Bus rides to/from Rwanda

The day after the plumbing incident, Matt and I met at Café Pap for breakfast before catching our “8 hour” bus ride to Kigali via southwestern Uganda. The bus rides to and from Rwanda were everything I expected them to be with the exception of the bus not breaking down. Because the bus rides themselves were so entertaining, they warrant their own post.

 

We arrived for the 9AM departure which left at 9:15AM. Pretty good by most standards. We had bought “VIP” tickets, meaning the bus would probably be as comfortable somewhere between a school bus and low-end touring bus in the States. Well, we got an economy bus which is less comfortable than a US school bus. Ah, but we did get Ugandan music videos with a few boy bands and Celine Dion videos in the mix. (More on those later.)

 

We arrived in Mbarara, Uganda for a pit stop and a bus change after 4-5 hours. We looked on the map and quickly realized this was no 8-hour bus ride. After a strange, disorderly switching of buses, we did get on a “VIP” for the remainder of the trip. 

VIP bus from Mbarara, Uganda to Kigali, Rwanda

VIP bus from Mbarara, Uganda to Kigali, Rwanda

 

Southwestern Uganda was beautiful. We continued the journey until reaching the Rwandan border.  The roads through Uganda were bumpy and fun on this trip. (Return trip was another story.) After being accosted by money-changers to convert Ugandan shillings or US dollars into Rwandan francs and getting our passports stamped (US and Canadian citizens do not have to pay a visa fee), we waited for the bus to cross the bridge-over-a-creek border for what seemed like a long time.  By the time we reached the taxi park in Kigali, the journey lasted 11 hours. So when calculating journey times here, combined with other experiences, one should add about one third of the time projected to get the likely actual duration! The bus ride back was far more of an adventure.

 

Again having paid for “VIP” (about $15 USD), we received a 5 seats across economy bus since the first class bus was broken down. Perfect!  We asked for window seats so we could take pictures, but after saying that they gave us such seats we found ourselves on aisles. So we asked to switch again and Matt got a non-existent seat number and I received the last seat in the back row of the bus next to a window.

 Bus ticket office - Kigali

 

There were some British and Irish expats our age on this bus so there was running commentary sometimes as we rode back. The beautiful, smooth ride through Rwanda gave way to a crazy ride once over the border. The driver started speeding, and we were swaying to and fro. Everyone was holding onto the seats in front of them.

 

The back row of the bus had 6 seats, and it was full and tight. My knees and shins kept hitting against the metal back of the seat in front of me, but I became numb to the pain. (I still have bruises running the length of my shins today!) At one bump the 3-seat unit in front of me dislodged from the bus and started tipping on a turn. Matt and I had to hold it down for the rest of the trip, mostly because the metal insert to the bus could have impaled our sandaled feet. The guys in front of us were laughing. It was actually really funny.

 

Oh but there’s more. A torrential rain started coming down (rainy season starts in a week). We closed the windows and the bus because nice and steamy of course. But it got better. Somewhere at the top of the window interfacing with the bus frame was a leak. Water literally poured down my window side continuously soaking my right half shirt and pants. Again laughter. Again classic African bus.

 

Matt and I switched our 2 seats at Mbarara. At one random point we picked up people and a mother with child sat on my left with Matt on my right for the next four hours. She was the seventh seat in the back row of 6. As soon as she sat down, she started breastfeeding of course. Meanwhile I have my one arm over the back of Matt’s seat because I cannot fit in the row, and she has her other arm half-across me as she breastfed. Classic. I loved it!

 

This bus trip was nothing short of a hilarious, uncomfortable way to accrue life stories. I could write more about the crazy driving, the multiple repeats of boy band music, Celine Dion and Elton John videos or the FOUR repeats of a number of Ugandan music videos, but at this point you already expected that to occur. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat but wearing shin guards. And I’d probably just acquiesce and pay for the economy bus from the outset!

 

 

 

There were some British and Irish expats our age on this bus so there was running commentary sometimes as we rode back. The beautiful, smooth ride through Rwanda gave way to a crazy ride once over the border. The driver started speeding, and we were swaying to and fro. Everyone was holding onto the seats in front of them.

 

The back row of the bus had 6 seats, and it was full and tight. My knees and shins kept hitting against the metal back of the seat in front of me, but I became numb to the pain. (I still have bruises running the length of my shins today!) At one bump the 3-seat unit in front of me dislodged from the bus and started tipping on a turn. Matt and I had to hold it down for the rest of the trip, mostly because the metal insert to the bus could have impaled our sandaled feet. The guys in front of us were laughing. It was actually really funny.

 

Oh but there’s more. A torrential rain started coming down (rainy season starts in a week). We closed the windows and the bus because nice and steamy of course. But it got better. Somewhere at the top of the window interfacing with the bus frame was a leak. Water literally poured down my window side continuously soaking my right half shirt and pants. Again laughter. Again classic African bus.

 

Matt and I switched our 2 seats at Mbarara. At one random point we picked up people and a mother with child sat on my left with Matt on my right for the next four hours. She was the seventh seat in the back row of 6. As soon as she sat down, she started breastfeeding of course. Meanwhile I have my one arm over the back of Matt’s seat because I cannot fit in the row, and she has her other arm half-across me as she breastfed. Classic. I loved it!

 

This bus trip was nothing short of a hilarious, uncomfortable way to accrue life stories. I could write more about the crazy driving, the multiple repeats of boy band music, Celine Dion and Elton John videos or the FOUR repeats of a number of Ugandan music videos, but at this point you already expected that to occur. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat but wearing shin guards. And I’d probably just acquiesce and pay for the economy bus from the outset!

 

 

There were some British and Irish expats our age on this bus so there was running commentary sometimes as we rode back. The beautiful, smooth ride through Rwanda gave way to a crazy ride once over the border. The driver started speeding, and we were swaying to and fro. Everyone was holding onto the seats in front of them.

 

The back row of the bus had 6 seats, and it was full and tight. My knees and shins kept hitting against the metal back of the seat in front of me, but I became numb to the pain. (I still have bruises running the length of my shins today!) At one bump the 3-seat unit in front of me dislodged from the bus and started tipping on a turn. Matt and I had to hold it down for the rest of the trip, mostly because the metal insert to the bus could have impaled our sandaled feet. The guys in front of us were laughing. It was actually really funny.

 

Oh but there’s more. A torrential rain started coming down (rainy season starts in a week). We closed the windows and the bus because nice and steamy of course. But it got better. Somewhere at the top of the window interfacing with the bus frame was a leak. Water literally poured down my window side continuously soaking my right half shirt and pants. Again laughter. Again classic African bus.

 

Matt and I switched our 2 seats at Mbarara. At one random point we picked up people and a mother with child sat on my left with Matt on my right for the next four hours. She was the seventh seat in the back row of 6. As soon as she sat down, she started breastfeeding of course. Meanwhile I have my one arm over the back of Matt’s seat because I cannot fit in the row, and she has her other arm half-across me as she breastfed. Classic. I loved it!

 

This bus trip was nothing short of a hilarious, uncomfortable way to accrue life stories. I could write more about the crazy driving, the multiple repeats of boy band music, Celine Dion and Elton John videos or the FOUR repeats of a number of Ugandan music videos, but at this point you already expected that to occur. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat but wearing shin guards. And I’d probably just acquiesce and pay for the economy bus from the outset! 

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