After the long but rewarding ride from Kigali to Bujumbura, I settled in the little beautiful New Cayor hotel. It was affordable compared to the service it was offering. I was later informed that 2 years ago such a hotel cost about triple its current price but due to the political issues the number of visitors have reduced. The hotel pricing in a bid to attract the very few courageous tourists and business travelers lowered their costs.
The day was spent exploring the different sites in and near Bujumbura town. I got a taxi to take me around town for the entire day armed with my list of to see places I sent out. After we set off from the hotel, our first stop was the forex bureau for some Burundian francs to be able to buy some souvenirs. It is very important to me to contribute to the economy beyond hotels by buying souvenirs. This I believe is one of the ways the general population benefits from tourism.
My main reason for visiting Burundi and Bujumbura in particular was to learn about the country and the possibility of including it as a destination for Kagera Safaris. O how I love my work, I am forever thankful for what this work allows me to do. Travel and more travel which by far one of my favorite hobbies. On my list was visits to the hotels and other main tourism sites around this beautiful town. I was pleasantly surprised by this small town, there are quite a number of tour attractions in and around the city. There are also a number of beautiful hotels in Bujumbura and business was ongoing amidst the tense atmosphere because of the political issues but generally slow at the moment.
My highlights of my visit was to Muse Vivant which unfortunately is a dilapidated Zoo in Bujumbura. The building could use a new coat of paint and some warmth from the staff. The animals in the cages too did not look the best. It seems like this place was once glorious but had certainly lost this glory. However amidst all this I was thankful for a rare opportunity of touching and sitting on a crocodile. I mastered all the courage I could gather and decided to risk and experience this.
The other highlights was a visit to the monument where Livingstone met with Stanley. This is just a rock, it goes a long way to show how anything can be a tourist attraction. I also visited Louis Rwagasore Monument in the suburbs of Bujumbura. Louis was the first president of Burundi who was unfortunately assassinated within days of being announced president according to my guide. He was also a prince to the then Kingdom of Burundi. I was able to buy some unique Burundian crafts from the craft village. Lastly I visited the large local market which has anything and everything, with parking for cars to other parts of the country and those across the border.
I highly recommend you visit Bujumbura, they have beautiful beach along Lake Tanganyika with affordable hotel rates, you will be surprised by the rates of Club Du Lac Tanganyika rates. Link up with a local to take you through this beautiful capital. Remember to ask permission before you take photographs of anything and everything. I lost over 30 minutes of my time because I took photos of a catholic cathedral. According to the guard, for all they know I could have ill intentions. Even after deleting the photos he was adamant to let me go, instead he insisted I talk to the Priest who would come in later. I thought this was unnecessary but well I obliged. Otherwise explore Burundi even beyond Bujumbura, that will be on my next adventure, for now Bujumbura is all I could bite and chew.
It all started as a thought. I had heard a lot about this town set along the shores of Lake Tanganyika and I could only imagine being so close to a beach. I imagined people working in an office overlooking the lake and maybe they have lunch from which they get motivation to proceed with their work in the afternoon. When these thoughts consumed me so much coupled with several enquiries of people who would like to add Burundi to their tour of Uganda & Rwanda, I decided it was time to explore Bujumbura and Burundi. Whenever I want to include new products for Kagera Safaris, I company I privileged to own, I first visit those destinations and take part in the activities as much as is possible.
The moment I shared with some friends about my pending visit, there was quite a number of voices who did not think the timing for my visit was right because of last year’s political crisis in Burundi. Are you sure? they often asked. Over time, I have learned that in life I cannot wait until I am all sure before I can embark on doing something. If I feel God has laid on my heart something I start working on it even before I know everything concerning the assignment, I start and a lot of other things get clarified along the way. Convinced I started my journey to ‘the heart of Africa’- Burundi. I battled with whether I should fly there or use road transport. Eventually I concluded that road transport was the best because it would give me the much needed experience since most of my tours are by road anyways. Why not experience it and then I can know what my clients will experience when they do their Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi tour. I divided my journey in 3 major parts.
1st part – drive from Kampala to Mbarara and spend a night at my parents home in the land of milk and honey also known as ‘Karo Karungi’ – translated ‘beautiful land’ in south western Uganda. The journey is about 4 hours from Kampala by public transport. It was also my longest journey driving, I challenged myself to take it amidst many discouraging voices. This year I am determined to stretch myself in many ways. Thankful that we arrived safely home and enjoyed our trip. The road was surprisingly with few vehicles compared to the usual maybe because it was a Monday, I was simply thankful. There wasn’t too many trailers which are usually heading to Congo, Rwanda or Burundi. Even the buses were surprisingly fewer – they are notorious for bad driving. We left Kampala about 12 pm and arrived home in the afternoon slightly before 4 pm.
2nd part – The next morning after a restful night at my parents home and catching up with the happenings since I have been away, I prepared to start journey to Kigali. I needed to spend night in Kigali before proceeding to Burundi because there is no direct bus to Bujumbura. It worked out well because I did not want to travel with so much luggage to Burundi. I had a lot of luggage because I would later take clients on a 10 tour in Rwanda after my Burundi escapades. I met up with friends for dinner and went to bed preparing to start journey to Bujumbura the following day.
