Saturday, April 14, 2007

++Dusk to dawn at near 5000 meters altitude amidst alpine meadows ++

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The hike has taken all my strength and I feel overcome by exhaustion. I relax while in the kitchen the grandfather is preparing dinner. An old man of nearly 80 years, his leather tanned face radiates much warmth and kindness. He is genuinely proud to have a foreigner as guest at his home.


His wife is herding Yaks still further up the mountain, a 3 hours walk from where his house stands, barely noticable from here.


I notice in spite of the warm jacket I am wearing my body starts to shiver, and decide to draw the warm blanket up to my chin. I sense the deep exhaustion now overcoming me.


With every minute the shadows are getting longer now , my friends calling me to watch the spectacle that follows. Sparrows give their last  concert, the Eagles have long disappeared; the whole area is shrouded in twilight, a breath taking scenery.


My companions have tended to the horse and other animals on the farm. We stand on the porch overlooking the whole mountain range , a truly magnificent view. One forgets time here, a soul searching contest with oneself has begun. And here time has stood still, no materialistic goals, no work related stress, no human misdemeanor, no misunderstanding, no crime, just pure, basic human values. One can not but feel comfort in such environment.


Dinner is ready,  chinese cabbage, the "xiao bai cai", steamed round rice, chicken with vegetables. An excellent meal, the old man proofs his cooking skills. After dinner we converse, many questions are asked about my home and what it was like.


Mountain folks retire early and for a good reason: they must be fit in early morning. We take a stroll in the now dark surroundings and shoot some photos in the dark. Everyone senses the tranquility that has engulfed the mountains by now. A real heaven under the sky. Then the house falls silent, no sound is heard.


I dream of a friend who has passed away, noticing I can converse with him freely here. On frequent occasions did I have such experiences, in serene and calm surroundings in Africa, Asia and Europe. How I wish I could have shown this heaven to those who needed it most. Yet, it is not for everyone to reach such divine places. As one friend put it : "You are blessed to be able to discover this jewel ". One can believe or not, reality speaks for itself.


And the night embraces us amidst a divine calm, with the stars as our guardians..



Next : The day break and descent ...


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

++Between realism and fiction , Dege - Western Kham ++

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Dege, Western Kham, Border with Tibet


Long before the sun rises we are up. Behind the mountains it begins to dawn, we are engulfed by the beauty of the morning.


The night had been noisy, with Tibetan lemurs rummaging overhead in the double wooden ceiling, sleeping was difficult. Where we sleep, kitchen, hall and bedroom in one, the typical Tibetan house. Throughout the night I carried a flashlight to spot the noisy little creatures who were after the Chambar, the rye flour stored in the kitchen in a wooden box.


The breakfast is painstakingly prepared with Chambar, salted tea and yak butter, yak cheese, mingled in a cup and bare fingers. The hospitality of the Tibetan  people has no equivalent, we are honored guests in their house, and dare not to refuse their persuasive welcome.


Red Tibetan furniture all around us, wooden tables, an open kitchen furnace, we sit on our bed eating and drinking the salted Lapsang, planning for the day. We will ascend to the mountains staying overnight , where wolves and bears still roam freely. As a result, every Tibetan carries a dagger, richly decorated with Silver and gemstones, according to his social standing.


A car takes us to the school where Mr. Chen's wife is teaching Tibetan kids, in a scenic settlement 30 miles outside the city of Dege. We visit the school, its basic facilities and see only smiling, curious faces. Horses were called in the day before to carry me to the mountain, an almost impossible thought to bear. The means of communication is by word to mouth, as no transport other than by foot or horse can reach to this remote parts in 4000 m altitude.


We start our ascent at 0900 AM and the breathtaking beauty of the valley immediately takes me into a trance. My guide's pace is fast, difficult to follow pace, I grasp for air in such high altitude. Alpine meadows on our way, tall yellow and purple cowslips along the trails, in the mountain meadows make me remember my own heritage. So similar is the vegetation here, I almost forget I am 8000 Miles from home  in a far away location.


The trail is steep, the first plateau reached we stare at the mountains around us, the valley below, fields of rye in golden yellow. The main route to Chamda and to Lhasa, a 5 days journey by car. So vast are the distances here, one needs to shut off his sensing of time entirely for the duration of this journey. Time has no meaning, we are only temporary on this Earth.. Tibetan wisdom comes in many shapes.


The stream we now try to cross is covering the trail over hundreds of meters and we attempt to jump from stone to stone with limited success. Ice cold fresh mountain spring water, a definite substitute to the bottled water in PET packing. Prayer flags with diverse colors line the places where the water is deep, marking the auspiciousness of the location. Mountains and cliffs towering over our heads as we progress into the high altitude dwelling place of my guide's grandparents. Eagles cry, circling above in the clear blue sky, looking for prey.


An hour into the walk we meet our horses, sent to take us on horseback to our destination. I chose not to ride and pack our luggage on the horseback, a white  mare. Noticing the rider's pregnancy I wonder how strong these people must be, living year in year out in such remoteness. No medical facilities, totally dependent on Tibetan Traditional Healing, easier in the summer months, unimaginable in winter when ice and snow cover the mountains.


A two and half hour ride on horseback, she immediately sets off to return back to her home. Astonishing endurance, strength, people here are robust like no other. I encounter the first Edelweiss on my trip, it makes me forget the strain on my body, for too long I was out of practice since leaving my home country. Recalling my Military training, Hauptmann Lukesch, and the 50 Miles we marched in Alpine regions, I think back and realize how time has passed so quickly.


Here in this region I find a variety of plants, wild fruits,  Gooseberries, wild Strawberries, Raspberries in deep red growing nearby. Reminding me of my youth and the Alpine world I grew up with, where we would roam in the meadows after school, using the mountains as a playground, once again I see reflections of my early days appearing with every step I climb these trails.


