It is Friday morning and the long awaited day has arrived. A contingent of about 150 rugby fans will accompany the Rugby Cranes to Kisumu for the first leg of the Elgon Cup against Kenya. The mood is vibrant as fans arrive one after the other for the annual trip. It is the first time the tie will be played in Kisumu after Nairobi hosting the last 14. The trip debutants keenly lend an ear to the seasoned travellers, getting a grip of what transpires on the epic weekend.
Beer and rugby are cousins, the ideally six-hour trip could not go down without some pints. Thanks to the Rugby Cranes official sponsors who foot the bill of drinks. More fans board at a cool Shs250,000 per head.
At around 10am, the last group boards and by this time, Eddie Kiwanuka, the troop leader is preaching the gospel of the significance of travel documents and most importantly the yellow fever card. History has taught him that without the two, one is bound to get stuck at the Uganda- Kenya border. The bus engine gets running just like the loud music with cheers from every corner of the bus. Off to Kisumu.
Fun on bus
Travellers are familiar with each other from the small rugby circle. The journey starts as we head for Jinja Road while the beer keeps flowing, almost more than half of the passengers have a bottle in hand. All sorts of songs, cheers and banter exchanged and with the brown bottle in the mix, a few souls keep crossing the line only to be kept at bay.
After about 30 minutes on the road, the revellers yearn to stop for short calls and the driver responds positively without an idea that it is going to become a song. Luckily, the next stop comes at Najjembe, where meat lovers will be treated, not forgetting the beer benders.
After the treat, the engines roar on once again with a few more susu breaks until we get to the border. Unlike previous years where a few have been deemed ineligible to enter Kenya for various reasons, it is all systems clear this time and the next act will be changing currency to Kenya Shilling. At the border, fans refresh once again and also get the chance to stretch after hours of sitting.
The journey continues with more beer, banter, cheers and all kind of noise. The bus is like a moving bar. It is just 8pm and the destination is not faraway but the unpopular susu breaks will see us arrive at midnight, turning a six-hour journey into one of more than 10 hours.
Kisumu is here
In Kisumu, Everest House Hotel, will be our home. It is a middle class setting that goes for about $35 (approx Shs 126,000) bed and breakfast. After checking-in, barely does anyone rest but refresh and seek the Kisumu night life which takes us to Club Signature.
From there, we shall pick up from where we stopped on the bus, the music, the beer with the extra luxury of dancing room.
By 5am, everyone has had enough and it is time to retreat back to the hotel but there is a problem. Not everyone can be found and we have no option but to leave and luckily they find their way back.
As early as 7am on Saturday the match day atmosphere fills the hotel as we whip out our black, yellow and red costumes, the vuvuzelas and flags. We are all looking forward to the game.
After breakfast, the bus sets off for Mamboleo Showground, a few minutes away, where the game will take place. Our distinct attire draws attention from our Kenya counterparts who quickly have something to sing to us as we throw some back.
At about 1pm and the women’s game has kicked off but something is frustrating. The Ugandan fans cannot drink beer as the law in Kenya has it that no one is to indulge before 4pm.
They cut dejected figures in the stands as the Lady Cranes go down 43-13. But by the time the big one kicks off, a familiar sight of bottles moving up and down resurfaces just in time to psyche support that eventually guides Uganda to a 16-13 victory in Kenya. The result calls for more elation as we head back to Club Signature, this time with our heroes who delivered the win on pitch.
By the morning, it dawns on everyone that the getaway is coming to the end. But there is one more place to visit, Kisumu landing site’s wide range fish cuisine for lunch before hitting the road.
Once everyone is fed, the buses get going and the return journey is a bit dull because of the fatigue, but a few souls are forced to light it up in similar fashion to the reverse journey.
It is a slow and more comfortable one as everyone gets time to narrate their Kisumu experience. Fans, one by one, hop off the bus as it returns to Kyadondo where Kiwanuka has one last word. “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!”