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Feeling the Tondeka Bus pulse in Kampala

by Editorial Team
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By Titus Kakembo                                                                                                

Time check is 8:00 am and I am at the Ntinda Bus Stage by the Mosque. There are other passengers waiting for the new mass transit Tondeka (Do not leave me) bus service. After five minutes it slides to a halt and those on board disembark. 

“Well come on board,” mutters the brown-textured lady attendant by the door. She is smiling from ear to ear. Her voice would make popular Azawi a none starter in vocals excellence.

“Fasten your seat belt,” she later cautions me.

I tell her I do not know how to do it. She demonstrates this by running her palms around her waist. This is when I noticed her wasp waistline of not more than 28 inches.

“The belt will hold you in place, in case of a sudden halt given the swerving Boda Bodas and reckless Kamunyes,” she volunteers an explanation.

In eight minutes the Tondeka’s engine coughs to life again. Next to me is a man, not younger than my mother, wolfing snacks. Then on the other side is a lad wearing a baseball cap and Nike sneakers. He node to rap music accessed through plugged earphones. He is chewing gum.

The bus attendant and the driver waiting for passengers for five minutes before going round the city again. Photo by Titus Kakembo

The first stop is at Small Gate, then Nakawa Market, The New Vision, Uganda Management Institute, BAT, Ku Yadi, Esso Corner, Charm Towers, Radio One, and Constitution Square.

The Tondeka fare is comparably pocket friendly at sh1000. The Kamunye  (minibusses) and Boda Boda charge sh3000 and sh5000, respectively to shuttle one to Kampala City’s Central Business District (CBD.)

Another plus is discovering that this wonder bus is an environmentalist’s dream come true. For a start, it is well lit by natural light through the large glasses and solar powered by a battery.

Better still, on a vantage back seat, I saw no fast-fingered pickpocket at work among the 85 passengers, My rack sack zips and straps were not ripped open throughout the journey.

Free Wifi keeps passengers on Tondeka buried on their Smart Phones. Photo by Titus Kakembo

Instead of the usual “Mu Maso Awo”(Halt there) hollering, one has to press a button to alert the driver.

As that is not enough, the patriot in me could not resist a virtual hug to the brains of the engineers who manufactured Tondeka in Uganda by Kira Motors.

Going back home

Come at 4:00 pm and civil servants, and city dwellers are seen at the Pioneer Mall stage. There Tondeka competes for space with Awakula Enume bus destined for Gayaza. Other service providers are Kamunyes and Boda Bodas who cannot disguise their emotions.

“Easy Bus came with a similar bang – Is not leaving us here” hollered a driver. This was as two passengers disembarked from the Kamunye and opted for Tondeka.

“Time will tell,” the tout resigns calling the deserting passengers.

A Tondeka bus one cannot ignore while in Kampala City. Photo by Titus Kakembo

Street preachers who often snuggle into buses to hawk the word of God, snacks, medicine, and Viagra vendors are prohibited from disturbing the peace of commuters. The journey back to Ntinda is more dramatic and optically nutritious.

While on board, a casual glance at the profiles of passengers is a revelation of youths and middle-aged ones. Some are clutching shopping bags, books, and Smart Phones. Above the dashboard is a reminder reading – Free Wifi.

Those surfing are not listening to the news but taping feet or clicking their fingers to the music. Another lad bursts into laughter as he watches a Tik Tok video.  Pretty young girls use mobile phones as mirrors to retouch their eye shadows, lipstick/gloss, and perfume.

The journey cruises smoothly from Pioneer Mall to Wandegeya save for ear-assaulting hoots from inpatient road users. The silence, on board, is broken by a loud voice “Mu maso awo” (There I disembark) at Bashir Secondary School.

The driver responds by politely begging them to be patient until he gets a parking space.

There are dreadlocked girls with bodies having a revolution to free themselves from tight frocks. One would be excused to think there was a beauty contest on Tondeka.

A look behind is a revelation of saloons, and motorbikes like nsenenene (grasshoppers) in the season as pedestrians compete for space to get to their destinations. For sh2000 I had a ride around Kampala City and saw different pulses in Wandegeya, Ninda, and down town.

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