Rwanda 2015 day 16, Tuesday 13 October 2015 – Alexi and Lydia.

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Alexi and Lydia

Rwanda 2015 day 16, Tuesday 13 October 2015 – Alexi and Lydia.    

Emmanuel from Metal Works is here bright and early to survey the installation. He’s happy with the shed but not with the cable run. Apparently he was expecting something like a 10 meter run and this is 40 m. Copper is a global commodity and therefore expensive for these guys. There’s a slightly tense few minutes however Rukundo offers to go halves with him on the extra cost and all is well.

We examine the incoming electrical supply and it looks fairly a straightforward wiring job. There’s an isolation switch immediately after the meter and we can pick the machine supply up from that. Emmanuel removes the cover from the isolation switch just to check it and we discover that the switch is not connected to all. It has been bypassed completely! Good job we looked.

Emmanuel will get an electrician to come and install the cabling and reconnect the isolation switch or more likely replace it as the reason it has been bypassed is almost certainly because it’s broken.

Now we need to pickup Bosco and go and check out the original cargo motorcycle from Sameer Hussein. Bosco is ready and waiting at the bottom of his hill and it’s just a short drive from there to the Sameer Hussein warehouse. We need to take Bosco as he is the only person with a motorcycle driving licence and will have to drive machine until we can train up one of the other guys. Driving licence and test rules are much the same as the UK so that’s not going to be a quick operation. To my surprise Bosco is a little apprehensive.

For some strange reason, Ramish, the warehouse manager doesn’t seem particularly interested in us this morning he sends us off to view the machine with one of his staff. We get a much better look at it and I’m generally satisfied but the guy doesn’t seem able to answer any questions. There is a low ratio gearbox but he doesn’t know whether it has differential lock.

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The Sameer Hussein Cargo motorcycle

The machine goes by the glorious title of a VTC VLX 200. I ask for a test drive but that doesn’t seem to be possible. We are directed to the head office in town for the answers to our questions.

We bid farewell to Ramish, drop Bosco off at the bottom of his hill and we head into town to the head office. Parking is a problem so Rukundo drops me off and points me in the direction of the head office building. He’ll join me when he has parked the car.

These guys are the main importers of the Motos used by the motorcycle taxi guys. There’s a queue of people waiting to be seen by a couple of people behind desks but set back in the office a little is an Indian chap perhaps in his early 30s who looks a little more managerial.

After waiting around for a while I approach the Indian gentleman and ask whether I am waiting in the right queue for a cargo motorcycle.
He is extremely helpful and says he will see me himself if I can just hang on for a minute.

Sure enough in a few minutes he invites me to sit down and introduces himself as Sameer Damji. A more elderly Indian lady he introduces as his mother. Of course it’s a family business. Damji is extremely helpful. He speaks perfect English and answers my questions comprehensively and frankly, yes there is a low ratio box and it does lock the differential.

Rukundo arrives and I introduce him. Damji asks intelligent questions about what we want the machine for and asks whether we have seen the competition and encourages us to do so. At this point I explain that I have seen the competition and have test driven it but that that didn’t seem to be possible with his machine. He looked surprised and I explain what happened at the warehouse. He is not pleased. Ramish gets an immediate phone call and whilst I couldn’t understand the words I know what a telling off sounds like in any language. Damji offers us a test drive this afternoon or tomorrow absolutely no problem. After a quick discussion with Rukundo we opt for the afternoon.

Damji explains that the machines are well built and are all very similar being designed primarily for the Indian market. We ask about the payload and he confirms that it is nominally one tonne but if we’re going to be using it on the side roads and hills it would be very sensible to limit it to 500 kg otherwise we can expect gearbox problems. He says this applies to all machines on the market and actually I believe him. We discuss how it would be best to register it. Apparently it can be done privately and used just for our own goods or it can be registered as a commercial vehicle and used for haulage. That’s more complicated and he suggests we pay a visit to the registration authorities before we decide on that route.

It’s almost lunchtime now so we thank him for his help. He offers his business card. “Managing Director” – I thought so. A useful contact.

Back home for lunch and Erika grabs the car to take the children their lunch. Chatting to Rukundo he confirms that Bosco is reticent and isn’t planning coming for the test drive this afternoon. That’s going to be tricky.

We relax until Erika returns with the car and then we’re off again back to the warehouse for the test drive. I share my concerns about a lack of driver if Bosco isn’t up for this and Rukundo decides to give Bosco another ring. I don’t know quite what he said to change his mind but Bosco agrees and we pick him up on the way.

The test drive is lots of fun. As soon as I’ve got the hang of it I let Bosco have a go. Unfortunately he does struggle. He has only ever had a motorcycle license so isn’t used to the reverse gear facility at all and there are a few near misses. I’m beginning to wonder whether this is going to end in disaster. However he is a determined chap and with some encouragement and words of advice from the local guys things begin to fall into place and it’s not long before he is reasonably confident.

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Bosco getting the hang of it

Time is getting on however and Rukundo is keen to visit the registration authorities and then we have an early dinner appointment with a young couple called Alexi and Lydia.

We drop Bosco back home, well to the bottom of his hill. Then it’s into town again to the registration authorities. It takes a little bit of finding but we manage it eventually. Rukundo tries to park in what he thinks is the official car park but the attendant stops him and points him to some on street parking. However Rukundo jumps out and asks me to park the car whilst he goes to make sure we are in the right place. I feel very trusted.

