Libreville, Gabon - Sao Tome
This was a short hop I took on October 17th strictly for the fun of it. Sao Tome and Principe are two small islands in the elbow of Africa that comprise a small, Portuguese speaking, independent nation. There was no avgas available there, but the islands were right on the way to my next major stop, Abidjan, and after having been sold on their beauty by the travel literature I saw around Africa, I decided to load up a little extra fuel in Libreville and drop in. I spent one night in a very comfortable hotel right on the waterfront, and took a short driving tour of the Sao Tome main island. It was lovely! The beaches reminded me of the Seychelles, although the poverty I witnessed in the villages was more reminiscent of India. Still, I'm glad I went.
A Sao Tome mom with her baby. Like many others in West Africa, these people long ago learned how to reduce the incidence of back problems that are so prevalent in the West. Babies are carried in this "papoose" manner, and almost everything else is carried on the head. I saw women carrying huge loads of firewood, bound together into bundles and balanced on their heads as they walked almost effortlessly through their villages. Rarely was a stabilizing hand required by these well practiced head toters. Upon reflection, this method of transport makes very good practical sense. As once pointed out to me by a renowned Minneapolis based neurosurgeon, the human spinal column is capable of supporting very large weights vertically, but when these items are instead carried in the arms forward of the body, the back muscles must then pull down on the spine at many times the weight of the load being carried to maintain an erect posture and balance, thus resulting in a large multiplication of the spinal stresses. The Third World has a lot to teach us "civilized Westerners," if only we were willing to learn!
Next Stop: Abidjan, Ivory Coast
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