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Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Rwanda & Burundi

Day 1 – 19/1/13
We obtained a transit visa at the border - $ 40 each for a maximum of 3 days. The border staff very helpful. The immigration chap walked us through the customs procedures and made sure we were not held up.
If it is possible, the scenery was even more spectacular than Rwanda, especially descending into the Rift valley to Lake Tanganyika. The road was tar and in good condition. Along the route there were lots of road side stalls and touts trying to sell a wide variety of fruit and veg. It all looked very healthy. We were waved through most road blocks along the way, but when we were stopped the police invariably asked us for water or money. After a bit of chat, they were OK to take no for an answer.
Along the way we drove through the fiercest ,densest ( if you can describe a rain storm as such) rain storm either of us has ever experienced -  lots of driving rain, big hail and winds.
Bujumbura was clean and still has the colonial style wide boulevards and streets. We were not hassled along the way at all. We drove straight to Kings Conference Center (a Point of Interest in T4A). The Center has superb staff. We had a nice dinner in the hotel as the staff did not recommend walking around after dark.

Avril  driving; 359 km; 6 hrs; S 030 24’ 35.2’’ E 0290 20’ 53.1’’

Day 2 – 20/1/13

We woke up to a flat tyre on the vehicle. Seems that the BFGoodrich All terrain tread is too aggressive for the rough rock and we had a small leak puncture. We changed the tyre and plugged the leak.
After breakfast we drove along the lake to Livingstone/Stanley memorial. There are two places that claim to be the spot where Stanley uttered “Dr Livingstone I presume” - here and in Tanzania. The memorial is nothing special and we were mobbed by kids, so we did not stay that long.
We then drove along the lake north of Bujumbura to see the beaches, the only attraction mentioned in the guide book - (the guide book also says do not go to Burundi due to safety and if you do go, definitely do not go out of Bujumbura). The beaches were nice, but access is via clubs/restaurants and there was lots of activity on the beaches e.g. washing bikes etc so it was not peaceful. Checked out a couple of resorts thinking we may stay an extra day, but they were very expensive.
So, we drove back to the Burundi/Tanzania border. We managed to spend all of our Burundi money on fuel just before the border.
The Burundi exit formalities were completed in super quick time.

Burundi very quick summary
Again a clean country with good roads. The folks we chatted to seemed to be pleasant and the only begging we struck were the kids at the monument and the cops! It is expensive for overlanders.

Day 1 – 16/1/13
We had an easy entry into Rwanda. Although, they insisted on Avril being present for the formalities. Normally Ray does it all and Avril protects the vehicle – read chats to the local boys. We then again had to swap to the right hand side of the road.
The scenery continued to be impressive, with very lush vegetation, the Volcano’s National Park on our right and the route along very steep big hills/small mountains.
The road was in excellent condition, there were buildings/ built up for substantial sections  and there were lots of people using the verges as a footpath – though they were not interfering with traffic flow. We also noticed that there were lots of people just “hanging” around, not a lot to do. The level of boredom must be incredible, to say nothing of the waste of good manpower and labour.
We drove easily into Kigali and looked at the Serena hotel. But at $ 420/night it was a bit pricey.  We checked into the Umubano Hotel a more reasonable $ 165/night – but still expensive for the standard. We needed to stay in a hotel as Ray had a conference call that night.
After checking into the hotel Avril caught up with the Australian Open and Ray did some work.

Avril  driving; 215 km; 6 hrs; S 010 56’ 49.0’’ E 0300 05’ 31.9’’

Day 2 – 17/1/13
After a very late night, we had a bit of a sleep in, then caught up with email, watched the Oz Open (Avril) etc. We went for a drive around the city in the afternoon. We decided against going to the Genocide Memorial – we are a bit too squeamish for that.
The city for all intents looks and behaves like a western city. It has very well maintained parks and gardens, roads with proper kerbs and gutters, it is very clean, people obey the road rules e.g. both riders and passengers wear helmets on motor bike taxis, they obey the speed limits etc. We drove through what appeared to be some of the more ritzy suburbs with large houses and again all well maintained. The less salubrious suburbs were also well maintained with public gardens, clean roads etc.
The city seems to function very well – no electricity black outs while we were there etc. All very impressive, which shows that it can be done. The sceptics suggest that the economy is supported by huge amounts of aid. That may be so, but the aid in Sth Sudan (& the rest of Africa) did not stop the litter. Here, the streets are clean and well maintained.

Day 3 – 18/1/13
We travelled on good roads to Asagera NP. The final 27 km was on dirt and a fierce rain storm on the way in meant we were slipping across the road surface. The surface of the road was fine, powdery dirt which quickly transformed into a surface film of mud when wet.
The staff at the entrance were helpful. The current price for 24 hours with your own car and camping is $ 120. Still not cheap, especially when compared to southern Africa.
The guide books warn that there is not a lot of game and this is true. Still we managed to see bushbuck, waterbuck, warthog, impala, buffalo and tessebe/topi.
The park is renowned for its spectacular views across its lakes and we definitely had a multi- million $$ view from our camp site. The sites may have been recently renovated and there was a good rondavel and a toilet (long drop).
The biggest negative of the park are the large numbers of Tsetse flies - more than we have ever encountered before. For the 1st time ever we looked for game though closed windows.

Avril  driving; 216 km; S 010 50’ 58.8’’ E 0300 43’ 15.6’’

Day 4 – 19/1/13
In the morning we did another game drive. This time we went around the giraffe loop, but did not see any giraffe!!
We then drove to the border through a back way which involved a ~ 60 km drive on a dirt road. Even in this seemingly remote area (for a densely populated country like Rwanda) the road was lined with people.

The border crossing was excellent. The Burundi & Rwanda officials sit side by side in the same office and formalities were completed with a minimum of fuss.

Rwanda Quick Summary
The people we interacted with were very nice. The country seems to be very organised. The country was clean; almost the only place in Africa with curbs & gutters on the roads.
The negative is that it is very expensive.
The Bradt guide was OK – but quite large for such a small country. 6/10. The International Travel Map for Rwanda and Burundi is basically useless. 2/10

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