The somewhat famous village of Marangu sits on the far eastern side of Mt. Kilimanjaro and is the starting point for climbing the easy route, Marangu – also known as the Coca Cola Route. Unlike the other bigger cities of Moshi and Arusha, Marangu has a distinct feel – much more like a small mountain town. It’s lush, green, cool, loaded with bananna trees – and is downright beautiful in many parts. The city center village isn’t much to write home about, but the area around it is filled with waterfalls, farms, nice hotels. You see women dressed in traditional outfits walking with huge stalks of bannanas on their heads. Marangu is also a welcome relief from the punishing sun, as it sits high up on the side of the mountain, already between 4000ft to 5000 ft. It’s nice and cool at night.
So all this makes Marangu sound like a great place to visit, right? Well sort of. I really love the area of Marangu itself, the problem is, I really don’t like the people. You see, Marangu has been the forefront of tourism on Mt. Kilimanjaro for countless years and many people have become successful because of tourism. Thousands and thousands of rich foreigners pass through this village every year – and have kind of set expectations and tainted the people, giving out money, candy, gifts, sponsoring students, and leaving their mark on this once quiet village.
Now the people, the children, the officials in Marangu know tourists, like you, have money and will give it away in some form. I feel like tourists are only seen as a outlet – as a way to make money – and hence the people aren’t too genuine anymore. It’s very sad. It feels (and I could be wrong) they only want to be your friend so they can sell you something. They will ask for your address or email address, so you receive a email a couple months later asking for money for school fees – or for some other random problem. This drives me crazy. I have seen it time and time again. School children in Marangu approach you everywhere asking for money, candy and pens. Everyone trys to sell you a safari or a carving and wants to be your friends. And, it kind of feels like it’s a whole big game – everyone has some other intention for getting to know you and making some money from you.
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That said, you can have a great visit to Marangu. It’s a beautiful place – but if you are looking for something genuine, go somewhere else. There are hundreds of villages on mountain Kilimanjaro that never see a single tourist. The trick is, you need to find them. Read The Best of Kilimanjaro is Free.