As one scours the shores of Lake Tanganyika, not in the extreme north western end of Tanzania, but in the heart of Africa, it is difficult to believe that one can be in Burundi and also frolic in the noisy splashing waves of Africa’s deepest lake.
Bujumbura’s waterline may not have the majestic whites and beaches of the Indian Ocean but it nevertheless boasts of not just a beach, but beaches.
They come in various shades of cream, closer to white where there is a good ownership and exclusive admission but tending to brown with stones and organic debris where the shoreline is free for all.
At the Hotel Restaurant Le Tanganyika, fish from the depths of the Tanganyika is served, as the breeze from the lake cools the searing heat before it hits the skin.
Cars zoom by past the majestic view of the water line and momentarily separate the eye from the subdued noise of carousing Burundians kicking sand and chasing the wild afternoon waves.
If you are lucky a motorcade of cars and pick up trucks with armed soldiers, escorting the president to his regular day of football, might pass you by.
Bujumbura reminds one of a place you grew up, with all its safe chaos. People get to do what they want to do when they want to do. They break the rules when no one expects them to break them and when you expect them to, they surprise you by not breaking the rules.
They eat fish and lots of kinds of fish. When you ask for fish, you will hear names like mukeke and sangala, but those names do not really matter.
The fish is good and the taste plays about with your taste buds depending on the dozen several ways in which the chef has chosen to prepare it for your savoring delights. The names will roll off your tongue because of the abundance of good French in the menus.
The names of the dishes will not water your mouth but the smells will titillate your taste buds into wondering what comes next.
The names of beaches and beach clubs carry exotic names such as Club Du Lac Tanganyika, bars and clubs as Havana, Cappuccino and Restaurant Aosto. The decors are like neglected pieces of art, which few notice as they engage in the business of loving life.
Bujumbura is not the most tantalizing city in the world, but it sure has its generous dose of pleasant surprises.