It was early in the morning and the clouds surrounding Moshi have yet to wake up. Africa is an interesting place. You can see the moon and the sun both in the sky at the same time. Walking down the main street of Moshi to the bus station, I can see Mwenzi in the distance. Left to it would be Kibo, the top of Mount Kilimanjaro.
I got on the bus and it left 30 minutes later than advertised because it had to fill up with passengers. There was some kind of argument at the door of the bus but it was resolved quickly. I learned the best way to respond to the touts is to say I already have the tickets. Works every damn time, even when I didn’t. A lady took my backpack’s seat so it had to sit on my lap instead. From observation, man kind of very politely just give you some space so your backpack sits on your lap comfortably. But, ladies, they don’t, they just look at it like oh no, I’m sitting next to a dude with a backpack. Then comes the constant hip swaying of trying to get more space.
I didn’t mind much. Out on the highway, Kibo became extremely visible and watching Kilimanjaro disappear out of sight was my final good bye to this phenomenal mountain. It’s glaciated tops are almost gone, a huge contrast to the paintings everyone tried to sell me.
Kwaheri Mawenzi (goodbye the tallest mountain)
Kilimanjaro was gone and instead the scenery became pineapple farms that stretch to infinity and then the Pare Mountains. Green and more green appeared as more smaller mountains appeared. Palm trees started to accompany the pineapple farms as we traveled more south. I didn’t get to experience this on my way to Arusha because I was on a bus with tinted windows and people who won’t open the windows. This time I get to appreciate the great African outdoors.
The lady next to me left, and my knee got 20 minutes of freedom until an even fatter lady decided to sit down.
She asked me how I was doing, I said poa kabisa. Kabisa is a funny words, it means completely, but it also sounds like cabeza. So it makes me think of good head. She asked something else, but I told her I couldn’t hear her over the sound of the luggage shelf threatening to fall down. She was fat, sitting next to her is harder for me than sitting next to Devin who likes to spread his leg into my side of chair space because he hates buses.
Bus came to the next stop and she bought a lot of oranges. She asked me if I wanted one and I kindly declined because I’m forcing myself not to pee at the moment. She tried to open the windows to throw her trash out but she couldn’t. I didn’t help her litter in her own country neither. After a while, she realized there are a ton of open seats and sitting next to me wasn’t as fun as she thought to be, so she moved. My backpack got its seat back.
I didn’t know the bus goes through the long route in the Usambara mountains to reach lushoto. It went through Soni and another small town before reaching lushoto.
Good, I saw the Soni waterfall from afar. Wasn’t too impressive, what’s impressive is the village people who use it to watch their clothes.
Bus got in lushoto and I got off. First thing I hear is some asshole calling me Japanese. Where are the manners. Some other dude started telling me about places I could stay and the tourist information center while the asshole was objecting him. The other dude was pretty nice and he wasn’t really trying to tout me, and where he was telling me to go are places I already planned to go anyways.
The asshole on the other hand was getting annoying.
Dude: “Make sure to check out the tourist information office, its free”
Asshole: “Nothing here is free man”
Dude: “This place is right around the corner where you can stay”
It’s the place I was gonna stay anyways.
Asshole: “I got another place 17000 for a double”
“Do I look I need a double?”
That kind of shut him up and I really didn’t gave a fuck where he was leading to.
The other dude told me to visit the information center again and he left, didn’t ask for tip or anything.
After I was settled, I left for Irente Village because its on the edge of the cliffs and offers a nice view. Another really nice person came to me and asked me to go check out the tourist information center. I said OK and he politely said goodbye.
I started to think tourist information center means safari here in the mountain and they are just doing the same thing as they do in Arusha but with a different word.
“You looking for a safari?”
“You looking for tourist information center?”
Turned out I was half correct. Most of them approached me are from COCAFA, community Care and friendship association. They are a nonprofit that helps the community with orphanage, HIV health and whatever else. The people asking me are their local “guides” who you can pay to do day trips in the mountains. The proceeds go to their cause. That’s why they didn’t give me the creepy vibe even thou they were touting me.
I went off to Irente Village. A pretty scenic and pretty easy, but long walk through the villages. The scenery reminds me of Squamish. There are cows grazing in the opens followed by tons of dragonflies. Brick houses that contains more clay than bricks stood along the red dirt road. Inside the clay houses the smoke from cooking drifted out as the kids are walking back from school. I followed some cows and these cows knew where they are going without a shepherd.
I walked pole pole but arrived at the Irente Village nonetheless. Kids were staring at me as more cows are grazing at the village’s makeshift soccer field. Dragon flies are everywhere, probably attracted to the cow dungs. I went through some walk path and arrived at the cliff. A nice view of the valley below where I can see the highway. The stretch of greens. Then the nearby mountains. A phenomenal view, but what is more phenomenal is the peacefulness on this mountain.
No one really bothered me, everyone just said hello with occasional kids asking me where I came from. The real Africa, yet its also unreal. Then some teenager who seemed to just finish his soccer game had to ask me if I have 500 for him. At least he left when I told him no.
I walked back to Lushoto, and proceeded to walk to the Magamba rainforest, but I don’t like forested hikes and it was getting late so I went back half way. Everything in lushoto is peaceful, I went to get some beer at the bus stop, a place I normally hate. No touts. No chinos. Just bunch of people crowded over a TV watching a soccer match. However, bugs bite me at weird places. I was wearing jeans all day with repellent, but I was bitten on the thighs. There are also more bugs here than other places I have been.
While I was drinking my beers outside the lobby of the place I was staying in. An immigration officer approached me.
“Can I see your passport?”
“Why? Can I see your badge?”
He showed me his badge but I told him he hasn’t answer my why question yet.
“To do my job”
He got a bit pissed, but that convinced me he’s for real, a fake immigration officer doesn’t get pissed like he did.
I gave him my passport, a bit surprised I was checked in the middle of the mountains. He asked me why I’m such a hardass, I told him I never seen a badge before, so I had to make sure I’m not handing my life source to a stranger who might run away with it. We shook hands and it was over, just a strange story.
I kind of like this place, its more genuine. However, it gets a bit boring, and beer is hard to find. The prices aren’t exactly cheap either. I wanted to stay and do many day trips here, but it seemed most people are going to Zanzibar.
I thought I must leave this peaceful, but buggy land of forests, villages and mountains, with much regret of course. I wish I never spent that extra day in Moshi, and that wasted power outage day in Arusha came back to haunt me too.
With my decision made, I aimed for the 7AM bus to Ubungo, the place of my nightmares, and hoped I can catch the last ferry to Zanzibar.