Discovering The Hidden Beauty of Burundi
Explorer in Residence, Dan Grec, ventures off the beaten path in central Africa.
Few people visit the central African country of Burundi, so I was particularly excited to explore this truly off-the-beaten-path destination.
Climbing through the mountains in Tanzania I arrived at the border to a very familiar sight: there were hundreds of cars and trucks trying to cross, and every vehicle and person was heavily loaded with everything imaginable. After a couple of hours, a few conversations in French and lots of handshakes I was legally admitted to the country and had a fresh stack of Burundian frans in exchange for my Tanzanian shillings. An enormous thunderstorm then rolled through, signifying that once again I had arrived in a country right at the beginning of the rainy season. Apparently I’m good at that.
It is immediately obvious that very, very few people visit Burundi. Everywhere I went people were astonished to see me, and enquired about whether I was actually a tourist. Everyone was extremely friendly, and clearly proud I had chosen to visit their tiny nation.
In the northern mountainous region of the country I found my way to the Karera Waterfall. The setting is absolutely stunning, and there were about six or eight different falls spread around the area, which I visited over a couple of hours of hiking in the hot midday sun.
The following day I visited Burundi’s claim to fame, The Source of the Nile River, a mountain top spring where all water flowing from one side will eventually reach the Congo River, while on the other it all flows into the Nile. Burundi claims this as the one true source of the mighty river because it is the most distant point from the mouth of the Nile River in Egypt. I’m extremely happy to locate Muhweza Hotspring nestled in a small valley on the side of a bubbling creek. The surrounds are extremely beautiful, with green grass and ancient trees.
Impressively, there is absolutely no trash – glass, plastic or otherwise in the entire area. The crystal clear water is the perfect temperature for soaking, and I stayed for many hours chatting to a friendly local. The water does not have any sulphur smell, and I keep pinching myself at the discovery. Without a doubt, this is the best wilderness hotspring I have found in all of Africa.
A few days later, I wind down out of the mountains into the capital city of Bujumbura, where I see traffic lights for only the second time in the entire country. I negotiate and camp right on the pristine sandy shore of Lake Tanganyika. The mountains of the mighty Congo are clearly visible only a handful of miles away across the lake. Somehow I still feel drawn to the Congo, and it puts a smile on my face every time I see it. The caretaker assured me repeatedly there were no hippos or crocodiles to worry about, and so I had a quick and refreshing swim at sunset.
In the morning I wandered around taking photos, and was not at all surprised to see about twenty hippo tracks in the sand. They obviously came ashore overnight to eat the perfect grass growing nearby, though happily they didn’t bother me during my swim!
Few people visit Burundi, and for those adventurous enough, the rewards are immense.
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