We zigzag along the rocky paths, it takes all my strength for its steepness. The higher we reach the more spectacular the views, the more you feel yourself free. Only a mountaineer can understand this feeling, perhaps I felt a similar sensation the night I found myself in Beyla, Guinea.


The serpentine paths become more steep, walking dangerously close near to cliffs I realize I made a good choice not to move on horseback. Not being a good rider it would have been too risky, a reckless idea I contemplate.


Well into the afternoon, long overdue we reach the first house on a long stretch of green, rye growing up in this altitude of 4000 meters. We set of at 3000 meters, but the ascent was so strenuous it took me 8 hours to climb. Here in the mountains everyone knows each other, so our arrival had been heralded and we are invited to the first dwelling we see.


Sitting in the dark kitchen with only basic amenities, the lady of the house and her grandson invites me with the same hospitality I am so used to since coming to these parts. All I take is some fresh mountain spring water, trying hard to recover from the climb.


One can not describe the condition of this dwelling place, were it not to hurt the genuine people's feelings. All they have is this, and this is their life. The rye gives them food throughout the year, and represents their staple diet. All houses in Tibetan tradition are built of raw timber, logs of Fir and are painted with a red mixture that contains yak butter. The yak butter helps to preserve the logs for a long period of time. When entering these parts one immediately notices this phenomena without realizing the deeper meaning of it.


I dread to climb further up and really push myself to reach the last 300 meters where the grandfather is anxiously awaiting us. We can see the house further up the mountain and can see the grandfather standing and looking towards us.


The last stretch lasts forever and I take a rest every now and then, grasping for air. When we finally reach, I feel totally exhausted.


Next : Life in the mountains, Dege, Western Kham, Road to Lhasa


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Monday, April 9, 2007

++The oldest City in Europe, Carcassone++

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Carcassonne, L'Aude, France




Traveling the south western Route from Montpellier towards the Spanish border, one will reach the city of Narbonne. This city is the starting point to some of the most scenic routes through the Corbieres, the unknown paradise of wine connoisseurs. With its rich volcanic soil the region produces some of the most exquisite Reds the world knows.




The tour goes through the vineyards, with its hills and Castles, its many wineries and gastronomic outlets. Just follow the road to Limoux and you know you are on the right track.




Stop at one of the many caves to sample the local magnificent elixirs, heavenly and unsurpassed in my opinion. No Bourgogne, nor Bordeaux or the more popular St. Nazaire, can match these great wines of Corbieres. We do not speak of the many attempts to copy, we speak of the home of grapes, the original.




Along the path you will see landscapes which leave a life long memory.




Do stop near the ruins of an old castle, once a major stronghold. Its tower still standing, you will be guided  back to the middle ages.




The city of Limoux is known for its Whites, the famous "Blanquettes de Limoux". Its wines are reputed throughout France, perhaps less so in the New World.




Then, turn to your right, towards Carcassonne. The City of Carcassonne is known to be the oldest standing city in Europe. With its main Chateaux or Castle still standing like in the Middle Ages, its City walls in place, the cobble stone roads intact, one can almost hear the horse carriages been drawn through the narrow streets.




Nowhere is the past so vivid as in Carcassonne. The City holds major medieval events in summer, and Tourists flock here to see these spectacles. Fire breathing, walking on stilts, medieval BBQ's., medieval cuisine will lead  you to a long forgotten time.




The prime choice in accommodation is the "Hotel de Cite", a 4 Star Hotel in the middle of the City, to reach it you must carefully navigate your Automobile through the narrow Alleys and roads.




Your night will be an experience. Remember that mighty and powerful clans lived here once. The interior of the Hotel is made of Fir, the thought of a blaze is not comforting.




An old carriage once used by the Princess is still displayed near the lobby, you are not allowed to mount it.




Take a break in the evening, a pleasant breeze of the Aude region with its scents of harvested Wheat coming from the meadows nearby. Take a seat near the main stage in the center, where since 1200  stage performances were held. Indulge yourself in a traditional  "Cassoulet de Carcassonne", with a glass of red Corbieres, preferably  '92 vintage, dream without realizing where you actually are. For one can not really contemplate the historic importance of this place. Enjoy every minute of this experience as there is none equivalent elsewhere.




The night passes by quickly and we move on, towards an other destination, the mighty range of the Pyrenees.




When we leave, the mighty City walls of Carcassonne lie in our back, the dark shadowed roofs visible till we reach the mountain road. Another time, au revoir, a bien tot, perhaps ..




HR Travels in Europe..




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Sunday, April 8, 2007

++Bush establishes Commands in Africa++

Sunday, April 08, 2007










Bush wants a military command in Africa


President George W. Bush announced in February his plans to create a new military command for Africa, which would be known as U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). The president reportedly said the unit would be up and running by the end of September 2008, however, his administration has yet to say where the command would be located and what it would cost the American taxpayer.



continue to read :


Bush wants a military command in Africa


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++Persistence

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Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.
Talent will not;
Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men.
Genius will not;
Un rewarded Genius is almost a proverb.
Education will not; The world is full of educated derelicts.
Persistence and Determination alone are omnipotent.



Heinz blog and adventures


Personality Test








Your Personality is Somewhat Rare (ISFP)
Your personality type is caring, peaceful, artistic, and calm.

Only about 7% of all people have your personality, including 8% of all women and 6% of all men
You are Introverted, Sensing, Feeling, and Perceiving.


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++Yhe Greatest Hunter (part 2)++

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Continue with George's adventures in the bush ...





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++A Train crossing, Kanpur, Utar Pradesh, India++

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06.00AM, Airport Mumbai.


