After a quick four day stop over in Nairobi, which included petting baby elephants, kissing giraffes (What? Like you’ve never experimented before!), hospital visits for malaria (This time it was for me. Came up negative. Cha-ching.), gaining respect in the street markets for our bargaining prowess, me eating meat for the first time in five weeks (It was glorious) and Loes spending the day shopping with two locals she met on the bus, Loes and I made our way by shuttle to Moshi, Tanzania.
Moshi is situated at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro, which is the reason most visitors find themselves in town. Given our budget (Since when did walking up a mountain cost $1,000?), we ended up relaxing there for a few days, enjoyed reading and meals in hidden gardens, meeting new friends over dinner, and not going swimming in the YMCA pool because they found a dead man floating in it the day before we got to town.
Through various conversations with strangers and friends alike, we decided that the town of Lushoto, a village in the Usambara Mountains in Northeast Tanzania, was worth checking out. It was a rough travel day. Our bus was late, crowded, uncomfortable and slow. I don’t remember bus rides being such an ordeal. Either I’m getting old or my memory of smooth bus rides in Asia are just a coping mechanism to deal with now forgotten pains.
Lushoto is a beautiful village known for a wide array of hiking options. As our bus snaked up the narrow roads, we soaked in sights of terraced hills, waterfalls, villagers washing clothes by the river and a beautiful mixture of orange-red soil and bright, thick greenery. Soon enough we found a comfortable bed and explored the city. The locals were kind and welcoming, though we did have an angry exchange with a waitress that left us fuming. First, please don’t wait 25 minutes after we ordered to tell us there are no avocados (We ordered guacamole. Pretty sure avocados are important.) Second, I can see a lady across the street selling avocados, please go buy some. Seriously, she’s just right there, selling them. I think she’s looking at us. Yep, she just waved.
The next morning we ended up going on a four hour hike to Irente Point, followed by a lunch of cheese, fresh bread, jam and fruit. Loes was in heaven. This was followed by our first glimpse of the chameleons that can be found throughout the region. It cautiously looked at us as it walked across our arms and hands, even being kind enough to come in for a close up. We spent the remainder of the hike with our eyes darting from tree to tree, eager to find more of these beautiful creatures. We found roughly 10 in all, but each new find was as exciting as the first.
We ended the night making dinner and sharing beers with new friends. Sharing stories of travel and adventure always brings a smile to my face, but listening to Loes is something special. Rarely have I met someone so animated and excited when it comes to sharing. It doesn’t matter if it’s the first time I’ve heard the story or the 50th, there is always a reason to pay attention.
The next morning found us on another bus, then a smaller city bus, then a boat, then, finally, in Stonetown Zanzibar. We struck gold when the hotel we were staying at upgraded us for free, and we lived a pampered life, even for just one night. We walked around old town, the narrow streets sheltered from the sun by aged coral brick buildings, exploring back alleys and unused walkways. Our dinner was BBQ’ed for us on the waterfront in a large outdoor food market, and the chorus of calls and sales pitches from the chefs filled our ears while we cleaned our plate of every morsel.
Eventually the pull of white sands and calm waters were too strong for us and we hoped on a city bus and found our way to the east coast of Zanzibar. Our hostel truly was away from it all. Save for the lapping of waves during high tide and the soft sounds of reggae in the distance, silence overwhelmed us. The warm waters of the Indian Ocean were a surprise to me. It was nothing like the cold bite of the Pacific Ocean. In fact, it was warmer than most showers I’ve had over the past two months. Not that I’m complaining.
We spent a night with the staff from a local upmarket hotel (350 euro a night!) celebrating a birthday. Beers and shots were passed around in between jokes and laughter. Five of us went out for a swim under a night’s sky of a thousand stars. It was magical (though the fish that kept nipping our toes did their best to keep us on edge).