Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

Archive for August 2015

Gorillas We Almost Missed

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Story & Photo

 By Fyllis Hockman

Mature Life Features



BWINDI NATIONAL PARK, Uganda —- The eight of us huddled together, staying close and quiet as we were warned. A soft cough escaped from one of our party and the guide shot us a glare. We were told that, if we were scraped by a stinging nettle, don’t even think about screaming.
And be sure to stay at least 25 feet away.
That rule was to protect both us and the gorillas. Because they share 98.4 percent of our DNA, gorillas are susceptible to human-borne illnesses. We’re carriers and they have to be protected from us. They’re wild animals, so we have to be protected from them.
You have to really want to see them because it involves at trek of up to seven hours, depending upon where they are.
There are about 880 mountain gorillas in the world. Almost half are in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in southwestern Uganda,
The hike is intimidating. You need sturdy hiking boots, gloves for the nettles, and plenty of water. A walking stick is mandatory.
We were feeling pretty good about ourselves as we maneuvered through the steep climbs and slippery descents traversing narrow ravines.
Until we entered the forest.
There was no semblance of a trail. The guides chopped one with machetes. The rocks, roots and brambles beneath our feet were not visible because of the thick underbrush.
With walking stick in one hand and the porter’s hand in the other, I kept moving, though at times the porter was either dragging me up or saving me from sliding down steep slopes.
I felt my arm might be pulled off by the porter or my legs by the clutching vines.
By the time we got to the designated area, the gorillas had left.
But down another steep embankment about 15 minutes later, we came into view of a couple of gorillas chowing down in the bush. They were fun to see but were mostly hidden in the trees and bushes and several of us felt it hadn’t justified the arduous journey.
Suddenly, the mammoth silverback — the alpha male of the group — turned from chowing to charging. It came very close before the tracker waving his AK-47 quickly sent him into retreat. Both tracker and silverback remained immune to our pleas to try that again after we got our cameras ready.
It was 4:30 p.m when we got back to our bus, which we had left at 9:30 a.m.
While our half of the ElderTreks group was hacking our way through the jungle, the other eight members were mingling with a group of the great apes on a road right near our lodge.
After hearing of our experience, they said they felt a little guilty but were happy to explain they saw their first gorilla within 20 minutes of leaving the lodge. Fifteen minutes later, they reached a banana plantation that a group of 19 gorillas was gleefully dismantling.
Good for the gorillas, bad for the farmer, though the trekkers did take a collection to compensate him. At one point, they said they were totally surrounded by gorillas. So much for the 25-foot rule.
While gorilla-trekking is touted as a highlight of the trip, it was only part of a 16-day adventure that included safari-game drives on both land and water in multiple wildlife reserves, chimpanzee tracking, scenic terrain, cultural outings that included a meeting with members of a Pygmy tribe and a demonstration by a traditional medicine man who used indigenous herbs to cure almost any ailment, and a lunch of native Ugandan delicacies prepared by a farmer and his wife. For more information about the list of ElderTreks destinations for travelers 50 and over, call (800) 741-7956 or visit online.

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Written by Cecil Scaglione

August 19, 2015 at 7:02 am

Posted in Travel

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Added to Newspaperboy Confessions: Ch. VIII

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The perks of roaming the streets of downtown North Bay peddling the daily Nugget during the mid-‘40s were wide-ranging and the lessons long-lasting.
As I cited earlier, it developed street smarts in a 9-, 10- and 11-year-old who’d just moved into town from the bucolic burg of Feronia that was about an hour’s dirt-road drive away.
We had no electricity (our substitute was coal-oil lamp) indoor plumbing (an outhouse, of course, and washtub for once-a-week baths) central heating (piling and chopping wood and kindling for the stove was a daily chore) nor storm windows.
Our main connection with sidewalk civilization was our twice-a-month (1st and 15th were paydays) rides – we used the bus in winter because my father put the old ’30 Nash coupe on blocks – for groceries and quick visits with friends, and our battery radio that was turned on only for the nightly news.
So diving into the ‘Bay’s commercial core and culture was fantastically eye opening and educational. Without realizing it, I got to know many of the movers and shakers in the city of 18,000. I’d run in and out of the soon-to-be mayor’s jewelry store and sell him a paper if someone hadn’t beat me to him. I’d crash highly animated political (I didn’t know then that’s what they were about) debates in several of the sports and shoe shine shops along Main Street.
And I’d see Mr. Smith sneaking some suds in the Continental Hotel with a paramour Mrs. Smith ostensibly knew nothing about. These encounters usually resulted in a sale because it seemed like the cheating husband felt buying a paper sealed my lips. I never intended to hunt down his wife and tattle, but I was pleased that he thought I might if he didn’t buy a paper.
We unwittingly made life-long connections because everyone remembered you as the kid who once sold papers. In some cases, that wasn’t so good.
Among the things I learned was how you could sneak into the theaters to watch movies. A fellow paperboy said his older brother, who was an usher at one of the cinemas, told him to buy some confections once you slipped by the ticket taker. The theater made more money on the candy bars and Cokes, he said.
And there were immediately-satisfying events. Like the time I found a crumpled-up $5 bill right in front of the check-out counter at the Arcadian Grill. FIVE DOLLARS! That was about what I made in a month of newspaper sales. I showed it to the restaurant manager, and he said no one reported a loss, and then ran across the street to show it to Hector Bentley (he operated a magazine stand in front of the Post office and used crutches to get around but was always dressed in a hat, suit, shirt and tie with shoes shined at all times) and he said no one had mentioned a loss to him. It was a remunerative as well as memorable day.
Another sweet memory is stopping by Central Bakery on the way home. It was right on the bend where Main Street angled north into Klock Avenue (later Algonquin Avenue) that turned into the two-lane highway reaching north to the precious-metals mining towns of Kirkland Lake and Timmins. On most days, there would be a couple of sugar-dipped doughnuts still soaking in the sweetness at the bottom of the tray slanted in the window for display. Because it was near closing time, I would get them for half price. Even thinking of them now, they surpassed their weight in gold.
When I joined a local senior softball league a few years ago, the first team I played with was sponsored by a local doughnut shop. Their array was sweet-toothsome, but no match for those Central Bakery “leftovers” from so long ago.
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Written by Cecil Scaglione

August 11, 2015 at 8:13 am

In Our Constant Battle to Save Civilization . . .

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. . . our wars are killing us.

– Cecil Scaglione

Written by Cecil Scaglione

August 5, 2015 at 9:32 am

Posted in A Musing

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