Monday, September 26, 2011

Usambara Mountains

  Note: Once again technology won and I (Jeanette) incorrectly saved the photos to the thumb drive.  Will try to post tomorrow or later this week.

On our last day in Dar es Salaam we booked a Kilimanjaro hike. Problem was, we have barely been hiking since our days in South Africa, so we headed to the Usambara Mountains for a crash session of getting into better hiking shape.

After a fairly comfortable 7-hour bus ride from Dar we arrived in the gorgeous town of Lushoto, a lovely haven tucked into even more lovely mountains.  As we stepped off the bus we were, as usual, met by a swarm of men wanting our business in one fashion or another. (Not in THAT fashion! Get your head out of the gutter!) Lucky for us there were also five other wazungus on the bus who greatly helped to divert
the attention away from us.  Our guidebook recommended booking hikes through the Friends of Usambara as they are very involved in community projects, so we headed there.  A plethora of different hiking options
were on the menu and we chose the 4-day hike to the Mazumbai Rainforest largely because there had been a great lack of trees in our lives while living in Unalaska and because of the chance to see black
and white Colobus monkeys.

The next morning we met our guides, Issa and Abu, at 9 AM.  Although Issa is a more experienced guide, Abu is from the area where we were headed so they were both going on the hike in order for Abu to help
Issa familiarize himself with the area.  After a short taxi ride to the village of Soni we began our 22+ km hike for that day.  It was sunny and hot, and after just a few hours it became apparent that we hadn’t put on our boots in well over six weeks (Tevas being the shoe of choice).  Our feet were so delighted with the extra room provided by our Tevas that they seem to have sprawled out a surprising distance
and now very snugly fit into our boots.  This means blisters, more so for Anne than me.  She’s always said how shoe shopping is a pain for her because of her wide feet but I guess I never really looked at them
closely nor compared them to mine.  She wasn’t kidding.  They really do look like duck feet without the webbing. This explains why she typically gets blisters on the sides of her feet.  Towards the end of
the first day we both decided to take off the boots and finish the last few kilometers in our beloved Tevas.  Our foot-spreading has put a kink in the Kili plans though; it’s a hard enough hike as it is with comfortable boots.  Before this trip and even in South Africa where we were hiking a lot, we took such pains to make sure our boots were comfortable and suitable for Kili – so much for advance planning!  We have decided to rearrange our plans a bit and head to Moshi early to either look for new (used) boots on the street or to rent them from one of the companies and wear them around town for a few days before the hike.

Our first day of hiking led us up, up, and up a road to the town of Bumbuli.  Despite months of hiking inactivity, Anne hasn’t lost her ability to make dust out of me while going uphill.  We passed through two villages and saw tons of chameleons along the way.  Issa and Abu were so good at noticing them and pointing them out to us.  Anne and I would search the bushes along the side of the road and never did find one, until the last day when Anne spotted one crossing the street.

Awesome views.

Male Usambara Two Horned Chameleon doing downward dog.

I don't know what yoga position this is, but I bet I can't do it.
Every little kid we passed that day shouted wazungu at the tops of their lungs.  Sometimes we couldn’t even tell which direction it was coming from.  Although this makes me feel like I’m a circus act, the kids definitely had a friendly tone to their voices and the braver ones dared to say “good morning” or “how are you” in English quickly before running away and hiding in embarrassment.

The second day pretty much rained all day, a sure sign that we were near the rainforest.  The forest was beautiful but since we were drenched and cold we didn’t have time to linger and take photos. There was a little hamlet next to the rainforest that would be our home for the next two nights and given its lack of proximity to anything, we had very low expectations.  However, we were pleasantly surprised to walk up to a gorgeous house built by the Germans in the early 1900s.  When the Germans colonized Tanzania, they constructed a ton of buildings and destroyed much of the rainforest for timber and farmland.  Then the British came in and turned many of the buildings into houses and schools.  Within minutes of arriving we had on dry
clothes, a cup of tea in our hands, and were warming ourselves by the fire.  The grounds were beautiful complete with an amazingly colorful garden.

I have no idea what this is but it was pretty.

This is the flower on passion fruit vines.

Our lovely home for two nights.

Issa and Abu were delighted with Anne’s ability to speak Swahili and many of the locals we encountered along the way were as well. Although our two guides could both speak decent English they habitually lapsed into Swahili, so Anne acted as my interpreter.  Her 31st birthday was our last day of the hike.  I had asked Issa and Abu to bring a candle out with breakfast that morning so we could all sing “Happy Birthday” to her, but they went above and beyond by picking her a bouquet of beautiful flowers, lighting a candelabrum, and buying her a kanga.  It was really sweet and obvious how excited they were to celebrate with her. (We didn’t tell them, though, that we also celebrated our six month traveling mark!) They were really good guides
and enjoyable to be around.

Abu, Anne, and Issa with their flowers and kanga gifts for her 31st birthday.

Boca Boca Tree with enormous roots for stability.

Black and White Colobus Monkey!

Alas, all good things must come to an end, and we had to head back.  It was sad to leave the rainforest, but we were comforted by the gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains and villages.  It was a great hike and so good to be outside.  Now, if we could just square away this boot situation for Kili….

1 comment:

  1. I need to look back through my photos and journal, but I think I camped in front of the big white house you have pictured! Was it a forest ranger/reserve house?? We spent a week there, watching colubus monkeys and doing forest surveys......

    Your kitties miss you....when are you coming home?