Category Archives: Natural and Wildlife History

“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!!!

 

Traipsing For the “Sain.”


Ginseng; a Health Panacea for Millions, Or Is It?
Ginseng, the “root” of all evil to several health conditions, and the real and perceived boon to assisting in various medical issues.
Many locations near woods and waters Ginseng can be found and has at least a few die-hard seekers of this profitably sold root, traipsing around in those wild places.
Today, there is so much interest in Ginseng that there are television reality shows that follow ginseng hunter’s lifestyle in their pursuit of earning big dollars sales rewards.
Ginseng today is sold in every pharmacy and drug stores in capsule, pill, tea, and oil extracts, forms. Being one of the most well-known herbs in the natural medicine world, ginseng has been in use for a long time in traditional Chinese medicine and other parts of Asia. It has also been used extensively by peoples of North America as a stimulant and treatment for various conditions.

While there are 11 different ginseng species, the term ginseng is applied to both American and Asian/ Korean ginseng. Among these the true ginseng plant comes from the Panax genus.

The active compounds in ginseng which give this plant its therapeutic properties are known as “ginsenosides.” Various ginseng species have different types and properties. As such, each type offers different health benefits with the following being some of the most prominent ones:

Ginseng offers good stress Regulation. Both American and Asian varieties of ginseng have exhibited the capacity to cope with both mental and physical stressors. Individuals who take ginseng for stress management report an increased sense of wellbeing.
This anti-stress mechanism works by controlling the adrenal glands and regulating the stress response and hormonal changes due to stress. When subject to stress, the stress hormone, cortisol, is secreted to counteract stress, and maintain homeostasis ( a good level of “calm.)” But, too much cortisol secretion can be problematic and ginseng can improve this situation by regulating its functions.

Added Ginseng to this pie!!!!!! Great!

There is a long tradition of ginseng-hunting in the United States. It can even be traced from Daniel Boone, the folk hero frontiersman and locally and far more recently to John Frank Warner who was mentored during walks in the woods of the Plateau by his grandpa Warner. “Johnny” became a sort of guru in the ways of the “sain” as it was called in days of yore. He watched his Papa dry it and make medicine out of it. Today and for the past decades John Warner Herb Co. has been a go-to place for Natural Herb Products right on Highway 127 South.
Ginseng, as a medicinal herb, has become a hot energy-drink ingredient, and a trendy remedy for all sorts of maladies. Modern days; Miller, carrying his $2 ginseng-hunting permit, typically finds the leafy plant in Maryland’s Savage River State Forest on steep, shady slopes and digs up the gnarly roots with a long screwdriver.
Hunting ginseng never made anyone filthy rich, but with the plant picked to near extinction in China, where it is long revered, and with Asians prizing American ginseng’s calming properties, a pound (half a kilogram) of high-quality root can net hunters more than $1,000. However, in 2017, the value of an American pound of Ginseng was from $75 to 135 dollars per pound, based on condition of the roots.
Note* at least 15 states have banned the taking of wild ginseng due to it becoming a scarce commodity and so many people digging up private, state and federal wilderness properties. And poaching as seen on recent TV shows is a problem too!
But ginseng can be grown, and the ban affecting state land could be good news for ginseng growers.
There are a few varieties of ginseng: the wild stuff, which hunters dig up in the middle of nowhere; there’s cultivated, which is grown in raised beds, often in artificial shade. – Wisconsin, although known for cheese, is the largest cultivated ginseng producer in the country – and there’s wild-simulated ginseng, which is planted in woods and left to the mercy of nature.
American ginseng was especially widespread along the Eastern Coast of the US, but, due to its popularity (and selling price on the black market), it has been over-harvested (especially in the 1970s). It is illegal to take ginseng from any national park, and national parks are dealing with poachers by giving stiff fines and even jail time to those who get caught.
Ginseng was one of the first marketable herbs in the US, starting back in 1860 when Wisconsin shipped 120 tons of wild ginseng root to China!
Today’s millennials are mostly home-bodies and they aren’t as interested in hunting. They’d rather sit behind their computer and play with their computer games, and go to health food stores or order everything on-line without getting their hands into the “good earth.”

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