Maasai PlainsAlmost immediately after I arrived in the Usambara Mountains, the heavens opened and it started to rain. It rained all night, all day, all of the following night and finally relented mid-afternoon on my second day in Lushoto, by which time I had exhausted all possible entertainments and was going a bit stir crazy. The hostel I was staying at (the rather nice Karibuni Lodge) contained a hyperactive kitten who quickly developed a habit of sitting on a table and leaping onto anyone foolish enough to walk past, and was also the first place I’ve come across that had a “Tribe” section on the registration form. So now, as far as Lushoto is concerned, I’m officially Pictish.

The reason most people stop by Lushoto is the excellent Irente Viewpoint, a precarious clifftop with a sheer thousand-foot drop to the valley floor below and spectacular views (when it’s not raining) across the Maasai Plains. There is also a farm shop nearby, possibly the only place in Tanzania outside of Dar es Salaam selling brown bread. After the dry and dusty lowland plains (admittedly it is the dry season), the hills were a very welcome splash of greenery.

After a typically knee-breaking bus journey (to cram even more people into Tanzanian buses, the seats are fitted closer together – which means that anyone who has thigh bones longer than about eighteen inches has to twist their legs up, down or sideways to fit), I arrived in Moshi – home of Moshi Technical School, which some observers may recognise as the exchange partner of Shelley High. Mount Kilimanjaro looms over the town, which will no doubt spark many Lord of the Rings jokes once I start talking to other backpackers, and I can even see it (when the clouds clear) from my hotel balcony.

Contrary to popular belief, I’m not going to do a Kilimanjaro trek. Even the slightly-less-safe five day trip attracts park fees of USD300, and then there’s transport, guides, porters, accommodation and food on top of that – which is around USD750 I could put to better use. I am, however, going to do some hikes on the lower slopes (ideally outside of the park boundaries), and leave the tortuous climbing to well-heeled travellers and hobbits.

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