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Burundi: Source du Nil

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Source du Nil > Burundi > Africa

[Visited: February 2013]

We had been driving for a couple of hours from Bujumbura after an early departure that beautiful morning, through landscapes of rolling, green hills, and in a pleasant temperature - much better than the one in Bujumbura. We were on our way to the source of the Nile, but I was not even thinking much about it - I was just enjoying the landscape of Burundi. This must be a great country to hike in, I thought; unfortunately, I did not have the time for it. The road was surprisingly good, but we never had more than a hundred metres without curves (and probably even much less), so it still took us more than two hours to reach the source of the Nile.

Picture of Source du Nil (Burundi): The first metres of the Nile on its long journey to the Mediterranean

After parking on a small parking lot, we were received by two men, one of whom opened the padlock on the recently painted blue fence. We walked down the stairs, to a blue-tiled basin through which water was flowing: if anything, it looked like a small, shallow swimming pool. Of course, it was not: this, the guide proudly announced, was the source of the Nile. It originates a little higher on the hill, but to guarantee a visible flow any time of the year, it is channelled through this tiled pool. From it, it flows further down into a modest valley. The guide proudly proclaimed that the water was potable, and I could not resist to taste the Nile water. I imagined leaving a small message in the water, let it flow, and then tried to think how long it would take to reach the Mediterranean.

Picture of Source du Nil (Burundi): Pyramid erected to mark the source of the Nile, the watershed between the Congo and the Nile, and those explorers who did not find the source

While talking to the guide, I realized that these people, so proud of their source of the Nile, had never actually seen the river in Egypt, had not visited its delta, had not seen the ancient monuments lining the Nile, had not visited the countries through which the river flows and the different faces it assumes. Of course, there are more sources of the Nile, and certainly, such a big rivers must have various tributaries flowing into it. Yet, this is considered the southernmost source. But we were not done: the guide now led us up the hill for a couple of minutes, until we reached a small pyramid (what is it that the Nile makes people think pyramids?), erected in 1938 by its discoverer, the German Dr. Burkhart. It marks the divide between the Nile and the Congo basin, the Congo flowing west, the Nile north, while the nearest ocean would be east. From the pyramid, there are unlimited views in all directions, and we stood there a while to take it all in before moving on.

Picture of Source du Nil (Burundi): The small valley through which the small stream flows which further down will be the mighty Nile
Picture of Source du Nil (Burundi): Looking up the pyramid erected by Dr. Burkhart
Picture of Source du Nil (Burundi): The very start of the river Nile
Picture of Source du Nil (Burundi): The pyramid on the hill, marking the Congo (left) and Nile (right) watershed
Picture of Source du Nil (Burundi): Entrance sign of the Source du Nil

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