If anyone had told us last year that Naija Nomads will be EXPERIENCE CURATORS, curating group trips to green passport friendly destinations, our response would have been “shut the front door!”. But here we are, back from an amazing trip to an unlikely destination, Rwanda. When we put out calendar for the year, we were very skeptical and uncertain that people will trust us enough to travel with us. It’s one thing to curate trips within the country. It’s another to fly people out to an unknown destination and be responsible for them. We let fear creep in.
We got a total of eight sign ups for the trip out of which we only knew one person, Ebere. This worried us a little as we did not know what sort of characters our nomads will possess. We all hope for the best participants on every trip but sometimes life just gives you certain people to test your patience. No jokes! We even judged some of them without knowing them. You know how you judge people based on their instagram profile or one conversation you’ve had with them over the phone? Yes, we did that, lol. Will they be divas? Will they be spoilsports? Will they go with the flow? Will they be cooperative?
With all modesty in our hearts, our nomads were EXCELLENT! Human beings have their issues but overall we were very impressed with everyone. They were extremely cooperative (side eye to those who refused to hike), never fussy and just went with the flow, literally. They were open to having the full Rwandan experience riding on motor taxis, public buses and wooden boats! They even accused us of taking them to posh restaurants. They wanted to try a Rwandan local joint. We are lucky for the opportunity to curate a one of a kind experience for them. We had the best group of people on this trip, no fights broke out, and we are thankful for that.
It took us over two months to actively plan this trip (inactive planning begun in February) and when you plan something for two months you expect it to be nothing far from perfect right? Wrong! We still faced some hurdles, which are extremely funny now. They gave the whole experience flavor and we would not change it for anything! So here are some behind the (social media) scenes from NOMADS IN RWANDA
1. THE BUNK BED DEBACLE: After scanning through booking.com for weeks, we settled and paid for 5 double rooms at Yambi guest house in Kigali. We went through so many phone calls and email exchanges. Sending money to Kigali was the most frustrating experience. First of, our cards got declined and we didn’t realize till a week later. We tried to send money via the Western Union/Money Gram option. As luck will have it Western Union and Money gram was irresponsive in Nigeria that day. Someone in America had to send part payment to them on our behalf. All this to ensure our accommodation was secure.
We arrived the guesthouse late on Thursday evening and the receptionist on duty could only speak Kinyarwanda. Thankfully Thomas and Patrick (our cabbies) were still with us and they helped us translate. Then the bombshell…some of their guests had overstayed and they only had 4 rooms left, one was a room with 4 bunk beds! How do we take adults all the way from Lagos to Kigali, promise them the time of their lives and accommodate them on bunks? It’s so funny now, but it was not funny then. The manager we had been in touch with was nowhere to be found, we had threatened fire and brimstone i.e bad reviews on booking.com and tripadvisor. Yambi had the best reviews in these platforms 9.3 out of 10 and we angrily wondered how (we discovered how later, Thank you Yambi!). We had said their perfect score would not be perfect anymore, see whatsapp message (threat) below, hahaha.
We had offered the nomads a move to another hotel but they were too tired to be bothered. Yambi promised we would be moved to our proper rooms the next day so we unanimously agreed to stay back. It was the right decision as Yambi and its people( Judy and Linda) turned out to be the best hosts. Those reviews were not lies. They helped us with everything, mapping out our journeys, restaurant suggestions, club options e.t.c. They had an awesome breakfast spread and the place helped us bond! Judy and Linda totally deserve all the credit they get.
COMMENTS: We learnt a valuable lesson. A little bit of patience goes a long way and don’t be shy to ask your participants how they feel. We were so mad we did not get what we paid for forgetting the whole point of being there in the first place. We chose Yambi because it gave you a home away from home feeling. To be honest, but for the nomads, we would have moved to another place. We are happy the move did not happen :).
2. THE UNLUXURIOUS LUXURIOUS BUS: We had the perfect itinerary (no jokes). Our itinerary was so good that when we sent it out to the nomads we got responses like “OMG, this is such a well planned out trip”, “It’s obvious so much details went into the planning and I cannot wait to explore Rwanda with you”, “Exciting times in Rwanda I can’t wait” and so on. But an itinerary is just a guide and nothing is set in stone. We had booked a nice bus (or so we thought) to take the nomads all over Kigali for the city tour and the tour was to start at 10.00am. That morning, we get a call saying that our ride was ready. We step out and see two cabs! Two cabs how??? It made no sense as we had a tour guide who was supposed to tell us stories along the way. This will never work with two cabs. We called our contact for transportation, Thomas, and asked him why we had two cabs instead of one bus. Apparently, he had given us a price for the bus and the time of picking the bus up, they told him another price. He felt he could not go back on his words. In order to save us money he decided two cabs was cheaper for us. Thomas is such a sweet old man. Sweet, but not very practical for a group trip. We explained to him why this would not work and he had to get us the bus. This took an additional 3 hours and the bus that came was farrrrr from what we expected! In our hearts, we were like “OMG what is this bus” but guess what? The nomads had no care in the world (see why we say they are the best haha). We went on our city tour and everyone was happy. We could not visit some places because we were behind schedule but we were still happy.
COMMENT: Happiness is contagious. Once everyone is in high spirits, you’ll have a great trip. People overlook a lot of things when they are happy. Do not sweat the small stuff; chances are your participants might not even think it’s a big deal.
