A Weekend of Exciting Day Trips By Solomon Herring

When volunteering here in Tanzania, it is imperative that you spend your off days exploring the pristine natural beauty that surrounds Arusha and Moshi. Fortunately, you are in luck, as Viva Tanzania provides many affordable day trips that will make your off days as unforgettable as the time you spend at your project. This past weekend, I was lucky enough to hike to the Materuni waterfall and swim in the Kikuletwa Hot springs. Both trips were amazing, and it felt refreshing to escape the loud rush of the city and encounter beautiful natural scenery.

My adventures started early in the morning, as I woke up at 8 AM in order to prepare for my trip to the Materuni waterfall. Once I was dressed for the occasion, I went downstairs to eat breakfast with my friends. After eating a light breakfast, we all gathered in the company car and made our way to the outskirts of Moshi. The drive was two hours long, and I was able to get some much needed sleep on our way to the waterfall. After a long nap in the car, I was awoken by our driver Venance. We had made our way to a Chagga village in the outskirts of Kilimanjaro national park, which stood deep in the mountainous jungle that surrounds the world’s tallest free standing mountain. Upon our arrival, my group members and I were introduced to the local Chagga people, who inhabit the area around Kilimanjaro. From there, we hired a local guide, and began our trek through the jungle.

Merely five minutes into our journey, I had come to the realization that I was underdressed, as the worn out running shoes I was wearing were no match for the slippery, mud covered slopes. Luckily, we had walking sticks to help prevent us from falling in the mud, however, they were only able to help so much, as it was not long before I experienced my first wipe out. The intense mud made a relatively short and mild hike much more difficult, as we had to slowly make our way through the dense jungle, and take every step with an abundance of caution. Despite the fact that I was covered in mud, I was blown away by the natural beauty. We were trekking in the Jungle, surrounded by lush greenery and rolling hills. The views were truly spectacular, as we were able to see far into the distance and witness green hills transition into flat savannah.

The natural beauty we witnessed on our hike was not limited to merely vegetation, as we were able to spot an abundance of wildlife as well. On our way to the waterfall, our guide was able to spot three chameleons, standing on the branches of trees, not making a single movement, as if they were statues. These animals are truly magnificent, and being able to see them in person for the first time was mind blowing. After an hour and a half of hiking and constantly falling in the mud, we finally made it to the waterfall. My body and outfit were covered with mud, and I looked as if I had been swimming in a river of melted chocolate. However, the spectacular view of such a majestic waterfall made me forget about my dirty clothes.

After spending thirty minutes relaxing by the waterfall and swimming in the frigid water, we embarked on our journey back to the Chagga village. Thankfully, the hike back was mostly uphill, and I only fell in the mud around three times. Once we had reached the village, we were treated to a tasty lunch and given a demonstration on how coffee is cultivated. After spending around an hour and a half in the village, we made our way back to Arusha, just as the sun began to come out from behind the clouds, allowing us to have an amazing view of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Once I was back at the hostel and in my room, I immediately jumped in the shower and stood under the water for thirty minutes while vigorously scrubbing all of the mud that covered my skin. All in all the trip was amazing, even though I had ruined one of my nicest pairs of pants. After eating dinner and having a beer, I went back to my room to watch a movie and prepare for yet another trip.

At 7:30 AM the next day, I was abruptly awoken by the shriek of my alarm clock. I then packed a change of clothes, towel, and jacket and went downstairs to have a cup of coffee. I then gathered with my friends and we made our way back to Moshi, yet again, for a day of swimming and relaxing. I found this drive to be another opportunity to catch up on sleep, however, once we were close to the springs, I made sure I was awake, so I could immerse myself in the lovely natural scenery. We were surrounded by a dry savannah, full of acacia and baobab trees that stretched as far as the eye could see. After twenty five minutes driving down a bumpy dirt road, we had finally made it to the hot springs. We arrived around ten AM, and were lucky enough to have the entire place to ourselves.

The hot springs are a natural oasis, laying in the middle of dry and arid grassland. The vegetation is lush and green and the water is a clear shade of turquoise that covers a bed of shiny limestone. We were surrounded by countless monkeys who swung from the branches of trees and searched the ground for morsels of food left behind by other visitors. I immediately jumped into the warm water, and got some much needed relaxation as I floated around like a raft. My friends and I were in paradise, and we swam around the hot springs,while the fish below us nipped at our feet. Eventually, more people came, marking the end of our privacy. However, the arrival of others allowed us to socialize with some amazing people, from both Tanzania and abroad. The time I spent at the hot springs was unforgettable and was an amazing way to relax after a very long week. I would recommend that anyone who is looking for a soothing weekend getaway visit the Kikuletwa Hot springs.