I was wondering where I could spend 10 days before heading back to Zanzibar to meet my friend Anja, so I checked the Lonely Planet map for highlights in the Northeast of Tanzania (since that’s kind of on the way). I figured I’ll start out with Lushoto to see the Usambara mountains and then continue to the coast. However, the rumours that there is not much to do in the Usambara mountains proved to be wrong and I became one of those Germans who are struck by the mountains’ charm. It’s nice and cool (in both its meanings), the views are great, and I got thrown back into my childhood when you greeted everyone you met on your way through the village. So I rather lingered for a few days more.
Taveler’s first stop – Tupande
Everybody meets at Tupande basically, either to find a guide/customers for a trip or simply to hang out, chat and have some tea or food from the local restaurant next door (which is very good and cheap).
Accomodation – Kanaani Lodge
Having breakfast with the view of the hills and the village was probably what made me extend my stay at Kanaani Resthouse a few nights more. I was the only guest and the breakfast buffet was so huge that I only needed two meals per day.
Leasurely Walk – Irente View
I got a very good explanation of the way in Kanaani Lodge and it was easy enough to find. I extended what usually is a 3 hours walk into a day activity by having lunch in the Irente Farm Lodge Restaurant. They offer a farm lunch from 9am to 3.30pm, as I realized later. I had a different dish which was very delicious as well. The terrace was a nice place to wait for the rain to stop before walking back home. I went back a week later with Arthur who joined me in Lushoto, this time we stayed until sunset. Thanks to him and a picture a friend had taken we found a very cool spot to sit below the rock.
Day hike – Magamba rain forest+Mkuzi waterfall
This day hike was all my fault. I chose it the night before even if I knew it meant walking for 8 hours (!), because you can see a lot of different things in just one day (view point, rain forest, waterfall, and maybe even monkeys). Three other people joined me with enthusiasm. Until I realized that actually what the guide meant with 500m ascent wasn’t walking up hill for 500m. The total difference from the sea level was 500m. Sigh. But it was definitely worth it, even for somebody like me who thinks that walking more than 4 hours can’t be good for my health.
We even did some stuff that wasn’t planned at all.
-Like having the lunch (that our guide Augustino carried for us) in a local restaurant to take refuge from the heavy rain fall that lasted for about an hour. Just before we left I realized that beside me on the dust floor was a chicken warming about 10 eggs and eating dough that had risen enough to open the lid of the bucket it was kept in.
-Afterwards we went to a local bar (3 wooden benches along a wall and an old hifi music player) to try sugar cane beer.
-And then we watched how sugar cane beer is made and tried to use the sugar cane press, wow, it makes you really dizzy.
Of course we were totally behind on the schedule after all this, but still got to swim in the waterfall at the end. Since there was no daladala (minibus) anymore we returned to Lushoto in the back of a pick-up truck that happened to go that way. A perfect ending for an adventurous day.
Chameleons and other animals… I don’t know how our guide Augustino managed to spot them basically everywhere even if they are camouflaged so well.
Multiple day trip – Bumbuli
This was the perfect place to experience some country life, take pictures without electricity cables and poles in the way, just sit around, enjoy the landscape and listen to nature. Actually, we were supposed to stay one night only and ended up staying another night. We drove through tea fields, saw the factory that processes the tea before it is transported to Tanga to be packaged, and had a bamboo beer picnic in the rain forest.
Multiple day hikes – Mtae and Mambo view
You didn’t really think I’d do any of those 😉 It’s so much easier to take a bus or hire a driver to bring you right to the view point. (I already had done part of the hike to Mtae anyway in the Magamba+Mkuzi tour). This way it’s possible to go there in one day+1 overnight stay instead of 3 days, to get views of the Kilimanjaro (sometimes at least , we weren’t that lucky because it wasn’t clear enough that day), Mkomazi National Park, Mount Kenya, the Pare Mountains and a few lakes in the middle. The sunset and the sunrise are amazing.
Do’s and Don’ts in Tanzania
-Food: Eat Ugali (dish made of maize or millet flour) with your hands and eat the whole fish, no matter how big it is, to impress locals
-Transport: get a reliable taxi driver’s number when you arrive, or several. Let your driver know in advance that you want to be picked up if that will be late at night, he might be back home and asleep already otherwise
-I avoid bodabodas (motorcycle taxis) late in the evening now, taxis are the safer option. Or at least I would definitely not go for the ride if the driver is clearly drunk by the way the he talks. Now I even prefer avoiding bodabodas after rain fall, if I have to go somewhere over a bumpy and potentially slippery road. I almost died during a bodaboda ride with a drunk driver…
-Going out for drinks: if you invite people to grab a drink you are basically saying you will pay their drinks, too (and maybe next time they will pay). I witnessed somebody who didn’t know getting into an awkward situation.
Now I’m waiting for my friend Anja to arrive to go to the beach on the other side of the island together, to evade the heat and possible tensions during the election that will take place on the 20th of March. I can’t believe how hot it is and I’m just waiting for the moment when the reason for being completely wet will be that I’m in the water, and not dripping with sweat…