There are different and many happening places in Rwanda but for someone feeling like crossing the border for a different experience, the shores of Lake Tanganyika in Bujumbura, Burundi’s capital city, is a perfect home away from home, and will sure enough offer you that much desired relaxation.
And this is complemented by the fact that Kirundi, the language that is most widely spoken in Burundi, is almost the same as Kinyarwanda. A Rwandan in Burundi will not suffer a language barrier problem. Ah, and the hospitality of the locals is awesome! As soon as you arrive in Bujumbura, you will be swarmed by good-natured and hospitable house brokers who will quickly find you comfortable and affordable residential apartments in the city. For some reasons, Burundi visitors prefer apartments to hotels.
My trip to Bujumbura recently was a memorable one, despite a few hiccups here and there, especially on the road to and from the Burundian capital.
It all started with a surprise call from my friends on a Saturday morning. “Man, later this afternoon we plan to go to Bujumbura and we feel we should go with you. Let’s go and experience the climate of Burundi and chill on the shores of Lake Tanganyika,” Philip Musiime, a friend of mine, told me on phone.
That the call from my buddies came on a boring weekend meant that I had to jump on the opportunity too fast – without asking too many questions.
The eight of us set off in two cars – a BMW and a Benz – from Kigali to Bujumbura via the Nemba border post in Bugesera District. We made a brief stopover at Kirundo, a trading centre in North Burundi, actually not far from the border between Rwanda and Burundi. Here we had a chance to taste Amstel Bock, one of those drinks that are quite rare in Rwanda.
On the road
Driving in this country requires a lot of attention. For starters, there are too many sharp corners, humps that a driver can hardly recognise, over speeding cars, as well as roadblocks made of barbed wire – and sometimes tree stems stretched across the road – that make a visiting driver’s journey awful.
In fact, on our way back at a trading centre called Mugasenyi, the guy who was driving the Benz hit a roadblock, badly damaging the car bumper.
One can actually tour the whole of Bujumbura City – on foot – in about 20 minutes. One of the places worth visiting in the commercial area of downtown Bujumbura is the enormous Bujumbura Central Market, where you will find all types of goodies on sale: vegetables, grains, electronics, clothes, pencils, chicken, liquor – warts and all.
We arrived in Bujumbura late in the night and spent that night at a place called Kigobe, near the American Embassy. When we woke up the following day, we went straight to Lake Tanganyika. We made our first stop at Karera Beach, which boasts of a large stretch of fine sand with enough place for playing beach volleyball. This place also has a fine restaurant and the music blaring from the premises makes a cold beer much more enjoyable.
Saga Plage is one of the oldest and most popular beaches in Bujumbura. But its noisy day club, bongo flava tunes and occasional concerts make it a place that is more favoured by a young crowd.
Only a few people go swimming in the lake but on windy afternoons you can see a couple of people kite-surfing.
From Saga Plage we went to Bora Bora Beach and wound up the evening at Toxic and Kiss nightclubs.
In general, Burundi has a tropical highland climate, with a considerable daily temperature range in many areas. Temperature also varies considerably from one region to another, chiefly as a result of differences in altitude.
The central plateau enjoys pleasantly cool weather, with an average temperature of 20°c (68°f). The area around Lake Tanganyika is warmer, averaging 23°c (73°f) while the highest mountain areas are cooler, averaging 16°c (60°f).