Category Archives: Travel News

“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!!!

 

Continue Alabama Rising Part 2

American Press Travel News–Part 2 of Alabama visit by Bob and Barb Epstein “On The Road Again”–After a great dinner at Lulu’s-owned by Jimmy Buffet’s sister. Lulu’s restaurant has become an iconic emporium of drink and vittles, and the place was a real happening for families and anyone wanting to visit an American Caribbean spot full of fun and frivolities.
Last month’s article ended with a trip out on the Gulf for red snapper with Captain Randy Boggs of Distraction Charters. Fishing was excellent and we caught and released several fish in the 3-6 pound class with a couple even larger. No, we could not keep any fish for dinner, but the catch and release that Captain Boggs believes is important for the future of the fishery and was A-OK with us too! Do I recommend this Captain? Absolutely! Beverly Hogg really enjoyed herself hauling in these strong-pulling red snapper.
(www.distractioncharters.com Give Boggs or Captain Troy Frady a call at 251-975-8111 These guys are terrific at what they do. Their mate, 39-year old Ken Wright had the right stuff too!
After the fishing we headed out on an informative nature cruise with Sailaway Charters-we eased our way through the estuaries and backwaters of Longs Bayou and Wolf Bay. We learned about oystering techniques, crabbing and shrimping which is big business in this area. We checked out the various sea-birds and had dolphin (major residents and fishers) come over to inspect us several times. For more information, visit wwwgeocites.com/sailorskip
The next day we headed for Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research and Education Center- we meandered along a 5,000 foot elevated boardwalk that winds through 6,000 acres of coastal habitats and wetlands, including a protected estuary.

Orange Beach Gulf Coast Finally the Sun Also Rises on This Sweet Place

American Press Travel News--Flashback-—Bob and Barb Stopped to Smell the Roses —Just south of Mobile, Alabama, along the 32-miles of Gulf Coast coastline, lies an active beach community called Orange Beach and Gulf Shores. Last month Barb and I had a chance to stay, play, be greeted and introduced to the areas attractions, accommodations and dining spots-from fine dining to waterfront vittles that warmed the cockles of our hearts, although Barb would say: “made no dent in our waste-lines.” Recently the area along with Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida’s Gulf Coast took a hit from a man-made disaster: the oil spill brought to us all by British Petroleum.

We went to Orange Beach hoping to find things getting back to business as usual and we found this to generally be the case. Unfortunately, far too many tourists and visitors just don’t know this yet, or assume the worst from the heavy media coverage recently broadcast around the world-rightly so, but now it’s time to tell it like it is today!

Our stay was well complimented by having been ensconced in The Beach Club ‘Resort and Condominium project that had everything you could ask for in a great vacation paradise. The beaches were clean and white, the pool complex rivaled anywhere we have ever been that had this amenity, the restaurant served seafood’s and various chef prepared dishes that were quite scrumptious. Our condo apartment rental was 1st class with a wide gulf- view right out our bedroom windows.
Barb grew up living on or near the various saltwater shore locations in New York and Long Island in particular. Her dad, Herb wouldn’t have it any other way-he enjoyed and instilled in Barb the same love of the surf and sand at a few beachside communities that had been a boon to me too, as I love it all as well and got to fish into the bargain when visiting my then girlfriend, now 44-years my wife.

We’ve been to Orange Beach and Gulf Shores a few times and always loved the friendliness and cleanliness, and this time was like all the rest, except businesses had been suffering from lack of tourists.
However, based on many of the restaurants with busy tables full of patrons, you’d never think this was the case right now.

One of the restaurants we ate at: The Hangout where Rt. 59 ends and as they say: “the fun begins.” Even Paul Simon came to entertain here at their Music Fest which featured scads of bands and entertainers such as Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue group, and the Flaming Lips too to name but a few! We were hungry for a great seafood dinner with king crabs too! We were not disappointed. Make a visit to their web site: www.hangoutal.com or call for more info. At (251)948-3030. The Hangout was one swinging place and everyone rousingly joined in the song and dance venues. The next night we we stopped by under the Perdido Pass Bridge at the Cobalt Restaurant. The views of Perdido Bay were spectacular and we ate in a sunset setting al fresco, just outside of the many windows of the inside restaurant. The foods were exquisite, can’t recommend this place more highly and I tend to be conservative when recommending food emporiums, but not here. You can come by any size boat, or by auto. I tried their yellowfin tuna and avocado stack served between fried wontons-scrumptious, Barb had Spanish Paella-all in all a very memorable meal topped off with fried apple pie with ice cream and carmel sauce. Chef Jack Baker really does it up well.
www.cobaltrestaurant.net Call at 251-923-5300

We began our first day aboard a dolphin and nature cruise out in the back bay’s of Alabama’s Gulf Coast. Dolphins always fascinate me and as I believe anyone having a chance to get up close and comfy wit them. These playful cetaceans (they are in the whale family) are around all year in this area and together with the bird and other sealife made for a great beginning to our visit. Contact: www.cetaceancruises.com
Later in the day we visited the Orange Beach Art Center’s hot shop for a glass blowing demonstration. This the first and only glass blowing studio in Alabama open for public use. It was founded in cooperation with Bear Creek Glass and the studio now welcomes nationally known resident glass artist Sam Cornman. WOW! The many moves he made with 2000-degree molten glass to make a magnificent arty piece of table-top collectible well worth the watching and the buying. For more information: www.orangebeachartcenter.com

The following day I went fishing for red snapper with another writer Beverly Hogg, who was as interested in a great bite as I was. We were not disappointed!
As the various trips were quite inclusive and exclusive, yet anyone reading this can enjoy all of the above, there are many more venues we experienced. So this is a two part article on Orange Beach, Alabama.
Please look for an additional article that will tell the rest of the story next month.

Duck delight!

Planning a trip consider the real bargain that this area snuggled against Florida’s Gulf Coast tip has to offer. Contact Gulf Coast Visitors and Convention Bureau at 800-745-SAND (7263) or go: www.gulfshores.com