A thriving metropolis, Geita, Tanzania is not.* Though opportunities for running do abound. We’ve got a single paved road and lots of dirt roads, bicycle paths, and goat trails. They pass from town to country, over mountains and through forests.
One day a week I run the mountains behind our house. And because
of Janie’s incessant whining I thought it might be interesting to some of you, I’m posting photos from this morning’s run.
starting the journey up the mountain -- the road in front of our house
It takes five minutes or so of running to get to the trailhead. So my “warmup” is past my neighbors’ houses and gardens, waving hellos and shouting greetings to those I see.
mining for gravel and a city water reservoir
Any run in Geita is going to teach you at least a little about the culture and lives of many Tanzanians. Above is a photo of a family mining for gravel. It sells for $35-40 per small dump truck load… if you’ve got your own dump truck. Also in the photo is a large water reservoir which is meant to supply a third of Geita with its water. [Did I tell you guys we haven't received city water since July of last year?]
the beginning of the trail up the mountain
It takes me 15-17 minutes to climb the roughly 1000 feet from my house to the top of the mountain.
loose rocks make for slow going during much of the climb
My GPS watch measures the distance to be almost exactly a mile from my house to the top of the mountain. And the peak — more like a ridge — sits at nearly 5300 feet above sea level (just about a mile).
on top of the mountain
These mountains are technically part of a Tanzanian national forest. For that reason, there are some wild animals around. On this particular run I saw two olive baboons and a vervet monkey. I wasn’t fast enough, though, to get photos of any of them. Sorry, guys. I let you down.
the mountain opposite ours -- damage from deforestation, mining, and the accompanying erosion
Although the area is a national forest, it isn’t exactly treated as such. Trees are being cut down for firewood and charcoal. Gravel is being mined. Pits are being dug in order to harvest mud for brick-making (and that too requires firewood). All of these activities are illegal inside the national forest, but a few small bribes in the right pockets go a long way in turning the heads of those with power.
the view from the top -- geita's "lake"
the other view from the top -- geita town proper (you can see our huge catholic cathedral off in the distance)
There’s not a whole lot to the town of Geita. We’re told we have a population of anywhere from 50,000 to 200,000. It’s hard to tell which is the more accurate number; neither figure seems correct when looking at the town’s infrastructure.
cattle cooling off in the near-permanent mudhole on top of the mountain
The Sukuma people are famous for their cows. And the above cows are some of the finest in Geita. Not many farmers take their cattle to the mountaintop — I can imagine it’s tough to get them up there — so the grazing seems to be particularly good. There’s also plenty of water for them to drink except during the driest of seasons.
residue of the booming (and illegal) charcoal industry
There are a lot of trails up and down the mountain, and nearly just as many on top. I get lost during about half my runs. But remembering which side of the mountain I’m supposed to go down is all that’s really important. Down is always down — one side goes home, and the other not so much.
the terrain changes constantly throughout my runs — from smooth dirt trails…
...to gravel and rocks...
...to high grass, thick brush, and snakes?
Admittedly, this last photo wasn’t taken on a well-traveled trail. But it is how I get to a particular rock I like to climb above the main spring on this side of the mountain.
the view coming down
The views are pretty spectacular considering that during this run I was never more than about 2 miles from our house.
from the thick canopy of trees nearest the main spring in the mountain
It’s also nice that there still remains a few areas with large trees and a canopy providing good shade. This is also where the vervet monkeys hang out.
illegal brick-making: this is where they dig, form, bake, and sell -- the entire process
The photo above was taken on future Neema House property. For those of you who don’t know, Neema House is our team’s planned care center for orphaned children and broken families. The property sits about a mile up the hill from our house, just before the mountain turns steep.
looking back on the mountain -- the spring is in that darkest green section
If any of you are ever in the neighborhood, and want to go for a run… let me know. You’re more than welcome. Really. And I’ll make you some great coffee and better-than-average pancakes.
* Although technically Geita is a metropolis: the capital or chief city of a country or region.