Kigali to Kanungu – ‘Follow that bus!’
On Tuesday I got up early to start my journey back to the lodge, as the crow flies not a great distance. The difficulty was caused by the bus connections back to Kanungu – or more specifically, the lack thereof! Thanks at this point are due to J.B. and Gloria, who had planned the route for me and implored me to get to Ntungamo by about 10.30 as the last bus of the day to Kanungu left by 11 at the latest. Nicholas and Apollo had confirmed this when they dropped me at the border, hence my booking on the 4.30 am bus from Kigali.
We reached the border in good time. However, as soon as we entered Uganda, African time kicked in again. I spent the next few hours staring at my watch, panicking. Even more so when the bus stopped in the middle of nowhere, presumably for the driver to relieve himself. But when all the other passengers got off to take photos of the cows in the neighbouring field, I was livid to say the least!
The bus pulled in to Ntungamo at around 11.20. Having given up hope of getting the bus I needed, I was resigned to finding a cafe and trying to plot the rest of my journey. I still don’t know why I did this but even though I knew the last bus had already left, I asked someone where the stop for Kanungu was. He pointed hurriedly into the distance, in the direction of a bus a couple of hundred yards away, imploring me to hurry.
How stupid! Despite having been in Africa for a couple of months, it hadn’t dawned on me that there was a massive probability that the bus would run on African time, not to a scheduled timetable! I should have known better, particularly as the bus I had been on for the last few hours was so late. That should have given me a clue about the punctuality of the public transport here, and the huge likelihood that this one would be late too!
Anyway, there was no time to ponder my stupidity…to the amusement of the locals, I ran like a mzungu Usain Bolt down the road and the bus got closer and closer…I was going to make it! But then it pulled away – so near and yet so far!
Now what? It’s amazing how quickly you think in situations like this. All my options ran through my mind in a split-second…well both of them. Either I chased after the bus or I threw my bag to the ground and wailed like a little toddler who hasn’t got his own way. There was only one thing for it…to break Volunteer Uganda’s rule and jump on the nearest motorcycle taxi, the infamous boda-boda. Sorry guys – I had no choice!
A few minutes later, and just after the bus had turned a corner into what I thought was oblivion, the guy caught up with it. It stopped; I have no idea whether the driver had frozen in fear of the lunatics chasing him, or more likely someone in town had phoned him to ask him to wait for the mzungu with panic in his eyes. Phew!
The rest of the journey was relatively plain sailing, despite taking twice as long as the conductor told me it would. Half way through the journey I got a phone call from Tom, who I think was expecting me to still be stranded somewhere in rural Rwanda!
It had been an amazing, insightful trip and I had made it back to tell the tale.