I have made it in time, driving from the Hotel in Worli. Mumbai is one of the largest cities on our globe and leaves an unforgettable impression behind. In daytime the streets are bustling with activity, the stench of car fumes, the ever present pollution, the traffic jams, are all but pleasant surprises in  this overcrowded city.


Jet Airways is always late, Modi-Luft has just taken off to an unknown destination, I observe the frantic activities inside the airport. People rushing, uplifting their Ego in front of the Airline counters, a normal sight in Indians airports. Everyone is a Tycoon, everyone displays a show of force to attract attention. In a country of 1,3 Billion, a  vital technique of survival.


After a 3 hour delay our plane finally takes off, in India 12 hours delays are common. The plane is a 737-300 extended version, on the way to Lucknow, U.P. we touch down in New Delhi.


 We reach Lucknow airport arolund 3PM. My contact in Kanpur has not shown up. Lucknow airport is not an International airport, its facilities are limited. Bring your own Rupees, there is no Bank to change your foreign currency. Taxi touts swarm around me,


Hello Sir, Taxi to Lucknow Sir. I decide to wait show lack of interest. I will gain this way. When all the passengers have left, after haggling with their drivers, I walk out of the terminal and find quietly a Fiat cabby, who agrees to take me to Lucknow for a decent fare. After years in Africa I find the same rules apply here when it comes to negotiating.


I ask to stop at the first communication center, ISD, or IDD telephone center, to call my contact. It appears the driver would not come and instead he asks the Cabby to take me to Kanpur, a 150 km from here.


The first impression of Lucknow is, the many street side shops in which Sarees are being sold. The craft of Sarree making here is known throughout India, and represents an important part of business. We pass the streets of this city, the usual sceneries with cows strolling through the streets, people respectfully giving way to them. Nobody would touch a cow here, a clear taboo. Donkey carts, with the driver asleep in the carts, are plying the route towards Kanpur. The immense afternoon sun radiates 45 degrees I notice by a thermometer located on a public building, no surprise to me.


After 3 hours drive we reach Kanpur, my destination. The driver takes me to my hotel as instructed, after paying the fare which is reasonable I am shown into my room. Thirty storey tall, the hotel is the best lodge in the city, and stands out from the low level buildings around. I notice the large numbers of buzzards  circling above the hotel, using the thermals to their advantage.


Still the afternoon sun is high, the air condition helps me to cool down a bit.


At 18.30 PM I am to meet Mr. Rakej the rep of the company who I will visit. A very pleasant man, he apologizes for the inconvenience of not being picked up. We leave for dinner in his car, the obligatory Fiat, in immaculate condition.


Kanpur - The Railway crossing


We pass through the now darkened city, as everywhere we see whole families moving by scooters, bicycles. Cars are still a luxury here, the traffic mainly consisting of scooters and bicycles, and by passers on foot.


The heat now subsiding, Mr. Rakej explains the various sights of Kanpur, its history. We enter the restaurant, and the following dinner is a delight. The baby Naans (tiny flat breads baked in the Tandoor), Navratan Khoorma, (Nine Jewels), Rogan Josh (Lamb Stew), the various Indian dishes I savour frequently. If one thing strikes me of India, it is their cuisine. The Indian kitchen is one of the best this world has to offer.


A visit of the famous Hindu temple in Kanpur is on our next Agenda. The temple is known amongst Hindus for its unique design structure.


We reach the railway crossing, just when the barriers move down, accompanied by loud ringing of the bell. People rushing through the barrier, lifting it up to pass, crossing from both sides of the tracks. No one cares about the oncoming train, as Mr. Rakej .explains, every year people are being killed by the trains. As the minutes pass on, and no show of reduction of human traffic across the rails follows, I am getting anxious more and more. Yet the people still no sign of stopping to cross. The tracks are now vibrating, the trains whistle blowing not far, there, one motor scooter with family, man, woman and child, cross with their scooter. I want to close my eyes, and there another type with a bicycle enters the danger zone. Then, in a flash the train speeds through the crossing, at great speed,  well over 120 mph. I can't see a thing in the dark, almost I am certain  those people have been hit.


When it is all over, the train has passed, I notice the bicyclist, who holds his bike across his chest, inches to the train's carriages. An unbelievable experience, this will stay in my memories forever. I was breathless so to speak, not being able to comprehend the situation. Yet, my guide was unimpressed, noticing this is an everyday experience with the resulting consequences for those who can't make it. If something ever struck me about this country, it must have been this incident.


The show of disrespect for life is over, we carry on to see the biggest Hindu temple in Kanpur. White marble from the onset, every one removes his shoes, and I am thinking if I should leave my pair of Moreschis or not. The temple entrance is a haven for rats, these rats are everywhere in here, crawling and running around in masses. The temple honors rats, they have a sacred status and are fed and looked after by the temple's keepers. Donations are accepted for their upkeep. Apart from the rat infestation, the temple is a complex of marvel. Built to the highest standards, with no expense spared white marble throughout, I look stunned. In contrast to the outside world, the Kanpur temple represents the most lavishly built structure I have seen. The stark contrast of everyday poverty visible is amazing. And as it is Friday night, people are streaming to pray, lighting their brought incense. The scent of exotics, the scent of India is all present wherever you go.


Mr. Rakej has completed his prayers, and we leave, the impressions linger with me till this day, and Kanpur will be in my memories forever.


A travel to India, by HR.


..


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++Magic Rules for life ++

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There is magic in a merry smile,
and laughter works a spell.
Try both and luck will follow you,
and happiness as well.

Ever be kind and gentle,
never be rude at all,
always be kind to everyone,
then you will be loved by all.

To meet, to love and then to past,
is the saddest thing in the human heart.

Life is an echo, it all comes back,
the good the false and the true,
so give the world the best you have,
and the best will come back to you.

