Peponi Beach: Our Zanzibar Alternative

by Michael

It seemed that every other tourist in Tanzania started or planned to end their trip in Zanzibar. But we did not care to pay (in money and travel time) for white sand beaches, nice resorts, or a spice tour. But we did want a place to relax, where the only appointment time is sunrise. So we went to the coast with a reservation at Peponi Beach Camp & Lodge.

Of course, this involved taking another bus. Once again, we took a “direct” bus to Tanga, which made lots of stops. The bus even spent an hour idling at a station — we have no idea why. After 6 hours (for what we heard would be 3-4 hours) the bus dropped us at the Tanga bus lot. We tried to take a bus toward Pangani, knowing that it could drop us at Peponi. After fending off half a dozen aggressive touts, we appeared that no bus or van would leave soon, so we gave in and took a taxi with a pushy driver. I’m not proud of giving in like this, but we were spending the next few days sleeping in a tent so paying for the taxi seemed alright.

Not our bus, but at the station. The picture of a footballer and club logo on the back of the buses is very common.

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Moshi Day Trips — Cultural Visit and Kikuletwa Hot Springs

by Elizabeth

Between the time we spent in Moshi before and after our Kilimanjaro climb, we ended up spending an entire week in Moshi — a town in which most tourists typically only overnight before starting their Kili climb, safari, or heading back to the airport.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t so much the sights that kept us there for so long.  Nor was it because we found some awesome or relaxing place to stay that we just couldn’t bring ourselves to tear away from.  We largely spent so much time in Moshi because it was convenient and we used it as a base to plan our Kilimanjaro climb (and wait for Michael to hopefully get better before starting our climb).  In total, we spent 4 nights/3 full days in Moshi before our climb, and another three nights/two and a half days in Moshi after our climb and before our safari.


Walking into town — Tanzania loves its traffic circles.  Note that even the paved roads end up covered in dust.

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Independent Hiking Around Lushoto

by Elizabeth

Having recovered from our Kili descent and washing much (but not all) of the safari dust out of our clothes during our rest day in Arusha, we were faced with the question of where we would go next. The obvious option — what nearly everyone suggested and most tourists were doing — would have been to head to Zanzibar. The problem was that we sort of suck at beaches (we burn and get bored way too easily), we’d heard mixed reviews on the scuba diving options, and at this point in our trip we weren’t interested in many of the attractions (coffee and spice tours). Also, Zanzibar isn’t exactly known for being budget friendly and our climb and safari were both budget busters. What we really wanted to do was go for a hike. Surprising, I know.

Hiking independently in Tanzania presented many of the same problems that we ran into in Bosnia (lack of information and infrastructure), with the added challenge that guides are required in many of the parks, park fees can be exorbitant, and I guess lions that might eat us. We were also limited by our reliance on public transit and had no interest in renting a car (they drive on the other side of the road, we don’t drive stick, four wheel drive is necessary for most places we’d want to go, etc.). Based on our limitations, our guide book and Google both suggested that we head to the town of Lushoto, although it was still unclear to what extent we might need to hire a guide.  Lushoto is located in northeast Tanzania off of the road between Arusha/Moshi and Tanga and is considered one of the gateways to the Usambara mountains.  It is the base for several popular multi-day hikes in the mountains between villages, as well as various day hikes.  

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Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater Safari

by Elizabeth

It seems that no trip to Tanzania is complete without going on safari.  Since we had come this far, and the famous Serengeti national park is almost in Kilimanjaro’s shadow, we decided that it would be a shame to pass up the opportunity to visit the Serengeti.  Our original plan was to hunt for a safari trip in much the same way that we found our Kilimanjaro climbing operator.  But as we visited places in Moshi before our Kilimanjaro climb, we learned that none of the budget safari operators had groups with spaces going out after we got back from our climb.  We figured that we would have better luck searching in nearby Arusha after our climb instead. 


Looking down on the Serengeti from a small hill near the entrance gate.

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Climbing Kilimanjaro — Summit Day!

by Elizabeth

[I kept a daily journal of our Mt. Kilimanjaro summit attempt along the Machame route on my phone. That summary from our summit attempt, along with some of our photos, is below.  The summary of the first four days of our climb can be found here.  We’ll post a separate description of how we chose a climbing operator and our post-trip reflections.]

Day 5 (Aug. 12): 

5km ascent plus 22km descent, Barafu Camp (4681m/15,357ft) to Summit (5895m/19,340ft) to Mweka Hut (3090m/10,138ft) to Mweka Gate (1641m/5384ft)

We did it!  We both summited Kilimanjaro!  And we are never doing that again…

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Climbing Kilimanjaro — The Approach

by Elizabeth

[I kept a daily journal of our Mt. Kilimanjaro summit attempt along the Machame route on my phone. That summary from the first four days of our climb, along with some of our photos, is below.  We’ll post a separate description of our summit attempt, how we chose a climbing operator, and our post-trip reflections.]

Day 1 (Aug. 8):

11km, Machame Gate (1828m/6000ft) to Machame Camp (3020m/9900ft)

Day one is complete and we’re both doing really well.  The key for us today was to accept the chaos that often accompanies budget tour operations and to go with the flow.  We were supposed to be picked up from our guesthouse in Moshi between 9 and 9:30am.  Of course, they couldn’t find the place and got lost.  Our host helped us to call the trekking company and we were finally picked up around 10am.  The van picking us up was filled with our guide (Alfred) and porters, but no other climbers.  We figured that they must have been picked up separately (we had been told that we would be joined by two Austrians).  Our morning was filled with a number of stops — the gear rental shop to pick up warmer clothing for us and sleeping bags (I picked an awesome hat), a shop for snacks, and a few other stops for miscellaneous supplies. 

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