rave run: the mountains of geita, tanzania

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 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 — it sells for about $35 per small dump truck load

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 makes for slow going on this section

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 extensive mining and 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”

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.

cows 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.

a very small view of geita’s 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 remain a few areas with large trees and a canopy providing good shade.  This is also where the vervet monkeys hang out.

illegal brick-making facilities: 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.

the mountain i’ve just come down — 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.



Filed under running, tanzania, updates from geita

18 responses to “rave run: the mountains of geita, tanzania

  1. So cool – thanks for taking the extra time to do this. 🙂

    • i’m glad you enjoyed it, bernard. and it wasn’t as much work as it’d normally be to post pictures, because i uploaded all the photos while christie and i were at the gold mine the other day — so it didn’t take long at all. during the run, i just took several quick breaks to snap pictures and then ran a little faster after to make sure i got at least a little workout…

  2. That is quite a run, bro! I am surprised you run where there are monkeys. How much water does the stream produce? Will that water be available for the Neema House?

    • i like running when there are vervet monkeys around. they swing from the trees and stay pretty distant. the baboons, though, scare me. i felt sure i might could get a picture of these two if i’d gone into the brush i saw them enter — but those things are kind of dangerous. you know they sometimes kill small antelope and eat them?

      the spring has a relatively constant flow of a(n american) bathroom tap turned on about halfway. they’ve set up a small dam area and the water comes out of a steel pipe in the wall. local people are always there filling their buckets (albeit slowly). and any water not taken at the pipe (we think) enters into another pipe and eventually makes it to one of those concrete reservoirs from where christie and i get our water. or rather don’t get our water.

      the spring itself is not on neema house property, but they might be allowed to keep all the excess runoff once the city finishes their water project. though they’re planning on digging a well anyway.

  3. Well it is about time! Thanks for posting this! These pictures are GREAT! What a gorgeous place to run! It looks pretty challenging too.

    Now all you’ve got left to do is get a little quicker with that camera so we can see some baboons (although I really liked those cows!). And, if you want true running fame, you need to get Christie to take a picture of you running up or down that hill and send it to Runner’s World.

    And this just proves that the whiny wheel gets the running pictures. 🙂 Loved it!

    • i’ll take some pictures of the baboon the next time i go into the goldmine. it’s not the same troop (i don’t think — and are groups of baboons called troops?), but they look the same. and the gold mine baboons aren’t as quick to run and hide. they cross the fairways while we’re playing golf sometimes.

      i’ll take some runner’s world pictures at some point. but i don’t know if they’d ever highlight a barefoot / minimalist runner? and i probably would have to be wearing some more fashionable (and cleaner) running clothes than anything i’ve got.

      glad you enjoyed the pics, janie. if anyone else did, they owe their enjoyment mostly to you….

      • I don’t know…I think the times are a changin’ and minimalist running is becoming more known, studied and popular. So who knows. And I think the old/dirty/nontraditional running clothes make it more authentic.

        So if a female wanted to run there, would she have to do it in a skirt?

        Everyone, you’re welcome.

  4. Thanks for sharing and very interesting

  5. I love this. When can I book a trip to head out there and take a run with you? Looks like a fantastic trip. Thanks for taking time to share.

  6. DjR

    I was surprised to read in the caption of the brick-making picture that such brick-works are “illegal”. I have only limited experience of Malawi, but there brick-making appears to be something of a national past-time!

  7. in my experience in foreign countries the government will make national parks as a tourist ploy – as Americans in particular will flock to anything with that title. Then you arrive and 1) it’s not like Yellowstone 2) that designation protects it from nothing – it’s just a title.

    catch a monkey next time!

    • the national parks here in tanzania are really good. i mean the infrastructure might not be. but wild animals, natural environment, and the like… awesome. but what’s behind my house is just a national forest. they protect the trees. but that’s all it really is.

      i’m actually pretty afraid of monkeys overall. would never want to catch one.

  8. Daniel

    looks like a fun run, but you would definitely be going first through the thick snakey brush.

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