Climbing Mount Hanang On Your

The volcanic Mt Hanang (3417m) rises steeply above the surrounding plains about 180km southwest of Arusha. It's Tanzania's fourth-highest mountain, with a satisfying trek to the summit, but few visitors know of its existence. The surrounding area is home to a colourful array of ethnic groups, including the Barabaig, who still follow a traditional seminomadic lifestyle and are recognisable by their goatskin garments. Over the past few decades, they have been displaced from some of their lands by large-scale wheat-farming projects.

The most popular route to the top, and the easiest to organise, is the Jorodom Route, which begins in the town of Katesh on the mountain's southern side and can be done in one long day (with an additional day necessary for making arrangements). While a guide isn't strictly essential, it's recommended to go with one. This is best arranged through Kahembe's Trekking & Cultural Safaris (p46) in Babati, which is the best contact for doing anything around Hanang or Babati. It costs US$120 per person for a two-day Hanang climb from Arusha, including Hanang forest reserve fees but excluding transport (nominal cost); email or stop at Kahembe's office in Babati first to organise things. If you're trekking independently, you can arrange a guide through the local municipality office (Idara ya Mkuu wa Ilaya) in Katesh for about Tsh5000 per day. However, don't go with any of the freelancers who hang around Katesh and Babati saying they're with Kahembe's or the municipality, as there have been several instances of travellers who have organised things on their own being taken part way up the mountain and then relieved of their valuables.

For all trekking on the mountain you'll need to pay a US$30 forest reserve fee per person per trip, plus a Tsh2500 village fee per person per trip for climbs on the Jorodom Route. If you're organising things on your own, both fees should be paid prior to the trek at the local municipality office. If you've organised your trek through Kahembe's, staff there will take care of paying the fees for you. The climbing route is described in Lonely Planet's Trekking in East Africa guidebook. Allow 10 to 12 hours for the return trek, and get an early start so you have most of the ascent behind you before the sun gets too high. Water supplies up high are unreliable; carry at least 4L with you (even with this you'll probably wish you had more).

Katesh is also known for its large mnada (market and auction) held on the 9th and 10th, and again on the 27th of each month. Maasai, Barabaig, Iraqw and other peoples from a wide surrounding area converge at the base of the mountain about a 10-minute walk from town (head out past the bank) to trade their wares. It's a great spot for purchasing everything from shukas (blankets) and Barabaig jewellery to cattle and sheep. Bargain hard, and watch out for pickpockets.

There are numerous basic guesthouses in Katesh, the best of which is Colt (% 027-253 0030; s/d Tsh6000/8000), just past the market, with hot water on request. Others to try include Tip Top (r Tsh10,000), near the bus stand, and with cold water only, and the more basic Hanang View Guesthouse (s/d Tsh2500/4000), which has nondescript rooms around a cement courtyard and shared bucket baths. None of the guesthouses serve food. For meals, try Kabwogi's, near the Lutheran church.

Mtei line buses from Arusha and Babati pass through Katesh on their way to Singida; the last bus to do this leaves Arusha at 9am. Otherwise, you'll need to spend a night in Babati and catch a bus to Katesh the next morning.

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