Saturday, October 18, 2014
Crazy cab ride...
I’d like to use this cab experience to explain what it’s like to ride in a cab in Zambia. Cab rides here are much different from cab rides in the States.
So buckle your seatbelt and enjoy the ride.
I take a cab as a last resort. I would rather hitch which is fairly safe and a common way to get around in this country since most people don’t have cars or a lot of money. I chose to take a cab this particular day because later in the day it is difficult to find a ride hitching.
I choose to take a shared cab because it is affordable compared to a private cab. A private cab costs ten times more. On a Peace Corps budget I have no choice but to take a shared cab.
Around noontime on Saturday I set out to the roadside of in my village in my full-length skirt, Teva sandals, hair pulled back and carrying my almost-empty backpack with the intent to come back with it loaded with food and supplies. Solwezi, my boma, has a large market, a grocery store and the provincial house where Peace Corps Volunteers go to do work, such as writing grants or updating blogs.
I sat in the shade on the roadside waiting for a cab to pull up. I attempted to journal until a local sat next to me to chat. Then we were visited by an intoxicated man from the bar, and then another one…the conversation wasn’t very interesting. Finally all three left. I was alone again. I looked at the time on my phone; I’ve been waiting for over an hour. No cab.
Finally a cab pulled up after two hours of waiting. If I had to get somewhere at a certain time it wouldn’t matter. This is how it is in Zambia. It is ok to be late because it is so difficult to get anywhere on time.
I get in the small compact Japanese hatchback along with two other people. I sit in the passenger seat with my pack on my lap. We pull out onto the road. Immediately the cab pulls over to pick up a couple waiting on the side of the road. They are headed to Mutanda; halfway to Solwezi. They pile in. Four people in the back seat and the driver and me in the front and the trunk full of bags.
We continue to drive down the tarmack at excessive speed while dodging the wading pool-sized potholes. The cab stops to let off a passenger at a small village--one less person--not always a good thing, because this means the driver can stop and pick up another passenger which can take a long time.
Driving along there is a man with a single bag slung over his shoulder waiting on the side of the road waving us down. Ok, this shouldn’t take long.
Well, I was wrong.
The driver of the cab gets out and talks with the man. The man disappears into a small hut. A few minutes later the hatchback opens and something is placed inside. Whatever it was it made a loud yelling sound. I turn around…it’s a full-grown goat, hogtied, placed upside down in the trunk.
Great! Poor goat! Usually it’s live chickens that are thrown in the back of cabs.
So, this pick up ended up taking about 15 minutes. Cab is full. We continue stops along the way dropping people off and picking more up. The man with the goat is finally let off. I watch them unload the goat and untie the goat’s legs; the goat stumbles onto its feet and the man leads it with a rope tied around its neck.
The remaining passengers and I are dropped off at a gas station about a half mile from where I am usually dropped off. Walking isn’t such a big deal around here. Passengers are dropped where it is convenient for the driver even if the full fare is paid.
I pay the driver, give a quick thank you in Kikaonde, sling my backpack on my back and walk along the dusty, busy main road of Solwezi. I have about a mile and a half walk to my destination.
I’m used to this mode of travel. Every cab ride has its own unique experience…never the same, never reliable, and never uneventful.