Up in the mountains

Friday, February 08, 2013
Mambo, Tanga Region, Tanzania
We had a long drive to the Usambara Mountains and in particular Mambo Viewpoint right at the very top (both in altitude and furthest north). On the main road we kept on being flashed. We stopped to see if something had fallen off the car, we should not have been so daft, we were heading for a speed trap and were caught doing 70 kph in a 30kph zone. The policeman wanted a bribe, I was not prepared to give him one so I ended up with a 30,000 shilling fine (£12).
We almost missed the turn off for Lushoto and the mountains as we had switched off the sat nav and reset the speedometer as it was 100km to the turn off. I had forgotten that being an English car the speedometer was calibrated in miles! Fortunately I realised the mistake about a mile past the turn off.
The road up into the mountains was very steep and windy however to Lushoto it was tar and in good condition however beyond that it was very poor and the signposting non existent. It took us two hours from the end of the tar to the Mambo Viewpoint and I was beginning to think we had made a mistake. The valleys reminded us very much of Nepal, very well cultivated with very small plots. It is the vegetable garden of Tanzania the trouble is that on the death of a farmer his land is divided up amongst all his children so that in time the farms get smaller and smaller. 
The lodge has been set up by a Dutch couple (Herman and his wife whose name I can'remember) who used to work for an NGO in South America but became disenchanted with the waste of money and resources. They bought the land and built the lodge, one of the first steps was to build a small dam and reservoir to supply water, he also ran pipes to the village so that for the first time they also had running water. The lodge employs local people, he also ran some courses to train the women how to make yoghurt and cheese to use their spare cows milk. He has about 20 separate projects on the go including setting up a health centre and teaching the children not to beg but how to make money from tourists yet maintain their self esteem. Each morning the children come up to the lodge to sell eggs, there is a board with a hole in it to differentiate large eggs from small and the children are paid in cash. Each comes up with one or two. From a guests point of view the most memorable thing is the views from the rooms which are stunning, ours had a 1800m drop right outside the room.
Eating was a communal affair and the strange mix of guests, some long term, made it seem more like a youth hostel than a hotel.
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