Memories are treasures which no one can steal,
separation is a heartache that no one can heal.

It is sad to say farewell, it is a word that causes pain,
But as the months and years roll by, we will hope to meet again.
But if we never more should meet, I pray you would forget,
But sometimes cast a thought aside for one who loves you yet.


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Saturday, April 7, 2007

++Dangerous Road, the Rainforest is unforgivable++

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Daloa, Man to Gbakpleu, Border Cote d'Ivoire - Guinea


Setting off after  breakfast early morning, the road still stretches a few hundred miles westward to the border with Guinea. To travel early has many advantages : For one the dreadful Gendarmerie and Douane checkpoints and barriers are mostly unmanned, and secondly the temperature is still bearable.


The land is lush with green, a fruit basket - the entire country. On the way we pick  up a ton of pink grapefruits, whatever we could take, a real bargain.at 15 cents a kg. I found  grapefruits to assist in many ways, it has many nutritional values, and is a natural antibiotic (flavenoids).


We reach the town of Man at 14.00 PM and ask directions to the border which according to my map should be about 30 - 35 miles. from here. It is mandatory in the region to call on the local police station to report your itinerary. The Police in Man is just wasting our time. Nobody cares and we move towards direction of Guinea.


A nasty feeling overcomes me when I notice the changing of the road surface, till now we had tarred roads, here it turns into a rusty red, unpaved and full of potholes. Used to bad road conditions I try to brush my ill feeling aside only to be overwhelmed by it again later.


The Policeman standing on the road asking us for a lift looks decent and I invite him in the car with his AK 47 . A welcome guide,  protector in case of a problem. Not long after,  we experience the first heavy downpour on our trip.


 With near zero visibility we move through the tropical storm, I am now fully alert, envisaging the things to come. In no time the road has turned into a network of lakes and  waterholes, making it difficult for the vehicle to pass. At speeds of 20 we inch along through the rain, avoiding the massive pools along the road. We pass villages which lie paralyzed, everyone seeking shelter from the storm. Coffee plantations along the way, with the deep red coffee beans being visible  within the foliage, a beautiful sight I recall.


When we encounter our first hundred feet of rainwater  we cannot bypass, our guide the policeman wades in front of me, the rain drenching him,  to show us a shallow place to pass. We manage the first one, but I have a notion that things will get worse, and they do.


A village is being cut off by a torrent stream the road washed away. The makeshift road which serves as a diversion is not much better, we find ourselves in the middle of the village with everyone staring at us with curiosity. It is not everyday white people find their way in these remote parts,


Through the center we drive and find back to our road on a cattle trail, which is hard to maneuver on. And always striking me is the immense beauty of this country, even under such a stressful situation, Africa has its charm, no doubt.


The dream is short lived,  we find more trouble ahead, a truck has  blocked the road, sunk his axle deep in the mud. Loaded to the brink, if anyone can understand the term, unknown in western parts those trucks are being overloaded to their allowed max. payload. And amidst all this, the driver and his mate attempt to lift the truck by means of a hydraulic jack. By now the downpour had stopped, we get down form the car to watch the spectacle. People shoving and pushing the 20 tons plus without results, the jack lifting up the back axle, wheels grinding the vehicle miraculously finds its way out of this morast, the driver knew where to jack up. I still cant believe it, the truck actually moves ! Wonders happen. With the bypassing truck and people shouting in excitement we continue our journey. As our wheelbase is shorter we pass unhindered by the sump that has developed where the truck had dug his wheels into.


It is 5 PM when we reach a stretch of road that makes my heart come to standstill. The deep tracks left by the first truck, I cannot imagine how I can possibly pass this, more than 300 feet long. We get out from the car and reckon how to get through this, everyone has a good advice, at the end it is me who has to drive us through.


After 10 minutes I draw up courage and plan to move ahead, right into the huge pool of water. And I must admit at the time I was still a novice. The inevitable happened the vehicle gets stuck 20 yards later. Everyone is on his feet, giving me a push forward, only to see the wheels digging in deeper, smelling  burnt rubber from the increase of friction. I begin to panic, I know  the forest dusk sets in at 6 PM, and here in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by tropical virgin rainforest, not an ideal place to spend a night.


Something, some miracle must come our way if we should make it out before dark. Personal safety is a concern, the location near the Liberian border, a triangle of three countries, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Guinea. The route is being used by smugglers, Armed Robbers, Bandits and other Anti Social Elements, and life does not mean a lot here.


Kneeling under the vehicle I notice the chassis stuck on the ground. The carjack is of no avail, we dig with our hands, cutting our skin with the tiny, sharp stones. All attempts to free the car are fruitless.


A family of Natives appear, 10 heads with the Patriarch in the lead, all push the vehicle, it does not move one inch forward. Noticing the nervousness of the Natives I can not explain. The only way is to get a tractor from the Agric station 10 miles ahead to pull us out.


The family members leave, the Patriarch staying behind, a nice gesture. As predicted, dusk sets in at 6 PM, the forest is shrouded in darkness, An awesome feeling, sounds of the jungle awakening around us.


All sorts of thoughts come to your mind, what will happen, how do we get out of here ? Normally what would be a scenery for a documentary, but we are captives of a mighty forest of unknown dimensions. The gigantic trees around now look ghostly in the night sky, only the fireflies glooming in the dark. Mosquitoes buzz around me in thousands, but here I find the difference in being a Vegan. I am not suffering a single bite, the Mosquitoes not being drawn to my un tasty hemoglobin. To breed their eggs they look for carnivores, and those next to me keep on slapping their ankles and exposed limbs continuously. Having waded in the water, I roll up my trouser sleeves above the knees. In midst the lukewarm, red muddy water, my Timberlands get caught in the sticky mud and in the dark never to be found  again. I am now bare feet except the plastic slippers I have in my car, a somewhat cheaper version of footwear.


