Thursday 3rd June
Today we started our “building week” at Welbedagt. Upon starting our build week we saw a lot of lizards as well as big and small scorpions. It was really awesome! They were so beautiful, I liked them. After a great dish (spaghetti bolognaise) we sat around the fire and enjoyed the silence and the beautiful stars, when I suddenly felt something underneath my feet. I remembered Chris’s words to first take a look. I looked down my leg underneath my feet and I saw a snake, a puff adder and my reaction was to whisper to Olifant (big Mattias) and told him “there is a snake underneath my feet!” I don’t remember having had no shoes on! “Oh…..” the next moment. After slowly and carefully moving away from the snake, we caught it and release it far away from the camp. Now I put my shoes on when it’s dark.
Awesome, nice first day!
By Sophie MONKY
Christin and the crickets!
Sophie and the snake!
5th of June 2014
****The cement wimp****
“John, you look big and strong, but at cement mixing, you’re a wimp!” So said Sophie to me, and she was right. I am totally useless at mixing cement, but I have strong arms and legs and can lift the heavy stones all day. Sophie on the other hand is an A+ mixer of cement. Others in the group can find the perfectly sized stones to fill out the wall. Others are Jack-(or Jill’s)-of-all-trade who pitch in wherever a hand is needed.
Together, we made tremendous progress on our wall today. This morning when we started, we had laid the foundation along with a second layer of rocks covering about 20% of the wall’s perimeter. When we concluded this evening the wall was over a meter high in some places and at least a meter for the rest. The rapid progress and cool weather today made the day pass quickly.
We are a bit disappointed that we didn’t finish the wall, but were looking forward to wrapping up our build week tomorrow and getting back to base camp to take a shower. (That part will not be as a team).
The Final Push
With 6 cement bags left we begin the “final push”.
The wall was slowly taking place and we were all on a mission to finish all the cement bags. We went for a final rock collection, me, Sophie, John and Anne made it our mission to collect the finest rocks to add to the wall. We then travelled to collect the sand to make the final batches of cement. Mattias developed a technique of throwing cement at the specific rock he wanted. This was quickly picked up by Ernest which provided much amusement for all of us.
Ernest took on a technique of laying random “anything will do rocks” as fast as possible. Whereas Matthias expertly selected each rock to fit the next place. The excitement of the last day gave us the extra push to finish all 6 bags and build the wall as high as we could in the time we had. The hot work from the day meant everyone appreciated the stop at the shop to pick up a cold beer. We then unpacked all our kit from the building week. A cold shower felt luxurious in comparison to the wet wipes on build week. And a mug of red wine and chatter around the fire provides an amazing end to the building week and the “final push”.
Leamington Spa, England
As I write this we are bumping along the road back to Swakop following the end of an amazing and rather special patrol week. Our week began with a full day of tracking elephants on Monday and we were lucky enough to find a beautiful unidentified bull. Tuesday and Wednesday were a little different as EHRA had been asked to help out with the yearly game counts on Ohungu and Otjimboyo conservancies. This was a fantastic opportunity to discover how things are done in Namibia – slowly and with much discussion as it turns out! Our 9 am training session began at 4pm (after the awkward moment when “Kevin” was asked to lead the opening prayer!), but thankfully Cards Against Humanity kept us in stitches for hours! It was also a privilege to meet, eat dinner with and work with the local people who were all very welcoming and interesting people. Despite the low numbers of game spotted (Chris and Matthias saw nothing!) we all had fun and a good feeling about the way it was conducted and the progress being made in discussing issues like poaching.
Another eye opening experience for us this week was removing 4 lines of wire snares being used to catch sand grouse and on one line we must have disturbed the poachers as they had left behind 41 dead or dying birds. Although distressing, it was good for us to see the problems EHRA is facing. Thankfully the day ended on a high note with some fantastic sightings of the Ugab small herd – it’ll be hard to top on my next patrol week!
Thanks EHRA for a fantastic first two weeks – I can’t wait for more stars, campfire cooking and most of all elephants!
13th June 14, Last day of Patrol week
Sitting in my room at Villa Wiese in Swakopmund I try to go back to yesterdays patrol day. A good part of the day was already over, but we did not see an elephant yet. Would we not meet any today? Chris and Matthias did their best in tracking them and around noon we finally saw very fresh tracks + elephant poo. With today’s hot temperature, the poo is still quite wet and green – it can only be half an hour old!!! Climbing a small mountain, we were able to see one adult and 2 baby elephants, but just half a minute later, they were gone again, lost in the bushes and under the trees! Back to the car, driving for 1km and climbing another mountain: and here it is – the Ugab herd! 3 female adults and 3 baby elephants. We made it; we tracked them, and can finally enjoy watching them. We observed them for at least 30 minutes and were so grateful to be part of their day.
After a short lunch break we wanted to head back to base camp, still discussing the herds and the pictures took when a massive elephant head just next to the riverbed (where we were climbing) showed up and scared us to death!! We should never freak out, that’s what Chris has taught us the first day, but hey, what you can do when this big elephant takes you by surprise!? We stopped, slowly reversed to give the elephant more space. When she came out of the bush closer to the car, starring at us (as if she wanted to tell us off for ruining her siesta time), surrounded the car, winked at us for one last time and disappeared into the bush again. What an encounter!!!(See the video on youtube – Kieran shall provide link)
Thanks to the EHRA team for setting up this project and having us for the last 2 weeks. Two unforgettable weeks with lots of action, hard work, nights under the stars and at the campfire, good memories to take back home, and the new friends we could find. And Elephants!! Some of us will be back for 2 more weeks – see you all on Monday again!!
(Daniela, Switzerland 13.6.14)