Nature’s Anti-Depressant……..

A day at the beach is never time wasted, the sound of the surf crashing into the rocks has a sort of “anti-depressant” quality to it.  So the next time you feel down, don’t call a therapist, don’t take an anti-depressant drug, don’t join a support group…. Simply grab a towel, a pair of flip-flops and head to your nearest beach and relax!  It doesn’t matter if it’s fresh water or saltwater, what matters is that it’s water.
I am convinced that water has almost a magical quality, to make anyone feel better!

Below, a few pictures from this weekend’s escape from Malabo….. destination…. a secluded beach!

(205)

Close Encounter with a Mamba…..

This morning I was free from work, so I decided to go to the beach.  I haven’t just swam at the beach in a long time, so I headed to another favorite spot known as “French Beach,” south of Malabo on the West Coast of Bioko.  The beach is not far from the Fazenda I like to visit once in a while.  I arrived early to enjoy a swim and catch some rays before others arrived.  It’s not a well known location and one that requires about a 3 km walk from the spot where you park your car to the beach.  I think it’s the distance that keeps many beach goers away.  Another nearby beach you can reach by car is more popular.  I arrived at about 10:00 AM and was the only one on the beach.  It was a great day to relax, it was warm, about 80 degrees, with a slight breeze off the ocean.  I swam for about an hour, exploring the coral around a small island a few hundred meters off the coast.  It’s always amazing the life that lurks just below the surface of the wave tops… beautiful schools of colored fish darted back and forth,  nice corral formations providing them shelter from larger fish.

Above and below, a few pictures of “French Beach” near Luba on Bioko Island.

Not wanting to fry myself the first time out in full sun in quite some time, I called it a day at about noon and headed back toward the fazenda.  My friend Tio Paco was on another beach hunting crabs.  I stopped to visit and he paused to show me another one of his Cayucos (canoes) he’s building and tell me some stories.

Above and Below, Tio Paco shows me another one of his Cayucos (Canoes) he’s building.

We visited a bit, he again telling me more about the history of the island.  I really enjoy his history lessons and must look like a little kid listening to Grandpa tell war stories…. after an hour or so…. I departed the coast and continued my walk the last kilometer to my car.

Along the way, I had only my second encounter in my life, with a really scary snake, a Jameson’s Mamba.

Above and Below, the path from the beach to the Fazenda where I encountered the Mamba.  As you can see, the vegetation is pretty thick, a great place for a snake to make his home!

The Mamba was in a tree, about 3 feet from my head along the trail when I noticed him!  When I realized what it was, I was startled but knew I needed to take a few pictures to show my friends.  Without proof they probably wouldn’t believe me…. unfortunately my camera is just a small pocket job and doesn’t loom in too well, so I needed to get as close as possible.  I snapped three pictures while the snake was making his way out of the tree, to the safety of the bushes.  The worst thing about the encounter was that after he escaped into the brush, I needed to walk in the same direction he had just fled!  I waited about 10 mins to give him time to disappear and then I continued my journey.  Back at the Fazenda I ran into a few of my African friends and quickly showed them my pictures.  Of course they all asked “did you kill it…?”  Of course I didn’t, it was a beautiful creature and he was in his home.  I was the intruder… so I thought we could just treat each other nicely and then go our separate ways…. lucky for me he cooperated.  My friends were disappointed I hadn’t killed it…. my excuse was that I didn’t have my machete!  They all agreed without a machete I could not have killed the beast… so all was forgiven!  When Tio Paco showed up at the fazenda, he said “You are lucky, that’s a Killer…..”  Needless to say I puckered up a bit.  It was one of those things you look back at and say, hope that never happens again.

When I got home to Malabo, I started to investigate the snake a bit on the internet and found out that the Jameson’s Mamba often fall out of trees onto their prey!  Wow…. great news!

Above and below, my close encounter with a Jameson’s Mamba Snake on my walk through the jungle today!

(268)

A Walk in the Jungle….

Today was a great day to escape Malabo, to take in some fresh-air that only a lush green forest can provide.  I headed south toward Luba to a “fazenda” on the west coast of Bioko Island that has been a favorite spot of mine for a day-escape.  With my day-pack over my shoulder and camera in hand, I followed a jungle path for about 45 mins north along the coast and then headed up a small riverbed for a few kilometers.  It’s hot this time of year, luckily for me the freshwater stream allowed me to dip my cap, replace it on my head and cool off a bit!  The forest was full of life, much of it only visible to the ears and not the eyes.  Many of the animals were high overhead in the thick jungle canopy, exotic bird calls filled the air, sounds of warning that I had intruded into their territory.  The sound of small land animals scurrying across dry leaves catches me by surprise, I estimate the creatures size by the crunching sound it makes…. probably a large rat type creature.  No threat to me…  I’m happy there are no large cats on Bioko Island.  Small antelope are probably the largest animals I might possibly encounter on my jungle walk, the size of small deer maybe weighing 30 or 40 pounds.  My presence easy for them to detect by sight or scent… they are nowhere to be found, long gone as I splash through the river!  One must never forget to keep an eye on the placement of their feet and the next step in the brush…. to avoid the possible venomous tight-eyed mamba… not something I like to encounter.  I have only seen one in Equatorial Guinea and thats enough for me….

