food

Getting Sick on a Trek and Local Remedies

Traveling overseas can involve a few risks as many seasoned travelers will tell you, and one of the more serious risks is falling ill on a trek.

There is always the concern of inadequate medical care compounded by language barriers. In my college years, my science professor and her husband were on a trip to a small town in Spain, when her husband fell ill, and needed surgery.  Since neither of them spoke Spanish, she related to the class the difficult task of communicating with the doctors on her husband’s symptoms and medical treatment.  As a medical scientist, she was allowed to participate in the surgery, and all ended well.  However, in some cases things may turn tragic.  A few years ago one of my close friends, while vacationing in Mexico, experienced chest pains and died of a heart attack in a local hospital.

These events should not deter anyone from traveling since they occur rather infrequently.  During my treks, I have been ill very few times.  I suffered from food poisoning in Morocco and caught the flu in the Mideast, but these were relatively minor illnesses.  On a flight from Paris to New York, I experienced stomach pains and a trip to my doctor the next day revealed it was appendicitis.  My most troubling illness occurred on my latest watery trek mentioned in the previous blogs.image

There are many creeks, rivers, and lakes that attract visitors, and on a hot day, the urge to splash is irresistible. On one such splashing venture in a creek, I stepped on a thin, sharp bone on the creek bed and it penetrated the sole of my left foot. After a day or two, my foot became swollen, painful, and could not bear my weight.  There were no hospitals or doctors nearby, and I was unable to walk unaided.  To make matters worse, I caught a fever, and lost my appetite.  Transportation to the city was a week away by aircraft, and not guaranteed, so my friends enlisted the aid of a local shaman.

He gave me a bitter tasting concoction to drink made from herbs and plant leaves, and applied the aloe plant to the wound.  The aloe plant was cut at one side, and the soft gel like part applied to the wound and wrapped around my foot, bound tightly by leaves and string.  Within two days, the swelling was gone and I was back on my feet.  The aloe poultice had drawn out the infection or poison from my foot, and the bitter concoction had cured my fever.image

Since that experience, I have become a firm believer in local remedies (or “bush medicine” as they call it in the rainforest), especially in the benefits of the aloe plant.  In New York, we get a variety of the aloe plant that is different from the one the shaman used, but nevertheless, I always purchase some to keep at home.   In my next post, I will expand on local remedies, or “bush medicine”.  I am very interested in your stories on local remedies.  Do you believe in local remedies or natural cures for sicknesses, or have you taken any?  Please share, as it will enlighten me and other readers on this aspect of medical treatments.

image

Categories: adventure travel, amazon, Amerindians, author, food, foreign travel, health, holistic, lake, lifestyle, medicine, natural healng, natural herbs, Photographs, photography, pool, rainforest, river, swim, swimming, travel, trekking, Uncategorized, world, writer, writing | Tags: , , , , | 9 Comments

Getting Lost while on a Trek

In my previous blog on my trek to the watery playground, I mentioned that I was reunited with some friends from my youth.  One of them reminded me of the time we got lost on a camping trip.  I wanted to share this story with you, my blogging friends as a reminder that you can easily get lost on a trek if you are not careful.

As young teenagers on a camping trip, my friend and I went for a hike.  We found ourselves in a heavily wooded area, and lost our bearings.  We tried several trails but they took us further away.  We were hopelessly lost.  We got very concerned but did not panic.

snake-Bushmaster-2

The Bushmaster is a thick-bodied nocturnal snake that is poisonous and potentially deadly.

This was the habitat of snakes, and not a good place to be at night.  We had no flashlight, compass, or weapons.  We had just a bowie knife, and as you may imagine, no desire to confront a hungry snake with a knife.

We cut two long branches and made them into makeshift spears as precaution.

We also decided to follow one trail that seemed to be more beaten than others, and left markers on trees (little notches) to mark our trail.  Had we done this initially when we left the camp, we could have easily found our way back by following the markers.

