After a quiet disappearance, sightseeing buses are back in Kigali

This past week has been so gloomy that I struggled to find something to cheer me up as I went through it. The fatal Ethiopian Airlines plane crash hit so hard with the dead coming from 32 different countries. Air transport remains the safest means to travel but when such incidents occur we are shaken by how fast lives can be taken. The memories of the Lion Air crash were still too fresh and fingers immediately pointed at Boeing and their fast selling B737 Max aircraft.

By the time of writing this airlines around the world as well as aviation bodies seemed to agree that there was something fundamentality wrong with the B737 Max aircraft. Experts seem to agree on two things, that the plane’s massive engines cause a stability problem and that it was an oversight not to train pilots on its software and what to do in case it malfunctions. As investigations into the two crashes continue, the executives at Boeing must be wiping their sweaty brows as they figure out how to get all those big birds back in the air safely.

The terrorism attack in New Zealand was also another sad chapter in an already disturbing week. A terrorist walking into a mosque and shooting at innocent prayerful people while live streaming the whole criminal act is just too gross. After so many years of migration why are we still struggling to just live with each other peacefully? The sad bit is how when the killer is not black or Muslim some media houses and people will go all out in trying to sanitise the person as if that can bring back the lives lost. We cannot fight terrorism if we are hesitant to even call it terrorism.

Away from the sad events, my Twitter timeline fed me with photos of Visit Rwanda branded double-decker buses complete with Imigongo body wrap at the front. Sightseeing buses are a common feature of urban tourism and the ones I saw on my timeline are not actually the first the city has had. Some years back before the tourism body was merged with other institutions to form Rwanda Development Board, ORTPN the then body in charge had some buses for this very purpose.

Tourists often paid and boarded the buses from their small office that was replaced with Ubumwe Hotel, and took a tour around the city. I think as files were moved from the old ORTPN office to RDB, the buses made a quiet exit from the city infrastructure. However, tourists being taken around the city continued although it was not as pronounced as back then.

With these new buses I am sure many would enjoy a seat at the top deck to get a fantastic view of the city that is ever growing so fast that anyone who did the tour with the old buses will need to do it again. New structures are always coming up while some are taken down. New roads are paved while others take new directions. Even the pedestrian crossings have changed colours.

Besides the changes, Kigali is very well suited for these sightseeing tours since it does not have heavy traffic like many other places. The roads are decent and tourist can be assured of a smooth ride too. With the city already hooked on the conference tourism, these buses should be a big hit among conference delegates who may not have time to go far but would fancy a quick tour around a city they have probably heard so much about.

In some places where the main airport also serves as a big aviation hub, travellers connecting with long overlays are often given a city tour as a way of luring them to return for a real visit another time or to simply have the ability to talk about the city and not just the airport they connected through.

And although the buses are branded with Visit Rwanda, I still prefer to see them as visit Kigali because I think they are good for city tours and nothing more. I wouldn’t want to sit up there as the bus negotiates those edgy road curves as one goes towards Karongi or Musanze. Scary thoughts may ruin the trip. However using the bus around Kigali should be so much fun with travellers taking fantastic photos of the city and of themselves as they listen to a tour guide explaining things about the city. Kigali is a whole story and reading on top of a double-decker bus must be fun..

The views expressed in this article are of the author.

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