Another long bus ride commenced. This time we were going from Africa’s flatter terrain up to Lushoto in the Usambaras Mountains. Along this drive, we were greeted with a view of Mt. Kilimanjaro overtop the trees. Another future bucket list item? Sure, why not!
We wound up steep, narrow mountain roads without a single guardrail in sight. Children lined many of the roads, waving at our bus as we meandered passed. The trek again reminded me of Peruvian drives we witnessed in 2017. Anyway, we serpentined up the hillside, passing locals about their daily lives. Some were walking to school, others were manning their roadside shops, and others were pushing carts or carrying food.
A curving drive lead up to the front of our hotel. The parking area at the top seemed like Felix would never get turned around… without crashing into the hotel itself, that is. Alas, the amazing Felix turned the bus around without too much fanfare. Welcome to The Lawns Hotel. The hotel consists of your run-of-the-mill hotel rooms, a restaurant and booze stocked bar, an outdoor kitchen for campers to cook at (that means us), out door shower facilities, a playground and trampoline, and lastly, awesome, level, dry campsite. The camping area was terraced with delightful, green grass nestled just below the deck of the restaurant.
Day two in the mountains involved our usual morning breakfast of whatever deliciousness Edu decided to cook up, followed by a “guided” hike through the Lushoto area. However, our guide was largely distracted by his cellular device and pretty girls he encountered along the jaunt. Socializing was clearly his most preferred activity. That being said, we guided ourselves, hoping we made the proper turns and did not end up 30 km from our actual campsite as we wound through a maze of unmarked paved and dirt roads. I feel like I learned very little about the quaint, mountain village compared to the incredible information gleaned from our walk through Mto Wa Mbu. At least it was a beautiful view and worthy hike. However, a Google search yielded at least this bit of information about Lushoto.. It is home of the Wasambaa people in the Tanga Region of Tanzania. Sambaa is the language of choice by most of the residents, but they also speak Swahili. It’s nestled in a fertile valley at approximately 1200m surrounded by pines, eucalyptus, banana plants, and other tropical foliage, making the area is ideal for farming.
Anyhow, we saw chameleons, sauntered passed local store owners, and strolled through mountain villages. We jumped out onto a boulder, took in a precarious, yet glorious, view before striding back over. We wandered through small villages, high-fived adorable children, climbed steep-ish hills, and entered an even smaller part of the village… one in which provided us with a delectable lunch and an even more enticing dance.
Lunch was locally made and incredibly amazing. The hike made us hungrier, which made the meal even more appealing. It is hard to have cleaner cuisine. Locally grown veggies and proteins, they included no preservatives… fresh vegetables and chicken and beef and fruits. Everything was cooked on site. My mouth is still salivating. I devoured everything. And then it happened…….
DANCING!!! A traditional dance that involves traipsing in a circle while two other individuals serenaded us with their traditional music. The locals also wrapped colorful cloth around our waists… for just a tad extra flair. Two individuals are pushed into the spotlight with the sole purpose of shaking their rears until they get low enough to pick up the currency on the ground with their teeth. It was most assuredly unique, and obviously hilarious. It did help us burn off some of the calories we had just consumed!
After many thanks to the captivating natives, we continued on our tour of Lushoto. We wandered up and down hills, passed schools, through farms, and over water. One thing we did learn was that the Germans once occupied this area, and remnants of an old German farm were still present.
Eventually, we started our downhill stroll, stopping one last time at a local “bar.” By “bar”, I mean a mostly furniture-free room where a silent woman provided us with the beer they make. Oh, and single sign adorning the walls identifying the name of the establishment – Lusaka Zambia. There was one other patron in the “bar”, who sat quietly in a corner nursing a pitcher of the alcoholic beverage. Shortly thereafter, we climbed back up the slope to The Lawns Hotel.
Several of our counterparts settled in at the restaurant for a few drinks. I, however, true to my nature, decided I needed more than an 8ish km hike.
