Always fun-packed season
By Elisha Mayallah
The annual Chagga holiday ritual is on - it's a few days away. It is a yearly ritual observed by most of the 'Wachaggas' "As a tradition I do visit my home area in Marangu every year during the X-Mas and New Year holidays. Every year come mid December we will find ourselves back home," said Augusta Mboya a resident of Njiro in Arusha.
Often described as "the hidden jewel of the Chagga land," Marangu boasts many attractions for the visitor. First on your itinerary should be a visit to the KINAPA gate, where climbers of the rooftop of Africa start - Marangu route to acclimatize the mountainous vegetation. Then at least take in the beauty of the rolling countryside.
Market days conducted on rotation basis from one area to another are a highlight for visitors. At Kinyange, nestled away in peaceful, idyllic area surrounded by grass thatched huts and the sprawling village of Sembeti the market is quite a spectacle for the unsuspecting visitor. The aroma of fruit, veggies and bananas hangs in the air and the buzz of the market throughout the gigantic space. Hundreds of stands advertise everything from fresh produce, live poultry and used clothes [mitumba] to "yebo yebo" sandals.
Yet all this only scratches of the surface there are waterfalls and for the slightly more adventurous Mandara hut perched on 2700m offers great chances of exploring the mountains topography and scenery.
Having done a tour of the area visitors are keen to find a place to lay their weary heads. Marangu has a wide range of accommodation on offer from simple budget self-catering to more upmarket bed-and-breakfast establishments.
Many hotel establishments say up to 90 per cent of their guests during X-Mas and New Year book well in advance. Many families from Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Nairobi and other areas are known to spend their festive season in Marangu.
It's doubtful if Hans Meyer and Mzee Lauwo would recognize the area today, however much they loved it in their travel in 1889. Hans Meyer was the first foreigner who conquered the summit of the Kilimanjaro and Lauwo was his porter.
During the X-Mas and New Year holidays the sky in Kilimanjaro region would be invariably overcast, the showers, wind-chill factor in some place, horde of people arriving and unpacking, drinking beers and 'mbege' [the traditional drink]. For some reason it is always a fun packed time!
Christmas and New Year holidays are used to be largely excuse for excesses. Being naturally pleasure-seeking, many a people spend most of the holiday in an alcoholic haze. And the Wachaggas are not exception they really drink to their fill!
During Christmas last year in Marangu it turned out to be a highly sociable experience for my family and I, even when none of us dared to drink the famous "mbege". The Wachaggas best-known local food Machalali - is the must inclusion of the holiday sumptuous menus nearly always during this time. We had a feel of the local traditional food, unknown to us earlier, but turned out to be a delicious meal.
While merrymaking with a family up in Mamba Kotela courtesy of Mrs. Yesse Moshi and her family, we found almost all homes busy as families moved from one house to another to either have a meal or enjoy a drink. Every one in this place was generous. As a person from the Lake region I still consider the North in particular the Wachagga areas to be the most beautiful during these holidays, whose populations equally soars and holding up better.
The Chagga population seemed to have emptied itself out en masse, and it was exciting, lively crowd with chattering loudly over music of the season most of us hear during this time round.
Our ravenous appetites were soon satisfied as endless plates of food were served to us on beautifully laid tables. We relished in the luxury and ate much more than is usually considered respectable.
During the year, Kilimanjaro Mountain Resort in Marangu Kyalla is a Mecca for families looking for odd-world hospitality and peace. "Guests come from different regions and they are very excited to see one another every year" said Mrs. Elizabeth Njiu the Director of the resort. "They come here for freedom in our gardens and good service. Our biggest advantage is our price-friendly policy, safety and comfort of children" she added.
Strengthened we admired the architecture at the resort, wandered down through walkways and eventually made our way to the gardens. Walking really needs nourishment and in all the gardens, the options are so attractive.
No wonder Marangu has been a unique holiday destination for so long perhaps the only surprise is that more people have not yet experienced it for themselves.