Since the last post, we have arrived safely back in Nairobi…. despite the flood alert we heard on the radio upon crossing the border!
We made a stop in Lushoto, a small mountain village in the heart of the Usambarra range. With Mt Kilimanjaro so close, hiking in the Usambarras does not often make it onto many itineraries, but there’s no reason not to explore this region. For a start it is A LOT cheaper than Kilimanjaro!
Lushoto is a lovely town with several local tour companies operating various hikes and cultural programs. There is a strong community focus here, with a few of the companies contributing a percentage of their profits to development projects. For example, Friends of Usambarra Mountains works with schools and the wider community on conservation education and tree planting. TAYADEA is a youth organisation and the proceeds from the tours assists young people get into skill training institutions so they can become employable. We also stumbled upon the guide who Francis worked with many years ago. They were quite excited to meet after almost six years. While he is still conducting tours, Jerome’s focus now is on building a guesthouse. He invited us to his place a bit further up the mountain. He has a beautiful garden with plenty of space for camping as well as six rooms. It’s an ongoing project as he saves some money to invest into it, but when it is complete I’m sure it will be a wonderful place to stay.
And finally we got to Arusha where our mission was to find a suitable Tanzanian partner. The politics between Kenya and Tanzania makes it necessary for tour operators to work together to give guests seamless trips but with local guides in each country. It’s not bad for tourists, because it means you have Tanzanian guides with their local knowledge of Tanzania and Kenyan guides with the local knowledge of Kenya. After a couple of false starts with some contacts, again Francis’ network of past colleagues came in handy. As we were chatting to Henry who had worked alongside Francis for a long time he revealed that he too had started his tour company, Voyage Africain. They specialise in Serengeti and Ngorongoro safaris and Mt Kilimanjaro hikes. We were shown the tents they use: special hiking tents for Kilimanajro and safari tents for the Serengeti, as well as toilet, shower, dining and kitchen tents. So we are happy with our new partnership and can’t wait to start welcoming guests for combined Kenya-Tanzania trips!