Friday, July 22, 2011


We were pleasantly surprised that the road to the Burundi border was tarred, as we had anticipated a dirt drive out of Tanzania.  We climbed out of Kigoma looking back on the great Lake Tanginyika, and ahead towards the rolling mountains.  At the roundabout we turned towards the border and were quite confused that there was no boom across the road. So we kept riding slowly expecting to see the usual official border crossing around the corner, yet we had already driven straight past the customs and immigrations buildings!! A quick u-turn and we went to immigrations hoping the Burundi visa costs would not be too high.  Unfortunately it was going to cost us either US$90 for a tourist visa or US$40 for a transit visa – shew not what we were hoping for at all! So our options were to either fork out the money or do another 400km rough offroad riding around Burundi to the Rwanda border. Hmmm – not a very tough decision …we chose to keep to our original plan and drive through Burundi. We then went across to the Customs office where we helped the official to complete the carnets for our motorbikes – clearly this is not a very busy border crossing!  Once all the formalities were done for leaving Tanzania we entered into no-mans land across to Burundi. The road became a relatively good dirt road through thick forest and we came to another building which we assumed was the border into Burundi. A lonely official signed us into his book, and told us we should ride for 13km and then we will find the customs office and the place to purchase our transit visa.  Such an interesting border crossing – we were a little nervous travelling in a country that we hadn’t quite officially been stamped into yet! To make matters worse, we couldn’t quite figure out if we should be driving on the right or left! We knew in Rwanda we would be driving on the right, but we hadn’t done the research for Burundi! All went well when we found the customs office, our suspicions were confirmed that we should be on the right! It was great there were almost 30kids outside staring at our bikes in amazement excited to see Mzungus!

Excellent tar road leaving Rwanda

Navigating our way out of the confusing Mabanda town, we hit the tar road towards Lake Tanginyika and thoroughly enjoyed the zigzagging road down towards the lake. As the landscape levelled out towards the lake the population density increased substantially as did our concentration levels!  The towns and villages seem to link into one as the number of people, bicycles, motorbikes, busses livestock etc on the side of the road never stopped. We passed a fishing village with all the boats docked in the informal harbour and from here the road hugged the lake exposing beautiful beaches and clear blue water.  It reminded us a lot of the coastal road we had driven in in the Cape, Chapmans Peak.  When we weren’t riding close to the water the landscape was filled with banana plantations or crammed villages with houses and people.  At one point a rooster decided to run across the road between the two bikes and Teeny nearly killed it – who knows how it survived or where it ran too! 

Informal fishing harbour outside one of the villages

Such a beautiful drive along Lake Tanginyika

We arrived in Bujumbura late afternoon and went searching for a bank as we didn’t have any local currency.  This is the first country we have found difficulty in finding an ATM to draw money from even though they claim to be visa friendly.  We were directed to the bank called Interbank that we would be able to get money from. Somehow we managed to find the place after driving up and down the main road looking for some hotel which should be on the corner – it wasn’t! Great African travel directions! Finally money in pocket we searched for our accommodation that night. As we drove into Mathy Lodge a guy came up to us rather excited to see ND number plates.  He is originally from Burundi but his wife and child live in Durban.  He has his own business which involves buying cars in Durban and driving them through to Burundi to sell.   We asked him about a place to eat, and he said we should shower and change and then he would take us somewhere.  That was the quickest shower we had had, quite excited to get some food in our bellies.  We jumped in his car and he took us through the centre of Bujumbura to a great little restaurant behind a petrol station and car wash.  After that we were so lucky to get a tour of the town.  Unfortunately as we thought we were just going to eat, we forgot to take our cameras with us so don’t have any pictures of the great places we saw.  Our first stop was at a place near the lake.  Every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday people gather at this spot to exercise.  There must have been 300 people with 3 instructors doing an aerobics class, it looked like so much fun! Then we went to a waterfront restaurant and bar where we looked out onto the Lake at hippos munching in the water and across the lake the Congo mountains in the distance.  From there we headed on the road towards the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) border to another beachfront bar restaurant.  He explained to us that this place is a big party spot on weekends with people swimming, lounging and enjoying the great sunshine! If only we had been there on a weekend!! With the tour over, we headed back to the lodge for a good nights rest.

Our new friends who showed us around Bujumbura

Bicycles catching a ride (check the concrete blocks the guy on the right has to watch out for!)

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