10 HRS 508KM JAGUAR BUS SERVICE A TRIP TO REMEMBER.
Did you know that a bus trip to Kigali costs only 40,000 Shs? Yeah, you heard me right, 10 hours and 40k is all you need. Ohhh and unlike some local buses, you don’t have to worry about discomfort, the companies that ply cross-border routes have mastered the art of comfort and customer service.
One of the major players is a master in this field. I guess the many years of service is what has helped them set the standard for everyone else because you know – the old brooms know all the corners. I am talking about Jaguar bus service. It was my choice of travel on the particular trip. And I loved it.
My departure time is set for 8 pm, I have been on this road before so I know I know the drill, put something in my tummy, buy some refreshment for the journey (water preferably) empty bowels and be set for the next few hours until the bus reaches a refreshment point. Luckily, the bus service has a cafeteria where I can grab something quick without having to worry about leaving the premises and being left behind. A quick snack and juice from the cafeteria is all I need. It’s never advisable to eat too much if you plan to be on the road for some good time.
At precisely 7:32 PM the next departure bus in announced so that we the passengers can get up and organise ourselves, find the seats and seat tickets, cross check their travel documents. The spoken announcement is done in Swahili, English, Kinyarwanda, I think to cater for the travellers who include Congolese, Ugandans and Rwandese. Also during this time the bus conductors check with us to make sure we all have their travel documents, this is meant to avoid delays at the border checkpoints in case of missing documents.
There is a general thrill and excitement running around inside me as this red and white beauty of a bus gets into position – getting ready for take-off. It looks awesome from the outside – with red and blue LED lights wrapped around it giving it this daring and unique look. My ticket and passport are checked and I make a beeline for the very front seat opposite the driver. I want to experience this journey fast hand and see how this old man at the wheel steers such a big machine with such ease.
The leg room is enough, even for a 6’3’’ man like me and the space between adjacent seats is comfy too. I don’t have to worry about sitting next to my sleepy oversized neighbour overshooting their chair and colonizing half of my sitting space. The seats are also adjustable so I can lean back and drift off into dreamland if I feel like taking a nap.
At 8:00PM sharp, the bus eases out of the terminal and now embarks on manoeuvring through the heavy Kampala traffic. But I’m too distracted to worry about that. There are charging ports for every seat. I can use my iPad for as long as I want without having to worry about running out of juice. That’s a nice touch. Because normally there is only one charging port per row which we’d have to use in turns. I can play need for speed and stay in touch with my friends for the rest of the journey.
As expected the first stopover is in Mbarara where we are given a few minutes to go out stretch our legs, use the bathroom and refill our bellies from a nearby supermarket. I try as much as possible to avoid eating roadside food. The street omelettes, chicken and chips shoved by vendors through the window are a recipe for disaster and could lead to anything from a running stomach to a serious infection. Making a bus with 57 people stop every 5 minutes for you to ease yourself just won’t happen.
The next stopover from Mbarara is at Katuna border where my beauty sleep was cut short by a stampede of Congolese rushing to jump out when the bus stops to get to the immigration queue. Finally, the bus comes to a stop and we are told to do clearance in the shortest time possible.
This one poor guy whose student visa has expired ends up getting delayed when an immigration officer tells him to step aside and wait, the conductor who seems to be more familiar with these border officers comes back to put in a word for the guy, the misunderstanding is solved and off we go. Our conductor then has to confirm that every one we came with is abode before we live the border, a noble thing to do since very often, buses drive off without passengers who get held or delayed in the immigration queue.
A couple of hours later, beautiful lit background welcomes us to our destination, the magnificent, breezy town of Kigali, thanks to Jaguar this will be a trip to remember, mostly because of the hitchless ride.