Photographs

Dangerous and Tragic Trek

Since my last blog, I have been away trekking primarily in the South American rain forest seeking herbal and natural remedies that grow there.  However, this post is not about a remedy that cures some ailment, it is about the tragic experience of a young trekker.  I am compelled to share this with you, because it is a serious threat to be taken into consideration when trekking in strange places.

Guyana is a country located in the South American continent, and is considered an eco paradise, with virgin rain forests, waterfalls, rivers, and indigenous people living in the hinterland.     Link to Rainforest tourskaiguy

The coastal plain is small and borders the Atlantic Ocean.  The city of Georgetown (named after King George) lies on the coastal plain, and attracts many tourists who visit to admire its historic wooden structures (St. Georges Cathedral is reportedly the largest wooden cathedral in the world). st georges

One such visitor was an eighteen year old British citizen, who arrived in Georgetown in October 2015.

This was Dominic Bernard’s first trip to Guyana, and being an aspiring film maker, he brought his filming equipment and a considerable amount of cash with him.  He planned to make a film of his travels and return to England after a couple of weeks, but never showed up for his return flight.   His parents became alarmed and alerted a friend of mine to spread the word around, and to be on the lookout for him.  I assumed he was stuck in some indigenous village in the rainforest without transportation, due to floods or bad weather.

Traveling to the rainforest from the city is done by small aircraft and small boats or canoes, and transportation is unreliable in bad weather.   However, no one had seen him, nor could locate him, and he seemed to have disappeared without any trace.   Local law enforcement was contacted by his parents, and a nationwide search began.  Despite weeks of searching, nothing turned up, until a few days ago, when the police received an anonymous tip that he had been seen in a certain area of the coastal city.

A frantic search in that area by a team of law enforcement officers revealed horrible and tragic results.   Dominic’s partly decomposed body was found in a shallow grave.  He had been robbed of all his possessions and murdered on the very day he arrived in the city.   Everyone was devastated by this heinous crime, and terrible tragedy, and the police launched a massive investigation.  They found and arrested two people who had picked up Domenic from the airport, drove him to the city, and then lured him to his death in a wooded area on a filming pretext.airport

This sad and unfortunate incident is not usual in this small historic city, but the fact that it did happen has, not surprisingly, cast shock and fear into many tourists.

Could this tragic situation have been avoided?   From my experience as a trekker in these parts, I think it could have been avoided, but bear in mind, this was a young impressionable film maker, inexperienced, and on his first trip to this region.

My advice to young trekkers:  research area thoroughly, contact local embassies for safety information, plan your visit so your itinerary is supervised, never travel alone preferably, and have hotel transportation or authorized contact pick you up, preferably in a group from the airport.

Also, it is important not to reveal your money, keep expensive cameras in suitcases, and be wary of all strangers, especially those with unauthorized taxis who try to grab your suitcase and take it to their cars.  It is better to be careful than sorry.  And I hope this sad story will not keep you from your trekking.

Some other things to look out for:

A few weeks ago, an acquaintance was searched at the airport before boarding.  The airport official took his wallet, counted his money and gave it back to him.   On the plane, he checked and found $100 USD bill missing.  He alerted the plane security, and they searched the airport official….they found the $100 bill folded up and hidden in the official’s blue latex glove.   So please be careful trekking!

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Categories: adventure travel, amazon, Amerindians, author, foreign travel, garden of eden, global, health, lifestyle, medicine, natural healng, natural herbs, Photographs, photography, rainforest, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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

Trek to the Water

I have been away from blogging for a long period of time and I have not kept in touch with all my blog friends, mainly due to internet unavailability and also a brief illness on my last trek.  However, I am back here among a great group of friends who write, read, make comments, and give valuable feedback and much needed support!

Once in a while, nostalgic memories assail us all, and images of childhood life and adventures flash across our minds.  Mine started at the beach and resulted in my latest trek.

Each summer I spend a week at a beach house with my very young grandkids.  We make daily treks to the beach where they happily play in the sand, but staunchly refuse to go into the water.  Last summer, we occupied a house with a swimming pool, and of course they refused to set foot in the pool.

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My young grandkids made me realize, as many of you do, the importance of teaching children to swim.  Each time I see kids close to water, my mind flashes back to my childhood, and I relive a vague, yet poignant memory of my two-year old brother gasping for breath and sinking in a stream.

Although I cannot recall everything that transpired, apparently my frantic screams alerted a neighbor, who jumped in the stream and rescued him from drowning.  Many children are not so lucky.   According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 10 people drown every day in the U.S., and more than one in five are children under fourteen years of age.

My blogging friends, if any of you have young children, can they swim?  If not, I urge you to seriously consider swimming lessons.

After that incident, many of the neighborhood kids learned to swim in that same stream. I actually learned by holding on to a banana sucker (the trunk of a banana tree), and kicking my way around. Some kids used a bucket, grabbing on to the sides and kicking, while trying to avoid getting water in the bucket.  Our young lives revolved around that stream, and we shared many adventures, including fishing, rafting, and water sports.

It is hardly any wonder that on my trek to the beach with my grandkids, I had the nostalgic urge to make a trek to my childhood watery playground. In case if you are wondering if my grandkids ventured into the pool…I was successful in coaxing them into the water, and commenced their swimming lessons!

safia-swim mia swim

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I would like to hear your stories on your children and grandchildren and how they learnt to swim.  Were they afraid of the water?

 

michael-phelps_883x1200Here is an excerpt of the bio of a famous swimmer. Do you know him?  Michael Phelps’ performances at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics have brought him strong consideration as the greatest ever Olympian. He has surpassed the records of Mark Spitz and Johnny Weissmuller and is considered the greatest swimmer ever.  At the Beijing Olympics, Phelps won eight swimming events and became the first Olympian to win eight gold medals at one Olympic Games.

