This strange marshland is dark and hot-sometimes beautiful and sometimes dangerous. Wild animals hiss and wail in the muddy swamps. To travel here you must ride in a boat. The waterways are shallow and clogged with growing plants, and they go in every direction. Unless you’re used to them, the tree-buried waterways all look the same. You could get lost in a minute!
Boatmen move slowly and steer carefully so that their boats won’t get stuck in the tough saw grass growing on the slippery banks. The roots of giant swamp trees-mangrove and cypress-rise up as if they were climbing right out of the water.
A mother alligator lies quietly in the thick mud. But she isn’t sleeping. She’s guarding her eggs, buried under a mound of sun heated mud and ole leaves. What seems to be a floating a log may be a hungry alligator hunting for food.
he air is thick and heavy with dampness. Insects hum and buzz. The green forests are crowded with tangled vines. Some trees are dressed in ferns on which orchid flowers are growing. Tree snakes coil around hidden branches. Under some trees it’s as dark as night even when the sun shines.
Each day the men climbed higher on the icy mountain cliffs. Finally they reached a narrow shelf of rock, where most of the tired party stopped to rest. But two men continued to climb from this high camp. The slippery rock made each step seem more difficult than the one before. In some places the two men had to cling to the steep rock like ants on a wall. The cold wind bit at their eyes and tugged at their clothes. It threatened to pull them loose from the mountain-to send them falling against the rock a thousand feet below.
The air was so thin that the two men had to breathe from tanks of oxygen strapped to their backs. They become so tired and cold that they could barely move. They looked back down the icy slope…down..down the black storm clouds. They were high above the clouds!They started climbing toward the top again. Would they make it?Everyone who had tried before had failed. Many had been killed trying to climb to the windy, snow-covered top of this high mountain.
Slowly,steadily they kept climbing until they reached the last icy cliff. They knew they were close to the top. But how close? Blinding, swirling snow kept them from seeing. They kept climbing anyway. They had to chop places in the ice for their hands and feet. They keep on blindly until finally when they reached to feel the rock ahead, there was no rock. They knew then that they had reached the top.
It was on May 29,1953 that Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached the top of Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world. They were the first men ever do this. Mount Everest is in the Himalayan Mountains between India and China.
I am standing in the shadow of what must be the largest and strangest lion in the world. This lion is a statue. But many real lions do live in the wild places of this country. The people here honor the lion-just as people in some other countries honor the eagle. The ruler of this country is called “Lion of Judah.”
Besides lions many other animals live in the deserts and mountains of this country. There are elephants, leopards, hyenas, crocodiles, monkeys, gazelles-deerlike animals that leap high into the air-and dik-diks which look like tiny deer not much higher than your knees. The birds include vultures, eagles and fast running ostriches.
The people have dark skin-black or brown or copper colored. They are friendly visitors. They live in small villages in round mud houses with straw roofs. Most of them do some farming, and some are herdsmen with flocks of sheep, cows or goats.
There aren’t many big cities in this country. Because of the steep mountains and cliffs, it is hard to build railroads. But airplanes fly to the most settled parts. And where roads are too narrow and bumpy for cars and trucks, people use mules, donkeys, camels or oxcarts.
At outdoor markets, things are sold on the ground. The people trade in salt, cloth, food an live animals. If you hear a buzzing sound, it probably comes from wild bees. People here eat much honey and make a drink from it too. They also sell honey and beeswax to other countries.
But they sell more coffee than anything else. There are wild coffee trees and carefully tended coffee farms in Kaffa, a region in the southern part of the country. Some people say that Kaffa is where coffee was first used and that is why coffee is called coffee because it sounds like the name of the place where it was first used. This one of the oldest countries in the world. Its people have to fight fiercely to stay free. The name of this country of the lions is Ethiopia.
The barking of the dogs awakened Akeeko, the Eskimo boy. His mother was already up, making tea over the soft yellow flame that burned in the whale-oil lamp. Akeeko slid from under the warm cover made of walrus skin and pulled on his trousers and his hooded fr jacket, or parka. Underneath all this he wore underwear made of skin from a caribou, with the warm fur turned towards his body. Over his boots he pulled on a pair of heavy outer boots. Last of all he put on his furry mittens.
Now he was ready to go out in the cold. At the doorway to the snowhouse or igloo, Akeeko lifted the curtain and crawled through the short snow tunnel that led outside. There he saw his father and brothers harnessing the dogs to the sled. He laughed while he romped and tumbled in the snow with some of the young sled dogs.
Akeeko had lived all his life on the shores of the Arctic Ocean, about as close to the North Pole as people can live. Here in the middle of summer the days are so long that the sun never stops shining. It stays light all night! But this was winter and in the winter there is a time when it stays dark all day, as well as all night, with only a little light sometimes from the moon.
Snug and warm under the round roofs of their snowhouses, the Eskimo families had lived through the dark days and nights. But now the frozen fish and meat were almost gone. It was time for the hunters to travel across the fields of snow and ice to look for food.
Their dogsled was loaded with bundles of animal skins to be used as night covers or windbreaks. The sled also carried knives, spears, bone fishhooks and some frozen fish. Akeeko watched closely until his father nodded and said,” Jump on , Little Seal. You are old enough now to go on your first hunting trips.”
Akeeko rubbed his nose against his mother’s nose(That’s how Eskimos kiss) and waved good-bye. A long whip cracked. The dogs pushed against their harness and away they went, the sled runners making a singing sound on the cold, dry snow.
Leif Ericsson’s people the brave and fierce Vikings, loves adventure and danger. They sailed to far off places-lands that none of them had ever seen before. Their ships were called dragon ships. They were long and low with the tall mast and many strong oars for rowing when the wind stopped blowing. Carved at the front of each boat was the head of an ugly dragon or serpent which was supposed to keep evil spirits away.
Leif grew up on the lonely, icy island of Greenland. There his adventurous father, Eric the Red taught him to hunt for white foxes and sleek-skinned seals. Leif learned to fight with a sword and to wrestle. He learned to sail a ship through the roughest waters..and he reached the shores of North America almost 500 years before Columbus!
We don’t know exactly how Leif’s great discovery happened. There are many old stories about him and his crew. One story says that he lost his way in fog while sailing between Iceland and Greenland. Many days later, when the skies had cleared he saw a new, mysterious shoreline. He and his crew anchored their dragon ship and explored this strange and different place. They found tall trees and grassy hills and fresh water. They saw so many tangled grapevines growing that Leif named the place Vinland. The men built huts and stayed through the snowy cold winter.
The Vikings sailed to Vinland many times after that until Eskimos who lived there forced them to leave for good. For hundreds of years no one knew about Leif and his discovery. Scientist and explorers were never sure where he had landed or when.
Then, not many years ago, in a place now called Newfoundland, an explorer found some ruins, with parts of stone house and a fireplace still standing. The house is thought to have been built about 1,000 years ago. Leif’s Ericsson house?We dob’t know for sure. But we do know that he was a brave captain who sailed unknown seas.