After leaving Serengeti we are back amongst Maasi villages and then must drive through the Grumeti Wildlife Reserve. Our ever-helpful App has a waring about someone getting a huge fine for stopping on this road, so even though there is a lot of wildlife we just slow down a little. The highlight is a lion walking just beside us. Finally, out of the reserve we draw a sigh of relief, but sadly find our great road replaced by a track. There is a new road beside the track, all fenced off and unfinished. Not much is happening so it could be a while. Its slow going but there is plenty of village life to watch as we pass by in a haze of dust. My latest thing is taking photos of oxen ploughing and pulling carts.
When John hears a new noise, we stop and he investigates. The bracket on the brake air tank has cracked. He does a temporary repair, with an ever-increasing audience, before we head off. We head to Muscoma, the nearest big town, for repairs. We drive up and down the scruffy main drag until we see gas bottles sitting in a row and stop. Yes, it can be welded. $11 later we are on our way. As we head towards the campspot John spies some police and decide it is a good time to ask for a no. plate (to add to the huge collection decorating our truck) A long story short! We follow them to the Police Station and go through different levels until we get to the Chief. When he starts asking about insurance, I suggest to John we get out of here. Fobbing him off we exit as fast as we can. We have forgotten to renew our insurance. Phew, we draw a sigh of relief as we pull into the Matvilla Beach Resort where we can camp. It is a lovely spot right on Lake Victoria with lots of huge boulders scattered around. In the morning we decide to catch up on washing and paperwork and to sort out our insurance $18 for a month. John hops on a motor taxi and comes back all sorted. We can drive with a conscience free mind again! Time to hit the excellent road again.
Lots of villages and miles of terraced fields later we stop for lunch to yet another massive audience of kids. Too many to feed so John gives them each a peppermint. You should have seen some of their faces! Later that afternoon we roll into Mwanza, the second largest city in Tanzania. The traffic is surprisingly good as we head right to the centre to get to the Yacht Club where we can camp. But first a stop at a wreckers where we do get a no plate and then a workshop to get the brakes adjusted. We will return tomorrow for grease and oil change etc.
The Yacht Club is a magic spot on lovely green grass right beside the water. We can sit near the bar and watch the sunset over the lake and enjoy some amazing Indian food. There is a huge Indian population here. Such a pity we must leave early to go to the workshop.
All morning is spent in the workshop, so now I have some very clean cupboards and photos sorted! The Indian owner takes us out to a very fancy restaurant for lunch, so it is getting late by the time we head out of the city. But first a quick drive to the waterfront to see the only sight in town – Bismark Rock and then to stop at an Auto Shop to get filters. John parks on the side of the road and I stay in the truck. He is taking forever and as it is rush hour we are causing a bit of a traffic snarl. Eventually 4 police come and I try to fob them off (unsuccessfully) until John comes and we make a fast exit as one is waving his book and talking about fines! Out of the city through crazy traffic and back to the lakefront again via a ferry ride. An experience all its own with queues of trucks and buses and of course heaps of people. Our overnight camp is at the gorgeous Rocky Bay Resort where the grounds are manicured and there is not one, but two swimming pools.
The next two days will be big driving days as we want to get all the way to Kigoma beside Lake Tanganika, and we have chosen the longer route which should be a better road. So, its back across the ferry and on through miles of flat terraced countryside and past countless villages. We stop at the Orion Tagora Hotel for the night. It is a lovely old German Hotel with a swimming pool which has a scruffy back carpark that we can stay in. There is wedding reception in progress this evening and it continues until the wee hours of the morning with maybe the loudest DJ in history! The price includes free breakfast! Ha!!! Not to be repeated. The next long days drive is a bit more undulating with heaps of villages and fortunately only 50km of rough red dirt track. Apparently, it cannot be driven in the wet! We are glad to finally roll into Kigoma and head down village tracks to the lakeside Jakobsen Beach Camping. It is a secluded spot with a few other campers already here. We swim at the tiny sandy beach and have a peaceful night. Bliss!
It is such a lovely spot we will return tonight, but first we head out to the nearby fishing village of Katonga. Wow what a spectacle. So much produce laid out on the ground and so many women in colourful dress. Not to mention all the painted boats sitting at the edge of the beach. They are not keen on photos, so only a few sneaky shots! Then into town to the Consulate of Burundi where we purchase our visas. A mere 30 minutes later and our pockets a lot lighter we emerge with the visas. Tomorrow our carnet expires and we need to start our new one, but today we will explore town and spend the afternoon at our camp beside the lake.
This time we have the magic campspot all to ourselves and we enjoy relaxing and swimming as well as a few chores. In the morning we head off and north to the border. The countryside is hilly and huge crops of bananas have just been harvested, so bananas are everywhere from on top of heads, to overloaded bikes, to old trucks and to overflowing markets. Mid-morning, we arrive at the border and head into customs with all our paperwork. The really do not know what to do with us. We have overstayed our temporary import paperwork, but not our carnet. We are expecting to pay more road tax. Nearly 3 hours later the poor guy signs our carnet and waves us away. We think it just got too hard! Passports stamped, we drive through no-mans land where we change to the RHS of the road. Welcome to The Republic of Burundi where we will have to remember the few French words that we know! Fingers crossed for French baguettes!
