Burundi

Time to catch up. So, how does it go, traveling in and out of Burundi these days. Its actually connected with some fun and adventure but except for the fact that it was raining while crossing the Rwandan-Burundian border, everything went smoothly. So, start by picking a bus in Kigali, if you travel on the weekend, you’ll preferably want to buy the ticket at least 24h in advance, as they can be quickly booked out. I took the Belvedere leaving from UTC but I assume there are others. Its a surprisingly comfortable bus, but as always, storage room underneath was limited, which then of course ended up in stuffing every free space inside, namely the aisles with luggage. My backpack was stored, well, you could call it squeezed behind the drivers seat. And off we went, leaving on time (really!!) at 7am to reach Bujumbura around 2pm. As already mentioned the only hassle at the border was the pouring rain and we had to walk from the signing out to the signing in post. I payed $20 for the Burundian visa, assuming its for the usual couple of weeks. Not that they were giving any information. Be reminded that here as well (as all over East Africa as I found out by now) only Dollar bills printed after 2003 are accepted. This still leaves me with the one $20 note that I brought from Germany). We reached Bujumbura around the scheduled time, with nothing exciting happening on the way. The country side is beautyful. Landscape wise similar to Ruanda, but since the population seems to live somewhere welse, most hills are not converted to farmland but still have forrest and grasland. People here are much poorer then in Rwanda, as you can see as well with how they carry their goods. Unlike everywhere else, containers are still selvemade, from bamboo or some other kind of grassy material. Bujumbura is a great town. You can easyly some days here, which you will need if you want to find out the best way to get from here to Tanzania. It feels very safe but you should take taxis to get around after 8pm. So, trying to get option ONE, the then preferred way by boat. There are cargo boats leaving from Bujumbura to Kigoma (Tanzania) and apparantly its possible to get a place there. Asking at the harbour though didn’t help a lot. I got reffered to an office, where an old sign from 2000!!! said, that it’s not longer allowed to take passengers. Welcome to Africa, we are up to date!. Apparently there is a ‘Batrac’ office (or sounding similar) somewhere in the city but I didn’t find it. So forward to option TWO, a direct bus to Kigoma. “Doesn’t exist” as I was told apparently because the busses from Burundi don’t meassure the Tanzanian standards. Haha, has anyone seen the Tanzanian busses? They come with their own technicans, as they breakdown so frequently. But that’s another story. I guess there is just not enough traffic or interest in traveling between Tanzania and Burundi these days to have busses going all the way through. So, stuck there as well. Luckily I heard of option number THREE. Taking a bus to Nyanza lac, from there, getting somehow (either by Taxi, velo taxi or somekind of transportation) to the border and from there taking either several busses or lake taxis to Kigoma. Didn’t sound so bad after all and definetly like adventure. So, it turned out busses going to Mabando, via Nyngza Lac are the better option, as closer to the border. There are two companies in Bujumbura, I took the Makambo express. Since the bus to Mabando left 1:30 later then the Nyanza Lac one I had plenty of time to find the best seat in this actually quiet nice bus (somewhat bigger then a minibus, backpack stored in the back. There was still plenty of room at departure time (It was a bus for 18 people). And then the order, everyone out of bus, into an other, minibus sized one. Ah, so this is how they do it, if the bus isn’t full, you just take a smaller one, so it appears full. This bus had 18 seats as well, but each of them only half teh size as the ones in the previous one. So, considering our number, still comfortable. Only that the bus didn’t leave this point but still waited for passengers. Hm, You can probably guess what happend. We waited another hour until the bus was full and left for Mabando:) The waiting time however was enlivened by one guy who probably that he got a deal of a lifetime. He payed around $20 and his phone in exchange for a new Nokia phone with camera. Some dealings through the window right in front me. The sellers left and within 30sec, the guy jumped out of the already crouded bus, atop three other people and chased after the sellers. Everyone burst out laughing because apparently he had bought a toy phone wich if lucky could show the time and be used as alarm clock. Great!!

And off we went, reaching Mabando at a very good time. From there I took a taxi, shared with others to reduce costs. So the priced question, how many people fit into a Corolla I think it was. Right, 7,  four in the back, two in the front seat and the driver. You sign out of Burundi, drive maybe 18km through dirt roads, with refugee camps on the way, before signing in in Tanzania. Signing out turned out to be a bit more complicated then expected, as I hadn’t kept the receipt for the visa. And then appartently the visa was only valid for three days (transit) and I had stayed five. So, paying another $20 should do the trick, only that the only $ bills left were a brand new $100 wich the guy couldn’t change and the old $20. So after some arguing and offering Euros we agreed on the deal “the old $20 and a new$5”. Whatever, he probably had a nice evening in the next bar. And off to signing in, which was straight forward. They even had a minibus (daladala) waiting, which left shortly after, backed with people and stuff (sacks, bags, and so on) on the ground, so basically clamp your knees behind your ears and off it goes. Only that we stopped every other meter to get more people on board. The max apparently is 25, this includes three guys standing ‘somewhere’. I should mention that daladalas have the size of a big Bulli. A police woman saw be crouched in the middle and insited on movin some luggage around (which ended at the top). At least this is what I thought she said. I only under stood ‘Muzungu’ a couple times. What a joyful ride. It’s definetly worth the experience. 5h later we reached Kigoma, stopping shortly to put the luggage from the roof back inside, as transport like this is not alloud in the city (or maybe on tar roads). Up to hear everything was red dirt.

Yup, Kigoma was reached savely. And even a nice place to stay was found, including the very first backpacker on this trip. I can definetly recommend crossing Burundi to go to Tanzania. It’s certainly safe and very rewarding.

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