tiistai 12. huhtikuuta 2016

Exploring Usambara Mountains - A 3-day hike through Tanzania’s green hills

We depart from Dar Es Salaam with a so-called luxury bus because it’s a long 8-hour ride up to Lushoto. The AC is great – especially in the first 1.5 hours when it was actually working. So the adventure begins…

Lushoto is a beautiful town nestled in the hills of the Usambara mountains and rather cool, compared to other parts of Tanzania. We meet our guide, Christina from the local NGO and spend the evening with good company at her friend’s house. The next morning we rise bright and early – off we go! The first hiking day is 9 hours long. We walk up the hill and down the hill, through maize fields, little villages and pristine forests. Our guide spots shy monkeys and chameleons, which we would have never noticed.

The first night along the hike is a homestay managed by three brothers. It lies on a very steep hill and we decide to allow ourselves a piki pike ride (on the back of a motorcycle). We were promised very simple accommodation, more adventurous than comfortable. The beautifully arranged flowers, towels and sheets on the bed speak a different language. After a 5-course Swahili meal we happily fall asleep.

In the morning we could feel our legs, feet, back, well actually everything was pretty sore. But there is not much time to think about that as it is time to go. Today’s hike is not as long as the first one, around 6 hours plus a longer break around noon when it was getting just too hot.

Tonight’s accommodation is a round little mud hut with neither electricity
nor running water. The owner just recently added a small half open bathroom with a hole in the middle and buckets next to it because she heard that guests appreciate this comfort. Her hospitality amazes us – this woman, around 60 years old, spent hours preparing hot water in the fire pit for our warm shower and plenty of delicious food. This little town makes us feel like time travelers, going back 300 years in the past, when there was no electricity, people naturally used nature for medicine and the man had to work hard on the field to support his big family. This night really made us think about how easy our lives actually are.

Day number 3 and in the morning we get to meet the village’s friendly pastor and his family, shaped by missionaries long time ago. He is delighted that we are German and his very first question is what we know from the bible. The talk gets quite interesting, but unfortunately we cannot stay very long as we need to reach our final destination today.

Along the way we meet surprised school kids that are not used to see mzungu (white man) and observe us carefully.

Then we visit a women’s workshop where locals make and sell pottery. We purchase a small chameleon as our luggage is restricted but the financial gesture is much appreciated.
Finally we reach our destination – Mambo View. The view is incredibly amazing! On a clear day you can see Kilimanjaro in the distance. Now it’s time to rest and relax.

Our hike was only 3 days long but we experienced a completely different world. Usambara has beautiful nature, but we were most amazed by the hospitality of our local hosts. Such kindness to strangers that do not speak the same language and seem to have much more than them was just positively surprising. It was an adventurous but fantastic insight into their world. And there is no need to feel sorry for the lack of modern gadgets – the simple joy of the people warms your heart.

This blog post is written by Kristin, who was hiking at Usambara with her boyfriend in April 2015.