Trekking through the countryside in the Usambara mountains
After spending a boring weekend in ugly Arusha, I was hoping to sit in on the trials that are still going on regarding the Rwandan genocide. For some reason they are taking place in Arusha and they are meant to be open to the public so I decided to suffer through the weekend in town in order to get to listen in on Monday morning. Unfortunately, I wasn't told that sometimes the judge closes the sessions and the public isn't allowed in... and that's exactly what happened on Monday. Annoyed, I left Arusha instead of waiting around until he decided to open it up again. I was really interested in hearing how the proceedings went but I wasn't going to waste any more time in Arusha so off I went to Moshi with my new friend from Iceland, Bergthora (B.B. for short). We had bonded in our misery on the safari and decided to head to the Usambara mountains for some trekking together.
On the way to Lushoto we stopped in Moshi just to get some photos of Kilimanjaro which hopefully came out ok. Seeing it, I was very tempted to climb it but the $1200 price tag was just too steep for me (and the descent was probably too much for my knees and feet to handle as well). So, we head off to Lushoto which is a small town in the green Usambara Mountains. The mountains aren't that tall but the scenery was great. We hired a guide named God Living (just "God" for short) and decided on a two day trek through dense forest as well as through some quaint villages. The kids were a little annoying with their screaming "muzungu!" over and over (and over until we were out of sight and then even sometimes longer) but most of the time it was awesomely silent except for the breeze. Most of the area that isn't in the forest reserves is cultivated but it's still beautiful and so neatly organized in square plots all over the hills. Like I remember from Ecuador, only some people choose to terrace their land... others seemed fine with cultivating on some very steep slopes. We saw many different crops being grown but the most prevalent was definitely corn. There were also some really nice sunflowers... oh, and plum trees that we could just pick from and pop the tiny, delicious things right into our mouths! Soooo sweet. In the forest we heard some monkeys but never actually spotted them. We were, however, viciously attacked by some horrible biting ants that we had to keep picking out of our clothes for about 30 minutes after we walked over their line of terror. I even had one in my underwear! (I know, too much information ;).
The hike ended in a town called Mtae that is incredibly situated on top of a cliff overlooking a huge valley and the Pare Mountains on the other side. We were told that you can see Kilimanjaro on a clear day but it was a bit too hazy when we were watching the sun set on our last day. After a short night's sleep we were up for a 4am bus to take us all the way to Dar es Salaam on the coast. It took forever and the really horrible movies on the TV were probably even worse than any I saw in China - and that's saying a lot. They may have seemed worse because they were being blasted on the highest volume setting... but I don't think so. But we eventually found the YWCA where we finally had a proper (cold but not quite cold enough considering the heat!) shower. I should have savored the cool weather of the mountains a bit more!
Unfortunately, B.B. has to go home in a couple weeks and she's already been to Zanzibar - my next stop - so we had to say goodbye. :( Hopefully I'll have a chance to stop by Iceland on my way home (whenever that will be)... it sounds like a great place to visit! (In the summer anyway ;)