dhow portAfter we heard about the forests and rocks of the Usambara mountains and the stunning view from a cliff a couple of hundred meters down over the vast Massai steppes we decide to spend a couple of days there. Yet another bus ride for a couple of hours. At least, the small crowded bus cruises on paved roads. Rolling through sisal plantations and dry land, stopping every here and there to pick up and let out passengers and live stock. For tourists it is somewhat difficult to determine what is actually considered a bus stop. The bus toils uphill into the naked mountains, crosses forests, banana plantations and small villages. We reach Lushoto, a German settlement from the 19th century in the late afternoon. The temperature is, compared to the previous places quite moderate. From the bus terminal we walk uphill towards the old post office building that wouldn’t hide its architectural roots. A few locals follow us, carry Urs crash pad that looks like a mattress and keep interviewing us about our Safari plans for Lushoto, eager to sell us a tour. Just behind the post, we check in to a lodge with white tiled floors and nice beds. In the evening we stroll into the town centre again, talking to a friendly official tourist guide about maps of the area and since they would not give them to us, possibilities for walking tours. This seems to be somewhat typical for Africa; you can book expensive guided tours but cannot get decent information to walk on your own. There are many tours possible, by feet, by bicycle or with a car. Yet everything has its price. We postpone our decision to the following day and go for diner.

With our guide, we leave Lushoto for a single day trekking. On the way up along the corn fields up to the small villages and the jungle, he would tell us about various trees and small plants looking like cannabis. And he is good in spotting Chameleons in the bushes, as well as in English, telling stories of his former carrier as snake catcher. Nowadays, he’s more into protection of the environment, pointing at the smoke on the hills. Still, the locals make excessive use of slash-and-burn to gain new farm land. Within a few years, the good soil is washed away by the rain and the crop fields are abandoned. That’s why many of the hills are bare of any vegetation. Before we reach the jungle, he picks up a local for a few bucks to walk ahead and look out for the poisonous green and black mambas. Happy not to face any of them, we enjoy our walk in the thick jungle with some old giant eucalyptus and acacias trees and 3 or 4 meter tall ferns - sort of Jurassic park feeling. How must the remote living hunting tribes feel if they ever watch Jurassic Park? We finish our hike on the Irente viewpoint with a splendid view over the Massai steep and towers of white cumulus clouds in the setting sun.

The day after, Urs and I hire a Tuck-tuck to bring us downhill close the rocks. Urs is carrying his crash pad that looks like a folded mattress on his back. After 15 minutes, we find some adequate rocks behind banana plantations underneath the rocky top of the hill. We try to climb up the small footpath, and quickly end up in the jungle. No stick, no guide to prevent us from the snakes. Urs doesn’t seem to care and keeps on walking. A small field looks like a cannabis plantation. We reach some rocks, yet cannot climb because the bushes surrounding them are just too thick and thorny. After a while we give up, next time we should have a machete. Young women with children sit on the side of the street and wash clothes. They smile when they see us coming, covered over and over with burdock seeds and carrying a bed. One of them starts picking them from my shirt. Two old passing by women start dealing with Urs for a good price for his bed. We keep walking down the road, watching women smashing rocks to little stones beside the road, men sitting in the shadow on a small wooden shop. Urs becomes good friend of a weird old man that keeps following us, repeatedly talking to Urs stuff like: “You can help solve my many problem. You would like have to give me 1000 Schilling.” A cute young women joins us walking. I ask her whether the old man was her friend. No, she replied and asks, if he was Urs friend. Smiling…

Irente viewpoint