Do you remember that biblical promise, “Seek, and ye shall find?” This particular journey was one to seek but not find. Early February, I embarked on a journey to Arua using Bus X (shall remain anonymous). I used the ancient way of booking tickets and they had a few tickets left for their midmorning trip. After making the payments, I basically ambled around the park until the departure time. Bus travel with tickets booked through the UgaBus app is and will always be dear to me. I have plenty of excruciating memories from Buses that I never booked through the UgaBus app. Most of them have been exactly the way I thought they would be. Horrendous! But this particular journey was the mother of all HORRORS! I’ve never been a fan of writing about bad experiences, and I always understand that if something goes wrong, it’s often a fault of one or two individuals but not the entire company.
It got off from an unpropitious start when the bus that was supposed to set off at 12pm didn’t start. After 3 hours past the departure time, the conductor came around and informed us that we were setting off. There was no apology or explanation from the staff on the delay. This particular bus company has been branded by deprecatory gestures for its passengers from a seemingly persistent view in the public. This was the start of my intense resentment and suspicion about the customer care of the bus and its staff. It actually didn’t take long for a long hold suspicion to harden into an absolute certitude.
We had just covered a small fraction of the journey when the bus broke down in Luweero. Just sit tight – you have not got the best of it yet. We were then told to wait for a replacement, 1, 2, 3 hours gone! The breakdown of the Bus after such a short journey was rounding off bad auguries. The journey grew graver as my phone and earphones decided to take a swim in a pothole filled with dirty water. Damn! Here was a journey that was abbreviating my patience from e to the p. I have never found it comforting to travel without any of these two so losing them in an unexplainable manner during the wait was odious and left my soul battered and bruised.
When the Bus replacement finally arrived, my mind was still scrambled. I found it hard to sleep. I could not come to terms with losing the most important item in my life and there was the fear of losing luggage to strangers on the Bus. More worryingly, I had lingering thoughts that every time the bus stopped, someone was going to run off with my new UgaBus backpack, and these lot had told us that their Bus Company is irresponsible for what happens to the luggage.
Aye, that aside the general discomfort of the Bus seats made it hard to rest. The seats were rusty and torn, and a few had armrests, so I was in constant fear of rolling off the seat. The window glass couldn’t open, and so I was deprived of fresh air. Other passengers were retching in bags and throwing them under their seats. The putrid contents caked my throat with disgust! A huge wave of rage swept through and engulfed me, voiding all the other feelings. The whooshing engine, discourteous individuals watching videos loudly and dismal snores from a couple of people were all that buzzed the silent night. Also I know we haven’t had enough discussion about this many times, but people who snore on long bus journeys make it hard for the rest of us. Someone should create a separate bus for them – pun intended.
The general mood in the Bus remained disappointing and enraging. “Could we please stop in the next Town Center, I badly want to go for a short call and buy some edibles? My child hasn’t eaten since the journey started.” A lady seated at one of the front seats requested as the driver sped down the highway like a ramjet. And indeed I had already been so irritated by the vociferous cry of the infant that I was ready to back anything of help to calm it down. “We won’t stop!” the conductor and driver responded in unison. But underneath their bluster, was insensibility. The requests from the rest of the passengers to help this lady were met with silence, a response which we all got used to through the journey. I heard everyone’s sigh of disappointment. This was an absolute travesty. Were these lot only trained in being manner less? The only reaction to their silent treatment to the lady with the baby was one of plain, undisguised rage. My blood was boiling. I restrained myself as I thought of my hand reaching for the Conductor’s thin cheeks.
This bus’s disappointment was thick in the air, their entertainment was below par, and the drive time was longer than the music on the driver’s flash disk, so you would hear the same 6 songs for the 16th time in an hour. It was at this moment that I mourned the loss of my phone and earphones.
This journey was beset by more than the usual troubles, and giving off a feeling that this Bus Company was under a devilish attack, the bus became excruciatingly slow. While at Karuma, I shook my brain in stupefaction and felt my patience slipping away! Dammit! This can’t be happening again, but it was happening. The Bus had broken down again. What I heard from the conductor was that there was a fault with the bus engine and it needed a quick fix before we could continue with the journey. I and my neighbor looked at each other in disbelief. Disillusionment glowed on his face, infecting me. As I waited for it to be repaired, my mind run through the events of the day and I couldn’t believe what a dreadful journey it had been. A journey that takes approximately 8-9 hours, and here we are; 8hrs on the road and we hadn’t even covered half of it. I sat quietly for a while and got lost in the world of Baboon grunts and the birds that were chirping sweetly in the nearby forest, and after a while, we were off again.
I had reached the end of my chain and I was ready to explode. The Driver was making several random stops to let people off that took a lot of time on the roadside, and I noticed that we picked more people that didn’t have seats. We are in the middle of a pandemic, but these Covidiots were loading the bus with more than its capacity by allowing people without tickets to enter and congest it.
We arrived in Arua at 8am in the morning. I exchanged pleasantries with my neighbor and with force, I opened the rusty window and found myself face to face with the morning sun. I reminded myself always to book buses through the UgaBus app.
Wembi is a passionate writer with a curious love for adventure