31 March 2013

Tanga to Lushoto

We  had to get out of Tanga today.  Skipping the cultural tours, the caves, and everything else, as they cost a fortune even by Australian standards, we wanted to head up into the mountains and see if life is different there.  A quick breakfast of a pancake mixed with bread (Chapati – our staple at the moment but somewhat oily) and we caught our first taxi since Dar to get to the bus station.  Fortunately for us it went without a hitch, and we arrived with everything we had left the hotel with!  Still, we were somewhat suspicious.


At the bus station we were mobbed by people.  “You go to Dar?”  “ARUSHA!” “Where are you going?” were all thrown at us by many people.  Saying we wanted a big bus to Lushoto, and not a Daladala.  We were taken by one person to where they apparently were.  No problems.  Except for the fight that almost broke out to take us…  We did get to a bus though.  It was a bit bigger than a Daladala, but not much.  We were told that there were no proper buses going (not true we found out later).  Settling on our price, we were then told we would have to pay for our bags.  This started out at TZS 2,000 a bag then with haggling went up to TZS 6,000! before we settled on 2,000 for both bags.  Although by then we were threatening to get off the bus and catch a different one.  All sorted out, we settled down for the bus to leave.  At least we have experience with this, but it did not take too long, and within half an hour we were setting out.  Stopping here and there to pick people up and drop off others, we made our way to the next large town.


Here we were waiting at the bus station for another half hour or so as Daladala’s don’t leave, until completely full.  This includes at least three people standing.  People insistently coming around and knocking on the bus window, or the side of the bus to try and sell us bread, oranges, nuts, batteries, wallets, belts, torches, miniature furniture (stools), drums, popcorn and much more.  Even pretending to be asleep was not good enough to stop them, as they would put their hands through the windows and shake you until you said you were not interested.  Resolving to close the window next stop when we finally started out again.


The views out over the plains were interesting,  Flat land that is semi tropical, with most of the ground now covered by grasses brought on by the start of the rains.  There had been a good storm last night, and puddles were everywhere.  Past more sisal plantations and grazing lands.  Dotted with villages along the way.  At one point we were parallel to the old railway lines, and while the tracks were still there, it hasn’t been used in years, as there are small trees growing up between them.

No longer used

No longer used

Looking forward to the mountains

Looking forward to the mountains

At the next main bus station, we did remember to close the windows, but this was to no effect, as people would open them, and then shake you awake to get the “No, I don’t want a toy UN Police car, or sunglasses.”  Still, we were making (slow) progress.  The mountains were getting closer on the right, and after the next main stop (Mombo), we headed up  into them.

The narrow winding (thank god) bitumen road had many hairpins as it quickly rose up above the Maasai Plains.  Presenting spectacular views every time it turned a corner.  One side looking back out over the plains, with the mountain dropping quickly away from the road.  On the other side, it would reveal peaks and valleys.

The foot hills

The foot hills

Here there were houses and fields covering a lot of the landscape with small, almost vertical trails connecting them. It looked as if it would be a challenge to walk up them, let alone tend your fields, going up and down every time!

The small Soni waterfall

The small Soni waterfall

The bottom of the valley had a fast flowing brown river, although narrow, there was a lot of silt laden water flowing down onto the plains.  This was the Sony River, coming off the West Usambara Mountains.  There were a couple of waterfalls along the way, that we could catch glimpses of through thee trees.  Although the Mountains had been heavily de-forested,  a lot is starting to regrow, and the rest are still being used as fields.


Even though the mountains are ridiculously steep they are not terraced, and look as if someone has applied patches to the sides.  Eventually we arrived at Sony itself, with the town perched on both sides of the river above a large waterfall.  From here it was not too much further to Lushoto.  The temperature had dropped sharply this high in the mountains, and there was a distinct chill in the air when we exited the bus at our destination.  Here we were picked up by a couple of Flycatchers (touts).  Pressing on us pamphlets on the cultural activities offered in town, and offering to take us to a hotel.  We said we would look at them, and as the hotel was in the same direction that we wanted to go in, we followed them.  Turned out we ended up staying at the White Annex House.  No water, power outages, and we had to change rooms to get holey, ill-fitting mosquito nets!  Still, it is within our budget.  WiFi?  What’s that?  Haven’t been in a place in Tanzania with it yet, though all the rooms, including the cheapest, have televisions (even if the plug does not fit the power point, and the only way to tune it is read Chinese).


A quick walk around town, and a bad over priced lunch/dinner that is no exception to standard fare here, before dropping into Tourist information (the official one) to find out someone had been mugged here two days ago walking by themselves to one of the  main attractions in the region, and they would charge us 25,000 each to have a “guide”  I think the muggings are intentional.  This is to help employment.  Either you make money as a guide,or as a mugger.  Either way…  Then at the Venus Fly Trap (the office of the flycatchers) to find out their prices for a guide were USD$25-35 for a half day “guide”  Admittedly that does include the US$10 per person per day National Park Fee.

That done, we settled down for a beer and game of cards, at least we can afford to do that, before turning in early, as it is too unsafe, again, to walk around at night in this country that every one says is friendly and safe!



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