Riding In Burundi!

Postby MikeD on Wed 14/Oct/09 8:21am

(Apologies to all who may have read this on Ridemonkey, but I'm just gonna cut-and-paste; hope it's interesting...looks like some of the pics are cut off but you can open them in a new window...)

As some of you know, I've been living in Burundi (central Africa, sort of Rwanda's lesser-known evil twin) for a little over a year. Living here was an adjustment and work was hectic, and the security situation left us quite restricted. I just wasn't in a place to even think about biking. But things have gotten better and we security goons have been easing back the restrictions for those of us under our provenance. So I reassembled my Turner and rebuilt my Evil into a singlespeed, and we've begun exploring. I take a few security precautions and items of equipment while we're out there, but I still honestly feel that during the day we're just as safe as anywhere else. Medical care and transportation, however, barely exist, so we do play it safe risk-wise while riding.

Burundi is entirely mountainous, except the plain on the lake where the capital of Bujumbura is. There are roads into the hills but the vast, vast majority are unpaved and the main thoroughfares really are footpaths. Outside of a few real population centers, the entire country is evenly rural--very few "wild" places, and pretty much every square inch is lived on/subsistence farmed by people living in small clusters. There are some larger coffee and tea plantations as well.

So yeah, anyhow, we've started riding up the dirt roads and out into the country and hitting the footpaths, crowded as they are. It's been incredibly liberating and positive and just a damned lot of fun. The tracks we've found have been somewhat technical...tiny off-camber ribbons of dirt with large dropoffs on either side in many cases, and every corner needs to be carefully considered b/c you're liable to run into a dude carrying a bundle of thatch, bananas, or a dinette set on his head.

As soon as we're out, the child network of "Mzungu!" alarms goes out through the countryside and everyone comes running, but we've learned how to handle all the attention and have a good time. We tend to bring big smiles to people's faces, which is nice, and things that seemed aggressive to me months ago I now just know to be business as usual.

We've also hit the roads for some mileage, and really seen how the bicycle is the dominant form of transport here. You see them when you drive, but you just don't see quite how many are parked on the side of the road as you dodge the psycho traffic and motorcycles. We collected a huge peloton of guys loaded with massive towers of bananas, 55g drums, passengers, huge bags of charcoal, etc etc as we headed north on the pavement yesterday. There's a Chinese model of cruiser which completely dominates central/east Africa. They hook 'em up with rebar cargo racks/passenger seats, paint 'em with many layers of housepaint, hang decorations all over, and ride these machines everywhere. Having a bike is a pretty big deal. Most of the velo-taxi riders don't even own their bikes, but are working for someone who does.

Alas, during most of this I've been camera-less, and/or just too busy to take photos. But we finally got a camera out on this morning's ride. My battery died before we climbed to the more technical/singletracky portions, but I did get a few photos from the lower dirt roads/doubletracks/wide singletracks. A friends' should be available soon and I think he got a few more good ones higher up.

With that, here's this morning's ride:



One of the many portages; erosion is no joke with a heavy rainy season twice a year.
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This enterprising kid grabbed my bike and ported it while I was taking the photo, so I let him have a ride.
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He was totally enthralled with the Dave Weagle-spec geometry on my bike. He commented at length on the astounding handling and remarkable vertical compliance combined with lateral stiffness. I think that's what he said, anyhow. He did seem to prefer Hopes to my Maguras, however.
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Taking a short break with some short kids.
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Easy spin with mobile cheering and motivation entourage. I don't envy Charles for having to ride my RFX. Much prefer my rigid SS on these rides.
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The boss is still spinnin'
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Just another bend in the road.
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Fortuitous bridge bridge saves us from porting one more time
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MikeD
Member for: 16 years 9 months

Re: Riding In Burundi!

Postby scatter on Wed 14/Oct/09 8:29am

Holy crap, Mike! That looks super amazing :)
scatter
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"The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook"
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Re: Riding In Burundi!

Postby Oli on Wed 14/Oct/09 8:35am

Very cool! :thumbsup:

By "safety precautions" you mean guns, right? :o
Oli
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Member for: 14 years 2 months

Re: Riding In Burundi!

Postby MikeD on Wed 14/Oct/09 8:38am

Common sense goes a long way, too...
MikeD
Member for: 16 years 9 months

Re: Riding In Burundi!

Postby ThingOne on Wed 14/Oct/09 8:40am

Awesome experience! :)
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"www.bushloveracing.com"
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Re: Riding In Burundi!

Postby Bigfoot on Wed 14/Oct/09 8:44am

Very cool!
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"We are the Village Green Preservation Society"
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Re: Riding In Burundi!

Postby MikeD on Thu 15/Oct/09 12:38am

Thanks, guys. It's been soul-rejuvenating to be out on the bike again. Plus my ass looks GREAT.

Got the other pics from our buddy but nothing too special. When the trail got funky, we were too busy riding to shoot, and there's nowhere to stop! Will post in a few hours.
MikeD
Member for: 16 years 9 months

Re: Riding In Burundi!

Postby MikeD on Mon 4/Jan/10 6:55am

Finally got a helmet-cam! Vholdr HD. Excuse the roughness; I'm working on my shooting and editing skills. Video's totally new to me.





MikeD
Member for: 16 years 9 months

Re: Riding In Burundi!

Postby sifter on Mon 4/Jan/10 9:18am

Great stuff.

I found the middle footage strangely beautiful.

My old man's working in Pretoria for the next two or so years, I really must get over there...
sifter
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Re: Riding In Burundi!

Postby MikeD on Sat 9/Jan/10 5:32am



Bujumbura's youth thugs finally intercept me and bend me to their evil will!!
MikeD
Member for: 16 years 9 months

Re: Riding In Burundi!

Postby Percy Pig on Sat 9/Jan/10 6:34am

Nice one Mike, good to see you are still out there and having fun! :thumbsup:
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