All posts by bobandbarb

Pictures of the Week!

Catching bait in Kodiak Harbor.

American Press Travel News-March 24th, Florida-Bob’s pictures of the week!

Competed with the masters for salmon. The whales!
During my trip with the Wounded Warriors Project, we fished with members of the Coast Guard in their private boats. . Was fishing great in Kodiak? unbelievable!
Swam with the Polar Bears! They were full of seals. Was younger then, and could handle the cold water with special suits.
Definitely a trip of a lifetime!!! Only ice I want to see today is ice cubes!!

Uganda and on to Rwanda “Africa on a Pin & a Prayer” A Piece from My Book

Some of the items traded for during my time in Africa!

American Press Travel News–March 22,–Bob Epstein in Africa–Part 2-Uganda—The most difficult items to eat during our trip through equatorial Africa were: monkey brains, snakes and some lizards. The reptiles were great roasted, but the monkey was just too close to our lineage for us not to feel like we were cannibals. Besides, we didn’t like the gamy taste, or smell either.
I had learned long before I arrived in Africa that the shortest route between two points traveled, or on paper was a straight line. In Africa there are no straight lines or roads. Most of the terrain in Africa called for serpentine roads and circuitous ways. A trek through this land was then, and I understand full well now, a trip through pre history for anyone from the west. Things in the west have changed rapidly, socially, the industrial revolution and all, but in Africa with the exception of the diamond, religious missionary and rubber business interests, few things have changed except for the horror of aids. People that are used to very fast changes in the relativity of the new worlds terms and times would be flabbergasted by the actual snail like pace of change in Africa. People in the hinterlands of Africa are still concerned with, and do things one at a time, with pride and utility. Time in central Africa is not money. People in Africa, not the citified ones, do things, (crafts, building their dwellings, doing anything beyond attending to the daily natural personal hygiene needs) they do their wash in streams and gather brush and branches for cooking fires, they brush their teeth with crushed branch ends the way they have done for untold centuries. Africans, those that have not become accustomed to the white mans ways, still do things one at a time often with pride and high utility. Because time is not money to most of these peoples, a hand carved knife may take days or weeks to craft and speed is not part of the criteria for it’s fashioning. Quality not quantity would seem to describe the craftsman’s philosophy in the hinterlands of Africa.
When we traded for such things as knives and finger pianos, or spears or any item an African makes for himself or others of his tribe, manufactured products from the west, such as razor blades, shiny nail clippers or cigarettes. Things such as these that may as well have been made by aliens from another planet were perfect barter and trade item products. For the Africans, it was future shock, they were delighted with chromium products and for us it was museum quality items that would also be treated as priceless. I remember seeing this trade as realistic and fair, even though on cursory notice through western eyes and perspective it would seem the Africans were the ones being taken advantage of, they did and would certainly feel the same way about their good fortune. After all they looked at the transactions from their own perspective. They could make another mask, knife, spear, monkey strap and bow and arrow set out of the natural free material around them. They were sure that the white mans technology would be very difficult if not impossible to reproduce even for the traders from a land of the future.