It is 7 PM when I see a hush of a beam pointing towards the sky, behind the hill in the forest ahead of us, roughly 400 meters away. And rightly we hear a car engine revving its way up towards our position. Whoever has come here must be able to help us to get out I figure.


The car stops on the other side of the puddle upon noticing that we block his way, I was wondering how a Peugeot 504 Caravan, full with 12 passengers and Cargo could make it through this and I couldn't. The driver coming over and inquiring about the problem, laughs and calls his 12 passengers to help. With combined efforts, 14 grown adults pushing, the engine reversing, we pull back to where I started from. The driver will cruise his 504 through the mud and will show me how to move my car through the morals..


In excellent fashion he steers his rust bin through all the puddles, sinking so deep that I can't believe he will make it, yet he passes, his engine roaring high. I wonder what is worse, the Paris - Dakar Rally or this here, settling for the latter.


He chuckles, then comes to me to give me the secret. Coming from a mountainous region, I have driven on slippery, icy roads before, turning half way down a dangerous mountain in Winter. But this is new to me, I submit to my African teacher.


He explains when entering the mud,  press down the accelerator, turn the steer hard towards the embankment, thus keeping the vehicle in a semi-upper position, and  the car won't get stuck. It made sense to me, and  the experience showed he was right. With him on my right side I take the stretch in a few minutes, the car jerking and pushing through all the way. Our savior is obviously happy that he had shown me some bush sense. Amidst thanks and a small token in form of money the driver continues his journey, it is 8 PM when we continue our trip.


Next I notice the ignition light turning red,  indicating a problem with the alternator. Now being pitch dark, I decide to continue towards the border. Not far from where we are I also notice the steering going harder and harder. Upon all this we find a puncture in my rear right tire and we have to change the wheel, like it or not. Again, on a slope, I attempt to change the wheel when I notice the sound of another car coming from affront. This one is sent by the our Companions to help us, nearly 3 hours after they set of on foot.


They help me to get the spare tire and we continue, and I am informed that the border post is only 3 miles away now. Just then it begins to drizzle again. when we reach the Soldier post, the rain is  again pouring. We took 8 hours to travel 25 Miles but the sight of the Army post lifts up my spirits high again this evening.


The Ivorian Army maintains a border post here, the Capitaine a gentleman. Upon introducing ourselves, he invites me to stay for the night, his post lit by Kerosene lights.


He has also instructed his lower charges to prepare hot water for us and I have my forest shower under the nightly sky with the rain drizzling on me in the process. I can't express the relaxing emotion overcoming me this moment, after all the digging and profound physical efforts. This shower, in midst the jungle, under open sky and in the rain is what I recall today.


After we are invited to join the commander for dinner. I am hungry and I must say that Ivorians do have a cusine, even here. Beef simmered in pea nut butter sauce, with capsicums spicing the dish, steamed rice. The dish tastes wonderful. On this occasion I bring out 10 pink grapefruits and distribute them amongst the soldiers.


They have built new barracks here and I am given a new barrack with a bed. I am grateful for their hospitality.


The steam of the jungle, its ever present sounds around everywhere, the rain hitting the Metal roofing sheets , it is hard to find sleep. Tossing and rolling in my bunk, my thoughts go back and forth, what will tomorrow bring, on this journey to the unknown....


Next Episode : The long Road to Nzerekore


excerpts from : A journey to the unknown, by HR.


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++George, the greatest Hunter++

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If ever I have met a person who meets the description of this title, it is George, the Hunter. 40 years he lived in Africa, of which he has spent nearly every weekend in the bush.




A special bond is between us, we found friendship in the early days.




This event took place on a Sunday morning, 1987. I remember the time well it was 08.00AM. As usual we left our homes 03.00 AM, with all the gear strapped in our jeep. Going early meant we would find the "Adanko", the wild Togo Hare in abundance.




Entering the bush is always an adventure, as George used to put it :" Respect the regulations of respecting". Whatever that meant, in understandable English it meant : " Do respect the bush, heed to our regulations". This was always necessary as you never knew what you will encounter in the wilderness.




The dark night around us, the beams shining far, we rolled into the savannah, jumping over Termite hills. Always on the lookout for game, driving was not easy. You have to concentrate on both terrain and a possible encounter with game.




George is a Master in hunting, the "Okinini Obuomomfo", the greatest hunter, as he was called by the natives. We all knew the villagers, the chiefs, the Fulanis (cattle herders).




During the night, George shot his first hare, then a second. The grass had been burnt down, the bush fires still smoldering in the distance. All the land had a burnt scent, the ashes flying high when we passed the trail..




Daylight breaks, the sun rising with a deep orange on the Horizon, the bush awakes. Only those who have witnessed such event can understand the immense passion one develops for the bush. Nothing can compare to this spectacle, a powerful display of our Nature.




As always George prepares our coffee,and we listen to the sounds of Nature all around us. Unforgettable sounds.




From 06.00AM we hunt Stone Partridge, they normally invade the Manioc plantations and cause devastation there. Because of this, the farmers are always happy when George appears. 5 Partridges appear, sprawl and George gets all of them out of the sky.




By 07.30AM the sun is rising, the temperatures increase. We walk through the Manioc (Cassava) as they call it. We are drenched in sweat by the time we are on our way home.




My friend has taken over the drivers seat, his 12 bore shotgun placed on his right in a specially made holder. I sit on the back seat, high above and enjoy a good view of the surroundings, the real reason of going to the bush.




Swerving right, left in order to avoid the Termite hills which can knock out your suspension, I am used to it, my shotgun across my knees. In an instance I hear a sharp hissing sound, unknown to me, the jeep still moving. In a rapid action, my friend has grabbed his 12 bore, the vehicle running at normal speed, the steering wheel free. Rapidly I hear 2 shots, throughout the hissing sound never stopped.