After walking on the trail for about an hour, we heard the sound of an aircraft engine.  We ran through the woods in the direction of the sound until we came to a high fence.  It was almost dark at this time, and we could see lights in the distance.  We were at the furthest end of a runway and since there was only one airport in the vicinity, we finally found our bearings.

 However, there was just one problem.  The road that led to our camp was on the other side of the runway, and there was no way to reach it in the darkness.  The aircraft was also moving on the runway getting ready to lift off.

 We made a split decision.  As soon as the aircraft took off, we crawled under the fence, and ran like the wind across the tarmac to the other side, and finally made our way back to our camp.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Below is a pic of an anaconda caught by biologists in Guyana

anaconda

 

Are anacondas dangerous to humans?

Biologist and photographer Daniel De Granville filmed this 23-foot-long anaconda underwater and claims that anacondas are shy around humans, and have more to fear from us than we do them.giant-anaconda

Mr. De Granville may be correct, but here is my actual experience while on a trip to Lethem, Guyana, close to the Brazillian border.

I was riding in an army truck with several soldiers when we saw an anaconda coiled up in the middle of the road, unmoving.  We got out to get a better glimpse but quickly ran back inside.  The large snake was tightly wrapped around an adult human and had crushed him to death.  This was not one of my better experiences. 

I suspect the person may have been lost, and fell prey somehow to a hungry anaconda in the dark.  People get lost quite frequently, and although scientists claim that our sense of direction is innate, they don’t know the reason why some people have a better sense of direction than others.  I haven’t gotten lost in a while, and this is what I recommend to fellow hikers and trekkers:

Look back frequently!  The trail looks different from a different direction, and on your way back, you are presented with a different view.  Always stop, look back and make a mental note of visual landmarks.

 Now, my blogging friends, have you ever gotten lost on a hike, or in an unfamiliar area?   What did you do?

Categories: adventure travel, amazon, Amerindians, author, food, foreign travel, garden of eden, health, lifestyle, monkey, Photographs, photography, rainforest, river, swim, swimming, travel, trekking, Uncategorized, world, writer | 9 Comments

Trek to Land of Many Waters and Swimmers

As I mentioned in my last blog, my watery playground trek got off to a bad start, but improved rapidly.  I was reunited with some old friends and we spent hours reminiscing on our youthful days.  I was reminded of our camping days in the hinterland, and some adventures we shared.  On one occasion, we camped by the water’s edge of a creek, and next morning we saw jaguar tracks all around our tent, and leading down to the creek.  We hastily removed out tent and moved inland.

jaguar

Pic of jaguar from my friend Dmitri Allicock

Jaguars are dangerous animals, and I once met a person whose right cheek bore several deep scars.  When he was a child, a jaguar had attacked him and clawed his face, but the jaguar had been scared off by his parents before it had done further harm.

Today, jaguars are rare, and The Guyana Times claims that Guyana is dubbed one of the last places on Earth where the jaguar thrives.  They are also good swimmers, and unlike many other cats, jaguars do not avoid water.  Fortunately we never encountered a jaguar face to face in our camping trips.

It is no wonder Guyana is called the land of many waters with so many rivers and streams, and in many instances swimming becomes a necessity.  Even herding cattle involves some swimming.  In the picture below (from my friend Dmitri Allicock), you can see cattle being herded and swimming across a river.  

cattle

As I had mentioned in a previous blog, most kids learn to swim at an early age.  Unfortunately not all people become swimmers, but some still venture into the water, in shallow areas.  However, as most swimmers (and lifeguards) know, water can be treacherous.   Even shallow water can be misleading since there may be deeper parts not visible to the eye, and many rivers carry strong undercurrents.     

On two separate occasions I have been lucky in saving persons from drowning.  One person was splashing in shallow water in a creek and slipped into the deep end, while the other was soaking her feet at the river’s edge, and slipped in.  I advised them to take swimming classes as soon as possible, or keep away from unknown waters.  I hope they took my advice.

water

Water, water everywhere!  In the pictures above, you can see a man on his way home from work cycling in the water, while children are having fun playing in the water (pics from Dmitri Allicock). 

