Emily and Max are only just back from their epic Africa ride.  The tiny country of Burundi left a big impression. Here’s why:

#5  Bujumbura: the capital city of Burundi is like travelling back in time to 80s France. It is full of old world class with an African soul, and if you are tired of the sight of rice and beans, being able to treat yourselves to decent crepes, pastries and coffee should not be underestimated.

Once you head out of the capital, empty roads await.

#4  Lake Tanganyika: Beautiful, serene Lake Tanganyika stretches out from the capital Bujumbura to the distant mountains of the Congo in the West and continues on endlessly towards Tanzania and Zambia to the south.

The lake has immaculate sandy beaches, is completely untouched by tourism, and as beautiful as any stretch of Tropical coastline.

Time to relax after all those grueling climbs.

#3  One of the most fun and beautiful roads in the world: almost 30km of a long, sweeping downhill in to Bujumbura, made all the more rewarding by the days of struggling across the seemingly endless hills of Rwanda and northern Burundi.

This was also one of the most spectacular views of our whole trip, not that you’ll be going slowly enough to appreciate it.

Burundi's beautiful mountain roads.

#2   Lorry surfing: many a tired cycle tourer struggling uphill will have experienced the joys and perils of hitching a lift on a fortuitously passing lorry.

But Burundians, with both hills and cyclists in excess, has perfected lorry surfing to a fine (and terrifying) art.

Large groups of cyclists will cling precariously to the back of the same lorry, hitching both uphill and (nonsensically) downhill at alarming speeds.

As the lorries erratically swerve across the potholed roads, avoiding stray livestock and twisting down the hair pin bends, the cyclists sit nonchalantly on their handlebars, casually clinging on with one arm, as undisturbed and bored by the whole thing as if they were commuting to work on the local train.

Lorry surfing...a Burundi tradition.

#1  The people: clichéd but true, the people of Burundi were touchingly warm and genuine.

Burundi is a testament to the fact that you shouldn’t judge a country by their government / international newspaper headlines. All common wisdom and international commentary would dictate that you should stay away because you’d be in danger from “unrest”, but as we found out with many countries, people are people, wherever you go in the world.

And Burundians are no different. And (you’ll only really appreciate this if you’ve ever cycled through Ethiopia) the children will gleefully push you up hill and not demand biscuits as a result.

For some odd reason, kids love the thrill of pushing crazy foreigners up Burundi's long hills

About the Authors
Emily and Max cycled from France to South Africa over nine months, covering 23 countries in total, and raising money for Unicef Schools for Africa.

They’ve been back in their home town of London since May, and already plotting their next big ride. You can hear more about their trip here: cyclingtoafrica.com

Any brave souls ever tried Burundi-style lorry surfing?  Please share.

Top 5 Reasons to Cycle Burundi
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