View from the cable car in Da Lat, Vietnam.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Da Lat, Vietnam.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? Flying to Vinh, Vietnam on February 24th.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Long day to get to the Usambara Mountains

Unlike Turkey, Tanzania is not an easy country to navigate. 

Unless of course you pay the big dollars and get a tour company to do everything for you, which is the way most people visit Tanzania. Trying to do it on your own can be frustrating and is often more expensive than it should be anyhow.

So on Friday, we had gone downtown with our friend Justin to buy bus tickets from Arusha to Lushoto in the Usambara Mountains.

We had a choice of going on a "milk run" bus that would take us all the way to Lushoto without changing buses. Or, we could take a more direct express bus that would drop us off at the village of Mombo on the main highway where we would have to change to a local bus that would take us up into the mountains.

We chose the "milk run" bus. It just seemed easier not to have to worry about changing buses. The cost was 20,000 shillings ($11 CAD, $8.65 USD) per person for the 334 kms (207 miles).

We didn't ask how long it would take. I figured probably six ro eight hours.

The bus was scheduled to leave at 6:00am!

Our friend Justin arranged an" Uber type" of ride service called InDriver to come and pick us up at the apartment at 5:00am. So we were up at 4:15am (silly o'clock!) Saturday morning!

Justin came with us to make sure everything happened the way it's supposed to. He's a good guy, and we enjoyed spending time with him. Anyhow, even at 6:00am, the main bus station area is a zoo. It seems that 6:00am is the time when every long distance bus leaves at the same time. What a circus. The only other place we can compare it to is when we had to take the local bus in Guatemala.

At exactly 6:00am, our bus driver got in his seat and put it in gear. We were impressed that we were leaving right on time! 

He drove it ahead about 20 feet and put it in park. Too funny. We sat there for another 20 minutes or so. For some reason we weren't surprised.

We made it to Moshi at 8:20am.

On the bus company ticket, they advertise that they are "Trusted Transportation Since 1979". And I think they have been using the same bus since 1979! It was pretty beat up. And uncomfortable. It would have been okay for two or three hours, but by hour five my legs and my back were hurting. I'm pretty used to having my long legs cramped into airplane seating, and I just put up with it... as I did this time. But it was pretty tight.

Selfie on the bus.

At least there was always something going on. This was a running joke between us and Justin. He's a local, so he knows. Tanzanians always have something going on. Just watching the driver and the fare collectors do their thing was entertaining. And of course you have to listen to the overly loud music and music videos playing on the screen at the front of the bus. The Tanzanians seem to love their music.

The scenery wasn't great, and it was raining on and off anyhow so I didn't even attempt to get any photos until we got closer to the Usambara Mountains.

Now we are getting close to the mountains.
Yes, there trains here in Tanzania.

In fact, there is now a passenger train that runs from Arusha to Tanga, and we thought about taking it to Mombo, but it was scheduled to arrive at 1:30am, so that didn't work. Otherwise, had the timing been better we would have tried to take the train instead of the bus.

We made it to Mombo at around 1:00pm (we had now been in those seats for over seven hours nonstop!), and then turned in towards the mountains and began climbing. No, there are no bathrooms on the bus, but we had preplanned that and hadn't had anything to drink! There was the short stop at Moshi where we could have got off the bus to take care of business if necessary, but we had read of horror stories where the bus simply drives away without you, so we weren't taking that chance!

We think we are really going to like the scenery up here.

Waterfall in the distance.

We made it to the town of Soni, and the bus came to a stop and a guy got on and we think he was telling those of us who were going to Lushoto that we had to get on another bus. Of course we are the only foreigners, and the only ones who speak English. Usually, there has been at least one other local who can translate a little, but not at this point. We stayed where we were because we were sure that we had been told that our bus was going to end at Lushoto. But eventually, we figured out that if we didn't get off the bus, we weren't going to get there! Finally, a guy who grabbed our bags and brought them to another smaller bus was telling us in English "Don't worry, don't worry".

