Kibeho pilgrimage: When wallets of transporters, traders swell and smile
Written by: George Kalisa
Sunday, August 26th, 2018, 3:08
The dry season, scorching sun and the dusty roads snaking through a serene hilly terrain, which all lead to Kibeho are some of the factors that made this year’s pilgrimage memorable [read hectic] for most pilgrims much as they could not miss the good news that was spreading like a bush fire during the celebrations about a government plan to tarmac the Huye-Matyazo-Kibeho in the near future. I overheard it, also.
Lodge and hotel owners in Nyaruguru District, particularly in Kibeho find the months of August and November every the year as peaks in business. These are days when finding a room is as hard as it is for the Biblical camel to go through an eye of a needle.
Transporters and traders are the other people who look forward to making abnormal profits in these months. August 15, is the day Christians, especially Catholic Christians celebrate the Assumption of the Holy Mother Mary into Heaven and thousands of Christians in Rwanda and neighbouring countries like Uganda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya, South Sudan prefer to make a pilgrimage to Kibeho because the apparition of Mother Mary happened there on November28.
An intimate conversation with Anastase Nzaramba aka Gahunguli and Jean Leonard Mayimana, the motorcycle taxi drivers who ply the Huye-Matyazo-Kibeho route revealed that not only bus companies make good monies during the pilgrimage seasons but also “Taxi motos” as they locally call motorcycle taxi drivers in Rwanda, have good fortunes.
The duo separately gave me a ride to Kibeho from Huye Taxi Park on August 14th and 15th.
“The cost for a ride is much higher than usual because there’re many passengers and we’re busy all day long,” said Mayimana who added he had felt some sympathy for me to charge Rwf3000 for a one-way travel.
“Otherwise for more than a week ago passengers have been paying between Rwf4, 000 and Rwf5, 000” he added.
“Can you direct me to a lodge since you stay around?”
“What? A lodge! You cannot get a room here, most pilgrims book during the previous pilgrimage whereas other book many months earlier on phone (…) they book for the next pilgrimage as they sign out of the rooms,” Mayimana replied and nobly accepted to book a room for me in November.
This Kigali-Huye-Matyazo-Kibeho route [approx. 162Km] is the shortest, a reason for the heavy traffic. The other routes a visitor can use are Kigali-Huye-Cyahinda-Ndago-Kibeho and Kigali-Huye-Gikongoro-Rwamiko-Kibeho which are 190Km and 196Km respectively.
Aside from a slight difference in the fares pilgrims cannot escape lethargy whatever route they choose to use. The dry season, scorching sun and the dusty snaking roads that lead to Kibeho are some of the factors that made this year’s pilgrimage memorable [read hectic] for most pilgrims much as they could not miss news that was spreading like a bush fire during the celebrations about a government plan to tarmac the Huye-Matyazo-Kibeho. I overheard it, also.
A few minutes past 2pm as my search for Fr. Masaba John of God had intensified, I met a group of Burundian pilgrims who said they had started off from Kigali on foot four days before. What a rare demonstration of faith, I thought to myself. Seated at the spacious and spotless shade of Kibeho Convent’s restaurant, rosaries in their hands, their faces had turned grey with visible fatigue. A thought one question would be just okay for them. “Who are you and where are you from?”
“We are a Burundian community who started our pilgrimage from Kigali four days ago, we walked all the way and we have just reached here,” said a light skinned young man in his thirties, who was in short interval doing justice to 1.5litre mineral water bottle.
Though the bus companies plying these routes never increased, the bus ticket that goes for Frw2, 750 to Huye and another one at Rwf1500 from Huye to Kibeho sold like hot cakes a reason for many opting to use a much more expensive mode of transport, the motorcycle taxi. “Pilgrims and passengers book days earlier,” said a cute lady behind the counter of Horizon Booking offices at Huye Bus Park.
Dealers in religious paraphernalia and food encounter good fortune
Food was virtually more expensive than it is in Kigali city, a reason why some pilgrims carried their own food. I bought a small bunch of yellow bananas at Frw1000 that goes for Frw600 in Kigali. That was my lunch on the eve of the Assumption of Mother Mary.
Sellers of religious paraphernalia like rosaries, crosses and books on the literature on the apparition displayed all over the place were happy and busy. “The Fascinating Story of Kibeho –Mary’s Prophetic Tears in Rwanda” was one of the titles that made big sales.