WEDNESDAY 13 NOVEMBER – TANGA TO LUSHOTO

After a breakfast of bread, jam, omelette and tea at the hotel, Linda went to change some money at the bank while I went up to the railway station to ask if it was possible to pick up the Dar es Salaam train in Korogwe…which it was.

Back at the hotel, we met a man who said he could get us a lift up to Korogwe in a Tanzania Sisal Authority vehicle after lunch, so we hung around on the balcony all morning with Caroline who was also going up to Korogwe way to research a story she is writing about German aid to Tanzania.

Around 1:30,  a Toyota Land Cruiser arrived and we piled into the back. The road was in bad shape as we headed inland across the coastal strip then began the gradual ascent towards the distant hills. The predominant feature of the landscape was acres and acres of sisal growing in neat rows on either side of the road. Sisal is used for making sacks and rope, but the world market is depressed so the German aid money is actually propping up an industry which is more or less unviable.

We stopped for an hour at a small village where the  man who was escorting us had to pay his respects to the family of a dead relative, then we carried on along the battered road to Korogwe, a dusty little town in the heart of the sisal-growing area.

Caroline left us in Korogwe to go up to some factory that she wanted to visit, and Linda and I sat in the hotel for a while then went over to the dusty but interesting bus station. Three ramshackle buses were standing in the yard, the one with the Lushoto written on it leaning heavily to the right on broken suspension. We put our packs up on the roof then milled around with the throng of passengers goats and young hawkers selling milk, doughnuts, samosas, and eggs. The bus left at 6:30 p.m. and jolted out of town heading west along the foot of the range of mountains which rose almost sheer from the plain.

In all our travels to date we have never been in such a rattletrap of a vehicle. The road was a sea of corrugations, which were amplified by the completely non-functional suspension into a vibration that sent shockwaves to the roots of our teeth and kept the noise level at an ear-bashing pitch!

We arrived in Mombo at 7:30 and the bus driver told me we would be waiting until 10 p.m. before carrying on, so we joined the crowds on the busy street where little stalls were selling delicious meat kebabs with coleslaw and tomatoes for 60/- each.  We got to talking with a Canadian girl called Jayne who has been teaching in Arusha and the three of us went down the street to a Somalian cafe we we had a cup of rather nice tea flavoured with spices.

At 9:30 we began to walk back towards the buses and as we neared them, the bus with Lushoto written on the front pulled out to leave. We ran and jumped on board: Linda inside and me up on the roof to check on our packs. There was a whole lot more stuff on the roof covered with an oily canvas tarpaulin. But the bus boy assured me that our gear was underneath it, so I settled down with the cool night air rushing by as the bus began the slow twisting climb up into the hills. It was very pleasant sitting atop the bus in the cool air, with the brilliant carpet of stars above and the lights of Momba fading into the distance far below. However I still had a nagging doubt that something was wrong so after a while I climbed down off the roof and into the crowded interior of the bus. About 20 minutes later, when the lights were turned on, I realised the truth…we were on the wrong bus!

There was nothing we could do but hope that the other bus would still have our packs on it, and we spent an anxious half-hour in the Lushoto bus station until the other bus rattled into town with our packs still safe and sound up on the roof. The locals thought it was a hell of a joke that the Wazungu had gotten on the wrong bus, and we were a tad lucky to say the least.

It was cold –  well, relatively cold compared to the coast – as a young man led us up hill the Kilimani Hotel which turned out to be full, so we went to another place which was basic but clean and was a steal at only 300/- for both of us.  We were beyond caring about the digs anyway, and crashed gratefully into bed.

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