Sunday, September 9, 2007

Tanzania: Lushoto and the Usambara Mountains

Bidding adieu to Zanzibar, we boarded the Sea Star Ferry for a rocky journey back to Dar Es Salaam. Although instead of the Chuck Norris movie we enjoyed en route, we had to watch WWF wrestling and a Thai Martial Arts movie.
We boarded a local bus, where we shared two seats with seemingly five people and their chickens, bags, and groceries. But it was fun, actually, as the little boy shared his biscuits with us, and Eric played peek-a-boo with the giggliest toddler we’ve ever seen. What wasn’t fun was when we got pulled over for having too many people in the bus. Which wouldn’t have been a big deal, except our driver got in a verbal dispute with the cop that resulted in a 2-hour delay while they butted heads over fines, attitude, and road rules. Admittedly a full bus is not something to be underestimated. We were appalled at times by the crush of humanity, where neither pregnant women, nor men with peg legs, were given seat priority. Fancy an egg or a cashew? They’re plenty for sale while you wait…
But we eventually made our way via an overcrowded daladala to the hilltown of Lushoto. Winding our way up, up, up into the Usambara Mountains, daylight gave way to moonlight, the mountain air chilled, and we passed cozy looking homes lit by kerosene lights. We checked into the exceedingly friendly and homey Karibuni Lodge and fell fast asleep.
Awaking to Vervet Monkeys in the trees, we saw the so-called African Alps bathed in sunlight. Like a German-influenced Switzerland in Tanzania, the Usambara Mountains are sprinkled with European architecture and steeped in African flavor. Gorgeous views, abundant sugar cane, and lots of kids that giggle when you pretend to chase them.
We embarked on a three-day trek to the village of Mtae, where the views are stupendous, the kids run out to ‘jambo!’ you at every turn, and the mountains are a jumble of pine, eucalyptus, fields and villages. The motto of Mtae is ‘Kesi ya mbuzi hakima ni chui haki hakuna’ which means ‘In the case of the goat and the lion with the leopard as the judge, there is no justice.’ And it stemmed from colonial days, when there was no justice for an African plaintiff against a German farmer with a Colonial judge. Interesting and thought-provoking.
In Mtae, we stayed in a local guest house, along with all the passing bus drivers. (Who tended to lounge in the hallway at night, wrapped only in their towels. We tried not to contemplate this too much.) It was a simple abode. So simple, in fact, that Eric accidentally knocked off a large chunk of the wall when trying to get rid of a cricket with his flip flop. Whoops!

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