3. THE SHIRT SAGA: This should be number one because it happened pre-trip. So we had sent out emails to all the nomads asking for their tee sizes. We wanted to make them custom tees with their names at the back. Cool right? We contracted a branding company; Magnum Stitches and they offered to make our tees for free! Whoop, one more expense not on us. Tuesday before the trip the tees come in and half of them are big! Like the sizes are male sizes. A male large is significantly different from a female large. This was our error, as we did not specify if male or female. We could not go back to them, as this was a freebie. We had to look for someone that could deliver in 24 hours. We found a printer, sent him the names and he delivered right before our take off. Everything was great…or so we though. One of the Nomads opened her box and her tee had someone else’s name. Lmao! Thankfully she did not make a fuss and when it was time for the group photo, she “wore” the Nigerian flag.
COMMENT: We love you Uzoma, thank you for not making a big deal out of it. She did not say “Nigerian businesses and their not paying attention to detail”. Human beings run Nigerian businesses and human beings make mistakes too :).
4. COMMUNICATION PALAVER: Almost everywhere we went, we encountered one communication issue or another. A lot of Rwandans speak English but we underestimated the amount of non-English speakers. Most of them speak French, Kinyarwanda and Swahili. The ones that speak a little English might not understand you so you need to speak slowly, clearly and add some hand gestures too. Like on our way to Gisenyi from Kigali, we told the bus driver we were going to Gisenyi and he murmured some inaudible thing. We knew we were screwed. We called our Gisenyi contact, Benjamin, who asked to speak to someone on the bus. He later told us Gisenyi was the last stop and we had no worries of getting lost. Phew!
We also had our fair share of miscommunication with Benjamin. The day after we landed Kigali, we told him we had arrived and will be in Gisenyi the next day around 2.00pm. Our conversation went something like this:
“Hi Benjamin, its Naija Nomads. We have arrived in Rwanda”
“Hello madam, thank you so much for calling. I cannot wait to receive you and your team”.
“Thank you Benjamin. So as discussed, we will be in Gisenyi tomorrow around 2pm. We will be taking the RITCO bus from Kigali. However, we will call you before we leave so you can estimate our arrival which should be three hours from departure”
“Ok madam. See you later”.
*end of conversation *
Six hours later we get a call from Benjamin. He had been waiting at the bus station since 2.00pm!!! Oh my! Poor dude assumed we were coming to Gisenyi that day. We had to apologize to him and explain that our trip to Gisenyi was the next day. Guess what he did? He sent a text to apologize to us. What a gem! He was everyone’s favourite on this trip. FYI if ever you are in Gisenyi, Benjamin is your guy!
COMMENT: If we had this issue with a tour guide in Nigeria, we would have probably argued endlessly on who said what or who did not hear correctly. Being courteous and kind doesn’t hurt especially if you are providing a service.
5. THE NOT SO PERFECT ITINERARY: On our itinerary, we were scheduled to learn how to weave traditional Rwandan Baskets! Basket weaving was cancelled and it hurt us sooo bad. This was something we (organizers) were looking forward to. Assumption is such a bad thing and we urge you to always call to make sure. Its funny we say this because prior to leaving Lagos, we had called and enquired about all the places we were going to visit. When we got to the Nyamirambo Women’s Center, our hearts got crushed as they told us they were closed for the Muslim holidays! While we were busy fretting about it, the nomads did not even notice basket weaving was out of the itinerary. They just went with the flow and shopped instead.
COMMENT: Please do not forget to make those calls to ensure everything goes well! If we knew Nyamirambo would be closed for the holidays we would have definitely moved it to another day. Ah well, we live to weave Rwandan baskets another day.
6. THE HUNG OVER CABBIE: Our last night in Kigali was amazing! We planned a “farewell” dinner for the nomads at the famous hotel Rwanda. Everyone was decked up so nicely in their black attire! We headed to the Panorama restaurant and the night went really well; with some of us unable to eat the food on the menu.
Patrick had been acting weird and we were quite worried about him. However, he promised us he would be at the Hotel on time to pick us up for the airport. Our flight was at 9.00am and for the first time everyone was dressed and ready at 6.30am. We called Patrick for over 45 minutes non stop and by the time we realized he was not coming, we had to get Linda to book us another cab. Patrick’s cab was extremely comfortable and it seats 6-7 people but the cabs that arrived were regular cars that seat 4 people. Comfort was the least of our problems at that moment as we had to get to the airport! We were a few minutes shy of 8.00am. Without any care in the world, we squashed ourselves up in the two cabs and ended up paying a 10,000RWF fine for over loading the cab; We really didn’t care at that point. We paid, rushed in to the airport right in time for our bags to get checked in and board! Phew! And of course one of our bags did not get in on time. We got to Lagos only to find out Emeka’s bag was left behind in Kigali! Thankfully, he was able to retrieve it the next day.
COMMENT: The first thing to do in a new city is to get a cab company’s number. Get two if possible and if uber works, just get on uber! We were too trusting of Patrick- I mean,he always showed up and didn’t think to get someone else’s contact. Also, if your cab guy doesn’t show up at most two hours to your flight, call another cab. We waited till the last minute [about an hour to go] to get another cab to the airport and we literally rushed our lives out plus who knows?!- maybe that’s why Emeka’s bag got stuck.
So there you have it! The not so glamorous tales, which made our trip so worth it. This trip is extremely important to us, as it has launched something called “THE GREEN PASSPORT MOVEMENT”. The movement will see us curate experiences to destinations Nigerians can go with ease. By ease we mean visa on arrival, visa free or easy visa destinations. We will explain this movement in detail much later.
For our giveaway, we want you to guess two destinations we will be exploring for the movement. All you have to do is leave a comment on the blog, follow the blog as well as all our social media handles; Instagram: @naijanomads, twitter: @naijanomads.
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