In October, I was in Iringa, Tanzania for a study trip. One of the most interesting aspects of the trip was a field visit to Igeleke, a cultural heritage site. I want to share this with you because even though the site is not very well known and our tour was focused on our studies, it’s something unique and worth seeing when in the Iringa area.
My fellow students – Salla, David and Naomy – and I set off from the Univeristy of Iringa by bus accompanied by an ecotourism key expert from the university and two Tanzanian students. Unlike a regular traveller, we had to register ourselves in the village office and write our names and contact details in official books.
When the formalities were done, our bus drove to Igeleke. Igeleke is located around 10 kilometres from Iringa town, so you won’t have to travel far. I would imagine that a taxi or a private tour would be your best bet on getting there. For travellers, there is an entrance fee of 10,000 Tanzania shillings.
You should prepare for the hike by bringing your own water and snacks. Also, make sure you won’t need a toilet when in the area as there’s none! Also, don’t expect to find a booth where you can buy the tickets. If you are visiting independently, you must contact the group that manages the site – Kiumaki. Their contact person’s phone number can be found on the signboard underneath the mountain which you will later climb. We were fortunate to be guided by the chairman of Kiumaki himself.
It is a good idea to have good, sturdy shoes and clothes appropriate for climbing a steep hill. We on the other hand had been at the university all morning, where women were required to wear long skirts. As we didn’t have a chance to change our clothes before our visit, we had no other choice but to climb in our skirts and sandals! It was lucky that none of us were wearing heels. I must admit that it was quite hilarious and the locals must’ve thought we were crazy!
On the hill, you will find indigenous trees and plants. Many of these can be used for medicinal purposes. Before, the locals from the communities around Igeleke had not known the environmental or cultural value of this area and had cut down the trees and built structures on the hill. Now the site is protected.
On our hike, we got a chance to try this yellow fruit. It had a funny acrid aftertaste, kind of like a chokeberry. Nevertheless, I would disourage you from picking the fruits from the trees unless you know what they are. We had knowledgeable locals with us, so we were safe to try this particular fruit.
The views from the hill are breathtaking! Imagine this at sunset.
After having a look at some of the interesting plants, we climbed more till we arrived at a cave. The locals told us that hunter-gatherers had lived in this cave back in the day. Somehow I managed to hit my head when entering the cave and my forehead was almost bleeding! That didn’t dampen my spirits though.
Next, we had to climb a vertical rock. It was quite exhilarating for us ladies with our skirts. Thank goodness for the university dress code which stated that skirts had to be long!
On this rock, we saw a deep gorge and had to mind our step not to fall in! This is where Igeleke got it’s name – its Hehe for “stone upon a stone”.
More amazing views! In ancient times, this must’ve been a very important place to spot possible danger approaching. This was the most photogenic spot, as the whole valley opened up below us.
Beneath we could see the village with several churches and mosques. We heard the call to prayer too. When going down the vertical rock, I got stuck! Just imagine going down a rock in slipping sandals while trying to keep hold of your skirt. I almost had a panic attack but thankfully Salla calmed me down and a very nice gentleman ended up lifting me down!
Next, it was time to see the ancient rock paintings. The prehistoric site is protected from vandals by a fence and a gate. It is not possible to enter without a guide.
After a short walk, you will find a magnificent rock. The rock paintings are found at the base of it. What is quite interesting about this site is that it was discovered as late as 2009, by volunteers from the UK. It seems that information about these paintings had been lost at some point by generations living in the area.
The paintings represent humans, trees and animals – elephants and giraffes among others. Most paintings are red but there are also some in black and white.
Lots of photos were taken in front of this extraordinary find.
We were visiting Iringa during the dry season – I’d love to see this view when there’s been a lot of rain.
A good pathway leads you out of the rock painting area and here too, you will be required to exit through a gate.
Last, we wandered around the Igeleke Primary School which unfortunately was out for the day, so we didn’t see any teaching going on.
Before boarding out bus, we got to try the desks and pretend to be primary school students. The desks were quite tiny for us mind you.
Our visit to Igeleke was quite an adventure and full of laughs. I’m glad we had a chance to see this special site and in such great company too. It is lucky that this site has been found and is safeguarded and preserved.
If you have visited this site, I would love to hear your experiences in the comments below!