I have done this route twice the issue of the worst
success to the top is that this route has less
oxygen as someone elevates to the high altitudes
so one need to aclimatize properly not just a matter of
pay and go!
The crater is a quick side trek near Mandara Hut and takes about 1 hour. Views toward the Kenyan border can be seen from one side of the crater. You start in the direction you will take the next day if you are still on your way up. The walk takes you out of the rain forest zone and for the first time you'll see tussock.
The track goes off to the right of the main Marangu track and circles around the rim of a small volcano's crater. Not too much to see but a nice wander after the excitment of getting your first day on Kili behind you. When you get to the far side of the crater you can either keep on walking on the rim or take the track that goes down into the crater and back up the other side. A bit harder than the rim walk though more interesting.
The Zebra or mawenzi rock is a geographic feature close to Horombo Hut. It is essentially a rock face coloured by time and water. The rock is a 5km walk from the Horombo Hut and is normally used as part of an acclimatisation day walk taking you to 4100M before going back down to 3700M to sleep at the huts.
We, literally, just passed by the glaciers on the top of the mountain. We could see the cotton wool effect of the clouds behind the glacier and behind that the faint reddish glow as the sun began to rise. It made the hard work to get there so worthwhile - and we hadn't, quite, got to the top yet.
When we did get to the top, shortly after, the timing was perfect. There was only two other people there, and there was only eight others by the time we left (you get 15minutes at the top). We watched the sun rise over Africa and opened our small bottle of (by now, frozen solid) champagne.
We then had to head downwards at a very fast rate of knots, passing the conveyor belt of people who were just arriving, and also passing those who were turning back (I believe that roughly 60% do not get all the way to the top).
I suppose that it is not truly off the beaten track, but at times it felt like it.
Kilimanjaro is in the heart of the area occupied by the Chagga people of Tanzania - it's a near certainty that guides and porters will be Chagga - and the Chagga staple is bananas, in many varieties and cooking styles.
Banana beer is known as 'mbege', and it's made, mostly, from bananas and finger millet (which adds flavor). It's a low alcohol brew, often drunk in copious quantities, and it's very refreshing. Chat with your guide if you'd like to try some and he should be able to recommend a good village source or may even escort you there yourself after the descent is complete.
Mbege is sometimes available in Moshi or other towns but even locals report having stomach problems with 'old' mbege (which is transported in from the countryside) and say it's much better to drink from a fresh village batch. You'll almost certainly share a large cup with several others, so don't hog the container!