Thursday, April 22, 2010

New career as a tourist guide

Recently we’ve been quite busy entertaining visitors. In Sudan, except for our parents who braved the heat, no-one ever came to visit us. Yet ever since we’ve moved to Burundi, tens of people have lined up to come and stay at our little palace. What they don’t realise is that there isn’t much to do in Burundi. Honest. Now, I have to concede - there IS a nice beach, green hills and the Congo mountains, grilled fish and tasty meat brochettes, and mango/pineapple smoothies. But drive a few miles outside Bujumbura and that’s it, you’ve seen most of this beautiful (yet very small) country.

So it was an extremely pleasant surprise when our friend M announced that he and his 3 kids would be coming all the way from Khartoum to stay with us over the Easter week-end. Despite some major glitches along the way including DHL, laborious visa processes and the loss of yellow fever certificates, they all made it safely and we had a wonderful time. We went to the “Musee Vivant”, a small and dingy local zoo where the star attraction is the feeding of live hamsters to sleepy crocodiles, leopard or great python. We were slightly worried that M’s kids (all aged under 6) would find the experience traumatizing but instead they seemed to take great pleasure in cheering for the poor thing to “Run!Run!Run!” before it was finally snapped by a mighty pair of jaws. Other highlights included touching chameleons or snakes and letting them crawl around your neck, which the kids – adults less so – absolutely loved.

R and her new friend

E and her new friend

About 90 minutes south of Bujumbura, a new resort has opened on the shores of Lake Tanganika. With little huts on the beach, a tennis court and a volley net, Blue Bay is the perfect place to relax away from town at the week-end. We drove there for an afternoon and ate pizzas and swam in warm (and crocodile infested?) waters. Finally Easter Sunday was spent relaxing in our garden with a couple of friends, and playing croquet.

G helping with a game of croquet, in his own way

One day after M and the kids had returned to Khartoum, my good friend L visited from Kinshasa. Determined to relax from the chaos of Congo, she came armed with books, nail polish, cute dresses and one word: “hippos!” So I took her to the Rusizi reserve, the closest wildlife park to Bujumbura where hippos, crocs, antelopes and birds abound. One memorable moment was when L – who had never seen hippos until then –asked the guide if he couldn’t lure them to the shore (where we stood with an armed guard) so that she could approach them and get a better shot. Luckily she didn’t get his reply in French, nor saw the smile on his face.

All in all it’s been a very nice few weeks and given a few more visitors, we could well become the next official tourist guides of Burundi.

The Rusizi channel, with the Congo mountains in the background

Come to mama L...

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