Okay. Easy for you to say!

Sure enough, then second bus took us another 20 kms (13 miles) or so to Lushoto. We hadn't had much to eat except for snacks, so as soon as we got off the bus I had already used the phone to check out a nearby restaurant to go for a late lunch. As soon as we got into the place, it started to pour buckets of rain...

Pouring buckets of rain.

I didn't get a photo of lunch. We were famished and wolfed it down. Total cost for a plate of rice, beans, meat, and spinach including tip was 2,500 shillings ($1.40 CAD, $1.10 USD) each. Yes, that's correct.

We waited for it to stop raining and then grabbed a taxi for the very short ride to the villa. We would normally have walked that short of a distance, but we weren't positive of what the road was going to be like.

The road into our accommodations!

That's enough for today. Stay tuned tomorrow to see where we are staying. Pretty interesting stuff!


And in Canada...


  1. Looking good guys! You're a seriously tough couple - driving about in our motorhome's a piece of comfortable cake to all that long distance bussing - nothing like as adventurous though! Cheers, happy travels! Jay

    1. We just look at it as another crazy adventure. Luckily we aren't having to do bus rides like that every day, so doing one every few weeks isn't so bad.

      We are so looking forward to getting into our new motorhome and getting back to what would be a "normal" life for us. :-)

  2. for your saftey I hope you are still following covid safety procedures. Enjoy and stay safe an amazing adventure.

    1. We are doing the best we can under the circumstances, luckily we spend most of our time outside.

  3. Oh my gosh! I just got caught up and read your entire hike up and back down.

    When I saw the picture that Kevin and crew stomped in the snow, my eyes started to swell up. Then, when I saw that Ruth did make it... full on tears.


    Thank you for taking us along on your up to the top, and back down, the top of Africa.


    1. Sorry to add so much drama to the post but I honestly didn't think I could make it to the summit! I was exhausted but somehow Shalali kept on encouraging me and so did others that we met coming down from the summit and passing by us. They kept telling me that I was almost there, so somehow or other I managed to dig in deep and make it up there. I have to say that I was both happy and relieved to have made it to the top. And then to have Kevin turn around and repeat his summit made it all the better. :-)

      We are glad that you enjoyed the blog posts from that memorable hike!

  4. Well, you endured a bumpy ride on the bus. Hope you can go hiking soon. We have come to love those hikes!
    Take care, Rawn

    1. Yes, we sure did and it was well worth the ride, this area is absolutely beautiful!

      I think you will enjoy our hikes from here. :-)

  5. This blog post reminded me just a bit of our taking the local (chicken) buses around Belize, the difference being that everyone spoke English there! I can't imagine trying to negotiate in a country where I didn't speak the local language at all. Good for you two for your adventurous spirits! Kevin -- my husband had the same problem with his back and legs on the Belizean buses. He was not comfortable at all, and he's not even as tall as you! I'm short, so it was no problem for me.

    1. We think that part of the fun of traveling is being able to do it in other languages. Somehow we always seem to figure it out and we really are trying to learn some of the basic Swahili and doing not too bad at it either. :-)

      Yep, Kevin definitely had a difficult time with the bus seating and the lack of room for his long legs.

  6. Lol. This bus blog reminds me of Iriding on the chicken buses in Mexico! They always carry tourists and locals alike and the interaction among passengers, the driver or the ticket collector are interesting and sometimes downright entertaining. The city buses in Puerto Vallarta often have locals get on the bus without paying the driver and they either sing, or play their instruments to beg from one bus stop to the next.

    1. The buses are very similar to the "chicken" buses in Mexico, although Mexico has some really nice long distance buses which they have here but they don't even compare. We also had people boarding the buses and selling drinks and snacks and for some reason loaves of bread but they only did that at the stops where the bus stays put for five minutes or more and they they hopped off before the bus took off.


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