This side is easy, although a little slow. Passports stamped, vehicle tax paid (all of $15 for 2 weeks) and our new carnet stamped. We head in through fabulous mountain scenery. Everywhere is cropped and there are numerous villages. The bonus is the wonderful tarseal road all the way to our first overnight stop. But first we need a new sim. None at the border, and the shop at the town of Mabanda is closed. So, we continue to the waterfront town of Nyanza Lac and look out for the blue & yellow Lumitel signs. I hop out and walk down the road to suss out shops and spy one. Call John on the 2way and as I turn to cross the road realise a whole trail of locals are following me and I nearly cause them to fall over in a domino effect as I turn. Then once inside the shop we are the comedy act, just by sitting and waiting at the counter. All is looking good; they take John’s photo holding up the number (rather like a mugshot) and tell us to wait. I sit outside and people wander past and give us the famous Burundian stare. Much later we are told our visas have not been processed yet so we will come back tomorrow at 8am. From here we head to the beach to find a hotel carpark. At the Palm Beach Resort (not as upmarket as it sounds) we can park/camp. We can head down to the water and enjoy a drink and meal. Sadly, not a lot of breeze back at the truck, so every window is open and both fans going all night.
Well back to our Lumitel shop we wait! Of course, it is closed. Apparently, the power is off and no one knows when it will be back on. We decide to give that sim card a miss and continue north hugging the side of the gorgeous Lake Tanganyika. Sadly, our good road is at an end. It is now full of potholes and then miles of roadworks and big sections of gravel. At least there is not much traffic. And here bicycles rule. They are used for everything, carting unbelievably heavy loads and as taxis. Ladies always sit side saddle because of their long dresses.
This area is covered in crops, the main one being palm trees. The nuts are being ground and then heated in huge tins to extract their oil. Later that day we reach the big city of Bujumbura and find another Lumitel shop, and this time we get our sim and data for a mere $6. We decide to head to the beaches just north of town and find ourselves a carpark to stay in. There is a whole string of hotels and beach bars along the lakeside. After a few tries we settle at Saga Plage Resort – a restaurant/beach bar with a huge open carpark near the beach. There are guards and the gate is locked at night. And its free! Always a bonus. Fortunately, we have settled in before a storm rolls through. The dry season is coming to an end. The bonus tonight is the drum concert held next door at the ritzy resort – we can hear it all.
The next day we drive around the lake towards the DRC border stopping at the Rusizi National Park. The best way to see this park is by boating down the estuary to the lake and we are lucky to arrive just as another couple have arranged a trip. We can pay them and thus share the costs. Another bonus. A nice boat ride seeing hippos, a random croc and plenty of birds. Park done we head back to the city to explore by driving around, followed by another night at Saga Beach.
In the morning we join the queue at the petrol station, but come up empty. No diesel for us today, but we should have enough to get us to Rwanda. Back through the sprawling city and straight up into the mountains. We are heading to Gitega, the capital city. The road is great with loads of twists and turns, and the scenery breathtaking. Practically every inch of land is utilised for growing food. This country has a massive population to feed. Everywhere there are villages with people milling around. Crops are being sold and many are being transported on bikes. What a road for bikes. They are either trudging up hill with a heavy load, or hanging onto a convenient truck to get a free ride, or barrelling down at incredible speeds. Makes our drive more interesting.
We reach the city early afternoon and check out Afrita Restaurant where we can camp. Yes, that will be fine so we head out of town to Gishoara to hopefully score a Drum Concert that is put on for tourists. They tell us to return tomorrow at 3pm, so we head back to town and our tiny carpark. Once settled in we set out on foot to explore town. We wander down sewing street where there are rows of treadle machines set up and clothes are made to order. The irons used are the old style filled with hot coals. I am not taking pictures as I walk, as everything comes at a price here! Then we head into the covered market area where we are assaulted by more sights, sounds and smells. Miles of stalls selling clothes, plastic shoes, dried fish, all manner of hardware and even banana beer (which we have already tried. Not to my taste at all and very potent). Back at Afrita we sit in the bar, enjoy some French wine and excellent Italian pizzas. Even the live music is great, that is until we want to sleep. It is still going at 1am!
No rush today as we have most of the day to fill in before our show. We drive through some of the streets and there are people milling everywhere. Then find the National Museum for a wander through. A bit scruffy, but lots of interesting tribal artifacts to see and an interesting curator, that is until he tries to massively overcharge us. No signs are up of course. Still time to spare so we find a parking spot beside a small forest with not too many people about. Only got asked for money a few times! It is not even midday but we head to the Drum Sanctuary, and sure enough they are getting ready. They hold the performance right away and we love the energy of the drums pounding and the dancers’ taking turns to impress us with lots of leaping, twisting, and turning.
We are now heading north towards the border. The road is excellent and we stop for our last night in Burundi at the huge red brick Monastery at Burasira. We can camp in their yard for a small fee. At least inside the walls we do not have such a huge audience, just a smaller one! We get a guided tour of the cloisters, classrooms, and lovely Cathedral. Later one of the Priests chats and we discover Sunday’s service is at 11am. Sadly too late for us. We are crossing the border into Rwanda, and sometimes it can take lots of time!!