In my next post, I will continue writing about my watery trek.  But in the meantime I would like to know if any of you blogging friends were ever saved from drowning, or know someone who was.  I bet it was a traumatic event!

Categories: adventure travel, amazon, Amerindians, author, food, foreign travel, global, health, holistic, lake, lifestyle, macaw, medicine, monkey, natural healng, natural herbs, parrot, Photographs, photography, rainforest, river, swim, swimming, travel, trekking, Uncategorized, world, writer, writing | 19 Comments

Trek to Land of Many Waters!

guyana-rainforest-guyana times

 Photo Credit: Pete Oxford/Nature Picture Library

In my last blog, I mentioned how nostalgia and images of my childhood life prompted a trek to the watery playground of my youth in South America.  As kids, our playground was a stream that ran through our backyard, and our young lives revolved around that stream.

waterlily

Chris Leadbeater Photo

 I remember the stream was dotted with water lilies, and sometimes little yellow ducklings would swim by in a straight line.  We all learnt to swim in that stream, and spent most of our free time there.  A mango tree overhung the stream and we would climb the tree and pick ripe mangoes, or jump from the branches into the water.  We fished in the stream using bent needles as hooks, and cooked the fish we caught over an open fire under the mango tree.  Some of us made rafts out of banana suckers (tree trunk) and sailed down the stream looking for adventure.

 I was not seeking adventure on my trek, but it started off badly.  My flight originated from New York to the West Indies, a layover in Trinidad and Tobago, and then a connecting flight to Guyana in South America.  The flight was delayed and I made the connecting flight with minutes to spare.  When I finally arrived at the Guyana airport, I found that my luggage had not been transferred to the connecting flight.  It arrived the following day with several items missing, including my camera, video camera, and photographic equipment.   This was devastating to me, because I had planned to make a documentary of my trek.   To add insult to injury, it took countless hours shuffling among several unsympathetic staff, before I could file a claim for a paltry reimbursement.

playing in water

A Harmony and Travis pic of kids playing over a stream

  • Important Advice!

As savvy travelers know, expensive equipment should be stored in your carry on, not in your checked luggage.  If you are a first time traveler, please heed that rule!  Another word of advice when traveling to unfamiliar countries… please be extra careful with your luggage.  Persons pretending to assist you, or claiming to be taxi drivers can make off with them.  Additionally, when leaving that country, be vigilant of your luggage.  Airport workers have been known to slip drugs into your suitcases, and use you as an unsuspecting mule to bring their drugs out of the country.   If you are caught, the authorities are not very sympathetic to your plight, and you face jail time.

 If any of you blogging friends have encountered similar problems, please share them and make this a learning process for all of us.

 As you digest these warnings, I will stop here and continue writing about this trek on my next blog.

Categories: adventure travel, amazon, author, big apple, food, foreign travel, garden of eden, health, holistic, humor, lake, lifestyle, macaw, medicine, monkey, natural healng, natural herbs, novel, parrot, pepperpot, Photographs, photography, rainforest, river, sakiwinki, stinking toe, toucan, travel, trekking, Uncategorized, united nations, world, writer, writing | 16 Comments

My Trek to the Quiet Palace on the Mountain Lake

Mention to someone that you are from  New York, USA, and immediately they picture images of tall skyscrapers, Broadway shows, and bustling Times Square.  While it is true that New York City is a crowded, bustling concrete city  ( there were 52 million visitors to New York in 2012) ,  there are some wonderful scenic and uncrowded places located outside the city.

One of my most memorable New York treks occurred over twenty five years ago when I was practically a newcomer to the Big Apple.  I was hiking up a forested mountain trail a mere hour and half outside of the city, when I had the surprise of my life.

On top of the mountain, hidden from the view below, suddenly appeared a sparkling blue lake and a magnificent palace.  For a minute I thought I was delirious from the summer heat, or had been astrally transported to a kingdom in some far off land.  Several pinches later, I realized that I was not dreaming, and this scenic beauty was indeed real.

mwanner

The Mohonk Mountain House was built on the cliffs around Lake Mohonk in 1869 by Quaker twin brothers Albert and Alfred Smiley.  This Victorian castle currently boasts 269 rooms and is set on 1200 acres of scenic woodland.

