Northern Tanzania

After Zanzibar, the group split up again. Dave, Becky and I decided to head north up the coast and then cut westward toward the mountains further inland. From Dar es Salaam we caught a bus to Tanga.

Tanga is Tanzania’s third largest city, although you’d never guess as much even after seeing number one and two, Dar and Arusha. Completely lacking the tall office buildings and bustling streets of the larger cities, Tanga feels like a quiet little town. We stayed for three days, long enough to see some sights in the area: the ruins of an ancient mosque and some bat-filled caves. We also managed to get horribly lost walking around the countryside trying to find the famed sulphur hot springs. After a couple hours walking in circles, the “springs” - no more than a stinky, muddy stream - were a huge let-down. Next we caught a bus to Lushoto, the starting point for treks around the Usambara mountains. We organized a guided 3-day hike with the Friends of Usambara organization, a group which uses their proceeds to initiate local development projects and fund schools. Less than $30 a day covered all of our food, park fees, guide and accommodation.

The hike was excellent. Highly recommended. We walked through several villages, under rainforest canopies, over scenic mountain passes and ate and slept well along the way. At every village we were met by small crowds of giggling children. The bold ones demanded to be photographed - “Mzungu! Mistah! Pikchah!” - while the shy ones just fled in terror. Our guide, Amril, told us that some parents warn their kids to stay away from the white folks.

“They say that the mzungu will snatch them up and put them in their backpacks and take them back to Europe!”

The hiking wasn’t too strenuous but still took us up to some stunning viewpoints. From one we could just make out the hazy sillouhette of Mt. Kilamanjaro. If I had had more time to spend, I would have enjoyed adding two or three more days to the trek and exploring more of the Usambaras. But just before the hike I had laid new plans for the next couple months:

The great Gartholomew J will soon be leaving Bulgaria to return to the USA. He is set to go before I will able to reach eastern Europe so visiting him in Sofia will sadly be impossible. Instead, we’ve arranged to meet in Cairo on April 27 and spend two weeks adventuring around the Sinai peninsula. That means that from this point in northern Tanzania, I have about 2 months to travel more than 4,000 km through at least 4 very large countries (Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt).

I convinced Becky and Dave to join me in Ethiopia. Their original plan would have had them wandering slowly up to Nairobi to make their flight back home to England. Our new plan meant several days of punishing travel: sprinting all the way across Kenya to the Ethiopian border at Moyale.

Before leaving Tanzania, we visited Arusha, famous among travelers as the “trekking capital” of Tanzania. Being the biggest city within close range of the country’s most famous attractions - Mt. Kilamanjaro, Mt. Meru, the Serengeti - it is the best place to book safaris. We were hoping to find a good deal on a trip to visit Ol Doinyo Lengai, an active volcano near lake Natron, but unfortunately we learned that the volcano is currently erupting and is too dangerous to climb. Some tour operators offered to take us, but warned that the park authorities “strongly advise against it.” We opted to skip it.

Arusha is also tagged the “Geneva of Africa” due to its having been chosen as the location for the UN tribunal on war crimes commited during the 1994 war in Rwanda. Visitors are allowed to sit in on the open sessions. We listened to the cross-examination of a Hutu woman. She described leaving her home and going to live in a bus station with dozens of others until she was able to flee. She told of soldiers who tossed grenades into buildings full of people, and of the segregation of the Hutu from the Tutsi for group executions. These trials have been going on for many years - many of those responsible for the atrocities carried out during the genocide have yet to be brought to justice.