This road trip started with manifestation. I was feeling emotionally down this particular week in November, and the only thing on my mind was a getaway. Christmas wasn’t too far, and, for the first time in a long time, I didn’t want to be at home with the rest of the family. My unsettledness felt contagious and I didn’t want to spread it. So, a solo road trip that would see me through the festive season didn’t sound ideal to me.
The plan didn’t look feasible at first, since most people prefer to be with their loved ones over the holidays. But I still started looking at travel pages for something close to what I had in mind. I ‘accidentally’ bumped into this post shared by someone I don’t even follow on Instagram, that was just what I needed – 14 days in Tanzania, traversing five major towns. I was sold and immediately contacted the planner. J, the brains behind the trip, formed a WhatsApp group with just the two of us at first. F and A later joined a few weeks into the trip. This foursome would later traverse Tanzania with little drama.
On day one, we met at the bus stop for the first time. Names were exchanged, personalities gauged, and it was finally time for the road trip to get started. Scenes along the way made the journey to Arusha, our first stop, easy. We had Ol-Donyo Lengai and some other smaller hills my geography classes didn’t cover. We finally encountered the majestic Mount Meru with its foggy summit and very forested surroundings that make Arusha the super cool – literally – place to live. I toyed with the idea of moving there for a year, especially when we learned the cost of living was a fraction of what we had locally. Also, the locals are friendly – East Africans generally get along for most of the part until politics put us asunder (lol).
After meals, we visited Lake Duluti and finally settled into Banana Eco Lodge, our first accommodation on the trip. The food was quite cheap since we paid no more than TzS (Tanzanian Shillings) 15,000 per person, roughly KeS (Kenyan Shillings) 700 per person. Plantain, meat, and kachumbari were our first delicacies in Lake Duluti, which we had in our taxi, as they wouldn’t allow us to bring food into the lake. We thought of turning it into a picnic with all the views, but it didn’t happen.
We canoed for an hour round the lake – at the cost of TzS 100,000 – about KeS 5,000 for the four of us, which was a good deal. The conversations were spicy (in every sense of the word) and the views amazing. The plan was to experience a proper sunset by the lake, but we thought better of it since it would have been dark by the time we made our way to our home for the night in a new neighbourhood. We thought of checking out this club playing some nice music a stone’s throw from Duluti, but the majority ruled against it. Later, at Eco Lodge, we sampled some local beer brands while some friends tried this banana wine, which they didn’t rate too highly. We also sampled a local Vodka brand, Konyagi, for the first time, and I must say we were pleasantly surprised!
Next up was Moshi, the main plans being Kikuletwa Hotsprings and Materuni Waterfalls – while squeezing in a coffee tour if possible. Because we were all physically active, nature-loving girls, 6am found us on our way to the falls as we wanted to be the first team to arrive there. The weather in December is beautiful, so the foggy trails that led to the fall are ingrained in my memory – I love mist and fog, if that wasn’t clear. The trip there is nothing too demanding, and the fall is majestic! Activities here? Swimming (skinny-dipping for the bold) and simply enjoying the serenity of the surrounding lush greenery. The water’s temperature is in the single digits, which is expected as its source is the mighty Mount Kilimanjaro. Next up was a tour to this small village deep into Chaga-land, where you roast, grind, and make your own cup of Joe.
Kikuletwa Hotsprings’ blue waters are such a joy, especially after the rough and dusty road that leads to it. You can opt to swing and dive into the water or swim politely into the waters with these little fishes – didn’t find out the breed – that nibble at your feet. Meals within the premises are an assortment of tasty meat, roasted and fried plantain, ugali (cornmeal), and leafy green vegetables, mostly.
Tanga was up next. We stayed at Magoroto Forest Estate, situated deep into a rainforest with little internet connectivity. I’d recommend this place for a social media detox and reset. This was my second time here, and both times, I’ve taken advantage of the peace and quiet to reflect on the past year and set goals for the next. Activities? A few: quad bikes, bike riding into the forest, a hike to enjoy sundown, rafting and swimming in the lake, and karaoke hosted by a couple of talented brothers. You can choose between tented accommodation, cabins, and an adorable farmhouse.
Dar es Salaam was our penultimate destination, and quite frankly, we didn’t do much here except party by the beach and at the clubs, eat and rest for all of two days. We were more excited for Zanzibar. Oh, I must mention here that we had some generously mixed cocktails and sang our hearts out – albeit offkey, of course – at karaoke nights for the two nights we were here.
Zanzibar. The ferry ride from Dar es cost $45 for foreigners at the time, including East Africans, and takes about an hour. The destination is Stone Town, where you experience proper coastal vibes on this tiny East African island. We took trips to the spice farms there for fresh vanilla and a huge assortment of the spices that make Swahili food a delectable treat, and we had the pleasure of mingling with the friendly locals that make Zanzibar so memorable.
Extras? While in Stone Town, visit Prison Island, the Old Slave Market (both somber), Nakupenda Island – blissful, and enjoy evenings of seafood and cultural immersion at Forodhani Gardens. You will definitely want to travel inward to Nungwi in Ungunja Island for some of the most beautiful beaches I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing. From four strangers at the start, we became friends at the end of our wonderful trip to Tanzania.
Home time! The holiday was over, and the new year was upon us. We flew back to Kenya from Zanzibar to start 2023, having ticked a few items off the list. On to the next adventure!
Waithera Mbugua is a creative writer, wanderer and data analyst