Arriving in Burundi and taking a brief tour of Bujumbura before catching a bus across the border to Kigali, Rwanda on the trip The Great Eastern Summer.
Coming from Nairobi, we had a three hour layover in Kigali before taking a small bombardier to Bujumbara.
Twenty five minutes later we were on the ground and going through an annoying immigration. We got transit visas for $40 and our entry stamps. Country 76 complete!
Outside a driver from Roca Golf Hotel took us Hyundai minivan to the hotel. We arrived shortly and checked in. At the front desk we asked for a taxi immediately to head into town while it was still light out.
Soon an English speaking driver arrived and took us for an evening tour of the city. He first brought us to this new hotel with a view. The bellhop took us to the top floor terrace where we took some pictures.
Then we went to the port and our guide tried to get us into some government building with a viewpoint over the bay. He spoke to two guards then one of the guards went to ask a supervisor who declined our request.
From there he then took us to a restaurant on the beach where a lot of tourists were having dinner and conversation. He parked in a dark parking lot and we just left the car with the doors unlocked. I noticed that he never locked his doors and when I asked, he just replied that “it’s fine.”
At the restaurant I chatted with a server who mentioned that hippos come out at night to eat the grass of the restaurant. I asked where and he pointed to the ground we were standing on. Uh… scary.
After a failed attempt to buy a country tourist shirt, we left to a local outdoor bar. This bar outside the center of the city was quite poorly lit with a dozen or so plastic tables sitting on a lawn facing a main bar. We sat and had a local beer, Primus, and chatted with our guide about life in Bujumbura.
The capital city was nothing like the dangerous metropolis that we were expecting. In fact, life in the city seemed quite calm and simple like living in a farming community. People were very friendly and easy to talk to and the city seemed to be slowly developing.
We went for dinner at Botanika a recommended restaurant. It was so popular and packed, that we had to wait an hour for our food to come out. I tried the local specialty, sankara fish, served in a tasty stew.
After dinner we headed to our rooms in preparation for the early start the next day.
With an 8 a.m. bus to catch we were up around 6. After a shower and quick breakfast we checked out and called a taxi. We asked the driver to take us to the cathedral before going to the bus station.
The Cathédrale Regina Mundi also known as the Bujumbura Cathedral is the main catholic church in the capital. The sandstone walls had some interesting designs on the front for a rather plain cathedral otherwise.
The bus station was a mess of people, animals, stores, and cars, but we found our bus, labeled with an obvious copyright infringement of “Yahoo”.
Unfortunately the bus was almost full, so Bill and I were the last of three people to get on. Being the last, we also got the worst seats, the ones that fold down into the aisle with barely any cushion and metal bar supports that dug into our backs. I was also next to the door where all the luggage was piled up, meaning with every turn, I had to brace the mountain so that it wouldn’t topple.
The ride was definitely an adventure. The windy road through the mountains to the border was very scenic with views over villages and banana plantations.
At one point the driver made a pitstop where everyone jumped out of the window and ran into the bushes to relieve themselves. The passengers moved with such speed that you would have thought the bus was on fire.
The route passed many machine gun wielding police checkpoints and our minibus was stopped once to check documents and lights. The officer took a look into the bus and his eyebrows raised when he saw Bill and I awkwardly sitting in the aisle.
Eventually we arrived at the Rwanda land border.
We disembarked and lined up to cross into the next country.