia into Botswana. There, I weaselled my way out of being swindled into paying double for my ferry ticket. Mid-way across the Zambezi, I met a woman called Angela, who offered me a lift on her husband’s coal truck.

 

I stared at the truck for a long time. It was the biggest, longest truck I’d ever seen. I climbed into the passenger seat, turning around to haul my bags into the empty space behind me. Angela and her husband had agreed to give me a lift to a town called Nata, 300 km from the Kazungula Border Crossing. On the way to Nata, ostriches ran alongside the truck, and a huge bull elephant flapped its ears at us as we rolled past. We stopped at veterinary fences that are a hotly debated topic among wildlife enthusiasts. Other than that, the journey was smooth and uneventful. I felt thoroughly rested when I was dropped off at a lonely bus stop in Nata.

 

At the bus stop, I twiddled my thumbs and watched the dirt fly off my skin. The African sun was baking hot. Minutes seemed like hours. I was alone at the bus stop, and soon I wondered if I’d missed the bus going from Nata to Maun.

 

That was until Angela ambled around the corner. She led me to the petrol station, which was apparently where the bus was pulling in. She waited with me until the bus arrived.

 

When I boarded the bus, the conductor said stiffly: “No seat. You stand.” The journey was four hours long, and I did indeed spend most of it standing. We stopped at every single village we passed, and often made detours to reach villages that weren’t on the main road. Sometimes we stopped when there was no apparent village, and people materialised out of the landscape to board the bus.

 

Every time someone alighted, I took the empty seat, only to be shooed out of it by the bus conductor. By the end of the four hours, I was exhausted from playing musical chairs with the bus conductor. But I had arrived in Maun. I tumbled off the bus and squeezed past a marauding phalanx of locals wanting to carry my bags.

 

I wandered around Maun carrying my heavy packs for a few hours. I must have looked like an old, lost tortoise. Eventually a taxi agreed to drive me 15 km from Maun to Audi Camp, where I stayed the night.

 

The lady at the reception desk asked where I’d just come from. “Zambia,” I said.

 

“You flew?”

 

“Nope.”

 

“Ah, it is not easy to make the journey in a single day.”

 

I agreed resolutely.

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photo by: Biedjee