Other Side: Exploring Lushoto’s Teeming Twilight Realm

The quietude of night permeates Lushoto’s peaceful aether. Here, high in the hills of northeastern Tanzania, a certain kind of peace reigns, one where its inhabitants exist in their spheres. Life is busy, there are things to do and they have no time to waste on the machinations of outsiders.

Still, the traveller can’t quite shake the feeling they’re being observed. By what or by whom, they cannot say. The instinct is a curious one and it settles somewhere deep in the traveller’s core. There it will remain vague, unknowable, inexplicable.

High overhead, the moon is beginning its descent toward the horizon. Tonight it is full and washes the valley in a vaguely skeletal murk. Vision is full and shapes are discernible, their controlled movements and steady progress cutting a swathe through the shade. Such is the night’s bitter cold, though, that the formation of water droplets remains a visible, and constant, process.

The visitor bristles against the cold and strides forth. They leave behind them the open road. The day is beginning, even at this early hour. Motors thrum in the distance and clipped tones of conversation, slow and muted, flow from rudimentary cooking stoves. The mood is sombre and controlled, as though running at half-speed; the traveller semi-expects a cord to be pulled somewhere and bring life to the sombre atmosphere.

But no such thing happens. Instead, a lone owl shares its call. There is no response and the echo continues along the valley. The path is steep now, but its vague shape has not changed; the walker knows where to place their feet. Their route will take them to the valley’s peak; the path traces the shape of a horseshoe, snaking around the perimeter of the bowl. In daylight it is a hive of activity, verdant farming land tended by a teeming community.

It is still pitch black, however, and the panorama takes on a vastly more sinister hue. Another realm has precedence and will do so until visibility is restored. The ebb and flow of this black space are unimaginable, as are the forms and presences dwelling inside it.

The path, now forked, leads its wanderer closer to their destination. Figures appear and dissipate; their direction is down, crossed paths signified with a mutual nod, perceptible even in the darkness. Houses are still locked, no sign of movement within them. A single light creates a ghostly atmosphere but still, the night shows no sign of abating. The traveller still has a long way to go.

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