Saturday, January 26, 2008

Bujumbura, Burundi

Ok kids, move along, nothing to see here...
For the first time I discovered the amazement that totally foreign tourists can create in small town Africa.

We walked across the border this morning. I thought it was a short little jaunt to the "main" road linking us to Bujumbura. As it turned out it must have been a 10 Km walk that included the fording of a river, and a long bicycle taxi ride (harrowing to say the least). The only annoying thing was the idiot Burundian soldier who had me empty my entire backpack for "security" purposes.

We arrived at the first sizable cross-border village only to find out that it wasn't serviced by public transportation because it wasn't market day.

We sat on a shaded bench as Jack set off to arrange for transport. A crowd (15-20) of kids would surround us. All they did was stare at us. That's kind of cute, I thought. School would be dismissed and a second wave of kids would come and stare. Occasionally, an adult would come by and beat the crowd back. It wouldn't take long for the mob to reassemble though. Each time this happened they gave us less and less space. They started to prod the luggage and take water bottles. There was no personal contact, but you could sense the tension building between the mob and us. For a while I thought a fight would breakout.

After 3 hours of this charade it became exhausting. A taxi finally arrived. What a relief that was. We made a dash for the taxi. The mob would follow us and surround the cab. The shoddy dirt road would give way to shoddy tarmac all the way to Njanza Lac where I got my entry visa...from there it was a relatively good road. It was raining on and off. I didn't see the mass destruction due to flooding that I had read about.

We rolled into Buj early in the evening. A chaotic place, Buj reminded me of Nairobi. A little bit dangerous. To top it off we checked into a really dump of a hotel for 10 USD. I swear it was brothel.

Observations: 1) there are alot of people in Burundi (I gauge population density by the number of people walking along the roadside); 2) They seem very very poor (I think Malawiians are better off); 3) palm oil trees and bananas seem to be the choice of plantation crops (the first plantations I've seen in Africa).

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