Leaving Lake Manyara we stopped in Arusha before making our way past Moshi to the base of Kilimanjaro (Kili). Leanne and I were joined by Greg and Lyndall (an Australian couple from our group) and a guide for an all day hike on the most popular ascent route for climbing Kilimanjaro. I previously had little desire to complete a full hike to the top, but after being on it I wished we had the flexibility to stay and complete the journey. It takes about five to six days to be able to climb while allowing acclimatization to make it all the way to the top. The peak is just under 5900 meters and we only made it to around 3000 meters in elevation. It was surprising how quickly the climate changed from jungle to alpine forest. We visited Maundi Crater in the Moorland region of the climb before having to return down. We were thrilled when we came across the Colobus Monkeys in the alpine trees. They are so different from the other monkeys we had seen with their ridiculously long hair. They are certainly my favourite and we loved spending time around them.
On our second night in the cottages at the base of Kili, we had a scary red caterpillar crawling up the wall immediately beside the toilet. After being told back in the Amazon that bright coloured bugs are often poisonous we were particularly fearful of it when using the washroom. It was probably harmless, but we still don’t know.
We left Kili for a long drive to the Usambara Mountains. It is quite a nice area off the regular tourist track. We stopped by a village called Soni and had a nice walk through a very diverse hilled area planted with all sorts of vegetation. It felt like one of the more remote spots we had been to, yet it had what may be the best wifi Internet connection in Tanzania at the place we had lunch. I was finally able to download our email. We are posting a few updates at the same time since getting online with the laptop has been a challenge. It is surprising how many lodges say they have Internet but it is coincidentally broken for the time we are there.
We carried on past the town of Lushoto and spent two nights in a German Guesthouse with exceptionally friendly service. It was cold in the evenings and we would huddle by the fire in the living area. On our second day there five of us did a walk through a forest trail on our own. It was a little overgrown and there were moments where we wondered whether it was a bad decision, but it all worked out and we returned back to the lodge just in time for a scheduled leave to a nearby village for their local market. This visit was certainly a cultural highlight. It likely receives few tourists, and our itinerary did not have a stop there. We went by request when we learned of it. Instead of the usual children extending their hands and saying give-me, give-me, we were just followed around by the young people as they stared at us and wanted to get a close look at us and hear how we spoke. Leanne bought some fabric in the market and sadly my haggling skills either were very poor or we were given a fair price right at the start. We walked away from the first place only to discover that each other vendor had an escalating price for the same size of material. I think someone was following and signalling prices to them over my shoulder. We eventually bought it after haggled back down to the first price we were quoted (under $4 CAD).
In the afternoon we went to a beautiful look out over the Masai plains. It was stunning and I was able to sit on the unprotected cliff edge to take photos, much to Leanne’s great discomfort. The cliff has a sheer drop of hundreds of meters to the valley below and despite having no fear of heights it was dizzying when I let my feet dangle and I stared down below. It was a beautiful spot. We stopped in the town of Lushoto on the way back from the lookout to explore it. Overall we had a great day.
The next morning was the last day of our tour and we had a long days drive to get from the mountains to Dar Es Salaam. We left at 7AM not to arrive in Dar until after 2PM. Leanne’s bag was packed in our truck and my bag was packed on the roof of the other truck. We were happy we weren’t with the other half of the group today. In the morning they decided to give their driver his tip for the trip. At the first pit stop along the way he counted it and was not pleased. He confronted the group saying it is not enough money and drove angry and dangerously for the rest of the way. I have no idea why they did not think to wait until the tour was over to give the tip especially if it was going to be small. When we finally arrived in Dar he was refusing to unload the truck and wanted to know if they had more money for him. I got our driver to get my bag off his truck. Everyone got their bags eventually and the other driver received no more money, but the whole situation was very awkward. That day we had to say goodbye to our favourite travellers from the group. Thanks Louise for the update, we are glad to know you made it home ok despite travelling with little money, no credit cards and no bank card, and we hope Greg and Lyndall had a safe journey as well.
We posted photos on Facebook at the same time as our last blog entries, but the Internet stopped working immediately after that so we couldn’t make this post or add any comments to the photos. The link to see the photos is here: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=109035&id=673382190&l=5bdb56301d