Burundi : New addition to our AfriQuest!
No more than 20 years have passed since the horrors of the so called “civil war” that brought death to more than 200.000 Burundians. Even though Burundi nowadays is still struggling to let go of its past,the beauty we found in this small country is unlike any of the previous 5 countries we have visited.
Our 4 day visit to Burundi wasn’t planned at all. Our plan was to just cross Tanzania with direction to its equally small neighbour Rwanda. However, Costas Coucoulis (our host in Tanzania from Sana) insisted that we should visit his homeland, the “Switzerland of Africa”. And he was right.
As the huge bus was taking us to the capital, Bujumbura, we experienced the rural scenes of the country unfold in front of our eyes. Our driver was trying to overpass bicycles overloaded with charcoal or bananas while the riders were balancing with one foot to the side, in the event they lost control in the steep descent of the narrow winding roads!
The landscape of Burundi is mostly made up of hills that fade into the horizon. Locals have turned its slopes into endless green gardens. In between them small canals distribute water. As you pass through you see women taking care of the fields full of vegetables and then carry huge sacks on their heads along with their tools at the side of the road. We were looking ecstatic out of our window trying to capture the beauty of the moment!
Finally at the last turn of the road lake Tanganika appeared in the far distance which meant we would soon reach the city of Bujumbura that lies at its shore.
Bujumbura looks like it is frozen in time due to the war and the fact there has been no development since the 1980’s. So, Bujumbura with its wide boulevards and the old buildings and the roundabouts painted in the national colours (white,green, red) stills reminds a lot from its colonial past.
Olivier Kamberis , Burundian and half Greek is currently establishing as a tour operator in his area. He was so kind as to devote us his free time and show us around a bit! Olivier is passionate about the nature and is making efforts to conserve the beauty of his country which he says has been severely damaged since the war.
He expressed to us his concerns for the indigenous forest as we were on our way to visit the Twa tribe (commonly known as Pygmies) that live isolated in the outskirts of town. The way we were welcomed and our visit in their village was so interesting we wrote in detail about it in this separate post
And as if you wouldn’t guess it, yes Hellenism is strong here as well and we realized this as we visited the Orthodox Church for the celebrations of 15th of August which in Burundi is a public holiday!
What surprised us in a good way, is that apart from the Greeks( including the Ambassador George Coucoulis that so kindly hosted us), we found a lot of Burundians that were speaking fluently Greek having spent so many years in Greece that they proudly feel themselves as Greeks now!
Not only that, but we also met a group of Greeks Irini, Euthimis, Maria-Louiza and Mihalis that came to Africa for a good cause. Irini has been working with kids on camps around Africa for 8 years now and all of them came to offer voluntary work.
Together we spent one of the best days as we were also lucky to have the very talented Tambourinaires Drummers performing for us on the same day!
Les Tabourinaires du Burundi are the national pride of Burundi.We haven’t seen such intense combinations of dance and singing while they beat the drums in a rhythm that will bring back primal instincts! We also got this all on video for our AfriQuest documentary! Absolutely amazing!
At the end of the show everybody joined the rhythm. Priests were banging the drums and dancing along with half naked performers and the rest of us just laughing our hearts out!
After countless pictures we ended up for coffee in the Greek way sealing one of the African experiences we will never forget!
Check out more photos from Burundi