The last moment before the shots rang out, I noticed the large, black Cobra, 6 feet long at least, its head erect, expanded, the eyes turned to us, yet moving away with great speed. The hissing sound is a warning to would be predators. Not for George in whom she found her match, full speed. from the jeep, splitting her in to half, killing the Cobra instantly.




I was like mesmerized, could not say a word. In a split second the event. was over, the snake lay dead. We can not say what ones feeling should be, but I was stunned by 2 things : The hissing sound of the Cobra and the incredible speed at which the shots rang out.




The . years have passed, George has retired and I go no longer to the bush. In those days, he would tell me :" One day you will sit in the rocking chair, and your grand children will come and ask you, tell us how it was in the bush, you and this hunter, the "Okinini Obuomomfo", the greatest of all Hunters...George..




I will honor him throughout my life for giving me wisdom. May god bless him.




from : Hunting in the African bush, H.R..




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++Ianna - a multi talented Person with a view++

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Ianna has some of the best ideas in line with the green earth phenomena.


But she also is a Professor for Voice teaching in Vienna, Austria.





http://www.iannaysedlackova.info




++STEVIA ++


Stevia, for many people unheard, yet this plant could solve the problems of millions of people.

To eliminate the risk of  Diabetes, we substitute sugar with Stevia.


A natural sweetener which of course is being shunned by the Sugar industry, the


The Fed won't give a green light, they prefer to issue hundreds of millions on diabetic


medications.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stevia



++some more views++

http://mafia11.stumbleupon.com

++Bangkok++ -Always worth a journey++




Bangkok is always worth visiting, see the Mae Nam, the "Mother of Water" from the fast running passenger boats plying the river from Nonthaburi to Klongthoey, and invigorate the scents, the mystic of the orient, make a stopover at "Tha Ratchawongse" , visit Yaowarat, enjoy its culinary delights, the bustling China Town with its markets, vendors, Sampeng.



My personal favorite is a side alley of "Charoen Khrung", with one of the best "Bami" Noodles, delicious noodles with slices of pork, served at lunch for 50 cents. Unbeatable taste and real simple, yet unequivalent succulent taste for next to nothing.



The more you visit, the more you will like the city, its traffic jams easily avoidable nowadays with new, modern transport facilities.



Visit " Phahurat", the old Siam, and see how the city looked like 100 years ago....



Enjoy a "Latte" in one of the many "Starbucks", or visit my own personal favorite, O'Brians



at "Thanya Building", BTS "Sala Daeng" station adjacent, ground floor.  Free wireless, fast broadband internet as an additional  freebie.



Sip the best juice, freshly prepared in front of you at the "Tokyu" in MBK building, BTS "National Stadium", 3 rd floor,  " the mixture for a " healthy skin", made of fresh strawberries,



raspberries, blueberries and cranberries. All in deep, purple red, the juice is as excellent as it can be.



Enjoy delicious Vegetarian fare in Sam Sen (near Bang Lumphoo), Thai cooking at its best.



Never before seen Thai Vegetarian Dishes and a cooking school run by the expert owner of this restaurant. The price is reasonable, walk up the distance from "Phra Arthit" boat station and find it, just cross the canal bridge and you will find it on the main street  (You can also jump on a bus 53, or 32 and it will take you there. Ask if you cant find it.



Bangkok, a way of life, is always exciting.



Forget the many vice-holes and you will see another, different Bangkok. 



Enjoy....



++QU ER SHAN - HOLY MOUNTAIN++


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On the western edge of Kham, bordering with Xizang one mountain in particular takes our attention : Qu Er Shan.



The ascent is long, it reaches 5000 m above s.l., neck breaking manouvers by car, uncertain when another vehicle will appear from nowhere behind a bend.

A rough, scarcely maintained road leads to the near the summit, the only access to the Dege valley.

Qu Er Shan is one of the Holy Mountains in Tibet. Alongside with its big brother, Mount Everest as we know it, (and a few others) these mountains take a very special place in Tibetan Buddhism, they are sacred.

When we reach the summit, all the passengers of Tibetan descent break out jubilating the event, and prayer scripts are thrown left and right of our vehicle to proclaim the visit to the summit.

And this by no means is a undertaking without perils.

Each year, in the months of August to March the mountain claims many lives, the daring drivers will face death on many occasions.

Snow and ice will make the roads near unpassable, with Chinese Army and the Forestry units unable to clear the roads of the snow and ice effectively.

Storms and fog make the visibility impossible, and treacherous avalanches draw many to their death.
In summer, when the weather is warmer, the mountain is passable, but even then, rainstorms mean delays, sometimes for days.

We have passed the mountain 4 times so far, and everytime it is an unforgetable experience.

It takes your breath to see the swindling heights and serpent roads, rocks of the size of an Elefant that have broken and fell on its surface the night before.

Each time you manage to pass safely is of great relief, as luck must be on your side to be able to reach the next town.
Still, with its breath-taking beauty, this place has captured my heart and soul.

In the near future - I will hope to be back again...
......





Friday, April 6, 2007

++Prophets without Honour++

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IT 'S IN Prophets without honor by Max Hassel :" The life of Madame Lenormand remains shrouded in mystery and little is known of her origins, or even of her methods of prediction. It is certain that, like many modern fortune tellers - and many charlatans - she used the Tarot cards to tell the future.




"One night, at the height of the terror, three men wrapped in dark cloaks came to Madame Lenormand's house. They demanded to know their fortunes, but refused to give their names. Terrified, Madame knew that she must do as they asked. For she had recognized them, and knew that one word from any of them would be enough to send her to the guillotine immediately. She spread out her cards.




