Tuesday 21 August

Woken by a duet between two muezzins. We take a taxi first to the ATM on Sokoine Road, and I am relieved to confirm that my card is accepted, although I have to extract the Tsh500,000 in three separate transactions. A small queue builds up behind me and I am a little embarrassed at the thick wodge of notes that I stuff into my pocket.

Back in the taxi, once again we have difficulty explaining that we want the Dar Express bus to Mombo, and we end up at the main bus station, which we have already established is not the place for Dar Express buses. As we pull up the car is immediately beseiged by ticket sellers. The driver locks the doors and they begin banging on the roof. It is really very scary. Then the driver lets one man into the passenger seat and drives us round to the other side of the station. I’m not liking this one bit. We pay off the driver and get out, whereupon we are mobbed again by shouting and jostling ticket sellers. Rachel spies a police officer and we break through the crowd to ask him for help.

Things begin to calm down just a little, and we end up paying Tsh9000 to get on a tatty bus bound for Tanga that passes through Mombo. We pray that it is okay. At least we are on a bus away from the attentions of the ticket sellers. Presently the bus fills up and at a quarter to nine we hit the road.

The leg from Arusha to Moshi is fine enough. The bus is old and rattly, we are near the back, and there are some standing passengers. But there is no evidence of the suicidal driving of which the guidebook gives dire warnings.

After Moshi I think we have a new driver. The bus is now very crowded, and it bumps and sways along the uneven road at what seems to be a rather higher rate of knots than before. I check again the guidebook’s list of blacklisted bus companies against our tickets. Uh oh. It says ‘Tashriff’. Begin to pray.

(magnify) Hawkers at a bus station

We make many stops at the roadside and in town bus stations. At each stop we are surrounded by hawkers trying to sell fruit, nuts, sunglasses, shampoo, in fact just about anything you might need on a long bus journey and much else that would clearly be surplus to the requirements of most normal passengers.

About five bone-jarring hours after leaving Arusha we reach the New Liverpool Breeze, a rest-stop just short of Mombo that is mentioned in the guide book so that we now know where we are. At Mombo I disembark while Rachel makes sure the bus does not leave until I have safely retrieved our rucksacks from underneath.

We just miss the first daladala for Lushoto, so wait for about forty minutes inside a second until it is deemed full enough to make worthwhile the journey up the winding road. We pass beautiful waterfalls. More people squeeze in at Soni and other stops along the way. It seems that many people just start walking, and if a bus happens to drive past they will flag it down for whatever remains of their journey.

Great views of hills and forests and waterfalls, and not too scary hairpin bends! We arrived in Lushoto at about five, tired but happy to be here. We then began a hideous hotel search.

It is starting to rain as we arrive. We have decided to try the Lushoto Sun Hotel first, but the rooms are dingy and not very clean. Our second choice, the Tumaini, is full. Next on our list is the Lawns Hotel, which is quite some walk away, and the rain is now falling quite heavily. We climb with our luggage, panting with the exertion, up the last few steps to the reception, but they too are full.

We find space in the Kilimani, not far away. The room is very spartan but we are now in no mood to be choosy, and it is only Tsh10000. We pay the receptionist, dump our bags on the floor, remove wet cagoules, and sit down to catch our breath. But we are beginning to regret our decision. The bathroom is very dingy and contains beasties. And there is a bit of a smell.

We decide to leave our luggage here and go to find something better. There are still a few options listed in the guidebooks that we haven’t yet tried. We walk some way up a steep dirt track but fail to locate the Mandarin Grand Hotel. The White House Annex is more easily located but they have shared squat toilets, so that’s a ‘no’. A little further along the same road is the Kialilo Green Garden Motel, not in either guidebook. It looks quite nice from the outside, a neat crazy-paved front drive leading up to a colourfully-painted single storey building. And they have space – a small but clean and homely room with a decent en-suite. We’re saved! The owner seems very nice too. We return to the Kilimani for our bags and decide not even to ask for the Tsh10000 back. Just consider it a left-luggage fee…

(magnify) Kialilo Green Garden Motel

The guidebooks are not especially encouraging about food options in Lushoto. We head out for the Action Safari Café, near the daladala stand. It is now dark and we are both peering around intently looking for the café. Suddenly the ground disappears from beneath my feet and I find myself lying in water.

I stand up quickly, not badly hurt by my fall but shaken, and it is a few moments before I have regained composure and realise that in the dark I have fallen into a four foot deep drainage channel along the roadside. A large burly man who is no doubt wondering this crazy tourist is doing in one of their drainage channels reaches down and hauls me out – R is too busy laughing, although I think at the same time she is quite concerned!

We return to the hotel so that I can shower and change, then we go out for a second attempt at dinner. Not wanting a repeat of my mishap, R helpfully points out to me every last pothole and puddle.

Our second sortie is more successful. We end up at the Tumani Hotel – we are the only ones in the dining room (at half-past seven) and when we finish our main course we can’t order desserts because the chef has gone home.