We caught the bus to Moshi, just two hours journey from Arusha, through a flat landscape – one of huge skies and far-off mountains in the hazy distance. We passed villages with washing hung out, shops with hand painted signs, adverts for Coca-Cola, a dumping ground of plastic which makes my heart sink and four little kids with rope tied around their waists in a line playing a game which makes me smile. The road dipped down and through the clouds we can see glimpses of the slopes of Kilimanjaro, covered in snow, rising steeply to our left.
We reach the bus station, grab some lunch and then hail a tuk tuk to take us our hostel. Climbing in we find that we’re surrounded by hundreds of loaves of bread and the driver, a sweet guy called Linus, tells us that he has a job delivering bread and that we should avoid dodgy men in the centre of Moshi. We check into our hostel and hook onto wifi to find that we have a message back from Ani, the daughter of a lady who taught Phil’s mum Spanish; she lives in Moshi with her husband and, via the Manchester Bush Telegraph, we have been connected. She suggests meeting so we head out for a nice night of drinks, dinner, travel and Tanzania talks with Ani and Andy.
The next day we wake to the sound of rain. We’d planned to go to some local hot springs but the rain is not letting up so we linger over morning coffee and then decide to go into town to see Moshi and replenish our cash. The walk is soggy and I’m looking particularly stylish in my poncho that we bought in Chile – I’m positive that every Tanzanian is giggling as we walk past. The rain intensifies and the streets become rivers of muddy water; we shelter under an overhang of the post office and wait (and wait) for it end. After our usual traipse around the cash machines we head to Union Cafe which is run by the Kilimanjaro Native Cooperative Union, representing over 60,000 smallholding coffee farmers from the slopes of Kili. They serve delicious hot chocolates, especially for those people with soggy feet.
The next day we wake, again, to the sound of rain and dither for a while about what to do. Moz isn’t feeling great again and it’s pretty wet outside but it’s our last day in Moshi and we want to explore. We walk to town then hire a tuk tuk to take us up to Materuni village. It’s a bumpy dirt road, full of rutted holes and thick in places with mud, but the driver – Mr Gabri – grins toothily at us and revs his engine with gusto. Eventually we make it to the village, pay a small entrance fee and employ a local guide, a young guy called Justin, to take us to the Materuni waterfall that we’ve come to explore. It’s stopped raining and the forest is lush and damp and beautiful. Justin “Bieber” points out and explains about the banana trees, the coffee plants, picks a guava for us to taste, shows us the large white “angel’s trumpets” flowers and finds a gorgeous little chameleon on a plant for us to look at. The local tribe here are the Chagga people and he teaches us how to greet people in his local language: “shinbonye”.
After 45 minutes or so of walking we reach the falls and they are amazing – 99 metres high and roaring with water. We walk up close and the spray soaks our clothes and faces, shouting to make each other heard. We take photos and use our Polaroid camera, give Justin a photo to keep.
Justin walks us back to the village and we trek along narrow paths, looking out over the beautiful forest and the plains far below. “Shinbonye” we say to two men sitting outside a house and they shriek with laughter. Moz suggests to Justin that the footballers Mata and Rooney need to come to visit Materuni: an idea Justin, who like every other East African is obsessed, likes a lot. On the way back to town, chugging down steep hills in the tuktuk, Mr Gabri is busy waving at someone he knows and is heading straight for an old lady; Moz lets out a strangled warning and Mr Gabri swerves through the mud, narrowly missing her, then turns in his seat to give us a guilty smile like a cheeky schoolboy.
That night we go for a drink on a rooftop overlooking the town which, in good weather, has the best view of Kili. She’s very shy though, and has remained hidden in cloud for our whole stay; we’ve heard there’s snow on top and I think back to all the amazing memories of climbing with Dad two years ago. We head down to the street and find Milan’s, a local Indian curryhouse with plastic tablecloths and the tastiest paneer bhajis – it’s delicious.
Though damp, it’s been a good time in Moshi and we’re looking forward to our next stop: up to the Usambara mountains.
(🙌🏼 to my Dad who came up with this blog title)