It was a shorter cycle tour than I would have liked, but three weeks provided plenty of time to traverse two of Africa’s smallest countries – Rwanda and Burundi. Both provided some of the most diverse terrain and well-paved roads I’ve cycled on in Africa.

In 2011 I spent a week cycling through Rwanda, but this was my first visit to Burundi. Here are a selection of photos from western Tanzania and Rwanda. In the following post I will include those from Burundi. Most of these pictures were taken with my Nikon D90 and a fixed 35mm lens. For a number of on-the-road situations I found this to be a far easier and simpler lens to travel with than the bulk of a telephoto lens.

A climb from Bukoba soon brought with it wide open views of the Katoke region of western Tanzania. Travelling with rear panniers and just 12-15kg made for faster progress up the hills.

Single-speed Chinese and Indian bicycles loaded with plantain are a common sight in north western Tanzania. Loads of 100kg+ are transported to local markets. 

The River Kagera acts as a border between Tanzania and Rwanda. It drains into Lake Victoria in Uganda, but the headwaters of this river begin in Burundi and form the source of the River Nile.

Not all bicycles in Africa are the same. This hand-cranked tricycle is made to be used by the disabled, although this able-bodied young boy was using it to transport a jerry-can of water in eastern Rwanda. 

Pineapples were in season and a good reason to stop when I saw them being sold on the roadside. My front rack always has space for a pineapple to be strapped onto. 

Plantain in Rwanda is more commonly known as matoke. It’s a food staple in this part of Africa and can be eaten at any point during the day.

In Kigali I arranged to meet up with Dave Conroy. In 2009 he quit his job in Canada and started cycling. He’s been in Africa for the past few years, slowly making his way north with no end goal in sight. We teamed up and cycled together through Rwanda, Burundi and back to Tanzania. 

Finding a bar with a pool table is never that hard in urban Africa. Dave and I spent several nights out in Kigali. 

Beer advertisements are common in Rwanda. Primus is Central Africa’s most famous beer and is brewed in Rwanda, Burundi, Congo (DRC) and the Republic of the Congo. Bottles are sensibly sized at 720ml and the beer is 5% in alcohol. It’s not Africa’s best beer, but at under a $1 a bottle I have no complaints. 

Visiting Kigali’s Genocide Memorial Centre was a sober reminder of the country’s dark past. During a three month period in 1994 almost 1 million people were brutally killed. 

African children are always happy to see their picture on the digital screen of a camera.We stopped at the roadside during a climb out of Kigali to find a group of the women selling bottles of Amarula containing  honey.

Small cafes selling tea and food are easy to find in Rwanda. Tea is either black or more commonly milk tea.

Rwanda has some excellent coffee, but it’s almost exclusively grown for an export market. This makes finding places to drink Rwandan coffee in Rwanda more challenging. The same is true in countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Burundi. Fortunately in the town of Butare we were able to find an excellent cafe where local coffee is ground in front of you. I left with 1kg in my bags. 

Using a 35mm fixed lens made taking pictures much faster and easier.

The road  south from Butare towards the Burundian border becomes increasingly scenic. Rwanda is one of the most densely populated countries on the continent. Almost all land is cultivated, but fertile enough to grow a wide range of crops. The result is a lush and scenic patchwork of tilled fields.

Cycling in rural Africa always brings with it curiosity from school children. Despite the infrastructural development that has taken place in Rwanda within the last two decades, most villages still lack power.