Tuesday, June 30, 2009

My Guilty Pleasure

This is a hardship post. Really. Um...

One of the best things about Bujumbura is that it is situated on the edge of Lake Tanganyika, a lake so large that it produces waves (not particularly large ones, but waves nonetheless), has tides, and has produced sand.

…which means there’s a beach. And it’s a nice one, too.

The line that Burundi often touts is that it has “some of the best inland beaches in Africa.” Having lived in Gisenyi, Rwanda, which is known for its beautiful beach on Lake Kivu, I admit that I had my doubts. Once I saw it, though, I realized that Burundi was right to boast.

While there is a beach in town near the massive port that welcomes ships from Tanzania and Congo, most expatriates and Burundians head north on the weekends. To get there, go around the Nissan roundabout where Burundians like to take wedding photos (that’s a mystery to me), pass the large cube with photos of past Burundian leaders, most of whom have been assassinated, roll slowly over the enormous (and numerous) potholes that have pockmarked the road, drive past the enormous United Nations compound on the left and its bunkered warehouses on the right, and turn left into the Bora Bora Beach Club.

The Bora Bora Beach Club (called Bora Bora, really, but I rather like the “Beach Club” part) is the top destination for expats and wealthy Burundians. Since it opened a couple of months ago, it has taken the business of its neighbor further down the road, the Club Du Lac Tanganyika, which is known as the best hotel in Bujumbura (though it’s not technically in town).

Owned by a Francophone expat and designed to resemble something someone might find in French Polynesia, the restaurant/bar/lounge is simple and breezy. There’s a sizable pool and an elevated deck around which guests can read, sun, and use the free wireless internet. It is just steps from the lake, whose water is warm. Locals play water volleyball or just splash about. It’s a very relaxing scene, and a welcomed reprieve from the hustle-and-bustle of Bujumbura traffic.

At night, it becomes a throbbing bar and lounge; the pool is lit and techno or pop is blared from the speakers, and well-dressed people sip their colorful cocktails. At times like that, you wonder if you’re in Burundi at all. While life may not be overwhelmingly comfortable during the week, at least I have this one guilty pleasure.

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