Initially it only accommodated 40 guests who were mostly close friends of the two brothers at the time.  But as its popularity grew, it was expanded during the period 1871 to 1910 to attract the well to do and the educated as a sanctuary and retreat from the noisy world.  The Quaker brothers forbid the drinking of alcohol, card games, and dancing.  Instead, for entertainment, they built a huge library for the guests, and provided lectures, nature walks on 85 trails, and a variety of plants and summer houses for added enjoyment.

www.cntraveler.com

I was allowed to walk on the grounds but was told that silence was required.  The few people I saw were either whispering or not talking.  Awed, I followed suit!  I found a barn and stable with horses and carriages, and the blacksmith whispered to me that cars were not allowed.  There was a parking lot hidden somewhere below, and visitors were transported by horse carriage up the rustic trail to the main house.  The setting was reminiscent of the Victorian era, and guests were required to dress formally for breakfast and dinner in the large dining hall.  No alcohol was served, but tea was served at a specific tea-time each day.  I’m sure there were crumpets too, but did not dare to break my vow of silence and ask.

fred hsu

As I mentioned earlier, my visit was over 25 years ago, and I always planned to revisit but unfortunately, never did.

However, I did some recent research and found that Mohonk Mountain House still exists today, as beautiful as ever, and is now an upscale resort for the wealthy and pampered…spa included.

A stay at this historic palace will cost you around $600 a night, but it is well worth the experience if you can afford the price…and yes, there is now a fully stocked bar!

 

I plan to revisit Mohonk Mountain House this summer, but unfortunately not as a paying guest, although I would love to.  However, if you are interested in a visit, here is a link to this scenic beauty.

 
mohonk1

Categories: adventure travel, author, big apple, food, foreign travel, garden of eden, global, lake, lifestyle, new york, novel, photography, river, travel, trekking, Uncategorized, victorian palace, world, writer, writing | 30 Comments

My Trek to Garden of Eden in search of Magic Tree with Stinking Toes.

adamWe know the story of Adam and Eve who ate the forbidden fruit and were cast out from Garden of Eden.  Coincidentally, my trek took me to Garden of Eden to locate a rare fruit and its tree of magical properties.  This rare fruit cures a multitude of ailments while the resin from the tree is used to make love potions and magic rituals.  Unfortunately I am ignorant of the love potion industry, but I am interested in fruits with healing properties.

The name of the fruit also piqued my interest and prompted my quest.  This fruit is very tasty and appetizing, and carries the seductive name of “stinking toe”!

Yes, it is really called “stinking toe” because of its shape and smell.  The fruit is shaped like a toe and encased in a rock hard shell that can only be cracked open by a hammer or large stone.

stinktoe

When the shell is broken, the exposed fruit smells like really stinky feet, hence the appropriate name.  Despite the stinky feet smell however, the fruit is very delicious.

Bizarrefood.com anns blogrefers to the stinking toe fruit as,”tasty and sweet, and downright addicting once you’ve tasted it for the first time”.

Although the tree is generally found deep in the rainforest, my research revealed that the stinking toe tree, although rare, can be found on the coast of Guyana, (formerly British Guiana) in South America.  Since I am familiar with that region, it was an easy trek to get there.  Several local senior residents knew of the stinking toe fruit, but no one seemed to know the location of a stinking toe tree.

I decided to fall back on Sherlock Holmes’ strategy.  If you are a fan of Sherlock Holmes, you would have heard of “the Baker Street Irregulars”, a gang of street children who successfully gathered information for him.  In similar fashion I enlisted my brother’s help in recruiting some local youths, and within two days I had a location.  A tree was spotted in a village called Garden of Eden!

???????????????????????????????

