A Wonderful Day in Marangu, Tanzania
At the moment we are in Tanzania, and we had a wonderful day yesterday. We were in Marangu, a small town located at the foothills of the Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain (5895 m).
Each day about one hundred tourists start a Kili climbing expedition and while many pass through Marangu, no one really takes the time to explore this small town. So we thought that we should look into what it has to offer.
Marangu is located about 35 km from Moshi, which takes about an hour by dalla-dalla and costs 1500 TZ per person. The first impression is quite intimidating because as soon as you step out of the bus (at Marangu-Mtoni) and before you even get a chance to orient yourself several “guides” immediately gather around you, offering to take you to a hotel, do a guided tour, etc. They will even try to take your backpack and carry it for you, which basically means that you’ve agreed to hire them.
Katja and I kept our backpacks on our backs and tried to find a hotel on our own, but this took us at least two hours because there is very little tourist infrastructure in Marangu: no tourist bureau, no western-style restaurants and very few hotels spread out far from each-other.
After looking at a few hotels we decided to stay at the Pentagon Cottages where we paid 30000 TZS for a clean small room with a toilet. We then then took a look at our surroundings and recognized how pretty the landscape is. You almost never see the mountain because it’s covered up by clouds, but the air is unexpectedly humid and everything is lusciously green. Nights and mornings are cold, but the afternoon sun warms nicely.
There are countless paths disappearing into banana plantations left and right of the main road, but at first you probably won’t feel confident enough to follow them on your own. So go back to the place where you got out of the bus and sit down at one of the three places serving food. Take a portion of rice or cooked bananas together with beans and meat (2000 TZS) and wait for a guide to offer you a tour.
Ask to see a market (small, but very authentic), a banana beer brewery or a Chagga village and be prepared to pay at least 15000, probably even 20000 TZS per person for a 3-4 hour tour. Since these are not trained guides, the quality is average at best. But you will see the area and explore the labyrinth of hidden ways to the left and right of the main road. There are many of them and some lead deep into the jungle-villages, so without a guide you will easily get lost.
On the next day (after having gained some experience with the place) go back to the bus station again and then follow the main road (which crosses the river and turns left). Follow it for about 3 km (45 minutes) until you see this sign:
Now turn left and follow the way. When you get here:
go straight/right (towards Kilasiya Waterfalls) and after 50 meters you will see the entrance to a small coffee and banana plantation, where you can experience the entire lifecycle of coffee: from a plant with brightly colored red berries to steaming-hot coffee. We’ve described this in our photo essay From coffee berries to a refreshing brew.
The plantation consists of just a few wooden shacks, so don’t expect anything modern or fancy, but talk to the friendly people and ask for a tour. It cost us 5000 TZS per person and the owner did an amazing job. In about 2 hours he showed us the entire process of harvesting coffee beans, removing the outer skins, drying, grinding and roasting them.
We learned about life on the farm, about the symbiosis between coffee and banana plants, about the animals they keep and how they use the dung to produce bio-gas for cooking, heating and making light.
The tour was extremely enjoyable, and we warmly recommend it: Mr. Kunibert Msaki, 0768-378067, firstname.lastname@example.org.
After visiting the farm you can either continue to the Kilasiya Waterfalls (only 100 meters away, 5 USD per person) or walk back to the last junction
and take the road leading to the smaller (and free of charge) Lerewiti waterfall. The way is not very clearly marked, so just follow the sound of the falling water for about 200 meters.
Once finished you should have no trouble finding back to the main road and returning to Marangu. About half-way back to town you’ll find a “Women Group Gift Shop” on the right-hand side. Here you can see and pruchase some nice souvenirs for very reasonable prices, and you will be directly helping the women from the region.
Taking an Organized Tour
If you don’t feel like exploring the area on your own, you can arrange a guided tours starting from Moshi. Just go to the Union Coffee Shop and ask for a coffee tour or a tour of a Chagga village. They have different things on offer and you can do two tours in one day. You will have to pay for a taxi to Marangu (45000 TZS) plus 25000 — 35000 TZS per tour and person. While this alternative is much more expensive, you get your own car, a friendly English-speaking guide and lunch. The tourists we talked to at the café we very happy wit their day tours.
PS: 5000 TZS = 3 USD = 2.22 EUR