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Published: July 29th 2013
Stanley-Livingstone rock is named so because at this place the explorers Henry Morton Stanley and David Livingstone met on November 25 1871
David Livingstone spent years trying to find the source of the Nile. He should have taken this tour instead
All official travel recommendations say that Burundi is not safe outside Bujumbura. We spoke with some locals and realised that the foreign ministry is exaggerating the dangers a bit. We decided to take a calculated risk and leave the capital for a while and see a bit more of the country.
If you wish to travel around in Burundi local transport is unfortunately not of much use. Many places can’t be reached on regular buses. One way or another you need to have you own wheels to get around. Rent a car and drive yourself is possible of course but for us that was never an alternative. We took a tour that included a driver and a guide. It wasn’t that much more expensive than if we had done it all by ourselves and by taking a tour we could be much more relaxed and enjoy the visit. Also, at least one place we went to on this tour, a village populated with Batwa People, we would not have been able to go to without taking a
View over hilly Burundi
Views like these were common. In the wet season it is said to be even better because then the air is clearer
We were lucky to get in contact with Akeza Discovery Tours
on the day we arrived. Lucky we say because they could with short notice custom make a tour for us including just the places we wanted to visit, a tour that even included two places they had never visited before but they added because we especially asked them to take us there.
We started the tour at Rusizi National Park just north of Bujumbura. The park runs along a stretch of the Rusizi River, which also serves as a border between Burundi and Congo. Bird watching is the big drawing card in this park but other wildlife, such as hippos and crocodiles, can also be seen. We left the park disappointed though because bird watching is not our favourite pastime.
Upon leaving Rusizi National Park we had the only incident during the entire trip, a flat tire. We were so happy then that we had decided to take a tour rather than driving ourselves. Instead of having to change the tire ourselves, a task that was quite difficult because the dirt road in the park was not suitable for jacking a
Rusizi National Park
Of the wildlife hippos and crocodiles can be seen. This is closest we came to any croc. We think he looks cute
car, the driver and the guide took care of it.
South of Bujumbura we visited the Stanley-Livingstone rock. It is named so because at this place the explorers Henry Morton Stanley and David Livingstone met on November 25 1871. Note that this is not the famous first meeting between the two gentlemen, because that meeting to place two weeks earlier in what today is Tanzania. But Stanley and Livingstone also met each other at this place and at the site today there is a big rock with the their names and the date when they were there.
Further down the shores of Lake Tanganyika we first made a short stop at Blue Bay Resort, a place where we had a swim in the lake and a cup of good coffee, and then we went on to the fishing village Rumonge.
In Rumonge we stopped down by the beach where all the fishermen hang around during the day. Not only fishermen hang around there, also their children run around there playing in the sand and the water. When we arrived the kids’ attention was turned from whatever they played with at the
Rusizi National Park
Bird watching is the big drawing card in this park
moment to us. Two Mzungos (which means white people, foreigners or travellers) walking on the beach is much more interesting than anything else. They were nice and they more than happy to let us take photos of them so we didn’t mind the attention.
After we left Rumonge we went to the city Rutama where we stayed for the night.
Day two of our tour in Burundi started with a visit at the source of the Nile. We prefer to say one of the sources of the Nile since there are several ones around. There isn’t just one source of the Nile, there must be hundreds. However, in Burundi they have the southernmost known source of the Nile and that is where we went. The source used to be a natural spring coming out of the rock. But later the outlet was fitted with a tube and there were basins added so today it looks like a tap in a swimming pool.
Not far from the source of the Nile there is a place called Muhveza where there is a hot spring. They have built a little dam around the spring
What would MacGyver do?
Flat tire on a soft dirt road is a bad combination. MacGyver would have fixed it somehow. We didn't have to because the driver and the guide fixed it for us
and thus have created a little pool with hot water which was absolutely wonderful to soak the body in.
The next stop on the tour was Karera Waterfalls. While we visited the Karera Waterfalls an armed guard walked with us the whole time. The waterfalls are located in a slightly remote area and are visited by a steady stream of tourists. We don’t know for sure but our guess is that tourists have been robbed here before and that the authorities therefore have put guards at the location to prevent it from happening again.
The final stop of the tour on day two was one of the special requests from us, Mahonda Coffee Washing Station. In Burundi they grow a lot of coffee and recently coffee from Mahonda has been praised as being especially good. Just because we could we went to Mahonda to see the station. Last year we went on a tour to a coffee plantation in Costa Rica. This stop was much more interesting and more fun. They showed us the station and explained what they do when the plantations deliver the coffee and how the various processes work.
Along Lake Tanganyika there are several fishing villages
After Mahonda CWS we went to the city Gitega where we stayed for the night.
The day after we had hoped to visit a coffee “factory” nearby. However they were in the middle of an upgrade on their machines and could therefore not allow visitors that particular day so that visit had to be cancelled. But we never wanted to see anything but Mahonda CWS, the coffee factory was only a bonus thrown in by the tour company, so we weren’t the least disappointed with that.
We then went on with the tour to a town called Gitega and the museum there. The exhibitions in the museum were on history and culture and local customs in Burundi. The museum was interesting and well worth a visit.
After that we went to a place called Imana Cave. That was the second place that we requested to be included in the tour and that the tour company previously didn’t know about. On our map it said that there was cave and that it was called Imana Cave. We expected a traditional cave, a long dark tunnel that goes into a mountain. However,
it turned out to be something totally different. Different but still interesting. The tour guide knew of the place, there is a monastery there which among Burundians also is a popular pilgrimage site, but had not visited it himself. To find the cave the guide decided to go to the monastery first and ask for directions. The nun at the monastery explained the story of the cave. The monastery has ties to pilgrimage site the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes in the town Lourdes in southern France. The most sacred place in the site in France is a cave where a young girl claims to have had visions where she had met Virgin Mary or, as the guide called her, Jesus’ mum. Many Burundians can not make a trip to France and visit Our Lady of Lourdes themselves. So at the monastery they have built their own version of the cave in France. So the cave we found on the map is not a real cave at all. It is a manmade cave. That was quite fun to see actually. Real caves we have seen plenty of before but this is the first fake cave we have seen!
Tables where they dry their catch
The final stop of the tour was Bugarama Village, a village inhabited by Twa People or Batwa People. The Twa People are sometimes referred to as Pygmy People. That is not entirely true because they are shorter than average Burundians but they are not short enough to qualify as Pygmy. Pygmy People are a tribe or group of people where the average height of the men in lower than 150 cm. The Twa People are taller than that and should therefore be called Pygmoid.
The people in Bugarama Village are very poor. They live in simple huts or simple houses and many of the grown-ups are illiterate. We were given a small tour of the village where they let us see what a home in the village can look like, we saw the school and met the children who go there and the women in the village showed how they make pottery and gave us a little dance show at the same time. We recorded a short video of the dance show. You can see that video here
While being on this tour in Burundi we decided to record a few
Children in Rumonge Village
When we arrived the kids’ attention was turned from whatever they played with at the moment to us. Two Mzungos walking on the beach is much more interesting than anything else.
videos of things that we saw on the way. The first video shows people walking along the road we are driving on. We only want to show what a typical road might look like and at the same time show a glipse of ordinary people. Note that many people carry bags and stuff on their heads.
Burundi is a very hilly country. To ride a bicycle in Burundi must be hard work. To avoid the hard work that riding a bicycle in the hills leads to many people hitch a ride with trucks. That must be very dangerous. One hole in the road, and there are plenty of holes in Burundian roads, could lead to people getting seriously injured or killed
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