Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Zimbabwe, Africa


photo by Leroy & Alice Patocka-Fortner

I have not been to this area of Africa, Alice and Leroy have.

At the base of this monstrous Zimbabwe, African Baobob, we strain to see our friends, Leroy and Alice. He has been a big game hunter all his life. Alice and I went to high school together. A country kid, she didn't expect to travel the world. Together they have been to the Dark Continent numerous times and driven to Alaska.

Baobob or Boabob? I found it spelled both ways. Africans call it "the upside-down tree" and "the monkey bread tree." One folklore tale says the tree was planted upside down accidentally by a hyena.

Football-sized seed pods house seeds Leroy says taste like cream of tartar. Acording to The Illustrated Guide to EDIBLE WILD PLANTS Dept. of the Army, a mix of pulp and water cures diarrhea; cut into strips and pounded, pulp is made into rope; young leaves are a soup vegetable; for a refreshing drink, a handful of pulp is added to a cup of water; seeds are roasted and ground to make flour. The hollow trunk is a source of fresh water. Its circumfrence changes as water is absorbed and released.

Without bark and rings, the tree's age is determined by carbon dating. This one could be 2,000 years old or older, in spite of elephant and smaller animal damage. At about 1,000 years, the trees start to hollow out. The most famous Baobob, 3rd largest in the world, is located in Limpopo, South Africa. Limpopo shares borders with Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. An average of 10,000 visitors a year visit the carved-out pub and wine cellar of Doug & Heather van Heerden.

In her long-legged life, Alice never dreamed she'd visit Africa and sleep in a thatched roof lodge under a mosquito net and be glad for it. She and Leroy took anti-malaria medicine two weeks before leaving the states, the duration, and two weeks back home. It worked. No sweats to flash freezing.

Meals were prepared according to old English ways and without electricity or refrigeration. White bread was baked daily in wood burning ovens. Alice said, "The wild kudu stew was delicious with locally grown organic potatoes, carrots and onions. It reminded us of our beef stew. The kudu are antelope-like with tall corkscrew horns. Custard or pudding was dessert. The local sudda brew tasted bitter."

Expecting to see John Deere tractors, they were surprised to see natives with oxen work the land around abandoned farm equipment. Included in the rusty graveyard are Nebraska irrigation systems. When the government expelled white landowners, they had three days to leave. Anything related to the farming operation could not be removed. They left with the clothes on their back and some personal items. Natives used the equipment until it ran out of gas or the batteries died. Where it stopped, it stayed. The modern was replaced by people and oxen. Square one, back to methods as old as the Baobab tree.

2009 Red Convertible Travel Series

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