South Pare Mountains
The rural spread of the Southern Pare mountains is also a magical, forested expanse of hidden villages, valleys and homesteads clinging to steep handmade terraces, with plenty to inspire an inquisitive mind. The tourism project here is located in high in the Mbaga Hills, in an area with an extraordinary local and colonial history. The traditional Pare culture is still much in evidence, and witch doctors from here are so renowned that people travel long distances, even urban dwellers from Arusha venture this far south to decipher unusual problems. Areas such as Malameni Rock, where children were sacrificed to appease evil spirits until the 1930s, can now be climbed after receiving special instruction from the hut below. It is not far from here to the legendary Mghimbi Caves, which provided a natural hideaway and haven for local tribes during slave raids. Both of these can be visited on a half day walk. More spiritualism can be found among the tropical fruit trees and banana palms in Ikongwe Village, reached in a full day excursion from Mbaga, a beautiful and fruitful area that is believed to be a gift from the heavens, and where now a very distinct religious community has developed. Another area considered with great respect by local communities is Mpepera Viewpoint atop Mpepera Hill, where a cross has been erected to represent the peace between the resident Catholic and Protestant communities. The viewpoint is used by locals as a peaceful area for prayers, and gives excellent views of Mount Kilimanjaro, or the Mbaga Hills and Mkomazi Game Reserve when the skies are clear. Full day walks can also be arranged into local villages to visit families practising traditional methods to brew quantities of beer or longer hikes through unspoilt woodland such as Shengena Forest. Here it is possible to camp under the stars and wake up for a sunrise hike up Shengena Peak, the highest point in the Pare and Usambara Mountains at 2,463m above sea level, and discover fresh springs and troops of colobus monkeys and enjoy magnificent views over Same and Lushoto. All or any of these can be visited with the great company of local Pare guides contacted via Tona Lodge (see below), who are keen to explain any questions regarding their cultural and natural environment with an ever improving command of English.
The Pare are known to have had an extensive fortified capital, under their chief Ghendewa. He started and managed a conscript army and masterminded a unified tribe with a ‘sophisticated social system’. Ghendewa was killed fighting the Chagga. Reverend Jacob Jenson Dannholz missionary from Leibzig came to live in Mbaga for approximately 10 years between 1908 – 1917, and built a church and farmhouse on Tona Moorland. Locally known as The White Man’s House, but it is officially named ‘Dannholz Cottage’ in honour of the man who built it. This has been used by the missionaries ever since, and four bedrooms are available for visitors.