3rd part – I left the excess luggage in Kigali and grabbed a back pack and armed with my camera, started the journey to Bujumbura. Apparently the coaster buses from Kigali to Bujumbura that used to ply this route were stopped by the Burundian government from entering Burundi due to some political issues. I was advised to take a small taxi to the border (Rwandan side) and pick another at the border (Burundi side) to Bujumbura. I did not like this arrangement because I figured this would be expensive and frustrating way of traveling with lots of time lost on we changed cars. We inquired around and were informed that there were small taxis that go directly to Bujumbura, we were given directions to where they pack. We found one and I quickly found a seat between two Congolese ladies. The one on my right side made it her agenda to squash me the whole way but I was determined to enjoy my trip. Did I mention that I could not have a conversation on my journey because I neither speak Kirundi, Kinyarwanda, Swahili or French and these were the languages being spoken in taxi so I missed learning from the locals throughout the journey.
There is a lot of suspicion in ‘the air’ so a lot of people are questioned over and over again. This leads to losing time at the border posts. The luggage’s are checked from both the Rwandan side and Burundi side which is quite frustrating for the driver who has to open all his passengers bags for checking. We got into our vehicle and headed to Bujumbura. I was excited and looking forward to my experience of Burundi and city of Bujumbura. Soon we later arrived in Bujumbura and the taxi man was kind enough to drop me at my hotel which a friend had helped locate for me.
So this year I decided to challenge myself and stretch the boundaries of my work and the things I believe God has called me to and gifted me with. For many years I have known that I am leader in more ways than one but had my reservations to leading. One of the main hindering factors was the fact that I hate attention and being at the front. It’s true that you can lead without drawing too much attention to yourself but eventually the attention will come. I prefer to walk into a room and do whatever it is I need to do and leave without much notice except the one or two people I needed to interact with.
My close friends and family would always bring up the fact that I am a leader and God has given grace in this area. I have led them in some ways and mobilized them to take on tasks or causes close to my heart. After much thought I decided to grow this gifting instead of killing it further every year. My challenge is still that the introverted me prefers to disappear in the crowd and the more I respond to this challenge the more I realize that I need to be uncomfortable to grow in this area and use it to influence positively.
I am a Mandela Washington fellow, a program under the Young African leaders Initiative (YALI) a President Barack Obama initiative to empower young leaders from Africa in areas of Business & Entrepreneurship, Civic engagement and Public management. Being part of this initiative reinforced what I knew and been hearing about myself – I am a leader. However I figured that I would still get a way and lead quietly. Then there was the opportunity to be on the East African Regional Advisory Board for YALI which I felt a strong nudge from God that this was the kind of platform I needed to grow my skills and start journey of leading more intentionally. With encouragement from a friend I purposed to apply but chickened out on last minute and did not apply. Secretly I was happy when the deadline passed, and I continued with my work. Later I received a message that the deadline was postponed and friend insisted that I apply. I clearly felt God say that the deadline was extended for me, I will spare you the details for now but eventually I did apply and post my ‘manifesto’ on the platform. Thankfully it convinced enough alumni who voted me.
This year, I officially accepted that God is calling me for something bigger than myself for which He has been preparing me for years through various trainings, networks and equipping opportunities. I say yes to the call. So when I had about the Harvest Institute – 1 year leadership program at my church I quickly signed up. The program is hectic considering the other things I am engaged in but I have decided that the time is now to start taking my leadership seriously because after all – Everything rises and falls on leadership according to John C. Maxwell. I know this will help me build a world class organization in Kagera Safaris even as I pursue my dreams of starting transformational education centers all over Africa, Asia, south America, North America and Eastern Europe.
This is the most hectic program I have been part of but I am willing to go all the way, after all growth is painful. We are required to grow our writing skills by writing a minimum of 2 blogs per month, read 2 books a month and write synopsis, publish a book before end of year, start a business/non profit or run for office, streamline the life purpose, join a team and serve on a church team etc. I already feel stretched but hey, this is what I signed up for. Yes to growth, will keep on and in time take others through these for their own growth.
I remember from an early age how I loved traveling, the highlight were trips to Fort portal to visit my Aunt. Now that I am older, it is a short journey from Mbarara to Fort portal but then it was almost an entire day’s journey. While others dreaded it, I looked forward to it. I can truly say I was made for travel and adventure. One of Aunt’s while growing up insisted that ’embwa ekaguligasa ebigere’ which loosely translates to ‘the dog licked your feet’ because in my culture there’s a belief that this causes one to always been on the move.
First forward many years on I am so grateful that I get to work in tourism industry by planning tours for people in Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania and Burundi under Kagera Safaris Ltd. This allows me to travel to all these destinations because I prefer to sell destinations where I have personally traveled. If I have not been there and the client asks about it. I will makes calls to gather enough information and include it on my familiarization tour. I am so thankful that I get to travel to destinations beyond east Africa as I market Uganda and Kagera safaris in particular.
I look forward to many escapades across Africa and the world even and in particular Uganda, I am yet to exhaust it. Travel brings out the beauty of destinations, from the nature to the landscape, to the people. I find that in most places I visit especially in East Africa, I always leave after making some friends. Sometimes people ask me if I have known these people prior to the trip but I say no. I am amazed at how different and yet similar we are as humans. I think travel will reduce the ignorance people have of other cultures and hopefully build relations and connections that will allow us leave more in and at peace with one another. We shall see where we can offer help and by being helpful create a better world. In addition to increasing your knowledge, travel can also be relaxing and help take off the stress and monotony of work – home.
I invite you to consider traveling to a new destination every quarter a year. It can be in different country, different part of your country or simply different part of your town where you have never been before. Travel does not have to last many days, it can be for a short weekend or simply hours in a different part of town. Do not wait for only the out of this world exotic experiences but the opportunity to experience life. It does not have to be expensive either, you can choose to drive to your destination, travel with a group of friends or family or even take public transportation. Whatever you choose and can afford, get out of your little world and explore the wider world.