Day 167- Day 169: A new country: Burundi, Bujumbara, and Lake Tangayika

"Into Africa" More than a Motorcycle Adventure
Howard Fairbank
Fri 25 Oct 2013 05:38



03:22.48S 29:20.52E 


I was quite sad to be leaving the guest house at Kamembe, I’d really chilled out nicely with the almost luxury accommodation versus the traditional African guest house, I had most places, and felt rejuvenated.


It was a scenic couple hour ride, on almost a continual slight downhill to the Burundi border.  The last part of the road follows the Rusizi river which defines the border between the DRC. It was Sunday and a bit of a struggle to find the staff to help me clear both customs and immigration. Interestingly both Rwandan and Burindi operations were in one new building, the two offices separated only by an internal wall partition… Good idea, I wonder why more countries didn’t do that?


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Once through the border control the road continued to flow the Rusizi, which is quite a sizeable river flowing into Lake Tanganyika….


Burundi immediately felt different: The villages seemed more unkept, and untidy, there seemed to be a lot of police / military presence around, yet I didn’t feel any sense of insecurity. There were a huge number of speed limit signs, and all different speeds, with short speed zones, in illogical places, and I couldn’t help think that they were placed like that to enable money to be made of speeding fines. The manager at the place I’d stayed in Kamembe, had lived in Bujumbara for a number of years and had warned me to watch the speed limits as they fine you for any infringement.  There was a 10km section of the road, which was just horrendous, huge gaping holes forcing me even on the motorbike to crawl along swerving to miss the craters.


Initial impressions of Bujumbara were better than I expected, but I decided to head out to Lake Tanganyika, and the ‘famous’ Saga Plage beach about 5 km outside the city. I found a lovely Spa, just west of the Saga Plage, and had a wonderful day just enjoying its offerings and Lake Tanganyika.


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The sunset was amazing, and watching these locals just have good old basic fun, was very freeing: Well behaved, and respectful, albeit maybe not decently attired!  The Spa had a young,  ‘pet chimpanzee…. He certainly had a personality of his own…..


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I moved to the Lake Tanganyika Hotel the next night, and spent a great day really exploring the city. Part of the exploring was trying to find the road out to get to the road that headed down Lake Tanganyika shore.  In doing this I ended up being knocked off the motorbike by a hooligan truck driver, who in passing an approaching car, got on the my side of the road, and just ploughed on, forcing me off the road, but in the process clipping my bike.


Further exploring took me up to the mountain that forms the backdrop to the city, and houses the wealthiest of the wealthiest of Bujumbura. I couldn’t believe what wealth I saw, but the heavy security everywhere told me a story of crime through serious inequality….. A local told me the story later:  These wealthy people are mainly government and NGO people all feeding off the ‘valuable’ crutch needing status it has achieve with western communities.    





1st Night at the Spa, on Saga Beach, then two night Tanganyika Hotel