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Brenda’s Travel Diary

Wednesday, 27 Feb 2013

Location: Kahama to Muhanga, Rwanda

MapWednesday, February 27th,

Today when we made our journey from Kahama, TZ back to Rwanda all I could think about was this is great blog-material. I’m sure all of you who've come on this trip can relate to this!

The day started early, we had Joseph and our cab driver, Josepheti coming to pick us up at 5:15 am. We thought we would make two trips with one cab since the bus stop is so close. The boys arrived a little late but we still thought we had lots of time.

I went in the first car with Pene and Joseph. As soon as we climbed out of the car and into the mayhem of the bus station, some random guy came and up and told me that we had the wrong bus to Kigali. I don’t know how he thought he knew, but being the only mzungus in town, I guess everyone knows our business. The cab driver had left to get Anna and LeAnne and I was getting worried because, even though everyone here operates on "Africa time", the buses usually leave as scheduled.
Joseph and crowd of guys were arguing about which bus was the right bus and then they finally decided on one that we would be using.

We stood outside with our luggage waiting for them to open the undercarriage when Joseph said “Sister, we have to put all of the luggage on the bus.” It turns out that all the storage under the bus was being used to transport sacks of produce. Joseph man-handled our bags up into the bus and down the narrow isle to the back seats with us helping as best we could. The bags were full of books for Costa’s school in Rwanda so were very heavy!! It was a ridiculous situation. The bus already looked full and were trying to get these over-loaded bags past people without decapitating them.

The other girls still weren’t on the bus but Pene thought she saw the cab go by us in the parking lot. There were a few dozen buses and they would have no idea which one was ours. I ventured out into the crowd and searched but couldn’t find them. It was time for the bus to go. Eventually Joseph located them, brought them in and we struggled to fit their luggage in also. Between us we had 7 suitcases and six backpacks. You could barely move in the bus and there was other sacks of stuff stored in the alley way.

An argument erupted when the bus staff came back and demanded 30,000 TSH for our luggage. We pointed out that the only reason it was taking up seats is because they had sold the whole undercarriage space and weren’t able to put the luggage where it was supposed to go. We lost the argument, squeezed into our seats and got on our way. It was sad saying good bye to Kahama and all of our good friends, especially Joseph!

The ride was slow and uneventful until we go to a fork in the road and the bus pulled over. We waited to see what was going to happen next and realized what was happening next was we were being told to get off the bus with all of our luggage. It turns out the bus was going to Burundi and we weren’t. We were assured that someone would be along to pick us up so we girls and few others stood on the side of the deserted road surrounded by our luggage. Soon a couple of white miniature station wagons pulled up. We were shocked to find out they were there to pick us up. We don’t know how they work these miracles over here, but they manage to fit us four girls,a driver and our 11 pieces of very heavy luggage in that little car. It was hilariousL

After driving for a short while, the driver pulled over in a little town, got out and came back with a bottle of gas which he poured into the gas tank. He then left us baking in the car and stood with a group of men, talking very loudly. We don’t know what the problem was and finally started to call out to him that we were hot. He eventually got back in and began driving.

Eventually we got to the first part of the border crossing and once again were asked to get out and take our luggage. The driver drove away and we headed over to the customs office. We were directed down the hill and began the long, hot walk to the Rwandan border, each of us pulling two suitcases each and carrying heavy packs.

After spending awhile getting visas etc. we were directed to take our bags and hike over to the next office on the Rwandan side, which is another jaunt. The whole time you’re walking, you’re weaving in and out of a huge line of semis, all waiting to be processed through customs. It’s just crazy!

We eventually found some buses and got into another argument with the drivers about our luggage. It was a waste of time because it wasn’t even the right bus so we had to argue all over again a few minutes later. We lost the battle and had to pay another 12,000 RWF for our luggage for the Rwandan part of the trip. The crooks at the Kahama bus depot verbally told us we had paid for our luggage to go to Kigali but only put Rusumo (the border crossing) on the ticket. (We should have checked!)

We had to wait for the bus to fill before it left and the only thing that saved us from perishing in the hot sun at this point was the cold beer they sold across the road. We downed one each while we were waiting and felt like things were OK again.

The first bus was called Luuxery (spelled with two uu’s) which was a laugh and this one was called Express. Express was the last thing this bus was, and our last 150 kms ended up taking four hours as we stopped at every village between the TZ border and Kigali.

We were dreading the craziness at the main bus station in Kigali and were relieved when our driver took pity on us and made an effort to get his vehicle as close as possible to the bus company we needed to use to go to Muhanga. Only one more leg to go!!!

We arrived an hour later, hot and tired but so happy to be greeted by our Rwandan friends/family Bienvenu, Peter and Denise!!! We hadn’t eaten anything except granola bars, ground nuts and some dried fruit during our 12 ½ hour journey so were happy it was beer o’clock when we arrived!!!! We visited with our frinds and had some good food!

Tomorrow, we’ll be off to Costa’s school to drop off all of the books and school supplies we dragged with us and then we’ll go visit the pig coop we’re supporting and give them another donation.