Of course being the workout nut that I am, the long bus rides had gotten to me. The campsite was not only huge and pretty, but it was also cool enough to workout outdoors! Campsite workout devised, I awaited people to leave what appeared the be the best area to workout, and headed down to begin my 30 minute routine. Alas, klutziness prevailed on my very first exercise, and my ankle fell half in half out of a disguised hole in the ground. The sound that it emitted immediately spiraled me into panic, as I can’t say I’m used to my ankle “popping” that loudly. I fell to the ground, slid off my sneaker, and examined my likely destroyed foot. I swore I had broken it, but when I tested it with my weight, it hurt, but I was able to place my full weight on it. Still completely freaked out and limping, I returned to my napping counterpart in the tent on an upper terrace. I attempted to alleviate my fears, and explained that what happened, loud pop and all, I had likely just sprained my ankle. Frantic Googling commenced, as I scanned WebMD articles. Yes, I became one of “those” people. Ultimately, it did appear I had sustained a moderate sprain. Crisis averted, but I was still limping and a tad freaked out. Why must I always injure myself on vacation, right before vacation, or get sick while traveling?
This resulted in me being careful-ish for the rest of the day. Don’t worry, against all advice, I picked some more level ground, and did a workout the following day. Fast-forward to January 2020, I certainly exacerbated the ankle injury. It still isn’t fully healed. I may not be the most responsible human on the planet when it comes to my own health and wellbeing.
Apart from being a charming campsite and hotel, the showers made me very happy. Yes, there were bugs bathing with me, but the water was actually HOT! Since it was cooler in the mountains, this was much appreciated.
This part of the trip was relaxing and pleasant. Our nights consisted of delectable meals courtesy of Edu, as well as adult beverages from the bar. Hubs and I elected to play cards in the actual bar while we partook of beer and wine. The bar was quite the eclectic little place, with some very interesting artwork and plates adorning the walls.
After a couple nights in Lushoto, we packed up our belongings and tents yet again bright and early in the morning, this time bound for Dar Es Salaam on the coast. Random side note: For how quiet and quaint this village was, we were roused every morning by chanting and shouting down below from the colleges playing soccer.
During the drive to Dar Es Salaam, Helen serenaded us with some delightful 80s music courtesy of her speaker and cellular device! And don’t forget the soda bottle microphone.
Dar Es Salaam is not a place I would ever be eager to revisit. It’s a dirty, noisy and insanely busy. The roads tossed us like rag dolls about the bus, including throwing belongings all over as the bus dropped into huge holes every second. The Muslim population is far denser here, requiring the females to cover up more than we had to in the other cities and towns. This made the higher temperatures and the stifling heat on the uncooled bus almost unbearable. We circled through downtown, eventually heading down along the coast.
Our final destination was Kipepeo Beach Village. The campsite left a lot to be desired, a narrow stretch of mostly sand where the tents shared space with vehicles. And it was HOT with little shade. Perhaps it’s time for an upgrade again! For a small fee, we were escorted to our two story bungalow sent back farther from the ocean. The bottom floor consisted of an open bathroom and a closet. Upon climbing the stairs, we were greeted by a doors made of twigs and branches that lead to the covered deck. A large bed dominated the rear of the sizable room, protected by mosquito netting. The clerk advised us to keep the doors closed, as monkeys and crows like to visit and steal items from the room. Noted. And we’ll take it!
Kipepeo Beach Village also had a bar and restaurant out along the beach. After obtaining a bag of ice for my ankle, we joined our group for drinks on the beach. I can’t recall what the vibrant, blue drink was made of, but they sure tasted exemplary!
All good things must come to an end. This was our final dinner with Edu and Felix. Edu surprised us with fried fish, which of course, did not disappoint one bit! We devoured the meal, sat around joking with everyone, and enjoyed a glass of red wine courtesy of Chelsea.
Goodbye Edu and Felix… now it’s on to Stone Town on Zanzibar. And beaches.