Are there any future Olympians out there?

 

Categories: adventure travel, amazon, Amerindians, foreign travel, garden of eden, global, humor, lake, lifestyle, macaw, monkey, parrot, Photographs, photography, rainforest, river, sakiwinki, stinking toe, travel, trekking, Uncategorized, united nations, wailing wall, world, writer, writing | 29 Comments

Trek Memorabilia – Quest for the Cup.

During your treks you may acquire artifacts, souvenirs, and memorabilia to remind you of your trips. Some of them have great significance and you may never part with them. One of my memorabilia is a simple ceramic cup of minimal monetary value but with great significance.

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This cup was given to WTC employees who returned to work when the building was reopened after the 1993 bombing. One of those employees gave me this cup as a gift during one of my treks to the top of WTC soon after the reopening.

You may recall that the World Trade Center was initially bombed in 1993. The attack, on February 26, 1993, killed six people in New York City and injured 1,000. A truck bomb exploded in the parking garage of the North Tower. According to CNN, “The blast from the homemade 1,500-pound urea-nitrate bomb blew a hole five stories deep and half-a-football field wide.” It took officials 11 hours to completely evacuate roughly 50,000 people from the massive buildings. The trade center stood in the darkness that night for the first time since it opened in 1973.

Many employees who received these cups on their return to work subsequently perished in the September 11, 2001 attack. I am trying to track other surviving owners of these cups.

Do you have one of these cups? I would be honored to hear from you and your story!

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Categories: adventure travel, author, big apple, foreign travel, global, lifestyle, new york, novel, Photographs, photography, travel, trekking, Uncategorized, united nations, world, writer, writing | 18 Comments

Weekly Photo Challenge – Fleeting – WTC – My Last Glimpse.

Weekly Photo Challenge - Fleeting - WTC - My Last Glimpse.

Twilight and Fleeting Memories

In response to this week’s photo challenge.

Categories: big apple, foreign travel, global, lifestyle, new york, Photographs, photography, travel, trekking, Uncategorized, Wordpress Weekly Photo Challenge, world, writer, writing | Tags: , , , , , | 10 Comments

Bare Foot Trekking in Minnewaska

While trekking in wooded areas, you will see a variety of trees, plants, birds and even some wild animals.  Running into a deer is pretty common in upstate New York, but what happens if you run into a bear?

Fortunately bear attacks are rare, and they tend to keep away from humans when they hear them approaching.  You can help them run away from you by making noise, singing, or ringing “bear bells”.  However, avoid surprising them! I’ve posed a link below on tips how to escape from a bear.

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On one memorable trek in Minnewaska State Park Preserve, I was hiking on a very narrow, bushy, and secluded trail when I spied a bare foot partly visible through the foliage about 15 feet below the trail.  As you know, hikers wear hiking boots, so an immobile bare foot protruding from the brush was a cause for alarm.  Making as much noise as I could, I dashed off the trail and ran down an incline through the undergrowth to get to the area of the protruding foot.  The numerous scratches from the brambles and small tree branches helped me to shout louder (practically screaming), and the impetus of my descent sent me rolling down into a small rocky clearing by a hidden stream.

I came to a rest plumb in the middle of a large group of skinny dippers!

I found myself surrounded by about 20 nude men, women, and children staring at me in awe.  Dumbfounded, I finally managed to stutter, “Sorry, I took the wrong trail”, and scrambled back up the incline.  As I dodged branches and brambles on my way up, I heard someone say, “I think we scared him away!”

I have nothing against skinny dipping or nudity, but I was caught off guard and totally unprepared for the sudden change in scenery.  I was expecting a bear scene, but fortunately it was just a bare scene.

beluga whales

Skinny dipping with the Beluga whales.

When scientists needed assistance in taming wild beluga whales at a captivity center off the shores of the White Sea near the Arctic Circle, they called on a Russian scientist free diver named Natalia Avseenko. Aveensko braved the -1.5 degrees Centigrade waters, diving in nude in order to interact with the beluga whales.

Minnewaska State Park Preserve

This preserve is situated in Upstate New York’s Ulster County on the Shawangunk Mountain ridge that rises more than 2,000 feet above sea level.  The terrain is rugged and rocky, blanketed by dense hardwood forest encircling two lakes.

There are also running streams that emerge in waterfalls. The picture below captures the waterfall in winter.

dsc_2357bwsmall-waterfall winter - serabi-meghan KW

Hiking, biking, horseback riding and cross-country skiing are very popular activities, with 35 miles of old carriage roads, and 25 miles of footpaths.  Swimming is permitted in the lakes at certain sections and posted times.  There are many beautiful scenic spots, and some require long hikes, so always bring maps and basic hiking equipment.  Remember to pack emergency supplies in case you get lost.

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This is Lake Minnewaska surrounded by cliffs.  Cliff diving is not permitted, and there are designated swimming areas at lake level.  If you have visited this area, I would like to know your experiences, and if you have ever seen a bear around.

Link to: How to Escape from a Bear.

Categories: adventure travel, author, big apple, global, humor, lake, lifestyle, new york, novel, Photographs, photography, river, travel, trekking, Uncategorized, united nations, world, writer, writing | Tags: , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

Weekly Photo Challenge: Most Effective Road Signs!

 “Weekly Photo Challenge: (theme of the week)” Most Effective Road Signs!

For drivers who don’t like stopping at Stop Signs!  

Categories: author, humor, Photographs, photography, river, Uncategorized, Wordpress Weekly Photo Challenge, writer, writing | Tags: , | 29 Comments

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