Our legs were rubber and our lungs continually begged for more oxygen as we huffed and puffed into the clouds. We would have been drier had we been swimming in Lake Tanganyika due to the amount of sweat pouring off our bodies. The road zig-zagged through the mountains at angles too steep to be legal in most countries. Despite the stress we were putting on our bodies, we pushed hard to force our bicycles to the top of a very long climb in southern Burundi. Outside the little village of Nyanza-Lac, we had ascended from 500 meters at the edge of the lake to nearly 2000 meters in just a few short kilometers, quite literally, UP the road.
This was just a single moment on last year’s second day of the Tour du Burundi. A 700 kilometer, cycling challenge that was a sure highlight of my year. We had a great group of men from all over the world coming to Burundi after having fund raised and shared on awareness for this small, central African nation. With such success after last year’s tour was completed, we couldn’t help but to organize a second!
This year we have 22 riders from around the globe coming to join us for a cycle ride that will take us from the heart of Bujumbura, around the perimeter of Burundi, and back for a finish where we started. Each rider coming out for this year’s ride has spent months training, fundraising, and sharing about the need and ways our partner organizations are striving for lasting change in this country.
We will be departing early on May 18th for a beautiful first day’s cycle down the shores of Lake Tanganyika. Nearly every twist and turn revealing beautiful mountainsides, quaint fishing villages, and stunning views of the longest lake in the world. The second day takes us from the sandy beaches and quickly ascends into the mountains. An early morning start on our third leg of the Tour will bring the team into Gitega, for a visit to Youth for Christ’s Homes of Hope. Once there, we will be bombarded by some of the most wonderful children and friends, including Haylee and Jacque who are team mates from Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho. Leaving Gitega, our ride will proceed through miles and miles of rolling hills, streams, and marshes for a colder night’s stay near some pine forests. Our legs and backsides may be sore by then, but we will press on for our fifth day of riding and will remain higher in elevation for a majority of the time, with some steep descents and climbs to keep us on our toes. The most challenging and beautiful day will begin early on the 6th day of the ride. A long, steep ascent will take us into a national park with old growth jungle, hidden lakes, and interesting wildlife. The stunning views will keep our legs grinding up each hill for a final, long descent to the plains of Cibitoke. Finishing the long, 130 kilometer day, we will visit the second Youth for Christ Homes of Hope and sleep hard to regain some energy for our final leg of the tour. The last day will take us through the plains and rice fields back to where we had begun the ride several days before.
It is truly an amazing experience through the 1,001 hills of Burundi for a great cause; to bring change through a variety of spiritual, physical, emotional, mental, and community development. I know each one of us who were part of the tour last year were changed by our experience, and I have no doubt this year will yield the same results.