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Nyabugogo: Behind the Scenes

Nyabugogo: Behind the Scenes

Recently, I came back to Kigali from the Southern Province aboard Volcano Express. Upon arrival, a friend who had promised to pick me up was not yet at Nyabugogo Taxi Park. He claimed to be on his way and instructed me to find a comfortable place to sit and ’have one’ while waiting for him. When this fella tells you to sit down and have one as you wait, be prepared to wait for a very long time.

Walking inside the bus station with a traveling bag on my back attracted annoying agents fighting for passengers. Each one of them wanted a piece of me. I walked out of the bus station, crossed KN 7 Road and texted my friend informing him that I was inside the waiting room of Modern Coast Express. He texted me right back recommending Deluxe bar, next door.

He wanted me to kick back, relax and enjoy a drink instead of occupying space reserved for Modern Coast passengers. Again, he claimed to be on his way but I could tell from the composition of his text that he wasn’t behind the wheel yet.

My friend is a notorious latecomer. He is never on time. I considered ditching his ride and use a moto but I had already promised to wait for him. Besides, I had brought a parcel he needed urgently and I thought it would be wise to deliver it first.

Sitting in the bar without company was new to me. I am not a soccer fan but I pretended to be one in order to get along with fanatics occupying those revolving counter chairs. Strangers or not, you can’t get lonely around soccer fans. When the game is on and beers are flowing, bonding becomes natural.

There is a pool table on the right hand side of the entrance and several slot machines. Two young men were playing pool surrounded by their cheering fans. I never knew pool games attract spectators too. Everyone around that table was fired up except one tall boy in a Liverpool F.C. jersey. He was following the game calmly while holding a notebook and pen. He seemed to be taking notes or keeping records. From the look of things, he was in charge and appeared to be the one maintaining order. This game didn’t only have spectators, it also commanded the presence of an official.

I left football fans at the counter and approached the pool table area. The tall boy in a Liverpool jersey asked me if I wanted to play. Many years ago, I used to play pool once in a blue moon. If I remember correctly, I lost something like 70% of games I ever played. It didn’t help that I hadn’t attempted a single shot in three years. Despite my mediocre pool record and the rust caused by a long layoff, I said yes. I wanted to play. I thought playing pool would be more exciting than pretending to be a soccer fan.

As I waited for my turn to play, I got a little confused by their strange rules. I guess rules were amended at some point during those three years I spent without playing. Maybe Nyabugogo guys have their own distinct set of rules.

Like the rest of those boys, my opponent was formidable. His skills were off the charts. Each participant pays 1,000 francs to play and the winner pockets all of it minus token charges which amount to 200 francs only. That means, players make 800 francs per win. As I found out later, the young man who embarrassed me and took my money plays pool for a living and leaves Deluxe with a fatter wallet every day.

Finally, my friend arrived. I expected an apology but one hour delay is not a big deal to him. He opened the parcel I had brought for him, divided its content into three smaller units and shipped them to three different recipients residing in three different neighboring countries via one of those transport companies operating from Nyabugogo.

Apart from ferrying passengers to and fro different parts of Rwanda, Uganda, Congo, Burundi, Kenya and Tanzania, these companies also offer courier services at relatively lower rates.

There is no better place to receive stuff from upcountry and dispatch them to different destinations in the region than Nyabugogo. Convenient, affordable and regional in scope. That sums up my description of Nyabugogo. There is a reason my friend requested me to wait for him in the area. If you thought he volunteered to drive me home without any strings attached, think again.

I wasn’t done waiting. I stayed at Deluxe when he took his repackaged stuff to his courier services provider. This time, I stayed far away from the pool table. I wasn’t willing to give any more cash to the unbeatable Nyabugogo boys.

As I tried to avoid the gaming area, I discovered two other sections of Deluxe I hadn’t seen earlier. There is a mini hall with a podium placed on the far right. This is where Deluxe patrons are treated to exotic dance shows every night. There is another door leading to a beautifully designed lounge. This area looks like the VIP section of the club. It could as well be a premium waiting area for me next time my friend spends hours on his way to Nyabugogo to pick me up.

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