He’s back in a few minutes. We’re not quite in the right place but I’m still sat in the driving seat so he jumps into the passenger seat and directs me round the corner. Oh my goodness my first real Rwandan driving experience. Fortunately the roads are fairly quiet round here and it’s only a few hundred yards. Again Rukundo jumps out and tells me to park the car and wait for him.

15 minutes later he’s back looking very crestfallen. The official has advised him that they are considering legislation to prohibit cargo motorcycles from main roads and advises him to wait and see whether that actually happens before buying a machine. This is quite a problem for Rukundo as Erika defaults to using the car to transport the grain and is inclined to overload it and then not mind the rough roads. Rukundo is worried the car won’t stand up to it.

However it’s time for our dinner appointment. Apparently we’re not going to the couple’s home because they live about 30 miles out of town. We are meeting the in the city centre in a restaurant. Judith and Erika will make their own way. This is a complete surprise to me and I’m a little bit embarrassed as I haven’t dressed for dinner! Too late to worry about that now.

Rukundo invites me to continue driving. I don’t need asking twice. It’s great fun only there are speed humps at regular intervals and I don’t spot them easily but Rukundo is aware of them and gives me warning. He directs me to a multi-storey car park in the city centre. There are a couple of security guards at the entrance who wave us through and I drive in. The security guards get all excited and Rukundo gets me to pull up. Apparently they need to check the vehicle for bombs and I just drove straight past. Oops!

The steering lock on this big Toyota is pretty rubbish and catches me out almost at every turn in this multi-storey car park but I get it in the end. Eventually we find a parking place and Rukundo leads us into the shopping centre and finds the restaurant. It’s very smart. I mention to Rukundo that I haven’t actually got much money with me if I’m going to need to pay for this meal. He says they have invited us so no worries. I say I guess they must be quite well off then. Rukundo says he didn’t think they’re this well off.

We easily find our hosts who are relaxing in the outdoor section of the restaurant with Judith and Erika. There are warm greetings. They have been married 3 weeks and are obviously very fond of each other.

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They are very fond of each other

I excuse myself to find a loo. To my surprise there isn’t one in the restaurant itself and I am directed to a public loo in the multi-storey car park. It is however very clean. I only just managed to notice the lady sitting outside without realising what she is doing. Fortunately on my way out I notice the sign that says please pay 100 FRW (10p) to use the loo. I see, that’s what the lady is there for. I proffer my coin.

We explore the menu but I’m a little concerned as the prices are almost at UK levels. After a while I’m pleased when Rukundo suggests we choose a different restaurant which is more affordable. We make a move and I try and chat with Lydia on the way. Her English just about copes. She’s in her final year at university studying to be a laboratory technician in a hospital.

We find our other restaurant and are seated. Prices are a bit better but still quite costly for these guys. I try and find something inexpensive. Chicken and chips seems about the best I can manage. We are asked to order first and so both Judith and I opt for that. The others also order but I don’t quite understand what they have chosen.

Our meals are served and I slowly realise that all the others have just chosen a light snack. This is slightly embarrassing. Never mind it can’t be helped now.

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In the restaurant

Alexi works for an insurance company in the town where he lives and Lydia travels daily to the University in Kigali. Alexi heard about Rukundo from his radio ministry and is now a committed member of the church. Lydia has started to attend with him. They are both very interested in community and they ply us with questions about our experiences. Soon it’s nearly 8 PM and they need to catch their bus home but not before we have prayed for them in the middle of the restaurant. Rukundo runs them to the bus station and we agree to meet him at a nearby roundabout.

Erika takes us for a walk around the city. As we approach the rendezvous point a young chap walks confidently up to Judith and I and introduces himself as Malcolm and chats to us in a very friendly way. I don’t get it to start with although it doesn’t feel quite right. I’m glad Erika is here. Soon enough though the conversation turns to his difficult circumstances his wife and his small boy and wouldn’t we like to give him something. Actually, I would like to give him something, but I have a horrible suspicion this is all a story and he’s just a professional beggar preying on tourists. Eventually he gives up and Erika says I did the right thing. Rukundo appears and we head for home.

Just one more full day left and we’ve got quite a problem on our hands. Our transport plans are in serious trouble. What do we do now?

I wonder if God is actually in this. The cargo motorcycle would be very convenient but I’m not sure we can really use it cost effectively with just Bosco to drive it and it does use a lot of our capital.

I tentatively suggest this to Rukundo and say that maybe we could put the transport issue on hold and explore other options. Meanwhile that leaves us more working capital which we could use to set up Leocadie at least on a slightly smaller scale. He likes the idea.

Perhaps instead of the cargo motorcycle we could get one of the small motos which has a cargo space between the driver’s knees and are regularly used for carrying large sacks. Rukundo agrees that it is perfectly legal and might be a workable solution. They are only £500 – a quarter of the price of a cargo motorcycle. Whatever, we agree there is no option but to leave the transport issue to one side for the moment.

Meanwhile we see Deo who says he has finished the translation of the spreadsheet into French so we have a quick look at that together. It’s great.

I arrange with Rukundo that Bosco can come over in the morning and I can go through it with him now that we have a French translation. We agree 9 AM.

Off to bed.

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