Usangi & the North Pare
In tourist terms, the North Pare is the least developed of the mountain ranges in this part of Tanzania, despite lying a mere 35km southeast of Kilimanjaro. The high plateau of the range is extensively settled and ecologically degraded: only seven tracts of indigenous forest remain, isolated from each other by cultivated fields and shambas. The main base for exploring South Pare, the attractive small town of Usangi is ringed by 11 peaks and particularly lively on the market days of Monday and Thursday. At the cultural tourism office in the secondary school you can organise a number of excursions to nearby points of interest. A good half-day walk is the Mangatu Tour, which takes you through the Mbale Forest to a viewpoint facing nearby Kilimanjaro and Lake Jipe on the Kenya border. The half-day Goma Tour visits a set of caves that were dug by the Pare people in the 19th century as a hiding place from slave raiders. This tour can be extended to be a full-day walk to the upper slopes of Mount Kindoroko, which supports the largest relic forest patch in the range – around 900ha – and harbours a variety of monkeys and birds. Notable among these is Abbot’s starling, a localised east African highland forest endemic at the most southern extension of its very limited range. Several other day walks are available to visitors, and it is possible to organise overnight hiking trails. All hikes cost around US$6 per group per day, with an additional village development and administration fee of US$3 per person per day.
Usangi lies roughly 25km east of the junction town of Mwanga on the B1. It is reached via a good dirt road, covered by a few buses daily. Should you need to overnight in Mwanga, basic and inexpensive rooms are available at the Izungu and Mountain guesthouses. In Usangi, there is no formal accommodation, but you should be able to stay in the three-bedroom resthouse at Lomwe Secondary School for US$3 per person. If the resthouse is full, then the teachers are happy to put up visitors for a similar fee (the headmaster of the school is the co-ordinator of the tourism project). Inexpensive local meals are available by request.
(c) Philip Briggs 2009