lushoto, tanzania

Other Side: Exploring Lushoto’s Teeming Twilight Realm

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

Still, the traveller fails to shake the feeling of observation, as though their presence, superficially unacknowledged, nevertheless registers on whatever frequencies flow through the region. By what or by whom, the traveller cannot say. The instinct is a curious one, and it settles somewhere deep in their core where it remains; vague, unknowable, inexplicable.

High overhead, the full moon begins its descent toward the horizon. The celestial body, its scarred form highlighted by the void-like depths surrounding it, washes the valley in a vague, skeletal murk. Barely discernible shapes descended through the shade, their forms creating the impression of silhouettes transmogrified into the waking world. The soft sparkle of their breaths meeting the cool night air gives the only indication of their corporeal existence; such is the bitter cold that the formation of droplets remains a visible, and constant, process.

The visitor bristles against the cold and strides forth, leaving the open road behind them. 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 stark 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 peak; the path traces an incomplete circle in the shape of a horseshoe, snaking around the perimeter of the bowl. In daylight the entire bowl is a hive of activity, verdant farming land layered up the hillside and tended by the families who live thereupon.

The sky is still pitch black, however, rendering the panorama in a vastly more sinister hue. Another realm takes precedence and will do so until the restoration of visibility signifies daylight’s short-lived victory over the darkness. For now, though, the ebb and flow of this black space inform unimaginable conjectures, the forms and presences dwelling inside it creating in the traveller a nascent dread, as though a macabre something, having recognised their presence on the path, advances toward them with singular, malevolent intent.

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 remain locked with no recognisable intimation of movement therein. 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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