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.