78 – Mugged

Fri 12th Feb, Brashi Guest House, Kahama, Tanzania

Bother. That’s it, i’ve gone and gotten myself robbed. I was headed towards the Taqwa bus station in the morning at 530am when one of the bandits popped out and walked towards me with a huge rock. “Give me money or i kill you”. This was on the main street, then one after another they seemingly popped out of the shadows. I was overpowered by 8 to 10 of them, pushed onto the ground before they helped themselves to my valuables. I was more indignant than afraid, but i knew it was pointless to retaliate. The mob walked away with my stuff, i went after them and asked for my wallet back and got it, without the money of course. In the end, the list of items lost are as follows: 1 camera, 1 nokia handphone, 1 watch, 21USD, 23000 Burundi Franc. The items weren’t that valuable, besides the camera (i had that out to look at the map on it for directions). I lost about 55 SGD of cash in total. The Nokia hp was those basic cheap army ones with no camera or radio functions. And my Casio watch was those retro ones you wear back in primary school. And most of my money (USD etc) were hidden in my money belt tucked inside my pants. The problem is the inconvenience all this has caused me.

First, i have no way to tell what day and time it is (both watch and phone gone), which is very important for all these bus/flight timings. And i now have no alarm clock (phone gone) to wake up for the early buses. I use my camera (you guys can forget about seeing any more photos on this blog until i find some other way to take pictures) to take photos of maps of all the places so i dont have to keep opening the guidebook on my netbook. Now i’ve to copy the maps on pieces of paper. And i got shit rate just now exchanging USD for Tanzanian shillings since i had the exchange rates captured on my camera.

At least i still have my wallet with all my debit/credit cards as well as my passport. And this laptop.Got to be thankful for that.

Ah #&*@, …trying to not let it affect me right now. Took the bus out to Kahama, where i stop for the night before heading off to Mwanza. The border was wasn’t a major one, at the Tanzanian side, they checked my Yellow Fever Vaccination. Took a bit of time too before they decided Singapore passport did not require the 50 USD visa fee.  Stayed at the Brashi Guest House (8000 TSH), in the main square of the bus station. Immediately went out to look for a new phone, not so much for calling (my M1 sim card is gone!) but just to get an alarm clock, and some way to tell the time, in the process i also got a local prepaid line. Got myself a ZAIN hp and line (30000 TSH and 500 TSH respectively), thats about 30 SGD. Got some cash out of the ATM (VISA again! Sigh).

Expected this to happen sooner or later. I keep hearing from other travelers i meet about them losing their laptops, cameras etc (like the Jap guy and those Polish dudes). Just upset with myself that I wasn’t very wise not to take a taxi down to the bus station early this morning. Anyway tomorrow i’m headed to Mwanza. Got the tickets off the big Trans Mohamad Limited bus company (8000 TSH).

77 – Wandering central Buja

Thu 11th Feb, Hotel L’amite, Bujumbura, Burundi

Woke up early and checked for buses out of Buja. There were many options, 1) to go back he way i came, through Kigali, Kampala then Nairobi. (24hrs) 2) To go south to Tanzania in Kigoma. (6hrs) 3) To go east into Tanzania to Mwanza. (12hrs to Kahama + 4 hrs the next day to Mwanza) 4) To go straight to Dar Es Salaam on the eastern coast (at least 24 hrs). 5) To go into Democratic Republic of Congo. I decided against option 5 since i’m stretching myself out too thin here. Plus safety is an issue, the best crossing is at the Rwanda/DRC border, the Burundi/DRC border is a bit of an unknown.

As i was walking around the bus companies, i came across Eugenie, the Rwandan girl from yesterday. She was collecting her materials and selling them to her customer in the central market. I ended up spending the whole day with her. Depositing her materials, having lunch together, later collecting her cash from her customer, and while waiting, taking a bus to the suburbs to visit her Rwandan friend who moved here. The last one was interesting since all the kids in the area was looking at me.

Buja central market area is hectic, crowded and disorganized. There was nothing much of interest, the main points of interest were just outside the city: the beaches of Lake Tanganyika, one monument with the source of the nile, and another with Livingstone’s spot. But i didn’t visit any of these. Instead i was walking around the maze of warehouses in the market and talking to the shopkeepers and locals, who assumed i was some businessman from China. =) All along i get gawked at, with the locals talking to her, which went along the lines of “wow u got yourself a chinese mzungu boyfriend!” hahaha

I decided to loop around Lake Victoria, back into Nairobi, before heading down to Dar Es Salaam. This way, i take up one day extra but get to see inland Tanzania, in the Sukuma region.

76 – Oh man…where am I again?!

Wed 10th Feb, Hotel L’amite, Bujumbura, Burundi

Ok, so i am now in the capital of Burundi, very french, very developed, thus very weird. Where is this place and how come no info online or in guidebooks talks about this place. As it is, hardly anyone comes to this country, there is nothing spectacular to see, yet it is so fascinating how like Kigali or Kampala, it has boulevards, locals in weekend white tennis/golf garb as well as the nicest hotel i’ve been to since Somaliland.

Started the day earlier in Kigali by making my way down to the Nyabugogo station. The bus sets off at 9am, except i was more than an hour early. It was only 730am, and i have been living in the wrong time zone for the past 3 days. Rwanda is GMT+2, and no one (even my guidebook), bothered to tell me that.

The trip. Kampala Coach here decides to pull a fast one on me. While the first trip with them from Nairobi to Kampala was smooth, for this trip they decide to make major stops everywhere. Which meant that my 6 hour bus ride took 8 hours. Events on the trip can be broken down into discrete sections, since they are not chronological.

First, the border proceedings. Unlike elsewhere over the past couple weeks, i need a visa to get into Burundi. It was painless, a transit visa for 3 days cost US20. You get a stamp on your passport, as well as some sort of receipt, which i read online i need to keep for when i leave the country. There was a long stopover once we cross the Burundian border, lunch and something. There were a lot of stops for “something”.

Next, there was the Kenyan man sitting in front of me. He travels from Eldoret in Kenya to Bujumbura to find business opportunities. He has a small plastic crushing machine and heard that in Buj, there is no proper plastic industry. He asks me about extruders and injection moulding machines and whether he can get those in Singapore. I suggest he try the Japanese made machines and tell him there are probably little ones that small businesses like his can get to start up. I promise to send him some info i’ll dig up online. He tells me there are good investment opportunities here. I tell him i don’t have money to invest. He tells me you don’t need money, you just need persistence and balls (well not his exact words) and what you want you will get. Like him, he doesn’t speak French, does not know anyone, yet he makes his way to Burundi, tells his wife he is going somewhere. These kind of people will be successful. Food for thought.

Then there’s the Rwandan lady in the next seat who’s pretty hot and who i chatted up. She’s going to Buj to do business with some supplier. If she gets it done, she goes back to Kigali tomorrow. Otherwise, she’ll stay another day.

Reached Bujumbura before dusk, and unlike previous places, this time i’ve no idea where the bus dropped me off. LP guide isn’t useful at all. Tomorrow morning i shall have to orientate myself properly. In the meantime, i took a cab down to the hotel (Les Petit Bandits hang around after dark, so its a good idea to take a cab and stay safe) but the Hotel Le Doyen was apparently closed. Instead, i ended up at the Hotel L’amite, cheapest rooms at 20 USD (25000 BF) with free wifi. =) I think it is a shared room, it has three beds, but since no one comes here, i got the whole room with attached bathroom to myself.