It’s May Day, which is a national holiday here in Tanzania. Since I didn’t have go to school, I asked Alfred if he wanted to go for a run this morning.
Alfred and I have been running every other day for the last couple weeks, and today was our best run yet, mostly because we got lost on dirt roads through banana trees, discovered a beautiful waterfall, and ended up having to wade across the river to get home.
On our usual route we cross a bridge over the river, and then head down a path where we have to hop on rocks across another branch of the river. There are usually a few guys breaking rocks on the river bank. We climb up to a road on the other side of the valley, through a little yard where we usually see old folks and chickens and dogs, and run south to another bridge by a Catholic technical school where we cross back over and head home through Shanty Town.
The river’s been too high to hop across so we’ve been exploring other routes. Today we headed across the bridge and up toward some villages of Chagga people, the tribe that lives and farms on the slopes of Kilimanjaro.
Running around here is hard because there are so many rivers and so few bridges. The online maps of Moshi can be misleading, showing roads crossing the river when there’s actually just a footpath — if that — and nothing resembling a bridge.
So this morning we were up in the coffee plantation and saw a road heading toward the river where Map My Run said two bridges would be. We followed it and got completely lost. We tried to ask some guys, who pointed both directions when we asked about a bridge, so we headed north along the river admiring the deep, forested valley. We finally came to a rickety wooden footbridge we had crossed with the bike club once. It was just upstream from a lovely little waterfall where we took a rest.
Rather than heading to the main road, we decided to go back toward home along the river, but we ran into another tributary. We saw a black monkey walking along on a branch over the water, and many tall and beautiful trees. The river was strewn with boulders two to ten feet in diameter, and the banks were steep and thick with native forest and banana trees. It felt like wilderness but was only a short walk from the houses, farms and roads that cover the mountainside.
I decided to wade across the river, but Alfred had enough courage to jump over eight feet of water from a big boulder to the far bank. There was a small footpath through the bananas, but it was hard to tell if it led anywhere. We passed a young guy with a shovel and asked where the road was. He pointed in the direction he’d come from, and we were soon back to a familiar road we’d ridden bikes down.
We saw a lot of people along the way, men working in the banana and coffee fields, women carrying loads of fruit on their heads, children pushing bucket lids or crooked bike wheels with sticks, a gang of young guys digging a boulder from a ditch. Everyone was friendly and helpful.
I came back and estimated the distance using Map My Run, which is still good for some things. It looked to be about six miles, a great little 10k adventure.