  
I pause on a low-hanging branch that spans the river,  nature’s perfect bench.  As I sit quietly and motionless, the forest quiets too, the warning calls form birds above diminish…. The sound of the running river inches below my feet grows louder.  The water is clear, probably safe to drink but I brought my own… no need for river water today!  After a brief rest, I head back down river toward the coast.  It’s about noon, the hottest time of the day.  Along the way to the beach, I see my friend Tio-Paco (Francisco).  He lives on the Fazenda and is kind of the unofficial caretaker.  He is happy to see me, and wants to show me his latest project, a dugout canoe he is building.  I follow him though natures version of man-sized pick-up-sticks, a huge stand of bamboo on the way to see the boat.  Tio-Paco said he has been working on 3 different boats but wanted to show me the best one.  He said it’s made of a tree that will last a lifetime if properly maintained.  Tio Paco is 75 years old and still a fisherman.  He is originally from San Tome – Principe, a Portuguese speaking island nation less than 60 miles south of Bioko Island.  He told me he came to Bioko in the 60s aboard a canoe.  Other than a few years in Spain and a few back in San Tome he has made Bioko Island home for most of the time!  He has many children in Malabo but prefers the tranquillity of the forest!  He seems to enjoy my visit and tells me all about the history of the Fazenda, a great ambassador for life in the forest.  I invite him back to my truck where 2 cans of cold “Fanta-Limon” await us!  I never thought Fanta would taste so good…..

Above, Tio Paco leads me through the forest to the beach where his dugout canoe project sits.

Below, Tio Paco poses briefly on his canoe project.  He said he’d need a few more months to complete it!

I visited with Tio-Paco for about another 45 mins before bidding him “adios” and heading north toward Malabo.  Along the way, I made a lunch stop at “Arena Blanca” beach to sample some BBQ.  By the time I arrived, 2 PM, the beach BBQ shacks were in full swing…. the only decision I had to make was which one would I try…..

Above and Below, some of the wonderful BBQ shacks on “Arena Blanca” Beach.  A soda pop and 3 large sate-sticks of beef set me back $4.00 dollars.  A great way to end my jungle walk…..

(200)

A Few Days in Madrid, Spain 2012

For some reason, often the quickest and least expensive way to travel between African nations involves a change of planes in Europe.  Many of the big carriers like Lufthansa, Air France or Iberia require a change of planes in Paris, Frankfurt or Madrid.  Probably because of the difficulty getting all the legal agreements signed between nations and additionally the demand for flights between small African Nations is probably not sufficient to make those flights profitable.  Whatever the case, my recent trip to Morocco on Iberia Airlines involved a change of planes in Madrid.  I didn’t mind because it was the cheapest priced ticket and because I booked so late it was one of the few seats available!  I decided to spend 3 nights in Madrid on the return segment of my travels back to Equatorial Guinea so I could see Madrid again!  I arrived on December 26 and stayed in the heart of the city only a few blocks from La Plaza Mayor.  To me, Madrid has changed little since the first time I visited in 1984.  The cafes were always packed with people enjoying tapas, wine and beer….. The streets were busy with tourists and shoppers until the early morning hours.  From the outside, one would never know Spain was going through an economic crisis, to me everything looked like a vibrant city!  I’m glad I planned a lay-over for a few days, because as luck would have it…. my Macbook required a major repair, one that could not be done in Morocco or Equatorial Guinea.  Fortunately for me, the Apple Store in Parquesur Shopping Center was able to replace my top-case for a new Spanish language one.  Other than still trying to figure out the new keyboard layout, the laptop seems to be functioning properly again!
The best thing about my layover in Madrid was just being able to wander the narrow streets, follow my map and see all the historic buildings made famous by “Madrilenos” like Cervantes and Lupe Vega.  It’s a great city to see on foot and when one tires, it’s easy to pop into a small cafe to have a drink and rest your feet for a bit.  I knew I had to visit the Prado Museum again.  The last time I was there was almost 30 years ago and it is such a gem, filled with priceless artwork from all over the world, a must see for all visitors to Madrid!  The only thing bad about this visit to Madrid was that 3 days is not long enough!

Above and below, a few pictures of “La Plaza Mayor” in the heart of Madrid.


Above, the Prado Art Museum in Madrid!  A must see for all visitors to Madrid!

(184)