Friday, March 28, 2008

Lushoto, It's Rift-tastic!

After a brief stay in the quieter tourist town of Moshi, K and I decided not to make the immediate dash to the golden sands of Zanzibar and instead to take a quick trip to the small village of Lushoto in the Usambara mountains at the edge of the continental drift. Our Kili climbing compatriot Willa-Lee was on her way in that direction and we decided it sounded too good to turn down.

A bit of backgroun on Lushoto and the mountains... Germans did quite a little number to the region a bit over 100 years ago in an attempt to turn the hills into a combination coffee plantation/hills-are-alive-with-the-sound-of-music-style alipine pasture land. The one problem was that the clay soil didn't really stand up to mass deforestation. So, basically, in a short decade the the entire region had been devistated.

Today there is some small scale farming that supports small villages, but there is a concerted effort to replant some of the endemic trees of the region and return the area in part to it's forested past. For us, this balance between village life and eco-tourist-y hiking opportunities was difficut to resist. Plus, when we arrived, we found a farmhouse with the greatest front porch/kitten combo we have perhaps ever seen.

So over the course of the 2 days, Willa-Lee, Kristi and I ducked the tourist office's (and miscellaneous local children's offers) of guided tours and proceeded to hike the local waterfalls and hills. Our first day bought us to the top of Irente hill and a spectacular view of the Continental Rift Escarpment and the Masai plains stretching out below. Spectacular doesn't begin to describe the view. But, in case the view wasn't enough, we treated ourselves to a picnic lunch at the nearby Irente Farms where we ate some of the best cheese and rye bread we have had in quite some time. Plus, our first taste of a cheese-ish spread called quark. If you are a physics junkie, please insert a particle joke here...

The second day was less successful than the first. The three of us took a wrong turn early and ended up far away from the intended Kisasa Falls. Luckily, an elderly man we asked decided to show us the way. We thought he would point us in the direction and go on his merry way, but instead he began bounding down shortcut trails while we stumbled after him. Following a good hour of accidental guide services, the gentleman pointed the falls out to us and explained, in broken English, that he had to go back and give his wife her lunch. We felt bad to have kept him from his rounds but truly appreciated the fact that he saved us from getting hopelessly lost in the mountains. God speed you agile man, you.

After a lunch of leftover cheeses and bread and a chat with the local "Hello-give-me-money" children's chorus, we ambled back to our porch to while away the afternoon rainstorms. Lushoto was just the out-of-the-way destination we needed after the tourist towns that separated our safari and Kili experience. Plus, with a few extra hikes we felt less guilty about sitting on the beach for 5 days staring at the Indian Ocean.


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