I just came back from a trip to Arusha, Tanzania last week. And how to even begin to describe what my first time in Africa is like!
All the time I was there, I was always in awe. Not just from the beauty the landscape has to offer, but sometimes also from the inescapable daily disarray, which at times can transform into an also beautiful thing. Everything about life there, from the people to the music to the colors they proudly wear, beats to a rhythm I’ve never yet experienced. It was thrilling. Those feelings I was having while traveling in and around Arusha is exactly the reason why people experience wanderlust. I almost forgot what they felt like, but now they’re back stronger than ever.
But I’ll set aside my Africa reverie. Instead I’ll focus on 2 outdoor destinations that I was able to visit during my trip. The first is a waterfall hike near the base of Mt. Meru, and the second a safari through the Tarangire National Park, which I will talk about in a different post.
Mt. Meru is an active volcano that overlooks the city of Arusha like an ominous protector. I’ve noticed that towns located near mountains lead a certain way of life that’s dictated by the mountain’s temperaments. Arusha is no different, and I think I get why. It’s kind of hard not to always be aware of the mountain’s presence even in the most typical of days:
We began our hike in the morning at Ilboru, a hillside community outside of Arusha’s town center, with the help of a guide named Rogers. He speaks very good English and is from a village very close to the waterfall, so all throughout the hike he was greeting people left and right because he has probably known them for most of his life. I think that alone made the hike more memorable. The majority of the hike was more like walking up a steep hill past numerous villages and people’s farms. We were basically walking on the main road to town that locals easily traverse on a daily basis, but for us the dirt path was challenging and a reminder of the physically demanding activities we no longer have to endure in our cushy lives.
After the villages, there was the thick forest. Tall, magnificent trees line the mountain from where we were all the way to the peak. Then we descended upon a steep hill to get to a stream, from where the waterfall is not so distant. I wouldn’t know how to get on these paths if it weren’t for Rogers. The waterfall had a dramatic entrance, enclosed by mossy large stones that create a jagged path similar to an open air cave. It really makes the first sighting of the waterfall that much more breathtaking.
We then ate our packed lunch and rested by the waterfall. I was the only one who took a dip in the cold, refreshing water, and I’m still so glad that I did. It was truly one of the most pleasant days in my life. On our way back, we took many breaks to just stop and enjoy the present moment—smell the roses so to speak. By the time we arrived back at Ilboru said goodbye to Rogers, it was already pretty late in the afternoon and we had walked 12 miles and gained 1,400 ft. in elevation. My coworker had his tracker on the whole time and provided this graph to show our accomplishment for the day. Not bad!
The hike is a great way to see local life outside of Arusha’s town area, which aside from a couple markets is mainly a playground for tourists and business visitors. I recommend it for anyone who’s in Arusha. Apparently, you don’t have to walk 12 miles like we did and can get dropped off at the park entrance near the stream. But I think the stroll through villages was one of the best parts, so I wouldn’t miss out on that.
Some useful info:
- Rogers’ number is +255 789 463 861. I know he has a business card but I think he’d be happier to talk to you if you explain how you heard about him. You can simply say Cindy, friend of Audrey and Steena.
- He charged 29,000 TZS (about 17 USD) which includes a lunch box. This does not include tip.
- Bring sunblock. If you reapply on the main village road, be prepared to have people stare at you. I did just that, and Rogers had to explain the concept of sunburn.
- Wear clothes and shoes that you won’t mind getting dirty. It gets extremely dusty along the way.