The stinking toe tree’s official name is Hymenaea courbaril, also called the Jatoba tree.  It is a hardwood tree that usually grows up to 148 feet and may live for hundreds of years.  The rainforest indigenous tribes have been using the jatoba leaves, bark, and fruit for centuries as herbal medicine.  Recent clinical studies of the bark, leaves, and resin of the jatoba tree show that it has anti-microbial, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, molluscicidal, and anti-yeast properties.  Present day medicinal use is widespread in South America as can be seen below in the chart from Raintree Tropical Plant Database.

raintree

As I mentioned earlier, I was successful in locating the stinking toe or jatoba tree.  However, the tree was relatively young and not bearing any stinking toe fruit.  But all is not lost…the local Baker Street irregulars, or to be specific, the local barefoot, stinking toe searchers are still on my payroll.  As soon as I get a whiff of a stinking toe, I will pull on clean socks and boots, and dash off on a new trek!

foot

.

The prehistoric Hymenaea tree family has existed on earth for millions of years, and the fossilized resin from these trees  forms amber.   As seen in Jurassic Park, some amber have been found with insects trapped inside for millions of years.  

amber-1

Google Images of Insects trapped in Amber
Categories: adventure travel, amazon, Amerindians, author, food, foreign travel, garden of eden, global, lifestyle, novel, photography, rainforest, river, stinking toe, travel, trekking, Uncategorized, united nations, world, writer, writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

A Funny Thing happened on the Trek to the Forum – Coins, Pickpockets and Candy!

Since all roads lead to Rome, no trek is complete without a visit to this historic city.
Having just seen a rerun of the film, “Three Coins in the Fountain” featuring the Trevi Fountain in Rome, I decided to venture on a coin throwing quest to this famous fountain.

trevi
Each day, approximately 3,000 Euros are thrown in the fountain by countless visitors.  I managed to get there early before the crowds, threw my coins in, and wished for good luck.  As you will see later, it worked!
WIFE AT FOUNTAIN
On my way back, I wanted to savor the local flavor of the city.  After all, when in Rome do as the Romans do, so I made my way to Termini station to ride the train with the crowds.  I noticed signs posted throughout the station reading, “Beware of Pickpockets”, and I was careful to keep my hands in my pocket on my wallet.  I should point out that I am a seasoned New York subway rider, and thereby an expert at spotting pickpockets.  On entering the Termini metro train, I noticed a few suspicious characters, so I moved to the other side, keeping a watchful eye on them and my hand in my pocket.

I stood next to a young mother and her baby in a stroller.  The baby was smiling sweetly at me with cherub cheeks and clutching a lollipop in her chubby fingers.  In a magnanimous Roman gesture, the little angel stretched out her hand offering me her lollipop.  Instinctively I reached out, but then put my hand back in my pocket only to feel a hand already in there!  I grabbed on to the hand… and was shocked to see it was the young mother trying to pick my pocket using her baby as an accomplice!

When I told my wife the story, she said, “You should know never to take candy from a baby”.

Bob Arno (ex-pick pocket artist) says that approximately 300 people get their pockets picked daily in Rome.  I am lucky bambi vincentnot to have been one of the victims.  I guess the fountain granted my wishes for good luck!

On your treks, you need to be careful to avoid getting robbed.  Unfortunately, in some places thieves and pickpockets are exceptionally skilled, so you have to be very vigilant.  I guess their training commences at an an early age.

The mother and child team of pickpockets were Roma gypsies, and travelers are always warned about gypsy thieves.  ( The pic on the left shows a mother and child on the prowl.  The newspaper is used as cover when the hand slips in your pocket or purse).

This gives the Roma people a bad reputation because many of them are hard working, decent people, who have faced discrimination for centuries.

Gypsies in a shanty town in Madrid, SpainRoma gypsies originated from India, and left their homeland about 1,500 years ago.  According to researchers at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology in Spain, the Roma first came to the Balkans and then spread to the surrounding areas in Europe about nine centuries ago.  Today, there are about 11 million gypsies in Europe.

Gypsy performersNowadays, apart from pick pocketing gypsy babies, travelers need to fear electronic pick pocketing.  Have you ever heard of RFID?