Africa was not just a place. It was a state of mind. Everywhere we looked, there were things to marvel at. From the style and shapes of African homes and buildings to the dress and customs of these peoples from a lush land, nourished by an equatorial sun and heavy rainy seasons, to the diversity of a people that Thomas Leaky was sure are the ancient ancestors of the birth of Homo erectus or the first man.
Traveling through Africa and experiencing its diverse wildlife, I had no doubt why anyone would not think that this place perhaps was where the concept of the Garden of Eden had come from. Every fruit known to man grows somewhere in Africa, almost every wild animal including the largest land animal the pachyderm and the smallest the Madagascar shrew is indigenous to this continent and it’s environs. There are over 500 different types of snakes, fifty thousand kinds of insects, hundreds of varieties of fish, reptiles and amphibians inhabit the waters, lands and jungles of Africa, not to mention the over 100 different mammalian species that dot the plains, inhabit the trees with over 600 species of birds countless kinds of trees and plants as well as the throwback from the dinosaur age the crocodile. These crocodiles yearly account for hundreds of deaths. People get too close to them as they wash their clothes, take baths and fish in the rivers and lakes and become food for many of these crocodiles. Many crocs reach in access of 20 feet in length. There are hundreds of butterflies and moth varieties besides the aforementioned insect’s numbers, dozens of leech and worm types and you can meet many of them by just taking a swim in any still water pool, lake or river. We did!
We traveled through a land of giant bamboo and trees that seemed to reach the clouds; many of these trees did in the highlands of Kisangani National Park. We took in the fragrance of wildflowers and craned our necks to view the orchids high in the tree boughs. We passed so many natural sights, noticed so many fragrances, all our senses were constantly being bombarded with new, exciting; some just plain scary things that we were on an “info processing overload”, much of the time.
We traveled down a dusty, sometimes muddy road; filled with ruts and high, untamed grasses in the roads center, where tires rarely tread. In the twilight of a late African afternoon we spied a small village off in the distance, and after not seeing another human for days, we decided to stop and visit with the villagers and possibly trade for some fresh fruit, and perhaps a chicken dinner. As we got closer to the outskirts of the village, we saw what we expected were the inhabitants peering through the window openings in their huts. Throughout our visits to villages in the east and central African nations, we’d grown accustomed to the children running out to greet us. However, when we pulled into the village there was no children or people.
Suddenly, we became aware that, what peered out at us was not human. What lived in these huts were baboons. Not just your average plains baboons mind you, but street and town smart ones. Further down that road to Stanley Ville in the Congo, we met other Bantu people who explained the strange inhabitants to us. To our astonishment we learned that the people in the village died out, and the survivors fled from the raging yellow fever epidemic, so when the people left the baboons moved in to take their place.
We saw things in The Congo, in the fields of science, medicine, and philosophy that in terms of our western religion, could not be explained. One example of many with which we experienced, is the time we stayed overnight in a village with no lights, and no concept of electricity. Oil lamps, like in the days of old, was normal, and we sat around a large fire, while the shaman of the village, called on the good spirits to come forth, and the malevolent ones to stay away. This ritual entailed powders to be thrown into the fire, causing flash points, which the shaman was able to attribute to spirit movement and signs from their gods. The people believed in the show and it was hard for me, with all the palm wine I imbibed, not to feel the same way at the time.

