Friday 19 September 2008

18th September 08

Date: 18th September 08
Location: Kigoma, Tanzania
Weather: Hazy sunshine at first light then as we left the lake and climbed into Rwanda the clouds gathered and then evening thunder and lightening.

What a fantastic day all round!

Left the campsite at first light….oh before I go on we had a visitor last night, a little stoat/weasel like creature with spotted markings and a big tail which was striped came within about a metre of me as I hid behind the truck watching it!! Random thing.

Up as the sun rose and packed away for the trip north through the rather scary countries of Burundi and Rwanda! Drove through the town to buy some bread and eggs…and a toothbrush to blacken Baccus’s horns which are suffering in the heat from bugs and dust!

The road out of Kigoma is tar for the first 10kms then as we turned north towards the border we lost the good surface and returned to dust, microscopic dust of course! So all of the good work which Bre had done to clean the truck yesterday was sort of ruined, ooops!

It was a bumpy track which hardly any vehicles seemed to be on, we climbed up nearly 1000m fro the lake’s shore until we were up in the clouds in the midst of banana plantations splitting the few villages there were. We passed a number of mad cyclists transporting their wares to market, the most impressive of these were the pineapples porters who somehow seemed to, by a means of strapping the fruit to a frame, carry 40 of the things on the back of a standard bike…..who needs your bicycle trailer now Owen!!

We arrived at the border of Tanz/Burundi in a little over an hour to find a little rundown border post with a high presence of military and police, all smiling none the less. Did the usual formalities and drove down the hill into no-man’s-land where we stopped for a spot of lunch, how very English! Made some avocado salad and egg salad sandwiches in the shade of the eucalyptus trees and obviously amused the locals with our antics as they pushed their bikes past us laughing out loud!

So into Burundi and time to adopt the French I’d reaffirmed with myself coming down the west coast of Africa, into the office for immigration past four men in UN military uniform all brandishing AK47’s. As I left the office I asked the officer in charge if I could have my photo taken with them in front of the Colonel “of course” came the reply……”if you pay us” bloody typical African! I then offered them the usual bonbon as a joke which had them all doubled over as it obviously wasn’t enough, so I left instead.

Customs was another 18kms down the road and as we travelled there we passed numerous UN, Medicene Les Frontieres and Red Cross compounds all there to deal with the refugee situation which has been around since the end of the civil war four years ago and also with the more recent problem of refugees arriving from Eastern Congo since the recent spate of guerrilla attacks there, some as recently as last week.
We had the carnet stamped and then had to ask the question “on which side of the road are we supposed to be driving?” This came up as two vehicles since the border had flashed us rather ‘forcefully’. I checked the National Geographic Africa Atlas which has a map of the relevant sides to drive on but this told me we wouldn’t need to drive on the wrong side of the road until Ethiopia! The official confirmed we were actually wrong so we left…driving on the right side of the road this time!

The journey through Burundi was just over 4hrs long tracking up the east coast of Lake Tanganika until the capital before turning north east and up into the mountains all along potted tar but at no time were with without a policeman or army recruit stood on the edge of the road every ½ km or so. As we climbed up through the mountains the only places for the shops and locals to live and work is on the sides of the hills literally clinging to the slopes, their lives exposed for all to see as we drove past with the contents of their shops and houses spilling out onto the tarmac.

As we climbed up the clouds were gathering and eventually the heavens opened, the first rain since Cape Town nearly two months ago and the Colonel did need it as he was starting to look a little uncared for!

We arrived at the border between Burundi and Rwanda expecting the worst as it doesn’t have the best reputation as a country following the atrocities of the nineties, but a really clean, functional, professional setup greeted us with new buildings, a barrier and uniformed officials……oh my god!

The next hour involved climbing back up through the clouds past green, fertile tea plantations, brick works and gum trees all organised on staggered, terraced slopes which in the dull evening light looked like the most fertile lands I’d seen since the oasis’s of Morocco.

We arrived in Butare and found the Ibis Hotel, stopped at reception; another place with a buffalo skull so already something in common, and arranged our night in their car park. A pretty damn good location with amenities on hand, a vias machine next door and great kitchen with cheap food.

Bed after another movie 

End of day location: Butare, Rwanda
Distance covered: 388kms

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