Burundi – Bujumbura and Matana

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Sunset – if you look to the horizon you can just see the silhouette of hills in the DR Congo

Burundi is a piece of heaven. So strikingly beautiful and raw and perfect. You never hear of Burundi as a tourist destination nor do you see it in National Geographic, but it’s beauty is on par with many more famous beautiful destinations. My whole time there (3 months) was very authentic and non-touristy in many ways. I went there to volunteer with a local church in the hills of Burundi in a village called Matana.

We flew into Bujumbura, the capital city. It is very mellow, in my opinion, for a capital city. Of course it was more hectic than the villages, but in comparison to say…Lagos, another African capital city..it was really mellow. But then again most cities are incomparable to Lagos, even the staunchest Londoner/New Yorker would find Lagos overwhelming at the very least. I would recommend visiting the tourist market which have loads of handcrafted things you can buy for people back home. Cafe Gourmand was also a nice treat, its a patisserie where you get all the usual sweet stuff and ice cream, unsurprisingly loads of westerners congregate there.

Now, Matana, was where I spent most of my time in Burundi. It is a village in the hills, Burundi is mostly hills covered in lush green and tea farms (tea is really good here). I love rural living, I live quite rural in the UK and just love the peace and slower pace of life. Matana is very beautiful and most people live off the land and rare cattle. People are proud of their cows and I saw one of the biggest cows I have ever seen in my life whilst up there, granted it was also pregnant. When it rains up here it pours, its loud and very heavy, nothing like you would ever see in England. It’s a deluge. Then the after-rain smell is just gorgeous due to all the green and red earth..urgh..perfection!

Of course, I  visited Lake Tanganyika a couple of times. It’s the biggest freshwater lake in Africa and second biggest in the world by volume. In some parts, the beach is white and the lake very clean and you feel you are in the Caribbean and not beside a humongous lake. At some point we were driving to Blue Bay resort and on one side of the road were huge hills dotted with palm trees and on the other side was the beautiful lake, needless to say I was awestruck the entire time.

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Lake Tanganyika
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Blue Bay

For the first time in my life, I finally got to see a water fall  after climbing through the hills in Rutana. The Karera Falls were amazing and I truly felt blessed to have the opportunity to be in this beautiful country filled with such natural beauty.

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Karera Falls, Rutana, Burundi

To add more to the wonders of Burundi, one of the sources of the Nile can be found here, it’s only a trickle now but nevertheless a must-see. Of all the places I have traveled to, I felt my most content and complete in Burundi; the rolling hills, the Lake, the people, the red earth. The beauty that surprised me at every turn and the the generally slow pace of life really does give this little gem heavenly traits!


Washington D.C – And it’s a wrap

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Capitol Hill, Washington D.C.

I absolutely love museums. I often call myself a cultural traveler and for me one of the best places to consume culture ,spanning from centuries in the past to the present, are museums. Now, Washington D.C.’s National Mall is a museum-lovers paradise with Smithsonian museums scattered across the Mall.

I had only two days to spend in D.C. and it was nowhere near enough. These  museums are huge and busy and free, so you really need time to get around them. I believe there are 18 Smithsonian museums in the D.C. area and I was pitifully only able to visit 2 of them. I visited the Air and Space Museum, the National Archives (not a Smithsonian) and the American History Museum; and my highlights were seeing the 1903 Wright Flyer, the Magna Carta and Michelle Obama’s 2009 inauguration dress & Julia Child’s kitchen respectively.

As at my visit, the African American History and Culture Museum was still being built, I would have loved to see that. However, my greatest disappointment was not having the time to mooch around the African Art Museum. I went as far as the foyer of the Natural History Museum, at this point I had already done a few museums, but it was so crowded that I was immediately drained of energy and motivation, so I did an about turn and went home. Bear in mind that seeing the Mall’s delights involves a lot of walking, getting to and around the museums, sights and memorials. A warm memory was when I bought a gigantic pretzel and sat my tired self on a wall directly opposite the National Archives and munched away appreciating how blessed I was to be able to see this part of the world.

Asides, the Smithsonian, visiting other tourist magnets like the White House and Capitol Hill were almost dream-like for me with how surreal it felt. Seeing war memorials were more sobering but equally enjoyable. I was nearly euphoric standing at the Lincoln Memorial and in front of the Reflecting Pool where MLK gave his “I Have a Dream..” speech.

As I went sightseeing on my own, I got to make friends along the way and it was just a great couple of days.I must say, I found it really pleasant being in America, if you have read my two previous posts you won’t be surprised to know that one of the reasons America (at least the states I visited) was so much fun for me was because it had  Nigerian vibes. In the sense that Americans, at least the ones I met, were quite chatty and loud, and the average Nigerian is quite chatty and loud and hence I felt quite at home. There was less stranger anxiety and it was  much easier to get into conversations with random strangers, than in the UK. So, even though I was a solo tourist in D.C., I did not feel alone as I had free rein to chat with random people without much fear of being given a cold shoulder, in fact most people I got into conversations with initiated the chatting. 

So, 3 states down in America, so much more to visit!

Next Stop, FLORIDA!

With Princess Fiona and Shrek at Universal Studios, Orlando

I had quite the unfortunate journey on my way from Menomonie, Wisconsin to Miami, Florida…I was seated at the rear of the plane, on the inner window seat of a row of 3 seats. The problem arose from the fact that there was no window by my window seat. So for the duration of the flight, I felt like I was in a large tube being hurtled across the sky mercilessly.

However, my time in the sunny Florida completely made up for my sickly plane journey. In a sense, being in Florida felt like being back home in Lagos, Nigeria. The sun was on full blast throughout the time I spent in the aptly nicknamed “sunshine state”. I was surprised to notice there were very few pedestrians to be seen everywhere I went in the state. Everyone seemed to have taken cover from the blazing sun. In comparison to the UK, I noticed there were loads of people driving white cars and under the bright sun, they sure did look good with the rays bouncing off of the white.  As I think of it, I do not think I have ever once seen a white car in the UK (moments after writing this I realized my neighbors actually own a white car….).

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Delicious Chick fil A milkshake

One of the major highlights of Florida was dropping by Chick fil A on our way to Orlando. I  had the most delicious milkshake ever made, in my opinion, and I have had a lot of milkshakes.

Without a doubt and it will come as no shock, that the best experience in Florida was visiting the Universal Studios in Orlando. I am an adrenaline junkie and hopped from roller-coaster to simulated roller-coaster. My dad, who I went with, is not an adrenaline junkie and he nearly had a heart attack. I wish we had more time though. We were only able to visit one section of the theme park and I would have also loved to go to Disney World which is a stones throw away from Universal Studios. It is definitely worth setting aside a few days (and wad of cash) to thoroughly enjoy the experience.

Other fun experiences were visits to South Beach and Daytona Beach (which is the self-proclaimed most famous beach in the world…). The waves reminded me of some beaches in Lagos, I often went to as a child. The waves of the Atlantic hedging Lagos are very wild and my idea of a perfect beach – warm sand, wild waves.

It probably goes without saying that Florida is a fantastic place to visit especially if you live in a country with more frigid temperatures. I found the people there warm and friendly and can’t wait to have another opportunity to return.