"Jean-Paul Marat's face grew dark as Madame told him that he would die within the year-and at the hand of a woman. The steps of Charlotte Corday, hastening to his door with a concealed knife, already echoed in Madame's brain. The bath in which he lay all day to find relief from his skin disease was to be his grave.




"To the second man, Madame at first spoke of triumph. He was to rise to the highest position in the state very soon, but his hour of glory would be brief. Within two years, the head of Antoine Saint-Just would fall under the guillotine.




"The third man took his place. Madame Lenormand shuddered as she looked into his cold, green eyes. In a faltering voice she told of a knock on the door in the night; of a pistol shot, a shattered face, hours of agony. And at last, relief through death under the falling blade. Maximilien Robespierre, who had sent too many to their deaths without a single regret, turned pale as he learned his own fate.




"Within three days she was arrested and brought before the revolutionary tribunal. Saint-Just himself was the prosecutor, Marat and Robespierre sat beside him. The trial was a foregone conclusion. Madame Lenormand was sentenced to the guillotine. For three years she lay in prison. During her incarceration, Marat, Saint-Just and Robespierre, all died exactly as she had predicted.




"With the slackening of the Terror after Robespierre's death. many prisoners were released. Among them was Madame Lenormand."





The Night Owl, 23 rd January, 1998.





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Tuesday, April 3, 2007

++Travel to the Unknown..++

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Last stop Danane. We stay over for the night. The Hotel has been built in colonial times, in midst of giant Acacia trees, surrounded by a tropical garden.
The evening is quiet except for the sound of cicadas.
Never seen a tranquil place like this.
Morning brings us to the lush Orchid garden, surrounded by a mosaic clad pool. A wonder in a no-mans land.
A culinary surprise awaits us when we enter the breakfast room.
Croissants that could compete with the world's best, freshly baked by the old resident Pattissier who has seen history. He was trained by the French Masters and keeps up the tradition, long after his masters have left.

The Liberian rebels training camp is located a few miles from where we are. One can not feel the tension that surrounds this tranquil oasis of peace.

It is here where Charles Taylor has been re-located, financed, equipped and trained to lash out against his native country, Liberia.
What is more intriguing is the fact that Charles Taylor had been incarcerated in the U.S., and miraculously found his way out of an American jail into this part of the world.





Questions arise, who finances his operations. Who is to gain from a civil war that costs hundreds of thousands lives.
A no-haver, and most of all, American prisoner, suddenly has access to millions of $ to pay for  warfare.

..to be continued




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++China, MaoDzeDong in early days++

Visiting China, I went off the beaten track in Jiangsu region.


..The garden was located in the outskirts of the city. Here, once

again history was alive, the old Ming styled houses occupied by

modern day people. The tall doors leading into the courtyards were reminiscent of times gone by.


No one could imagine 600 years had passed since the former residence

of a wealthy landowner was built.


Yet, here we stood, stunned, intrigued by what we saw. A lake had

been placed in the midst, its water overwhelmed with Lotus blossoms, giving the

whole scenery a colorful image.


Pavillions strewed along the lake, on long summer evenings

the Da Ren was known to walk his favorite wive and servants here, resting where we stand now, 600 years later.


The former Da Ren was a man of great social standing, judging

from the dimensions of the site.

Only persons with immense wealth could afford such luxury, or the

Emperor.


During the Long March, Mao Dze Dong personally visited the area.



Amazing the old courtyards, in which one can get lost, facades built

from pinewood, the finest carvings, chairs made of rosewood.


A feeling of Nostalgia overcomes one, wandering along the trails, the alleys. Our thoughts go back hundreds of years, not being able to contemplate the wonders we encountered here.



Fountains in the middle of the courtyard, man-made open water ducts leading to kitchen and bathhouse.


We sigh upon our wandering of spirits, we are lost in a forgotten

time.


It takes a full 4 hours to stroll along the lake, and when we leave,

we take our memories with us.


Getting back to reality is hard, leaving such a tranquil oasis of peace

even more.



It is getting late, and we have to reach back to our town, few miles

away from where we stand.








Austria, County of Burgenland, Uchatius Barracks


Early morning. As usual, on the dot 06.00 AM. a loud voice throws us out of our bunks.


T A G W A C H E ....


Robotic like, we stumble to our feet, daily routine, our limbs sore from strenuous exercise. Tuck your bed, grab your rations, gear, equipment, all ready for the longest march to the alpine glaciers.


Prime mountainous region of the Wechsel, training ground for the Austrian Army. 07.30 sharp our trucks begin to roll. The drive takes about 2 hours, and we reach our destination, Mariensee.


The captain, Walter Lukesch gives instructions to his junior charges and off we go, right from the start its up the mountain, through dense pine forest, firs. We continue in a sharp pace, one after another, zig - zagging along the mountaineers trail.


Within half an hour we all feel the tremendous efforts it takes to carry near 20 kg of Alpine gear, rifle, helmet, and personal supplies up a steep trail. The Hauptmann is a powerhouse and pulls the company along the trail, without the slightest hesitation.


Whilst carrying the heavy radio equipment on his shoulders, he has no back gear unlike us.


Our panting becomes unbearable, the speed of the ascent is almost barbaric. Well into 2 hours, our first victim of exhaustion collapses on the steep trail, the company for mates and takes cover like in real wartime situations, we are on maneuver after all.


Here, in the alpine wilderness, no sound can be heard except the occasional song of a cuckoo, and the mountain buzzard.


Whilst we welcome the unscheduled rest, we are concerned about our colleague who collapsed because of exhaustion. And we know the worst is still ahead of us.