Hunting dinner game in the Congo at the rubber plantation we visited. They had a .22 we got game!!

“Africa on a Pin & a Prayer” Excerpt From the Book

Views down the highway!!! This was an inland super highway. Didn’t need a machete for.

American Press Travel News–Excerpt from Bob’s Book: Africa on a Pin & a Prayer”–Camping and Traveling Through  Uganda, Africa, Part 1

During our travels to this Northern area of Uganda, we came close to the border with Sudan and arrived at a prison. The prison warden allowed travelers in to a special store area, where handmade items crafted by the inmates could be purchased. These hand crafted items were made by prisoners, who were incarcerated for every crime known to man; including political crimes against the immediate, yet temporary rulers of the government (Idi Amin took over and had everyone killed that did not agree with him a bit later on after we were long gone). These inmates, just like the license plate makers in American prisons, earn their keep by making tribal animal skin covered drums, spears, medicine masks, African musical instruments and woodcarvings.
During our travels through, over and along the dusty, rutted roads of this area, we stopped frequently to look at exotic trees and bushes such as the giant and curious cucumber tree, with large inedible cucumber like fruits hanging down to the ground, alongside the road.
We saw several varieties of flowering cacti; they showed us a rainbow of colors that seemed to have been painted by Picasso.
Driving along, we would suddenly come across giraffes that towered above some of the acacia trees, which they fed on. Herds of zebra would suddenly race across the road in front of us, and we would come to an abrupt stop and marvel at the sight of thundering hoofs kicking up dust all around us.
Occasionally, impala would prance along side the road, being chased by predators or perhaps just frightened by our vehicle.
We had passed safely over a bridge one day and returning the next day, we found that same bridge washed out. Auto’s not equipped as we were with our four-wheel land rover, were stranded and backed up near the bridge, unable to fiord the swift waters that was caused by sudden overnight heavy thunderstorms.
After assessing the situation, I climbed up and along a walkway railing that did not wash away with the bridge, and affixed a cable from our winch to a sturdy tree trunk across the swollen brook. I went back, started the winch and dragged our land rover, across the stream. To the accompaniment of envious stares, by those that were not similarly equipped, (they were driving MGA’s and road sedans) and were forced to remain trapped on the other side.
Continuing on back towards the Uganda capitol of Kampala, we came across a family cooking a stew over a bright red-hot coal fire. We approached and saw that they had lizards and other animals they had captured and gathered for their subsistence meal, that was their fare probably since time began.
We were invited to join in out of courtesy and hospitality, but Gene and I had a difficult time doing so because we were just not ready to take on foods that hadn’t been cleaned and processed, or at least had their bowels and intestines removed. This was not the case later on in our trip when we ate things that today I wouldn’t even think of touching-acute hunger can make you do things otherwise.
One thing we learned the hard way in Africa was, that refusing the hospitality of a shared repast, was an insult to those that invited you to “break bread” or lizard with them. Informality was belching and displaying other natural body noises such as flatulence, which was expected and was a clear sign to your hosts that all was well and acceptable and it proved satiation to all around you.
So when we understood this, we belched out loud often, after each and every meal. That is, the meals we obtained and could get to stay down, the victuals we did not have to sneak under the table to the dogs in waiting. Part 2 March 22.

Our Land Rover loaded with trade goods!! That’s Dr. Gene!!

Heading to Leopold From Kisali, The Congo

 

As we traveled we traded and collected items that were not trade goods for the traveler!! The items were used by the locals themselves.
American Press Travel News–March 19th, Leopoldville The Congo section of my book: “Africa on a Pin & a Prayer.”
We left Kisali on the “boat” a riverboat pushing a huge barge a microcosm of African life being pushed along by a 2000 horsepower diesel engine turning a paddlewheel that splashed at the river and inexorably pushed more than 1000 souls along a river that hasn’t changed since, or before written history one iota. Congolese minister’s concubines took up most of the riverboat rooms and Gene and I got lucky enough with the help of a Belgian business man, to grab one of those rooms and we camped out there. God had mercy, we did not have to sleep on the deck with the water bugs and other slimy critters that came out on deck under cover of darkness. We settled in for a 20-day run to Leopoldville. I spent a lot of time on the barge. I visited the Cayman croc sellers, the fruit and vegetable vendors and looked over the booty and bounty of what many villagers had bagged in the jungle’s hinterlands smoked monkeys, boa constrictor snakes for food or sale to collectors, butterflies kept in between palm leaves, also for the collector. Raw latex from Goodman’s Goodyear rubber plantation on its way to be processed into gloves, tires, rubber boots, condoms. Wildly colorful songbirds and parrots, snakes, monkeys, sloths, bamboo and logs destined for trading in the capitol of the Congo, Leopoldville.
Every minute was an adventure on the riverboat. Villagers whose huts hugged the river banks along the way, braved the boats wake and came out to the barge in pirogues hollowed out wood log dugout canoes, to trade fresh produce, including cut pieces of sugar cane a favorite treat for everyone aboard.
All the things done in the village were being accomplished on the barge as it was pushed at about 5 mph towards Leopoldville was being done there. Clothes washing, cooking child care and even love making on the decks sometimes behind a cloth shade.
Drinking fresh. clean water out of a cut vine!!!