Heading to ‘Utakah,’ one of the leading local picnic spots is not for the fainthearted! It can make you have second thoughts about bothering your long weekend sleeps or movies.
The potholed dusty road on the left side of the Adventist University in Masoro is unbearable. But trust me when I say that you would even walk for hours just to have a memorable day, given how promising the spot’s Instagram pictures look.
It is not like we haven’t been disappointed by Instagram pictures before, but there is always hope to have an equally good time.
This time, it was different. I wasn’t going to a bar, or to the beach. Neither was I going to a concert. But I had to dress up so I could travel kilometres only to sit on grass! This was a plain thought I had before laying eyes on the beautiful picnic spot.
Before you reach Utakah, the slope looks ‘suspicious,’ like one was heading to an unheard of place or some farm, but not a place to have fun, at least not conventionally.
Before entering, all you can see from outside the brick fence that shelters it are banana and macadamia trees. But everything gets better when the white gate is opened!
It is all green, and yet simple and beautiful. The cutlery and wine glasses at the low boho picnic tables were shining. Everything looked organised; from the pillows to the blankets that separated the grass and a table full of well-cut fruits and sprinkle donuts, among others, obviously.
The scene alone is worth the hustle. But the time spent under the trees with the sun rays passing through the leaves, birds singing, and food is what was so amazing.
I had gone with a group of other women with whom we had been planning the picnic for some days. So, when it was time for us to take a group photo, we called one of the waiters to help us. But she said she wasn’t sure about her photography skills, but would tell someone else to help us.
And so a young looking man came. He looked so down to earth and without speaking much, he took pictures and went about his business, probably in the kitchen, and said we can call him if we need more pictures.
Kitenge Decor makes the picnic scene look amazing.
The 24 year old- who I later learnt to be the owner of Utakah, is called Christian Rutiyomba, and his business journey is definitely one for motivational speakers, except he wouldn’t be exaggerating or dreaming.
This picnic spot itself has seen change, just like Rutiyomba’s business journey. It used to be a place for his chicken farm which failed, until he decided to grow green paper, and then tree tomatoes.
The man even tried movie making and live event planning, but nothing felt more fulfilling, even financially, than picnic planning.
“At first, it wasn’t picnics. We were more into live events centred on live music, but then it wasn’t as popular. It was really mundane; everybody can do that. So I had a constraint of a brand, because people couldn’t trust me if there were plenty others they could. I thought of something innovative, that hasn’t been created before, so I gave my events a theme, and the theme came to be picnics,” Rutiyomba said.
That’s how Utakah was born. He explains that the word is derived from ‘ubutaka,’ Kinyarwanda for ‘ground’.
I commend his courage; it was a risky business, because some may even deem sitting on the grass untidy, or even wonder why one needs to go outdoors to have their food.
Some may think beautiful gardens are to be looked at and not stepped in. But it is only a pity that, with all the efforts to make Kigali green, we only admire it with our eyes.
Nevertheless, Rutiyomba’s Utakah may have made a mark in people’s hearts, because he has hundreds coming over every month, although clientele depends on the season. Sometimes his clients want a different location, which he does with pleasure.
“A lot of events are not personalised. If you have a concert for example, you have to plan everything yourself, and then people come or they don’t. For picnics, it is the clients who decide what they want to do,” Rutiyomba said.
He added that while the clientele isn’t that exciting, it is growing tremendously.
“It has only been two years since we started doing this, and you can see we have not even reached the peak of what we want to do yet. It is already remarkable, and it is the business I have the most plans for in comparison to others I have engaged in before,” Rutiyomba said.
Seeing how invested he is in this business, he definitely is just beginning. He plans to bring in more experiences, such as movie nights and spa days.
Rutiyomba is one of the people helping Kigalians enjoy their green environment, and the picnic culture seems to be gaining momentum.