The captain shoulders our colleague's backpack onto his chest and off we move to higher grounds. Up and up and the lower parts hardly visible through the dense forest. Within minutes, Herr Lukens has out walked us and we have problems to keep up the pace. With a double weight to carry he shows no sign of the slightest exhaustion. His stamina is unequivocal.


When we finally reach the top, and the trail goes on a less steeper slope, we are instructed to carry our chemical masks. We nearly suffocate under the rubber mask, the sweat runs down our faces.


Nobody has time to think about his own misery, we all are tired and worn out, finally the command to remove the masks is given.


At the time we were angry, frustrated and saw a beast in our Hauptmann. But we knew, he was doing his part to turn us into real Soldiers, nothing less.


In those days we knew what exercise meant, and it felt good at the end. Without pushing your body to the limit you will never understand how much you can give.


Long after, well into the afternoon we reach our summit, the highest point in the massive glacier. When we pass the first masses of snow, the Captain forbids us to drink the ice cold water that emerges from under the ice bed. The risk of contracting pneumonia was not a welcome thought, and we observed, although with difficulty, his instructions.


The first stop is after the peak, we are taking a break of 30 minutes.


From here the trail now went downhill, through harsh landscape above 2000 meters altitude. Alpine meadows will harbor cattle in summer, but stand empty now in early spring.


The "Feistritz Sattel", a pass between two mountains comes into our view, still far away. We know there are still hours till we finally reach our target.


After reaching the town of Trattenbach, the trail steepens again and we take a final onslaught to our day's destination, unknown to us.


The mountain ranges around us, the view towards the glacier we have climbed, we notice how far we have come. All around us beautiful nature, un spoilt, untouched by humans.


Towards 18.00 PM finally we come to a standstill, the Hauptmann giving us lectures about the final days of World War II when Storm troopers of the Nazis defended this last stronghold against Russians invading from Hungary. Tracks where once rails were laid, up here in the mountains, carrying ammunitions to the heavy Artillery positioned up here. The Well built, the entire command post, did it nothing to stop the Russian Army to finally enter this last area of Nazi Germany.


We assemble to take instructions for the night camp, preparing our tents, logging fires and start the night watch. We are amidst fir trees, above a mountain stream where we fetch our water.


Finally, we take over the night watch in turns of 2 hours, and relax on the forest ground, separated only by a thin sheet of plastic from the wet undergrowth.


To be continued ..


Next : Kummerbauerstadl / Trattenbach / Lower Austria County


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George, the greatest hunter...

Ghana, Africa, the bush, Greater Accra plains...


If ever I have met a person who meets the description of this title, it is George, the Hunter. 40 years he lived in Africa, of which he has spent nearly every weekend in the bush.




A special bond is between us, we found friendship in the early days.




This event took place on a Sunday morning, 1987. I remember the time well it was 08.00AM. As usual we left our homes 03.00 AM, with all the gear strapped in our jeep. Going early meant we would find the "Adanko", the wild Togo Hare in abundance.




Entering the bush is always an adventure, as George used to put it :" Respect the regulations of respecting". Whatever that meant, in understandable English it meant : " Do respect the bush, heed to our regulations". This was always necessary as you never knew what you will encounter in the wilderness.




The dark night around us, the beams shining far, we rolled into the savannah, jumping over Termite hills. Always on the lookout for game, driving was not easy. You have to concentrate on both terrain and a possible encounter with game.




George is a Master in hunting, the "Okinini Obuomomfo", the greatest hunter, as he was called by the natives. We all knew the villagers, the chiefs, the Fulanis (cattle herders).




During the night, George shot his first hare, then a second. The grass had been burnt down, the bush fires still smoldering in the distance. All the land had a burnt scent, the ashes flying high when we passed the trail..




Daylight breaks, the sun rising with a deep orange on the Horizon, the bush awakes. Only those who have witnessed such event can understand the immense passion one develops for the bush. Nothing can compare to this spectacle, a powerful display of our Nature.




As always George prepares our coffee,and we listen to the sounds of Nature all around us. Unforgettable sounds.




From 06.00AM we hunt Stone Partridge, they normally invade the Manioc plantations and cause devastation there. Because of this, the farmers are always happy when George appears. 5 Partridges  appear, sprawl and George gets all of them out of the sky.




By 07.30AM the sun is rising, the temperatures increase. We walk through the Manioc (Cassava) as they call it. We are drenched in sweat by the time we are on our way home.




My friend has taken over the drivers seat, his 12 bore shotgun placed on his right in a specially made holder. I sit on the back seat, high above and enjoy a good view of the surroundings, the real reason of going to the bush.




Swerving right, left in order to avoid the Termite hills which can knock out your suspension, I am used to it, my shotgun across my knees. In an instance I hear a sharp hissing sound, unknown to me, the jeep still moving. In a rapid action, my friend has grabbed his 12 bore, the vehicle running at normal speed, the steering wheel free. Rapidly I hear 2 shots, throughout the hissing sound never stopped.




The last moment before the shots rang out,  I noticed the large, black Cobra, 6 feet long at least, its head erect, expanded, the eyes turned to us, yet moving away with great speed. The hissing sound is a warning to would be predators. Not for George in whom she found her match, full speed. from the jeep, splitting her in to half, killing the Cobra instantly.




I was like mesmerized, could not say a word. In a split second the event. was over, the snake lay dead. We can not say what ones feeling should be, but I was stunned by 2 things : The hissing sound of the Cobra and the incredible speed at which the shots rang out.




The . years have passed, George has retired and I go no longer to the bush. In those days, he would tell me :" One day you will sit in the rocking chair, and your grand children will come and ask you, tell us how it was in the bush, you and this hunter, the "Okinini Obuomomfo", the greatest of all Hunters...George..




 I will honor him throughout my life for giving me wisdom. May god bless him.




from : Hunting in the African bush, H.R..