Most Credit, Debit, ATM cards contain embedded RFID (radio frequency identification technology) chips. Such chips encode basic information (e.g., account numbers, expiration dates) that can be picked up by point-of-sale RFID readers, eliminating the need for cards to be physically handled or swiped.  This opens the possibility for unauthorized persons using RFID readers of their own to access your information.

Criminals can use a card reader and a netbook computer to copy account information from RFID-enabled cards that are carried in people’s pockets and purses.  This is known as “card skimming”.  To avoid this, I always carry two or three cards side by side together in one sleeve. If anyone tries to skim, he or she will get a jumble of comingled data from the three cards that wouldn’t make sense.  This is a simple solution that I recommend, unless you want to purchase an RFID blocking sleeve or case seen below.rfid

Read more at: Link – RFID article

Link – Advice from Bob Arno, pickpocket king

I hope that one day you get a chance to visit the Trevi Fountain and throw your coins in for good luck!  You don’t need to rush, after all Rome was not built in a day!  If you have already visited, please share your experiences with me!

Categories: adventure travel, author, food, foreign travel, global, kasbah, lifestyle, novel, photography, pick pockets, RFID skimming, river, Roma gypsies, roman cities, Termini Station, travel, trekking, Trevi Fountain, Uncategorized, united nations, world, writer, writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 71 Comments

Living in the Rainforest

I spent a month living in the South American rainforest, all of which I have no recollection, being only two years old.  Based on what my parents told me, living among the indigenous Amerindian people was a unique and very interesting experience.

guyana-amerindians lisaparavisini

We lived in a thatched hut, and at night slept in hammocks.  It was quite usual to see an entire Amerindian family living together in one large thatched hut, with their hammocks slung between poles.  Hammocks suspended above ground protected the family from snakes, ground ants, and other creatures.  Hammocks were also very comfortable to sleep in, and their portability impressed Christopher Columbus who introduced them to Europe.

During the day, the Amerindians hunted and fished for food. Their methods were very creative and effective.  Fish were caught in the rivers and streams in an unorthodox manner.  A plant called “woorari” also known as “curare” was grounded in large pots and made into a paste.  When sprinkled in streams, fish would become temporarily stunned and float to the surface where they were collected in baskets.  Woorari was also used in hunting animals; it was rubbed on the tip of darts and shot from blowguns.  The little prick from the woorari dart caused muscle paralysis in the animals and brought  them down.  Although woorari or curare is considered a poison, it is harmless when taken orally.  Animals and fish caught by using the woorari preparation can be safely eaten.

animaladay.blogspot-post

Some fish were also hunted with spears because of their large size.  My parents’ favorite fish was the  “arapaima”, a large fresh water fish that can grow up to 10 feet long and weigh up to 400 pounds.  On several occasions my father accompanied hunting parties in canoes looking for the arapaima.  When one was caught, it was cooked over open flame, and was an occasion for a communal feast accompanied by the drinking of ‘piwari’, a drink made from fermented cassava.  If offered piwari, be careful because it is an intoxicant!

Cassava is a root that is also used by the Amerindians to make “casareep” a meat preservative. The cassava juice is extracted and boiled to remove the poisonous elements and the result is a thick brown liquid.

cassavaMeat cooked in casareep can be preserved for days or even weeks, ideal for hunters who may be traveling for days.  Hunters also had a creative way of capturing monkeys unharmed.  A small round pot or gourd with a very small opening was filled with molasses or sticky fruit and tied to a tree. When the monkey put his hand in the hole to grab the molasses or fruit, his balled fist was trapped inside the gourd, and he was easily caught.  We were given a monkey by the Amerindians, and he was kept as a pet inside the fenced compound.

I was not allowed to venture outside the fence alone. While my parents were working during the day, I had a native Amerindian nanny who cared for me.  One day, when she was not looking, I apparently wandered off and found my way outside. A search of the compound and surrounding areas proved fruitless, and no one could find me much to the consternation of my parents.

I will continue the story of how I was reunited with my parents in my next post!

NYPL

Amerindian hut from NYPL archives

Categories: adventure travel, Amerindians, food, lifestyle, pepperpot, travel, trekking, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.