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  • Writer's pictureEric

Tanzania: Usambara Mountains, the Hard Way

We attempted to apply our traveling experience in Asia and around the world over many years, to this Africa trip. Well that didn’t work out so well! The Dar Es Salaam bus station is not a forgiving place to practice your newbie Africa efforts. My wandering through the intimidating hoards of hawkers and touts led me to book a bus that went in the correct general direction, but was NOT the exact bus to take to Lushoto, our intended starting point for excursions into Usambara.

So we took that bus and ended up on the side of the road at Mombo, then fought it out with the taxi drivers to get one to take us to Lushoto. We arrived after dark but at least we made it, now a bit more wary of unchaperoned ventures. Lots of activity around our bus as we stopped along the way.

Our guide for the next couple days was Dennis, who along with Murtaza took us on extensive hikes. The first we wandered through the weekly market, and then we were treated to a visit with the local Maasai. They were extremely welcoming and as it was Sunday they invited us into their church for services. The children had a welcome song for us, we had a sit down with the elders (“can you tell us about gay marriage” - uh, that doesn’t necessarily translate so well?!?), and then a send off from the boys, seeing who could jump the highest. We were all moved by the visit - it was not a polished tourist visit but a reasonably genuine event.

Up early the next morning for our three day hike. Day one was a doozie!! We hiked up and down through rolling hills, with children from many areas calling after us, “hello”, and “good morning teacher, how are you?” Few spoke Swahili or English, mostly local languages that our guide didn’t understand. Mountainsides planted with maize, beans, cabbages - so much!

We saw lots of chameleons on the walk, very fun to spot them in the foliage. Our homestay "Bushbabies" used ample rosemary to keep things "fresh".

We did 24km/1100m vertical that day - we slept good that night!

The next day a bit less aggressive. We had an interesting lunch at the Rangwi Sisters Convent and then hitched a ride the last few kms to our hotel between Mambo and Mtae, which sits high on a hill overlooking the plains towards Kenya and Mt Kilimanjaro- truly breathtaking! Perfect location for a little yoga!

Sunrise was beautiful with the clouds in the valley.

The last day we went on a hike through the forest and it was pretty dense - very beautiful and raw. Crazy caterpillar that Lill photographed.

Stunning sunrise and then off to Lushoto for our last day. We did another hike to the edge of the mountains and looked over the entire valley again - steep drops of a hundreds meters was pretty intense.

A stop along the way back for some locally brewed banana “wine” - yes we all tried it!

Onward to Moshi!

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