Before classes begin in a week at the University we decided it was the best time to make a trip upcountry to see our sister team, the “McCropders” and the other site of the students Randy will be teaching. We found one of the IT specialists at the University Noel, was willing to buy the tickets for the public bus and go with us to show us how it’s done. We left Sunday early afternoon. Although we arrived at the bus on time it had already pulled out and was two minutes up the road. So the taxi sped up, honked and pulled the bus over so we could get on. There were three empty seats, but they were the kind that fold down in the middle of a row of four. Thus began the adventures of Toad’s wild ride!
The bus drivers do this journey daily. They know the road, the curves and they use their horns continuously to tell those walking and riding bikes along the side that they are coming. It’s like water flowing down a stream, people just move over and the driver goes around. I am always amazed there aren’t more accidents and that one doesn’t see lots of bikes in the ditches by the sides of the road. As we arrived in Gitega, about 30 minutes from our destination (where we needed to then get a taxi), it began to rain, hard. Now it is the “wet” season, so it’s been raining every day for a brief time and often just at night for an hour or so. But this was the beginning of the torrent of rain that caused flooding. All night long there was thunder, flashes of lightening and heavy, heavy downpours of rain. When we arrived at Kibuye the power was off and remained so for nearly the whole two days we were there. Now we know why.
Late Monday afternoon we got a text from friends in Bujumbura telling us there had been flooding, 63 people dead and the road from Gitega to Bujumbura was closed due to mudslides. Without power we didn’t know about this. We knew we needed to get back to Bujumbura by Tuesday evening so we contacted Noel and set up an alternative plan to go by the “other” route to Bujumbura which is a very bad road by Burundian standards and took our friends much longer to travel. By the time the bus picked us up Tuesday morning, after an hour wait in this spot, and we got to Gitega, we heard the road had been re-opened.
The road was open but not without it’s problems! At one point there were three rig trucks coming up and two smaller buses, a small truck and car going down, but only one lane as there was a row of abandon rigs taking up the other lane. Size wins, so the buses moved over to let the trucks pass, and went on their way. We passed several places where one could see landslides but then as we came down the last steep incline into Bujumbura we saw where the torrent of flooding had been.
There were work crews that had already cleared much of the mud from the road, so it was open again. We could see where the water had been up to six feet high on the sides of the road. They were continuing to work as we passed. They will have to rebuild the shoulders on the road and the culverts that were destroyed. As we continued into the city the whole street was brown with mud and there were groups of people looking over other culverts that had also been overwhelmed with water. In the recorded history of Burundi they have never had this kind of devastating flooding. We were thankful to arrive back safely, but saddened for those who lost family and loved ones in this catastrophe. Another sobering reminder of the frailty of our lives and that every day we are given is a gift. We greatly appreciated all of Noel’s help in being our guide and in helping us to know what was going on as unusual events unfolded.
Daily we sense just how much we live in God’s merciful protection and thank Him for His care. We are blessed in the notes of concern from our loved ones who have sent their inquiries to us asking about us and this event. “He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” Ps. 94:4