Usambara Mountains

Our guest contributor for today is Judy.  Thanks Judy…

We woke to the sound of rain and a power outage this morning so there was no rush to get going. Our 6:30 breakfast didn’t get served until 7:30 but…we are getting used to flexible African time. By 8:00 the rain had stopped and we headed out shortly after that. The road to Mombo, a distance of 25 km, was mostly flat but that was certainly the end of flat for the day. From Mombo, a narrow, but quiet road, rose continuously up into the Usambara Mountains….lush vegetation, steeply terraced plantings and villages bustling with activity. Vendors line the road of every village and although most of the villages we passed today were quite small, they are still very animated with people selling all sorts of fruit and nuts. They would scurry to the buses and surround all new arrivals, including us, with their products.

The contrasts in this country never cease to amaze me…a Jaguar dealership in Dar versus the poverty we saw there, a woman at the door of a mud hut talking on her cellphone. Although we’d love to take photos of the markets, the wide-eyed children, the women in colourful and bright attire, it is difficult to do. The women in general don’t want their pictures taken and “no picha” or “money” are common refrains when you aim the camera… a picture may be worth a thousand words but here it is worth a thousand schillings! There are few tourists in this area and we generate a lot of excitement when we pass through the villages. Children come running from all directions whenever we arrive. When I asked Omari, one of our guides, what they were yelling, he told me they are calling “white people” but we never feel intimidated here – the Tanzanians are extremely friendly and we are almost always greeted with Karibu (welcome) and wide smiles.

We had a delicious lunch in Soni, after 16 km of climbing, prepared by the chef from the Friends of Usambara. Although the temperatures were much milder today, (25-32C) we still sweat buckets in the humidity…a 5-water bottle day. Although the ride after lunch was listed as “rolling”, other than one lovely, long descent, it was basically more climbing to Lushoto. We are all extremely happy to arrive at our hotel for the night, tired and relieved to not have had to carry our panniers (Max included)!

Sixty kilometers doesn’t sound like a challenging ride but in this heat and humidity, with 30 km of climbing and an elevation gain of nearly 1300 m, it was a tough, but spectacular day!

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