Lushoto, Tanga - It is late in the cool evening weather when we drive up a tarmac road through the escarpment just for adventure.
The journey was basically twisting and turning around huge roads, passing by green vegetation and gray walks through the mountains streaked by numerous gaggling streams that quench the thirst of colorful birds.
Small villages string the deep valleys inhabited by an over obliging people in what makes Lushoto District, Tanga Region, in north eastern Tanzania, a focal point for eco-tourists.
Surrounded by the Usambara Mountains on the west, Lushoto is stunningly beautiful.
In the 1880's German colonialists built Lushoto which was originally named Wilhemstahl after their ruler Kaizer Wilhesm II.
Hadn't it been for the British colonial power that ousted the Germans in World War 1, the it would have been the Capital of German East Africa which then included Burundi and Rwanda.
At 1400 meters above sea level, Lushoto can be reached from Mombo on the main road from Tanga to Arusha, at the foot of the western Usambara.
The town also offers a rich ground for studying traditions and customs of Wasambaa farmers. The perception and beliefs of Lushoto residents are greatly linked to rats - the source and transmitters of plague.
At 76, Mr Samweli Shemboza says rats are perceived to be an indication of a filthy environment in Lushoto and it is therefore shameful for a household to have rats.
When touching rats that are ubiquitous in the Lusaka, Mzee Shemboza said, one has to be careful not to get in contact with blood from the rats.
He takes strongly to the Islamic faith that prohibits human beings from touching blood and "if one accidentally comes in contact with blood, one needs to clean oneself thoroughly."
According to Mzee Shemboza, identified two main types of rats, which he named as Ngoshwe and field rats called Ngitu.
The field rats are said to be larger in size and bite humans, as opposed to the household rats, said another old man only known as Samangube.
Mzee Musa Shelukindo, 64, is a traditional healer in Mbuzii village, who started practicing traditional medicine in 1980s claims he cures infertility, mental illnesses, paralysis, ailments afflicting eyes, ears and liver problems.
Shelukindo told the East African Business Week that plague, which perennially haunts the area was associated with poor hygiene. The most affected are children and women.
"The bedding of women and children tend to be dirty thus affording excellent breeding grounds for fleas," he said.
He also associates plague with the presence of the tropical forests and bushes close to houses. "Plague is brought by fleas from the black rats called Ngitu, which live and breed in pit latrines."
An Italian visitor who identified herself as Lisa Mosino, said the mountain ranges are picturesque. The best sites include such locations as Irente, Mtae, Mlalo, Soni, and Mazumbai.
Lushoto District gives a visitor the feeling of being on the Swiss Alps, said Ms Mosino.
The Lushoto town itself inspires visitors thanks to the early Germans who lived there from the 1880s. They played a vital role in developing the town, said Lushoto District Commissioner, Sophia Mjema
The Germans cut through the depths of the Usambara mountains making it accessible by building roads up the steep mountains. Lutheran Church missionaries established schools and health centres and established agricultural activities greatly helping Lushoto to make economic progress.
To date Lushoto is one the biggest sources of farm produce such as round potatoes, bananas, temperate fruits - apples, pears and avocado and cabbages that feed millions in Dar es Salaam city to the south. The farmers, are hard working people but spend many an evening playing traditional dances.
According to the Tanzania Tourist Board, during the German colonial period from the 1890s to 1918 the area was popular with settlers, hence the German place name of Wilhelmstal.
Large farms and plantations were created, and the district was valued for its pleasant mountain climate. Numerous Churches were built that are still in use today.
Between 1893 and 1911 the Germans constructed the East African Railway Cooperation line, an important railway line running from Tanga on the Indian Ocean coast passing along the Usambara Mountains with a station established at Mombo, about 20 kilometers from Lushoto township to "New" Moshi in Kilimanjaro region in north eastern Tanzania.
The initial plan of the Usambara railway line was to connect the port of Tanga to Lake Victoria by passing the Usambara Mountains being in direct competition with parallel British efforts in colonial Kenya - Mombasa to Nairobi line. From June 4, 1912 to May 12, 1913 the line was renamed Nordbahn (Northern Railway) for a short period.
Lushoto is one of the eight districts of Tanga Region in Tanzania. It is bordered to the northeast by Kenya, to the east by the Muheza District, to the northwest by the Kilimanjaro Region and to the south by the Korogwe District.
Tanga Region is located in the North Eastern Tanzania and consists of seven Districts namely: Tanga Urban, Handeni, Korogwe, Lushoto, Muheza and Pangani.
Tanga region is bordered by the Indian Ocean to the east, Morogoro region to the south, while to the North and North West it borders Kenya, Kilimanjaro and Arusha regions.
Author: Ally Hamisi