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Around Bujumbura

After tearing myself away from the hot spring well after midday, I think it should be an easy jaunt North along the lake shore to the capital of Bujumbura.

I have said many times before there are paved roads in Africa that I wish were not paved, and this turns into a perfect example. I only have to cover about 80 miles (120km), though for hour after hour I find myself crawling along in first gear navigating massive pot holes and broken pavement. When the pavement completely gives way to gravel I find I can actually move along at a decent speed, though unfortunately that is always short lived.

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For hour after hour I drove off the pavement whenever possible

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The kind of road I wish was not paved at all

The day drags on and on, and I find my way to the lake front in Buj just as the sun hits the horizon. The city has a population of about half a million people, and it feels spread out from what I can see. Traffic picks up noticeably, and I see traffic lights for only the second time in the country.

After a lot of intense negotiation I manage to camp right on the pristine sand of Lake Tanganyika inside a high-end resort. The mountains of the DRC are clearly visible only a handful of miles away across the lake. Somehow I still feel drawn to the DRC, and it puts a smile on my face every time I see it. The caretaker assures me repeatedly there are no hippos or cross to worry about, and so I have a quick and refreshing swim right at sunset.

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Camping right on the lake shore in a high-end resort in Bujumbura

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Sunset over the lake and mountains of Burundi

In the morning I wander around taking photos, and I’m not all that surprised to see about twenty hippo tracks in the sand that were not there last night. They obviously came ashore overnight to eat the perfect grass growing nearby, though happily they didn’t bother me during my swim!

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The shore of Lake Tanganyika in Bujumbura. DRC visible to the naked eye in the distance

I’m tempted to hang around and explore for another day, though I really have no idea what I would do in the city, so I decide to move North, hugging the border of DRC as I approach Rwanda.

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Locals fishing on Lake Tanganyika

I went into Burundi with really no expectations of any kind – I literally didn’t know anything about the country. It’s a stunningly beautiful little place with very friendly locals. I didn’t always feels 100% welcome, though that was probably me just misunderstanding how shocked and curious the locals were to see a foreigner driving around. Every time I got out of the Jeep to talk, everyone was extremely friendly and welcoming, eager to shake hands and learn what they could about me.

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Curious locals are always attracted to the Jeep

Speaking French every day, the weather, the rawness and the smiles have made me feel absolutely, 100% as if I have just been exploring my favorite parts of West Africa. For me, Burundi has been nostalgia at it’s best.
Having the best wilderness hot spring I have found to date in Africa doesn’t hurt either!

Onward then, into Rwanda.

-Dan

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